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Final: Blogetery In Forward Motion

Design is a very competitive field. My peers are my harshest critics. Many don’t easily (or free of charge) offer much in terms of advice or insight. Considering how tech savvy graphic design is as a field, you would think more designers would be open in their blogs/websites. I set out on this blog wanting to do something different.

I use Photoshop and the Adobe creative suite on a near daily basis. It would be too easy to simply talk to the core audience with technical jargon, but my audience is intended to be larger. While, I won’t quit my day job, I do enjoy stand-up comedy and quotes and ideas from that realm seep into this blog. I have a passion of design, but I also realize that it is okay to laugh and poke fun of yourself. As I’ve said several times, it humanizes my job.

I am writing a blog. That word grew out of weblog. In grammar school, we had to keep personal accounts for our science fair project. We called it a log. A lot of the students had difficulty accounting for their trials and tribulations. Our teacher was looking for something personal about our successes and/or failures. To me, it was being honest. It seemed so easy to me, it was fun. Writing a blog is the same.

What Do You Know?

Again, this is common among my peers in the field. Who really has esoteric knowledge in design or in life? I am still looking to meet these people. Before I enrolled in graduate school, I felt the need to learn more. I went on some Amazon shopping sprees and purchased a number of design sources. I am looking to further develop my knowledge and my voice on this platform. I have the books and know some good resources. This blog provides the opportunity to finally utilize them.

How Have I Grown?

When I first starting posting, I wrote about fears, successes, failures and personal stories. I thought it was a good foundation, but felt something was lacking. That something was design. I was honest with the reader. To some, it came off as a lack of passion or confidence, but to me, it was just the ups and downs of a designer trying to make it in the field. I grew from the personal stories to talking about my experiences with the larger goal of design concepts in mind. If I blogged about working with a local YMCA, I wrote about the evolution of their logo. If I read about the word of mouth that was the OBEY Giant graphic, I wrote about the evolution and controversy surrounding the logo. If I was looking for an online portfolio to upload my designs, I posted about which sites worked best (or worst) and why. I went beyond just me during the course of this blog and talked about the larger concept of designs and how they affect me.

What’s The Plan? Next Steps?

The next step in this blog is the actual design of it. With all of the blogs I have written on the subject of design, I realize that the proof should also be in the look. Choosing another designer’s template is almost like having someone ghostwrite my posts. It would not feel natural. As I grow as a graduate student, I hope to take my graphic design skills into web design and give this blog the look I feel it should have. This would also reflect on my Twitter page and YouTube channel for continuity purposes. To learn web design and post about it would be a comprehensive learning experience in the future.

Personal Achievements

In an earlier post, I mentioned how writing was a passion as a child. There are a lot of children that dream of playing a professional sport, but for the majority, that dream fades into adulthood. With the way technology and communication have changed, my passion for writing does not have to fade.

A major accomplishment for me writing for something I am truly passionate about, even if I have the occasional writer’s block. If you took a look inside my room, you would find music/movie posters, sports memorabilia and a rather large collection of DVDs. I could much more easily blog about music or movies. The key is that I would never really learn anything, as those are not fields I strive to break into. I knew in graphic design this would not be the case. To attempt to post a compelling blog meant that I had to sometimes go outside of what I knew and tap into other resources. That made me learn. There was never any wasted motion in this process. If I spent hours trying to create an online portfolio, I blogged about it. If I was inspired my metaphors in my writing, I also tapped into how they affect me in design. These were topics I can take with me well beyond this blog.

From the start of the blog up to now, I feel Blogetery in Motion has a much greater sense of identity. It evolved from my personal ramblings to graphic design, life experiences and creative ideas (as mentioned in the blog subhead). The Blogroll on the upper left column has relevant links to my YouTube channel, a design website and a Photoshop tutorial site. Below that is also a link to my design portfolio. To make the blog a bit more official (and to prove that I actually design), this accelerated the need to also create an online portfolio to link up to, at least until I become an improved web designer.

In my writing class, my professor said something that will really stay with me moving forward in my classes and career.

“Your worry shouldn’t be will I find a job, but what if I miss this opportunity?”

I knew going in that blogging about design would not be the easiest topic for me. Design is subjective to many and sometimes too can have to segmented of an audience to appeal to universally. To choose anything other than it would have felt as though I was not only cheating the reader, but more importantly, myself. It would have been that missed opportunity.

Web Design For The Non-Web Designer

I have posted a lot about graphic design on this blog. You have read my words and perhaps heard my voice (on this video), but you have not really seen a lot of my work. I have alluded to some of the projects I have worked on, but trying to showcase them all is not easy, especially since I am not a web designer. However, as a graphic designer, I am very specific in how I want to show my work. For a while now, I have been looking into a customizable, online portfolio to show my work. Without knowledge of coding, HTML or CSS, finding reputable (and free) options are limited.

