Questions to ask yourself when hiring a freelancer

Hiring a Freelance Designer: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Questions to ask yourself when hiring a freelancer

There are a lot of great freelance designers out there. Whether it is web designer, graphic designer, user experience designer or mobile interface designer. Each has different skill set, expertise and knowledge to offer so you can not hire a graphic designer to do user experience design for you.

With the demand of designers, you need to know exactly what you are looking for to find the best candidate for you. You can’t just invite applicants to interview for the position because you might just end up wasting your time or the time of the applicant.

In that sense, you should have a guided list to know beforehand you decide to look for a freelance designer.

Here are our questions to ask yourself when hiring a freelancer:

What do you need?

This is a very straightforward question. You can answer it yourself but there are still some areas you need to look into to qualify what you need. For example, you need someone with related experience working on the project you will assign to the freelance designer.

This is very important to identify before you invite to interview your applicants for the position to know the following:

  • What interview questions you will prepare
  • How much salary range you will offer
  • Work expectations from the freelance designer

Once you have identified this qualification, you will be able to separate the experienced or inexperienced freelance designers to apply for the position.

How much can you give?

Some freelance designers often charge higher than the others. You need to specify the range of compensation you are willing to offer for the position before you hire someone. If you fail to do this, your offer might end up being rejected by the designer you desired to hire for the position.

Unfortunately, the whole application process will be put into waste before you know it. This is a matter of prediction versus expectation. You can’t hire someone with excellent work experience and offer a small rate of compensation because they already know how much their worth.

If you are going to hire experienced freelance designers, you should meet their standard rates before you attempt to contact them. Some freelance designers provide a list of price for the service they offer so this can give you an idea of how much you should be budgeting to hire a freelancer.

How long is your timeframe?

This separates the inexperienced and experienced candidates. If you have a deadline for the project you are working on. You should expect to hire the one with excellent designing experience because the possibilities of making revisions on the output of your designers.

While revisions are inevitable, the is a high difference between work of experienced with inexperienced freelance designers.

One given difference is experienced designers have completed several projects already and they already know what they are doing such as the can easily follow a given instructions with good design humor.

Compare to inexperienced designers, you can expect to get the work done but there is a possibility that you might need to do some quick fix on the output which does not qualify with the time sensitivity of the project.

Do you have time to train?

Another important ask yourself is do you have time to train? If you are hiring a freelance designer to help you do the job, probably you don’t have the time. However, if you have a very limited budget, you can offer the job to an inexperienced candidate and offer to train as added benefit.

This may not be very ideal but if you are looking to save for other expenses, this might be a good tactic to help you find the person you will train with low compensation rate. But you can also save time training by giving document such as Adobe CC cheat sheets.

Do you have time to explain?

This is for both experienced and inexperienced candidates. You will have to do this otherwise. If you hire someone with an excellent experience related for the job, you might just give a documented guidelines to follow throughout the project timeframe.

For example, you can use project management platforms such as Basecamp or Trello to assign the tasks divided into pieces. By doing this approach, you can minimize the time explaining to your freelance designer of what output you are expecting to see because of the work schedule outline on the platforms.


There is a difference between hiring a fulltime employee or hiring a freelancer. But one thing is for sure. You can’t afford to hire the wrong person for the job. No matter what position or status of employment there is to it, you should be know from the beginning who to interview, how much to give and expectations from the people you’ll hire.

5 Keys to Branding Your Apparel Line Like a Boss (+ 1 Top Secret to a Successful Launch)

How I Founded One of the Cleveland’s Most Respected Rock Venues: Cindy Barber of Beachland Ballroom shares her story

Video and Podcast: Cindy Barber of the Beachland Ballroom

Next in our line of engaging speeches from Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 5 comes to us from Cindy Barber, one of Cleveland’s Most Interesting People (2011, Cleveland Magazine) and founder of Beachland Ballroom.

Beachland Ballroom, located in the Waterloo neighborhood here in Cleveland, Ohio, is arguably one of Cleveland’s most respected rock venues. Over 14 years, the Beachland has helped break numerous acts, including the White Stripes and the Black Keys.

Let’s listen in as Cindy tells us her story.

Watch the Video

Listen to the Podcast

This talk was given at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2014 in Cleveland, OH. For more info, check out

To listen to more Fest talks, head to our Video and Podcast section, right here on the ‘Zine.

For more on Go Media’s design services click here.


For more about the Beachland Ballroom, head to:
Official Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Google+

How to Ace Your Next Creative Job Interview – Part One: 20 Interview Do’s and Don’ts

Creative Job Interview Tips

Whether you’re out there, seeking a job in a creative field, or just want to keep your ninja interview skills sharp as knives, read on as we receive advice from interview expert Ann Walter.

Having interviewed hundreds of people over the years, Ann knows her stuff. Cleveland native and Kent State University School of Fashion Design Merchandising alumni, Ann is a retail consultant and college instructor specializing in professional development/job search coursework for the creative fields. She spent the last eighteen years as a fashion designer and creative leader in the apparel industry at companies including Liz Claiborne, Gap, Walmart, Sears Holdings, Dots, and Justice managing design teams of fashion designers, graphic designers, and CAD designers. She currently serves as adjunct college instructor at KSU Studio in New York City.

Take it away, Ann!

– Heather, Go Media’s Zine Editor

Interview Do’s and Dont’s

We’re all pretty familiar with the basics involved in an interview. Let’s talk about some important specifics and details regarding the three parts of the interview process including:

1. Pre-Interview
2. Interview
3. Post-Intervew

As you review the following do’s and don’ts, here’s something important thing to keep in mind – just because we may be “creatives” doesn’t mean the interview process is any easier or less serious.

And remember, you don’t have to be nervous – you just have to be prepared!

Ready? Let’s go!

The Pre-Interview: “Do your homework!”

DON’T forget this often overlooked yet critical part of the interview process.

DO keep detailed notes/an interview journal (digital or notebook). This could include your thoughts on the company, important dates, and location of interview. Also a great place to keep your answers to top interview questions.

DO research the company!
Google them for news articles, earnings, new business ventures, etc. If this company has a retail component – visit the store and take notes! If they sell online or business-to-business spend time on their website and be familiar with their product, designs, campaigns, etc. It’s a deal-breaker in a creative industry to not have an opinion on the product/aesthetic of the company you are interviewing for. They will ask your opinion, what looked good and what opportunities you see for them. They’ll want to know what you think of their competition, etc.

DON’T be afraid to do a little ‘light stalking!’
Research the interviewer themselves if you can. If you are working with HR and have already met the HR team, ask them for what to expect from the interviewers. Ask your friends who work there. I like to see the interviewer’s picture on LinkedIn if I can! The more information you have the better and the more comfortable you’ll be when you arrive at the interview!

DON’T show up in the wrong outfit! Research the culture and dress code. Be prepared in an appropriate way.

DO be prepared by practicing your answers to typical interview questions.

DO a dry run to the location of interview!
Literally dry run the commute/walk etc. to know how long it will take you. Know where the building is, etc. You will feel more comfortable the day of.

DO allow yourself time to walk in the door of the reception area/lobby 10 minutes early!
If you get to the building too early kill time at a Starbucks or hang out in your car! Remember, you may have to park far away or go through building security and sign in. In these cases, make sure to allow extra time. Being late is a big no-no. If you do run late, let the interviewer know in advance and apologize when you arrive without going overboard.

During The Interview: “Bring Your A Game!”

DO introduce yourself professionally with a strong and self-confident voice, good eye contact, and a firm handshake! This is not the time to be shy or girly. Be assertive and confident!

DON’T forget that first impressions are KEY! The interviewer probably reaches some sort of decision about you in the first 2 – 5 minutes.

DON’T forget to have 10 copies of your resume with you. Use good quality paper!

DO keep your answers to 2 minutes or under! Don’t ramble.

DON’T use slang.
Creative folks can get away with slightly more casual language and behavior, but it even if you’re meeting at the local coffee house, it is still a job interview where they are assessing whether or not to hire you at their company. Be very careful of the top offenders UMM, LIKE, YOU KNOW. If you find you use slang, a good way to catch yourself is to just pause instead of saying your usual filler.

DON’T bad mouth a previous employer!
The creative fields are small industries and people are very connected. Plus, it makes you look like a small-minded person who gossips and is unprofessional – if you are forced by a direct question to give an example of a tough relationship you’ve had in the past – take a negative situation and describe it as a challenge and how you overcame it, keep things proactive.

DO have a few questions prepared for the interviewer.
These could be about the company, about the position
“What are you looking for in this “assistant graphic designer” role?”
“How long have you been with the company”
“What keeps you excited to be here?”

DO be prepared to be flexible.
If an interview goes well, they might have you stay and meet more of their colleagues.

After the Interview: “Leave A Good Impression!”

