December 2010 Archives

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?

Firefox 2.png

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:

Screen shot 2010-12-02 at 8.40.40 PM.png

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.

Everything Design | Quang Dao

| 1 Comment
Appeal | Social

Oh goodness, last blog of the semester. How fast did time go? I bet everyone is panicking over the intensive and overwhelming load of work we have to produce in the next two weeks. Merely insane. But we are almost there, like myself for instance, after writing this blog, I'll probably have to do about 100 and more other tasks but the break is getting so close. For the whole semester, I've been talking about how "appeal" plays a very crucial role in design particularly, as well as everything else in our everyday life. We base our decision on the appeal factor of, be it, a products, food, design, clothes, vehicles, etc. before we find out how well it performs and how long it might last. Sometime, it's all about the first impression.

Design is not just for personal use, but it's also to build a better community and a brighter future. Designers hold the key to the door of a green and better tomorrow. We are the ones who can change how things turn out and how it would affect our society, starting today. But in order to come up with impeccable design, we need energy for innovation and invention. And to obtain that, we need food. Indeed, food helps us recharge out battery so we can continue our chosen innovative path. For the past decades, food companies have been trying nonstop to develop better packaging that can keep their food well represented, environmental-friendly and healthy for their consumers. Pretty packaging is not enough, but it also has to face other issues such as consumer's age, income, theft-prevention, serving size, litter, recycling, etc. It all comes into play.

In the article "Social issues Impact Food Packaging Design", packaging supplier Dabron Packaging Company said" Ideally, plastic food packaging should be easy for just about everyone to use. At the same time, it needs to be strong enough to deter theft and to keep the food inside from spoiling or becoming damaged." They also consider how the aftermath of the products, which is how it will be treated when consumers are done with it. "One of the most significant social issues surrounding food packaging is litter. It must be noted, however, that packaging suppliers aren't the ones who strew litter about; consumers are responsible for properly disposing of their used packaging. Between recycling efforts and increasing awareness about saving the planet, litter due to packaging is likely to decrease as time goes by." It's the top concern that got packaging companies involved in the green movement by using bio-degradable and post-consumer waste for the packaging.

butter1.jpg Butter comes with wooden knife for use and quick use.

Another social issue that involves design is the hybrid transit bus. But beside the fact that it uses less fuel and emit less fume, the information in this article " Hybrid Transit buses: Are they really green?" is very interesting. " Hybrid buses employ similar technology including regenerative braking, electric motors, and battery storage. One main difference is that most hybrid buses are coupling diesel-fueled engines with electric motors instead of the typical gasoline-electric hybrid configurations available in light duty vehicles. Maximizing the benefits from these buses requires optimizing the hybrid system for the transit bus routes, which might be affected by the terrain the bus travels or whether the bus frequently travels at freeway speeds or stays on city streets." Evidently, studies have shown hybrid buses have lower emission of nitrogen oxide and other smog-forming emissions than conventional diesel buses. The sleek and better design of the buss and how it uses less diesel and emit less nitrogen oxide into the environment are the main reason why transit bus company are shifting their route to a greener bus system.

22743_250636512462_108605392462_4240065_7091858_n.jpg Awesome hybrid bus design.


Emerging Economies | Personal | Angie Miller

| 1 Comment

As designers, we can easily look at emerging economies in a sort of detached way. These countries have less money than us, design isn't really a priority for them, and we are generally trying to make money by designing. It would be easy to never pay attention, since our professional field likely won't be too related to poorer countries. Hopefully this isn't the case, and we possess that innate wanting to help other people who are not as fortunate as we are. So what can we really do to help out?

Honestly, we can't really graphic design our way to concretely helping people much in these countries. You can work for non-profit organizations, but many of us will be in other fields and still wanting to help. Volunteering for different organizations is one way to help, but you still usually don't have great access to individuals in other countries. You usually don't know where or how exactly you are helping. In my opinion, the best way to make a difference on a personal level (without actually going to another country) is by giving.

One giving opportunity I think works well with our interests is called microfinance. Through microfinance organizations such as Kiva, you can lend different amounts starting at just $25 to entrepreneurs trying to start businesses but lacking funds around the world. I really recommend looking at their website and clicking around a bit. It's a really personal way to become involved in countries with emerging economies. You can take a look at individual people, read background information, and learn about what sorts of businesses they are trying to operate. You can decide who your money goes to, read about businesses that have prospered through this, connect with other people around the world, and see how it is actually making a difference.

As designers and Americans in the business field, being able to help other businesspeople around the world is quite an opportunity--especially when you don't even have to leave your computer chair. I'm not saying this is the only way we can make a difference, because there are dozens more, but this is one simple way to help on a personal level.

