Why Single Mothers are the Real Creative Directors

Creativity and Single Mothers

When you hear the word ‘creative’ who is the FIRST person you think of? Maybe you think of a painter, a hip-hop artist or even a comedian? Maybe Kanye West is the first person that pops in your head or perhaps Louie C.K.

Having done stand-up for seven years and venturing into the new world of copywriting, I have had the chance to interact and meet with some extremely creative people. People whose minds churn out ideas for great punch lines, witty banner ads and campaigns that you sing in your head.

But maybe, just maybe… the most creative people on this planet don’t come with the sexy title of Creative Director or Chief Creativity Officer. Maybe the most creative people have the least glamorous job. Maybe they have no choice BUT to be creative. Who am I talking about? The creative architects known as single mothers.

[Tweet “”Single mothers stretch the bounds of creativity.””]

Single mothers are challenged every day to discipline, teach, inspire and love their children. Raising children is challenging enough with two people, and single mothers stretch the bounds of creativity the moment a temper tantrum presents itself.

I am not a mother or a parent but was raised by a single mother. Her job was raising my brother and I to the best of her ability while working two jobs. She would work as hard as she could to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. She’d read to us, make sure we had enough money to go on school field trips and also try to instill manners and good habits.

My mom and I
My mom and I

Looking back now it’s almost like my mom was the head coach of our football team, and like any good coach, she emphasized the basics: blocking and tackling…which for a parent could equate to good study habits and manners for their children.
Being 32 and seeing close friends living this role right now, it’s much more clear the sacrifices these women make.

A single mother will never get an invitation to the White House for reading to her kids every night. And she won’t be on a cover of a magazine for spending time with her children going over their homework. Her creativity is maxed out everyday though as she tries to inspire her children to be the best. And to do it on a budget!

“I am always trying to come up with things for the boys to do, all while trying to save some money in the process,” says Valerie Decapite from Cleveland, mother of two twin boys and an Art Major from Kent State.

“Many times, we will just take out a pair of kid scissors, and they flip thru magazines and cut out pictures, creating pictures with stamps, finger painting, etc.  I painted a wall in our house with the chalk board paint, and we will grab some chalk and go to town.”

Val brings up a great point in that raising a child requires resources, and with being a single mother raising TWO children, the resources have to be doubled while the budget is limited. With her background in art, Val uses art as a primary love language to inspire her kids.

Any parent would probably agree that it takes a village to raise a child. Something as simple as going shopping for clothes and or taking an interrupted shower can stretch the creative mind of any single mother.

OK, how do I take a quick five-minute shower and make sure my daughter doesn’t hit the cat, throw books of the bookshelf, go near the stove, touch an outlet, find something sharp, and draw on her face…. Do I bring her in the shower with me and skip her bath tonight? Or do I wait until she goes to bed then take a bath…but the sound of the shower might wake her up!

From the single mothers I have talked to, it seems the relationship between child and parent is reciprocal in that the learning curve stretches both ways.

Callie, a single mother raising a five-year old daughter on her own, looks at it this way.

“I truly believe that she is raising me. It’s easy to replay the series of events that led you to single parenthood and resent what has happened, but I believe my daughter was put into my life make me aware of my weak spots and areas of need.”

Valerie agrees.

“Disciplining two little boys is tough and if I send them to their room for a timeout, it’s really because I need a timeout too. A single parent needs a few minutes to have some quiet time and recollect their thoughts. In those quiet few moments, you have to muster up not only patience for the day or night ahead, but energy to keep up!”

Disciplined creativity. A single mother uses it every day with little to no recognition. The next time you have writer’s block or that big idea just isn’t happening, reach out to someone you know raising children for inspiration. Creativity is constant, a single mother has no choice but to just do it.

Why Getting Away from Your Computer Screen Matters More Than You Think

On December 2nd of last year, I embarked on a project that would take me from coast to coast and open my eyes to just how incredible this little country of ours truly is. Dubbed, The Great Agency Adventure, this journey has seen me working at a different ad agency in a different city ever since. By the time I return home to Cleveland in February, the final number will balloon to a grand total of 14 agencies in 14 cities—all in the span of 14 months.

GAA_Logo-RGB

So, why would I leave the comfort and security of a 9 to 5, just to rack up mountains of debt and offer my creative services for pennies on the dollar? That’s the million-dollar question. It’s a story I’ve told countless times since I first left Cleveland last winter and it’s one I’m sure to tell again and again for years to come. I won’t bore you with the details here, because I’ve already written about it several times on my own blog—thegreatagencyadventure.com. No, I instead wanted to take a moment and discuss one of the greatest insights I’ve absorbed on my travels.

[Tweet “A computer screen is no substitute for an open window.”]

A computer screen is no substitute for an open window.

In a world where it’s all too easy to leave comments, Tweet grievances and snark at the next big trend, we often forget to take a moment and appreciate things for what they are. That’s because a computer screen only allows you to see what’s in the pixels—whether it’s an image, article, review or video. It’s become far too easy to reduce the blood, sweat and tears of an individual down to a 15-second gif; the delicate brushstrokes of an artist down to a thumbnail; the years of studying fine cuisine in Europe down to a snapshot. Don’t get me wrong; none of these things are bad. They simply become bad, when we stop demanding more from our lives and stop seeking these experiences out for ourselves.

Doing’ is a dying art form and we’re too comfortable with simply ‘viewing’.

That’s why I’m currently sitting on the banks of the Colorado River in Austin. I realized I was in a position where I could not only help people see what’s out there; but I could hopefully instill in them the courage to go out and experience it firsthand. When you venture out into the real world and see the art, shops and eateries that line our streets, you can actually feel the dedication behind them. You can taste the artistry and appreciate the unparalleled talent. It’s a sensory experience you won’t find on any electronic device. After all, a new phone may seem nice at the time, but it’s bound to become obsolete within the year. A trip to Iceland, though? That’s a memory you’ll never call outdated.

To actually go eat slow-cooked Texas BBQ; watch the skaters at Love Park in Philly; tag your name on the St. Louis graffiti wall; it all instills a new sense of wonder and accomplishment. It motivates you to become a part of something bigger and opens your eyes to the fact that there are creative people all over the world. It’s a feeling that can’t be expressed in 140 characters or through the lens of an Instagram filter. Yet, it’s something that will stay with you regardless of where you live, where you work or how much money you make. It’s a reminder that what you do is never regulated to a cubicle or office, despite how it may feel at times. The world is a canvas; you just have to go looking for the right brushes.

[Tweet “Happiness breeds the very best work.”]

Happiness breeds the very best work.

To me, travel always yields one of two positive outcomes. On one hand, you may come across a city that immediately acquires your love—a place that calls your name and invites you in with open arms. Somewhere that stimulates your talents and rouses your very best creations. But, on the other hand, you may feel underwhelmed, only to return and fall in love with your home all over again. Armed with a newfound enthusiasm and a mind full of memories, you’ll feel motivated to improve your city and finally devote enough time and passion to doing so. That’s what Sam McNulty did and I’d say his worldly knowledge has served him rather well over there in Ohio City.

On a personal level, I’m ready to embody all of the knowledge I’ve consumed on this trip and unleash it through my work. I don’t know what’ll come next for me. Yet, for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid to venture into that mysterious unknown. I just hope that some of you will decide to throw caution to the wind and join me for the ride, because our world could use a few more adventurers.

More about Steve and the Great Agency Adventure:
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn

For more about Cleveland Graphic Design Firm Go Media visit our website. We’re your trusted partner for website design and development, branding & logo design and Graphic Design.

On Developing a Dedicated Sales Team

Building a Sales Team You Can Trust:

One of the best part of our jobs here at Go Media is connecting with fellow creatives.  Recently, Jeff Gapinski, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Huemor Design in Farmingdale, New York, reached out us. Jeff had some great feedback about Drawn to Business, as well as some questions about developing a killer sales team.

We thought we’d share the exchange with all of you. Enjoy and please feel free to continue the conversation with us in the comments below!

Image shared by Huemor Designs
Image shared by Huemor Designs

Lead Your Sales Team to Success

Jeff Gapinski:

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for the time and effort you took to put together the book “Drawn to Business”.  I honestly wish I would have had the book when I started out, it would have made my journey to this point a bit easier, but none-the-less there was still insight to be gained from the read, even though we’re slightly beyond start-up stage.

