Hey Designers, are you making the most of hashtags on social media? If not, you can easily throw a tasteful number after each post and get some more eyes on your work. Let’s look at some graphic design hashtags that will give you the most bang for your buck, shall we?
College can be one heck of a roller coaster for everyone involved: from the parents who have had to invest in their child’s well-being up to that point, to the young adults who will finally get a small taste of the real world. We all go to college with different levels of preparedness and with very different expectations of what we will encounter. But that’s okay, though; we all go through some struggles on our way to adjusting for this period of our lives.
For starters, our academic performance can be a constant source of stress for us. Homesickness and nostalgia affect us, especially if we are traveling through state-borders to our schools. Fitting in and making friends can be tough, as well; we are surrounded by so many people and finding a few buddies to click with can be unreasonably challenging, and loneliness can sometimes be expected even when we find ourselves in a crowded common room. Then, there’s our finances. Most of us don’t get the privilege of going to college on a free-ride scholarship or with a specialized fund for all our wants and needs. And this, combined with it all, can make college an overwhelming experience.
The good thing about this is that it serves as a small stepping stone towards venturing into the real world. Once out of college, we will find ourselves with similar issues: performance problems at work, loneliness in our personal lives and financial falls and rises. The real world is harsh, but there are things that we can do to make it easier when we are out there in battle. Luckily for the college student of today, there are ways for them to make it through.
Where Do I Start?
First, you need to start by figuring out exactly where and what you need help with. And believe me, there’s nothing wrong with needing help. We all have different areas in our life that we struggle with and some things that just come naturally to us. All you need is to learn your weak spot, and work to build muscle there. This might be a long process though, and some habits would have to change, but it’s all worth it in the end.
For Your Academic Performance
There is countless advice out there on how to make studying more efficient or how to enhance your learning experiences. These advices tend to be handed out in a very general and unrealistic form. Not every student learns the same way – we all have different learning styles. However, there are some tips we can all keep at hand when it comes to improving our academic performance:
- Always be punctual. It doesn’t matter if you’re attending a lecture or a study group, you will always benefit from being on time. This way, you won’t have to worry about missing any bit of information that might serve you in the future.
- Keep a planner! Write down the important dates in your student calendar, from midterms to essay due-dates to the times of the week you can dedicate your full time to study. This will help you keep everything organized and free of last-minute surprises.
- Use your free time wisely! If you have any extra breathing room, you can always employ it in activities that will help you maximize your skills. This doesn’t have to be strict study-time; you can organize group meetings for collective work or take on some time to read through some extra-curricular texts.
- Ask for help. Don’t feel discouraged to reach out for academic help. We tend to trail on our studies at times, and midnight will suddenly strike – post your question and receive on-demand help from tutors at Studypool. It’s helped me countless times, when I have had no time.
For Your Financial Performance
College students are one of those demographics of people who have a lot to give to the world’s market but too Little time to do so. It’s a hectic schedule once your graduation date draws closer and closer. But a lack of time is not an excuse to do nothing about improving your finances, especially when there are many options available that do not require that much time invested. Here’s a few I’d like to share:
- Sell your textbooks. We all know how expensive some of our college textbooks can be and, worst of all, we also know that some of them will only be of use for one semester (or a couple of weeks in a semester). If you find yourself with a Sociology 101 textbook that you no longer need, you can always sell it off to someone who will. Sure, you will not regain the entire amount that you paid for it, but it’s a better purpose for the book than serving as one more decoration on your library.
- Take on tutoring on the web. There’s in depth knowledge within college students that can undoubtedly be exchange for some cash, by tutoring other students. On the other side of the coin, you can create a profile on Studypool and become a tutor. The platform allows maximum flexibility since you get to choose what questions to work on with a set delivery time, and you pick the subject. It’s pretty straightforward – make money by tutoring other students that need help.
- Donate your body to science. Well, you don’t have to turn in your entire body but you certainly can exchange certain, ahem, bodily fluids in exchange for money. From blood to semen to your ovules, there are parts of your body that can become a last-resort attempt at getting quick cash. You can also have the satisfaction of knowing you are helping someone else in the process.
Throughout your life as a college student there will be an infinite amount of obstacles that you’ll find on your way to success, but you need to stay firm and steady in your desire to get there. Don’t waver on your principles or your goals. But do modify your daily habits (if you need to) in order to achieve them. It will all work out for the best in the end, when you see yourself getting closer and closer to your goals.
By being named one of Inc. Magazine’s 30 Coolest Entrepreneurs under 30, Zach Spitulski (Enplug) has been grouped with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox, and Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi of Dropbox. Not a bad crowd to run with, right?
So what is Enplug?
Enplug is a revolutionary digital signage software company. Because it uses a universal operating system and app marketplace, businesses can showcase engaging content real-time, integrating social media with ease. This means that businesses using Enplug can essentially turn their displays into a giant smartphone, making their content approachable, relevant, and engaging.
Go Media was excited to sit down with Zach, Creative Director at Enplug, to learn about how Enplug did it. What worked? What didn’t? What tips did he have on becoming an entrepreneur?
Go Media: So tell us about how you started your Enplug journey:
Zach, Enplug: I was at attending UCLA at the time. I was on a Southwest flight (open seating) to San Francisco to see Pink Floyd–I tripped over a bag and ended up sitting next the the guy’s bag that I tripped on. His name was David Zhu, an original founder of Enplug. I showed him some things I was working on at UCLA and he asked me to join his team. It was the summer between Junior and Senior year at school, I had to decide: school versus dropping out.