DO stand up, thanks the interviewer for her time, look her in the eye and shake her hand again!

DON’T be afraid to ask about next steps in the interview process or when they will be making their decision on the position.
Reiterate that you are very interested in the position.

DON’T forget to send a thank you note within 12 – 24 hours!
Handwritten, not email. Don’t use a card covered with glittery butterflys from Papyrus. This is not a thank you note for your grandmother! Use simple, chic, cool stationery.

DO follow up.
Assess the best form of contact. This is usually email so it’s less invasive. Check in if you haven’t heard anything in the timeline that was mentioned. Again, an appropriate level of assertive follow-up (light stalking!) here shows your interest in the position.

And that’s it!

Best of luck with your interviews and stay tuned to Part Two of How to Ace Your Next Creative Job Interview, “Tough Interview Questions and How to Answer Them”

F#@% your Function, Find your Fire

Before diving into my position at Cleveland Design Firm Go Media, I knew the basics of personal branding.

My understanding went something like this:

1. Figure out who you are

2. Package it up nice and neat

3. Show it off to the world

How to do all those things, I must admit, was a little vague — until now. Let’s just say, I’ve just been enlightened by Michael Cavotta, certified personal brand strategist and professional headshot photographer. As it turns out, there’s more to it than a shot in the dark and a nice photo.

“Personal branding,” explains Michael, “is the external expression of the authentic self, which is by definition a unique and powerful commodity. It’s the ability to tell someone else—to show someone else—in words or an image—what it is that simultaneously sets you apart and draws others to you.”

[Tweet ““Personal branding is the external expression of the authentic self.””]

Whatever your role within an organization, Michael emphasizes without an authentic personal brand, your success is on the line—both as a business and an individual.


“In my former life as a venture catalyst, I learned no one invests in business plans—they invest in the people behind it,” Michael recounts, making a strong personal brand a  fundamental element of entrepreneurial success.

But personal branding isn’t limited to the world of business. It’s for anyone and everyone who wants to walk a little taller in their own shoes.

“No matter if you work for a company or you’re out on your own as a musician, an artist, a designer…everybody is their own salesperson—their own branding agent.”

“Some people do a really shitty job of branding themselves,” Michael chuckles, “or worse, they’re completely unaware there’s a job to be done. Instead, they’re out there floating, confusing their function—what they do for a living, with their fire—who they really are.”

What kind of fire? “It’s that thing that gets lit up and effortlessly erupts when someone’s allowed to just be themselves, in their element—without friction, without limitation and without a sense that they need to be something else in order to succeed.”

From Function To Fire

Michael’s process hinges upon the idea of freeing yourself from an external sense of self driven by what you do for a paycheck. It begins with a deep drive to find the authentic you, the exceptional person people are drawn to both in business and in life. Accomplish this, and you’ve got the core of your own personal brand.

3 Words Exercise

Addition by Subtraction –

Michael recommends an exercise he calls 3 Words, clients are asked to identify the three words that “unmistakably, irretrievably, undeniably” describe themselves. This process isn’t one to be taken lightly, and if done right, can take weeks or even months. Michael notes, “Start by writing down words that describe someone in your profession. In the case of a designer, these could be words like creative, visual, passionate. When you’re finished, go ahead and cross them off the list. What you’ve just described is a brand tied rooted in function, rather than fire. You can’t set yourself apart by saying me too.”

Build Your Tower

Michael is big on imagination. He’ll ask you to “think of yourself as a Jenga tower, where each block is a facet of you with a word associated with it.”

You start by building your tower with blocks/words connected to your powers, your passions, and your purpose—the things that make you extraordinary and set you apart from the rest. “Don’t worry about what I do; let me tell you about me.”  Suddenly, the conversation is no longer about the mundane expectations we have about someone in your field, it’s about activating the things that are most engaging about you.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take your time building your tower. “You have to see the whole before you can touch what is essential.”

Pull the Pieces

Just like in the real game of Jenga, once you build, you start pulling pieces.  Except in this game, your job is to figure out which three blocks are the keystones that can’t be removed without the entire thing falling apart. You’ll know when you’ve found them when you get to the point where no meaningful conversation about you can happen without them.

OK, Now What?

Finding your 3 Words is really just the beginning—the point where a process becomes a practice. “The only way to work, live and love authentically is to be mindful of where you stand. Whenever you’re presented with a challenge or an opportunity, stick your finger in the air and check which way the wind is blowing. Ask yourself, ‘is it taking me closer to or further away from my authentic self?”  If the answer is no, Michael asserts, “the result will be neither lasting nor exceptional, since any effort engaged in the absence of authenticity is doomed to mediocrity.” But the converse is decidedly more optimistic. “When approached from a foundation of authenticity, there’s nothing that you can’t do.”

[Tweet ““When approached from a foundation of authenticity, there’s nothing that you can’t do.””]

Learn more about Michael Cavotta: | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Google+

How to Land & Maintain Big Clients: 11 Absolutely Essential Tips

Cover image includes work from Go Media for Dawn, Pepsi and Lincoln Electric. For more of our work click here. 

Landing Big Clients

One question we’re always presented with here at our Cleveland based website and graphic design firm Go Media is: “How do you land big clients?” After all, don’t we all want to work with big name clients and live the dream? As you can imagine, it’s not so easy. Landing those big name clients takes time, hard work and hustle. Here are some pro tips we’ve learned, with some additional thoughts from a few of our friends.

1. Put Yourself Out There.

Easy enough, ey? Rule number one is simple, effective, essential. But listen: you simply must dedicate time to networking.  It’s easy to value, yet put on the backburner when you’re going a mile a minute. Once you’ve carved out the time, assure you’re getting out in the community and building genuine relationships with folks in your industry.

Genuine being the key word. Get out, hang out in real-world places where like-minded individuals spend their time and not only gain a new hobby, but solid, meaningful relationships.

“In sales, it’s incredibly important to build relationships. Most people have a negative view of the typical salesman or woman – no one likes the feeling of ‘being sold,’ reminds Go Media Account Manager Lauren Hudac. “If you build trust, you’re more likely to establish a relationship that lasts.”

Photo courtesy of Mytton Williams

Photo courtesy of Mytton Williams

Bob Mytton, Partner and Creative Director of Brand and Consultancy Firm Mytton Williams reminisces about his first client, and the importance of personal relationships. “One of our first major clients was Clarks shoes. We were asked to review their identity and complete implementation across everything from business cards to their lorries and packaging. It all started through various personal connections. Before setting up Mytton Williams I worked at Newell & Sorrell, a brand and design firm. I had built up some good relationships with various clients. One of them left and joined Clarks and passed on our details. I went down for a presentation to meet the Design Director. It turned out he had close associations with Pentagram, where I had got my first job as a junior designer. I think we spent most of the meeting talking about working at Pentagram. He liked our work, we sent a proposal and got the job. Looking back it was relatively simple. Being only a short drive away helped and meant we worked closely with the design team there for many years, designing work that not only helped increase sales but ended up winning several major design awards. A wonderful project.”

2. Think Big.

But, you think, I’m only one person, or I’m a freelancer! How can I take on a giant, big name client? You must simply think, and act just as mighty. Thinking, acting and speaking confidently will take you a long way.

Jen Lombardi from Cleveland design firm Kiwi Creative states, “In the past, we were hesitant to approach big-name clients because we automatically assumed they’d want to work with a large agency. Not the case! Small studios can be just as creatively effective as large firms, so don’t sell yourself short. You have to be in the game to win the game, so put yourself out there! You might be surprised at the results.”

Courtesy of Kiwi Creative
Courtesy of Kiwi Creative

3. Strategically Contact.

Go Media President William Beachy’s advice? Get a game plan together regarding who to contact. Here’s a hint: the best contact is probably not the owner. Instead, “Find someone else internally who you’ll be able to connect with – an art director or marketing director of a smaller department – versus attempting to take on the head of the corporation. Start a conversation through email, LinkedIn, Twitter, whatever works.”

Another route? Attempt going through an Artist Rep or Advertising Agency instead. Bill notes, “Big clients tend to have existing relationships with ad agencies and design studios already. Since these big clients aren’t always looking to change, you can go directly to their agency and look for sub-contracted work.”

4. Communicate through a Genuine Email.

Once you’ve researched who to contact, brainstorm how you’ll connect. Recognize that a short, informal email might be much more effective (and genuine) than any flashy marketing material you may create.

how to land big clients

5. Throw an Event for Your Dream Client.

How can a client turn down an invitation to an event you’re throwing in their honor? Here at Go Media, we’ve created a video series, On the Map, which highlights area businesses. After all, we love showing off our great city and building relationships while we’re at it.  The highlighted business owners receive free publicity, no strings attached, and we all have a great time.

OTM – Ginko from Go Media on Vimeo.