I often found myself going YES YES THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I FEEL throughout the book, which was extremely reassuring because:

1.  It made me feel like I’m not crazy

2.  I’m not alone

3.  I have to be doing something right if I’m following the same path

That being said, I do have a question that perhaps you could shed some further light on. Towards the end of the book you discuss always having an active sales team, and I have to say, in terms of my business, it’s definitely a weakness of mine.  We’ve been lucky enough to always be busy from the start, but it’s a huge fear of mine that the work will run out, and when it does, we won’t be prepared.  My question specifically is, who did you seek for your sales roles?  Did you find individuals with a background in sales for our industry, or did you find someone with a knack for sales and show them the ropes?  I’m finding it especially difficult to find qualified individuals I feel are worthy of being the “face” of my brand that aren’t myself, or my business partner.  Problem is, we both wear a lot of hats, and it’s especially difficult to actively pursue new leads on top of our 100 other tasks.

Image shared by Huemor Designs
Image shared by Huemor Designs

William Beachy:

Hey Jeff! Thanks for the feedback. I’d be happy to shed some light on the latest and greatest insights I have on using and developing a sales team. Let me start by saying I was also terrible at developing and properly using a sales team. It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve gotten it right. 2013 saw a 75% growth in design services – directly attributable to our new sales team and how I used them.

You should be afraid of running out of work! That’s healthy. It’s easier now, while you are busy, to ramp up your sales efforts than it will be if you run out of work. Being out of work and trying to spur sales is a stressful place. Make this a priority now! Use your strong cashflow to get marketing and people in place to push sales.

Find a good salesperson, not necessarily someone who knows the design industry. At the end of the day, sales is about communication, relationships, being competitive/self-motivated and having a knack for closing. None of these traits are specific to the design industry. Go Media’s top sales person didn’t have a background in design. We had to teach her. Of course, it’s a bonus if you can find someone with that knowledge base, but it’s not necessary. I would recommend finding someone with sales experience. Ask to see their track record and talk to their previous managers. And of course, all new employees need to be a cultural fit for your company.

Image shared by Huemor Designs
Image shared by Huemor Designs

Turn your salesperson into a clone of yourself. I completely hear your concern about your salesperson not being “worthy of being the face of your company.” So, here’s the solution: MAKE THEM WORTHY! You don’t hire a salesperson, give them a little dull sword and throw them into the lion’s den! You have to spend a long time training them. By the time they go sell for you on their own, they should have a full suit of armour, battle ax and mace! I think the best way to do this is to have them mirror you. Take them on sales calls with you. CC them on all your client e-mails. Have them on the phone with you. The salesperson needs to learn your “pitch.” They need to learn your personality, style, company culture, company story, anecdotal business stories, jokes – everything. Your salesperson is going to become a mini-you, a clone. This doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re starting from the premise that your sales pitch is working. So, you want to teach them what’s working. Did you see the movie The Wolf of Wallstreet? He became successful because he taught other sales people his pitch – he gave them a script!

So, how does this look in the real world for your sales team? The salesperson starts as an assistant to you. They take notes in the sales meetings. They listen and learn. They write the proposals – which you review. Bit by bit you let them do more and more of the sales work. Every step of the way you read what they write and listen to how they talk. You give feedback on what’s good and what needs modified. And of course, you teach them about the design industry. Once you’re confident in them, you start letting them lead the sales meeting and you simply sit and listen. Eventually they start going out on sales calls without you.

Over time a good salesperson will shed some of your personality and infuse their own. They will learn ways to get sales that you didn’t even think of. The education will go back and forth between you and your sales team. But your sales team needs to learn the rules before they can start breaking them. In the past I failed at building a sales team because I “put them on an island” and expected them to just sell without my help. That was completely wrong. Now I hold their hand, put words in their mouth and teach them all I know. The results have been dramatic.

Image shared by Huemor Designs
Image shared by Huemor Designs

Not chasing down all your leads is leaving money on the table! The owner of a company will ALWAYS be wearing many hats. I also have a hard time chasing down leads. This is exactly why you need a person (or two or three) that are only wearing one hat – the SALES hat. This way, when you are out networking and someone offhand mentions a slight interest in your design services – a lead that you might otherwise let pass you by, now you have someone to pass that lead along to – a hungry salesperson!

Don’t forget about developing your existing customers! Chasing down new leads is important, but even more important is developing the customers you already have. If you’re too busy to chase new leads (and wearing your many hats), then you’re probably not developing your current customers fully. How often do you call to check in? How often do you ask them what upcoming needs they have? How often do you pitch them on new services? Are you being a proactive salesperson or a responsive salesperson? If you only send proposals when your customers ask for them – you’re leaving money on the table.  This is where your dedicated sales team shines. This is exactly the kind of work that you don’t have time for, but a dedicated sales team does.

More about Jeff: Corporate Portfolio | Behance | Dribbble | Twitter

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Become a Master Typographer: How to Choose the Perfect Typeface

Choosing the Right Type: 10 Considerations

A critical question we often ask ourselves and know other designers contemplate when working on any given design is, “How do I choose the right font?”

So many factors go into this decision, however thanks to the help of some friends, including Creative Director Michael Prewitt as well as Art Directors Craig Weiland and Harley Peddie, we’re here to share with you ways you can choose the perfect typeface for every project.

Use this tool from inspirationlab.wordpress.com, Pinned on Go Media's Pinterest
Use this tool from inspirationlab.wordpress.com, Pinned on Go Media’s Pinterest

How to Choose a Font

1. Ask yourself:Is the typeface appropriate for the subject?”

Before venturing into your design, investigate the mood, personality, and attitude of the project.

Then, as Michael Prewitt notes, ask yourself, ‘Is the typeface appropriate for the subject?’

“This question,” he finds, “is the king. Every typeface conveys certain ideas, emotions, and associations — even fonts that are not display faces, designed for body copy. Typefaces may be strong, graceful, elegant, brash, businesslike, quirky, playful, traditional, understated, fierce, etc. They may convey a certain period or historical/geographic context, such as Old West, Roman era, Victorian, Art Deco, 1950s, Art Nouveau, High-Tech/Sci-fi, etc. They may be designed to look very geometric/precise, flowing and curvy, hand-written or calligraphic, distressed or grungy, or traditional serif or sans serif type for copy. So it’s important to ask what you want the font to say, and what do you not want it to say. Think clearly and fully about this point, because you don’t want to be one of those designers who picks a font because it’s informal, but fails to consider that the job calls for ‘elegant and informal,’ not ‘drawn while smoking weed informal’ — or maybe the other way around.”

Adds Craig Weiland, “A designer has to be aware of the basics of type usage. Serifed type is often used for long copy, like books and magazines. This is because the serifs make the characters more recognizable, and the text easy to read in bulk at small sizes. Serif body copy usually pairs well with sans-serif display type. There are mountains of exceptions, but you have to understand the rules before you can effectively break them.”

Does this logo's typeface communicate the kind of things you'd go to a massage parlor for? I'd expect to walk out of there bruised and bloody. Is Agatha even a woman? - Craig Weiland
Does this logo’s typeface communicate the kind of things you’d go to a massage parlor for? I’d expect to walk out of there bruised and bloody. Is Agatha even a woman? – Craig Weiland

The process of choosing the perfect typeface not only comes from experience and education, but also through trial and error.

Weiland continues, “I test a lot of fonts when I design a logo. I’ll sometimes go through 20-30 different faces looking at how the characters relate to each other, the overall mood presented by the forms, readability at large and small sizes, how I might use color, how the letterforms create negative spaces and how I might use them, and so forth. I have to have a solid understanding of the attitude I want to project. For instance in the massage logo example above, the attitude communicated is strength, confidence, power, pride. A massage parlor should be welcoming, warm, relaxing and soothing. The typeface chosen must broadcast these attributes, or at least not be in conflict with them.”

2. And…Is the typeface technically appropriate?

Another aspect of being appropriate is technical, Prewitt points out.

“Some typefaces are too thin for the size at which they will be used, or maybe too heavy for the ink level on a medium that could allow bleed-through. Thin fonts will tend to choke (plug up) when printed reversed out of a dark background. For web fonts, readability on screens and devices is important. A font that will be screened onto a small object like a pen needs to have enough thickness that it won’t quickly deteriorate when the item is used.”

3.  Be aware of trends and clichés in type.

As with any other design, trends and clichés should factor into the design decision making process. Great designers can stay up to date by hungrily consuming the world of type around them, following fellow artists, social media sources, inspirational blogs, etc.

Prewitt notes, “Every decade, there are fonts and type styles that become popular and that become passé. There are trends in type that are affected by many things, including styles of clothing, popular movies, cultural movements, and more. The more you are in touch with trends in society, the better you will be at choosing typefaces that will resonate with current thoughts and feelings. This does not mean you should focus only on the fonts everyone else is using; but if you understand why those fonts are popular, it can help you find new typefaces that will stand out and still look contemporary. In the same way, you can avoid typefaces that have become synonymous with past fads.”