Wix

Wix.com allows for some Flash animations and is customizable. The widgets and apps have features that allow you to connect with Google Maps, PayPal and RSS feeds. The downside is that it takes too long to edit and you are often limited to what templates are available. Also there did not seem to be a way for me to link up a widget on this blog, thus not as much connectivity between online platforms. From a website with potential to…

Web.com

I signed up for web.com last winter. Big mistake. It is free for 30 days, but they still have your credit card information on file and will charge you when the trial runs out. Since it is a publicly traded company with 275,000 subscribers, I assumed the site would be legit. I called just to make sure the site was customizable for my needs and the operator assured me they were. They answered my questions a little too swiftly, making me suspicious from the start. The available templates were laughable and something you would find on Websites That Suck. I later found out that there was very little customization on the user end and if I wanted any of the advanced features, I would have to pay for them (NOT what the operator told me). Even the cancellation process was a hassle. When you do a Google search on web.com one of the auto results is “web.com scam.”

Lesson learned. I just wanted to have a level of independence to showcase my own work and be taken seriously.

Coroflot

I was initially hesitant to use coroflot.com. It seemed very bare bones without a lot of customization. The more I thought about things, I realized that while web design is a goal for the future, I want to show my work now. I remember choosing Facebook years ago over Myspace. I did not want to deal with all of the add-ons and features that Myspace had. I wanted a clean and (at the time) simple interface that Facebook provided. With Coroflot, I didn’t have to be ashamed about my lack of coding skills to create my own personal and professional portfolio. The layout puts everyone in the same boat, while making your work speak for itself. While not overly flashy, Coroflot also allows you the option of placing a badge (similar to embedding a YouTube video or Facebook Fan Badge) to your own website (as seen below).


view my portfolio:
coroflot.com/faccento

It is not the end all of what I want to do. The goal (as I move forward in my graduate program and career) is learning the ins and outs of web design. In today’s job market, the lines between a graphic designer and web designer are blurred. A lot of jobs expect both out of one person. I always had dreams of launching a website to show all of my work and branding. Someday that will happen, but in the for now, its important to show the work you do have. In the meantime, my portfolio will have to do, at least until this website idea takes off.

To GPS or Not GPS (In Design)?

At my current job, we have our logo and branding in place. Sometimes, I can add in my own creativity in a design, but mostly, we have our templates laid out. Change is not an expression at this job, it’s a slow process. When I first started, I felt stifled by the creative limitations. On the other hand, when a design is due at the last minute, I can always quickly modify a template and get the job done.

Recently, I had a client that was the opposite. They told me to create a poster for a grand opening to their business. What would you like? What’s the size of the poster? What theme are you going for? The response I got was, “Make it nice and use your best judgment.” I thought that was perfect, until I sat in front of my computer scratching my head for an hour. Where do I start?

The question is what works more effectively, too much creative direction or too much freedom?

Free At Last?

Freedom is why people even come to America. However, in the design field too much can make the mind wander and lose focus. When the mind wanders, time drifts away. At a certain point, I find myself watching a rerun of Seinfeld hoping a killer idea will magically appear. This can turn into a time consuming process and when there is a deadline looming, a lack of direction can put you in a creative rut. I look at it like a head coach telling a player to coach the team for the rest of the game. Sure, it is liberating, but at some point, you need a little direction.

Limited Too

Time is saved to a very high degree in this case. But at what price? It is nice to have a job that is a little easier every now and again, but to have no say in the creation is frustrating. I find that a lot of the jobs that tend to be limiting are often jobs that I wouldn’t really want to include in my portfolio. It feels like a lie for an idea I didn’t really help mold. Besides, how am I ever supposed to grow and master my craft if I’m not allowed to think “outside the box?”

What’s The Solution?

The easiest solution is balance. I was lucky enough in my first full time design job to have a boss provide an outline of what she wanted, but always asked my input. It felt like a total team effort. If we weren’t on the same page, she would have the final decision, but was always open to whatever additional drafts I created. This reminds me of the film, Fletch, in which director, Michael Ritchie and Chevy Chase had different visions of how a take should go. Ritchie would have final say, but allowed Chevy to ad-lib his own take. It was that nice creative balance. It’s easier said than done, but it’s nice to have direction and your own “Chevy take.”


Not All about the Benjamins

I have done my share of pro bono work in design. After all, working in the non-profit sector for 3 years gave me some connections, although not always with the deepest pockets. I have also had some clients that didn’t pay me at all. At the end of the day, I want some compensation for my time and efforts.

I realize, I’m no Andy Warhol, so having the options of picking and choosing who and when I work is not always an option. At this point, the freelance jobs I have are mostly to build experience and credibility. So if money isn’t pouring in, what is my compensation?

Recommendations

Especially working with folks that pay next to (or) nothing, this is a must. I referenced LinkedIn a few times last week and this is a great forum to have the recommendations showcased.  I have tweaked around with the idea of my own website for awhile now (I really should have one), but having my own testimonial section would be a necessity for me. It adds credibility to my work, especially if the client loved the job.