6. Work on Spec (if needed)

For the most part, we caution against working on spec, as we find most clients that make that request are untrustworthy.

Notes Beachy in his book Drawn to Business, “An exception would be very large, well-funded companies that have outlined a formal contract to be won. For instance, when Nike wants to hire a new advertising firm, they will outline their needs, put a dollar amount on the advertising budget and invite select marketing firms to present their ideas. In a case like that, the competing advertising firms will absolutely do tons of work mocking up ads, even producing TV commercials to help sell their ideas. Technically, this is work on spec. If they don’t land the contract, they don’t get paid a dime.”

“Similarly, Go Media was recently asked to do a presentation in hopes of landing a contract to develop ten property websites for a large real estate company. As part of our pitch, we mocked up several different homepage designs to help sell our ideas. In a case like this, I knew this would be a massive project with a potential massive payout. In my estimation, it was well worth the time. We ending up winning the contract and learned afterward that we were the only firm that did mock-ups. But this was the exception to the rule. Generally, I would advise young designers and small firms to avoid doing work on spec.”

Kate Spade Photo | Courtesy of Dan Morgan, Straight Shooter Photography
Kate Spade Photo | Courtesy of Dan Morgan, Straight Shooter Photography

7. Be patient and build your portfolio.

Dan Morgan, Cleveland photographer and owner of Straight Shooter Photography reminds us to “Be friendly, firm and VERY patient.” While you wait to amass your dream client roster, “Keep many examples of work you have done, even remotely similar to what you are looking for. If you don’t have any samples make them up, create assignments for yourself, for your portfolio, that illustrate a variety the type of work you are looking for. Always pay attention to your phone and e-mail messages, and respond immediately.”

8. Make a Great First Impression.

Notes Beachy in Drawn to Business, “How you perform on the very first project is absolutely critical. More specifically, your first set of proofs will establish in the mind of your customer whether they can relax and trust you to do great work, or if they’re going to have to look at everything you do with a critical eye. If you’re working with a new client, the first project is the most critical time in that relationship.”

9. Focus on Quality and Consistency, Always.

Once you’ve landed that big client, your focus for maintaining your relationship is simple: quality and consistency, notes Pete Maric of Triplet 3D, Inc.

“Clients hire you because they know you can deliver what they are looking for and to a certain quality. Once the relationship is established, and the client loved your work on the first project, you can bet on receiving more work in the future (most of the time). When the new projects come in, you have to maintain consistency in all aspects of your business; from estimating, billing, doing the creative work, and how you communicate with your client. If you’ve ever read the book The E-Myth, the last thing a client wants is their experience with your company to be completed different every time they hire you. Obviously, the creative services you offer should be custom-crafted and unique to the client’s project, but all other right-brain aspects of your business should be systemized and consistent. This includes how you answer your phone, the tone you use in your correspondence, how you deliver your projects, after-project follow up- and all of this should be reinforced on your website and marketing materials. Consistency rules!”

University Hospitals Illustration by Triplet 3D
University Hospitals Illustration by Triplet 3D

10. Treat Your Client with Fairness.

Maric also reminds us that fairness is vital in healthy and long client relationships.

He notes, “Years ago, maybe 2-3 years into working as a freelance designer/illustrator, I was hired by an architecture studio to create two illustrations of a new restaurant they had designed. Being as green as I was at the time, after meeting with the architects and reviewing all of the plans, I verbally gave them a cost estimate for the work. Without even hesitating, one of the architects says to me ‘be fair to us, be fair to yourself’- that simple! ‘Be fair to us, be fair to yourself’ is one phrase that has stuck with me to this day. I am so glad to have done that project just for those few simple, yet powerful words. I truly feel that ‘landing big clients’ and maintaining long-term quality relationships is as simple as treating people fairly all the time. In the end, it’s really not about business-to-business or business-to-consumer, it’s people-to-people! If your client knows that you care about them and their projects, and you treat them fairly every time they come through your door, you are golden! Expect work for years to come.”

Dan Morgan, reminiscences of a time when fairness paid off for him in a long-standing client relationship. He says: “Soon after I returned to Cleveland from New York City, in 2005, I made it my business to go to every possible networking event I could manage. By chance, I ran into an old client at an art Gallery / Coffee Shop. He was no longer working at the Ad Agency that he used to hire me for; he recently started working for a company called Ideastream Consumer Products. I always provided him great service for a fair price.  Because of that, I have continued to do consistent work for the company since.”

11. Last but not least, always say ‘Thank you!’

“Always thank clients for their business,” notes Hudac. “A hand-written note still goes a long way.  Here at Go Media, we write a thank you note for every project, big and small. For bigger projects we land, we send a really fun Go Media moleskine package. All the time I hear how much clients appreciate this gesture.”


Want more advice on Landing Big Clients and how to start your own million dollar design firm? Buy Go Media President William Beachy’s book, Drawn to Business.

Many thanks to contributors Mytton Williams | Kiwi Creative |
Straight Shooter Photography | Triplet 3D

Having Faith in Design: an Interview with Mike Jones of Creative South

Cover Photo courtesy of Patrick Chin

Meeting the Man: Mike Jones

Whew! What a weekend, huh, guys? As this was my first Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, I did not know what to expect. I knew I’d meet some cool people, see some awesome things – but I could’ve never imagined the magnitude of all of it. Before I get into my time with Mike Jones, let’s give a round of applause to the creator of WMC Fest, Jeff Finley, for bringing this to life. The event is truly one-of-a-kind, and the fact that it all started in Cleveland makes me feel profoundly proud.


“Have you met theman, Mike Jones?”

I heard that probably 20 times over the weekend. So, I marched up to Vendors Village to find this Mike Jones, and try to snag him for a quick interview. I found him at his booth, Old South Supply Co., with his (equally awesome) partner in crime Lenny Terenzi. I introduced myself and asked if we could chat for an interview at some point, and he said well of course! We can do it right now.

The crew joined forces to create Old South Supply Co. with the idea of giving people quality, hand-crafted goods with a sweet southern flare. Mike is from Georgia while Lenny is from North Carolina. The two have assistance in web development by friend Rob Davarnia, who owns Parse Labs, a web development and design company in Orange County, California. Old South Supply Co. just got its start back in June and had its soft-launch at WMC Fest. Their online store will be up and running soon, and you will be able to purchase anything from t-shirts and hats to drinking glasses and cooking utensils, and there’s even a button-down clothing line in the works.

Lenny and Mike met at Creative South (a design conference run by Mike). Mike suggested he and Lenny collaborate together on a lifestyle brand based around how we view the south.

“There are a lot of types of southerners. The two main categories of Southerners that come to my mind the most are “country”– and what I like to call ‘the “old money”, – both have their following and both are valid!

Mike and Lenny want to make Old South Supply a way for everyone to meet in the middle and service the views and lifestyles of both. The duo handmakes as much as they can and since they’re both designers, they definitely get to design everything!


Photo by Patrick Chin of Real Thread
Photo by Patrick Chin of Real Thread

A faith-based designer, Mike never seems to stress; He just goes with his heart and a little direction from the Big Guy upstairs. His story begins a year and a half ago, when Mike asked God to let him know loud and clear if he should stay and work at the design firm he knew and loved, or if he was needed somewhere else. He went back inside to finish his day of work and was delivered the message as clear as day. No hard feelings, but it was just his time to go. As they say, as one door closed, another opened.

The very next day, Mike received a call from a fraternity brother he hadn’t heard from in 10 years.

His fraternity brother needed a logo and a website. From then on, his freelance career took off. Mike received a phone call, text or e-mail every day for the first four months of freelancing full time.

“I was blown away, like doors were opened just like He said they would,” said Mike. “For a year and a half, I have been steady. I don’t advertise, it’s all word-of-mouth and it’s just blessing after blessing. I’m thankful, I get to do what I want to do and I get to do it on my own terms. It allows me to spend more time with my family and do side projects like Old South Supply.”

Mike looks back at his experience as design firm invaluable; it’s there he recommends finding, and keeping life-long mentors.

“You know what? Don’t be afraid to call ‘em up. ‘I love your work! How’d you do that?’ If they share, fantastic, if not fantastic,” said Mike. “If someone calls me and asks how I did something, I tell them because your vision of art and mine are different, even if the technique to do it is exactly the same.”

Mike’s big take-away? With faith on your side, try, fail sometimes, but don’t ever give up.

“It is a scary thing. Like what if I fail? Then what do I do? Look, go into it like this. I have this thing that I wanna do. This is my plan B just in case. Worse case scenario, it’s not gonna work out. Best case, it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Be confident that one of those is gonna go!”

“If you fail, the people that love and care about you thought it was awesome – and if anything, you’ve made some cool things for your buddies.”


