Toxicity | Environmental Agenda | Eduardo Cortes

Has anyone ever heard of "Cradle To Cradle"? It's a book written by architect, William McDonough, and German chemist, Michael Braungart, about rethinking (and ultimately remaking) the things we make. They're calling for a drastic transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design. In this book, McDonough and Braungart make the case that "an industrial system that takes, makes, and wastes can become a creator of goods and services that generate ecological, social and economic value." Essentially, the way we've been making things for the past however many years has yielded extreme consequences to our environment. They urge that we must to get back to a model that resembles the rain cycle; when products can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality -- "cradle to cradle" cycles. And in order to do this there must be a juncture between science, technology, and art (design).

Building green has historically been perceived as more expensive and less profitable for developers. However, the opposite is true. While on the front-end these procedures are typically more expensive, if you can ultimately build a high-performing structure that saves the owner money over time, while also being better for the environment and for the people using the building, it's a no-brainer. Likewise, it's also a no-brainer for me to start thinking about graphic design in that way as well. Like Sarah Even stated in a recent post, "When it comes to distribution and my personal feelings about design I really wish there was a way to make it cheap, eco-friendly, AND beautiful." Well, if there's a will, there's a way, right?

As I said before, I think it's all about the intersection of science, technology, and art (design). Being a huge supporter of sustainable design, I think it's our job to work with others in order to find a better way to go about doing things. A great example of this is the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. In this competition, multidisciplinary teams of undergraduate students from all over the world come together to dabble in scientific exploration of synthetic biology concepts with an eye toward real world applications. According to the iGEM site, "student teams are given a kit of biological parts meted out from an official Registry of Standard Biological Parts which they use as components to specify, design, build and test simple biological systems." Participants then present their findings to a selected panel of judges.

The 2009 Jamboree took place at MIT and the Grand Prize winner was the Cambridge team for their work on "sensitivity tuners and color-generating devices that can detect and measure levels of contaminants in the environment". The simple sensing mechanism created by the Cambridge iGEM team came about as a result of multidisciplinary thinking at the juncture of science, technology, and art. Their discovery has the potential to change the lives of tens of thousands of people living in remote areas of developing countries where pollution looms as an increasingly significant threat.

These are exactly the types of projects we all need to take initiative from. Projects in which we work and build relationships with experts in areas other than design; projects where we make products that can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material quality; and projects that help the greater good, ultimately making our world a better place to live.

Toxicity | Financial | Eduardo Cortes

Being faced with the harsh reality of finding a job after graduation, I've recently come to view our current economic situation as a toxic one. A "toxic economy" if you will. As Allison Hall said in a previous post, "This is not a good time for us to be emerging into the real world. In response to the country's economic situation companies are downsizing, employees have increasingly more responsibilities, and being a good candidate for a job often means having a wide skill set. It's a competitive market." Yes, competitive to say the least.

True, jobs are practically impossible to find, even though "graphic design is a relatively new field that is constantly changing with technology and innovation". But once you do find a job, the work load is extremely dense (due to cutbacks and so much work being allocated to one individual) and the pressure is on more than ever. Needless to say, thinking about all this has got me wanting to crawl in a cave and hibernate with the bears until the dark days are over.

Luckily, my outlook has become much more positive after having a discussion with one of my professors the other day. You see, historically, tough economic times have been the catalyst for innovative thinking. For example, Polaroid was formed after the Great Depression, MTV came close on the heels of the recession in the 1980′s, and Apple's iPod was developed during a sharp decline in sales of consumer electronics. If history is bound to repeat itself, I'd say the current economic downturn may not be good for everyone, but it can be a perfectly good opportunity for innovation. And when you think about it this way, suddenly design/innovation/creativity becomes the great force behind economic recovery and prosperity. 

Dev Patnaik, founder and chief executive of Jump Associates, a Silicon Valley growth strategy firm (clients include Nike, Target, and Hewlett-Packard) discusses the infrastructure of innovation in "Forget Design Thinking and Try Hybrid Thinking." Patnaik suggests that there is a unique role that designers, with their skill-set and unique way of thinking, can play in making products, services, and experiences better.  He then pushes beyond that thought to propose that something bigger is going on in the minds of successful innovators. "The secret isn't design thinking, it's "hybrid thinking ". It's the conscious blending of different fields of thought to discover and develop opportunities that were previously unseen by the status quo."

Now, he's not simply referring to multi-tasking here. True hybrid thinkers work with and between traditional areas of expertise, and are able to connect the dots between what's culturally desirable, technically feasible, and viable from a business point of view.  The new face of innovation demands that we "see the world through multiple lenses and draw meaning from seemingly unrelated points of data."

Being a hybrid thinker matters now because the problems we need to solve are too complex to be handled by just one skill set. We all know that the good old days when depth in a single field trumps breadth in multiple areas are gone. I think that in order to combat this toxic economy, we as designers/innovators must think in and outside the box (as well as inspect the perimeters).