More Business

It’s obvious, yet true. The goes together with networking. Most of the jobs (freelance or otherwise) have come from a referral of a happy customer/co-worker. Especially when things are going slow, it’s important to have a wide network of clients. I have also tried to expand my network with other designers. If there is a job I can’t do or is a bit out of my realm (web coding/animation), I will refer them to someone I know can accomplish the task. I know sometimes designers can be a bit cutthroat when hoarding clients, but I think its good practice to play nice. You never know when you might need a favor.

Links

Especially when creating website or logo design, getting a “Site designed by…” somewhere on the clients’ page is a big plus. On the other side of the fence, I have asked clients (even for my ICM 502 design class) if I could use logos I have created for clients. This was a slippery slope, as I have worked for a national organization (they sometimes frown on that sort of thing), but if I’m permitted, it helps showcase all of my work.

Overall, I will never scoff at a good payday, but especially starting out in a competitive field, you have to be pragmatic. I learned to take on whatever jobs I can, but also try to get the most out of the experience beyond my asking price.

Weary, Leary & Honest

In my last post, I wrote about my chosen profession/career path and why it, for lack of a better term, sucks. Why would I insult what I believe in? I think it is healthy to see the glass half empty and half filled. I usually see things from the half-filled perspective, but I am far from flawless. Why wouldn’t I question my career path?

The best thing I have discovered in writing on this blog is finding myself (career-wise, at least). I know of people that write letters when they are extremely upset at those close to them and no, I have not been the recipient of one (yet). It sounded immature, but I kind of get that now. Putting my fears about being a graphic designer on paper (or computer) was cathartic. It was an outlet to vent my fears, but importantly reminds me why I continue to put time into it in the first place. This made my thesis (graphic design is not for everyone) easy to write. The words flowed.

Stand Up & Be Yourself

A Bold Thesis

I love stand-up comedy. The vulnerability of someone standing on stage in front of a group of strangers, taking the risk of being loathed or adored, is something I can appreciate. A couple of weeks ago, I saw comedian Denis Leary perform, along with a few of his comic friends from the show, Rescue Me. The one quality that all of the good comics shared was honesty. They talked about family, weight gain, old drug habits, intimacy (or lack thereof), marital issues, life mistakes and embarrassing stories. They put themselves out there and talked only about what they knew.

Now I am not saying, I will post all of my deepest, funniest or most embarrassing stories, but after watching the comics be brutally honest with the audience, I feel relieved. It does not matter if you have your own television show/tour, people still have issues. People still have doubts about their career. I once doubted if I could write about graphic design all summer. A goal in this blog, is to be honest with myself and the readers. As long as I do that, the well will never dry up. Now, it’s off to my next goal, avoiding clichés.

Devil’s Advocate: What Sucks About Being a Graphic Designer

While this may be a harsh title for a subject I enjoy, the fact remains, my career path is not perfect. Even if you are passionate about something, it is normal to come to grips with it not being flawless. Graphic design is no exception, as it is not a profession for the majority.

In an earlier post, I alluded to a date I had with someone on the fast track to a lucrative job position. Specifically, she is getting ready to graduate law school and has a job lined up post graduation.  At one time, I had similar aspirations, as I can debate with the best. Somewhere in my undergrad journey, I realized I could not get excited enough to wake up, punch a clock and, more or less, argue for a living (although, I found out she certainly does). Suddenly, I realized my journey was not as cut and dry (or immediately profitable) as hers. This was intimidating.

Starting salaries in design are not the greatest and I have learned that you have to take on several other skill-sets (hence my return to school) to get noticed in the job market. My best friends are police officers and working in sales with very good salaries, yet I cannot help but question my career choices from time to time.

I have been fortunate to work with people that I can connect with on a creative level. Every now and then, especially earlier in my journey, I would come up with an “out of the box” idea. Clever doesn’t always translate into effective. Even based on where I might sit in an office, folks can judge an unfinished product. There are times when a designer can get stumped and just has to think things over. Unfortunately, not all employers “get” this and think I’m just daydreaming.

Fashions trends come and go, the same can be said of design. Stylish fonts and design elements constantly change, take a look how often your favorite website might tweak their look. Technology is moving at a rapid speed. Will there be new software that will overtake the Adobe empire? Do I have to upgrade to every version to remain educated? Design forces you to always stay current.

So the pays starts off lousy, you are only as good as your last design and the job constantly changes. What am I thinking staying on this path? I think a better question to ask is, “Can I really see myself doing this job for the rest of my life?” In the cases of being a lawyer, sales representative or working in non-profit, the answer is no (though I appreciate those jobs). While trepidation lies in my uncertainties, it also makes my path exciting. Joe Strummer of the band, The Clash, once said, “The future is unknown.” To try to predict the where graphic design is headed, one could say the same, but it is a challenge I am up for.