how to set business goals

How to Set Business Goals for 2019 and Beyond

As we welcome 2019, business owners look into the future for growth and improvement beyond mere sales figures. Goal setting is a big part of business growth. Those who set specific and measurable goals are much more likely to succeed. If you want your business thriving in 2019 and beyond, write out your goals, and come up with a plan for reaching those goals.

It isn’t easy figuring out which goals to set and how to make them specific to your business. Here are nine precise steps toward setting your new business goals.

1. Collaborate With Your Team

Setting goals works better when company leaders and employees both offer their viewpoints — it becomes clear what’s possible and what isn’t. First, gather information from everyone on your team. Business goals should include the views of every department, from human resources to marketing. Each goal must mesh with the others, so the more input you receive from employees, the better.

The boss can set goals for everyone, but when your employees feel like they’re part of the process, they’ll work harder to help you achieve those goals.

2. Look at Broad Trends

Take the time to study internal analytics and trends in your business. If revenue falls by 50 percent every January, how can you increase income in the first quarter? Study both positive and negative patterns to see what works and what doesn’t.

Set specific goals to overcome the negatives of your business as well as ones that take advantage of what works well. Brainstorm with department heads, and figure out ways to improve even a modest 10 percent each year.

3. Set SMARTA Objectives

Set key goals and objectives that are specific and measurable. SMARTA goals help you set goals and take the steps toward achieving them. SMARTA stands for:

  • Specific: Create specific goals with a narrow focus.
  • Measurable: Decide how you’ll measure success (sales numbers, subscriber growth, etc.).
  • Achievable: Your goals should be possible, or you’ll get discouraged.
  • Relevant: Goals must make sense for the next phase of a business’ growth.
  • Timed: Set deadlines.
  • Agreed: Consult with company leaders and get their input.

Simply setting goals isn’t enough — set them with a purpose and vision.

4. Create an Editorial Calendar

Publishing frequently results in more exposure — businesses that publish at least 16 posts each month get over three times the attention. However, business owners often get distracted by the many other aspects of running a business and forget to schedule new posts. An editorial calendar creates a plan for what to post and when.

5. Hold Daily Meetings

Creating a plan is a nice start, but if you don’t follow through with it, it’s worthless. When you first come up with goals, the excitement drives you toward achieving them. As the year goes on, however, the excitement fades.

Holding daily meetings provides an opportunity to get everyone back on the same page and look at what tasks were completed and what ones need more focus.

6. Break Big Goals Into Smaller Ones

In one study on New Year’s resolutions, researchers found that only eight percent of people achieve their goals. One reason for abandoning goals is that large ones seem overwhelming.

One solution is to break big goals into smaller goals, which are more achievable. Look at your broad goals and divide them into smaller tasks that you can check off as you complete them.

7. Make the Goals Visible

One way to keep your eyes on the prize throughout the year is to write out your goals where everyone can see them and make them as visible as possible. Create large wall hangings and send out team email reminders about smaller goals.

Once you achieve a goal, either add a sizeable green checkmark over it or replace it with a new one. Seeing goals in black and white prioritizes the most critical ones over less important tasks.

8. Find an Accountability Partner

Saying you’ll do X, Y and Z is easy, but following through is more laborious. Keep your eye on the prize by finding a mentor or someone to whom you’re accountable. Set up specific deadlines for check-ins to see where you’re at with your goals.

A good accountability partner understands your business and cares about your success. For example, another executive in a different department has a stake in your success because it impacts the company as a whole. For small businesses, seeking out another business owner who is not your competition but is in a similar industry would be a great option.

9. Reward Small Successes

Make progress toward your end goal by rewarding the small successes along the way. If your big goal is to double sales in 2019 and you add 25 percent new revenue in the first quarter, you’re a quarter of the way there. Go ahead and reward employees with a pizza party at lunch or a cake in the breakroom. Take a day off for team building or some other fun activity. When employees know they have something positive to look forward to along the way, they’re more likely to keep plugging ahead.

Create Multi-Year Plans

Goals should go far beyond the next few months or year and on into five years, 10 years and even 15 years in the future. Sure, the ones so far in advance change and morph, but having them maintains focus. Write your business goals out and break them down into smaller tasks until your dreams become a reality.

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Download: Free Stock Vectors Guide & Freebies

Go Media’s vectors are known industry-wide as being the best of the best. We have thousands of these hand-crafted illustrations (all royalty-free) for you to use in your own design work. But not everyone knows how to work with them. So, if you need assistance using them, we’re here to help!

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The Elements of Great Poster Design

Great Poster Design Tips:

Recently, we received an email from a Go Media friend asking a simple, yet incredibly complicated question: “What are the qualities of a good poster design?”

And while we’ve done many a blog post about posters that inspire us, we haven’t covered why they have done such a great job of doing so.

So today we are going to do our best to answer that question – as simply as possible.

As we all may know, a poster’s job is often three-fold; it serves to advertise and communicate information while acting as a piece of artwork.

A great poster communicates a message clearly.

Of those three tasks, the poster absolutely must deliver a message as clear as a bell, so that it is as digestible in as little time as possible.

To accomplish this, make sure your poster flows well to do that:

  • make sure it is easy to read from a distance
  • grabs the viewer’s attention with a main image or headline, then
  • answers the questions who, what, when, where and how and
  • leaves the least important details to the fine print



A great poster is simple.

In order to communicate your message, your poster should be relatively simple. If you bombard them with too much information, they’ll leave overwhelmed.


  • Less is more.
  • Let it breathe! Leave enough white space so that the viewer can absorb the information.
  • Choose complimentary color palettes


A great poster captures your attention.

When designing your poster, certain elements will capture the attention of your viewer above others. These include playing with:

High contrast


Dominant images



Bold and/or playful typefaces


Extreme minimalism


Bold color palettes



A monochromatic theme


A great poster motivates your viewer to take action.

Many posters serve to advertise shows, concerts, movies or other events. Your goal is to entice the viewer to respond to your art in some way, shape or form – by making a call, hitting up a website or heading to a show. Can you think of an out-of-the-box way for them to take action immediately, such as with a coupon code, QR code or by enticing them to enroll or sign up by a certain date for some wonderful reason?



A great poster knows where to call home.

When designing, it’s vital to keep in mind where it will call home. If it will exist in one environment only, you can cater its size and color to that environment. If not, make your choices understanding that this poster could live almost anywhere. Picture it both living in a dark dingy club or a on a bright red gallery wall.

A great poster starts a conversation with your viewer.

Most folks are on the move when they encounter a poster. If it’s clever in concept, they will be more likely to take time to interact with it. So, take the time to start a conversation with your viewer. Evoke an emotion in them. Make them laugh, think. Take them on a journey – if only for a moment.


A great poster is just plain lovely.

Yes, posters serve to communicate and call your viewer to take action, but they also serve as pieces of artwork. This only helps to reinforce their message. Enjoy the process!





Follow us on Pinterest for more posters we love!