Go Media: So, goodbye UCLA?
Zach, Enplug: In school, I thought I wasn’t doing enough. I remember being unhappy just doing school. I was preoccupied with wanting to do something else…something that utilized what I was capable of. I was always itching to do more. It was a simple decision for me–I just decided to believe. Convincing my parents that it was going to be okay was tougher.
Go Media: So, what happened next?
Zach, Enplug: UCLA ended up being accommodating and said I could come back if it didn’t work out. So, I started working with Enplug. Through David, I met Nanxi, Enplug’s CEO and Navdeep, but I call him Petey…Enplug’s CIO. After I decided to leave school, we all pooled our cash and lived in Koreatown in a 1 bedroom. It was cozy living–there were 4 of us and an engineer. We worked the whole summer and then pitched to Start Engine.
Go Media: Out of all the incubators out there, why Start Engine?
Zach, Enplug: We applied to a few: Y-combinator and others, but Start Engine had Howard Marks. He knew interactive space and seemed savvy in the industry. We thought he would have the guidance and the opportunities to raise a good base.
…And he did. We moved out of the 1 bedroom at the end of 2012 and then rented a house in Bel Aire. It’s actually the same house we still have. About a dozen people still live there, but now we have offices in Culver City.
In the beginning, we were trying to convince people to find organic growth. But now we’re a leader in the space, especially in the LA space. We’re very prominent, and it’s really exciting to see. My friends, or even just other people will say, “Hey, I saw the Enplug software running here,” to me most of the time. We’re locally relevant with big goals. We’re not just in LA–our software is used across the world.
Go Media: Let’s talk more about your evolution of sorts–what are your company’s goals now? Have you changed them since you started?
Zach, Enplug: When first started, we wanted to rework the space. When we looked at what the space was offering, it seemed prehistoric. “Where do we start?” Was our biggest question.
Well, we had to start over. “Let’s rebuilt this,” we thought. “Let’s make it interactive, scalable, and reliable with a software development kit.” Essentially, we wanted to show people we could tap into social media and make it work.
In that respect, we have similar goals. Now we’re modifying our own product and making sure we stay ahead in the space.
Go Media: Let’s talk about your team. It started with a small, core group, and now you have a team of over 50 people across the U.S, Africa, and Europe. How do you build a successful team?
Zach, Enplug: It starts and ends with the people. You have to trust each other. Honestly, you have to get along with one another. We’re strong on having a good vibe. With David, I trusted him. I believed it. I was willing to take the risk. People who join now have the at similar trust and belief.
Go Media: So far, it all sounds like rainbows and roses. Let’s dig deeper. Can you tell us about a mistake that you’ve made on your entrepreneurial journey?
Zach, Enplug: Personally, I always should trust my gut. A few times, I ignored it. Whether when I was hiring staff or a making a decision on the product–the decision seemed logical and rational, but my gut didn’t like it. For hires, for example, there have been qualified hires with previous success at various companies. But my gut said that maybe they weren’t a cultural fit. We’ve done it a few times, and it’s always been a mistake and always causes more problems than it’s worth. Trust your instincts.
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 >
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…
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.
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.
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.
Meet Other Creatives
I wanted to write an article about meeting other creatives, but struggled with it. The advice of networking and connecting to those in the industry can often be belaboured by college professors and concerned parents. However, they are totally are in the right. Who you know does often lead to that next opportunity. In addition to that, building camaraderie and a sense of belonging goes a long way. I’d like to share my experience of being part of the creative community, which I believe will be more helpful than an article full of obvious advice.
I should first point out that ever since my years of college I have always felt intimidated. Many of the artists, illustrators and designers I know are older than me. I often felt like a kid, young and inexperienced (which I was.) Yet despite my feelings of smallness, it was awesome to have the opportunity of spending time with those who were experienced and damn good at what they do.
From my sophomore year in college up until the point I left Pittsburgh, I made it a point to attend everything: art shows, lectures, happy hours, workshops, performances and whatever else. The art and design scene, especially in Pittsburgh, is a small one, so after a while, you begin to recognize faces. Before I knew it, I would hit up an event and exchange handshakes and high fives with the majority of people there. It was fantastic, that feeling of being a part of something. There is a quote about the importance of just showing up…But it’s escaping my memory right now. Regardless, attending events was crucial in developing my involvement with the art and design community. I heard once that “YOU are the scene.” These words could never be truer.
Since moving to Cleveland, I have been to a number of events. Actually, even before I moved to Cleveland I attended Brite Winter Fest, Wizard World Comic-Con and the 78th St. Studios gallery crawl. This all took place when I was in town for my interview at Go Media and apartment hunting (once I got the job). Within the first week of living in Cleveland, I hit up a AIGA Cleveland happy hour, which is actually how I met Ian Zeigler of Photonic Studio. Since then I have participated in a live drawing event at Spaces gallery, shared a drink with Aaron Sechrist (Ok Pants) and met Sean Higgins (the Bubble Process) and Brian Jasinski (Grey Cardigan) at an arts festival. Cleveland’s art and design scene is flourishing, and it is filled with the friendliest, most supportive and talented people.
