Monday, April 23, 2012

Branding Myself

Just like any good company, a designer needs to develop a brand. I have been working on a personal identity for a few months now. I keep changing my mind and can't settle on a particular direction. I've heard this is normal but I just want to pick something and stick with it. One of the things I've discovered while working on this project is that I am an emerging designer so while I have great taste, I don't particularly have the skills to make things that I like. I'm still learning and it takes practice. So while I learn more about design I learn about the flaws in my current branding or discover new avenues and styles that I want to adopt.

Well graduation is approaching next week. NEXT WEEK! So I thought no better time to create an identity that will last me for at least a few months.
So like any design project I started with the problem.

Problem- I need a job.

Solution- Well, I know I need a quick piece that can be given out spontaneously, most people use a business card. I am a firm believer in researching the problem then solving it with a solution that makes the most sense, not necessarily the norm. I have a great example for this coming up. I also need a resume. I would need a piece that can be handed out at job fairs since I already have a few job fairs on the calendar. I also need a Thank You card to send to people I interview with.

Soo... I started with the business card. Name. Email. Website. Number. Art Director. Designer. OK. I like yellow and I think that's the color that best describes me at this point of my life. I wanted something a little trendy but clean. Ok- Stripes. I like the vintage-y, DIY movement so I traced the shape of a hang tag I had and extended the lines and made the decorative element on the back of my card.

Next, Resume. OK! I'm a designer/ art director. I wanted a fun look with color but not too designed. It needed to show my way of organizing lots of data. I actually got inspiration from looking at a lunch menu. I like food so I figured this wouldn't be a bad choice. Hierarchy, Hierarchy, Hierarchy. Organize that info so the recruiter reading 75 of these a day can see me as a person who wants to make their life easier.

JOB FAIR leave behind. Like advertising, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! These people sitting at the table have been here for hours! They really just need a care package. Throw in some chocolate, chap-stick, and just so I can get them to look at more of my work I threw in a mini portfolio. I was originally going to throw in a business card but if I brand everything (Chocolate, chap-stick, and portfolio) I don't need it. Make those things useful. Chapstick? Yeah they'll hold onto that one for a while. It's yellow, they can't loose it. Imagine, they'll come back to the office and show off the care package I left them. Just another chance for more people to see my work and my name. And my website and email is on every one of those pieces.

Once I get in the door and have an interview I'm not done. I've got to show appreciation. I think the world lacks that. I don't want to ever be known as someone who doesn't show appreciation. Snail mail speaks volumes more than an email and there isn't a delete button. This gives me another opportunity to show off some work. I have a thank you note, hand written (make it personal), a business card, and another mini portfolio- BRANDED.

OK so what's next?  The website. It's got to fit the brand. I don't think it would be so bad to be known as the yellow girl. Yellow is the color of friendship. I'll be anyone's friend as long as they give me a job. So I coded my website by myself. It's not the best in the world but it's given employers a taste of my html/css skills. Whether this is good or bad, I can still change up my website while I'm still learning. Besides, it shows that I'm not afraid to learn. I have html/css on my resume and when asked how proficient I am at those skills I can say "I did my website" and they know my level, assuming they've seen my site. By no means am I a coder but I know the language.

Like any design work there is always room for refinement. I have plans to change this over the summer but maybe I should wait until my 1500 business cards run out. That's another thing- make sure if your printer messes up you get free reprints!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro

The pile of books near my bed.

This new section of the blog has been added as a desperate attempt to finish the stack of books sitting next to my bed. While all of these, I'm sure, are great books, I haven't had time to read them. I've been far too busy with homework and other distractions like the new season of Mad Men.

This week I started a book called Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro. I'm only half way though this short 150 page book. Since it is a smaller book I decided to start with it because of it's lack of intimidation. Mike, the author, is also quiet humorous. Here is a passage from the introduction.

Design is a Job PDF version by Mike Monteiro
  " ...I am tired of seeing you get your ass kicked because
no one taught you better. I am tired of you not getting paid.
I am tired of you working nights and weekends. I am tired of
 you doing spec work because someone has convinced you it
will look good in your portfolio. I am tired of you sitting by
and hoping the work sells itself.

