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Character

Character

Recently , I was asked by Mennonite Health Services to write a piece on Character, one of the four C’s they identify in Valued Leadership (Character, Collaboration, Culture, Change). No small task, but a great opportunity again for me to engage this whole endeavor of running a business.

As a sole proprietor, there is a lot of freedom, but there is also a lot on the line. Vision, direction, motivation, practices and sensibilities all rest on your own shoulders. It’s all you. So, how to find a way forward? I have found a few things that work for me, but I am continually looking to grow and find better ways of doing things.

Three years ago, I never would have pictured myself an entrepreneur with a burgeoning business operating in a beautiful downtown Goshen studio space. In all honesty, before my business venture, my professional life resembled a pinball game, as I bounced around racking up experiential points, but lacking a clear (career) path forward.

Following my graduation from Goshen College, I served in Montreal with Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) for a year, toured the country as a musician, worked in education with ENL students, was part of an artist community, before moving into marketing and communications with the University of Virginia. A generation or two ago, someone might backpack through Europe to “find themselves.” I did not take that route exactly, but in my process of doing so, I struggled with a couple of cultural notions that were becoming increasingly burdensome.

The first was that I needed to “pick a career.” This notion is embedded from an early age as we are asked what we want to be when we grow up all the way through school, college and “professional development” opportunities. While it is no longer very common for individuals to work at one job for their entire career, there are certainly strong remnants of the expectation that we as individuals have one thing we are supposed to do with our lives.

Another struggle that I had was a latent expectation that in order to properly live out my faith, I needed to find a vocation that was more overtly religious in nature. Simply stated, I needed to “work in the church.” While I my parents never explicitly instructed me to do so, their lifelong roles as church leaders provided plenty of inherent pressure. These two notions can be summarized as “finding my calling.” For many years, I yearned to know what it was, and found myself often wishing I was just good at one thing, and that one thing could provide the answer I was looking for.

Only recently have I learned about an alternative philosophy for people like myself, who enjoy doing many different kinds of things. I have reference this before. These special folks are called multipotentialites. Multipotentialites are defined as individuals with interest and capacity in many different areas or disciplines. They excel in idea synthesis (seeing and applying connections with different ideas), rapid learning (devouring a new topic or area of interest) and adaptability (being able to function effectively in a variety of circumstances). These characteristics have become crucial in my ability to effectively wear the many hats needed when running a business as a sole proprietor.

Secondly, I have come to terms that there are many ways and methods to live out your faith in a career and outside of your day job. Additionally, as I had bounced around from job to job for several years, there was work going on inside of me, helping me to understand who God created me to be and firmly establishing the divine nature that creativity plays in all of our lives.

The final piece fell into place when my family and I moved from Charlottesville, VA to Goshen, and I had the opportunity to more fully pursue the creative endeavors that for many years were a hobby, or secondary job skill I could list on a resume.

Unable to really find the kind of job I really wanted, and with plenty of encouragement of those nearest to me, I took the plunge and started R3 Design. All throughout my life and career were strong notions of working hard, always looking to grow, get better, push myself and try new things. As I embarked on this new journey, I had to embrace another common mantra: don’t be afraid to fail.

But more than the learning curve with setting up internal processes, time tracking, invoicing, taxes etc., I had to make some important decisions about how I wanted to run a business. It was all new, so I did plenty of research and looked to other designers and business people for best practices and finding success. The sources ranged wildly on their philosophies, each promising a different definition of success. Some emphasized the practical – how to obtain and keep clients, methods for billing, effective time management strategies and so forth. Others swept those items aside and focused on how to find meaning and be happy with what you are doing.

I confess that I tried out several different things and still occasionally question myself as to whether there might be a better way to do something. What has become clear to me, however, is that I am clearer in who I want to be as a business owner. I want to keep learning and growing, but I also want to be intentional in viewing clients as people, not as numbers, each with their own unique story to tell.

I love that the design field allows me to keep exploring many different worlds. In any given week, I might be working in the food sector, or cosmetics, or in the education field, or entertainment, or a church or other non-profit. I get to witness the work God is doing a variety of fields and in a variety of people. With each new project, I have an opportunity to work at character, embracing my convictions and gifts, and treating others not just how I would like to be treated, but as unique children of God, each with their own gifts and story to tell.