The Third Age | Personal | Mo Becker


Since the third age refers to our impact on the environment, I spent a while thinking about what my carbon footprint is, and how environmentally conscious I am being. Overall, I believe I'm pretty 'green'. I reduce, reuse, recycle, and rely on my bike and feet to get me places. While I grew up in a household that recycled, and it seems normal to me, it still may be a relatively new idea to some Americans. Ok, maybe a new idea wasn't the write choice of words; but I think it would be a change of lifestyle. According to this article, 23% of Americans don't recycle for various reasons ranging from availability, too much effort, costs, and just plain ignorance.

As far as transportation goes, biking is very popular in Minneapolis. Voted the most bike-friendly state in the nation and boasting more bicyclists than Portland, Minneapolis is greatly reducing its carbon emissions. I make a point to never ride my bike in the winter; 1) because of the cold, 2) because of the damage salt, sand, and ice would have on my already fragile bike, and 3) because its terrifying.

Besides more obvious ways of trying to save our planet, there are other ways that we still take for granted, and most likely don't even think about. Some examples include looking at what chemicals are in the food and products we purchase, the waste we produce, and how far they had to travel to get there. I think its important to point out that even if we believe that we are being green, there is almost always something more we can do to help out our mother.

The Third Age | Financial | Mo Becker

In the Third Age and the Green Movement, there are two main reasons why it has taken so long for our society to catch on. Those reasons are convenience and cost. When discussing cost, there is more to consider than just money. Time and energy are also ways that we pay for things. In this article, the ongoing argument of the overall cost-effectiveness of recycling is outlined. In 1996, columnist John Tierney posted an article saying that,

"Mandatory recycling programs, ...offer mainly short-term benefits to a few groups -- politicians, public relations consultants, environmental organizations and waste handling corporations -- while diverting money from genuine social and environmental problems. Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America..."

Granted this was in 1996, when the whole idea of 'being green' was just gaining momentum in the States, but I think that he touched on some common beliefs that some of us still hold today. Maybe not worded so harshly, but there is a question of how financially responsible some recycling and composting options are. Is it really worth it? On the other hand, Michael Shapiro, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Solid Waste responded to this with the statement,

"A well-run curbside recycling program can cost anywhere from $50 to more than $150 per ton...trash collection and disposal programs, on the other hand, cost anywhere from $70 to more than $200 per ton. This demonstrates that, while there's still room for improvements, recycling can be cost-effective."

Here is another article dealing with the same issue with solar panels.

Innovation | Personal | Caitlin Cave



Let me begin by admitting that I have completed this blog post a week after its due date. Additionally, I have not completed two of the four comments required by this point in our course. You will soon see why I have admitted these faults, and why, I argue, I shouldn't be sorry about it. Warning: there is some real deep naval gazing ahead.

I'm of the belief that everybody is capable of greatness through innovation. But the question then arises, why doesn't everybody display greatness in innovation? I think there is a simple, yet wholly complicated answer: Fear of failure. Let me begin this blog post by describing where I think the fear of failure comes from, particularly for students of the academy (of which we are all members of). The fear of failure comes from a precedence of greatness and excellence - grades, in the case of the academy - and the expectations that a person will fulfill certain criteria that aligns them with excellence. What happens, though, is that we find ourselves fulfilling the criteria expected of us, and being too exhausted to reach beyond that, which is to say, we feel an expectation to reach beyond that criteria. It is this precedence that (unfortunately) becomes our demarcation for success.

You may be asking at this point, why is this bad? And in response, I'm asking myself, where do I begin to start explaining why this is bad? All of our energy is expended on fulfilling the quota, making sure that we have dotted all of our Is and crossed all of our Ts. But while we're making sure we're living up to the expectations of our program - because let's be honest here, we're apart of the academy because we have chosen to be - we're becoming further malleable to the expectations to fulfill the very requirements that keep us from experiencing innovation. We develop ulcers and complexes from simply trying to perform to the (bare minimum) expectations of our program so much so that we are paralyzed in fear to reach towards innovation, because frankly, we're going to fail. I'm starting to believe that a fear of failure is the one failure of success (deep, I know).

In an act of predictability, being afraid of failure will be the biggest fault of my life. I know this. And now, so do you. But how do I get away from the fear of failure? Maybe it's admitting to my personal faults, my failures, the things that make me fear in the first place. Is it just simply accepting my imperfection and moving on from there? Guess what: I don't know. But what I do know is that failure is just a part of the game. I will never be perfect, and as hard as this is for you to hear, neither will you. Perfection is simply a false idea we've created to keep us going, which, on one hand is imperative to moving ahead, because if we didn't believe in success through perfection we would have no reason to succeeded. But the other side of the same coin is that the idea of perfection is the crux to our personal failures, and ultimately, our inability to move ourselves forward. And the furthest thing from innovation is stagnation.

This is all very bilateral, but wisdom often is: If you haven't done a bad design, you don't know what good design is. If you haven't been poor, you can't appreciate the richness of wealth. If you've never been uncomfortable, you can never know true comfort. Etc. Etc.

In the interest of naval gazing, I will provide you, my reader, with some of my very personal insecurities.

What I am afraid of:
Being unemployable
Coming off as uneducated or stupid
Admitting failure to my parents, friends, and other family
Needing to ask for help

And it's precisely what I'm afraid of that keeps me paralyzed.

Some things I've failed at thus far:
Being a skinny bitch
Looking scary
Graduating on time
Keeping my goals at the forefront of my psyche
Charging through life without a care in the world
Attaining a command of the English language
Learning a second language
Being thought of as a genius or prodigy
Spelling prodigy correctly the first time
Graduating from the Art Center College of Design

It has taken me three months to order winter boots because I'm afraid that whatever I order will be the wrong choice, a waste of money. Careful, maybe, but I'm going to get frostbite before I ever fail at picking the right boots. Additionally, I will share some wisdom I picked up this morning on the way out the door: if you're running late, accept it, because you will inevitably fall on ice in your haste. And it is here, that I leave the subject, to be pondered personally. I don't have an answer, but I think being aware of how failure leads to innovation and the fear surrounding failure is a step in the right direction. So, I'm going to start by not being sorry this blog post was late, without being late I would have never written this particular post. So, sorry I'm not sorry.

In conclusion, embrace your failures and try not to let them affect your personal sphere devastatingly. Rather, remind yourself that the creative process requires failure and without failure, you cannot move forward.

But don't just take my word for it. Here are some links to articles that discuss the correlation of failure and innovation from a much less personal gaze:

Risk Taking - Fast Company
Threats - Bloomberg Businessweek
Slightly Unrelated - Bloomberg Businessweek

Financial affordability...kind of a weird combination of terms. But that's where I'm at this blog post round. So here goes.

I came across this blog post in my search and found it very refreshing:, mainly because I, myself, tend to de-value myself without even realizing it. I remember the first time I got paid for my graphic design services, it was a piddly invoice, but at the time I felt like I was robbing my client. I just couldn't believe that I was getting paid to do something that I really enjoyed and that didn't feel like work. These days my bills have taken away that feeling and I'm starting to recognize the value in what I'm giving my clients. A lot of this has to do with my realization that they really can't do it without me. Non-designers just can't get the job done as well as a trained designer. I think recognizing that was key in valuing myself, and thus expecting my clients to see that as well.

Now the hard part comes when you run into the people who still don't get that. Or better yet, the people who say "just whip something up quick" as if it was as easy as clicking our mouse a few times and a great logo just magically appears. Not so. For me personally I don't need to be getting paid millions of dollars for my logos or website designs. As long as I can pay my bills and save some money, live comfortably, I'm happy.

I've been thinking about this concept a lot in my current job. Right now it's the highest paying graphic design job that I have had yet, but it's not necessarily my favorite. There are things about the work environment and the way the company runs that I'm not the biggest fan of, which has been a great learning experience, but then brings me to ask myself if it's worth it. Do I bother staying in a job that I'm at only to gain professional experience and a paycheck that covers my expenses? Or do I stick it out knowing it's going to be short term and I can't afford to be job-less right now?

Unfortunately my answer is the latter, and I wish it didn't have to be that way, but sometimes there comes a point when you just have to be realistic. And on the other hand, I wouldn't have known what I do and don't like had I not experienced this, so now when going into another job I'll know what questions to ask and what to look out for. The end goal is to find a job that meets my financial needs as well as my personal needs. I'm a firm believer that just like your soul mate, that job is out there somewhere!

But does that help me stay motivated in the mean time? Hardly. Most of the time when I'm working on projects I reach a point of interest that goes beyond the time spent on it and the hours lost of sleep. That is to say, I disregard my paycheck out of love for the project. Many times that inspiration comes from outside factors of respect for the client or desire to please them and nail the project for their sake. So if there is a disrespect or a frustration with the client, that motivation goes out the window, and at that point it doesn't matter how big your paycheck is, you just don't want to do it. That's how it is for me at least.

On a particularly unmotivated day I came across this post: Especially when it says, "Having an uncomfortable and sturdy work environment can easily decrease ones level of motivation." I have felt that for sure in my current position and it was kind of an eye opener to read that.

And I guess in the end, if I'm not motivated, how can I produce quality work that anyone will actually pay me for? In other words, working to meet your financial needs goes beyond the salary offered and encompasses multiple factors.

The Third Age | Social | Mo Becker


It's no secret that the green movement has become immensely popular in both social and business settings. Like Patrick mentioned in his last post, companies are going as far as to 'greenwash' their companies by advertising green practices that they actually do not do. It's just their way of capitalizing on the so-called green craze. However, there is an up side to all these shenanigans. Besides having a more environmentally conscious society, there has been a surge of various creative ways to reduce, recycle and re-use. In this example, Dave Rittinger has made shirts out of fallen leaves. This is a prime example of getting back to basics. With no manufacturing, transporting, dying, and very little materials used; green has officially become the next trendy thing.

Although many companies still try to save money by cutting corners and not taking into account the environmental ramifications, there is a growing trend of companies and businesses that put quality and responsibility before making an extra few dollars. UNStudio is a design studio that specializes in energy efficient architecture. Their most recent accomplishment is having their design chosen for the new Singapore University of Technology and Design. This facility will earn the highest rating in energy efficiency that is given in Singapore.

Another social happening revolving around the third age is recycled fashion. Fashion Designer Gary Harvey, has coined the term 'Dumpster Chic' for New York Fashion week. Using materials that are found in dumpsters such as copies of the Financial Times, old baseball jackets, and empty skincare packaging he creates dresses and gowns. My main point being that being green isn't just for hippies and tree-huggers anymore. It's a part of our society and our culture.

