2015 Goals

I have taken my time to come up with some attainable goals for 2015.  Not resolutions, people break those to easily.  Goals are much better,  they are SMART, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Goal 1. Complete12 Fine art pieces this year.  It usually does not take me more than a month to create most of my art.  I do have pieces that are really detailed and take longer.  I also can work on more than one piece at time.  I already have 4 finished pieces and plans for 3 more.

Goal 2. Create 12 Graphic Design / Marketing packets.  This should include a flyer template, business card, and website template.  If this is not challenging enough I can add a FaceBook banner or something similar.  I have plans for 5 already.  I just have to sit down and do it. I also need to work on creating some clip art for various projects that are ongoing. I am working on some flowers, traffic jam, cars, and some monthly banners, to name a few.

Goal 3 Get healthier!  What kind of year would it be without some kind of health goal?  I would like to get healthier this year, lose a few inches and pounds.  I have a figure in mind, but with the injury I received in December (darn irresponsible dog owners)  I have not been able to work out as much as I would like. This also impacts goal 2, since it is painful to sit for more than a few minutes at a time.

Goal 4 Read 10 Books.  This is not a high goal.  I have been known to read three or four books in a 24 hour period.  I really want to finish some books that are non-fiction, Tim Wu’s Master Switch, some coding books and a few more on how social media is changing our minds and perceptions.  I do have to finish a few fiction books to.

Goal 5 (Bonus Goal) Find some meaningful volunteer work.  I have been looking and looking for some kind volunteer work that is meaningful to me. I like to help people but I have found that many people who “need” an artist are looking to take advantage of the artists skills and will work them into depression. It would be cool to help with a mural or some kind of artsy fundraiser. Perhaps an advert on Craigslist or something will help. I have not done that yet.

I am working on some bits for my tutorial series. Updates to those should be forth coming.

Have a good 2015!

A Better Whine

Today is one of those days where I wish I was better.

I wish I was better with Photoshop.  I wish I was better with Illustrator.  I wish I was better with code, so I could be better at web design.  I wish I was in better shape.  I wish I was better at being motivated to do stuff.  I wish I was better…

stop whiningWishing is not going to make me better at any of the things I want to be better at.  Doing them will.  Doing is much harder than wishing.

Honestly I would much rather be painting instead of working in Photoshop or Illustrator.  Unfortunately I need a nice clean digital image for a poster I am working on.  That means Photoshop or Illustrator.  That means headaches, backaches, numb butt and lots of clicking and cursing.

Through this endeavor I will get better at digital illustrations (and I rolled by eyes after I typed that.)  I love digital illustrations or computer graphics as most people call them.  I just do not want to be the one creating them.  Give me a photo to put into a design and I am a happy camper.  Make me make one and now I am crabby (posting on WP instead of working on it…)

Alas, I cannot find a suitable photo for my poster.  Now I have to make one.

I doubt I would get so crabby if I did not sit in front of a computer all day anyway.  Now I have to spend my free time in front of a computer NOT killing electronic representations of fictitious and mythical beings (World of Warcraft for me,)  I have to W.O.R.K.

WHHHHYYYY can’t the image be available (and free?)  That would just be to easy.

Alright.  I am done whining.  I will get to work.  I might even post my finished product.  Hopefully it will be done next week, AFTER PAX.

A little whine and back to the grind.

TTYL

 

A BASF Analogy

Today my co-worker gave this awesome idea for an analogy that pertains to designers.

I am going to include some back story in hopes that it will help people come to grips with their strengths and weaknesses.

I have been kind of busy and some of my ancillary duties have fallen to the side.  My co-worker decided to create a flyer for a new program that she is championing.  Usually she just gives me what she wants to day and I put things together for her.  Once she was done she asked me my opinion on it.  Me, being me, said it was a good start, flipped it over and sketched out a better format.  One that would get all the information she wanted and not have layout issues.  THEN I suggested that she use this awesome template we found two years ago and had only used 2 or 3 times.  It would work perfectly.  I stopped what I was doing and threw her design into the template.  I did not use anything new, I just made her idea better.  Just like BASF “We do not make a lot of the things you buy.  We make a lot of the products you buy better.”

This analogy is perfect for all types of designers.  An interior designer does not (usually) make the furniture that goes in a space, they arrange it so it at its most functional and appealing.  Graphic Designers do not always make everything that goes into a spread or layout, they make the images and text fit in a logical and fun way making the items better.  The same goes for Project Managers, Database designers, Editors and the plethora of other jobs that do not create things from scratch,  we just make things better.