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How to Start Your Own Podcast: Must-Have Equipment and Software

How to Start Your Own Podcast

Hey, it’s Bryan from Go Media and today, we’re going to dip our toes into podcasting. You’ve probably heard there’s a ton of cash, arms full of lovelies, and loads of listeners just WAITING for you to put your voice into their ears.

Or, you’ve just got some knowledge that you want to drop and this seems to be a worthwhile way to go about it.

Either way, you’re probably asking yourself how to get started, and how can you get started without spending a lot of time and money upfront? That’s what I wanted to know about 6 years ago when a few friends and I wanted to start our own podcast.

In this tutorial, we’re going to be looking at what equipment and software you should be looking into as you begin your journey into podcasting. Then, we’ll go into some tips and tricks on the recording and editing side.

Now, full disclosure: I wouldn’t call myself a professional podcaster. I’m not making loads of money doing this, or going to awards shows, or seeing millions of downloads. Actually, that’s realistically a small percentage of all of the podcasters out there. And, my arms are empty, still waiting for the lovelies to arrive.

But, as more and more people want to get into podcasting, it’s becoming apparent that there really isn’t a good “how to” out there. I learned a lot just by trial and error using existing equipment and free software that I had lying around from my days as a solo acoustic.

6 years later, I’m still using a lot of the same techniques and software. But, I’ve streamlined the process quite a bit so that I can podcast in any location, for any type of situation.

On the professional side, I run the Go Media Podcast. We set up the conference room with three mics so that Bill, Heather and I can talk to each other, as well as our guests over Skype. We run our mics through a mixer that connects to my laptop. With the help of a 5-way stereo audio splitter, we can all connect our headphones to the mixer so we can hear our virtual guests.

On the personal side, I also run 5 other podcasts through the Fans Talk Podcast Family. There, I do a majority of the podcasting with virtual co-hosts over Skype, Google Hangouts, Blab.IM, or whatever else we wind up trying out. And yes, four of the series revolves around the wonderful world of professional wrestling. For those, I connect with various guests from all over the world via Skype.

You know that whole thought about not spending a lot of time on it? Well, I am known to over-extend myself a bit, but it’s become a passion, and honestly – how cool is it to know that people actually want to hear what you’ve got to say? Even if you’re talking about professional wrestling while drinking with your best friends? That’s awesome.

Equipment I Use For Podcasting

If you’re doing a solo show, or meeting your guests over Skype, you can get started with less than $100 worth of equipment. If you want to have multiple people on one side, you could get a 2-3 person setup for under $300.



I’m assuming you’ve already got a pair of headphones that you use and are happy with. Just in case, I use V-MODA LP2s. Luckily, they were a gift I received as a groom’s man. Otherwise, I might not have picked these up as they’re a bit out of my price range at around $200. Legit, they are the best pair of headphones I’ve ever owned. They really give me a great, focused sound. And, when you listen to music with these, the experience is amazing.

However, sometimes being connected to my laptop with a cable isn’t ideal. If I’m only doing a solo episode, or am the only person on my side as I connect with someone over Skype, I tend to use my Plantronics BackBeat Fit Bluetooth Headphones ($90). I got the green ones. They connect right to my laptop without an issue. While they do come with a microphone, the quality is not great. Not good enough for podcasting, that’s for sure.

I didn’t buy these specifically for podcasting, but have loved the flexibility it has given me during recording sessions. Since I do a majority of my podcasting at the home studio standing up, not being attached to the laptop with a cable is really nice. I can move around, walk away to get a beverage refill as my co-hosts continue to talk, and I don’t lose the ability to hear them.

But, in the end, as long as they aren’t leaking audio out into your mic while you’re recording, and are good enough to use to listen to music, you should be fine starting out with whatever you have handy.

Microphones & Accessories


This is a hot button topic for a lot of the podcasting industry. Condenser mics vs. snowballs, USB-powered vs. XLR-exclusives that go into a mixer, there are so many ongoing debates, it might be difficult to really find what works best for you and your budget.

I skipped all of that and went with something that seemed to be a good fit for my needs, as both a podcaster AND a musician. As well as someone who might just record with a guest over Skype or might connect with multiple people through a mixer. I wanted to be able to have flexibility without a load of different equipment.

I went with the Samson Q2U Handheld Dynamic USB Microphone. Out of the box, it also comes with a pair of headphones and some recording and editing software, but I never had much use for either. Headphones aren’t super comfortable, but in a jam, they can come in handy. And software is dated and really not useful for me, but maybe it could be for you.

Anyways, the Samson Q2Us can connect to either a USB input or can connect with a mixer via XLR. Or both at the same time, depending on how you’re recording or what you’re recording. It comes with both cables, so no need to have to pick up anything additional. You can plug your mic directly into your laptop or desktop with a USB cable and start using it right away.

Once you choose a microphone, you’ll need something to hold your mic for you. I’ve gone the route of desk stands, as well as boom mic stands which I took from my days as a musician that did semi-frequent shows around town. But, recently, I’ve fallen in love with my NEEWER Microphone Suspension Boom Scissor Arm Stand. They connect to the edge of the desk and can move around with you. If you want to sit, they can position right in front of you without a problem, and without getting in the way of your hands or your view of your guest, notes, beverage, mixer, or laptop.

I’m also terrible at popping my ‘P’s, so I doubled up with two air filters. One is the On Stage Foam Ball-Type Mic Windscreen. This wraps around the mic itself, and keeps away any air that might be flowing through the room towards the mic, like fans and heaters. Then, I added a Dragonpad pop filter 360 Flexible Gooseneck Holder, which attaches to the mic stand. This adds a much needed buffer between me and my mic.



After months of debate, and knowing that we’d be having multiple people in the studio at Go Media, I decided to pick up a mixer. Specifically, the Behringer XENYX X1204USB Premium 12-Input 2/2-Bus Mixer. At $230, it might be outside of your price range. And realistically, it might be completely out of your needs as well. But, if you plan on sitting in-person with 2-3 other guests and don’t want to have to share a mic, this is a good option to have.

And, just in case you’re doing a mix of 2-3 guests in the studio with you as well as a guest over Skype, you’ll want to pick up a headphones splitter. That way, you can listen to the output from the mixer and everyone will be able to hear themselves and the Skype audio. I use PLAY X STORE®3.5mm 6-Port Multi Headphone Splitter, and at $5.50, it’s a really handy. It will split your audio for five headphones and all in stereo. Besides using it for podcast work, Heather and I also use it when we record Designer Face Off.

Pocket Notebook


This goes without saying. I must have something to write notes in. I try and keep track of coughs, Skype drops, or anything else that is either worth looking into removing from the final edit, or follow up questions to ask.

So for me, I go with the Go Media pocket notebook that was made available at this year’s WMC Fest. But, use whatever is available: sticky notes, a napkin, a moleskin, back of an envelope, etc.



You can get started with what you already have. Whether it’s the work-provided desktop or your personal laptop, you can do a lot with little.