Communication | Financial | Lindsey Ostby

| 1 Comment

As we all know, communication is a vital part of our society. It is a necessity to survival in a growing and competitive economy, especially in the world of design and advertising. So the question is, how does the input cost of communication affect the outcome? If we spend more money, does that mean we get better results? Looking at this from a wider spectrum, we can compare the two extreme financial values of communication, at least extreme examples in my opinion.

For example, on one extreme end we have the infamous Super Bowl commercials. Companies such as Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Frito Lay (Doritos), are spending millions of dollars to have their commercial advertised over a 30 or 60 second spot, hoping that the majority of people watching the Super Bowl will see it. Only the most clever and best communication strategies are presented, giving certain companies the label of being prestigious and most creative. The commercial from last year that stands out in my mind was for Doritos, called "House Rules".

These commercials build a positive association with a brand and are truly memorable. The buzz built around the Super Bowl commercials have become extremely high, some only watching this event for the commercials (actually, make that about 10 million Americans who watch the Super Bowl only for the ads). Communication of these ads reaches about 3 times more viewers than a regular commercial.

On another extreme, we have the free (or cheap) use of the Internet and social media. More and more companies are using sites such as Facebook or Twitter to communicate about their brand, their ideas, news in the company, etc. The difference between free communication and communication that is paid for is that we, as consumers, have to sift through a lot more junk. But when we find something interesting or relevant to us, the goal of effective communication has been achieved. Also, companies now have to communicate to more segmented audiences, making it difficult to reach a wider range of people. Even so, the upside of effective communication over these cheaper platforms is word-of-mouth and brand recognition, along with establishing positive associations and loyalties with a company or brand.

In this day and age, we can now ask ourselves, "Does the cost of communication really influence its effectiveness on an audience?" I really can't say whether the financial value of communication achieves better or worse results, but it is apparent that both forms of communication can be successful.
Funny thing though, the Doritos commercial was created by a filmmaker in California for only $80 who submitted it through an online contest...It now has 6,414,156 views on YouTube (make that 6,414,157).

Pleasure by Design & The Common Goal of Society

Trying to define design during Tuesday's class made me not only realize the importance of design, but that it depends on an entire society. My group stated that design is a product of our natural desire to improve the world in which we live for ourselves and for future generations. This also falls into line with my belief that the one thing everyone on this earth has in common is the desire for happiness. Happiness may take form in a variety of ways, and it can be created or enhanced by design.

In his TED talk on happy design, graphic artist Stephen Sagmeister discussed how designed objects allow for pleasurable experiences. He gives an example of one of his happiest times, riding a motorcycle up into the mountains, blasting the Police on his Walkman. He notes the importance that two of the three parts of that memorably happy experience were due to designed objects. His happy experience at that moment would not have been possible without the motorcycle and the Walkman. Both of these objects came to be after someone asked, "how can we make a device that lets us enjoy music anywhere", or "how can we make a bike move just as fast as a car". To be able to solve these problems, a group of people had to work together to realize the possibly of their definition of a pleasurable experience.

Thumbnail image for Norman-TiltingTeapot-H.jpg Norman-TiltingTeapot-T.jpg Norman-TiltingTeapot-V.jpg

Design critic Don Norman states that "pleasant things work better" in his TED talk on 3 ways design makes you happy. On a visceral level, humans have evolved to understand certain visual cues and subconsciously link them to emotions. On a behavioral level, good design is about control, including usability and understanding. Norman shows an example of the Ronnefeldt tilting teapot that mimics our emotions and behavior. Its design allows for the pot to be rotated when in use and at regular level when the contents are finished. This signals the waiter that the user is in need of more water, reflecting the behavior of the user through the designed object. Norman states that good design communicates, and communication amongst a society is key in order to create the objects and experiences necessary to reach the end goal, happiness.

This entry was more difficult than I than I thought it would be, I guess you could say I wasn't feeling very inspired. However, when I began to think about how inspiration on a personal level has the power to affect design on a social level. While all design that we are motivated to make whether the inspiration be environmental, financial, or directly personal, it all ends up in the social sphere. To illustrate this idea I will go to ol' faithful of examples, smoking. Perhaps over used, but for a reason, it clearly illustrates many points.
As I have highlighted before inspiration is highly personal, it comes to people in many ways and causes them to do many things. For this perspective though, I am going one link further on the chain and highlighting how our personal inspiration gets into the stream of the social agenda. We have been aware of smoking ads since elementary school, both positive and negative. The thing to be aware of now is that there is a designer on both ends producing the work and questioning what their motivation may be for being on either end of the spectrum.