R3 Design Process

R3 Design Process

It was a great privilege to work with David and Carrie Lee Bland Kendall of Kendall Pictures to produce this video. Not only are they are fantastic at what they do, I am pleased to call them my friends. The music was written and produced by another friend, Nate Butler of Nimblewit Productions.

 

The world of graphic design seems limitless. There’s always room to explore, to play. But it also requires an eye for detail and craftsmanship. I love that the process is always different. Meeting people where they are with an idea and helping them refine a concept or discovering a new direction altogether is energizing. A lot of people think that design is about making something pretty. But it’s really about solving problems – communicating in the most effective way. Simple, functional, and beautiful. That’s what I work to do. That’s good design.

Design 101: Color

Design 101: Color

Deep breath. This is a HUGE topic and cannot be effectively covered in a single post, but I want to touch on the basics to get a handle on how color is used in design.  You have likely heard some catchphrases or are familiar with some basic concepts — warm and cool colors, tints vs. shades and so on — but let’s scratch a little deeper than the surface.

Color Relationships

Color shapes are based on the color wheel and looks at how different colors interact with others on the wheel.  There are four main color relationships that are often referred to, though there are certainly more, including split-complementary and tetradic among others.  The main ones are outlined below:

  • Monochromatic
    Monochromatic color schemes are derived from a single base hue and are extended using its shades, tones and tints. Tints are achieved by adding white, shades by adding black, and tones by adding gray.
  • Analogous
    Analogous color schemes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, with one being the dominant color, which tends to be a primary or secondary color, and two on either side complementing (which tend to be tertiary).
  • Complementary
    Complementary colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. When combined, they produce black, or if colored light (rather than pigment) is used, they produce white. When placed next to each other, they create the strongest contrast for those particular two colors.
  • Triadic
    A triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. The easiest way to place them on the wheel is by using a triangle of equal sides. Triadic color schemes tend to be quite vibrant, even when using pale or unsaturated versions of hues, offers a higher degree of contrast while at the same time retains the color harmony.

Hues, Tints, Shades and Tones

Do you know the difference between a hue and a color?  Trick question; a hue is any color on the color wheel. Hues are the starting point for tints, shades and tones. As referenced earlier in the monochromatic color scheme, a hue can be altered by adding black, white or gray to it. Note that this does not include mixing two colors together. Not surprisingly, tints and shades affect the “mood” of the color. Tones, meanwhile, are slightly more complex, subtle and sophisticated.

  • Tints: Sometimes referred to as a pastel, tints are any color with white added.
  • Shades: A shade is any color with black added.
  • Tones: A tone is created by adding both black and white (a.k.a. gray).

Warm and Cool Colors

The distinction between “warm” and “cool” colors has been important for centuries. It is no longer commonly referenced in modern color science, but is still frequently used in practices today.

Historically, it is related to the observed contrast in landscape light, between the “warm” colors associated with daylight or sunset and the “cool” colors associated with a gray or overcast day. Warm colors are generally known to be hues from red through yellow, while cool colors are often known to be the hues from blue green through blue violet. White, black and gray are considered to be neutral, though grays are sometimes included as cool colors.

In paintings or photographs, warm colors are said to appear more active, while cool colors tend to recede.  Within the field of interior design, warm colors tend to elicit feelings of activity or liveliness, while cool colors have a more calming and relaxing response.

warmCoolSunset

  • Warm colors are vivid and energetic, and tend to advance in space.
  • Cool colors give an impression of calm, and create a soothing impression.

Psychology of Color

I will begin by stating that in the design world, colors are extremely important, yet they are simultaneously often overstated.  What of this paradox? The problem lies in the fact that people want to apply universal truths to areas where they fundamentally do not belong.  There are certainly commonly accepted notions of how color affects mood, but color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings. In other words, you can’t truthfully state that blue means sad.

Here are some examples of overstatements that should be digested carefully:

GREEN
Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety. Green has great healing power. It is the most restful color for the human eye; it can improve vision. Green suggests stability and endurance. Green is directly related to nature, so you can use it to promote “green” products.
BLUE
Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom,confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect. Blue is strongly associated with tranquility and calmness. In heraldry, blue is used to symbolize piety and sincerity.