“In the 1990s, a font called Officina Sans was quite popular,” Craig Weiland recalls. “It was used everywhere someone wanted to project ‘contemporary office chic’. Today, I can’t use it at all. It’s worn out… it only projects ‘we think it’s still the 90s.’ You can’t pick up things like that if you aren’t paying attention to the design world around you. As a designer, you are (or should be) always paying attention to design in your environment and media. If you notice a cool typeface in something, like a movie poster or a billboard, see if you can track it down later using Google searches or WhatTheFont, so you can add it to your arsenal for future use.”

4. Look for a typeface that excels in the small details.

Prewitt begs designers to ask themselves, “How well do the letters flow together? Is there some little flourish, or ligature, or other detail that would give this typeface some extra class, without going too far? If you are designing something like a company logo where you are using just a few letters, a font that has a really nice letterform for one or more of the letters you are using could really make the design. Look at the punctuation and non-Latin characters. A well-designed font will include many glyphs besides the Latin alphabet, and they will be well-designed and not generic-looking (the punctuation will be in the same style as the letters, etc.).”

He notes, “People without a background in design will sometimes say that every roman typeface ‘looks like Times New Roman,’ or every sans serif font ‘looks like Arial.’ But the more you study typefaces and become familiar with them, the more you will see that even the most basic typefaces can be great designs or poor designs. The details make all the difference.”

5. Think about how different typefaces will work together.

When marrying typefaces, designers should tread carefully. Like coupling two people (or more) together, typefaces have personalities, and these must mesh well together in order to live in perfect harmony.

Prewitt agress. “Most designs involve two or more different typefaces. Some fonts work really well together, others are too similar and clash, or too wildly different. The fonts should complement each other, and they should all support the message of the piece.”

Found on Quora, Pinned on Go Media's Pinterest
Found on Quora, Pinned on Go Media’s Pinterest

6. Make use of your options.

“On my work computer I have over 3,500 fonts,” reports Prewitt. “I have my favorites, and there are some I have never used and probably never will use. But it’s great to have a diversity. Many designers, especially beginners, tend to use a lot of the fonts that came with their system — such as the fonts that come with Adobe products. There is nothing wrong with many of those fonts, except that they are sometimes overused. When a font is overused, people may connect your design with other designs that are completely unrelated, or they may see your design as clichéd. Besides that, when you use default fonts, you have to realize that lots of amateurs are also using the same fonts, and that can give an amateur feel to your work.

Even though I have lots of fonts, they are all sorted into groups and styles, so it is fairly easy for me to find just the font I want, without perusing the whole collection.

It is also helpful to collect pictures of good fonts for future reference. Probably you don’t have the budget to purchase every font that catches your eye. But if you save it to Evernote, or Pinterest, or some other place, you can refer back to it later when you have a hot project that needs a great typeface.”

7.  Consider the cost

Designers should considers clients pocketbooks when choosing an appropriate font, as Harley Peddie reminds. “Unfortunately, clients still squirm paying $100 to license a typeface when they’re so used to getting this stuff for free, especially with webfonts from our good friends at Google.”

8. But…avoid freeware fonts.

Per Prewitt, “Although professionally designed fonts can be pricey, they can also be exceptionally well designed. With commercial fonts, you usually get better kerning pairs (very important), more alternates, more ligatures, and more styles/weights that pair well together. With freeware fonts, you often get very bad kerning and sometimes even font errors such as overlapping paths that can cause problems in production. Also, many freeware fonts come with usage restrictions that will prevent you from legally using them in some projects. This is not to say that all free fonts are bad. But you have to be careful about which ones you use. Also be aware that there are often deals where you can get pro fonts for cheap or even free. Some free fonts are designed by professional designers or foundries, and so you could expect them to be high quality.”

9. Time
Time, too, can be an issue in choosing the perfect typeface. Peddie adds, “Sometimes you just gotta get it out the door, so instead of spending hours lost in the wonders of independent foundry sites, you dust off Univers one last time.”

10. Pick something (appropriate) from your arsenal.

What exactly to start with?

Prewitt comments, “The ‘starter fonts’ question is difficult, because everyone has their own taste in fonts, and different styles of projects that they do. Personally, I like Minion and Myriad quite a lot, although these fall into the category of somewhat overused. They are neutral enough that I find they are good base fonts to start a new project with, and I might replace them with other typefaces later in the design process. Besides those, I would recommend any of the following: Adobe Garamond (or the Premier Pro version), Arno Pro, Chaparral Pro, Chronos Pro, Didot, Encore Sans Pro, FF Absara, FF Acanthus, FF Milo, Gloriola, Helvetica Neue, Rayuela, Ronnia, Vista Sans and Vista Slab, and Warnock Pro as good starting points. None of these are display fonts and are not particularly exciting; but they are good sturdy fonts with a wide range of supporting roles.”

He adds, “I would recommend against using any typefaces that have been heavily overused in desktop publishing: Algerian,  Avant Garde, Benguiat, Bank Gothic, Bradley Hand, Brush Script, Cooper,  Copperplate Gothic, Curlz, Impact, Kristen, Mistral, Souvenir, Times New  Roman, Papyrus, Vivaldi, Zapf Chancery, Zapf Dingbats, etc. Always use Helvetica (or Helvetica Neue) instead of Arial.”

And last but not least:

“Don’t ever use Comic Sans.”

Cover Photo credit: Brenda Gottsabend | Flickr

How do you find the perfect typeface? Add your thoughts in the comments below!

For further reading:
100 Top Resources for Typography and Hand-Lettering

An Open Letter to Design Students: Learn to Code (Part 1 of 2)

Students,

Please listen when we say this:

Learn to code.

But wait, you say, your heart pounding out of your chest: I am a designer.

I draw; I create.

I need not code.

Well my friends, listen here and listen good.

We receive resumes every day from students just like you who do what you do: Branding! Print! Illustration! Typography, too.

And, we know, we know.

Sure, it’s your portfolio that stands above the rest.

But in reality, here’s what you have to realize:

Print/Brand designers are a dime a dozen.

Even if you did a brand refresh for Apple and hand-lettered your thesis in chalk on the Great Wall, don’t be naive enough to think that code is better left to programmers.

Why learn?

One of the biggest mistakes we see in young designers is their sacrifice of design decisions simply due to a lack of understanding of code.

They’ll come to us with one design and deliver quite another. The reason, we ask as they sweat and stammer, is quite apparent.

When it comes time to code the web page, making rounded corners on your boxes is far more difficult than just having sharp 90 degree corners… so, instead of honoring their design, they just scrapped the rounded corners because they don’t know the code.

Do not fear the mystical world of unicorns and rainbows.

Embrace the concept: if you can design it, you can code it. The sky really is the limit.

Now don’t get too programmer on us. When we say code, stay true to your design self, but do get some solid training in HTML/CSS and Javascript.

This will assure that you are well-rounded and competitive in a fierce job market.

Having all of these skills in your backpocket will make you a better, more well-rounded, capable designer.  And that’s what we love to see here at Go Media.

Love, me

P.S. Read on for Part 2: Learn to Code: Tips for Designers

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How I Built a Killer Morning Routine

This post was originally written on my personal blog Maker/Mistaker and I thought I should repost it here.

So you call yourself a night owl huh? Most creative people I know (myself included) felt like they get in the zone after midnight. All is still and quiet and you can finally focus on your work. And if you’re not working, you’re doing something until the wee hours of the morning. If you’re like most night owls, you dread getting up in the morning.

That was certainly me. My wife too. Over time our bed time kept getting pushed back later and later because there was always “something to do” that we just had to do. We weren’t tired and going to bed felt like giving up on the day.

A Night Owl No More

I have been getting up at least one hour earlier for over a month now. In fact, the past two weeks I’ve been getting up two and a half hours earlier than normal. The night owl in me would ask, “Why the fuck would you ever get up before you have to?”

This getting up early habit has led to a month-long streak of wonderful habits including exercise, walking, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, and reading to name a few. Each of those has tremendous benefits on their own.

Those are all things I never “had time for” no matter how many extra hours I stayed up. Typically, staying up extra hours just meant more time on the computer. Am I right?

If I Could Only Get Up Early

I didn’t have the ambition to do all those things at first. All I started with was a desire to get up early just because. If I can regularly do that, then I’ll fill it with things to do I’m sure. So I started small with just the cue (or trigger), routine, and reward system to get my ass out of bed. Something I learned from the Power of Habit book.

Cue: Alarm goes off.
Routine: Get out of bed, crawl to couch.
Reward: Cup of coffee while I watched TV on my laptop.

I made sure to add this to my Lift habits so I could keep track. This worked great until the very next day when I forgot to set my alarm and woke up late. Dammit. I woke up early the following morning to get back on track. Then it was the weekend; which of course I slept in and stopped caring about my goal. Then I read The Miracle Morning and that changed everything.

The book stressed how it’s totally ok to be as simple and small as you need to be. The author even described how you can do the Miracle Morning routine in just six minutes! Who doesn’t have time for that?