Smoking in the Positive Light
What could inspire someone to produce an ad making smoking cool? It has been ingrained for years that smoking is bad. However, with age comes new knowledge and needs. One major is the financial needs. It may be a simple answer and is probably over generalizing it, but it works. Money is an extremely powerful motivator and would cause someone to create an ad telling its viewers that authenticity comes from smoking Kool cigarettes.


Smoking in the Negative Light
Now, on the other hand what would inspire someone to create an ad that show smoking in a negative light? This answer may seem obvious (it is to me), but for the sake of the blog I will write it down. I think that the motivation is comes from a much more emotional place. I don't think it is money that gets people going here, but a personal agenda. Below is a powerful ad that illustrates how not only an ad can come from personal place but is focused to hit a person close to the heart.


Smoking and many other hot topic issues are forces that cause inspiration that has the power to affect and that do affect people in the social place we all function in.


Empty Kingdom

Sociological Images

Financial Education in Design = Astronaut Food


I'm gonna talk about money. In many different and terribly connected ways. Figure two weeks before half of us graduate is a good time for this, right?

This is what a graphic designer is, according to the big kids. A description stale as crouton bread, and ashy in color, but it can be an informative perspective. Especially since we'll be trying to sell a lot of our work to colorless, odorless people (muggles is the term for them).

What it comes down to is, we have a monetary value, depending on where we live, who we are, and what we know. But, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as designers with a "broad liberal arts education and experience in marketing and business management," we are "best suited" for "developing communication strategies."

Sound right? Maybe/probably not? That's a matter of knowing yourself. Hard as they might try, the Dept. of Labor can't help you know yourself. But once you get there, it's good to know what yourself can buy.

Some light numbers about that. Who wants to move to D.C. now for 68K a year? Nevermind, "Federal Executive" work sounds terrible. No one wants to do muggle work, even if it gets you more jelly beans. (For those that do like jelly beans, I apologize, and jump to the last paragraph).

So, let's talk about spec work. Greg Eull from Proximity Worldwide came into my Interactive class the other day, and he was talking about the amount of spec work he has done in his career. He even showed some of it to us. Really cool stuff, but he didn't get paid a dime for it. "It's the way the business works" he says. Colle + McVoy, Capella, Brainco. Everywhere he has been, they have done spec work. Furiously fast, imaginative, and sometimes useless spec work. "You get mad about it, yeah, but then you say, 'Alright, what's next?'" he shrugs. He shrugs because he loves what he does, which has put him on many projects that he is quite proud of that did get used. Know "Yearbook Yourself?" He worked on that from square one (it made it on Jimmy Fallon!)

My mentor does muggle work. Hasn't always, and won't always, but right now, she does interactive work at the Federal Reserve here in the cities. Her husband does page layouts for Game Informer magazine. He's a gamer. "No one does this for money, obviously" she says. She called her husband stupid for almost not taking that job.

"If you want to make money, go be a...I don't know, something that makes you lots of money." Take that to the bank.

Graphic designers have the ability to reach out to society. We as graphic designers can be very manipulative people because we know the secrets of our trade, how to reach society and get a reaction. Some designers may choose to use this to manipulate people in a bad way and some just want to better our society as a whole. It is up to us how we want to use our skills!

One group/campaign that decided to use their wacky graphic design skills to help save energy is called unscrew America! It uses a quirky and funny marketing strategy filled with humor and futuristic creatures but has a very smart and energy saving message. To back up all the quirkiness they use straight to the point information on the website as to why you should switch from using regular light bulbs to CFL or LED. They have a clever interactive website and several funny commercials and youtube videos that promote making the switch. One thing I really enjoy about this campaign is that it basically stating that we waste a lot of energy and that it shouldn't be that way, but that it has been for a long time. Yet even though we are going to continue to use light bulbs and waste energy and mess with the environment that at least we should do the best job that we can about being smarter about it.

I really enjoy that as graphic designers we can compile a marketing message that can be about a very serious subject and have lots of facts but that we can still apply humor or creativity into and get a reaction out of people, and better yet a reaction that can motivate people to push for a better society and environment. We as graphic designers have the power to reach a lot of people and it is up to us make sure that we push for things we believe in. I think Unscrew America is off to a great start in getting the message out to society about the little things you can do to save energy.


funny videos:

Waste | Financial | Tarin Gessert


Over the course of the semester, I've discussed waste from a variety of standpoints. I've outlined the effects of paper consumption on the environment, the way that that designers addressing trends on a personal level can lead to more or less waste and pollution, and how promoting trinkets and trash is wasteful and doesn't benefit society on a social level.