There are elements there that do hold water, though any given individual may wrinkle an eyebrow if the statements are assumed as absolute truths.  While color is often oversold, it cannot be denied that color affects our moods and perceptions. There is in fact, a mountain of well-documented research on how color is perceived and how we as humans react to it. Our brains are extremely responsive to visual stimuli, with color being a major factor in how we respond to that stimuli. Both consciously and sub consciously, we take some meaning from color.

This may seem like a contradiction, but put simply, color theory is just that, theory.  There are deep truths but there are hardly absolutes.  Designers should keep color psychology in mind to help make their designs resonate, but use it with a grain of salt.

Conclusion

Color is important. It is not everything. Color is complex. Color is also just fun.  In design, there is a whole lot of room to play and experiment with color. In general, the goal should be achieving color harmony; that is, something that is pleasing to the eye. Color can be used to engage the viewer and create an inner sense of order and balance in the visual experience and can figuratively breathe life into a design, but it is worth remembering too, that 1 in 12 people are color blind, and good design can still be achieved in color’s absence.

Design 101: Image File Types

Design 101: Image File Types

You’ve all seen them at one point or another, JPG, PNG, BMP, GIF, etc.  But do you know what those file extensions mean or what they are used for?  What about EPS, PSD, or AI files? Unless you are a web or print professional, it is likely you are not familiar with all of them or don’t know the differences between them. There are many more file types out there, and you might have a general idea about them, but we will examine 10 of the most common.

Vector vs. Raster

Let’s begin but examining a crucial differentiation in file types. Images can be put into two basic categories, vector and raster. The basic difference between these two file types are that vector graphics are easily scalable, while raster images are not. Vector graphics are composed of points and lines (or paths). Raster graphics, meanwhile, are composed of pixels (or individual dots). This becomes most clear to individuals when they attempt to enlarge a raster image and it becomes “pixelated.” In other words, distorted or blurry. Vector images use proportional formulas (aka math) to determine shapes at any size. This is the basic reason why vector images are used for logos, or in print design. Raster images are also commonly used in print, they are just high resolution.
Vector vs. Raster

Resolution

I must also mention resolution. Resolution translates to how detailed your image is. This is determined by DPI or PPI (dots per inch / pixels per inch) and basically refers to the density of an image. This most immediately comes into play when deciding whether you need a web or print design. Websites display images at 72 DPI, while print images are commonly at least 300 DPI.
Dots per Inch

CMYK vs. RGB

This topic deserves its own post as there is a whole lot to say about it, but for our purposes here, I will just give a basic overview. In very general terms, RGB (red, green, blue) is best for the web, and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is best for print. Both of these color modes have a limited gamut (a complete range or scope of something), and conversions can be tricky. Why? Well, RGB is “additive” while CMYK is “subtractive.” What does that mean? Additive color mixing begins with black and ends with white; as more color is added, the result is lighter and tends to white. Subtractive color mixing means that one begins with white and ends with black; as one adds color, the result gets darker and tends to black. Computer monitors emit color as RGB light while inked paper will absorb or reflect specific wavelengths.
RGB vs. CMYK
You know have a basic understanding of image types and some of their properties, so let’s look at the specific file extensions, and when is the best time to use them.

1. BMP

Bitmap

BitmapWhile this is indeed a filetype, bitmaps are also used interchangeably to refer to raster images altogether. Bitmaps are defined as a mesh of pixels. Each pixel contains  a color value. Bitmaps can contain a lot of detail, but in general are very large files and thus are not used very commonly.

2. JPEG (or JPG)

Joint Photographic Experts Group

JPGBy far the most common image file type is the JPG (or JPEG). A JPG is a raster image and the quality of the image will decrease as the file size decreases. JPGs are most commonly used on the web, but are also used in Word documents and you will also find them in your phone’s camera every time you snap a picture.

3. PNG

Portable Network Graphics

PNGAnother increasingly common file type is the PNG. These files are also better for the web than they are for print. What makes PNG special is that they can have a broad color spectrum and have a transparent background. If you have a logo or image that is white, or if you don’t want a white box around your logo, this becomes really important.