The book refreshed my inspiration on meditation and personal development. I started following Hal’s suggested routine of waking up, chugging a glass of water, sitting in silence for five minutes, doing some mild exercise, journaling, etc. I tried it out and eventually started customizing it to suit my needs.

My Morning Routine

I use the AM Routine app to help me stay on track. You set your desired end time (like when you have to leave for work) and you add habits with time estimates to your routine. It will calculate exactly when the built-in alarm should go off to give you enough time to do your routine. It even has a handy dashboard to show you what task you should be on, how much time is left, and what’s coming up next. This is brilliant for those foggy mornings. You don’t have to think at all!

  • 6:30 AM: alarm goes off. My phone is across the room and I have to get up to turn it off. This prevents me from snoozing.
  • Get dressed, brush and floss my teeth, feed the rabbit: 5 minutes
  • Drink a glass of water and/or make coffee:  5 minutes
  • Meditate: 10 minutes
  • Read affirmations: 5 min
  • Watch a show on my computer: 30-60 minutes
  • Write in my journal: 10 minutes
  • Go for a walk and listen to audiobook: 25 minutes
  • Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, baby-freeze (breakdance move), lift weights: 5 minutes
  • Shower and get ready: 15 minutes
  • Eat Breakfast: 15 minutes
  • Pack lunch, get the mail: 5 minutes

So that’s my routine. Sometimes for breakfast I’ll make a chocolate super-food smoothie that I got from The Miracle Morning book, so I sip it throughout my routine. I’m getting a little bored of this routine already and might want to shake things up. I’m adding in 10 minutes of writing in my blog and slowly eliminating my TV watching time. The beauty of this is that I can do whatever the fuck I want. It’s my morning routine.

Jeff’s 5 Tips for a Killer Morning Routine

  1. Start small. Remember, pick up the goddamn weight, don’t worry about lifting yet. Just do as little as possible so you can check it off and feel good about it. Small wins are the only way you’ll feel motivated to keep going.
  2. Do something pleasurable. For me that was watching a new episode of a tv series. It could be video games. Think of how you felt on Christmas morning as a kid, you couldn’t wait to jump out of bed. As an adult, what would give you that type of excitement in the morning?
  3. Don’t let yourself think. In the morning, your willpower and decision making ability is extremely low. You need to build up a routine that is dead simple especially right as you step out of bed. For me, this means turning off my alarm clock, unplugging my iPhone charger and stumbling over to my dresser where I have my morning routine outfit already ready in my top drawer. Plan out your entire morning routine in advance so you don’t have to make any decisions in the morning. Even a zombie can do it!
  4. Set things out the night before. I wear the same shorts and shirt every day. Deciding what to wear is hard when you’re groggy. Even my breakfast smoothie is created the night before. The glass for my morning water is always in the same place. It requires no thinking to get going. This is key!
  5. Focus on personal development. Do not work! Resist the temptation to check email or social media. Do not start working on a project right away without first spending time working on your own personal development. You have the rest of the day to worry about checking stuff off your to-do list. Do not feel guilty about being “unproductive” and do not feel selfish for focusing on yourself. You deserve to have time to develop the life you want to live.

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+

Fear of Making Money

This post was originally written on my personal blog Maker/Mistaker and I thought I should repost it here.

A while back I was having a conversation with a friend of mine Danielle Harper. We were discussing a lot of things that affect us as entrepreneurs. One of those was money. Danielle was describing a criticism she received but defended herself by saying, “and I didn’t even make any money on it.”

I stopped her right there because what she said made me realize something. She defended herself by reminding me that she didn’t make money. Why?

Check out her post on her blog about this very conversation. 

So why did she resort to the “but I didn’t make money” defense? I notice this a lot with the people I surround myself with. Grown adults who grew up on punk rock that never quite fit into the system. The whole DIY movement is sort of a fuck-you to capitalism and corporate greed. There’s a certain badge of honor doing things yourself and trying to “stick it to the man.”

I’ll Just Do it Myself

In your teens and early twenties, you are filled with hope and determination. You have enough courage to start your own business and start making money doing your own thing. Maybe you tried to get a job but couldn’t and were like, “fuck it” I’ll just do it myself. Maybe you made an amazing product or had an brilliant idea nobody ever thought of before. Maybe you created something people admired and loved.

You knew you had to charge money for whatever it was, but you secretly hated that part of the business. You loved the creation. You loved the work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard really talented artists say, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this shit.” As if their talents are somehow worthless and clients and customers are fools for paying them. How much more self-deprecating can you get?

Fear of Greed

The thing is, we seem to have this underlying fear of making money. Because what does money lead to? Does it lead to becoming that big fat greedy bastard we imagined when we were younger? Are we afraid of becoming the man? We don’t want to be seen by our peers as motivated by money. Being motivated by money is the ultimate evil, right? Well, that’s what we told ourselves.

Ever since I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, there have been many conversations about money. I heard from people who thought we were rolling in the dough with our $35 ticket price. I’ll be first to admit I was quick to defend myself with how broke we were and how much we sacrificed. “Hey look, we are doing this for the love of the music and art!” That was the truth, we did love it. We just needed enough money to cover our costs. And guess what we got? Just enough money to cover our costs. Danielle said the same about her businesses.

It can be scary imagining yourself earning money. Money is power. Having power can be scary because you’ve seen so many people abuse it. You’re scared of what you might do with that money and power.

Fear of Criticism

Why are we so afraid of making money? Is it because you can no longer be immune to criticism? You can’t fail if you’re not making money right? There’s an assumption if you’re doing anything related to music and art that any hint of commercialism taints the true intentions of the artist. An artist often does not want to be regarded as having compromised his artistic integrity to make a buck.  Once you’re making a buck, you have customers. Customers who feel that you are now working for them and that they’re always right. You now opening yourself up to critique and criticisms and that can be hard to accept.

Altruism and Sacrifice

We all want to do good; to change the world. We all feel that we were granted some special ability to affect the world in our own unique way. We judge ourselves and each other by how much we sacrifice our own happiness to make others happy. Sacrifice is just another measuring stick to compare fellow humans with. Are you better if you sacrifice more for a greater good of the team or humanity?

Being selfless or altruistic is admired. It’s sometimes like a competition to see who can struggle the hardest and earn the least. Have you ever told someone a story of your hardship only to hear someone else one-up you? “You think you’ve got it bad, let me tell you!”

Change Your Perspective About Money

Sometimes we are afraid of other people feeling insecure around us. If we happen to become successful, we’re afraid it’s going to make our closest friends jealous and insecure and even hate us. Until we change our perspective on money we’re going to treat it like poison. Until we stop judging what others do with their money, we will forever be judged with what we do with ours.

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! 

How to Launch your Freelance Business: 9 Simple Tips

Doing It Alone

So, you’ve been fantasizing about taking the big leap in the freelance world. Maybe the three days at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest was just the little push over the edge you needed. Maybe the current job market looks so grim, that making it on your own seems like the best solution. Or is it that you just cannot stand living to create something you don’t believe in one minute longer?

danstiles4
Work by Dan Stiles

You’re not alone. We chatted a bit with freelance designer Dan Stiles, known for his vibrant, bold and bright screen-print art prints and rock music posters honoring such acts as The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, Ray Lamontagne and Sonic Youth, about his decision to dive in head first.  Rena Tom, of Makeshift Society in San Francisco (a sweet co-working space and clubhouse for creative freelancers), also contributed.  And lastly, we drew some gems of knowledge from both our experience here at Go Media and Bill Beachy’s book, Drawn to Business.

danstiles1
Alt-J | Vampire Weekend posters by Dan Stiles

Deciding to go the freelance route was a no-brainer for Dan, as he cherishes his creative freedom: “My career goals don’t really fit with being an employee,” he notes. “If you look at any project I’ve done in the last 5 years you won’t find many that I could have done as an employee somewhere. I want to make the best work I possibly can. I want to make work that excites me and excites other people. In order to do that I need creative control. I can’t make exciting work as a Senior Designer at Wells Fargo, or as a Production Designer at NBC. There are too many limits. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many guys in pleated khakis telling me what art is. Blame it on the DIY ethic I picked up as young punk, but my goals and my attitude are best expressed on my own. Creativity is more of a shamanistic pursuit, not a team sport.”

makeshiftsociety
Makeshift Society

Ready to take the leap?  Be advised.  Ahead of you is, according to Dan, a “complete and total lack of long term financial visibility,” continuing, “If you have a job you have a pretty good idea of how much money you will make next month, or next year. Working for yourself is a constant roller coaster ride. Additionally in order to succeed you will have to put in a Herculean amount of hours.”