It seems that all of these points also relate to the financial agenda. Not surprisingly, reducing waste can reduce costs. Why pay for some trinket to be made with your logo on it, when it will become waste? And paper isn't getting any cheaper. If you can use projectors to display process work, or digital presentations to show clients instead of physical boards, why not? It's cheaper, and better for the environment. Producing products without wasteful packaging also saves money.

Designers must always work with finances allotted to them -- goes along with the problem solving part of our job descriptions. How can we convey this message with this budget? I think it's fortunate that many wasteful things cost money. I believe most of us know this, so we will need to try and talk our clients into saving money while saving the environment. It's always about the money. We can suggest producing a product sans the plastic packaging by mentioning the dollar amount our client will save by doing so.

A great trend right now is social media. Not only do companies save money by using free tools such as Facebook and Twitter, but they aren't producing physical waste. If a company normally uses direct mail as a form of advertising, they can switch to Twitter coupons or email blasts and have a similar effect (depending on their audience).

The city of Wauwatosa in WI recently announced that they are no longer going to be mailing paper copies of their quarterly newsletter. Instead, the newsletter can be found online and can be requested to be sent via email. It's estimated that this change will save them $35,000 a year. Not mention several trees in the process.

In conclusion, money rules the world. As designers, if we use media that is waste-less, we can help the environment, and we can save our clients money. We can come up with ways to save money while producing less waste. We have the tools and the creative talent. We are problem solvers.

Here's a link to 5 Creative Catalog Techniques that save paper, and money.

An article about how using PDFs can reduce paper costs

Some interesting papers that discuss using daylight in schools -- saving electrical costs by using the resources given to us.

Recyclability - Financial Agenda | Barbara Hicks

Obviously, talking about recyclability from a financial point of view is going to be a complex discussion. Even if we just confine the topic to how much it costs, in actually money, to recycle normal household items (aluminum, plastic & paper) the subject still gets extremely complicated: who has the contract in that area for collecting and hauling recyclables? How far does the stuff have to be hauled? Who does the actual recycling? How much does that cost? What is the demand in that area and at that time for the recycled material? Will it end up in the landfill anyway? These are just a few questions that need to be addressed to even begin to have a financial discussion about recyclability, and it doesn't even scratch the surface of the topic. What about all of the other things that might be recycled, such as water, petroleum products and construction materials, just to name a few? And how do we weigh the costs that go beyond money? What about the air and water pollution caused by re-manufacturing all that material, and the energy that is consumed in the process?

There is no question that some recycling is a good thing, but we shouldn't just assume that recycling is always the best thing. According to J. Winston Porter, president of the Waste Policy Center and former policy administrator for the EPA, "there's a point at which you shouldn't just recycle for recycling's sake." Quoted in an article in the Washington Examiner (, he goes on to say that the greatest negative impact of the recycling process comes from trying to haul too much too far. It's sort of a catch 22, because it's much more politically popular to engage in the recycle process than it is to build a landfill, but a lot of the recycle process isn't helping the environment or saving energy. For instance, recycling glass is a net loser. Ground glass is essentially sand and not inherently harmful in a landfill. Collecting it, hauling it and storing it is probably more harmful to the environment by adding all those vehicle emissions than just letting it rest in a landfill. On the other hand, glass is heavy and helps localities reach their target recycling goals (which are calculated by weight).

It just seems to me that the recycling madness is one of those things that could and should be a good thing but, like so many other things, has been perverted by politics and the demands of uninformed do-gooders.

In contrast to the above bitch session, let me share with you something that looks like a real recycling success story. In June of 2009, the Seattle Times featured and article about Mike and Tricia Barry from Danville, California, who basically recycled a whole house! After they purchased a 1950s bungalow on a prime lot, they discovered that the home's foundation was bad, the rooms were too small, and it wasn't up to code. They decided the whole thing had to go. Being environmentally friendly types, the couple chose to have their home deconstructed for reuse rather than having it torn down with a bulldozer and dumped in a landfill. They hired a contractor licensed for deconstruction to take down the house and then California Deconstruction and Building Materials ReUse Network picked up the materials and brought them to Habitat for Humanity and other organizations, including Corazón, which helps build homes for people in northern Baja California, Mexico.

The last remnants of the old house in Danville, Calif., that was recycled or reused.

In class on Tuesday we spent a significant portion of our discussion time considering the difficulties facing users with reduced mobility or disability. Christine commented that this is a difficult topic because there is so little material available on the subject. It seems like this should be a ripe topic but I had the same difficulty. Often, it seems, this portion of the user base is ignored not out of malice but because they are not considered when imagining the typical user. Unless the designer has personal experience with the issue it may be outside of the design experience. The Americans with Disabilities Act influences design decisions in the public space but in private areas these usability considerations are often ignored.