4. GIF

Graphics Interchange Format

GIFA GIF (Pronounced “jif” according to its founder) is known for being animated, though they certainly are not always. GIFs can are made up of 256 colors in the RGB color mode. File sizes are often smaller as this file type uses a limited number of colors. GIFs can also have transparent backgrounds.

5. TIFF

Tagged Image File Format

TIFFA TIFF is a raster file that has vector-like properties.  That is, it doesn’t lose quality when it’s resized.  However, these file types are usually very large and are not suitable for the web as they will take a very long time to load. They are more commonly used when saving photographs for print.

6. SVG

Scalable Vector Graphics

SVGAn SVG is an XML-based vector image format with support for interactivity and animation. The SVG specification is an open standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) since 1999. SVG images and their behaviors are defined in XML text files.

7. EPS

Encapsulated Postscript

EPSAn EPS is a vector format file most often used for print. Almost any kind of design software can create an EPS, most notably Adobe Illustrator, but other software programs, such as Quark and Corel Draw can also create and view EPS files.

8. AI

Adobe Illustrator Document

AIThe large majority of graphic designers use Adobe products to work with images. Adobe Illustrator is the flagship program to work with vector images and is used to create AI files. Adobe Illustrator can also create various other file types, such a EPS, PDF, and SVG files.

9. PSD

Photoshop Document

PSDTo be technical, a PSD is not just an image file type. PSDs are viewed using Adobe Photoshop, another hugely popular Adobe product. This type of file contains “layers” that make modifying the image much easier to handle. Photoshop generates raster files though it is possible to work with vector images within the program.  Users will not be able to view this file type without the program.

10. PDF

Portable Document Format

PDFTo be technical once again, a PDF is more of a document type than an image type, though it can be used view images, so I have included it here. PDFs are also an Adobe product, created with the goal of being a universally viewable file. In large part, this goal has been achieved. Many print shops can use PDFs for print projects (if they are high resolution). PDFs are considered to be an excellent file type for sharing graphics.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many ways to display an image, and instances where it makes a lot of sense to favor one file type over the other.  Having a basic understanding not only of file types but also the concepts of vector and raster, as well as color modes will greatly help when working on a design project.

Design 101: The Logo

Design 101: The Logo

The logo.  The starting point for so many start-ups, aspiring artists, and small businesses as they turn their attention to identity, branding and/or marketing.  This is in fact a good place for us to begin.  Many people use these terms interchangeably, and while there is certainly overlap, they are indeed all different. Well known designer Jacob Cass of Just Creative provides an excellent framework.

  • Logo: A logo identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon.
  • Identity: The visual aspects that form part of the overall brand.
  • Brand:  The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.

These elements all define an organization and set the tone for the relationship with its clients or customers.

What makes for a good logo?

So to the topic at hand.  What makes for a good logo?  Does it have to be famous? Does it have to be clever? Does it have to be  visually stunning?  Well, a good logo can actually be all or none of these things. There are several elements though that really help define an effective logo. Let’s break them down.

The Elements

An effective logo is:

  • Simple
  • Memorable
  • Timeless
  • Versatile
  • Appropriate

Let’s look at these one by one in a little more detail.

Simple

Simple does not mean boring. Simplicity is such a beautiful thing.  Think about your logo as your introduction — “Hello, my name is…” Most people don’t try and cram in their personal history and interests into the first words the utter when they meet someone. A great logo delivers all the meaning it intends to almost immediately. Don’t make your audience guess. When it comes to logos, simplicity is also what helps make a logo memorable.

Simple. These famous logos are instantly recognizable, versatile, work great in monochrome.

Simple Logos

Memorable

The Swoosh, the Golden Arches, the bitten fruit. While the massive size of these companies has helped enhance the reach, what remains true is that their logos stay with you.  Admittedly, there is also a bit of an enigmatic aspect about this, though creating a memorable logo is often thought out, well crafted, and relatable to the company.  Stay away from stock sites.  The logo elements there are often pretty generic.

Did you know that Apple’s logo makes use of the golden ratio?