Zombies vs Cheerleaders | The XX by Dan Stiles
Zombies vs Cheerleaders | The XX by Dan Stiles

Succeed and “you’re in charge of your own destiny, and you finally get to do work that is 100% yours. Not some amalgamation of what the client and the art director and the CEO’s wife like.”

gma-freelance-survival-kit-wallpaper-size-graphics-exude-confidence

How to Survive As a Freelancer

1. Complete a Business Plan

We recommend grabbing the Drawn to Business’s Business Plan Workbook or to download one you’ve found online to brainstorm, establish goals and parameters for your new business.

Do your research and be sure to ask yourself questions like:
What are the personal and professional goals for your business (1 month, 6 month, 1 year, 5 year marks)?  What will success look like to you? What is your mission, vision, purpose? What is your unique value proposition? What will your brand represent to your client?  What is the current demand for your services? What are other firms charging for their services?

2. Don’t Quit Your Day Job…Immediately

Sure you’re excited to jump in with both feet, but before you get in over your head, Dan recommends that you “don’t quit your day job.”  

“The best way to get going is to put in your 8 hours at the office, then come home and do work you think is good for clients you like. No clients? No problem, do excellent self-directed work. Start a blog, a zine, a YouTube channel. Just make good work and lots of it. Don’t spend your evenings doing work you don’t like. Remember, you’re building your base. Don’t start out making more of the kind of work you’re hoping to escape. At some point you’ll have enough projects to quit your day job. It will be scary to cut the cord, but you’ll have to do it.”

2. Do Your Legal Research

Make sure to do your research to make sure you’re running your freelance business legally and following all laws.  Consult a lawyer as needed.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Establish the legal form for your business from the following: partnership, LLC, S Corporation, Corporation, Sole Proprietor.
  • Research whether or not there are state or local licenses that you need to operate a freelance graphic design business.
  • Look to your state’s website for their Department of Revenue or State Treasury Department regarding the need to charge sales tax for design services.
  • Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number).

benice

2. Make Yourself a Schedule.

Visualize what your days will look like. Will you dedicate a certain number of hours to your work everyday? Will you integrate work into your life more that you are on your own?

Dan recommends flexibility. “This notion that you work from 9 to 5, have a life from 6 to 11, and sleep from 12 to 7 went out the window 20 years ago for me. I am always on, but also always flexible to do what needs to get done. If I want to go snowboarding on a Monday I can do that, but if I have work to do I’ll be up until 3am getting it done. This whole notion of dividing work and home is a 18th century construct based on selling your labor to a factory during the day. Ever heard of a farmer who clocks out at 5? The farmer lives his work, so does the creative. You need to own your life and your career.”

Try this: start off on the right foot by waking up to your alarm on day one, dressing up and showing up on time for work, even if you’ve set up in your home office.  Whatever it is that you decide, begin to develop a nice rhythm for yourself. We use apps like TeuxDeux, Omnifocus and Smartsheet to schedule our days and organize our projects.

3. Save, save, save

Assess your current living space and equipment.  Can you get by without fancy new equipment and that hip office space?

For Dan, it does not make much sense to spend the extra money. “My life and my work are entirely intertwined. I can’t picture it any other way. I don’t stop at 5 and turn into not-working Dan. My mind is always working, even if I’m mowing the lawn. Working from home allows me to hang out with my kids at 3 in the afternoon, or make a sandwich and eat it on my front porch then go back to work until 2 am. On the bad side, I can’t really have employees or clients over, it’s just too weird. If you need space from your work, or some neutral zone for other people to be in then move out of your house. For me, I am my work, so having to drive 25 minutes to pay to sit somewhere else and do it just seems a little silly.”

In your first years as a freelancer, stick to the plan to save as outlined in your business plan.  Now is not the time to break the bank.

4. Establish Your Rates

“Figure out what you need to make an hour and start there,” suggests Dan, “If you’re drowning in work raise your prices. Working out pricing is always hard. You don’t want to leave money on the table, but you don’t want to price yourself out of the job either.”

Have downtime?  Keep working. Volunteer for high-profile jobs, assuring that your name is tagged on the project.

consistentnew

5. Be Everywhere

Get yourself out there! The more opportunity for connection with fans, followers and fellow designers the better.  Once you have created your online presence, be genuine,  humble and interactive. Create positive connections with your followers on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the like. Not only promote yourself, but others as well. This not only builds relationships but also establishes you as an expert. When sharing what you love, be genuine.

Regarding those designers selling their wares online, Rena notes, “I think a retail presence is made up of many components these days: visual interest boards like Pinterest and Tumblr, and social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to name the biggest sites. Also, a freelancer needs to think about blogs and newsletters still, as well as maintaining their own portfolio and retail site. That’s quite a lot!

Basically, any venue where you can show your chops, or your taste, is important to your business. You don’t need all of these accounts but you should be aware of, and therefore in control of, the ones you do have. You never know which “door” someone will walk through to discover you.

I think attacking on all fronts, a little at a time, is going to be easiest to execute for some people. For others, focusing on one task only is more effective. It depends on your personal work style, and there’s no one correct answer. That said, as long as measurable progress is being made *somewhere*, that’s important. I sometimes write a weekly status update for myself. It’s not exactly a diary but you just recap all of the things you’ve done the previous week. It can be really useful to prove to yourself that you were indeed moving ahead and getting stuff done. Be authentic, be forthcoming, and show your interest(s). Participate. It’s hard to get a following if you don’t make a splash so participate and be heard!”

makeshiftsociety1
Makeshift Society

6. Create a Marketing Plan

Shake hands, get involved in the community, start building relationships with clients you admire through LinkedIn/Twitter, consider selling to family and friends.

“I think that’s what is hardest at the beginning – consistently marketing yourself while trying to do your work,” reports Rena, “Scheduling activities to happen on certain days, even certain hours was pretty useful in getting a lot of different activities done.”

Making time for marketing, thus, is key.  Set a specific number of hours per month where you’ll be up and away from your monitor.

7. Set Up Your Metrics

Track hours logged, followers, costs, income, profit, loss. Every month review. What’s working? What isn’t? Are you hitting your goals?

8. Do Great Work and Make Sure that it is Seen

“The internet is magic,” notes Dan,  “If you do good work it will sprout wings and fly off all over the interwebs. Which is why, once again, you can’t just churn out more grade B corporate design product. Make work that people want to look at and it will take you places.”

Consider starting a blog, writing tutorials and articles which will serve to not only get your work out there, but establish you as an expert. When putting your work out there, make sure it’s epic!

9. Embrace Mistakes.

“Make crappy stuff and keep working until something good comes out. It can be a stressful process, but it’s almost never a waste of time. Eventually you’ll produce something good, you will have learned a few things along the way, and you might have generated a few extra ideas that you can put in your pocket for later,”  shares Dan.

dan-stiles More Dan:
Dan Stiles | Blog

rena-tom More Rena:
Rena Tom | Makeshift Society | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Flickr | Instagram | AngelList | LinkedIn

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Ready to Spread Your Wings?

Introducing the Freelance Survival Kit.

Not too scared yet by Dan and Rena’s cautionary tales? Are you maybe a bit unsure of where to start to tackle all of that to-do list? Well, we happen to have just the thing.

Our own Chris Comella, along with the rest of the staff, created this Freelance Survival Kit that would fit your guidance needs perfectly.

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The Kit contains a series of white papers on getting your business set up legitimately, billing clients, and becoming a social media powerhouse. But that’s not it.

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We’ve also included templates for contracts, project questionnaires, project agreements, and more. On top of that, we’ve also added some of our mockup templates (CD case and shirts), grunge vectors, design articles, grid kits, and Jeff’s Wacom illustration tutorial.

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Being a one person shop can be hard. That’s why we crafted this product, for all of you eager to learn the tools of the trade. This is packed with years of experience. And it’s available for just under 150 bucks.

Freelance Survival Kit

Wanna learn even more? Consider having a look at Drawn to Business, which is like the Freelancer Survival Kit on steroïds. Bill Beachy, the big chief here at Go Media took two years to write this extensive guide on how to run a design firm. It’s the result of more than 15 years in the field. And there’s plenty of additional content available too.

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Still have questions? That’s what the comments are there for!

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What Your Business Can Learn From the Failed Launch of the ObamaCare Enrollment Website

On Oct. 1, the federal government formally rolled out the Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare,” beginning with the launch of online healthcare exchanges.

It was disastrous.

I’m referring not to the federal government shutdown that ensued as part of the bitter politics involved, but rather the system design and hosting failures that led to the site to crash. Millions of people were staring at an “error” message, causing many to offer further criticism of the healthcare initiative itself.

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According to various media reports, the Obamacare website received 7 million unique visitors in the first two days of its launch. Some 4.6 million of those arrived in the first 24 hours.