So I wrote you a book. It has a spine and by the time you’re
done reading so will you."

So far, I enjoy the book and have learned a few brief lessons in client selection and self confidence. Skimming through the table of contents I can already tell the rest of the book will not disappoint. A few chapters include: 
  • Getting Clients
  • Choosing the Right Clients
  • Charging for Your Work
  • Contracts
  • Getting Your Money
  • and other important topics...
You should just go out and buy the book because there can't be another way of learning these important lessons with this same enjoyable humor. 

In addition, the author Mike Monteiro also spoke at a Creative Mornings in San Francisco in 2011. His title? "F*%# you, Pay me." Whether you have the time or not, I recommend spending 38 minutes to watch it. You will admire this man by the time it is over. Come on! It's not even as long as a Mad Men episode.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

KNOED Creative

This week's artistic fling isn't as much an art project as it is a small wake up call to my design process and way of thinking.

This weekend I had the pleasure of sitting in on a lecture given by Knoed Creative at the Lincoln Park Apple Store. Knoed is a graphic design studio ran by husband and wife team Kim and Kyle. I've heard them before at Creative Mornings in Chicago a few months ago. It's really interesting to me the new things you pick up on while listening to the same people talk about the same thing at different parts of your life. I wanted to share a few insights that I gathered from this wonderful evening.

1. Creative Process

I know what the creative process is but sometimes I don't think I follow it as well as I should. Listening to Knoed and how their strictly follow their steps 1, 2 and 3, I can see how I could save a lot of time and effort is I diligently follow my creative process. Since I am still an emerging designer I think I still have time to develop my creative process until I solidify a process that works for me. I also thought about adopt other well seasoned designers' processes while I'm trying to find my own. After all, they have been doing this for a while, they should know what they are talking about.

2. Side Projects

Knoed talked about having side projects. This doesn't have to necessarily have to be something graphic design related. Kim has a side project of making jewelry while Kyle makes t-shirts that show off favorite "L" stops in Chicago. I guess this blog is my idea of a side project. It's getting me to write more and explore new mediums of art (even though I think I could do better on the latter part of that sentence.)

3. Being Involved

I think they briefly touched upon it or maybe I just felt good sitting around a table full of other graphic designers, but being involved and networking within the design community can not only inspire you to create new and exciting things, it can help you meet great people.

4. Be Brave

They discussed the scariness of leaving their old jobs and starting their own thing. It can be scary to head off into the unknown but when you get those quick moments of power and confidence it is best to follow them when they come.

5. Design as a career

I think I know a little about the design world but as an emergine designer I can really only judge based on opinions and experiences of others I know and from the few experiences I have already had. Kim talked a lot about the unstable nature of her jobs. She was always seen as a replaceable person. She had been laid off a few times due to budget cuts. While jumping ship to start your own thing sounds  a little scary, Kim saw it as a way to have more control over her employment.

6. Work to live not Live to work.

I don't care if your a designer, lawyer, accountant, or flipping burgers at Micky-Ds, this statement should apply to everyone. I've never heard it before but I completely agree with it. People are not put on this Earth to work. There are memories that need to be made, people that need to be loved and experiences that need to be experienced. Unfortunately money is something that is required to live and make sure these things can happen. Work should be a way to pay for the things you need to survive. It shouldn't be the only thing you live for. There are far more important things than money and job titles. I think it has taken me a long time to fully understand this.

This is a majority of what I took from the lecture. I know there is more so if I think of anything I will add to it later. Check out Knoed's website at or follow them on twitter @knoedcreative.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Disney Minimalism

For this week's Artistic Fling I wanted to try a minimalism poster. I decided to make a mini series featuring the beloved Disney characters. I decided to do Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, and Goofy. I think I will do a few revisions and maybe extend the series to other characters.

For these posters I focused on what each character wears and how they wear it.