Creation of the Apple Logo

Timeless

We can look to the two largest soft drink companies in the world to contrast the approach to being timeless. The Coca-Cola logo was created by Frank Mason Robinson, in 1885 and has remained relatively unchanged since then. Meanwhile, the Pepsi logo has had no less than 5 typeface changes, an introduction of a new color (which also shifted throughout its history) and new mark, (which also changed over a 50 year period). The graphic below is admittedly an overstatement as Coca Cola has had some variations with its Coke logo. Nevertheless, carrying the distinctive cursive typeface for over 100 years speaks to the longevity of good design.

Two major soft drink companies have approached their logos quite differently over the last century.

Pepsi and Coca Cola Logos Through the Years

Versatile

Size matters. When designing a logo, it is actually more advantageous to think small. It will be much easier to scale up than down. Perhaps start by thinking what your logo will look like on a business card as opposed to a times square billboard. The Puma logo is recognizable on a shirt sleeve.  Color is also crucially important here. If your logo has more than five colors, it might be time to think redesign.  Even that is a little high.  Most designers begin by designing in black and white before adding color into their design.   This allows one to focus on the concept and shape, rather than the subjective nature of color. Similarly, it is also advisable to avoid gradients or overly detailed illustrations. This helps ensure versatility when you need to use your logo in a newspaper or photocopy or rubber stamp or when it is embossed. One other consideration with color is cost.  When printing, the more colors used, the more expensive it will be for the business over the long term.

These are terribly complicated and difficult to scale down, or use in grayscale.

Simplify!

 

Appropriate

Have you ever seen hot pink power tools? A cartoon baby as a beer mascot?  There’s a reason these things don’t exist. Some associations are more obvious than others, and sometimes a juxtaposition can make a statement, but in general, it is not a good idea to pair elements that don’t really belong together, such as a jagged, gothic font with baby products.  Additionally, getting feedback is vitally important to avoid the nightmare of an “unfortunate logo.”

How did these get past the design stage?  Why didn’t anybody say something!

unfortunateLogos

 

Final Thoughts

Great logos don’t just happen.  They are a result of hard work – a process that involves research, personalization, sketching, re-imagining and a lot of creativity. This is what makes a great logo priceless, and the reason why many people who opt for a quick or cheap route often feel unsatisfied. You get what they pay for.

So how much does a good logo cost? Designer David Airey sums up the design dilemma by noting that asking the question “How much for a logo?” is kind of like asking a real estate agent, “How much for a house?” There are plenty of websites out there where you can get a logo as little as $5! You can even get designers to bid on your project and you can choose the best one.  There are a lot of problems with this model, but think about it this way:

Your logo is often your first impression. Have it say something about who you are.  That is the point after all.

Things to Consider When Posting Photos

Things to Consider When Posting Photos

You’ve got your new site all set up and are now wanting to populate it with more content. If the text on your site is main course, the images you post are the dessert, or at the very least, the spices. Consider carefully what photos you choose to post. It should be relevant, good quality and formatted properly. This will be one of the the highest impact aspects of your website, and will reveal much more than you might think.

Getting Web ready

Once you have selected an appropriate  image, most inexperienced web content managers make the mistake of just uploading whatever pictures came off of their camera without doing any prep.  In other words, the pictures are not “web-ready.” What do I mean by web-ready? Primarily, this means resizing and optimization. This is so an image can fit properly on a page and also load quickly.

Shrink vs Crop

The two main ways to resize an image are to shrink it or crop it.  Properly framing an image is an art form in and of itself, but at the very least, you should consider what is happening inside your picture.  What is the focal point?  Are there “unnecessary” things going on in the background (does the ceiling really need to be visible above the group shot)? For more details on image composition, check out these pointers from Digital Camera World.  Be careful when resizing to make sure you keep the size ratio intact.

Image distortion can make your entire site look amateurish regardless of how well built the rest of it is.

Consider a Naming Convention

For those familiar with WordPress or other CMS systems, a folder directory is surprisingly absent. Many media library functions under a search paradigm, so naming conventions become extremely important if you want to stay organized.  Even if you are going a more conventional HTML route, having a good naming convention is a best practice your pictures.  One common way to help organize your library is to lead the name of all your files with the date and then have some sort of description in the file name as well, though finding the right balance between description and file name length can be tricky.  A good example might be “20140101_fireworks” — and is certainly much more helpful than trying to remember what “IMG_1034″ is.

