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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.”


Y Change?

I am fortunate to be working on a project for a new YMCA opening in the Greater New Haven, CT region. When I think of the YMCA, I think of swimming lessons and that Village People song that will NEVER go away. Nonetheless, it kept the organization in our conscious, as they should be. In the midst of the design, the YMCA has gone through a rebranding of it logo. Does it work?

Credit: underconsideration.com/brandnew

Although trendy and following concepts of other brands that have had a recent makeover, I think it does. Some brands are recognized by a logo (think Apple or Coca Cola), while others draw instant credibility from their name alone. The YMCA fits that mold and have rebranded themselves to what many already call them, “The Y.” Certainly, it has a better sound to it than Radioshack’s “The Shack” or Pizza Hut’s “The Hut” rebranding.

Especially in a time of the recession, many brands are getting a makeover to change their image. Tropicana went so radical; they had to switch back, as customers were confused and outraged. The Y’s revitalization works, as it can be used in a number of different background because of the diverse variations of color (Aol tried something similar to mixed results last year).

Aol's Rebranding

Rounded edges in today’s logos are the trend, but it is effective, as it is far less harsh than the original logo. Here is the official press release from the YMCA, oops, I mean, The Y…

The Y’s former logo had been in place since 1967 and was the organization’s sixth since its inception. The refreshed logo, with its multiple color options and new, contemporary look, better reflects the vibrancy of the Y and the diversity of the communities it serves. The new logo’s bold, active and welcoming shape symbolizes the Y’s commitment to personal and social progress. —The Y Press Release

Overall, I think it is a sign of the times, that the 40+ year old logo gets a makeover. It is warmer, more progressive (part of the Y looks like an arrow moving forward) and can be used in a variety of different colors (4 color) or just black and white (1 color). Why do I like it? For one thing, it is going to make my project much easier in terms of “playing nice” with color. What do you think?

Works Cited:

Midterm: A Blogetery Proposal

Have you ever visited a graphic design blog? The first hits on a Google search will land you on the pages that give you tutorials and examples of logos or typography. These sites, while being helpful, have always left me wanting more.

“Graphic design is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity, heresy, abnormality, hobbies and humors.”George Santayana

I couldn’t agree more. Beyond Photoshop, there has to be more to design. That is what I seek to uncover in this blog.

What Is Blogetery in Motion?

Blogetery in Motion is my (somewhat) witty take off the phrase “poetry in motion.” Where is the motion? Well even though this is a blog, I am always moving. Moving towards a graduate degree, becoming a better graphic designer and forging a successful career. So many blogs give “10 Ways To…,” it seems like a lot of people in the creative field have everything figured out, right? Graduating with a bachelor’s right in the midst of the recession, everybody talks about success, but few seem as though they talk about how they got where they are. Whether it is trying my hand at drawing as a small child or just trying to work with a client who happens to be a good friend, these are some of the stories that separates this blog from the rest.

Humanizing The Job

Don’t get me wrong, some blogs are informative and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I appreciate a personal touch. Working in non-profit, if there was a donor that worked with me, I would leave a handwritten note. Just to show them I appreciate them.

Until they ran out of credible artists, VH-1 milked the show, Behind The Music. People enjoyed the journey of music artists both good and bad. Am I living the life of Motley Crue? No. Do I think my life and journey is constantly interesting enough to share? Not always, but it humanizes my job. The goal is to have the reader understand my point of view and to “pull the curtain back” of my job and give a fresh perspective. When I say pull back the curtain, I mean talking about design in ways other bloggers do not. I want to bring a level of authenticity from someone who is still maturing in the field.

Online Presence

A Voice – I have had experience writing for blogs that I never really had the intention of growing. It was a way to find my voice and create a tone. While I am still evolving, I do feel as though I have developed. I feel most “at home” sharing personal stories relevant to design, but now I am ready to also share my take on design concepts and trends.

Twitter - In the increasing interactive world we live in, it is important to have multiple platforms for your voice. Twitter, is used on a semi-regular basis (though not overkill for a follower) as a way to announce new blog posts, revelant links about design or just saying/retweeting a witty joke. I chose the name @JonBlogetery to create a sense of continuity between Twitter and Blogetery in Motion.

Other Avenues – I use LinkedIn as a way for clients to post recommendations (which I am currently building) and to link up to an online portfolio. As far as an online portfolio, I am currently creating a Flash version of one (via wix.com). The ultimate goal is to design my own page, but I am still in early stages of learning html and Drupal (which will be something to blog about). Also, I am looking into designing my own background to reflect the theme of the blog.

The Blog – This is where my online presence resides the most at this time. As of now, I do post and tweet under a pseudonym, but would change that when my professional portfolio/website is up. I am also going to put a description of the blog below the title, to make it clear what the blog is about.

Lessons Learned

“If Ernest Hemingway, James Mitchener, Neil Simon, Franck Lloyd Wright, and Pablo Picaso could not get it right the first time, what makes you think that you will?” – Paul Heckel

Get To The Point - In the past several weeks, I have posted well over 20 blog posts pertaining to design. The initial goal was to systematically start off with my history with design, then move into the field at large. Sometimes we get so involved in our own history, we fail to remember that not everything we post, resonates with the reader. I have always liked what I call the “slow build.” In a movie, the story is set, you have some background on the characters, and then the film hits the ground running. A future goal in the blog, would be to get the core of design. Recent blogs like Trading Ethics for a Design, Find Inspiration, Not Theft and Visual Metaphors have reflected this approach.