This does not mean that what was given to use was terrible or worthless.  Far from it.  Designers can make glorious things happen when they are given a good foundation.  A good foundation is a good idea and some of the legwork is already done.  My co-worker gave me a great foundation and I was able to make it better. None of it was my idea, everything was hers; the words, images and links.  I was just able to see a way to put them together that made more sense than how she had it laid out.

I am BASF! I made it better.

At least that is how I see it.  I have a feeling that she did not see it that way.

The problem with not really creating things, just making things better, is that people think you have stolen their idea or product.  Personally I spend quite a bit of energy trying NOT to steal peoples ideas, products and property.  I have had to create substandard images on many occasions because I was not able to find a free or affordable image to use in a product.  There have been instances where I had to tread the copyright infringement line and use an image, without consent, and make sure the artist was given credit.  All I want to do is use things to make something better. You can keep your property, I will give you credit for it, just let me put it with something else that will make it stand out more and help people understand its meaning better.

The whole can be much greater than the sum of its parts in the right hands.  The hands and minds of designers make things better.

Paul Rand Quote

Getting it Together

The beginning of this month has been crazy.

I quit my internship.  It was not taking me where I wanted to go.  They also changed direction and I was not going to be able to do what I spent 3 years in university and many thousands of dollars and hours to do.  I started out as a web developer for their WordPress pages but quickly let myself get sidetracked with the graphic design component of the work.  I left because I was offered a SUPER AMAZING pro-bono gig for a non-profit. 

There are some things I need to do to take full advantage of the opportunity.  Get a business license is one of the first things I need to do.  Another is set up a formal meeting with them and find out exactly what they need and figure out how to provide it.  I have many, many ideas that will help them grow and prosper, but what I can do depends on what they want. 

A big part of the project gathering the basic information on Who, What, When, Where and How.

  • Who is going to do the blog, the FB, YouTube and Twitter and when?
  • What constitutes acceptable content? 
  • What cool stuff can we offer the variety of interested parties? 
  • Who are our stakeholders?
  • What do our stakeholders expect?
  • How do we give the stakeholders what they need and expect
  • When do the stakeholders expect the product?
  • Can we get it to them in a timely manner?
  • Where can information and content be found?
  • How do we market ourselves better?

There are so many other questions to ask, but those will get us started.

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Thank you yourownawesome.org for the image. It is AWESOME!

I learned a lot at my internship.  Some of the questions I will ask came from that.  It was a great experience but in the end I was not going to go in the direction I wanted to go. It was time for me to move on and use my skills and talents in another area.

I actually waited a bit to long to make this choice.  By the time I had, I was struggling to complete what little work I was given.  I dreaded going to “work” and events.  Once the direction changed and more staff was “hired” (more interns,) I realized that I did not have to stay around.  It was not in my best interest to stay around.  The dis-satisfaction was causing problems elsewhere and I needed to move on.  It was not an easy choice.  I am very loyal by nature.  There are times when it is better for everyone to just move on.  Sometimes it just takes time to realize it, or, as in my case, another opportunity to knock and be really awesome.

I am going to be working really hard to make my part successful and I am going to blog about the process.  I cannot wait to share my new work with everyone out there.  I will as soon as the ink dries on the plans.  Many of you that follow my blog are going to be interested in the organization and I hope that you will be able to offer me input to make things awesome.   

Maybe, just maybe, we will inspire others to take up the cause.  Or maybe someone who is starting a web based non-profit will succeed and make their dreams a reality based off the information I have shared.

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I win. You win. It is All Good.

Recently one of my clients (graphic design client) was going to make a really bad decision, based off of some really bad advice.  What is a person to do?

1. Remain polite, controlled and logical.  I was informed by email, so I took some time to reason out the problem and sent a “calm” (I was NOT calm when I was writing it.  They will never know that though.) and logical email detailing why the idea was REALLY bad. Be very detailed, what bad things are associated with the bad idea and will the target audience go there.   I also made sure to include a solution to the problem.  That is problem solving 101.

2.  Plan for a rebuttal.  Yep they replied, with a sales pitch not even why their idea was better!  I do not think they really read my initial response.  No one really reads anymore, it is so sad.  But since I planned ahead for the obvious “you are wrong” reply I was ready.

3. Reply, a bit less polite, but still professional, logical and remind them who the subject matter expert is.  They are paying you for your expertise after all.  I, again, laid out the problem and (almost) word by word explained why their idea was bad.  I laid out why my idea was better.  I even gave them some room to play and “improve” my idea so it would work with their plans “better.”