Toxicity | Personal | Eduardo Cortes


Now that a lot of us are seniors and are graduating college to pursue a professional career path, we must be able to consider our attitudes and take an outsider's look at the way we work. (Basically, we have to be willing to critique ourselves). In addition, we will soon be working alongside other designers that may have conflicting opinions and other ways of doing things in contrast to ourselves. We will be working with these people for an extended period of time and I believe our functionality depends on the atmosphere in which we are surrounded.

During tonight's class, Greg talked about some rules we should follow while on the job in order to carry out a standard of professionalism. Unfortunately I, as well as many of my peers, have had the experience of working with and alongside individuals who do not follow these standards of professionalism. And I have come to refer to these individuals as "toxic" people. Toxic people are individuals who can literally and figuratively make you sick at work. We all know these people and have come across them throughout our professional and personal lives. They are the teachers, bosses, co-workers, and employees that can give you the proverbial "pain in the neck". In my opinion, these people do not follow the standard of professionalism that we as a class have been taught.

For example, I have recently been in a work environment with someone I will refer to as a "know-it-all". I believe we all know this type of person; this is the person who talks as if they know everything about every topic that exists in the history of man. Personally, I think that these individuals should be confronted about their bad behavior. How I've learned to adapt is to stop these people by giving them some sort of recognition, but at the same time ask them clarifying questions to ultimately expose the incorrect issues they bring up. That way they can come to understand that they don't have all the answers and there are other ways to go about solving problems. Other toxic individuals that could potentially harm the work environment are whiners, individuals who always seem to have a negative outlook, and individuals that solely look for attention seeking opportunities.

I think that no matter what we will have to coexist with these types of people, but I also believe that it is our duty to try to alter their negative habits into more constructive ones. As I stated before, you can learn to adapt to a "know-it-all" by giving them recognition, but at the same time asking them to the clarify questions you may have about their topic. We must not only come to know how to work with these individuals, but also how to help them in the long run as well. Basically, it's an integral part of life to work amongst individuals who operate differently than us. And help them when their behavior is becoming a nuisance in the workplace.

Can biodegradable be a personal option?


Up until now all of my blog posts have argued that political policy and corporate responsibility are the key components in creating biodegradable products, design and materials. But this post will be the optimistic opinion, because in the last important choice anyone makes for themselves or their loved ones there is a biodegradable answer: biodegradable caskets. For centuries ancient societies used mummification to preserve the physical being of a person, most often for important individuals. There is one society still mummify their dead (National Geographic, April 2010). There is also a group in Utah who offer a pet mummification service. More recently in the rest of the world cremation and wooden or metal caskets inside of concrete boxes, or even sarcophagus's were the options for preparing the body after death. While there are these small groups who are still preparing bodies for the afterlife in the least biodegradable way possible, there are more people planning on cremation or allowing their body to break down into the earth quickly.

With the population of the world growing and growing, and cemeteries filling capacity, our world really is shrinking. So why not save some space and become your own biodegradable option? While some cemetaries prefer that new residents use certain materials that are not very "green," there is a way around this. The law in Minnesota states that funeral plots can be made on personal property as long as the property is 3 or more acres. And for those looking to have a beautiful casket for your ceremony then there are a variety of casket designs made from untreated wood or even paper. There are a great deal of religious and personal issues that abound with the topic of death, but I think that people are starting to think about the world as a place that they can leave without leaving behind a physical trace for decades to come. I also think that since people feel so strongly about death this is one area of biodegradability that the government would be unable to pass any sort of strict regulations. I respect that people have the choice to do with their bodies what they feel is best for their beliefs, whether they are religious and/or environmentally minded (because I do not think that those two things are opposites).

Distribution -- Personal Agenda -- Sarah Even


When it comes to distribution and my personal feelings about design I really wish there was a way to make it cheap, eco-friendly, AND beautiful. Unfortunately this would be a huge accomplishment if someone could actually achieve this! It's a conundrum I think most designers face every day. It's like Greg Pickman said is class a few weeks ago, "price, speed, quality...pick two." (except trade speed for eco-friendly) It's too bad we can't work in a world where this isn't the case.

I think I will face some difficult, moral situations in my future career as a designer. I would like to be able to educate my clients about eco-friendly design. I'd love to have the ability to say "no" to a job that is not friendly to the environment. If I can't, I hope I'll be able to delicately steer my client in a better direction at least.

Yesterday I got an email from the University about filling out my course evaluation online. I was shocked and happy to see that the U is taking a step towards being more eco-friendly. This method of distributing the evaluations is so obvious. I wish it had come about earlier. Things like this are what I hope to bring to my future career!

Made in the USA: Still Alive? (financial)


I browsed the web for this topic, as I wasn't quite sure where to start. I knew that I wanted to talk about manufacturing and jobs going over seas. But my opinion altered some after reading the following article:
Made in USA Is Alive and Well: Manufacturing Goes High-End and the USA is Still the Global Leader

I wouldn't say it changed it completely, but it did make me more aware which was the point. I was going to come in saying how it's terrible how jobs are all going overseas, blah, blah, blah. But after reading this article, I had an "ah I see" moment. It basically lined up a few simple facts: yes a lot of the production for our lower cost items is going overseas, because let's face it, we can't compete with the wages or the amount of people willing to do the job. BUT what I didn't know is that US manufacturing is still doing well. Extremely well, in fact:
"The U.S. by far remains the world's leading manufacturer by value of goods produced. It hit a record $1.6 trillion in 2007 -- nearly double the $811 billion in 1987. For every $1 of value produced in China's factories, America generates $2.50" (Perry).