While some have commented that a glitch-free unveiling of the site was an “impossible task,” given the scope, intensiveness and concrete deadlines involved, I disagree.

The complications that arose from the launch of this site were foreseeable and avoidable. Those behind the controls should have planned properly and effectively leveraged the modern cloud.

The truth of the matter is, there are countless websites that manage daily traffic volumes far exceeding what the healthcare site was required to handle – and they do it without a single hiccup.

With proper planning, any firm can effectively tailor their website to fit all their capacity needs, both at the time of launch and well into the future. Any experienced web developer will tell you that there are a number of well-tested methodologies and approaches that are effective in shouldering major spikes in traffic – so long as they are done correctly.

Part of it is the responsibility of the business. Business owners and operators should have a solid grasp on the consumer base, which will allow a fairly accurate estimate of traffic volumes.

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Of course, you want to be prepared for the unexpected too. If Oprah one day decides you’re one of her “favorite things,” you want your site be ready!

There was a time when this might have seemed an extreme challenge. Historically, companies basically had two options: dedicated servers and commodity hosting. The first option limited users to the amount of computers to which it could connect. The latter involves shared hosting. There are limitations to that option as well because any one of those users had the potential to bring down large swaths of that network.

In the last decade, we’ve seen a game-changer in the form of something called cloud computing. It’s a complex form of technology that allows vendors to offer highly-advanced hosting that can expand and shrink as necessary. The software and hardware is specifically designed for maximum elasticity with regard to traffic volumes.

The beauty of cloud computing is that in addition to being superior technology, its developers also made the system available to “pay-as-you-go.” That makes it accessible to those with smaller budgets too.

Compare that to dedicated hosting. For that, companies were on the hook to pay for whatever capacity they had estimated they might need, even if those estimates turned out to be inflated.

As great as cloud computing is, it still isn’t everything. It won’t replace good design when it comes to a smooth launch. You still need experienced system administrators who can put into place the proper design and configuration to ensure your website will be ready.

At Go Media, we offer managed cloud hosting and system design as a value-added service for our clients. We’re not a public web hosting firm – and we’re not trying to be one. We do, however, want to make sure our web customers are housed on a stellar system that’s going to perform well at every turn.

Many of our clients have praised this as a major benefit during a launch because it helps to eliminate surprises. When we’ve designed the stack, we know what’s in it. We know its capabilities. We know we’ve got certain monitoring systems in place to be able to react immediately if there is a problem with high volumes. We design our systems so that the mission-critical components are going to operate without a hitch, regardless of how many people flood your site.  It’s a process we’ve been perfecting for well over a decade.

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Choosing a competent web design and management firm is the first step toward ensuring a problem-free launch of your new website.

There are other steps your firm can take too.

As I mentioned earlier, proper planning is essential. Know your consumer base. Know the kind of capacity you can generally expect. Make sure you clearly communicate this with your web developer. Also inform your developer if at any point you anticipate a marked increase in web traffic. There may be preemptive ways the developer can address these potential issues.

Another thing I’ve learned over the course of unveiling hundreds of web applications and campaigns for a variety of brands is this: Go to market with the most basic version of what you consider a viable product. This is particularly important if you are on a deadline.

If you try to shoot for the moon and get every single thing in there and do it on an extremely limited timeline, you may find yourself, your staff, and your consumers disappointed.

It’s worth noting that many clients ultimately come to the realization within the first year of launch that many of the bells and whistles they considered to be “must-haves” were not truly necessary.

Know that more can always be added later.

Deadlines should be realistic. However, good system design need not take an inordinate amount of time if you are working with a skilled web developer who already has good tools in place.

One of your primary goals in launching your new site should be to avoid alienating your users. Establishing a positive first impression will go far in keeping your consumers coming back again and again.

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How to Land the Design Job of Your Dreams

You’re knee deep in loans. You dream in Adobe. You crafted the-most-memorable video resume of all time.

Or so you think.

You’re knocking on doors and they just seem to be closing.

Slamming, really.

What is it that you’re missing?

We asked Dan Weiss, Talent Acquisition Specialist, from American Greetings, Taryn O’Bra, division director for the Creative Group in Seattle and William Beachy, President here at Go Media, to share with us some sure-fire ways to get the design job you’ve always wanted.

How to Get a Design Job:

1. Get your work up-front and center.

“”Only show your VERY BEST work. Less is more. If you only have three amazing pieces, only show that. When it doubt, throw it out.” – William Beachy

“When you’re submitting your resume, make sure you get to something compelling immediately. The truth of the matter is that the first thing I want to see, over your name or where you went to school, is a link to your work.  That’s the only thing that really matters most. Don’t hide it, put it in some strange font, or present it in a large PDF file. Link, link, link!” – Dan Weiss

2. Be accessible.

“Be in the talent pools where all of the talent is swimming around. Sites like BehanceKropCarbon MadeCreative Hot List. It may take a bit of effort, but it’s extremely important, as this is where recruiters like me fish for talent.” – Dan Weiss

“Be persistent. Most design firms don’t have an HR department. That means your resume might get shuffled away. Call and write regularly. Send examples of new work you’ve done. Keep reminding them that you would really, really, really like to work for them. If necessary, take an internship with them. Anything to get your foot in the door can turn into a job.” – William Beachy

3. Use your rock-star design skills to stand-out from the crowd.

“Design everything. I’m constantly shocked when designers send me Word template resume and or cover letter. Everything you send a potential employer should be beautifully branded and designed.” – William Beachy

“Catch our attention and make a strong impression on us! Our team interviewed one candidate who created a mockup of an iPad app for The Creative Group to showcase his digital skills and ability to understand his client’s needs, for example. Other things job seekers have done to stand out are making handcrafted thank-you cards and hand-bound notebooks showcasing their typography and design skills. One candidate even offered a leave-behind with his contact information in the shape of a Rubik’s cube – now that’s creative!” – Taryn O’Bra

4. Just Be You.

“At an interview, be prepared to answer out-of-the-box questions. I personally ask questions people aren’t expecting to answer, like “if you were a room in a house, which room would you be?” I am really trying to figure out who somebody is, because the truth of the matter is that we are adopting people into our studio family. Our culture is really important and we want to make sure it’s a fit.

What can you do about that? Well, all you can do is be yourself. Be who you are – not the awkward, nervous version of yourself or the uncomfortable, overly professional version of yourself. Come in and be who you are and then it’ll work out as it should.” – Dan Weiss

5. Do Your Homework.

“Learn something about the company that isn’t included in the one paragraph boilerplate summary on the company website. Do your research and then take the time to write your questions down. This will show that you have approached this process with methodology just like you would if you were going to handle a creative challenge once hired.” – Dan Weiss

“This is critical. Your potential employer should think that all you’ve ever wanted to do your entire life is work for them. Study them thoroughly. Know their history, what type of work they do and how you would fit into the company. Go in with an agenda – ‘I can help your firm with my XXXXX skill.” – William Beachy

6. Know Your Stuff.

“Know your Adobe. I’d also really recommend that any designer starting out in school learn how to code. It sure helps to know what the coders are going to do with your work when you’re done with it…and it’ll separate you from the competition.

In addition, your ability to show an aptitude to learn new programs will help a potential employer feel better about their investment.” – Dan Weiss.

7. Be Sincere.

“Demonstrate characteristics that are going to be valued in an employee before, during and after an interview. Be prompt to the interview and prepared when you get here.  Be engaged in the process and follow-up promptly and sincerely afterwards.  Being admirably persistent, but not annoying is always a good guideline!” – Dan Weiss

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Did you land the design job of your dreams? Tell us how you did it by commenting below!

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Thank you to The Creative Group and American Greetings!

For more than 100 years, American Greetings Corporation has been a creator and manufacturer of innovative social expression products that assist consumers in enhancing their relationships to create happiness, laughter and love. The company’s major greeting card lines are American Greetings, Carlton Cards, Gibson, Recycled Paper Greetings and Papyrus, and other paper product offerings include DesignWare party goods and American Greetings and Plus Mark gift-wrap and boxed cards. American Greetings also has one of the largest collections of greetings on the Web, including greeting cards available at Cardstore.com and electronic greeting cards available at AmericanGreetings.com. In addition to its product lines, American Greetings also creates and licenses popular character brands through the American Greetings Properties group. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, American Greetings generates annual revenue of approximately $1.9 billion, and its products can be found in retail outlets worldwide.

Connect with American Greetings on Facebook | Pinterest | Google+ | Twitter | Stay Inspired Blog

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The Creative Group (TCG) specializes in placing a range of highly skilled interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms on a project and full-time basis. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and TCG’s blog, can be found at creativegroup.com

Connect with Creative Group on Facebook | Linkedin | Twitter | Google+ | YouTube | Pinterest

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Inspiration Now! 11 Ideas from Our Favorite Designers

Writer’s block? Stuck in a rut? Creatively challenged?