More Mike Jones: Twitter | Dribbble | Old South Supply Co.
Creative South Main | Creative South Facebook | Creative South Twitter

Thanks to Patrick Chin for all photography used in this story.

LeBron’s Comeback: How Illustrator Robert Carter Designed the King’s Return to Cleveland

Interview with Robert Carter of Cracked Hat Design

As you all well know, the Cleveland pride is bursting through the walls of Go Media, where we sit only 2 miles from Quicken Loans Arena, new (and old) home to LeBron James.

On July 11, we sat with bated breath, awaiting the news of his possible return to our great city.

Then there it was.

Sighs of relief filled the office. (Particularly mine). He was back.

Saturday came and we were in for a different treat, this a designer’s dream.

While folks say print has come and gone, this, the LeBron coverage in the Plain Dealer proves to us yet again otherwise. With something so moving and electric in your hands, it’s hard to say print will ever be irrelevant. Nothing like it.

Josh Crutchmer’s post on reveals the painstaking process the folks at the Plain Dealer went through crafting up these 20 pages I read, then reread with intensity last weekend.

The story starts with the mindset of any Clevelander: some hope filled with a lot of doubt.

As he notes in the snd post, “Even as buzz built and rumors swirled that James might be serious about a return, we kept it at arms’ length.”

With more information gained, including “open speculation that there was no backup plan for James,” Josh and the team realized that it was time to get serious.  T-minus 60 hours.

At the 60-56 hour mark, the concern to Josh and team was The Plain Dealer cover. What would it be and how would it get there?

They immediately decided that the cover stray away from a simple remake of the iconic 2010 cover, “Gone.”

| LeBron 2010 Cover from |

Enter Robert Carter:

Once the 2010 cover was out of the picture, Josh and the team decided that instead an illustration might suffice. They called upon Robert Carter of Cracked Hat design to see if he might be up for the task.

Why Carter?

He reflects, “I like to think my style is why they hired me in the first place. I think really for any artist it’s their unique signature that a client or fan is drawn to and the reason they want to work with or purchase or be part of that person’s art. It always blows my mind when every once in a while I’m asked to paint or illustrate something and they’re like ‘We really love your work but can you do it in ‘this’ kinda style.’ Style didn’t come into discussion with Josh, he knows the kind of work I do, and expects to see that. Nobody wants to hire you based on your established style only to be surprised by something completely different.”

After a quick email back and forth, Carter was in. Now the Plain Dealer had to wait for word that LeBron was, too.

Still, time was of the essence, and Carter wasted no time getting to work portraying one of basketball’s greatest. “I think even more so than his likeness (which is usually the main concern in portrait work) in this case it was to get the right feeling of impact, drama, that this was something big! The iconic pose and stark black backdrop, those are the elements that sold the piece more than anything I think,” he says.

“After being contacted by Josh and talking back and forth a bit about the piece, I got to work on the rough around 1:00pm. I sent it over for approval around 6:30pm, which thankfully it was. As they didn’t know exactly when James would make the announcement, Josh asked if I could have the final to a point where they could use it if absolutely necessary by 10pm! Scrambling to get as much done in that time as possible I sent them what I had. It was missing a lot of detail work like his tattoos and other things but it was enough that in a pinch it could have been used.”

| LeBron Rough Sketch from |

“Thankfully they didn’t need it that night so had until 6:00 pm the next day to take it to completion. I was pretty burnt out by that point so I called it a night and picked it up again in the morning. By 6:00 p.m. I delivered the final piece.”

The Final Hours

In the final hour, the unbelievable happened. Word came in: he was actually coming home.

With only a few hours to go, and the final illustration in place, the Plain Dealer team cranked out the print piece I thought would never be.

LeBron Plain Dealer Cover courtesy of Robert Carter

Read Josh Crutchmer’s story, 60 Hours in Cleveland: The Plain Dealer’s LeBron Section

LeBron Illustration courtesy of Robert Carter, Cracked Hat Design

More about Robert:

Robert Carter is a multiple award-winning full time professional freelance illustrator. Born in St. Albans, England, he moved to Ontario, Canada, at an early age. Robert began his journey into the world of art from the get-go, constantly doodling and sketching anything and everything. Robert went on to study Art and Illustration, graduating from the prestigious Sheridan College School of Art and Animation.

Robert has been working constantly as a professional illustrator for more than a decade. Combining a strong foundation in portraiture with a unique sense of visual and conceptual problem-solving Robert creates striking, vibrant, and textured illustrations and portraits with subjects ranging from the realistic to the surreal. With a background in traditional oil painting Robert applied those skills to the digital realm and taught himself the digital painting medium, which is now his preferred method of working for it’s speed and flexibility.

Taking a short hiatus from illustration in 2013 Robert went back to Sheridan College, this time to study Computer Animation, graduating with honours.

Robert would like to continue to explore and expand his work, continually striving to improve himself and his art. Robert now lives and works as a professional freelance illustrator in Baden, Ontario, Canada.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest Interview with Designer: Scott Williams


I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for my life to be changed. I need a breath of fresh air, like now.

But until then, I have a friend or two I’d like you to meet. Let’s start with one of the designers who will be struttin’ their stuff this year at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 5, Mr. Scott Williams.

Scott Williams is a Chicago-based graphic designer who has been making things around town a little more beautiful since 1996. He’s created numerous show posters for the Annoyance Theatre, I.O. and the Second City in support of Chicago’s talented comedy and improv community. For the past five years, Scott has been designing gig posters, and has been commissioned by artists including Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, JD McPherson and Numero Group. Scott is also a part of Soul Summit—a three-man DJ collective that hosts a monthly dance party at the Double Door in Chicago’s Wicker Park. As Art Director for Soul Summit, he creates a fresh poster for every party.

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires

Let’s hear from Scott for a bit about his background and what inspires his work, shall we?

So Scott, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in the field and about any pivotal moments that brought you to where you are today?

As far back as I can recall, I’ve always been into drawing. My grandfather had a ton of old letterhead after he retired. He’d give me a box of it and I’d just draw on it. I’d draw everything I was into as a kid, which was usually sunken pirate ships, old castles, sword fights or anything Star Wars related. I was really encouraged to keep at it growing up and into high school. I went to college and got my BFA in painting and drawing. I was into Surrealism and Realism, painters like Chuck Close and James Valerio. My goal was to get my Masters at the Art Institute of Chicago and then teach at a collegiate level. But after moving to Chicago in the early/mid 90s, that didn’t really pan out for me. The Art Institute is expensive! So instead, I got a job at a record store. Standard pivot move from the life of academia. That was the turning point for me. Everyday I was seeing graphic design in the form of album covers. Working there was like being immersed in a graveyard of thousands of ideas in graphic form. That inspired me. A LOT. So I started doing tiny side jobs for bands. For example, I painted large tour banners and backdrops for bands like Man or Astroman, which really got me thinking about graphic design as a full time gig. I then went and got a degree in computer graphics and cut the record store hours in half. After I got that degree, which I really needed for the computer skills, things started to click for graphic design and me. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to work in the field for 20 years and counting.

Soul Summit
Soul Summit

What is the main style and or theme of your work and how did you develop that over time?

I’d say some of my biggest influences come from my own record collection, old magazine ads and from artists like Art Chantry or Tooth. I’m really inspired by folks who really fuck with the way we perceive imagery and font stylings. Very gritty, distressed, but simple and clean at the same time. The bulk of my gig poster work comes from a very successful Soul & Funk night here in Chicago called Soul Summit. I wanted to create posters that had a punk edge to them and not just revue styled Soul posters which were super prevalent during what some might call the “Soul Revival”. After a couple years doing those I got tapped by groups like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires, and Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears for work.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings Fall 2011 TOUR PT 1
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings Fall 2011 TOUR PT 1

Where do you find daily inspiration?

The Internet for sure. It’s corny to say, but it really provides a great avenue for Artists to share their work (if they’re online that is). Endless inspiration. Big portal sites like is good in that way as well. Other than that, it’s record covers, books, magazines, etc.

Menahan Street Band / Soul Summit
Menahan Street Band / Soul Summit

We look forward to seeing your work at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 5! What should we look forward to seeing and what should we expect from you in the future?

Hopefully a lot more art work! I think the WMC is a great concept and i’m very excited to be a part of it this year! Thank you!

For more Scott: Scott Williams Design

And don’t forget to:

Buy your tickets to WMC Fest!

An Interview with Rock Star Designer Tad Carpenter

Hello Tad Carpenter!

He’ll be the last to tell you, but for us here at Go Media, WMC Fest 3 alum Tad Carpenter is a rock star. Designer, illustrator, author and teacher, Tad balances good stuff like brand identity, packaging and book design, illustration and interactive along with his role as Professor at University of Kansas. Surrounded by design (his parents were artists and his wife Jessica a designer, too), Tad creates whimsical, smart and all-around fun for clients like Macy’s, Chronicle Books, MTV, Adobe and Hallmark Cards.