So we're still outputting a ton of goods, and making a lot of money off of it. According to the article, we're building things that no one else can build! We've moved high-end. We're making military planes, weapons and parts for space shuttles. It's exciting, right? Then how come people keep complaining that jobs are going overseas? Well, they are. But we're producing so many goods still! We're still making so much money from manufacturing products! That's all true as well.

Our problem is that we're just too productive. You heard me. The reason we can produce so many goods, and make so much money and STILL continue to lead the world in manufacturing as far as numbers go is that our workers are so much more productive. What this means is that companies can get rid of more employees because the ones they have continue to produce more each year. "Once this recession runs its course, surviving manufacturers will emerge more efficient and profitable, economists say. More valuable products will be made using fewer people" (Perry). This does say a lot for our productivity and work ethic, but it means less jobs. That's great that the companies that survive the recession will come out of it more profitable, but if they also come out of it not needing to replace the people they cut during the recession, then it's definitely not improving job prospects for anyone.

The point is, that being aware of these things helps you see the world around you better and have a deeper understanding of what' s going on. I get that the numbers are there for the companies, they are profiting still. And when you hear that guy complaining about all those jobs heading overseas, you can correct him. Sure, some of the jobs are being sent over there but the truth is, we're just too productive. Companies don't need to employ as many people as they did in order to get the job done. Beneficial to the businesses, but it sucks for the job market. Hopefully, however, we will use our productiveness and develop all kinds of innovations that will help spur the job market forward in the stead of all our manufacturing jobs.

Profit | Social | Kirk Steineck


First of all I disagree with the definition of the personal agenda that has been provided. The definition provided states that designing for the personal agenda is to design to the personal tastes of the consumer. This to me makes no sense. Designing in a personal way, to me, means designing to my personal taste, to designing with my interests in mind. Not my boss, not the client, and especially not the consumer. I believe that a designer designing for him/herself is something that is ignored and a little bit of a foreign concept to most designers. As a designer one of the greatest challenges is working with the customer, pleasing people who have different tastes and ideas, and some times we designers get to work with many different tastes and opinions at once. Such as committee based design. Gary Hartley, posted a humors, and terrifyingly accurate summation of what designing by committee can be like.

"A typical committee based design process

1. Initial design consultation with client
2. Design spec developed and pre-agreed
3. Ideas generation and presentation to client
4. Feedback
* Susan gives her thoughts
* Clive gives his thoughts that contradicts Susans
* Malcolm gives his thoughts 2 weeks later that contradicts Susans and Clives
* Mike loves it and doesn't want any changes making
* Clives wife adds her two cents
* Two members of the committee fail to give feedback
5. Designer makes revisions
6. Feedback
* Susan loves it
* Clive hates it
* Malcolm gives his thoughts 2 weeks later that contradicts his original changes
* Mike wants it how it originally was
* Clives wife adds her two cents
* Two members of the committee fail to give feedback
7. Designer makes some more revisions
8. Feedback
* Susan hates it and wants revision 2
* Clive has a shouting match at Susan and demands further changes
* Malcolm gives his thoughts 2 weeks later that contradicts his second set of changes
* Mike wants it how it originally was
* Clives wife ends up having a fight with Susan
* Two members of the committee finally give some feedback on revision 1
9. Designer can now either A. Quit. B. Call a design clisis meeting. C. Demand all changes funnel through one person only. D. Goes on a manic killing rampage.

Luckily the designer chose C and Susan was the designated first contact

1. Revision 3 evaluated
2. Amends agreed
3. Susan passes on feedback from all comittee members
* Clive wants to try another strategy
* Malcolm disappears for a month to his villa in Spain
* Mike wants it how it originally was
* Clives wife apologizes to Susan and gives her two cents
* Two members of the committee finally give some feedback on revision 2
4. Designer rightly demands further design budget... the committee say no!"

This is what I would consider the opposite of designing for the personal agenda. And unfortunately this is what we deal with on a daily bases as designers. So why shouldn't we design for ourselves every once and a while, is it bad to make an awesome, totally fake gig poster for your favorite band? I don't think so, I believe that is the only way we can stay sane.

So how does this relate to profit? Well my first reaction is that fun design can not be profitable unless you are one of those lucky few who get to make awesome, totally REAL gig posters. But this is not necessarily true. Take Aaron Draplin for instance. Aaron is a designer who got his start in Minneapolis, and now runs a small shop in Portland. This guy is not only a great designer, but he makes some money too. And the best part is he has fun doing it. The draplindustries website is full of self indulgent products, that I am sure don't pull in a whole lot of income, but they do give people a sense of this guys personality. Aaron's personality is what I believe has made him so successful. Having fun, designing things, for personal reasons, has contributed to his success.