Never Be Content – The great work of other designers is what motivates me to get better. The same can be said of writing. I did go into my blogging experience thinking I had an edge, since writing was a passion in my youth. The ability to win over a reader that otherwise would have no interest in the subject is a big picture goal here. I want to be good, really good. Not just in my design, but in how I articulate that in my writings.

Goals

“Stop looking at yourself as a designer, and start looking at yourself as a deliverer of ideas.” – Stle Melvr

Whether it is finding your niche or just being stuck in a rut, I want people that, even if they avoid Photoshop, walk away thinking of a relatable experience, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with design. Blogetery in Motion is meant to entertain, but also inform. Why listen to me? I have a great passion for sports, comedy, music and movies, none of which I intend on pursuing for a career. I could write about those topics, but I feel I would be cheating the reader and myself. With design, the creative well never runs dry and it’s a big part of what I want to do.

Find Inspiration, Not Theft

“In West Virginia yesterday, a man was arrested for stealing several blow-up dolls. Reportedly, police didn’t have any trouble catching the man because he was completely out of breath.”Conan O’ Brien

If that quote teaches us anything, it’s that crime doesn’t pay. The same holds true in the creative realm of design.

In today’s digital age, stealing material is viewed subjectively. Take arts and entertainment for example. Music and piracy has been an issue, from the days of bootlegging a concert to Napster at the height of its fame. Even in the entertainment world, the stealing of a comedian’s jokes has been a long standing issue, from Robin Williams to Dane Cook. Just Google or YouTube search Carlos Menica. The results range from his infamy in stealing jokes to unabashed hatred towards the man. In a world where people have traded ethics for personal gain, do they exist in the design world?

There are ethics in design. They are the same that exist in different avenues of creativity. If I were to tune out my peers and legendary artists that came before me, and still be able to produce great work, then I would be a creative genius (I wish). I use Delicious to bookmark my inspirations. I need to get inspired and learn from people that came before me. I believe in viewing various concepts to encourage a design, though with my own spin on things. After all, how many musicians were inspired by The Beatles and/or Elvis? Sure, there were a few blatant copycats along the way, but they also helped influence some legendary individuals.

Get Inspired

Inspiration may sound like “borrowing” for some, but there are several sites that encourage sharing of designs and have sections specifically for inspiring designers. Sites like You The Designer and the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA) are great examples. Speaking of AIGA, official ethical practices in design have actually been in place. In an earlier post, I talked about personal ethics in a job. AIGA’s original idea, known as The Living Principles of Design focuses on not only that concept, but provides an online community to share best practices, tools and ideas for designers of all ilks.

Just like the code of ethics and rules on academic plagiarism (that we usually don’t have time to read), you have to understand what you are getting into when you use a concept. Be sure to credit your inspirations. Not everything I’ve done for clients has been totally original, but its important to establish your own ethical boundaries.

Works Cited:

Interaction Design Rut

In an audio post I did a few days ago, I talked about interaction design and my experiences as a graphic designer. It is amazing to me the process that goes into the creation of things, be it an iPod or a design poster. In Designing for interaction, Saffer talks about gathering information for design. He says, “thanks to a little thing called the Internet, we now have access to information quickly and easily from many different sources. Very few projects are in the area that no one has thought about before.” This is absolutely true, but the fact remains, everybody gets in a bit of a creative rut sometimes.

Scott Hanson recently posted a blog called, Overcoming The Creative Block. In this, he received quotes from 25 designers and creatives on what they do to combat the lack of creative juices. As I type this I am getting distracted from this, as a friend sent me a video about obsolete video formats. I’m sure many of you bloggers go through the same issues. A lot of the creatives had some interesting bits of advice in this blog. Some cook food, listened to music, travel or simply take their mind of the work and get away from the computer all together. Chad Hagen’s advice resonated best with me,

Staying creative is hard work. Honestly, I don’t think when I got into art school I was very talented at all. I struggled to stand out. I struggled to stay in school. Staying creative was hard work. BUT, the one thing that kept me focused was my desire to be good. I wanted to be really good. I wanted to be as good as those people that WERE talented. I used to think I would eventually, if I worked hard enough, master art like a math equation and then I could relax and just make great stuff and let everything else follow. That time definitely never came, and I know now I never want it to, because the most important thing that keeps me creative is my wanting to be good. So if I’m ever in a rut, the best things to get me out of them is to put myself in places that engage that desire to be good. In a general sense this means to get out and be expose to others creating. In my opinion, there is no better way to trigger your own creativity, than to see what great things others have made or are making. Going to museums, galleries, shows, etc. always inspires my mind in a way that make me want to get back into my own work and make good things.

I really needed that advice 5 years ago, but it still rings true. I failed classes as an immature youth. I assumed everything would fall in place. In some respects, some things have. I reached a point (late) in my undergrad career where I was no longer content “getting a good grade.” I wanted and still want to be good, really good. I look at some peers in my ICM grad class and strive to match some of the work I see. I used old coworkers with great deals of experience as mentors and want to match their levels. Like Hagen says, why sit back and relax and let it all flow? You still have to challenge yourself. So when I have to create something for a job or school, I look at the great work that others are doing and get jealous. Not in a “sinful” way, but in a way that drives me to attempt to match those levels of hard work.

Why did I post a column about being in a rut? Well, all this talk about designing has kind of drained me out of ideas so in a way, this is therapeutic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get distracted.

References:

  • Saffer, D. (2007). Designing for interaction. Berkeley: New Riders, pp. 1-68.
  • Hanson, S. (2010). Overcoming The Creative Block. blog.iso50.com/2010/02/10/overcoming-creative-block/