I'm not sure if this entry is as much trivia as it is a bias opinion but there are facts in the next few paragraphs so take what you will.

Anyone who knows me personally has heard my rants about bottled water and how much it sucks. Taking Marine Biology and Oceanography in consecutive semesters can do that to you.  I will now take the next few paragraphs to briefly, and I mean briefly, explain why bottled water is bad.

First of all, most bottled water is from a regular tap, not springs or even filters. Now, if your water says "Spring Water" that means that they filled it up from a hose at the factory that is probably coming from Lake Michigan (True story. Nestle got in trouble for bottling and selling water that was owned by the government and it's tax payers). But if your water says "Filtered Water" you can be sure that the water was taken from a hose at the factory, filtered, and then resold to you at a 500% mark up. 

My next point involves those of you who think drinking bottled water is cleaner and healthier for you. I hate to burst your bubble but it's not. Bottled water companies get their water tested once a year. One bottle every year is tested. Most of those bottles fail the tests. The water that comes from your tap is checked multiple times daily, depending on the population that relies on a water source. For example, Chicago's water is checked 400 times a day. The only concern I can understand people having is the pipes that may be rusting in their 100+ year old apartment. That's what filters like Brita and Bobble are for.

But the reason I hate bottled water the most is because of it's plastic. Sometime in the 1950's people started living a disposable lifestyle. Never before could people serve dinner on paper plates and then throw the dishes away eliminating the need to clean the dishes. But now Mom didn't have to slave over dinner and then slave over clean up. Unfortunately this convenience has turned our society into a throw away society. We not only throw our dishes away but our clothes, electronics, and now plastic water bottles. I have a friend who goes through 3 plastic water bottles a day. THREE! If everyone on Earth went through 3 water bottles a day we would have a problem. The only justification for this behavior is "Oh I recycle it." Yeah, I bet you do but think of all those other people out there who don't. You can't tell me that every bottled water user recycles their plastic. 

You want to know how I know? There's a little thing called the North Pacific Garbage Patch located in the Pacific Ocean. This is a patch of garbage that is twice the size of Texas. Most of this garbage is plastic. This is such a big deal because it takes plastic 450 years to biodegrade. This is also having negative effects on wild life. Sea creatures eat this plastic thinking it is food. They eventually starve to death because plastic has no nutritional value. Plastic also has a chemical called Bisphenol A, also known as BPA. When plastic is heated, it releases this chemical. There have been high numbers of this chemical found in the water located in the garbage patch. This chemical is making the water that animals and humans rely on toxic.

Not only does this chemical become released when the plastic is heated, it also becomes released while the plastic is being made. A factory in Corpus Christi, Texas exclusively makes bottles for bottled water companies. The subdivision near the plant has an alarming number of cancer victims. These cases are all similar and thought to be set on by the release of chemicals into the nearby air and water.

My last and final thought about bottled water focuses on a company called Figi Water. Now, I want you to know that I have had this water and yes, it tastes great, BUT before you go forking over $3 a bottle I want you to know how devastating this company is to Figi.

Figi Water is a company based out of California. When Figi Water discovered the great tasting water from a natural spring on the island of Figi, the company knew they could bottle and sell it in America. So Figi drew up a contract to buy the spring from Figi and started selling the water 5,400 miles away.

Not that big of a deal, right? WRONG. Figi Water bought exclusive rights to this spring meaning the people of Figi can not use their own water. Many people on the island of Figi don't have access to clean water because this American company went in offering a seemingly large amount of money in exchange for the exclusive rights to this spring. I'll let you be the judge on moral business practice but let me leave you with one parting thought. Many years from now, people are going to look back and think we were silly for taking clean water from a country and bottling and shipping it thousands of miles away to a country that already has their own clean water coming straight from the taps in their drinking fountains, kitchens and bathrooms. 

I'm sorry to stand on my hippie soap box but it's a subject I feel passionately about. I use "disposable" plastic water bottles when I have to but try not to. When I do, I recycle them. This is my challenge to you. Now lets go hug some trees ;)