Clevelanders, be sure to catch him on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at the next AIGA Design Speaker Series.

Now onto our chat!


You’re pretty much a rock star designer in our eyes. In your opinion, why was it you who “made it”? What are characteristics that would drive someone to achieve such a status?

Complacency breeds death. I want that fire, I want the pressure, I never want to stop climbing.

I dont know how to answer that. Ha! Thank you for the compliment but I am just thankful to have work and to be doing something I love everyday. I don’t know if I have “made it” like you say. I still feel like I have so many things I want to make and so much I want to do that I’m still each day just climbing that hill. I will always be climbing that hill. The older I get at times that hill starts to feel like a mountain. I want to make more, I want to do more. The hill keeps growing. To be honest, I hope I never feel comfortable and complacent. Complacency breeds death. I want that fire, I want the pressure, I never want to stop climbing.

Illustration, Identity, Restaurants

If you had to choose one defining moment in your career that pushed you towards notoriety, what would you say that was?

Perseverance and sweat are vastly underrated traits.

Geez, again I am not sure. I don’t know anything about notoriety to be honest. I, again, am just so happy to love what I GET to do for a living. It is important to remember we GET to do this. There sure are a lot of other professions out there and I am so lucky this one chose me. I can say this, ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be an artist, a designer, an illustrator. I got my first taste in 3rd grade and at that moment I knew this was the life I wanted to lead. I worked really hard. I still work really hard. That is what it all comes down to in my eyes, how hard do you want to work? I have never been the best draftsman, or the best with color or have the best type skills or can draw anything I look at or whatever. But I have always been willing to roll my sleeves up and work, work, work. Perseverance and sweat are vastly underrated traits.


What is one important piece of advice you’d give a fellow designer who wanted to land a dream client, such as Hallmark – but had zero connections?

No way to fail.

Connections are important of course. I could be wrong, but to me making connections today is the easiest it has ever been. Everyone has those big pie in the sky dream clients they would love to work with. Anymore finding out their contact info is literally just a few clicks away. Never, ever be afraid to ask for something you want. If you want to work with Nike or Hallmark or Apple go make it happen. The worst that can happen is you end up exactly where you are now. No way to fail.

Have you ever broken a “rule” to get ahead in your career?

I did once go swimming 5 minutes after I ate. I regret this daily.

I also talked about Fight Club which I think might be a big no-no according to the clubs first rule.

What is your biggest fear, creatively speaking?

When I first wrote an answer down I wrote that I fear not getting any work in the future. All of it just drying up. This is a BIG fear for me but really, I would just have more time to make things for myself. That can never be taken away from you. So yes, not getting in more work and having to get a real job is a big fear but also just time passing you by scares me. I want to do this for another 70 years…can I? What will our profession be like in 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? The fear of the unknown is always present.

Illustration, Books

What is your biggest dream, creatively speaking?

I have so many things I really want to do. A huge passion for me is writing and illustrating children’s books. I have been so lucky to work on several over the past few years. I want to keep doing this forever. My first real exposure to art (like most of us) was from children’s books. I love that maybe I, too, can inspire or get a child excited about design. That is a serious responsibility that I don’t take lightly.  Something I have always wanted to create is a clothing line. My wife and I (also a designer) have played with a few ideas over the years and I would love to work more on this one day. I love branding new start-ups too. I hope I can create more and more of these as well. Restaurants, retail, anything. It is such a rush creating a new brand and seeing the clients excitement as it comes to life.

BIKE PRINT Illustration, Prints
Illustration, Prints

What is the biggest challenge you have faced, or face on a regular basis, to achieve success?

I guess having too many dreams, goals, work and commitments is not always a bad thing.

I am sure it is the same challenge everyone faces. Never, ever enough time. Outside of running my own studio I also teach graphic design at the University of Kansas. I love teaching. It no doubt makes me a better designer and I love working with aspiring young designers. It is so rewarding and flat out fun. But, it does add to my workload to get my “real work” completed. I feel I am pretty good with time management but could get better. I guess having too many dreams, goals, work and commitments is not always a bad thing.

For more: Tad Carpenter | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr | Flickr | Dribbble

Fears, Dreams, and Success with Jessica Hische

We are totally obsessed with Jessica Hische.

Letterer, illustrator and self-proclaimed crazy cat lady, Jessica oozes talent, crafting simple characters into candy before our eyes.

We probably don’t need to share with you all of her accolades: Forbes 30 under 30 (cough, twice), Print New Visual Artist, ADC Young Gun, GDUSA Person to Watch. We probably don’t even need to list her notable clients (Wes Anderson, Penguin Books, The New York Times, Target, Nike, Samsung, et cetera!)

All we need to say is this:


this –

01 (2)

and a little of this –

02 (1)

We were lucky enough to steal a few moments away from the busy life of this über talented designer.

Here’s what she had to say when asked about her fears, dreams and secrets to success:

Mess it up poster: Gianni Clifford for Movember

Jessica on fear:

I think the thing that any artist fears most is that they’ll stop growing or that their growth will slow down to tortoise speed. I really have to push myself to try new things when clients are hiring me to do the same thing over and over again, and if I don’t have side projects in the works I can get really down on myself and how my work is progressing.

Heartwork: Client – Heartwork/Target, Art Direction: Ted Halbur

Jessica on dreams:

My biggest goal / dream is to be someone that helps other people do what they love. Down the line, more than being known as a good artist, I want to be known as being a nice, accessible person that did a lot to encourage others, build communities, and pump people up about their own talents and abilities.

Beautiful/Decay, Art Direction: Amir Fallah

Jessica on success:

Working hard and being nice. Even when I’m having a shitty day, I try not to take it out on other people or be a toxic person. I think being optimistic and having a good attitude gets you farther in life than talent, though you do have to have a good work ethic as well.

Thanks Jessica!

More Jessica: Twitter | Instagram | Rdio

Learn to Code: Tips for Designers (Part 2 of 2)

Learn to Code Quick Tips

Ok, so you’re convinced. A solid grasp of some HTML/CSS and Javascript will serve you, the designer, well.

Where, then, do you begin? We asked our very own front-end developer and designer guru, Bryan Garvin, as well as friend of Go Media, web designer, developer, and founder of Girl Develop It, Jen Myers, for some tricks of the trade.

Bryan Garvin, ladies and gents...
Learn How to Code with Bryan Garvin. Beard Not Required.
Jen Myers: web designer/developer, teacher, speaker, kicks code ass
Jen Myers: web designer/developer, teacher, speaker

1. Overcome your fear.

Where to start when you’re facing what appears to be a Mount Everest of information? Jen Myers suggests that you, “start small and put it in the context of what you already know. If you work purely in graphics, practice building your mockups in HTML/CSS instead. If you are familiar with HTML/CSS, it’s not much of a stretch to start working with JavaScript. You don’t necessarily have to start with programming fundamentals and work up. In fact, most designers tend think visually and holistically, as I do, and so starting with the big picture and drilling inward can be a more comfortable way to approach code.”

Girl Develop It    Learn to Code

2. Fight stereotypes.

Let’s face it, as Jen notes, “Women are indeed the minority in the coding world, but a lot of good people are working to change that.”

How do we go about it? “The easiest way to find a supportive learning environment,” she recommends, ” is to locate one of the many organizations who offer classes aimed at women. Or, start an organization like that yourself. Three years ago, I wanted something like this and I ended up founding the Columbus, Ohio chapter of Girl Develop It, which now has sixteen chapters in different cities and more on the way. There is also RailsGirls, Railsbridge, Ladies Who Code and Women Who Code. You can also start out doing some classes online at a place like Skillcrush.

“There are also many individual women working in code today who care about improving the coding landscape and bringing more women in. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice or mentorship. We’re all here to help each other.”

3. Recognize Life Beyond Dreamweaver.

“Many schools still push using Dreamweaver,” notes Go Media front-end developer and designer Bryan Garvin, “And sadly, a lot of those schools are using outdated versions of that software. This industry is always evolving, so attaching yourself to something that is static in time won’t give you the best path to continuing to evolve with the world around you.”

“Dreamweaver looks nice and gives you the “easy” WYSIWYG editor. I started there, so I’m not going to tell you not to open it up, play with it, and see what it does. But, at the end of the day, spending the time to learn the code instead of learning the software that creates the code will give you the ability to design and develop regardless of what device you’re working on. And, that will also give you the ability to continue to code and work with new technologies and techniques, which may or may not be supported by Dreamweaver six months after you bought it.

Go Media is primarily a PC-based company and we code all of our sites using Notepad++.