We’ve all been there, staring at the screen: cursor blinking, artboard sadly stark white, pencil sharpened and nowhere to go.  Looking around you want so badly for inspiration to jump off the screen and bite you.  Sometimes, just sometimes it does – but more often than not, you have to go looking for it.  Even our favorite designers, on those dark and desperate moments, have to dig deep and think out-of-the-box to seek inspiration everywhere – and today they’re here to share with us some places you might find it, too.

James White is a visual artist, designer and speaker living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. He makes posters and all kinds of cool stuff.
James White is a visual artist, designer and speaker living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. He makes posters and all kinds of cool stuff.

James White: “I find inspiration by researching stuff from my childhood. Being a child of the 80s, I watch a lot of cartoons and movies from that era, as well as look at a lot of comics, posters, stickers, patches etc. The 80’s aesthetic holds a special place in my heart and always brings me back to being that 7 year old playing with GI Joes in the back yard.”

Brandon Rike designs shirt graphics for bands, as well as logos, posters, low-key album art. He makes letters look good.
Brandon Rike designs shirt graphics for bands, as well as logos, posters, low-key album art. He makes letters look good.

Brandon Rike: “I’ve always found that looking at other designers and artists’ work often proved to be counter-productive. Either it becomes a complete time-suck for your day, or conjures up feelings of envy or insecurity. I try my best to avoid those design inspiration sites and publications the best I can. Instead, I’ve always been a bit more inspired, albeit indirectly, by the spaces in which designers and artists work. I’ve found myself more inspired about seeing the area in which other people feel creative in. A quick search for “artist studios” or “workroom” often leaves me excited to create, as well as excited to someday create my “dream studio” – the utopian space were the ideas flow effortlessly.

I’ve found more inspiration in a blank canvas than a collection of suggestions. Your ideas exist inside of you, and while seeing others work may spark a new idea in you, have confidence in your own ideas – just put yourself in an open position where they can come to you. De-clutter, and leave room for creativity.”

New York City native Jon Contino has garnered considerable attention for his unique approach to design utilizing hand-drawn lettering and typographic illustration in conjunction with a modern, yet minimalistic sensibility. He works not only as a freelance illustrator, but also as Co-Founder and Creative Director of menswear brand CXXVI Clothing Company. Photo by Jonathan Mannion
New York City native Jon Contino has garnered considerable attention for his unique approach to design utilizing hand-drawn lettering and typographic illustration in conjunction with a modern, yet minimalistic sensibility. He works not only as a freelance illustrator, but also as Co-Founder and Creative Director of menswear brand CXXVI Clothing Company. Photo by Jonathan Mannion

Jon Contino: “My favorite places to find inspiration are with the people that I love around me. My wife and daughter, my parents, and my grandfather are all really inspiring people and just sitting and talking with them or watching them do their thing is something that really gets my mind going. The traditional forms of inspiration are great, but there’s nothing like really listening to someone’s opinion that you trust about the world around you.”

Illustrator, Educator and Maker of Things living and loving in Portland, Oregon
Kate Bingaman-Burt is an illustrator, educator and maker of things living and loving in Portland, Oregon

Kate Bingaman-Burt: “One interesting place I look to find inspiration is a little shop right down my street called SMUT (stands for So. Many. Unique. Treasures) It’s filled with a really excellent selection of used vinyl (with a listening station) and lots of good, organized piles of odd items (books, photos, magazines, movie posters etc). It is organized chaos at its finest and only 30 seconds from my house.”

Adam Garcia is creative director, designer and illustrator who runs The Pressure, a creative studio in Portland, Oregon
Adam Garcia is creative director, designer and illustrator who runs The Pressure, a creative studio in Portland, Oregon.

Adam Garcia: “I’d say that my new place to find inspiration is these improv classes I’ve been taking. Opened my mind in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and inspired me in ways I didn’t know possible.”

Rachael Novak is a graphic designer from Cleveland who does mixed media, digital illustration and print design. She is a Line Designer at American Greetings. Photo credit: Justyna Walker
Rachael Novak is a graphic designer from Cleveland who does mixed media, digital illustration and print design. She is a Line Designer at American Greetings. Photo credit: Justyna Walker

Rachael Novak: “I find most of my inspiration actually comes from bars. I find that having casual conversation with friend(s) often jogs a lot of ideas and hearing different perspectives helps solve problems when I get stuck, too. And doing it all over a few beers isn’t too shabby, either!”

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Designer Derrick Castle owns clothing line Straw Castle.

Derrick Castle: “One of the places that I derive a lot of inspiration from is antique shops. I don’t know how “Out-of-the-Box” this is, but for me, I’ve always be inspired by vintage advertising and typography. I have several antique shops close to me that sort of take you back in time. These aren’t those old junk shops that have all your grandparents old broken down furniture and china. These shops take me back to vintage Americana… think American Pickers.

These shops have everything from old motor oil cans to vintage tobacco tins, vintage books to antique phonographs. I actually bought a 100 year old bottle of prohibition era medicinal bitters. These bitters were alcohol based and labeled medicinal in order to avoid the regulations of the Volstead Act. I love picking up items like this that have so much character and rich history, that is the pure definition of inspiration!”

Stewart Scott-Curran is an Art Director, Graphic Designer and Illustrator from Glasgow, Scotland who is currently based in Atlanta
Stewart Scott-Curran is an Art Director, Graphic Designer and Illustrator from Glasgow, Scotland who is currently based in Atlanta

Stewart Scott-Curran:  “I often get inspiration from watching my 4 year old daughter play. Young children tend not to be constrained by any preconceptions when it comes to making up games and as such their imaginations are free to run riot and create anything they like whether it makes sense in the real world or not. We tend to lose this as adults and I think we could all do well to look at things from a child’s point of view from time to time.”

Lisa Congdon is a fine artist and illustrator from San Francisco. Her vast catalog of work includes illustrations for Chronicle Books, Harper Collins Publishing, and Simon and Schuster, among others. See her speak at WMC Fest this year.
Lisa Congdon is a fine artist and illustrator from San Francisco. Her vast catalog of work includes illustrations for Chronicle Books, Harper Collins Publishing, and Simon and Schuster, among others. See her speak at WMC Fest this year.

Lisa Congdon: “I am an avid traveler, and it’s where I find most of my inspiration. Every year I like to go to a different country or city in the US and take tons of photographs that I then use to inspire my work for the next twelve months.”

Interactive designer, music aficionado, lover of things DIY, and a part-time dreamer.
Interactive designer, music aficionado, lover of things DIY, and a part-time dreamer.

Charlotte Tang: “As an interactive designer, I love creating aesthetically pleasing user-centric designs that cater to a specific target audience’s needs, behaviours, and habits. I find inspiration in exploring different personas, their actions and how they would interact with something that is essentially hand-crafted for them. I’ve always enjoyed creating personalized gifts and watching for that reaction; waiting for that click that resonates with the person and makes their day. I am grateful that my job allows me to fundamentally create these “personalized experiences” that is intuitive for the user.”

Sean McCabe has a passion for hand lettering and typography.
Sean McCabe has a passion for hand lettering and typography.

Sean McCabe: “The good ideas don’t come when you expect them. This means it’s important to always be ready to capture those ideas when they hit. I have a few categories in my to-do list app specifically for this purpose, so when inspiration strikes—maybe at a stop light or standing in line—I have an immediate place to chronicle the thought.”

“To be inspired, you have to create space for your mind to wander and relax. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is leave the office and go for a walk, or read a book. I get some of my best ideas in the shower. Whenever I get stuck on a project, I never force anything. In fact, I’ll carve out a time in my day to lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling. I suppose it’s not unlike meditating, though for me I simply just think. I give my mind the free reign to sit and process over all of its thoughts. Usually within a short time, I have that spark I need.”

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From where do you seek inspiration? Tell us in the comments section below. We’ll share your ideas on our Facebook page!

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Interns Inc., Vol. 3

Internships are an awesome way to gain experience and to learn about being a designer in the real world. Most are mainly summer internships, but there are definitely internships that extend throughout the school year. Typically, students aren’t expected to score internships until their third year, but it’s not uncommon to find young designers landing jobs in their sophomore and even freshmen summers. It mostly depends on you and how comfortable and confident you are in your capabilities. Don’t feel pressured to find a job right away after your first year, only to take on more than you can handle.

The Portfolio

First thing’s first, you’ll need to get your body of work into some presentable form. It could be a website, a PDF presentation, or even a printed book of sorts—just keep it simple and concise so that your audience can fully grasp the whole idea behind the project. Remember, putting together a portfolio is a design challenge in itself. Think about typographical hierarchy for your header text, body text, and captions in terms of their point size, typeface, and color. Also keep in mind the layout of your portfolio. Designers are visual people, and you’ll want to leave plenty of space to showcase your work. Make sure your images are big enough so they can see the details, and that they’re at a high enough resolution to avoid any pixilation.