File type

Most images will be .jpegs though .gifs and .pngs are also common.  The latter two allow you to have transparent backgrounds in your image, which is often helpful, but often not necessary.  There are a whole lot of other image file types, but most of the web runs on these file types.

Free Tools

Here are several services (all free!) you might consider if you do not have access to Photo editing software. There are of course many others out there that may work better for you. Feel free to comment with your favorite.

  • Canva: The best of the bunch with a simple, drag-and-drop interface and over 10 million users
  • Pic Resize: has a batch function, allowing you to resize multiple images at once.
  • Resize Your Image: features a simple interface that gives you dimensions of your image.
  • Web Resizer: has an optimization function and the rounded corners feature is a nice addition.

Besides web based tools, there are also free downloadable software programs.

  • GIMP: a well known, freely distributed piece of software for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.
  • Free Picture Resizer – This is a free downloadable program from the good folks at CNET

We’ve all seen a “wow” image but unfortunately, we can’t all produce them.  However, using these simple tools and guidelines will help give your web site a fresh, professional and attractive presentation.

LaunchPad

LaunchPad

One of the catalysts with taking R3 Design to the next level has been my involvement with LaunchPad. What is LaunchPad? Essentially, it is a business incubator that aims to fill the gap between the coffee shop and the leased office space for entrepreneurs. Last year, the Goshen City Chamber of Commerce opened up LaunchPad in order to stimulate the economy and help local businesses thrive. An excerpt:

LaunchPad is the newest addition to the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Over the past ten years downtown Goshen has been quietly attracting entrepreneurs who are drawn to the vibrancy of the downtown commercial district and its unique and creative environment. Many of these entrepreneurs started their companies in the local coffee shop or at Goshen College, located just outside of downtown. But it took a while before their companies were ready to occupy storefronts and second floor lofts.

This morning a local news station, WSBT stopped by to feature a story on this burgeoning enterprise. There was definitely some excitement in the air, though everyone remained characteristically calm as well. It is just how people roll at LaunchPad. At least the current tenants. The space is great, and functions very much like a cafe/study hall/business area. Folks come in with their laptop, find an open desk and get to it. There are resources available, webcam enabled conference rooms, mentoring, but mostly, I love being able to have a dedicated workspace and I love the collaborative atmosphere. There will likely be some future work done with fellow tenants, so be on the lookout!

Here is a look at the finished piece:

On Being a Designer

On Being a Designer

I was never the kid who knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up.  In fact, I do believe I wanted to be many different things at many different points… hockey player, astronaut, fireman, robot.  I don’t think I ever thought about being a designer.  I always loved to draw though, and excelled among my first grade peers. Admittedly, the competition wasn’t that fierce; perhaps most kids didn’t see art as a viable career choice, but even as I got older, as much as I loved it, art was always a hobby.

When it was time to make some career choices, I was advised to “do what you love” or “what you find interesting.” Sadly, my soccer skills were not quite world class caliber and I needed a fall back.  In college, it was Psychology.  I was fascinated by the human mind, by our amazing capacity for greatness and dysfunction, sometimes simultaneously. I wanted to know why people did they things they did, and I wanted to help people along the way as well.

Post college, I bounced around a lot, but slowly and steadily I began cultivating a deep interest in graphic design. It started with creating promo materials for a band I was in, then a website, then some marketing materials and websites for friends, and more and more I began integrating these skill sets into my repertoire and into my job choices. Without really realizing it, my twenties were refining me into a graphic designer.

So after finally taking the plunge and making a career choice of it, I have much more intentionally  been contemplating what makes a good designer and have been voraciously slurping up as much knowledge and inspiration as I am able.  There are several opinions out there as to what makes a good designer and while there will certainly be overlap, there will also be a fair bit of disagreement. Design, like much of art has a subjective component, after all. Brianne Radtke, of design firm Ashworth Creative breaks a good designer down into six characteristics:  Education, Artistic Ability,  Knowing Your Tools,  Knowing Your Industry and Market, Enforcing a Responsible and Honest Work Ethic, and Designing Smarter.

You can read the details on that but what immediately jumps out to me is that a good designer has to be widely knowledgeable, is constantly learning, not only about their craft, but also about the world around them and all of the people they interact with.  What used to drive me crazy when I was trying to decide on a career is what in fact may be my biggest asset.