4. Learn Responsive Design, it’s the future of web coding.

“We design our sites to be responsive, therefore accessible and usable on any device. During the early wireframe/prototype phase, we walk a client through how the responsive framework we use reacts to the changing width of the viewport. We organize and prioritize every content area on a page with a client and help them understand that on a phone, people can still access all of their content, even if it looks “different” than on their PC.”

“You can read the pros and cons to moving to responsive designs and frameworks through sites like Smashing Magazine, Mashable, A List Apart, and even Forbes. But the fact is, more and more people are using devices other than a 1600px-wide monitor. And more and more people aren’t going to sites to look at your graphic design. They’re there for content. You aren’t just designing something to look at and hang on their wall. You’re designing something people can use, interact with, and experience while consuming the content that is within your design. Your design is a piece of the puzzle and should always help a user get where they want/need to go, not distract and take precedence.”

5. Create and Team up on Side Projects.

Jen has been successful learning by way of side projects.  “Usually the way I have learned, and continue to learn, new things related to coding is to create side projects that interest and engage me – and that I don’t know how to do. For example, when I wanted to learn more about building applications from back to front in Rails, I came up with an idea for an application I wanted, namely, an application to track articles and blog posts I was writing. Then the learning happened naturally as I worked to figure out how to make it and because I was excited about what I was making, I was able to stick with it. Many years ago, I first started learning HTML and CSS by creating my own personal website and that has remained my playground for testing out new skills.”

“Another trick for designers to learn code is to team up with a developer on their own side project. Most developers are eager for design help and are willing to mentor, especially in exchange for some design advice for themselves.”

6. Don’t Rely On What You’re Being Taught Now.

“One last bit of advice is to not depend on, or expect that what you’re learning in school right now will be how you’re designing and developing five years from now. Don’t be afraid to step out of that comfort zone, get cuddly with Google search, and keep your mind open to new techniques, resources, trends, and technologies. There is something new in our industry every other day. And the beauty of our industry, a lot of that ongoing education is freely available and shared from one designer and developer, to another. So get involved and get to work.”

Jen sums it up best, “Keep in mind that the world needs more coders and coders need more people with new perspectives. Not only can coding offer opportunities and benefits for your own life, you can bring experience and qualities to coding that will make it a better, more productive environment for everyone.”

Good Luck!

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Give Team Treehouse a try!

Learn to build websites, create iPhone and Android apps, code with Ruby on Rails and PHP, or start a business at TeamTreehouse – LEARN MORE!

Read More:

Designers: Learn To Code: Here’s How to Start! on Fast Co. Design by Scott Sullivan
10 Places Where Anyone Can Learn to Code on TED Blog by Jessica Gross
The 7 Best Ways to Learn to Code on Venture Beat by Devindra Hardawar
Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Learning How to Code on Medium by Cecily Carver

More Bryan: | SaveCleveland |
| Dribble | Google+
More Jen: Twitter | Tumblr | GitHub | Dribble | Instagram | Pinterest | Speakerdeck | Lanyrd | Ohours

The Adventure of Art with Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman is not just an everyday artist. Armed with Amsterdam paints, Posca pens and Sharpies, Jon can be found at the spot where art and improvisation collide. On any given day, you can find Burgerman on the streets of New York City, doodling, drawing and delighting in art and life.  Recent works including Hot Girls and Hot Dogs, Tumblr Girls, and I Want To Eat Myself illustrate a sense of humor and talent as sprawling as his imagination.

I chatted with Burgerman, of whom I am a huge fan, about life, craft and the adventure of art.

Comfort Kills Creativity


Burgerman recalls with fond memories his studies of Fine Art at University, where he was encouraged to create without limitation. Experimenting with different forms of media, Burgerman integrated performance based art into his vocabulary.

“When I graduated, laden with debt and little idea what I was going to do with my life, I started making a variety of work which had to be quick to make and cheap. Some of this work was performance based. As my art career started to pick up I dropped out of working with my friends on events and performances. I’ve always liked the immediacy of live work and it’s something I’ve retained through-out my career. I consider my murals and drawings live works and performances even if there’s not an audience around to see them. The artwork being a documentation of the creative act.”

Recent works integrating a performance element include the Tumblr BoothMy Great Movie and The Hungry Games.


“Recently, for a few years with my band Anxieteam and some works I’ve done on my own, I’ve purposely put live action and intervention into my practice. Live work, be it a performance, a mural, a talk, a workshop or a gig all require some degree of improvisation and fast reflexes, the great and awful thing about the ‘moment’, is not knowing what might happen next. This is equally good and bad for the performer and audience and invites a special degree of excitement to the event.

I think the live works sharpen these responses and and keep me ‘creatively fit’.”

Comfort is the killer of creativity!

Live works invite participation (although it can be unwelcome participation at times) and that connection can be really interesting. You can never really predict what people will come out with, and that can be an adventure all of its own. Comfort is the killer of creativity!”

Pieces like Game Sketch and Match, a collaborative drawing performance, and Korean Subway, reflect Burgerman’s passion, as well as his ability to play, on the job.


“If I’m not having fun overall with a project, the project will no doubt suffer as a result. I can’t help that, it just shows in the work. When I’m inspired and have great energy the work benefits. I’m in a super lucky position where my work, my job is fun. I’m in that position because I tried as hard as I could to make it happen. There’s plenty of room for improvement, of course, but I want to have fun and live a fun life, as much is possible.”

“Play is a bit of a gamble. When you play you’re not 100% certain of the outcome. There’s parameters you have to go up against to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve, it could be a defined goal or just the act of playing. I have this in my work. When I draw there’s a number of limitations such as paper size, pen, ink, time, surface etc. I then do everything I can to achieve my invented goal. During the act of play obstacles may arise or unpredicted ‘ferret events’ may occur. Maybe you spill your paint, or someone calls your phone and interrupts you. Perhaps you run out of a certain colour, maybe you smudge a line, or the paper reacts to the ink in a certain way…  Who knows, often it’s pretty subtle things, but they all influence the work, and you adapt and navigate around them. The game starts to change as you play it. I like playing, there’s no guarantee of a particular outcome, there’s always the chance of surprises and disappointments.”

Passion and play hasn’t come about easily, Burgerman admits. As with any career, there come challenges. 

Don’t become an artist to earn money.

“The competition to be successful in the arts is really tough. You face many years without any sort of guaranteed income.  And even if you get some sort of critical acclaim that doesn’t mean you’ll be financially any better off. So one hurdle is paying your way. Don’t become an artist to earn money.”

“It can be tough carrying on when you feel like you’re not advancing. I feel this all the time but the only solution is to keep going. You become stronger because of it. You have to push yourself. It’s exactly like exercising. Each time you have to go a little further or lift a little more weight to eventually push on to the next level.”

The reward for pushing is the way Burgerman feels every time pen or brush touches paper.


How does it feel, I asked?  Burgerman answers quite vividly.

“The great Kurt Vonnegut wrote in a forward of one of his books that when he went swimming he felt beautiful, as opposed to when he was going about his day to day life. I think when I’m drawing and completely submerged within that process I feel weightless and transparent and happy. I cease to be a body, flesh and blood and grease and kneecaps, I feel like a lovely perfume emanating above a flower bed.”

Now that, my friends, is an adventure.


Jon’s Burgerman shares: Supplies I Use

Amsterdam paints – I use these for quick, fast painting and even have used them on walls and the pavement in Manhattan.

Edding – I like these little pens, perfect for stowing away in your pockets for drawings on the go.

Krink – Krink go on anything, leaving a heavy, thick, gooey trail where-ever they go. These are great, a bit stinky and come from Brooklyn.

Sharpie and Pilot felt pen – These are my go-to pens for drawing in my sketchbook. Nothing is better than writing with a fresh felt pen on a blank page. The sketchbook is the place where all my ideas are born.

Posca – It can be hard to find Posca pens in America, I shipped a whole box of them over with me from Europe when I moved here. The colours are flat and solid. I use Poscas in a lot of my work, including my project Tumblr Girls

I sketch in Muji plain paper sketchbooks and have done so for over 12 years now.

More Jon: | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook 

Build An Engaged Social Media Following Now: Tips for Designers

How to Increase and Engage your Followers

Entrepreneur and Marketing Connoisseur Kumar Arora knows social media like the back of his hand.  Fellow Clevelander and start-up wonder for ventures including Rogue Eyewear, iLTHYBlack Rose Entertainment Management Group and ICTech Ltd., Arora has an impressive history in the field. A few things in Arora’s backpocket? Developing campaigns for Coca-cola, Verizon, Redbull, Live Nation, Puma as well as starting on grassroots and viral campaigns for performers like Machine Gun Kelly, Jay Sean, DJ E-V. He is no stranger to growing communities at a rapid-fire rate.