This $3 comb, can't be making Aaron a ton of money, but it was posted on design blogs all over the place. These fun little projects can make a deference in profit.

Usability & The Financial Agenda | Sarah Schiesser


The notion that budgets and funding are often the driving force in allowing designers to deliver the best possible solutions is an issue that is both relevant and problematic. In a short book entitled Our Daily Debates, students from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam discuss design ethics and financial motivations over coffee, documenting their conversations. The students claim that it often comes down to the clients not always knowing what to ask for and not understanding the scope of possibilities available to them. It's not that people don't want innovative, functional design, it's that time and money play a bigger role in prohibiting the creative process to fully take shape and form. In another interesting conversation, the students concluded that design is either cheap, fast or good--pick any two! Think about it. If design is cheap and good, then it cannot be fast. If it's fast and cheap, it's unlikely that it will be very good and lastly, if it's good and fast, it's certainly not going to be cheap.

So what does this mean for us?

As designers, we use our skills to help focus and strengthen the messages and agendas for our clients. We have the ability to improve our surroundings if we produce comprehensive, conceptual design, but in practice, someone else generally dictates the agenda. Therefore, as individuals we have a moral choice about who we work for, although that decision is also typically influenced by our economic need. As a student, I naturally have idealistic views about design and with student loans paying for a majority of my expenses--let's face it, I have an unrealistic perception of the 'real world'. However, I wholeheartedly believe that if you're in design for the money--you're not in it for the right reasons. Yes, design isn't everything (and shouldn't be) but if you're invested in this profession beyond your bi-weekly paycheck, start looking beyond the financial barriers and don't allow money to motivate your design.

In an article by Joshua Johnson on, the author advises his fellow designers to take joy in designing for a living because it's what you love to do, rather than designing for financial gains. For Joshua, design was very much a part of him and how he viewed the world--so choosing this pathway wasn't a means to an end, but the only means to enjoy a fulfilling, passionate, inspired life. I can apply these same ideals to my personal experience with design. If I stop and think about everything I've gained from my design education alone, the benefits are overwhelmingly positive. Yes, I may one day regret those all-nighters in the studio, vending machine meals, and the cigarettes that helped me cope with stress, however, the human interaction, the collaboration with fellow creatives, the understanding and desire to demand better of our society and the thrill of being able to create has been an ultimately fulfilling experience that I hope will continue into my professional career.


Larsen, Nina Stottrup. Our Daily Debates. Veenman Publishers (2007).

Johnson, Joshua. "Why Money Shouldn't Motivate Design." July 2010.

Fun and the Environmental Agenda | Jonathan Glatfelter






As we all know, many design and advertising firm offices are all spruced up so that the people working there have more fun working in a much more exciting environment. Many other companies have pulled on to this trend and have really put great thought into the design and the architecture of their workspaces in belief that their employees will produce better work. Companies will go at any length to make their employees happy while at work. I found a post at that discusses the way a fun, killer environment can really influence the work ethic of the people within that space (



There are many elaborate offices across the world. Today, it seems like every single one of them have a pool, numerous amounts of pool tables, vending machines, sofas, and anything else you could imagine. Is there a limit when it comes to what companies spend on interior space? Can it get to a point where it becomes too much? I guess it depends on what kind of person you are. I personally feel like some of it could get a little overboard for me. While I think many of these offices can look very pleasing, I feel like sometimes some of the "extras" could get into the way. It almost is the question of what the fine line of work and fun is. I think work should be fun, but should the extracurricular activities that surround us at the office distract us from the true reason that we are there for?

A great website to view many awesomely designed offices is The Cool Hunter ( The design of some of these office environments is simply incredible. These rooms don't even look like offices! I think that it is important to put someone into a comfortable working environment, but again, do the "fun factors" of these designs get into the way?

The Cool Hunter. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from

Positive Sharing. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from

Utility | Environment | Andrea Leesley


Design that respects the environment is here to stay. People are becoming more informed and concerned with the effect products and how they can affect them in a new light. However, we are seeing more and more environmentally awards designs on a daily basis, how do we as consumers know that brands aren't using 'eco-friendly' as a marketing gimmick to persuade us to buy a certain product? On the other side of the spectrum, have some designers taken environmentally friendly too far?

For example, Relogik came up with an ecological and simple concept for the traffic light called the Eko light. The Eko light can be installed on already existing traffic lights, as a result, increasing their utility by improving traffic flow and decreasing air pollution. Relogik believes that the Eko light will help drivers and pedestrians be more aware of the remaining time until the light changes. They claim the main benefits of this light would be less fuel consumption and less pollution, because drivers can turn off their cars and cut carbon emissions while they are waiting for the light to turn green. Is this really practical? Not to mention, they also believe this will cause less stress among drivers because you know exactly how long you have to wait. Hmm...I can already picture pissed off drivers honking their horns at people waiting for them to turn their car back on. While I do think this concept sounds like a great idea, much like other environmentally friendly designs, it is a little 'over-the-top' one might say and may cause more harm than good. Adding utility to something (that already been working fine since 1920) doesn't always mean a better design. Why not just use eco-friendly bulbs?