Because of the excitement of moving to a new city and being somewhat of an extrovert, I was able to do a lot of things and meet many people. However, I was still rather nervous through all of it! In many of these situations, I did not know anyone. No one could be my social safety raft. This can be terrifying. But the nerves go away after the first conversation starts, so you just have to take a big gulp of your beer, go up to someone and sincerely say, “Hey there, I’m so-and-so. I’m new here and looking to meet people.” The rest is easy-peasy.
From Pittsburgh to Cleveland, I have met the most amazing people. From sharing struggles and triumphs to teaching and inspiring, it is because of them that I have grown so much in my ability to think and create. With that, I say this to you, wonderful reader: go out there and show ‘em your stuff! Meet people and do things. Make new friends, form strong bonds and learn all you can from everyone and anyone. I know it can be nerve wracking and down right scary to put yourself out there. It is for everyone else. Like I said, things become a lot easier with that first “hello.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
You Asked, We Answered.
How Do I Improve My eCommerce Site?
We all want to see more traffic and conversions on our ecommerce sites, right? Of course! This even includes all of us at Cleveland Design firm, Go Media.
With numerous tricks and tips swarming the web, knowing what, when, and how to make those improvements can be overwhelming.
Today, let’s start from square one and make sure we all have these three fool-proof elements, all of which can be accomplished this afternoon. Let’s get to it!
1. A Very Obvious & Enticing Email Sign-Up
Did you know that only 1 to 3% of people that land on your website will actually make a full and complete sale? Frightening, huh?
Panic not, dear friends. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In order to build trust and, in a sense, convince customers that your product is worth what you claim it is, add a simple email sign-up to your page.
Think of this simple email opt-in as a customer’s small commitment to you. A baby step if you will. The next step may be reading your email, the following step considering a purchase. Then, perhaps, after days, weeks, even months, a final sale. These are all very important baby steps in what will hopefully be a long and happy relationship between you and your customer.
Now, many of you have an email sign-up on your page – but today, let’s make it both:
- Obvious and
Offer up an incredibly irresistible reason for your visitor to want to enter their name into the “Enter your email address here” box. This could be a freebie of which dreams are made or an exclusive coupon.
We recommend using:
- Mailchimp or
- List Builder from Sumo.com to build your list and add a download or redirect as necessary
2. A Clear Call to Action
Call to Action is another phrase for, “This is what the heck you are supposed to do here.” Or, as Wikipedia more eloquently states, a banner, button or some type of graphic or text on a website meant to prompt a user to click on it…an essential part of marketing…that actively strives to convert a user into a lead and later into a customer.”
Here are some really effective Call to Action Examples >
Today, ensure that:
- You have a Call to Action to begin with
- Your Call to Action is dummy proof (People will undoubtedly click on it.)
- It is above the fold (ie. the portion of the site immediately visible when the page first loads).
To test that your call to action is working, use a heat map, through:
to make sure your visitors are really clicking that “big red button,” so to speak.
3. Live Chat!
Interact with your customers live and in the flesh (well, almost) when you install live chat on your ecommerce website. Live chat serves as a great customer service tool, allowing you to know your customer and their needs on a more intimate level. Live chat also connects you with your customer so that they can view you as a real live human being, instead of a nameless, faceless entity. Once they know you and come to understand your product, they’re more likely to buy from you. It’s as simple as that.
What tips and tricks have you used to improve your eCommerce site? Please share your knowledge with me in the comments below!
Does your website crawl?
In internet speak, “crawl” doesn’t mean that your website or web page is moving or loading slowly. It means your site’s SEO, or search engine optimization, is working. SEO means your desired audience will find you…in the most positive, most lucrative stalker-esque way. But where do you even start to have powerful SEO?
Keep it Simple.
An important first step to know when building a website for strong SEO is to build it with good, clean code atop a reputable CMS. CMS, or Content Management System for those of you just getting started, is the system that helps you organize and publish your content. WordPress is inarguably the very best, most accessible CMS available to the masses. It offers everything you need to get you well on your way toward being found by the search engines. WordPress is inexpensive (great for your bottom line!) and super customizable. It has the best open source CMS Award and over 143,000 lines of code. Add in organized page structure, rich meta data in each post, strong navigational links and easy page indexing, and the fact that it’s used by 100 million+ websites…well, it just seems foolish to use anything else. And while we love a good time as much as anyone, Go Media doesn’t believe in being foolish. We use WordPress as our CMS platform for nearly every single website we build.
Actionable Tip: Once you have a powerful platform like WordPress backing your website, you can then take advantage of the unrivaled SEO plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast to really take control of your SEO efforts. All of the custom WordPress websites we develop at Go Media in Cleveland come with Yoast’s SEO plug-in installed.
Keep It Clean.
That’s right, no twerking. A clean website on the backend means an easy website to find and an easy design for your customer to use. Win-win! What factors are important for optimization? Start by utilizing effective hierarchical navigation. Good menus help your visitors find what they need faster. You want every click you can get. The search engines keep track of your clicks and consider more unique clicks to mean more relevant content. Be sure to use “pretty permalink” URLs. This means use your.com/about and not your.com/?pid=123. Do you use meta tags? You should! Meta tags like title should be appropriate for the content and one-of-kind. This helps people AND the search engines (<– notice a pattern here?) understand what they’re about to read. Not only will your customer be happy, you’ll be happy.
Thorough HTML template elements are another factor the search engines look for. You’ll want to use things like alt and title attributes for images & links. This ensures elements like anchors <a> are more descriptive. Not only does this assist users, especially those with any accessibility impairments, but the search engines will essentially award you for these. You’re helping them understand what every little detail of your website is about. There are even more hardcore elements and attributes we could touch on like microformats and RDFa, but we’ll just stick to the basics here.