4. Plan for the rebuttal.  I got lucky.  The head cheese read my email (someone who READS!! whole emails too.)  And they agreed with me.  I did not have to rebut.  I did have one planned though.  I was going to put my foot down as the subject matter expert and pull my support for the event graphics (risky but I am working on this for “free.”)

In the end I won, which means my client won and everything is good.

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I do not think you can win enough.  The problem is learning which battles are worth fighting over.  I know most people with think something like a event title is a small thing.  It is not.  It is the foundation of the event, the corner stone.  This is what people will remember the event by.  Search engines will take the words and title and show people this.  Titles are important.

 When you are working with a client and they are going to do something that damages their “name” or brand, it is your responsibility as the subject matter expert to stop them.  If something is going to hurt their name and your name is on it, you get hurt too.  All credibility down the tube because you would not stand up for your craft.

I am a very “go with the flow” type of designer.  If the client wants it, I will do it.  Obviously that comes within a limit.  I am not on your team because I am a pretty face or a good chair filler.  I am on your team to provide you with a service that you cannot do or choose not to do.   When the laid back person tells you something is a bad idea, you might want to listen. Just because I go along with most of the ideas and plans does not mean that I am going to let you damage your image (and mine.)

Certain things work in graphic design and others work well in TV and still others work well in newspapers or on the internet.  Using buzz words is great to snag the TV, radio and internet video watcher, but they are not always going to work in newspapers or on internet articles.  Buzz words do not work in graphic design, when the template is already made and the words cannot be highlighted appropriately.  However if you use a good graphic with intelligent words and the buzz words in your hash-tags and descriptions, you have a balance and that is what will get you the best results. 

I think people forget that the words they see in a .JPG or .PNG image are not searchable.  The only thing that is searchable about the image is what you have called it, the alternative title and any description you have provided.  As the designer it is your job to know this, and any other rules and regulations that might affect your client (copyright laws specifically.)

In summary:

*Stand your ground when it matters, and make sure you win by being prepared.

*Remember that anything bad that happens to your client because of your cowardice shows on your portfolio.

*Take the time to know your client and the clients audience.  If you can show that and idea or action will damage their target audience you will probably win.

*Have a solution ready!

Winning is good.

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Giving Up

I really feel like I have given up on being a web designer/developer.  I would much rather spend my time doing graphics than reinforcing what I learned in web development.

I keep thinking that “I should …” work  on something related to web dev for a few hours a week.  I never do.  I play around in Photoshop or read Photoshop tutorials. 

I have so much invested in web development that I am angry with myself for not working harder on it.  Today I was wondering how I even passed some of the classes when I can’t even get a PHP contact sheet to send mail properly.  I just can not seem to get it to work.  Just thinking about this makes me want to go take a bath and go to bed.  I am tired of beating my head against that brick wall.

When do you know that you “wasted” you time and money on something?  I wasted so much time on something that I cannot seem to do.  Super depressing thought…  I want to give up and try something that I am good at.  I do not know why I did not spend that time and money getting a degree in marketing and communications.  That would have been much easier and more up my alley.  Nope.  I had to try something new and hard…

….

What a waste.

About this point in my blog I would normally say something like “there is no wasted experience” or something.  I hate to say that it is true, but I do not feel that way about this.  Even on a practical level I think it was a waste to do this.  After the first class I almost failed (c++) and when I started thinking about changing majors, I really should have.  Heck I am better at database design and programming than I am at web development.  I almost changed two or three times.

Now I am left with something that gives me headaches, and that I cannot do anywhere else but at my desk.  Argh!

Really a waste.

Now I am left to decide if I want to attempt to continue with web development or drop it and focus on graphic design and marketing.  If I stick with it, it is going to be long and hard work.  I am going to have to strap myself to my desk and learn from scratch.  Learn the basics of PHP, Java, JavaScript and even HTML and CSS again.  The way I should have done it the first time, on my own with books and how to vids.

I could just drop it and take some classes at a community college and get a bachelors in marketing and communication.  I have enough experience to be able to test out of a bunch of the basic and mid level classes.  Write it off.  I hate to do that though.

I am genuinely interested in making good multi-platform websites.  The thought just gets me all thoughtful and curious. 

*Sigh*

I do not think I am going to figure this out tonight or even this month.

I do need to decide soon though.

Stick with it or drop it?  I wish I knew.

Designs for the Holiday’s: Part two

Here are my designs for Christmas and New Year.

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I like how cold everything but the words are.  No department store vomit on my Christmas design.

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This turned out much darker than I intended.  I am going to have to work on it a bit more.  It is almost like Hallowe’en all over again.

I also think I like purple a bit to much…