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More recently, being 'green' has become more of a marketing concern for several brands, rather than a design ethic. When we walk through stores we can easily recognize the 'Eco-look." It seems as though the 'Eco-look' takes precedence over 'Eco-friendly".

On another note, have you ever walked through the frozen food section at Target and noticed all of the lights were off in the freezers, and when you walk by they magically turn on? I love running down the aisles in the frozen food section when the lights are off, it's like your in Vegas inside a Target. Ok, so back to my point, Target added utility to the frozen food section by installing motion triggered lights, therefore keeping the electricity bill down. This saves the consumers money because target is able to save money on their electricity bill which allows them to further lower their prices as they compete with their competitors.

Feasibility | Personal | Cindy Sargent

Over the past few weeks, I have written about feasibility in terms of the financial, environmental, and social agendas. As far as I can tell, feasibility seems to have a high correlation to limitations. Limitations often dictate the feasibility—or "[capability] of being done or carried out"—of design. These limitations are most often set by others, usually by the client. At least that is how it seems to be with regards to the financial, environmental, and social agendas.

Unlike the other three agendas, however, feasibility in terms of the personal agenda is guided by the limitations set by ourselves as the designer. These limitations are based on our own personal beliefs and values as individuals. The feasibility of design with regards to the personal agenda is dictated by if or how well a project aligns with these beliefs and values. While feasibility in terms of the personal agenda is different from it with regards to the other three agendas in that the limitations are set by ourselves rather than an outside entity, it is still influenced by the other three agendas. For example, we might ask ourselves, "Am I getting paid adequately for the work I am doing?" "Sustainability is important to me, so are the materials and processes being used to create and produce this project environmentally conscious?" "Socially conscious design is important to me, so will this project better society in some way?"

The question of value-free design has been contested in the graphic design community between those who are concerned with the need for values in design and those who believe it should be value-free. Those who believe that design should be value free reject the idea that graphic designers should concern themselves with underlying political issues. Those who are concerned with values believe that designers should be critical and take a stand in their choice of work. In the First Things First manifesto, which was originally released in 1964 and later revised and re-released in 2000, calls for graphic designers to use their skills for more noble causes—such as bringing attention to current environmental, social, and cultural crises—instead of using them in advertising and marketing to contribute to and perpetuate commercialism and consumerism, as is most common. While this tendency is dictated by the needs and wants of society and the industry's attempt to satisfy these, it is within our capability as visual communicators to persuade, educate, and inspire and our duty to create change. If we do not take a stand for what we believe in, then we cannot expect change.

Feasibility. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved from

Garland, Ken. (1964). First Things First: A Manifesto. Retrieved from

Adbusters (2000). First Things First: A Design Manifesto. Retrieved from

Competitiveness | Financial Agenda | Allison Hall


This is not a good time for us to be emerging into the real world. In response to the country's economic situation - aren't you so sick of hearing that phrase? - companies are downsizing, employees have increasingly more responsibilities, and being a good candidate for a job often means having a wide skill set. It's a competitive market.

Lucky for us, graphic design is a fairly new field that is constantly changing with technology and innovation. Part of staying competitive as a designer is having a good relationship with your client and understanding their needs. Although the client sets the parameters of a project, designers have the opportunity to suggest alternative approaches to the problem in terms of production and even distribution. Thinking innovatively about the design problem and considering the financial aspect can help your client save money. They will love you for it, which will help you stay competitive against other designers they may consider hiring.


Having a good relationship with a client and being involved in the entire process and understanding the company's financial limits can really help a designer succeed in coming up with an innovative idea. It doesn't always happen that a designer works directly with the client (communication may be done through an art director or account executive), but regardless, it is important for expectations on production and distribution to be clear.

Not everything can be cheaply produced, but it's not all about finding the cheapest solution (which could backfire and make the finished product look cheap and uninspired). In my opinion, it's about where and how you spend your money within your budget. Here is an example of some interesting and creative solutions for business cards. I have learned that the little touches to someone's identity can really go a long way and make a lasting impression. Instead of the same old 3.5" x 2" business cards for a client, perhaps you could suggest an alternative size, a unique paper type or even adding a 3D aspect to the card. Although production may cost more for something fancy, that business card will not be thrown out if it's that cool. It's a small but effective way to be remembered, and a worthwhile investment.

One good thing about entering the professional design world right now is that we are exposed to and understand technological tools that we can use in an innovative way. The Internet is a financially viable outlet where company's can advertise and market toward a target audience. Here is a list of cheap ways to market online, most of which we as designers are familiar with. We should take the opportunity to pass our knowledge along to our clients! They don't mention the most obvious example, a website. It's often the first place people look for information about a company and it's a relatively low cost to have one. But the author does talk about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites are another way to advertise... for free.

Designers have the capability to help companies build their brand by suggesting these alternative marketing options and, because of designers' skills, can personalize them to fit the company's needs. Although we may not always have a say in what happens, finding a way to make suggestions and insert our opinions will not only help our clients but will help us stay competitive.

It might seem counterintuitive, but times of economic recession may actually be the best time to market a new product, service, or organization. A recession, which we are all so familiar with today, is defined as "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real gross domestic product (GDP), real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales." While this definition is somewhat vague, recessions have very clear consequences, including reduced consumer spending. How can reduced spending possibly be good for business? We can look at a real-life example, of which there are many, to find out.