I know this sounds like a lot of hard work, but keeping your site tidy and organized on the backend helps improve your SEO on the frontend. Go Media puts in countless hours to follow best practices for SEO. This means our sites have SEO that sets our clients’ hearts aflutter and their customers flocking. Why? We know our stuff, and we make sure we are putting our best foot code forward.
Actionable Tip: Want to know everything good and bad about your website from the leader in search? Want to dig deep into ways you can improve your SEO and fix obvious problems? Give Google Webmaster Tools a spin! You can profile nearly everything.
Keep It Rich.
At a fundamental level, search engines simply try to match text phrases and make a best-guess on the context. This “context” typically stems from groups of topics, across the web. If you’re well associated with your topic group, by way of links, the search engines consider you to be more relevant to the context of the search. The number of people pointing to you and how high-quality these links are help with your page ranking. And your page ranking helps with SEO. It would be easy if you could just jam a ton of content in your website and call it a day. Go for it, but your pagerank will absolutely not rise. (Thank you, Google and SEO guru, Matt Cutts.) Instead, have a point of view. Craft your content with your desired audience in mind. No one wants a fluff piece, least of all the search engines. Once you have your content in place, keep in mind that page ranking and all the other factors in optimization are a dynamic beast. Poor writing and poor content = a poor SEO rank. And we don’t want to be poor now, do we? Of course, Go Media works to attract high-quality links so that other websites direct their readers to your expertise… just another way we have your SEO back.
Actionable Tip: Before you write an article, take a moment to think about the keyword phrase you want to rank well for. Focus on one keyword phrase per article. For this article I wanted to connect Go Media with SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Find a Partner in Crime.
When working with a web design firm, ask about their SEO efforts and make sure they follow best practices. You know the lingo now–ask smart questions and ensure they have the tools to help your customers find your business online. A lot of people can make a pretty website, but a pretty face doesn’t get you that far in page ranks. That’s why Go Media uses the 50+ years of human-labor on our team to create robust, creative, USABLE WordPress websites with SEO best practices in mind. We know how to build an amazing website like we know the back of our hands. We’re not actually sure what that expression means, but we can tell you that when you partner with us, we will help your website succeed and have stellar SEO. No one can promise a #1 page ranking, but we can promise you a good time and a killer website. So if you need web design help — don’t be shy!
It’s Time to Get Paid What You’re Worth.
Our Graphic Designer’s Pricing Guide Tool Kit is chock-full of resources to show you what we’ve learned about pricing and billing since opening our now million dollar company over a decade ago.
For $25, you’ll get access to 5 highly acclaimed advice documents from Go Media, Cleveland’s best website design company, including expert advice for freelancers and small business owners. We also hook you up with William Beachy’s eBook, Drawn to Business, which includes invaluable information on how to maintain competitive pricing while also ensuring profitability.
It’s time to do this right, once and for all.
How to Brand Your Apparel Line: Keys to Success
“It’s a common misconception that a brand is a company’s logo,” Go Media Partner graphic designer extraordinaire Jeff Finley notes in his book, Thread’s Not Dead. “That’s just part of it. Some experts say that a company’s brand is the “gut feeling” in their audience. The brand is actually a combination of all experiences that a person has with a company. When you think of every interaction as “branding” you can begin to shape the way people feel about your company in a natural way.”
So just how did our favorite clothing brands build their brands and what can you learn from them?
Read on as we talk shop with Jeff and friends Ben Scrivens from popular apparel brand Fright Rags, visual media designer Lain Lee and Hallie Perrin and Chris Miles, both from Cleveland based printing company Jakprints.
Consistency is Key
“The most important thing in branding is consistency. You need consistency in your designs, website, packaging, and social media presence. You need consistency in the way you talk to customers, how you answer the phone, what your email signature says, and the verbiage on your website, etc. The number one thing to remember is you are setting and meeting customer expectations.” – Jeff Finley, Author, Thread’s Not Dead
“It is very important to keep consistency throughout your brand so that the community can recognize it in stores, in the streets, and on social media. My recommendation for keeping this consistency is keeping your logo and the garments you use consistent throughout the merchandise you produce. This helps the community recognize the logo and for the consumer to recognize a high quality product that they love. It will also give them the confidence when purchasing from you.” – Hallie Perrin, Jakprints
“Developing your Mission/Vision Statement in the early stages of planning can help identify who your core demographic is. Staying true to the core values expressed in that document is a sure way to get your customers to identify themselves with your products. Be consistent with these principles when building your brand and you will have longevity in the marketplace.