One quick thing: This may or may not be your situation, but some employers ask for your website in the initial email. Employers want to get a preview of your work and see if you’re a right fit for their company even before they offer you an interview. In my situation, a good number of jobs I applied to asked for a website. However, coding your own website is a ton of work and a significant amount of time. If you don’t have a site, don’t worry! There are many portfolio sites where you can upload your work, or the next best option is to attach a .pdf presentation of your portfolio. Regardless of the format, the quality of your work will be able to give an employer a sense of your skills and capabilities.

The Hunt

So you’ve got your portfolio together and you’re ready to roll out those emails, but where to start? The internship process usually begins around February/March, so start early. In terms of finding the job, make use of your resources—professors, local graphic designers, or even your mom’s hairdresser’s sister’s friend. Some schools have job fairs, others don’t. If yours doesn’t, look up the local schools and go to theirs. I started off with AIGA’s site, which is how I found GoMedia’s posting.

If nothing there strikes your fancy, I’d suggest searching for design firms by city. My search this summer centered around Cleveland and Chicago, so I looked up design firms in those cities through their AIGA site and Core77. You should also research the firm: learn about their philosophy, read their blogs, and be familiar with their portfolio.

Once you have a list, start sending emails out. They should include a link to a portfolio of sorts, whether it be through a portfolio site (i.e. Coroflot, CarbonMade), personal website, or .pdf presentation. These emails should express interest in the firm’s work and a desire to be a part of what they do. Don’t be discouraged if you receive limited replies. I sent out 30 inquiries and received about 5 responses this summer. Some firms just aren’t looking to hire, or they just might not have any work for you.

Paid vs. Unpaid

Right off the bat you should know if the internship is paid or unpaid. It will normally be included in the job description but if it isn’t, don’t be afraid to ask. I have to be honest though, it’s pretty common for your first internship to be unpaid. My internship at GoMedia was unpaid, as well as my first internship the summer before that. However, you have to be receiving some sort of payment if your internship is unpaid, normally in the form of college credit, for it to be legal. If you haven’t already, this article goes into more detail about the legalities of internships. Don’t be deterred if the internship is non-paying. At the end of it all, you’ll learn so much about design in the real world that it’ll be worth it. Those are the kind of lessons that money can’t buy.

The Interview

So you’ve scored an interview! High five! Interviews are normally on location or by phone (if you’re too far away). In my experience, phone interviews are harder than in-person interview, just because there’s a disconnect between the you and the interviewer, and also because it’s so hard to find a quiet area! Nevertheless, an interview is an interview. For an in-person interview, you want to dress business casual just to be safe. A suit probably isn’t needed, but a nice shirt and good pants should do the trick. You should also bring some form of portfolio to your interview—a laptop to show your website, a printed portfolio, or even samples of your work. When I had my GoMedia interview, I brought in a printed portfolio and I went through and explained each project.

Note: Be prepared for those stereotypical interview questions (i.e. “What do you think your strengths and weaknesses are?”). GoMedia didn’t ask those, but other sure firms did. Also have some questions prepared for your interviewer—it’s as much your interview as theirs.

That should do it! Go forth and conquer the design world, young padawans.  Good luck!

State of the Union: Grunge Design

Grunge design was getting popular when I got started in 2004. I was inspired by the artwork and branding behind the underground punk, metal, and hardcore music I listened to. Naturally their aesthetic seemed to be riddled with dirt, grime, and blood because it seemed it fit the bands image and message. I had no idea why it was that way, it’s just how it was. So let’s take a step back a few years to see where it came from.

They say David Carson is the “father of grunge” because he rejected typical type layouts and played with non-mainstream techniques to achieve different results. He surrounded himself in the Southern California surf/skate culture in the late 80s and early 90s where he began to make his mark. This went on to help define the visual aesthetic for surf/skate culture as fans began to identify with it.

When I was in college from 2000-2004, I flipped through music magazines and read through the liner notes of my favorite albums, I noticed something that caught my eye. Here was “smart” type layout combined with illustration, dirt and grime. Something my newbie designer eyes had not seen before then. This helped me discover that design wasn’t ONLY about creating ads with a clever tagline like my friends who majored in Graphic Design did in college (I was an 3D Animation major).

I was soaking up the designers and artists responsible for this refreshing hybrid including Asterik Studio (now Invisible Creature), Eduardo RecifeDamnengineTHS, and the Bau-da Design Lab. To me it was the anti-mainstream and rejection of pop culture, boy bands, and the slick MTV aesthetic. I was all about it.

Eduardo Recife

These are just a few of the many pioneers of the modern grunge style. They stood out because they were able to move between stunning photo manipulation and hand drawn illustration without neglecting their typography.  Of course, the icing on their collective cakes were the dirt, stains, spills and splatters that symbolized the underground and alternative design sense.  Their combination and skill of putting it all together was what made them great.

Damnengine

For the rest of us just getting started, we hadn’t yet learned or trained our eyes for type or had the resources for pro photography.  However, we knew Photoshop and we had the tools to help us LOOK like we existed in the same realm.  Around that time, Photoshop brushes, textures, and grungy fonts were tools developed to achieve that counter-culture vibe that so many of us found refreshing and relatable. At that time it seemed like everyone I knew was hording brushes, textures, and grunge fonts from sites like Misprinted Type and Dubtastic. Clean “corporate” design was so “pretentious” and “boring” and our young energetic selves needed to destroy all that was clean and too “business-like.”  It kind of went with the territory when you listen to metal and punk rock and watched films by David Lynch or Harmony Korine.  Also, adding “aged effects” was an attempt to make your designs feel less digital and more realistic and natural.

We found beauty in the grotesque and solace in the sinister.  We found comfort in nostalgia and we smile when we see something that visually takes us back in time to our childhood.  We wanted to make stuff in the same vein and the availability of these “tricks” made everyone who had Photoshop be able to put together a “grunge design.”  Copy, paste, boom you’re done.  Easy.  And the popularity of those resources encouraged designers to create and share their own as a way to get exposure.  In fact we did this in 2006 when we launched the Arsenal and sold hundreds of “vector packs” and were featured in magazines like IDN and Computer Arts.

So what has happened since?  It’s exploded and because it’s so “easy” to find and download tricks to create a dirty and grungy design, you have young designers “grunging shit up” all the time because they can.  What’s happened is that you’ve got an overabundance of awful and messy collages of used and reused free grunge brushes and vectors.  Apparel brands and department stores are making loads of money selling tees using heraldry emblems, eagles, wings, skulls, splatters, etc.  4-5 years ago it was an emerging trend.  2 years ago it was a tired cliché.  Today your grandmother owns a garment with a skull or dragon on it and a few copy/pasted splatters.

So where is the “grunge movement” going today?  There are certainly designers still doing great work out there. A few years back, you had designers like Ronald Ashburn (Electrik Suicide) making waves with his futuristic retro style and Scott Hansen and Mark Weaver setting trends with a more minimal and Swiss approach.

On the music design side, you have Kyle CrawfordThe Black Axe, and Sam Kaufman perfecting their craft and building upon the rich visual history of the bands they work for.  I don’t see the trend ending any time soon, but I do see a more mature approach as designers grow and appreciate subtlety and get sick of the messy clutter or design objects often associated with grunge.

In reality, whatever the mainstream is doing, look for the new pioneers to reject it and create something entirely new.  If grunge design is mainstream and ubiquitous by now, there’s certainly an undercurrent of young rebellious designers looking to destroy it.

If you have some inspiration for a refreshing take on the “grunge” movement, please post it below.

Blank Canvas: Personal Projects

For this installment of Blank Canvas, Go Media is interested in hearing about your forays into the analog world.

With so much design work being created and used online and in digital format, it’s easy for a creator to only see their work on the screen. And typically the work you create is for a client.

Our question this time around: how much work do you create for yourself, and do you exhibit that work in shows and/or galleries? If so, how do you go about finding an outlet for your design work?

We also want to hear from you illustrators out there. How much of your work is personal creation, and do you show your art in community events?

Personally, most of my illustration work ends up being seen on-screen. I’ve been planning to create more personal digital artwork and get it out into the physical world, but to be honest I have been dragging my feet in that area.

At Go Media’s recent WMC Fest art/music/film event, I had the opportunity to display work and worked up an original illustration and had it printed out. The impact of seeing non-client work in large format print was addicting, and I plan to do much more of this in the coming months.

I’m also very curious as to those on the design end of the spectrum, what your thoughts are regarding personal creations and displaying them in a public setting. Sound off in the comments section below.

Go!