Companies like General Electric, IBM, Burger King, and Microsoft were all started during economic downturns, but one of the biggest success stories of recession marketing is the Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney founded his animation studio in 1923, just before the Great Depression began. Normally, companies that make non-necessity items (anything but the basics of food, clothing, and health/sanitary products) are the ones who suffer the worst during economic downturns. When people are spending less, there is less demand for non-necessities and companies must instead create demand through marketing. Disney became popular at the height of the depression in the 30's because he was able to tap into the desires of the market. What people wanted was hope for a better future, or at least an escape from their dismal reality, and Walt Disney delivered that message in his cartoons. The Disney Company allegedly got by during tough economic times by following this model:

  1. What if anything was possible? Brainstorming ideas, like these attractions that were dreamed up but never built by Disney.
  2. Is it actually possible? Not everything creatives dream up is logistically or physically possible, so parameters like budget and time constraints have to be considered.
  3. Do we want to do it? Just because something is possible doesn't mean you will find it fulfilling or worthwhile.
  4. Should we do it? This is one of the most important questions to ask when launching something new into the world, whether it is a product or a new company or anything in between, because it asks whether the new idea is relevant and useful to the rest of the world.
  5. Let's do it.

Walt Disney has been quoted as saying, "I've heard there's going to be a depression. I've decided not to participate." This is the kind of attitude people launching new products or businesses need to take if they want to be successful and even profitable during times of economic crisis. Companies can emerge from a recession successfully by going against the grain; instead of following gut instincts to cut costs across the board, companies need to continue to invest in advertising. This helps them stay relevant while other companies are cutting advertising budgets. Consumers will best remember the brands that advertise the most, and they will be more likely to spend money on those brands both during tough times and once financial stability has been restored.

Personal Pollution | Missy Austin


In tonight's Portfolio class, Greg brought up an interesting point relating to the scope of the internet: with all the content floating around and constantly growing, how are we suppose to be able to navigate to what we actually are looking for? Furthermore, how does this point relate to pollution? I think of is as how much on the internet is beneficial to the public and how much might not be; say, an angry, rude or pointless 'tweet' vs. a Wikipedia page. Both can show up in a google search, however, one of them is for personal satisfaction and the other is informative. Should we censor what we put out there simply to cut the amount of junk?

A recent study found that 40% of all tweets are what they call "pointless babble". Interested in what people were actually using Twitter for, the Pear Analytics group conducted a study where they categorized tweets into six different categories: news, spam, self-promotion, pointless babble, conversation, and pass-along value. After looking at 2,000 tweets spanning two weeks, the Pear Analytics group found that the clear winner was "pointless babble" followed by "conversational" and "pass-along value". With all of these morcels of rather insignificant information, it becomes more difficult to find the valuable bits that others benefit from or are even the least bit interested in.

That said, is it wrong to pollute the internet? It serves as an uncensored (for the most part) outlet for all people and the casual sense by which people approach it has made it a conversational tool. Also, how do we label something as trash? However pointless it may seem to post that "your dog pooped in your living room", if it gives someone a chuckle in the middle of a boring day, what's the harm? With a growing number of participants on social networking sights such as Twitter and Facebook, it'll be interesting to see if we eventually "overpollute" the internet.

To read more about the Pear Analytical study, click the following link:

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Prioritizing for the Future | Financial Agenda | Charles West

Presley Design studio, a web-design company in Dallas, suggests in its blog that small businesses choose designers who charge prices that are not too cheap, and at the same time, not too expensive. (Presley, 1) Presley uses this way of thinking when considering how much to charge clients for their work, and claims that it has kept them in business the past seven years. It is only natural for us to want to charge a large amount of money for the work we produce; the more money we have, the more financially secure we are. If we charge too much for our work, however, our clients will choose other, cheaper vendors who can give them the same quality product. At the same time, designers who are still in college typically do not have very much money, and charging too little would be detrimental to our own financial agendas. The question is how do we decide that we are charging a price that is both reasonable for our clients, and reasonable for us?

A quick and easy way to figure out how to price our work would be to ask an experienced, professional designer for advice. This is what I did before taking on my first freelance design. After consulting my advisor, he suggested a specific hourly rate, taking into account the quality of my work, and that I am still a student who, without the support of my parents, is not financially secure. Both he and I decided that this was not too cheap for me, and not too expensive for the client. In the end, however, the client was unwilling to pay the amount, and while he was very pleased with the design, he paid a much smaller price for it.

Of course, as we discussed in class, that there is the issue of paying our dues in the design world before we try to earn big bucks, and sometimes that means doing work for free. When choosing which payless jobs to take, however we must consider both present and future; will a specific freelance job for little or no pay lead us to higher financial security later? I currently intern for no pay at the Dakota Jazz club, a club that is well known throughout the US. Designing for the Dakota takes up much of my time and, as a result, I have had to tell other, smaller clients that the work I do for them over this semester would not be completed as quickly as it once was. Designing for a well-known jazz company will get me more attention than designing for my other clients, and therefore, have the potential to work for even bigger clients in the future who will pay me even more. While small jobs can be a quick way to earn experience, we must prioritize if we want to be financially secure.

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