Fashion is a reflection of our own personal tastes and even the most obscure has a following. Get in touch with those personalities and make them feel like they have a larger sense of community by leveraging social media. By giving them a platform to connect with like-minded individuals, you will gain invaluable advertising through word of mouth. Stick to your ideals and participate in your own forums, with it will come an army of loyal brand patrons.” – Chris Miles, Jakprints
Build a Culture Around your Brand
“It’s all too common for people just starting out to tout themselves as bigger than they are. They use terms like ‘we’ when it’s just one guy in his basement. I did the same exact thing… Ironically, as I really did become a ‘we’ I gravitated to using my own name and identity with my brand. I personalized emails to my customers, and even shot videos of myself talking about how I got into horror and why it means so much to me. Little did I know, I was crafting my story behind our brand and putting a face and voice to the company that customers could relate to. Now I spend a lot of my time cultivating those relationships by doing things like sending surveys, allowing customers to vote on designs, showing them the process of taking a design from sketch to shirt, and even showing them how a shirt is printed.” – Ben Scrivens, Fright Rags
“The first step in building a culture around your brand is to DEFINE the culture you’re seeking to appeal to and develop. A huge mistake a lot of these apparel lines make is not defining their brand – the who, what and why they’re doing it. They start out by making clothes they or their friends want to wear more than anyone else, never really taking the time to do their due diligence and research, making sure that their audience is also looking for what they’re putting out. Without a definition, without a “backstory” to your brand, without understanding the culture you’re seeking to develop around the brand, you’re doomed to just putting designs on clothes (and being stuck with unsold inventory). Building a brand is way too expensive and time consuming to not take the time to define the who, what and why you’re setting out on this journey for.” – Lain Lee, Lain Lee 3 Design
Concentrate on What Makes You Different
“What I believe makes Fright Rags unique is the connection we have to not only the horror genre but to our customers. Everyone who works with us is a fan first. We think like horror fans, and we are active members in the community. Using that as a jumping off point, our sensibilities are already tuned to what other fans might like, which helps guide the types of designs we create. Also, we use original artwork commissioned by artists for our designs. While that is done more and more these days, it was a fairly new thing when we first started as many other companies used poster artwork for their shirts. Our designs are unique artists’ takes on the films we love. Branding is as simple as finding those things you do that sets you apart and honing in on them. It may only be one thing, or a few, but you need to boil it all down to the essentials and build on those. It’s simple – yet also very difficult – because shirt sites are a dime a dozen these days so you have to be very clear with your message or no one will buy from you. In addition, authenticity is also crucial. If you aren’t connected to the types of products you sell in a personal way, it will be much harder to convince others to trust and purchase from you.
I get emails all the time from people who want to create their own brand and they are so fixated on how many designs to release when they start or how many to order for their first run. While those need answering, they are the last things to figure out. If you don’t have customers then it doesn’t matter if you order one shirt or one hundred. What makes you stand out? What is your or your company’s vision? Why would I buy a shirt from you? Answer those questions first, and focus on creating your brand and customer experience around them. The rest will follow.” – Ben Scrivens, Fright Rags
Focus on Customer Service
“Customer service is huge for new clothing lines. The main goal for customer service is to ensure that customer will be be a return customer even if the issue/situation is not in their favor. If that’s a promo code, or an email for them to be the first to know when their out of stock garment is back in stock, it will make that customer feel special and feel like a key asset to that specific clothing line. The possibilities of making that customer feel special are endless, and being resourceful with this is key. – Hallie Perrin, Jakprints
“Customer Service is the key to having repeat customers. If you plan on selling your merchandise online as many independent clothing labels do, be sure to have as much information available about the fit and finish of your garments. You will reduce the amount of returns by simply listing the measurements of each size and by providing a footnotes about the merchandise and models shown on your product pages. When possible, include helpful hints like “sizing runs small”, or “loose fitting”.
Implement Free Shipping and Hassle-Free Returns if possible. By including these costs in your “overhead” before you add markup, online retailers can lower the barrier to entry. Bank on either worst case scenario when building your shipping costs into your pricing or seek out flat-rate mailers to ensure that your operating costs are fixed. 2-way shipping may be too much cost for your product’s price points to absorb, but if on average your customers only return 1 out of every 20 orders then you can build an extra 5% of the shipping fees into your product so that your return will accumulate over time. Be sure to audit the amount of returns vs. the number of shipped orders at least once a year and make adjustments accordingly if necessary.
Last but not least, respond to all comments and complaints promptly. Negative reviews on the internet can be devastating for a company of any size and can be almost impossible to erase from the web. Treat even the most irrational customers with respect and offer them fair resolution, even if it costs you a little extra. The price you pay for “bad press” will far outweigh any spoilage or ruined product that you may have to replace on your own dime. With enough data, this too could be accounted for and added to your operating costs formula.” – Chris Miles, Jakprints
Polarize Your Audience
“It is very important to polarize your brand. Taking a position is what will set you apart. Remaining in the “middle of the road” and trying to appeal to everyone will keep you exactly there – in the middle of the road. If you think of some of the world’s best brands, they always let you know where they stand within their culture and what they represent. Coca Cola, happiness and nostalgia. Apple, quality and innovation. Bad Robot (JJ Abrams production company), mystery and great storytelling. In-N-Out, simple, classic burgers. Remaining marginal will keep you from getting noticed and definitely keep you from standing out in your customers’ minds. To polarize your audience, take a stance and become very vocal about it. If your brand is all about being youthful, fun, and party-hopping, shout it from the mountaintops. If your brand is about clean lines, minimal design, and honoring the spirit of Herman Miller and the Eames, post articles that reflect that mentality and denounce the use of over complicated elements of design. The bottom line, pick a side, then pick a strong subsection of that side, and become very vocal about it’s integral role in your brand.” – Lain Lee, Lain Lee 3 Design
And then…Take it Back to Basics.
“Once you’ve developed your brand, what are the first, most important steps to getting it launched and really seen?,” we asked Lain.
“This is one of my favorite questions that I get asked a lot. And it’s one of my favorites because the answer is the exact opposite of what every article online will tell you. Are you ready?