My biggest leap in terms of personal growth in the area was seeing myself as enough of an entrepreneur that I would actually start my own business.  I was recently reading an article in WIRED where the author, Jessica Alter, pointed out that the conventional wisdom is that, “Designers want to design. Most entrepreneurs, in contrast, are actually not amazing at any one thing.”  I had always seen myself as jack of all trades — could I actually be sharing this major characteristic of an entrepreneur?

At face value, being a good designer and a good entrepreneur seem to be at odds.  That is, an entrepreneur must be flexible, figuring things out as they go since their business is not just about their passion but the passions of their market.  They, in fact, must balance the needs of themselves, their customers, but also their teams and investors. So, viewing this paradigm through the eyes of a designer, there is a remarkable overlap in skill set and interest.  For designers, they must also be acutely aware of what the market wants in addition to their own passion.  They too, walk a fine line between their audience, customers, and colleagues. And, much like entrepreneurs , they are ultimately problem-solvers.

This is in fact, where I feel I excel. Let me be frank. I am admittedly, not the most skillful in programming or image manipulation. I am not the best artist in any medium.  There are tons way better. But the instances in which customers need the best of the best with a very specific skill is next to nil. Most would gladly trade a technological wizard for a good listener who can put their ideas into action and help articulate a vision. Someone who has a good understanding of human nature and can breathe life into their dreams.  This translates to good design in user experience, interaction design, usability, all psychological facets. I see now how that Psych. degree is really paying off.

Addendum: Infographic by London industrial designer Robert Bye


A Good Designer Infographic

Infographic by London industrial designer Robert Bye

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

This year, I am not setting any goals! You heard right!  There were a few that seemed really achievable as I was trolling to interwebs, like:

  • DON’T LET ANYTHING GET IN THE WAY…of eating a pint of ice cream in one sitting
  • IT”S NEVER TOO LATE… to forget a foreign language you vaguely learned in high school
  • SEE THE WORLD… with the magic of the internet
  • Something, something saving money
  • (see the full list here)

But in all seriousness, I start the year thanking my wife who has been a huge support for me in so many ways.  This is not to be taken for granted peeps!  A good woman is in fact priceless. She forwarded me an article on the differences between goals and systems.  The author of the article argues that a systems approach is much more effective “when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you.”

He then outlines the traps that people can sometimes fall into when setting goals and how they can actually be counter productive. They can induce stress, are often short-sighted and suggest that we can can control the uncontrollable.  Systems, on the other hand, provide a mechanism for ongoing progress that is both measurable and satisfying. When focusing on the practice instead of the performance, it is in fact much easier to enjoy the ride while getting better at what you do.  To me, this is essentially talking about discipline, an area where I  often feel lacking, but it is just different when you are doing what you love.

Ultimately, he concludes saying “Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.”

So, it looks like I can just do what I love, design. Also, did I mention I love cheese?

Just Get Out There and Start Eating Cheese

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings and Endings

The year ends and so begins the next chapter of R3 Design.  If you are a first time visitor, let me back it up.

2013 was the year that I formally launched this venture.  For nearly a decade, I had “traditional jobs, ” freelancing and doing design on the side, mostly for fun. I loved it, and the more I did it and learned about it, the more I loved it. After getting pregnant with our second kid, my wife and I began thinking about being closer to family.  I had been working at the University of Virginia for five years, eventually becoming “Assistant Director for Engagement Communications” for our office. I did a lot of marketing and copy editing and while I had some room for creativity, a job switch seemed a perfect opportunity to dive head first into the world of design.

In the fall of 2012, we moved back to northern Indiana. Memories of my high school years and college days flooded back, though Goshen had changed.  I had changed as well, and with growing confidence, I was hungry to try something new.

I found myself in a difficult market, and the search seemed endless.  When a part-time opening for an office job crossed my path, I saw the opportunity to launch my own business and minimize the feast or famine dynamic of freelancing, and having some stability while building up a client base.  Not a full year later, I am pleased to have made some wonderful new connections while maintaining previous ones.

I remain uncertain of where things will go exactly, but that is part of the adventure.  Regardless, I am thankful for what has taken place, for how far I have already come, and am so excited to see what 2014 brings!

 

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