For the first 4 years, I used my basic, under $200 tower to get the job done, and it did. For a while. Now, I mostly use it for show notes and talking to the live chat, or pulling up wikipedia to fact check my co-host.

Now, I use a Dell Inspiron i15RV 15” laptop. It’s got a 1.4 GHz Processor, 4GB DDR, and a 320GB Harddrive. Really, I didn’t even buy it for podcasting. I bought it so I could work remotely from the coffee shop. But again, it gets the job done.

I’m a Windows guy. They’re easy for me. But, Macs offer a lot of built-in support that’s enviable. Garageband specifically. So, by all means, do what feels right.

Software & Apps For Podcasting

If you’ve got a Mac, Garageband is a great tool for recording and editing podcasts. Windows doesn’t have that. But, you can record and edit with some free software. If you want to share files easily between hosts, including some quality cloud-based archiving, you could be looking at about $100 year at Dropbox/Google. If you want stream your audio live, add another $100. If you want to host your mp3s on a social-powered service with some slick, Facebook and Twitter friendly embeds, add another $135.



Audacity is free for both PC and Mac. For Fans Talk episodes, we’ve all become accustomed to recording individually through Audacity. Then, everyone exports their audio to an .ogg file, which is higher quality than an mp3, and a smaller file size than a .wav. It’s somewhere in the middle, which is great for file transfer speeds.

Quick Tip: I make sure my recordings are at least above -30db. That way, if there is background noise, which normally hits around -42db and below, it’s easier to remove. And, always record about 5 seconds of audio of just your background noise. Keep the mic on and just sit back quietly so that you can isolate that noise when you edit.

And yes, I also edit all of my episodes with Audacity, but we’ll get into that in a bit.



I’ve been using Dropbox for years to keep all of my PCs synced together. It helps me go from recording on the laptop to editing on a faster system like my desktops at home and at work. It also allows my co-hosts and guests to be able to send me their files. Either they upload to their own organized folder structure, or we share folders. Or, in the case of someone just doing a one-off appearance, I’ll have them upload to Dropbox using the new “File Request” feature, which will allow them to upload even if they don’t have a Dropbox account.

Dropbox comes in three tiers. The free account gives you 2 GB of cloud storage. For $9.99/m, which is the tier I’m using, you get 1 TB of space. And, for $15/m per user, you can get the Dropbox Business account, which gives you as much storage as you need.



Recording on Audacity isn’t for everyone. Nor is it always possible. So, how can you get a solid,  individual track of my guests and co-hosts? While I’ve tried various Skype recording extensions, nothing came out perfect. Primarily because, technology isn’t perfect. Skype could drop at any moment, or the internet could buckle causing the audio to come to me to be really poor and useless.

While a few different sites like this have come out over the last few years, Zencastr is the new kid on the block. It records all sides of the conversation into individual tracks, which streams and saves to my dropbox instantaneously.

And, if you want to eliminate Skype or Google Hangouts, Zencastr just added a VOIP service to it’s features. But, keep in mind, this is just in beta. So, it can be a bit buggy.

Zencastr is currently free, but once they get out of beta their plans could range from $10/m to $20/m. Limited to 3 hour shows.



Sometimes, podcasting can easily start to feel like you’re talking to yourself or with a friend in a box. You might see downloads grow, but quality feedback, especially for a weekly series, is never guaranteed. I actually don’t expect it anymore. However, that feedback is so great. And timely feedback is even better. But, what if you could get instantaneous feedback as you record? That’s where a service like Mixlr comes into play.

It’s an app that works with PC and Mac, and even your iPhone and Android if you’re into that sort of thing.

Depending on how often or long you record, Mixlr will stream your audio and provide you a nice chat from $9.99/m ($99/y) to $49.99/m ($499/y). I use the first tier. There’s also a free version and it allows you to stream for an hour at a time.

In Closing

I’m really hoping this helps you start to think about what you need to get started with your new podcast. But after equipment and software, it’s time to start recording and editing.

I go in depth about the recording and editing process using Zencastr, Mixlr, and Audacity in my video tutorial on Go Media’s Arsenal.

Learn More Now

The whole wide world is waiting for you. Best of luck and let us know how it goes!

Provoking Leadership: Building a Passionate Team

How to Build a Passionate Team

Have you ever thought to yourself, “This isn’t working for me.”?

Sure, that’s a pretty blanket statement and could mean a multitude of things: The “It’s not you, it’s me” end to a relationship, the wait at your local coffee shop as you longingly sniff the air to try to infuse caffeine into your system…heck, it could even mean that your skinny jeans are feeling the one (ahem…two) brownie sundaes you just had to have last night.

But here’s what it should never be: An end-all in the workplace. Here’s how this line of thinking should go instead: “This isn’t working for me. How about…” or “What about…” or “Have you considered…”.

At Cleveland web and graphic design firm Go Media, we believe that as a leader, your  #1 job is to encourage this kind of out-of-the-box, creative, can-do thinking. But how in the world do you do that?

Here are ten tips that can help, straight from the most passionate team in the universe:

1. Share your vision. No one can jump on your bandwagon if you don’t know where you are going. In order to build a passionate team, you must live and breathe your vision. Recruit a team that is enthusiastic about your vision and has the talent to help you execute it. Your team must drink your kool-aid!

2. Modify your vision. Just because you have a [email protected]@ vision doesn’t mean it has to stay stagnant. Perhaps your amazing team has challenged your vision. That’s a good thing. We repeat: A challenge to your vision is a good thing. It means that your team is thinking, really thinking about their work and the future of their company. Your team most likely is smarter than you (at least if you’ve recruited well). Listen to them.


3. Cultivate your culture. Be encouraging. Sometimes, projects or deadlines and some aspect of your work may falter or even fail. Acknowledge the difficulties that are around the bend, and then figure out a solution together. This leads us to our next point:

4. Celebrate. A happy team is a successful team. Celebrate milestones in your team’s life. Celebrate milestones in your company’s life. Celebrate bounce-backs after defeat. Work may be called “work” for a reason; however, having fun will help your team support your vision and work hard.

5. Encourage risk taking. Trust your team with new responsibilities. If your colleagues are doing the same thing over and over again, they’re going to get bored…perhaps even resentful. Providing a calculated risk is a way to keep minds fresh.

6. Care about your team. Whether you’re showing interest in a project, a hobby, or learning the names of your colleagues’ pets, it’s important to know what makes your team tick. You’re all people; as people, you will work together as a team. Plus, we’re going to go ahead and state the obvious here: Employees who have vested interest in their company and are excited about their projects may actually work harder!

7. Commit. Keep your promises to your team. Keep your promises to your clients. Your team needs to believe in your integrity and trust your word. Your clients will become repeat clients when they can trust you and your work.


8. Reward your employees. We’re not necessarily talking about bonuses or raises, although we’re certainly not discouraging them either :) Thank your team for a job well done or give credit where credit’s due–since your know your employees, you’ll know what kind of reward is meaningful for them. Promote a culture of gratitude and encourage this mentality for your team.

9. Lead, don’t micromanage. Being a smart leader means that you have a vision and have assembled an incredible team to help you execute it. Help prioritize, then delegate the tasks. Ownership goes a huge way in your employees feeling as though they have a meaningful stake in your vision.


10. Be spontaneous. We’re big believers of work-life balance. Surprise workers with a half-day off, bring lunch into the office, organize a happy hour on a Tuesday…keep the vibe in you office enthusiastic and FUN. At Go Media, we’re big believers that FUN helps rejuvenate workers and keeps them passionate about who you are and what you do.

There you have it! These are our top ten tips to build a passionate team. Want to join ours? Head to our jobs page and check out the Cleveland job openings we currently have available.

Expand Your Network Through Facebook: 10 Quick Tips for Small Businesses

Facebook Tips for Small Businesses

What would you like to do with Facebook? (Horrible pun intended).

The first step for expanding your network through Facebook is asking yourself: What are my goals? What do I really want to do with more likes?

If your answer is that you need to increase your likes by x%, your favorite Cleveland graphic, logo and web design studio Go Media can help with that. We love a good contest as much as the next person! However, a contest that increases your community by 1000, 3000, or even 100,000 likes may seem awesome in theory, but do you know what’s not awesome? Talking to yourself. And if you have a bazillion likes who don’t contribute to your page in any way, you’re essentially talking to a wall. That’s why we we strongly encourage our clients to create robust Facebook pages with “Active Likes.”

“So, what’s an Active Like?”

We’re so glad you asked.

Active Likes are your key to expanding your meaningful reach on Facebook. It’s these community members who will become brand advocates for your company, sharing their enthusiasm with their own community members. We all have more confidence in referrals from those we trust, so when your Active Likes share your content, they create a domino-effect for gaining valuable, meaningful Active Likes for your page.

So, how do I gain active likes?

Here are 10 great ways >

Facebook Tips for Small Businesses

1. Be personal.
Don’t sell to your community for every post. Yes, highlight your expertise in whatever you do…but show that you are a person too. If you sell, sell, sell, people will stop wanting to listen. You’ll be like that annoying perfume person at the mall, but instead of a scent, you’ll be so busy spraying your words into oblivion that you won’t even realize that no one wants a sample. Don’t tell us that you aren’t guilty of the no-eye-contact-power-walk when walking into that section!

2. Be relevant.
Create or share real content that matters to your community. If you are talking about a koala on National Cat Day to a feline- friendly community (yes, National Cat Day is a thing…mark your calendars for Saturday, October 29th), you probably aren’t providing meaningful content to your community. Which brings us to our next point…

Facebook Tips for Small Businesses

3. Be organized.
Have a plan! Create a social media calendar so that you have smart, meaningful posts in the docket. There are numerous programs that help you stay organized and plan ahead. Hootsuite, TweetDeck, Socialite…the list goes on and on. Of course, plan for some wiggle room as more timely content may arise.

4. Be engaging.
Keep content fresh. Ask questions and seek advice from your Facebook community. The last thing anyone wants is someone preaching at you day-in and day-out. Make sure to have an actual conversation with your community. Listen to what your community is saying and respond accordingly.

5. Be visual.
Copy can be overrated. Keep it short and sweet, and include a visual if possible. You post has to stand out from the crowd, and copy (however clever) may not be enough to do the trick.

6. Be responsive.
Acknowledge any concerns that may arise quickly, and respond effectively to any customer service inquiries as soon as you can. Social media is a very public forum (obviously!) and you want to make sure that everyone knows that your customer experience is top-notch.

Facebook Tips for Small Businesses

7. Be funny.
Show your sense of humor (if you have one). We all love to laugh. If you don’t have a sense of humor, then figure out your persona (see tip #10) and let it shine through.

8. Be generous.
Create meaningful contests that showcase your brand. Ensure that the contest or giveaway highlights who you are and what you do–if it doesn’t tie back to you in some way, it will still be great (who doesn’t love free things?!?) but it won’t do much for you. If you’re partnering with another brand or product, make sure it’s something you really truly believe it. Promote contests via social media, email campaigns, print–whatever you have in your arsenal. Please don’t forget to announce/contact winners and thank everyone for entering.

9. Be smart.
Analyze what’s working and what’s not working–only then will you truly understand what your community’s needs are. Which posts were shared the most? Which ones received the most likes or comments? Does posting at certain times work better for your community? Figure out your trends and adjust accordingly.

[Tweet “”Stay true to your brand, stay true to your values…stay true to you.””]

10. Be…YOU.
This tip is simple, but can be extraordinarily difficult on social media. You need to be your amazing, authentic self (probably a cooler self than you are in reality, but don’t veer too far away from what makes you who you are.) Stay true to your brand, stay true to your values…stay true to you.

I Just Learned to Embrace My Inner Kanye. (4 Key Takeaways from WMC 6)

Lessons from WMC 6

The sixth year of Cleveland creative conference Weapons of Mass Creation Fest came and went (a little too fast), but if one thing’s for certain, the fest did not over promise and under deliver. This year, Heather Sakai and Bryan Garvin took over as Event Directors and it’s safe to say we all left feeling refreshed and inspired, with our hearts full of good laughs with new and old friends. Let’s talk about the takeaways from Cleveland creative firm Go Media’s WMC Fest 6.


1. Don’t Wait

Waiting around to get your ideas off the ground helps no one. It doesn’t help you, it doesn’t help the community, it doesn’t help your pockets. Antonio Garcia summed it up perfectly, when he reminded us of the great quote by Tony Gaskins: “If you don’t build your dreams someone will hire you to help build theirs.” We all have ideas, every single one of us. Take action to make those ideas come to life.

[Tweet ““If you don’t build your dreams someone will hire you to help build theirs.” – Tony Gaskins”]

“But I don’t know where to start!” you say. Ask someone! Reach out to your friends, this “network” of like minded individuals we have. What’s stopping you?

2. Never Give Up & Don’t Be Afraid

As we learned with Debbie Millman, some doors are going to flat out slam in your face. We are not always in our WMC Fest bubble and people can be cruel. Who cares about those people! Know who you are, know that you are awesome and can be just as great – even better than the person who shut you down.


3. Remember Your Passion For Life

Lenny Terenzi and Mike Jones took us on a roller coaster of emotions. We laughed, we cried, we hugged and we danced! Life is going to knock you down. It’s going to be mean and nasty and it’s really important to just punch life in it’s face! We will find what is meant for us when we are meant to find it. Until then, “belly flop into the damn pool!”


The goal isn’t to build a network and hope to get something out of someone somewhere down the line. It’s to make friends! It’s to bounce ideas off of each other, to collaborate, to lift each other up. A true sense of community is much more than saying ‘hi’ to your neighbors.

4. Be Authentic

Be the person your 12-year-old self would look up to. Have real conversations. We all strive to be authentic, live a great life with a super awesome job. But are we being true to ourselves? Michael Cavotta asked us to name three words that make you, you. Have you figured out those three pillars yet that make you your authentic self? Find out what gets your fire going, what lights you up. You are a badass tripod! Don’t fall outside of who you are.

This family started with a small group of people and has blossomed into the brightest peach in the box. WMC Fest 6 was a wonderfully emotional experience — the love was felt and the friendships are real. Only 300 some days left until we are back in the bubble! Stay true, stay weird and embrace your inner Kanye!

Tips on Landing an Internship

Tips on Landing an Internship

Sadly, the day has come where my amazing internship with the designers at Cleveland design firm, Go Media ends. But before I go, I want to pass on helpful advice to any designers out there who are also looking to obtain their dream internship. There are lots of different things that come into play when applying for internships, two of which include your resume and cover letter. So whether you’re looking to land your own internship at Go Media, or at another awesome company, keep these tips in mind when preparing your materials!

1. Resume

Add Relevant Experience
Now I know what you’re thinking. How am I supposed to get experience when I need experience to get experience? But that’s not what this tip is about. Relevant experience can be relevant in many ways. Maybe you were the manager of your local grocery store where you picked up leadership skills. Or maybe you had a retail job where you regularly collaborated with team members and customers to produce high-quality products. All of these things help attribute to your worth as a potential intern or employee!

It’s all about selling yourself and believing in yourself. Also, it’s much easier to get experience first from being involved on your school’s campus, being a part of different organizations, or volunteering. These types of activities are crucial in building an impressive resume and getting your foot in the door for future opportunities!

Use Action Verbs
Now that you’ve listed some relevant experience on your resume, you need to effectively convey to your future employer what you did at that job. The best way to do this is use action/power verbs, rather than passive or weak verbs. Using words like, helped, assisted, contributed, worked, etc. are very vague and don’t help your future employer understand your duties. How did you help or assist with the project? In what ways did you contribute? Better words to use include, designed, collaborated, proposed, initiated, resolved, etc.

And if you’re having trouble coming up with your own power verbs, you can find a helpful list of them here.

Keep it to One Page
This is always a general rule to follow when building your resume. Unless you have 10+ years of experience in the field, you should keep your resume to 1 page, and even if you do have 10+ years of experience, hiring managers would probably appreciate you condensing your most relevant and important material to a single page.

And you may be asking yourself, but Rachel… how am I supposed to sell myself when I can’t fit all of my experience and achievements on one page? Well you can! It might take more work to refine your experience and details rather than just plug everything you’ve ever done in your entire life on your resume, but it’s a crucial step to making your resume effective.

Remember, a resume is an overview of all of your relevant experience and qualifications. As you gain more and more experience, you’ll want to refine your resume and delete older and less-relevant information. The company you’re applying to might get hundreds of resumes and cover letters every day, which means these hiring managers don’t have time to read every carefully placed word on your resume. They need a quick, effective overview so they can immediately determine if you’re a candidate they’re interested in. They don’t have time to read through your 2-3 page resume.

Create a Clean and Simple Layout
The point of your resume is to convey important information to the person receiving it. This means it needs to have a clear hierarchy and be easy to read and digest. I get it, you’re a designer and you want to voice your creativity everywhere you are, and you still can! There’s nothing wrong with adding personality to your resume and brand, actually, I encourage it! But I don’t encourage you to get so creative with your resume that it’s hard to understand and follow.

Remember, a lot of the time, your resume won’t even be going to a designer. It will be going to a hiring manager who will determine if you make the next cut. Save your beautiful ideas and designs for your portfolio.

And keep in mind to keep your color palette limited. I recommend going B&W or using 1 color. Remember, your resume may look beautiful on screen, or beautiful printed on your handpicked paper at your favorite printer, but the company you are applying to will probably print your resume out on cheap paper from a low-quality office printer that turns your rich, navy blue to a pale blue-ish grey (or they may just print it in B&W to begin with).

Good Resume Examples

Bad Resume Examples

2. Cover Letter

Personally Tailor Each Cover Letter
When writing cover letters, you don’t want to have one general cover letter that you fire off to every company you apply to. Instead, create a unique, personalized cover letter to each specific company. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a general template that you base most of your cover letters off of, but they should all ultimately be different.

This involves researching each company. Go to their website and read about their history. Learn more about who they are and their values. You can then use this research to write a cover letter that better explains exactly why you believe you’re such an incredible fit for them specifically.

Read the Position Details
This one might seem obvious, but it’s incredibly important. The company you’re applying to will probably have a very clear job listing of what they are currently seeking, what skills they are looking for and even the type of personality or work ethic they want. They lay out exactly what they are looking for, and it’s your job to connect the dots between what they’re looking for and how that pertains to your experience.

Not only will they be excited that someone has so much relevant experience that matches perfectly with their job description, but they will just be happy that someone took the time to really read the job description and understand what they are looking for.

Don’t Forget to Focus on Them
Sure, a cover letter is obviously supposed to focus on you and your talents/experience, but it should also explain why you will be an asset to them. Don’t focus on how a position at their company would be beneficial to you, focus on how you would be beneficial to their company. You want them to read your cover letter and think that they need you as an asset, not just that you seem to be a solid, dependable candidate.

All in all, you just need to be confident, passionate and eager. Apply to a lot of different places, take any negativity or failure as a learning experience, and continue to grow as a designer and as a person.

And once you do land the internship of your dreams, don’t forget to soak up every little bit of the experience you can! As my time comes to an end at Go Media, I can’t help but express how much I’ve learned and grown as a designer. The people at Go Media are truly one of a kind, and I’ll always be so appreciative of the time and energy they gave towards teaching and mentoring myself.

Spec Work: Just Say No!

Spec Work in Graphic Design: Why is it Bad?

Here at WMC Fest, it is our ultimate goal to love and support the design community in every way possible. So when we recently set up a design contest on our site, we were immediately hit with negative feedback. Due to your reactions, we pulled the contest down.

The backstory is that the contest was created by myself and a couple of other non-designers who love designers very much. Our intentions were the very best. Thanks to folks like Jamie Winebrenner from Cleveland’s AIGA and those who spoke out, we now understand the hurt that spec work in graphic design can cause – not only to designers, but clients as well. Our apologies to all who felt taken advantage of in any manner. We love our community and do our best to honor you always. (We make mistakes from time to time, please keep communicating with us and we’ll do our best to be better!)

In order to learn more about spec work and its effect on the design industry, the Jamie graciously took time out of her day to educate me on the matter. Thanks Jamie!

All the best,


Now, here’s Jamie with some answers to our questions about spec work.

Heather > Hello Jamie and thank you for stopping by to educate us about designing on spec. Our first question is – what is spec work? 

Jamie > Spec work is any kind of work whether it’s a final piece or initial concept that is done without the client committing to pay a fee. The designer may anticipate being paid eventually if the client likes the work. In this situation, a client usually doesn’t want to invest in a designer before seeing what they can do, and the designer must prove his or her worth before receiving compensation. For clients who are hesitant to commit to a designer, there is an appropriate way to explore the work of various designers. A more effective and ethical approach to requesting work is to ask designers to submit examples of their work from previous assignments as well as a statement of how they would approach your project.

Heather > What are some examples of commonly seen spec work?

Jamie >  One of the most commonly seen types of spec work are design “competitions” where a company will request submissions from anyone. The company will then choose and (potentially) pay for their favorite. These contests can include logos, t-shirts, stickers, pretty much anything. Spec work is done without any type of contract, and the designer typically loses all rights to their work, regardless of if they are chosen as the winner. One of the biggest issues with spec work is when a company could truly afford to hire a designer, or when the company is for-profit and intends on selling the design in any capacity for their benefit.


Heather > Why is spec work so hurtful to designers?

Jamie >  Spec work is hurtful to designers, but it’s also hurtful to clients who use these practices. When a company resorts to a spec work situation to solve one of their problems, they usually don’t know what they want or what goals they’re attempting to achieve. For example, they know that they want a logo, but they might not know (or care) about the meaning behind the design choices or how you chose to effectively communicate their message into a visual identity. One of the biggest issues with spec work is that it lowers the value of our profession. As professional designers, we know that there are many facets of design, research, initial concepts, fine-tuning, etc. Why would a company invest resources into these critical stages of the creative process, when they can hold a competition and get a “good enough” logo for $50? Often companies or clients think that designers “just push buttons” and don’t understand the true value of hiring an educated, professional designer. While there will always be some designers willing to create designs in response to an open call for work, without any assurance of compensation, the company or client immediately relegates their choices among those designers who are least likely to be experienced. Knowledgeable designers, who are in demand among clients, work according to the professional standards of the profession. Quite often, this choice of a less-experienced designer results in a client eventually having to bring a more experienced designer into a project in order to execute it, incurring additional expenses. The lack of dialogue in spec work prevents a relationship from forming between the designer and company as well. A good working relationship can be invaluable, leading to referrals or other projects from the same company.

Heather > How about crowdsourcing? How is this hurtful to designers?

Crowdsourcing is essentially another type of spec work. This can be in the form of contests (as mentioned above), and sometimes the hosts of the contest will keep all of the work and use it in future applications. Websites that ask designers to name their price based on a project description can also be considered crowdsourcing or spec work. These types of websites lower the threshold for creative fees. In this situation, designers are undermining each other for the sake of getting a job and usually end up with compensation drastically lower than what they would typically charge. Both crowdsourcing and spec work open the door for work to be plagiarized as well. Since the level of compensation with these projects is minimal at best, those who accept these projects may quickly copy over elements or entire designs from somewhere else.


Heather > What are some great ways for designers, with limited portfolios and access to work, to get their names out and more experience?

Jamie >  Young designers have a variety of options for getting exposure, without resorting to spec work.

  • Social media is a huge (and mostly free) avenue to get your work out there. Instagram is full of images of designs, lettering or illustrations from creatives all over the world. Make sure you have a website that accurately represents the kind of work you want to do, not necessarily the work you’ve been doing. If you can’t find a paying job that’s along the lines of the work you want to do, make up a project yourself!
  • Pro Bono work is also another option, entirely different than spec work. Events such as GiveCamp or Create-A-Thon give designers of all levels of experience an opportunity to create work for a deserving non-profit. These organizations accept applications to determine the projects they will work on, which results in a better working environment and gives the team creative control. You can get some great portfolio pieces and build relationships through this type of work which might lead to future opportunities.
  • Participate in community events and festivals, not just design-related ones. By volunteering and meeting more people or having a deeper contact base, your chances of finding work or hearing of job opportunities increase. Northeast Ohio has an awesome, active community with lots of opportunities for designers.

Thank you, Jamie!

Come see Jamie and AIGA Cleveland at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 6 this August 7 – 9 at the Allen Theatre, Playhouse Square.

Design FASTER: Seven tips to becoming a faster, more efficient graphic designer

How to Become a Faster Graphic Designer

I wanted to talk about a subject that is very important to being a successful designer – speed. I’m talking about how fast you can produce designs for your client, boss or even just for yourself.

Just why is it important to learn how to become a faster graphic Designer? And why does speed matter? Time is money. It’s a simple fact. Your boss or your client needs a result – a design. It’s your product. And if you can produce that design faster, it saves your boss and/or your client money. If you can be a faster designer, you’re going to be a more valued employee. And trust me, every boss and every client out there KNOWS who their fast designers are and who their slow designers are. I want to say that again because it’s important: YOUR BOSS KNOWS IF YOU’RE A FAST OR SLOW designer. And guess what – they love their fast designers and are frustrated with their slow designers.

If we compare designers creating designs to workers assembling widgets, if one worker can assemble two widgets in and hour, and another can assemble ten widgets in an hour, the one who produces more is more valuable to the company right? Of course. Now, imagine it’s the end of the year and the boss needs to decide who to give a raise to, and who to fire – do you think speed is a component of their decisions? It sure as shit is.

If you have any lingering doubts about how important speed is – just go work for yourself. A focal point of every sales conversation you have with potential clients is budget. And what does a budget mean? Money. And what does money mean? Time. Similarly, if you charge $500 to design a logo and you can design one a day – great, that’s $500. But design 10 logos a day and you’ll earn $5,000. Is the difference speed can make clear?


I think sometimes this can get a little muddy to a designer who is collecting a fixed salary. After all, the designer gets paid the same each payroll whether they produce a lot or a little. But guess what – it does make a difference to the owner of the company. If the company produces more and earns more – the owner gets to pay themselves and their staff more. Or, as is sometimes the case at our Cleveland Design Firm Go Media, if the designers don’t produce enough, the owners (that’s me) LOSE money. So trust me, while you may not be feeling the effects of working slow or fast, you will – eventually you will.

Is this clear? Work faster, make more money. Be more valuable, get raises and keep your job! Speed matters.

But what about design quality? I know what you’re thinking: “But Bill, what about Q-U-A-L-I-T-Y? Quality takes time, and don’t clients want quality?” Yes. Absolutely. Quality is also important. And yes, if you gave a designer two different time budgets, the design done with the longer time budget would most likely be of higher quality. The optimal designer is BOTH fast AND good. You should be working towards both. But remember that you’re not competing against yourself. In the grand pool of designer employees out there, you’re competing against other designers. And guess what – some are faster AND better than you. SO, if you’re going to be a valuable designer, you need to work on both.

For the sake of this article, I am going focus on the subject of speed.

So… how to become a faster graphic designer?

1. Know the difference between being an ‘artist’ and being a ‘commercial artist.” Look, I know that many of you take great pleasure in being ‘artists.’ I understand that your ‘happy place’ may be doing tons of research, then exploring many directions, and taking your time to create something amazing. That’s fine. That’s you approaching your work in a way that is most fulfilling to you. I do this too. When I’m drawing, I need long hours to create something great and I’m not satisfied when I make something that I think sucks. It’s ok for you to be an ‘artist’ and to work in this way. Just understand that your 9-5 job as a paid graphic designer is not your ‘art.’ You’re a professional worker with a skill that charges a certain amount per hour, and that your client has a budget! Getting the job done in a way that is efficient, and getting the job done in a way that is fulfilling may be two different things.


If you can find clients that don’t care how long it takes you and are willing to pay you to spend as much time as you want on your designs, well, congratulations to you. I hope you appreciate what a gift you’ve been given. In my experience, clients are hyper aware of their budgets and generally want everything as cheaply as possible. Design is a job. Sorry, this isn’t your free time. This isn’t your ‘art.’ You’re working. And sometimes (for most people all the time) work sucks. Designers need to remind themselves of this now and then. If you can recognize that your time ‘on the clock’ is work, and that you’re a professional doing a job and that it’s fundamentally different than your ‘art’, it’s an important shift in your perspective that you need to adopt. ‘Cranking out a design’ may not be fun because you’re being rushed, but that’s the job.

2. Design in your head first. As a salesperson for Go Media I am afforded a long ramp up phase prior to starting a design project. As part of the sales process, I typically have several meetings with clients, ask lots of questions about their business history, goals and ideas. It may take several weeks from the time I first meet a client until the time I sit down to design. Frequently, by the time I sit down to design – I already know exactly what I’m going to make. The image is clear in my mind. At that point all I need to do is assemble it. It’s more production than ideation. Having a clear vision of my design before I even start designing certainly makes me a much faster designer. How is it that I know exactly what I’m going to design? Obviously, because I’ve been thinking about it during the entire sales process.

While most designers aren’t out selling, they can also employ this technique – start thinking about your designs BEFORE you sit down to your computer. If you can get an early look at creative briefs on projects that are coming up READ THEM! Wrap your head around all the details of the project days or weeks in advance. Ideally, you will then use your down time to think about them. Start the design in your head. This may require a conscious effort on your part! That’s right – you may have to WORK. But hopefully, you love this shit, and it doesn’t feel like work. You naturally think about the design in advance because it makes you happy.


But here’s the good thing – even if you can’t find spare time after hours to think about your designs in advance, I believe that it helps anyway. The human brain is a mysterious and powerful thing. Your brain will be solving your design problems whether you realize it or not. Some subliminal consciousness is functioning, thinking, processing… …designing! It happens while you’re eating lunch, while you’re having drinks with friends, even while you’re sleeping. But the brain can’t solve problems while you sleep if it doesn’t even know the problem exists. So, step one is to start learning about your graphic design projects in advance – then make an effort to think about them during off hours.

3. Guard your time. In today’s day and age, there are a thousand distractions to steal your time. You’ve got a constant stream of emails, text messages, Facebook Updates, phone calls, co-workers coming up to chat with you, meetings, lunch breaks, and on and on. Fast designers learn how to protect their time. When was the last time you told a coworker: “Sorry, I don’t have time to chat right now. I have to get this project done.” If you can’t remember, you’re probably doing a bad job protecting your time. Turn off your e-mail. Turn off your phone. Pack your lunch instead of going out for lunch. Don’t check your social media feed. In my experience I can almost see the fast workers – their heads are down, I can see the look of concentration on their faces. I don’t see them in the kitchen chatting with fellow employees – they’re quiet, they’re focused.

There are tons of techniques out there to help you protect your time. Recently I’ve decided that I need to have ‘production days.’ On my ‘production days’ I’ve given myself a license to ignore my emails all day long. 99% of my emails can wait a day. If there is a real emergency someone will call me. The techniques are secondary. The important part is that you need to recognize that your time is wasting – every day. Sometimes other people are wasting your time, but more likely, you’re wasting time yourself. If you want to get more done each day, you’re going to have to make an effort to stop it.

And let me tell you – your boss will appreciate it! If I imagine that I was in a meeting with several staff members and one of them stood up and said to me: “Please excuse me Bill. I just realized that I have nothing to contribute to this meeting. I’m wasting my time. I would like to get back to my desk so I can get my design project done.” Can you imagine how I would react? I’d give that employee a gold star, smiley face and an A+. My perception of that employee would be forever altered. “Wow. Bob is SERIOUS about being productive. He’s a worker! I LOVE BOB!”

4. Consider your time budget before you start. Take a moment before you start any design project and familiarize yourself with your time budget. By stopping to consider how much time you have on a project, it will influence how you approach the project. You may have thoughts like: “Gosh, I would have really loved to design icons from scratch for this poster, but I can buy stock icons and save myself three hours. It’s not ideal, but it will get the job done faster!” And you can actually download stock icons and vectors from Go Media’s Arsenal.


5. Set a time budget. Don’t have a specific time budget? Make one. Challenge yourself with a goal. You might have a thought like: “Normally, it takes me three days to design a poster like this, but I’m going to only give myself one day!” I used to actually ‘speed design.’ I would create a race for myself. I’d set up a stopwatch on my desk, give myself an unreasonably short amount of time to get something done – like one hour, and I’d see how far I could get. There is a side benefit to this game – I frequently found that I designed BETTER! By forcing myself to work fast, I turned my brain off. I designed on instinct. I didn’t over think or over complicate things. I just went straight to the solution. And often in design, the simplest most obvious solution is also the best.

6. Know when ‘good enough’ is the right approach. Look, nobody likes to create mediocre designs. We all want to design stuff that’s so amazingly good that we become rich, famous and change the world. But sometimes ‘Great’ is less important than ‘fast’ (on budget). We have a saying at Go Media that I stole from a Labatt Blue commercial: “Crose Enough!” (Close enough.) In essence, everything isn’t going to be perfect. Sometimes ‘close enough’ (a mediocre design) is good enough.

7. Recognize when you’re ‘tinkering.’ This item is closely related to the previous point. I’ve known many designers that kill their time budgets because they ‘tinker.’ They’ll actually work at a nice speed, get the design 95% done, then spend just as much time getting the last 5% done as they did getting the first part done. There is often a perfectionistic streak in them that forces them to fiddle with their designs for hours – trying to make them more perfect. They nudge some copy to the right an eighth of an inch, they increase the contrast of their images by 3%, they adjust the kerning of every single word on the page, etc. Learn to recognize when you’re doing this – making relatively small changes to something that’s basically done. Stop. Let it go. You have other projects to work on!

Now, take a deep breath and get back to work (quickly now!) We know you have it in you.


Designer Justin Mezzell: Finding balance for creativity, family and success

A successful illustrator and art director talks about sacrifice, shifting priorities and exclusively admits to listening to the Backstreet Boys.

Justin Mezzell is a designer living and working in Orlando, Florida. He is art director for Code School, an online learning site that helps people learn how to code. He’s also a sought-after designer and illustrator, having worked with clients like Facebook, Twitter and Google, along with magazines like Wired, Fast Company, ESPN and Fortune. He also helped make this.

Justin manages to juggle a busy work schedule with personal projects and freelance work, all while working to be a good husband and a dad to two little ones— a daily balancing act he usually seems to manage quite well. I recently spoke with him via email to find out how he’s tried to cultivate that balance in his life, how he views his commitment to professional and personal commitments and what drives him in his day-to-day work.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Justin Mezzell, a designer/illustrator based in Orlando, Florida. I’m currently working as Art Director with the amazing folks at Code School. As a freelance illustrator, I’ve had the privilege of working with some truly wonderful companies, like Twitter, Wired, Google, Facebook, and others.


You’re in a major role at a busy tech company. How do you juggle personal projects and agency projects?

The short answer is that I don’t all too often. When it comes to taking on additional work, I’ve had to learn how to most effectively balance the work I do during the day with the work I want to do at night. There was a steep learning curve on that one—plenty of sleepless nights pounding coffee. What I’ve really come to learn is that the whole “Never Stop Creating” mantra is incredibly inspiring as you’re starting out, but less so as you actually settle in to a routine of ceaseless labor. Taking breaks is instrumental to working at your best. This essentially means passing on a lot of exciting projects because I know that I won’t be able to give 100 percent to them. The last thing you want is to turn in half-assed work that bears your name on it.

As for working on personal projects, that’s something I always like to have in progress. They’re so immeasurably valuable in cultivating exploration and self-discovery within the creative process. As you take on more work (and more responsibility), you’re sure to fluctuate on just how much time and energy you can sink into these extracurricular endeavors, but having ongoing personal projects is something I’ll always be passionate about.

What inspires you right now that might surprise people?

I still prefer iTunes over Rdio, largely because I can listen to whatever the hell I want to in private. I keep my library on random most days and ping-pong somewhere between 90s pop music to hardcore to neo-80s-electronica to hip-hop. It’s sporadic and, clearly, so is my personal music taste. A coworker recently reminded me that purchasing the Backstreet Boys’ Greatest Hits collection can’t be ironic if I’m the only one who’s aware I own it.

I suppose this interview changes that.

You’ve got a busy family life, and a busy professional life. How do you make sure to properly pay attention to both both—without sacrificing either one?

I don’t think I believe there aren’t sacrifices being made in relation to each other at all times. Every choice we make is made in the place of another reasonable path we could have chosen. For me, I’ve had to become more aware of where and when those sacrifices are being made, and to be more intentional with how I invest the time I have. In becoming a father of two, it’s safe to say my inventory of free time has only diminished since the days of being single and working. But people make these kinds of choices every day, whether or not they work in our profession. Choosing to date someone may remove your ability to stay in and play video games in your underwear until 4 a.m. Getting more into working out and investing in your personal health removes time you could have used to improve your professional craft.


We won’t get more hours out of the day in any scenario—barring a catastrophic cosmic event that changes our course around the sun. All we can do (and all I try to do) is invest in the life I want to live. Becoming a husband and a father hasn’t diminished my desire to push myself in my craft. It’s changed the way I think about success—but I’d say that transformation in me has been a mostly healthy one. I’m less interested in what’s “socially” successful and more focused on improving my craft where I want to see it go, rather than to where others might want my work to head. And my affirmation of a life well-lived has become a more personal endeavor than a public one.

You live in Orlando, which isn’t San Francisco or New York City. How do you think that affects your approach to design?

I’ve had my brushes with the West Coast—I’m originally from over that way—but for me, it just hasn’t been the right move at this time in my life. Being in a city that isn’t known for design or technology isn’t always the most tantalizing thing for some, but for me, working here has been a really positive force. It’s exciting to be in a city where you can change the entire conversation of the creative community and plug right into being effective where you are. We’re a city that’s only just beginning to align and embrace the creative and tech communities; being on the ground floor of that has been both affirming and thrilling. Also, getting to be near so many colleges has been a great opportunity in forming some truly great mentoring opportunities.

Where you live is more than where you work; it’s where you do life.

The fact is, you can do great work wherever you are. And if you’re not doing great work where you are, a change in location might jumpstart some of that in you, but it might not. It’s sort of like wishing on a star: That old star can only take you part of the way. You got to help him with some hard work of your own. (Thanks, Princess and the Frog. Did I mention I have kids?)

Do you think the industry is shifting away from assuming all “real design” has to come from NY/LA/SF?

Absolutely. I see great, inspiring work coming from all over. From Indiana to Montana to Georgia and everywhere else, the Internet is making distribution a limitless variable. Your work its reach is nearly boundless when coupled with an internet connection.

I’ve also noticed companies are more open to having offices that aren’t parked exclusively in SF, and remote work is becoming more and more common in practice. Hopefully, we can move the conversation beyond designating someone as being “too good” for the city they’re in. Because they’re really not.

What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on and why?

Right now, we’re working toward making Code School an even more valuable product in the learning conversation. We’re in the process of reorganizing the architecture and our approach to teaching. It’s certainly the most difficult undertaking I’ve worked on, but it also gets me ridiculously excited. Being someone who went through college and didn’t leave with a degree based on anything I happen to do today, I’m really interested in improving how we cater to and encourage learning technology here and abroad. It’s inspiring to get to work on something that can actually transform someone’s life.


Who are other designers who inspire you?

I’m going to miss so many people on this brief list, but some people that I can’t help but consistently check in with would be: Jay Fletcher, Tobias van Schneider, Allison House, Kelli Anderson and Ryan Putnam.

Say I’m a designer just starting out, or trying to start out in Cleveland. What would you say to me?

If you’re waiting until someone asks you to do the work you want to be doing, but you haven’t started doing it yourself, you’re going to be waiting an awfully long time. Where you are shouldn’t be a barrier for you putting yourself out there and crafting the career you want to have. I’ve also got a particularly soft spot for Cleveland—it’s a great city.

Remember to re-evaluate what success means to you, and how you want to go about pursuing it. Our notions of success change over time and it doesn’t make us directionless, it makes us human. Pursue what fuels you, but don’t expect it to be the end-all-be-all. Look for inspiration outside of just design, and don’t fall prey to the idea that if you work hard enough, that’s the only ingredient you’ll ever need to be truly happy.

[Tweet “”Pursue what fuels you.” – Justin Mezzell”]

Anything else you want to add?

Thanks for having me and for letting me talk shop and all else. Also, thanks to anyone reading this. It’s a long one and you’ve got a lot of other things you could be doing with your day—maybe that you should be doing with your day. Don’t hesitate to say hey and if we’re ever at the same conference or place at the same time, let’s get a beer or (even better) a bourbon!

Learn more about Justin Mezzell’s work at his website, on Twitter or on Dribbble. You won’t find him on Spotify though—he’s busy hiding the fact he still listens to Yellowcard all the time.