Make quality, meaningful connections with your audience OFFLINE and use online properties to leverage those relationships. In a world that makes it increasingly easier to connect with people online and never have to touch, talk to, or interact with them, we’ve become way too reliant on the internet and smart phones to handle all of our networking. There is no substitute for shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye as you share your passion with them.
People don’t buy your clothes because they’re better than anyone else’s, let’s be honest. Sure, you might have a style that appeals to them. But let’s play a little game really quick: You and another company release the same exact design at the same exact time. You have no followers, you’re just getting started, and you’ve only reached out to your immediate circles through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email. The other company is just getting started too, but they’ve decided to release their new design at a local sneaker convention (feel free to substitute in here any other type of convention you’d like).
You hear from a few friends about the shirt, and finally your grandma decides to buy one to support you. They get to spend the next 2 days passing out info, shaking hands with like-minded people, and sharing stories, laughs and making real connections with people about their brand. They end up almost selling out of their design. They get home and see that 52% of the people they handed out cards to have started following them on their social media channels, and their mailing list has grown. They also received several inquiries about what else they had in the works. In this scenario, who do you think made the better decision and why? While you chose to solely rely on social media, the other company went out into the “real world” and made genuine connections with their customers.
So what’s the take home here kiddies?
They become invested in your company when you show them why you’re doing it. So in summation – define your brand’s culture, polarize your brand’s ideologies and views, and when making connections with your audience, start with why. (PS: Simon Sinek, a world-renowned author and speaker, has a great video on Youtube in which he explains why you should always “Start with Why” when selling, I highly recommend checking it out.)” – Lain Lee
– So why should we buy your tees? Tell us below! –
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The Benefits of WordPress
Here at Cleveland Web Design company Go Media, we are pumped about WordPress CMS. It’s our go-to – super-reliable, always there – a total constant. Yep, it pretty much makes us do cartwheels.
Here’s the thing.
We believe in WordPress, because we really feel it will serve as an excellent foundation to obtain your goal of simplifying website administration, publishing exactly what you want, improving User Experience and more. All without compromising quality, usability and accountability.
What is it and Why it Rocks
The WordPress CMS is a user-friendly administrative tool that will allow your staff to make frequent updates and changes to the website without needing an experienced developer. Some key features (from WordPress.org):
- WordPress is a standards compliant platform that works with current browsers and is continually updated to work in future browsers as well
- Easy to use, making content management simple and fun
- Pushes your site rankings to a new level based on its core structure
- Update content and keep everything in one website, such as your homepage, blog, and any other interior pages (About, Contact, etc)
- Allow users to register and leave comments that you will be able to approve before they go live on your site
- Establish various author roles where each can have different roles, permissions and administration privileges
- Easy, automatic application upgrades
How We Use It
Go Media puts WordPress at the foundation of your website development. We then extend the platform to meet the specific needs of your project. Over the years we have built so many WordPress powered solutions we decided to develop our own Go Media WordPress plugins. This growing code library extends the native features of WordPress so we can efficiently add things like custom post types and special theme options. This allows us to quickly make possible sections like events, your team biographies, portfolio galleries, service menus, location information and much much more. Here are some additional benefits to choosing Go Media as your WordPress provider:
- Early adopters with nearly a decade of WordPress experience. Meaning the highest quality of custom development delivered in less time.
- Expert compliance with Best Practices such as the Codex API, Template Hierarchy, Stylesheets and Security Standards.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) minded approach to theme development for improved keyword indexing and therefore better Search Engine results.
- Experts in high exposure, high traffic implementations, including caching, maintenance, migration and content delivery network (CDN) integration.
- We are PHP and MySQL programmers with advanced knowledge of the WordPress Source Code.
- Exclusive, private & redundant Cloud Hosting on Rackspace & Amazon.
- Fully integrated, automatic offsite file and database backups to secure, private Amazon S3 partitions for disaster recovery.
- Hosting System Administration with 24/7 uptime for ongoing management of hundreds of WordPress environments & configuration.
Why do you believe in the power of WordPress? Leave a comment for us below!
Creative Job Interview Tips
Whether you’re out there, seeking a job in a creative field, or just want to keep your ninja interview skills sharp as knives, read on as we receive advice from interview expert Ann Walter.
Having interviewed hundreds of people over the years, Ann knows her stuff. Cleveland native and Kent State University School of Fashion Design Merchandising alumni, Ann is a retail consultant and college instructor specializing in professional development/job search coursework for the creative fields. She spent the last eighteen years as a fashion designer and creative leader in the apparel industry at companies including Liz Claiborne, Gap, Walmart, Sears Holdings, Dots, and Justice managing design teams of fashion designers, graphic designers, and CAD designers. She currently serves as adjunct college instructor at KSU Studio in New York City.
Take it away, Ann!
– Heather, Go Media’s Zine Editor
Interview Do’s and Dont’s
We’re all pretty familiar with the basics involved in an interview. Let’s talk about some important specifics and details regarding the three parts of the interview process including:
As you review the following do’s and don’ts, here’s something important thing to keep in mind – just because we may be “creatives” doesn’t mean the interview process is any easier or less serious.
And remember, you don’t have to be nervous – you just have to be prepared!
Ready? Let’s go!
The Pre-Interview: “Do your homework!”
DON’T forget this often overlooked yet critical part of the interview process.
DO keep detailed notes/an interview journal (digital or notebook). This could include your thoughts on the company, important dates, and location of interview. Also a great place to keep your answers to top interview questions.