Arora has a few suggestions for designers, like himself, who yearn to gain a following too.  In an age of #followme and #tagforlikes though, he reminds, “developing a community that cares is always better than having a group of people who don’t engage.” A great way to get started for example is to use an online service that allows you to buy 50 instagram likes for all your posts, but let’s not spoil the list. Ready to attract a loyal, genuine and true following? Here are Arora’s 10 tips and tools to becoming a master of social media:

1. Keep consistency in usernames 

This is a big one that I don’t always see with small startups. Maybe its because its hard to get the same name in the pool of social media platforms, but having the same name makes it easy to find or reference. Say if your name is Pepsi, you aren’t going to have an Instagram called @pepsi_co,a twitter thats @pepsico, and a Facebook username that is PepsiCola. Keeping consistency makes it easier and continues on the brand building. I always advise people that your name is equally if not as important as your message.

2. Identify your Market

People tend to forget social media isn’t always about telling the whole world what you are up to. Rather than sharing a post or an image to everyone you know, why not look to those who are actually interested? Create a community and understand your audience is the key for quick and instant success.  After that, those who follow you will eventually become your influencers and help share your information. There are also other tools out there to find the right base, a personal favorite is Little Bird.

3. Develop a strategy

Good campaigns are always backed behind a full out strategy. Plan out your tweets, choose when to post, and create proper imagery to boot along side it. If you can’t think of relevant content, then you need to try to seek new material to keep the momentum going. Larger companies might plan months ahead, but a small business should at least spend a few hours a week thinking about what they can share on their platforms.

4. Don’t spam

In this day and age, we spend more and more time on the internet. Last thing we need is to see our favorite brand spamming us about something we don’t care about. That and our attention spans have only gotten smaller with the amount of information that hits us. People these days cycle through so many pages on Facebook in one minute that they don’t have time to click on something that doesn’t give them any return.

5. Content

In the end, its always about delivering meaningful, quality content. Keeping things fresh, exciting, new, and most importantly, something you can share. After that, its up to your existing base of followers to interact, contribute or spread your own information. People don’t want to hear about the same thing over and over again, and they certainly want to engage with you in some way..after all: social media is just another form of communication. It’s a two way street.

6. Offline Marketing

Your twitter handle is the new physical business card. Sometimes leaving a lasting impression with someone can get an instant follow, and possibly even a mention. While some may say this can be a slow process, its the best for any startup to get some traction. Individuals can’t continue to hammer away on a campaign solely just by sitting at a computer. It’s best to try to cover all your bases along by reeling in your physical followers along side your virtual ones.

7. Social Media Integration

Just as important as it is to keep uniformity between your usernames, its also good to connect these platforms with each other. You may find that if your Instagram followers have spiked, you can pass on some of your followers to join you on Facebook as well. A lot of companies lately have been trying to work on Instagram, so they are using their massive followers on Twitter and Facebook to lead them to Instagram. A great example is to host a contest on Instagram, which you can then share with your followers on other platforms.

8. Ads

This is an easy one, but the higher your visibility (to the right crowd) the better your chances that you’ll get some returns. You need to be careful though, as the wrong ad to the wrong audience can yield little to no engagement. It’s always best to A/B test any ads so you can to see which one works best. Always remember you can continue to change them as you go, rather than leaving the same ads up for a period of time.

9. Track your performance

Not getting any retweets or shares? Maybe its time to change things up. Always continue to seek out what works and what doesn’t can help in the long run to develop your voice. That, and its always good to check in once in a while on your performance. Some I recommend are: Cyfe, Ubervu, or some of the free monitoring tools like Hootsuite or Tweetreach.

10. Take the next step up

Besides social reach tools, there are plenty of available marketing tools out there as well for small to mid sized businesses looking to take the next level up. Managing your own social media can almost become a job in itself so it’s always great to have a few extra tools to do things one person can’t do alone. Sometimes if you have the budget it’s not always wise to just throw them into solely into social media advertising, but platforms to help drive more engagement. Some I’ve used in the past include Extole, Wildfire by Google, and Referral Candy.

Have any tricks up your sleeve that you can share? Which of these 10 worked for you? Share with us in the comments below!

Engage with Kumar: Facebook | Twitter | Google+

How to Create a Winning Email Marketing Campaign

Email marketing is a great way to blast your brand to the millions of fans following your every move. But like anything else, there is an art to creating the perfect campaign that will not only be worth reading, but worth opening in the first place.

We asked our friend Fabio Carneiro, over at Mailchimp, to share with us some words of wisdom on this very topic.  Read on for Fabio’s 7 tips to creating an email marketing campaign that matters.

7 Tips by Fabio Carneiro


1. Short and Sweet

The rule of thumb for email length is simple: shorter is better. But that’s very dependent on a few factors, like the audience you’re sending to, or the type of content you’re sending. A good example is our MailChimp UX newsletter; they tend to be quite long for an email, but they’re geared to an audience that wants to read in-depth articles; the length of each email is fine for them. An eCommerce email, on the other hand, would benefit more from being very short and focused, concentrating on, say, just four or six products instead of a long list of fifteen.


2. Analyze frequency and sending date

While sending frequency is ultimately dependent on your audience, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that many people send too often. In my personal experience, finding eCommerce emails in my inbox from one retailer more than once a week is aggravating, but that’s certainly not true of the all email subscribers. Frequency is a tricky thing to get right, but I think it helps to temper sending frequency with sending date. It might work out better to send an email once a week, but on a Tuesday, when everyone’s come off the Monday work-week email blitz. If your content is more leisurely or humorous, maybe the beginning and end of the week work well; everyone needs a break at the beginning of the week, and they’re also generally more carefree at its end, and the content suits the mood.

Ultimately, nailing down frequency takes a lot of experimentation. Many senders make a decision to send emails out on a certain day and time, and never go back to test different scenarios. It really pays (figuratively and even literally) to treat a subscriber list as a complex conversation with your readers, and then tweak what you send, when you send it, and how often you send it according to reader interest.


3. Include Images

Images in email are good. They’re often crucial to well-crafted, interesting content, and images can make a huge difference in how engaged your readers are. Is there a right number of images to try to include? I don’t think so. The proverb, ‘One picture is worth a thousand words,’ holds just as true in email as anywhere else. Where you can run into trouble is the inclusion of too many images, or images too large in size (both file- and dimension-wise).

With the meteoric rise of mobile readership, we’re required to consider how your data is received on the reader’s end. Small screens and slow cell service carriers are very real concerns that everyone should keep in mind when creating content for email. Dimensionally large images will either require a lot of awkward scrolling on the reader’s behalf or, if the email is responsive, will be difficult to make out in detail when its size is reduced for small displays. Large file sizes can clog up the works on the reader’s end as well, making an email slow to download and actually costing the reader more money if their carrier’s data rates are high and bandwidth is restrictive.


4. Create a Custom Template

There are a lot of good code bases floating around out there to help anyone get started. MailChimp provides a large selection of starter templates on GitHub, ranging from non-mobile fixed designs to mobile-friendly, responsive ones, all created with stability and ease-of-use in mind. They can all be used in MailChimp or any other email service provider. The HTML Email Boilerplate is another good resource, with code built around simplicity that’s great for newbies.

These code bases offer a great foundation, but to get the most out of an email it’s best to eventually create your own. A lot of designers see that as a daunting task, because there are so many more hurdles in HTML email design than there are in traditional web design. To help dispel some of that mystery, I’ve created a sort of one-stop reference site that guides anyone through the broad concepts of how email works, on to how to design an email, through the development of an email.


5. Create a Catchy Headline

Subject lines are a tricky thing. I’d hesitate to say there’s a “best” subject line or lines out there, because it’s very subjective and dependent on your content, your audience, and tons of other factors; The personality of your email matters and word choice matters, but something like line length doesn’t. Ultimately, it comes down to this: creating a good subject line is a craft all its own, and it’s one that requires experimentation and testing.


6. Grow your List with Great Content

Two words: great content. That’s what matters most in any email because if your audience isn’t interested, you don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s easier said than done, but it’s certainly possible – Dave Pell’s NextDraft is a perfect example. Dave is a spectacular writer, though. If you aren’t, there are a few things you can do to improve.

First and foremost: engage with readers. If your email delivers content that’s worthy of discussion, make yourself available to your readers and actually have a discussion. Humans crave interaction with others, and email is a wonderful medium for that.

Second, narrow your focus. Don’t try to please everyone using the exact same content – it won’t work in the long run. Find out what your readers are most receptive to, and segment your list based on those interests. If you send to 1,000 people, but you know that half wants to see photos and the other just wants to read, make the effort and serve both interests.

Third: personalize. The simple act of including a person’s first and last name, and making content more specific to their location will make your email meaningful to them and their immediate circle of friends, who then are more likely to share with their circles of friends, and so on.


7. Avoid the Unsubscribe

What makes people hit “unsubscribe”?

There’s no shortage of discussion on this subject, because so many things can cause people to unsubscribe. Email frequency is chief among those reasons. Too much email is a huge annoyance. Even if someone loves what you’re sending, if you’re sending it every day, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll drive them away because of the burden you’re placing on that person to read every email, then eventually delete lots of emails. No one enjoys being nagged.

Too little email can also cause people to unsubscribe, because of a lack of engagement or even confusion; if a person signs up to receive your email, only to find one in their inbox 8 months later, it’s entirely possible that they’ve forgotten about you. At that point, an email from you can be an unwelcome sight and even thought of as spam.

People will also unsubscribe if they feel your email is irrelevant. Pay attention to their interests, and craft your content accordingly. Avoid being boring as well; don’t send the same staid content in each email – getting the sale or increasing readership is important, but maybe it’s not necessary to make it the focus of every message you send. Mix it up a little.


Keeping all of these factors in mind takes patience, time and dedication.  However, careful attention to your audience, and their changing needs, will ensure you produce an excellent email marketing campaign reflective of your equally engaging subject matter.  Good luck and let us know about your successes, and misses, below in the comments section!

Thank you to Fabio and Mailchimp for your time! 

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8 Detrimental Design Habits to Break Today

You’ve just landed that internship or job of your dreams and are ready to take on the world. Maybe you’ve been working at a firm or have been freelancing for years.

You’re sure you’ve got it under control. You’ve got this in the bag!

But wait!  There are just a few common mistakes that may be holding you back from achieving your full potential.

We’d like to help. Thanks to some great names in our industry, we have a wealth of advice for you regarding some design habits to break now! Or, better, those to watch out for and nab before they become etched into stone.

Tracey Halvorsen of Fastspot
Tracey Halvorsen of Fastspot

1. Failing to Ask for Feedback

Young designers / interns make the mistake of not asking for enough feedback. They are fresh out of school, and perhaps eager to prove themselves, but they are missing out on so much more learning by assuming their school experiences have prepared them for the real world. It’s a problem in that they end up in a bubble and don’t benefit from the team environment as much as they would if they reached out and initiated more feedback from their team.

They can correct the problem by being a good communicator, making it known during their hiring process / interview process – that it’s something they are actively looking for, and then following up by making sure it’s part of their process once the job starts. It’s tempting to hide away and just do the work, and hope that one day you advance to better projects. But you can speed this up by being more aggressive and “asking for” more challenges, feedback and work.

I’ve only had one design intern at Fastspot, ever, who constantly bugged me for more challenging work. This person also actively sought out feedback, jumped into group critiques (asking if they could join b/c they weren’t overly busy of course) and soaked up as much interaction, communication and feedback as they could get their hands on. That was the one intern who I promised a job to when they were done with school.

Everyone who’s just starting out should take every chance they can to get feedback, be challenged and push themselves outside of the comfort zones they’ve established at school. School is a lovely fantasy land but the real world is full of rewarding opportunities if you seek them out and never settle for mediocracy.

– Tracey Halvorsen, President and Chief Visionary Officer of Fastspot, award-winning interactive agency in Baltimore, Maryland

Rachel Downey of Studio Graphique
Rachel Downey of Studio Graphique

2. Ignoring Time Constraints

New designers are often inexperienced with managing budgets, and time is attributed to the project budget. We often see interns and young designers overworking their designs, either through over-development or the exploration of too many concepts. This burns the project budget in the early stages and leaves less time for development of the chosen direction. We encourage new designers to stay off the computer and hand-sketch to quickly explore many ideas and then share those for discussion and selection before moving to digital. Early and frequent check-ins with their colleagues help them stay on track with project objectives and project budgets.

– Rachel Downey, Founder and Principal of Studio Graphique, a lead branding, placemaking and wayfinding firm in Cleveland, Ohio

Alex Wier of Wier / Stewart
Alex Wier of Wier / Stewart

3. Not “Making it Real”

One of the toughest things for designers who are coming out of school (or are still in it) is making things real. Designing anything is only half of making it real. The other half is picking stock, converting colors and outlines, making sure info is correct, working with the developer, etc. Those are the things that take attention to detail and organization. It’s also something we’ve noticed not a lot of designers are taught. They get color theory, typography, etc. but they don’t get “how to make a 3 color brochure a reality” or “Is this photo high res enough and can I even use it?” classes. So you gotta coach them and usually the people that have most recently learned outputting are the best at teaching it.

– Alex Wier, Creative Director of Wier / Stewart, advertising agency and creative firm in Augusta, Georgia

Chad Cheek of Elephant in the Room
Chad Cheek of Elephant in the Room

4. Attempting to Fit In

Sometimes young designers have the tendency to come into a firm and try to ‘make their mark’ on the work by working to influence what they perceive as the agency’s design style. I encourage designers to work hard to learn the thinking and problem-solving process that the agency engages in and push the thinking of their own work in that way. They will make their mark by helping to elevate the craft of everyone around them – including their own.

– Chad Cheek, Owner and Managing Director of Elephant in the Room, boutique design agency in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative
Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative

5. Feeling too accomplished

When I got my first job out of school, I was so proud of all that I had accomplished – my portfolio that I spent months preparing, graduating college and landing my first job were huge achievements in my life. I felt like I finally arrived at my destination and achieved all my goals.

During the first few months on the job, the big mistake I made was letting all this get to my head. I went into work thinking I needed to impress everyone with my design abilities and knowledge. I thought that being a respected designer and keeping my job was about proving that I was just as good as everyone else working there. But I quickly learned that no one really cared about my accomplishments, and I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I believe this is a common experience for a lot of designers, and the root of a lot of unhappiness working as a designer. My advice would be to view every new job as an apprenticeship, a mentorship. You earn respect by respecting others. And as my partner, Kim Knoll likes to say, “A good attitude is just as important as a good portfolio.”  Be positive. Be hungry.

– Kyle Eertmoed, Partner and Designer, Knoed Creative, Branding and Graphic Design Studio in Chicago, Illinois

Chris Harrison of Harrison & Co.
Chris Harrison of Harrison Agency

6. Copying Other Designers

The biggest problem I see in interns and new designers is that they try and emulate other designers – copy their heros and try and ‘be like’ notable/famous designers who are, actually, just ‘being themselves’ (that’s why they are famous and successful). I think this happens because it can look and feel like a short cut to being a better designer, or a designer that’s ‘ready’. It’s the hardest thing to try and find your own point of view. It’s a long path. I’ve been in the game 20+ years, and I think I’m only just starting to hit my stride and understand my own approach, my point of view and what I see as valuable. It does take time, but I really believe that to understand this early on in ones career is important. If it takes years or decades to work though and make progress, that’s OK. Everyone has to start somewhere. And its actually OK not to have a point of view in your work! I know a very successful illustrator who still maintains that she, after 20+ years, doesn’t know herself well enough yet for that point of view to come through. She just has fun with her projects, and that’s her main criteria for taking on work ‘is this going to make me happy?’

– Chris Harrison, Founder, Harrison Agency multidisciplinary creative agency, Brighton, UK

William Beachy of Go Media
William Beachy of Go Media

 7. Letting Your Ego Get In the Way

The following is a bastardized mash-up of Tyler Durden  quotes: “Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not your design. Your design is not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re not your fucking suspenders and hipster beard. Your professors lied to you. Your clients need to be respected and listened to. Your boss and your co-workers are probably smarter than you. If you’re feeling insecure, good – you should be. When you feel the urge to defend your design, don’t. Shut your mouth and open your ears. Understand that designing is a process and it’s not always going to go the direction you want it to. But don’t feel bad, it could be worse. A woman could cut off your penis while you’re sleeping and toss it out the window of a moving car.”

– William Beachy, President, Go Media, our creative agency here in Cleveland, Ohio

Julia Briggs of Blue Star Design
Julia Briggs of Blue Star Design

8. Forgetting to Prep

Designing is like cooking. You must prep your kitchen before you start. Get out your crop marks, dielines, logos and fonts. Know your paper limitations, mailing needs, budget restrictions and the marketing initiative – BEFORE you do any design.

It’s tempting as a designer to start cooking on a design immediately. But trying to fit a cool design into budget, size and production restrictions after the fact is often a recipe for disaster. At school you are often given the prep work as part of class assignments. Outside of school, you have to learn to extract that information from the client and your vendors at the forefront.

Scope project limitations first, prep your workspace second, and save the design for last.

– Julia Briggs, President of Blue Star Design, an idea design studio specializing in graphic, digital & social design, brand identity, web, marketing & technology solutions in Cleveland, Ohio


Ready to get out there and take the world by storm? Just remember to ditch these 8 bad habits and you’ll be good to go!

What bad habits have you seen in your colleagues? Employees? Share with us in the comments below! And hey, no naming names!