Minimalism may be applied to the Social Agenda when designing aspects of the home to improve usability. In some instances this may create a more streamlined interface while in others elements must be added in counter to the Minimalism movement to add usability for parts of society that are sometimes forgotten. Looking only at the entrance of a home we can see many areas that can be modified.

Doorbell and door handle height are elements that may be too high for children, people who are seated, or people with reduced arm mobility. Designers may lower the heights of these elements to a height accessible by both those groups and standing adults without cost if incorporated into a façade's design at the outset. If an existing dwelling is being modified a new door would be required and modifying the wiring for the bell would require altering the fascia of the entryway.

For example, round doorknobs are difficult to manipulate for people with reduced motor skill or hand strength. A simple design solution is the lateral door handle. With this device a person can use the blade of a hand or even an elbow to push the handle down and release the door latch. Functionally it is the same as a round doorknob, even down to the mass of the objects. Using a lever does not reduce the functionality of the doorknob so the only reason I see to avoid use is a question of aesthetics, a personal concern.

Thresholds may be a tripping hazard for people with limited agility or wheelchairs. There is a door design that has a threshold that is flush with the floor. Rain and debris are kept out of the area with a narrow channel before the door and tight flashing on the door base to keep out particulates and precipitation. Another alternative is a jamb with a gradual slope, less that 45 degrees and ¼" height to reduce tripping hazard.

Minimalism is a fine ethos for design that may need to be tempered when looking at aspects of the Social Agenda. Here a designer may need to add elements that are unnecessary for most users but add greater usability to the people who need it most. T

For example, it is difficult for wheelchair bound users to close doors on the far side of the threshold because of the distance to the door handle. For exterior doors in public places this is often rendered unnecessary by powered doors and motion sensors that open for all users. In private residences or unpowered entryways a bar may be added to provide a grip on the hinge side of the door.

Some changes are normally seen as aesthetic but will increase the quality of life for a particular group. Often decorators mask switches by using an electric plate the hue and saturation of the surrounding area for the opposite purpose: to increase blending and hide the elements. Instead, designers might try increasing areas of contrast, such as a dark light switch against a light wall, will help people with poor eyesight define the feature. Similarly, adding a luminescent plastic to the base plate will help all users find the switch in the dark.

Adding a kick plate to a door will give an extra point of leverage to push it open. This may actually help any user if the door is in an area with humidity changes that make the door shrink or swell. This may also be an aesthetic choice because if the door is often stuck visitors may use their toe to help push it open and mar the surface.

Would these changes, in fact, be contrary to the Minimalisation agenda? Let us look at specialization. Often this narrows the group of users by designing for a particular group. Deeper specializations often lead to reduced user bases as some participants are excluded. This increased complexity runs counter to Minimalisation by increasing production and narrowing users. However, in the case of adding usability specialization has an opposite affect that while sometimes increasing complexity also increases the number of users with access to the design. Here a greater number of people are served and thus added complexity is justified. Perhaps this is a case of making something as simple as possible, but not simpler, as Einstein said.

Resource for future use: here is a link to a page with disability access symbols for download at the Graphic Artist Guild website.

Works Cited:
Americans with Disabilities Act website. (2010). Home page. Retrieved from

Graphic Artists Guild. (2010). Disability access symbols. Retrieved from

Quality and the Personal Agenda

| 1 Comment

In my last blog post, I wrote the following in my conclusion:

I think by keeping in mind both definitions of quality and Vitruvius' elements,
designers can reach more holistic solutions to design problems.

I do believe that by thoroughly considering quality I can achieve more holistic design solutions, but the question "how?" remains. As I consider quality from a personal standpoint and wrap up all of my thoughts from the semester, I will attempt to lay out some important principles and questions for how I approach quality in any given situation.

First, do no harm.
This motto is often used as a basis for ethics in medicine. It is interesting to me that designers are not viewed as professionals in the way that doctors are. Certainly, we don't go through the extensive schooling that they do, but I'd like to think that we have as much (perhaps more) influence on individuals' daily lives. If this is true, then shouldn't we adopt a similar attitude of professionalism? In regards to quality, I think it is essential to follow the principle "first, do no harm" because quality is in fact somewhat relative (more on this later). At the most basic level the quality of my work should be such that it is not harmful to others. This way, even if the product is not the "best-of-the-best," so to speak, it can still be best solution for a particular set of criteria.

Who is the audience?
In the previous posts, I have been pretty outspoken about what I felt were significant problems of quality in daily life. I still do feel they are important, but I don't want to over-emphasize the problems and negate the reality of having to deal with an audience in a commercial setting. The truth is, if everything were produced to the highest possible quality, most of us would be unable to afford the vast majority of existing products. Quality and cost are almost always directly related, so increasing quality could completely alienate the very audience I am trying to reach. Knowing my audience provides key information that is the basis for decisions concerning quality. The image below is a real-life example of this. McDonald's could carry gourmet coffee and market it based on its quality. However, they know that their audience is probably not coffee connoisseurs, but your average individual looking for a quick, inexpensive pick-me-up on the way to work. As a result, they carry decent coffee and market it in a way that speaks to their audience's desires.
McDonald's Coffee

What level of quality is feasible?
The answer to this question flows directly out of the answer to the previous question. The price point of what I am producing may not allow for the perfect design solution. However, I still want to give the client and end-user the highest quality product possible. When I understand my audience, then I can understand what is feasible and innovate within those constraints to provide the best solution.

What kind of quality?
In a previous blog post, I extended the definition of quality beyond the "goodness" of an item to include "what it's like." Design offers an immense amount of freedom, to the point that there is no one correct solution for solving a problem. For example, there are a million different ways to make a thermal coffee mug, and any one can be considered "better" than the other depending on what your criteria for "goodness" are. I want to think not only about what makes my work enduring, but also about what are its characteristics that will make it enjoyable for my audience to interact with.

Redefine quality.
Quality can mean many different things to different people. I want to constantly look for new opportunities for redefining what quality means to myself and others. Innovation often happens in unexpected places, so by exploring different manifestations of quality I can potentially reach entirely new audiences and create new product categories. One example of this is work done by Canadian design team, Chromoly. They took broken pieces of furniture and repaired them using bronze to create unique and visually arresting products, as seen below. Where most people would see a broken chair and therefore label it as low-quality, Chromoly saw an opportunity to create quality.

These are a few key principles that are personally important to me when considering quality in my own work. However, I don't think they have to be only for me. Other designers could use these as their own personal principles. I think we should consider such issues, and that as we do we can create lasting, innovative solutions.

Image Sources:

Disability | The Environmental Agenda | Christine Yakshe

When looking at disability and the environment it is hard to find anything related to actually "being" environmental. Disability design is generally so widespread and yet non-specific that environmental responsibility doesn't seem to be taken into account.

One article I did find dealing somewhat with eco-friendly design was specifically about disability-friendly surfaces. For someone in a wheelchair, the best flooring happens to be smooth and hard surfaces, or something such as tile, compared to carpeting or other soft flooring that makes it difficult to move across the surface. This article talks about laminate and bamboo flooring being a great alternative to other flooring such as hardwood and it is also less expensive.
Other focuses in the article include walker and cane users and those with joint pain. Rubber flooring is talked about for those who need a more slip-resistant surface and then for those with the joint pain, actually using carpet and cork can be better for those types of "disabilities."'

There was also an interesting article related to disability design and eco-friendliness on The National. A 47 year-old polio sufferer is planning a 14-hour non-stop journey from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah to set a world record in none other than his own specially designed solar-powered wheelchair. This is one of the few environmentally designed disability products.

Interestingly enough it seems as though most of the new and different designs for disability are centered on mobility impairment and the wheelchair, yet the environment is not designed for mobility impairment. In all the research I did for disability design in all different aspects I did not see much for those with more specific or intense disabilities or even for those with mental disabilities such as my younger brother. I can recall a few different kids from his classes in high school that could not communicate verbally and would not be able to learn things such as sign language. Wouldn't it be great if there was some sort of communication designed for their kind of disability?

The disabilities across the world are so varied and specific with each different person that it can be difficult to not only design for those individual disabilities (even when trying to design something more "universal") but it also makes people less motivated to design for disabilities. The need is there but at this point most of the design is not. It is even disappointing to search for disability design and come up with some prototype images but not much as far as research or actual products. I'm not sure what the answer to this problem is: more awareness? Better resources? More in-depth research? Hopefully as design advances, disability design will too.

Kapsin, K. (2008). Disability-friendly surfaces., Retrieved from

Croucher, M. (2010). Abu dhabi to sharjah, with help from the sun. The National, Retrieved from

"status" and the "environmental agenda"


Ok. Ok.

So the mass launch of the 'environmental movement' is widely credited, at least in part, to Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring,' published in 1962. The book heavily criticized the use of pesticides, specifically DDT, and lead to it's eventual ban in the USA in 1972, citing side effects on birds, other wildlife, and even humans. Pretty substantial, right?


Fast forward 38 years.

What started as a social movement has become a social STATUS. It's become fashionable to buy green products, and people are buying - we're at a climax of what is commonly referred to as 'the green movement.' According to an article from Environmental Leader, 4 out of 5 people are buying at least some 'green' products - even with often larger price tags, and even in the current economical climate. Other surveys inflate that number to as much as 95%.

So...this is good right? What could possibly be wrong with that?


I think back to our group presentations from a couple weeks back. Big tobacco is receiving harsh criticism that they're misleading consumers. Critics claim that 'light' cigarettes is misleading consumers to believe that they are healthier for them, and will have less worries when smoking - even though smokers will smoke more and inhale deeper to achieve the same effect as smoking a regular cigarette, thereby negating the 'light' part of the equation.

Perhaps a better metaphor is presented by an article in the New York Times:

"It's as though the millions of people whom environmentalists have successfully prodded to be concerned about climate change are experiencing a SnackWell's moment: confronted with a box of fat-free devil's food chocolate cookies, which seem deliciously guilt-free, they consume the entire box, avoiding any fats but loading up on calories."

Remember the atkins diet? Skipping toast for breakfast but eating 6 extra slices of bacon isn't going to do most people a whole lot of good.



Transition back to the point. Many consumers are buying recycled toilette paper or all natural soap and feel like they have made their contribution to the environment. Really, it's the people that are taking shorter showers, riding their bikes to work, and generally consuming less waste generating goods that are making real difference. Sure, 'green' products are generally probably better for the environment than their 'normal' counterparts, but the change made in a consumer switch pales in comparison to changes made in behavior - that is to say, 'green' products for many are an easy out, effectively paying money to bury guilt, as it's the easiest way to "make a difference." I'll be the first to admit that I haven't made a strong commitment to changing my own personal behavior to adhere to a green lifestyle - but I'll also be the first to point out that I'm aware of that, and that I'm not convincing myself of otherwise by buying green.

Enter design. There's no question that small businesses and global corporations alike have taken notice to these 'green' consumer trends. According to another survey, almost half of young adults look for some sort of seal or authentication of green products. Whether something is completely organic, chemical free, and made from 100% post consumer paper, OR made with 10% less bleach than the normal awful-for-the-environment product, sellers want buyers to know that green products are in fact green (or at least pretending to be), and we're the ones making sure that happens. If you were trying to be kitchy, you could say that green is the new black - it has the status, and it's being exploited to the fullest, by our clients, through us.

As designers one think that we have to be aware of is how much energy we put into a project and are we getting paid the right amount of money for the amount of energy we put into a project. Yet as students still it is hard to know how much your energy and time is worth. One thing that I know several people have struggled with, as have I as a graphic designer still in school, is the UNPAID INTERNSHIP. I am one of those lucky people who have an unpaid internship. At first when I got the unpaid internship I was weary and hesitant, because working for free doesn't pay the oh so many bills that like to come my way. Yet upon discussing what I would be doing and after working there for a couple of weeks, I developed a change of mind when it came to my unpaid internship. Though not all unpaid internships are going to be great there are some that are completely worth your energy.

I came across an article that has 4 really good tips when it comes to dealing with an unpaid internship. An unpaid internship is only worth your energy if you are getting real training, like you would be in a class room setting or a part time job. Also make sure upfront before you start you unpaid internship that you have discuss what your role will be and that you will get real hands on experience. Also make sure that the internship isn't abusing you, for example making you work on a project that they should have hired somebody full time for. Take control of you unpaid internship and make sure that it is something that is beneficial to you and that you have work that you can show and that overall improves your skills and the quality of your portfolio! Because you are not getting paid for time and energy you need to make sure it is worthwhile to you. Also it can be extremely fun!

One of the possible ups about an unpaid internship is that instead of doing B.S. work like answering phones and getting coffee, is that because you are unpaid you may get assigned to some big projects to help out with. For me to have an unpaid internship that I can gain a lot of knowledge and experience from while still in school, outweighs doing B.S. work and getting a measly pay. So don't always be so hesitant take an unpaid internship. As long as you do research and have a clear direction of what you will be working on while completing and unpaid internship it may sometimes be your better option.

Unpaid internship Laws
Why unpaid internship can be worth it!

Quantity-Social-Michelle Haga

Today I would like to discuss the use of social networks in reference to quantity. We are all aware of the impact of social media and it's here to stay. Social media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are all unique in their own way otherwise they wouldn't exist. Facebook is for people to keep in touch with friends and family, Twitter is beneficial for designers to here about new and exciting things that may be linked and following celebrities, while LinkedIn is strictly for business professional networking.

size-of-internet.png (photo)

In today's society it's all about social integration and bringing people together through virtual networks. Virtual networks make it extremely easy to become popular, all you have to do is post and update a lot, and it's that simple (source 1). These updates are not necessarily engaging, exciting, or even funny, but because users constantly update the viewers hear from them more often, causing them to view that person or profile as more popular. On the other side, this just refers to individual users not businesses. That doesn't go to say that the quantity of posts is not important for companies, however the quality needs to be utilized more deliberately. Companies should understand their followers and what they value, they should engage with them and watch their online profile growth rate improve (source 2).

On the downside of social media there is the manipulation of consumerism and trends. Because there are so many users of social media, companies are able to advertise their products, services, or messages at little to no cost and reach beyond their target markets. Most businesses would think this is a great thing, which it is for that companies profits, however I believe that in the long run this will hurt society as a whole. Yes, business will be booming meaning there are more jobs and more income for all, nonetheless the future will have even more consumer goods and junk to deal with that is potentially detrimental to our environment. I'm not going to preach about "green" but I'll leave you with this idea. Consumerism is a problem. Look at apple, it has such a devoted customer base that no matter what they release next, people will buy it. Here is an example of the merits of the HTC Evo 4G vs. the iPhone 4 video. WARNING: VULGAR LANGUAGE PRESENT IN CLIP.

Social networking is a magnificent tool; however as a society we need to be aware of it's power and be willing to look towards the seventh generation before we jump on the bandwagon of useless consumerism.

More Empowerment | Meher Khan | Personal

As I discussed with my group yesterday, I have come to see empowerment as an achievement, and design as a tool to achieve it. This definition applies to personal empowerment as well. Design is an excellent way to promote yourself exactly as you want to be perceived; designers use their resume, business cards, and websites to not only provide information about themselves, but to show their personalities and styles in the process. (I think we're lucky; we get to highlight our differences with what we love, rather than intentionally trying to homogenize ourselves, like some industries prefer!) For an example of designers promoting themselves, visit This website makes it possible for anyone to use design to promote themselves and what they do, and is itself a form of design that leads to personal empowerment.

Another way I have seen design used for personal empowerment is to alter or even create a perception for a reputation. Presidential candidates use this all the time; the most obvious example would be President Obama's campaign materials. He (along with campaigners) created a branded image that showed him as forward, progressive, and of course, as a CHANGE from the past. In an interesting supplement to Obama's campaign, the artist Shepard Fairey took Obama's message and created the ubiquitous HOPE poster. Although this was promotion for someone else, it also shows how influential a visual campaign can be in creating a personal brand.


These are examples of self-promotion using design as a tool. The ultimate achievement is empowerment, and while these are examples of personal empowerment, the concept extends from individuals to groups to corporations, and even to entire nations (like flags!). Design helps us establish our personal identities, and knowing how to use it effectively can give us an advantage in self-promotion.

Willis, M. (Feb 27th, 2009). Shepard Fairey: Inspiration or Infringement?. In Fair Use Lab 1.0. Retrieved Dec 1, 2010, from

(n.d.). Featured Websites. In Cargo Collective. Retrieved Dec 1, 2010, from

Copyright | Personal | Kelly Grahn


My name is Kelly, and I am a brand.

My design standards aren't very set, and certainly not adhered to strictly, but the work I produce and the way I speak and interact with the world is unique. Just like everyone else.

As a designer, it is a very good thing when people, especially potential employers, know your brand. How do you make yourself known?

One good way to share your work is ironically by waiving your personal copyright to it. Submissions to stock photography websites are a great way to gain the attention of other designers (also known as future colleagues/employers). Let's say you take some absolutely gorgeous photos of your Persian cat, and submit to deviantart's stock photography section with a creative common license that allows "free for personal use." Then, other designers who absolutely need a photo of your type of cat for their personal illustrations will go to your page and interact with you. Provide some free, usable content and designers will have a reason to come to you (provided, of course, that your content is high quality).

There is even a creative commons option to allow "free for commercial use." That's right, you essentially give others the right to profit off of your work (usually included in this is a caveat that the image must be modified in some way - to prevent someone from selling your free stock photo as a pay stock photo). Why do this? Well, if someone at Big Company A needs a font for their website, and finds your free-for-commercial-use font on a site like, every person who visits Big Company A's website will be exposed to your work (if you require, say, a small credit be given wherever your work is in use). In this way, you (and your brand) can become widely known.

DeviantART: Where ART Meets Application! Web. 01 Dec. 2010. .
"Stock Art." Stock Images on DeviantART. Web. 01 Dec. 2010. . Web. 01 Dec. 2010. .

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2010 is the previous archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.31-en