DO research the company!
Google them for news articles, earnings, new business ventures, etc. If this company has a retail component – visit the store and take notes! If they sell online or business-to-business spend time on their website and be familiar with their product, designs, campaigns, etc. It’s a deal-breaker in a creative industry to not have an opinion on the product/aesthetic of the company you are interviewing for. They will ask your opinion, what looked good and what opportunities you see for them. They’ll want to know what you think of their competition, etc.
DON’T be afraid to do a little ‘light stalking!’
Research the interviewer themselves if you can. If you are working with HR and have already met the HR team, ask them for what to expect from the interviewers. Ask your friends who work there. I like to see the interviewer’s picture on LinkedIn if I can! The more information you have the better and the more comfortable you’ll be when you arrive at the interview!
DON’T show up in the wrong outfit! Research the culture and dress code. Be prepared in an appropriate way.
DO be prepared by practicing your answers to typical interview questions.
DO a dry run to the location of interview!
Literally dry run the commute/walk etc. to know how long it will take you. Know where the building is, etc. You will feel more comfortable the day of.
DO allow yourself time to walk in the door of the reception area/lobby 10 minutes early!
If you get to the building too early kill time at a Starbucks or hang out in your car! Remember, you may have to park far away or go through building security and sign in. In these cases, make sure to allow extra time. Being late is a big no-no. If you do run late, let the interviewer know in advance and apologize when you arrive without going overboard.
During The Interview: “Bring Your A Game!”
DO introduce yourself professionally with a strong and self-confident voice, good eye contact, and a firm handshake! This is not the time to be shy or girly. Be assertive and confident!
DON’T forget that first impressions are KEY! The interviewer probably reaches some sort of decision about you in the first 2 – 5 minutes.
DON’T forget to have 10 copies of your resume with you. Use good quality paper!
DO keep your answers to 2 minutes or under! Don’t ramble.
DON’T use slang.
Creative folks can get away with slightly more casual language and behavior, but it even if you’re meeting at the local coffee house, it is still a job interview where they are assessing whether or not to hire you at their company. Be very careful of the top offenders UMM, LIKE, YOU KNOW. If you find you use slang, a good way to catch yourself is to just pause instead of saying your usual filler.
DON’T bad mouth a previous employer!
The creative fields are small industries and people are very connected. Plus, it makes you look like a small-minded person who gossips and is unprofessional – if you are forced by a direct question to give an example of a tough relationship you’ve had in the past – take a negative situation and describe it as a challenge and how you overcame it, keep things proactive.
DO have a few questions prepared for the interviewer.
These could be about the company, about the position
“What are you looking for in this “assistant graphic designer” role?”
“How long have you been with the company”
“What keeps you excited to be here?”
DO be prepared to be flexible.
If an interview goes well, they might have you stay and meet more of their colleagues.
After the Interview: “Leave A Good Impression!”
DO stand up, thanks the interviewer for her time, look her in the eye and shake her hand again!
DON’T be afraid to ask about next steps in the interview process or when they will be making their decision on the position.
Reiterate that you are very interested in the position.
DON’T forget to send a thank you note within 12 – 24 hours!
Handwritten, not email. Don’t use a card covered with glittery butterflys from Papyrus. This is not a thank you note for your grandmother! Use simple, chic, cool stationery.
DO follow up.
Assess the best form of contact. This is usually email so it’s less invasive. Check in if you haven’t heard anything in the timeline that was mentioned. Again, an appropriate level of assertive follow-up (light stalking!) here shows your interest in the position.
And that’s it!
Best of luck with your interviews and stay tuned to Part Two of How to Ace Your Next Creative Job Interview, “Tough Interview Questions and How to Answer Them”
Inspirational Creative Quotes That Will Recharge You Now
Feeling overwhelmed? Down on your luck? Uninspired? Sometimes a word of wisdom is just what the doctor ordered. We’ve collected some of our favorite inspirational creative quotes on our Pinterest page. May they give you the inspiration you need today.
Click on each image for its source:
10 Mistakes Freelancers Make and Should Avoid Making Today
New freelancers can run into a myriad of problems. Without the support of a firm, freelancers hold a world of responsibility in their hands. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed right out of the gate. Some of our favorite freelancers are here to remind us that it’s only natural to make mistakes. Take note and try to learn from theirs today.
Go Media Asked, “What was the biggest mistake you made early in your career as a freelancer?”
The hard truth is that there are a myriad of mistakes you can make as a freelancer. We’re often drawn to this route because we have an aversion to authority in general, and people telling us how to do things. However, not having someone to tell how to do things sets us up to fall on our face over and over again. Beware of your own ignorance.
The biggest mistake that I’d like to warn up-and-coming freelancers about is Entitlement. We often get quite proud of our artistic abilities, and begin thinking that we deserve certain things, and that clients should worship the ground we walk on. The truth is that we are entering into relationships with our clients, relationships that we should focus on cultivating just as much as we focus on the work. Being a responsible, dependable, and likable person is often more important than your design skill. Resist the urges to take out your frustration on the client. Work on yourself. Be personable. No one owes you anything – it’s your job to keep client relationships enjoyable. – Brandon Rike
Blaming “Clients from Hell”
In my early days of freelancing, I used to think clients caused problems. It took me awhile to realize that this is how novices think. There’s no such thing as “Clients from hell,” because only designers from hell take on those types of clients.
Professionals seek responsibility. Every problem is the responsibility of the professional. That means every issue can be traced back to a shortcoming of the designer. It is your responsibility as the designer to ensure that there is thorough communication in the preliminary stages of the project. If a problem occurs, you need to be asking yourself how you could have prevented it. What could you have explained better? What clause could you have included in your contract that would have kept this from occurring? How can you find a way to accept responsibility for this problem? What will you do to prevent it with your next client? – Sean McCabe
Being Too Available
Looking back, I sometimes regret being too available.
I was enthusiastic and eager and sometimes got taken advantage of, but more than that, I sometimes question whether I’d gotten more respect/been less scathed had I been tougher, less ready to jump in and do the work people above me would not. Those are my freelancing regrets – letting people walk over me.
I still struggle with that now I own my own business – would people respect me more if I was a little less available. At the end of the day, I just have to believe it’s OK to work it the way I work it – I just keep pushing through with the hope that my instincts + talent are enough. – Chrissy Jensen, Domestica
Not Standing Up For Myself
When I look back at some of nightmare client projects I landed as a Freelancer I now realise the main mistake I made was not standing up for myself. A lot of designers fall into the trap of being the client’s puppet, where you wind up making never ending tweaks and having the design process dictated to you. It’s important to remember that you’re the professional and the client is hiring you for your expertise, so be confident in your work and explain the reasoning behind your design decisions to avoid having your work butchered! Often you’ll find that the client will change their mind and agree with your ideas once the design theory has been explained to them, which is a win-win for both parties; they end up with great design work and you’re left with a project you’re happy to share and show off in your portfolio.
…Although sometimes the client still doesn’t care and you end up being a puppet anyway! – Chris Spooner of Blog.Spoon. Graphics
Asking for Money
I felt overwhelming guilt early on in my career about getting paid for my work. (I blame indie rock). I overcame that by studying businesses outside the creative sphere and how they handled contracting their work. It took longer than I care to admit but I finally learned the value of my work and to only deal with clients that understood that as well. I also realized being broke sucks and only stresses you to the point of not being able to produce good work or survive as a business. – Aaron Sechrist, OKPants
Not having the conversation upfront
“Very early on in my career, I was approached by a dream client: a new spa with money looking to build a unique brand. Needless to say, I was freaking out. I met with the client and talked through a scope of work. Something about this client made me feel a bit uneasy. They had taste, but hadn’t ever hired a designer before. They asked me about a budget and I told them I’d look through their requirements and get back to them. Honestly, I was a bit scared they might have really warped expectations of the cost, and as a young designer I was nervous the cost would scare away a really cool project. I just naively thought, “I’ll let my first round of logo explorations sell them on the cost”. We planned another meeting and I worked my ass off putting together a really strong first round of logos. The meeting went ok, they had a bunch of questions and were ALMOST sold on a few directions. I held off again on talking money (yeeeeesh) and scheduled another meeting to present round 2. I worked ever harder on round 2, sure that this work would make them realize they’d pay anything to have it. I sent round 2 with my final bid and waited with a sick stomach feeling like I’d lied to my parents. Of course they came back flabbergasted. Having no experience, they assumed a whole branding package couldn’t cost more than $300. My bid was somewhere around $1,500 and they thought I was crazy. It ended up just getting worse from there and we parted ways. I did a huge amount of work for free just to avoid a rough conversation up front that actually would’ve just saved me all that time and heartache. I look back and laugh at how easily I could’ve avoided this crazy situation, but also keep it as a little reminder of how not to start a project.” – Dan Christofferson, Beeteeth
Spending too much time seeking work
“I should have put less time trying to find work and more time simply creating work. For every hour I spent trolling Craigslist for random freelance gigs, I could have been sketching work for my portfolio, for sale as prints, fine art or whatever. I always felt so much pressure to justify any creative effort with the hope of a prospective paycheck, and never allowed myself the freedom to simply create, which is what I do best.” – Troy DeShano
I noticed that for a while when a client would ask me for a cost, I would blurt out a number without taking some time to think through the design and the time it would take me to do the drawing. I think I would be worried that I wouldn’t get the job. Unfortunately I might quote them a bit low and then be angry with myself because I might not be covering all of my supplies or even taxes.
So now I usually take at least one day from the initial conversation, gather my thoughts, price out the job and make sure the cost is fair for me and the client. A great lesson learned. – Steve Knerem
Working on Spec
When I was first illustrating, a company contacted me and asked me to do work on “spec.” Spec work means any work done on a speculative basis. In other words, the client has you make work for them and there is no guarantee they will use the work or pay your for your time. In spec work you only get paid if they end up using your work. Not knowing better and wanting to take whatever work came my way, I agreed to make some designs for the company. I ended up spending hours and hours going back and forth with the company about what they wanted and adjusting my designs. I realized pretty quickly that I was in a bad situation. They were being really picky about what they wanted and I was pretty sure my designs weren’t going to get printed anyway. So I hedged my bets and decided to break the contract I’d signed with them and walk away before I wasted any more of my time working for free, even though that meant I’d never get paid work with this company again either. I also made the decision never to do work on spec again! – Lisa Congdon
…but one of the biggest mistakes just may be jumping all the way in.
Taking the Leap
I should have gone freelance way earlier than I did. – Aaron Sechrist, OKPants
It’s your turn! What mistakes have you made early in your career as a freelancer? What are you most afraid of?
And for more on launching your freelance business: