Recently in Personal Category

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.

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!

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.

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

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.

Quality and the Personal Agenda

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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:

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. .

Go Go Babyz - Children & Personal - Renée LaViolette


When people travel with kids, the children always need a million things. The parents tend to have one bag, while each child has at least two. When traveling with smaller children, there is always a need for a stroller and car seat. It's really inconvenient to walk around airports with the car seats and strollers.

I was waiting for my flight home for Thanksgiving when I noticed a couple with a baby.
They were getting off of the plane I was about to board and I noticed something really awesome - the baby's stroller. At first I only saw the car seat they were carrying. Then the dad took the car seat and strapped it onto a set of wheels with an extended handle. Instantly the car seat turned into a stroller! I was so intrigued I looked the product up online and found Go-Go Babyz's Travelmate. The Travelmate is made up of wheels and an extended handle. It connects to almost every car seat for children up to 50 pounds. It folds down to practically nothing and makes traveling much easier with kids.
They also have another product called the Infant Cruizer. This product is similar to the Travelmate, but is more for everyday use. You can strap in almost any car seat to it too. When your child grows out of the Infant Cruizer, you can buy the Infant Cruizer Toddler Adapter. To me, the coolest thing about this product is that you can attach two of them together. It can be two toddler seats, two infant seats, or one of each. The video here shows that.

The Travelmate is really affordable. I think any parent would be willing to test this product in a heartbeat. The Cruizer is a little pricier, but considering how expensive regular strollers are, it's a good product because of the lack of space it takes up.


Fun and the Personal Agenda | Jonathan Glatfelter


Over the past five years, Facebook and other networking sites have hit all of society and have changed the world as we know it. They have allowed us to communicate with people easily, and they have allowed us to meet people from across the world. What makes these networking platforms so alluring? What brings people to these websites? What makes them fun?

Since Facebook launched back in February of 2004, it has gone through many alterations and facelifts. It seems to be that with every aesthetic fix, the Facebook world blows up in outrage ("The new Facebook SUCKS!" "Why did they change what was working from the start?!" "The newsfeed is horrible!" "I hate the new changes!"). Every time that this has happened, the storm seems to always settle down over the span of a week. What makes these avid users go crazy over change? Is it that they enjoy consistency? Is it no longer fun for a user if the design of the website has been altered? Well, I would think that change would be fun.

The change of a design can really influence society and the "fun factor" that this design has or may have had. A simple change can either mend all of the problems the design had, or it can send people into a total outrage. I use Facebook as an example only because it seems so minute. It's such a widespread tool and its design is really quite simple, yet people have always seemed to get all bitter once its design has been altered in the slightest bit.

While Facebook has made many small changes, they also have made a couple of big changes, the biggest being that of their privacy settings ( Less than two years ago, it was stated that Facebook owned anything that anyone had uploaded or posted to the site. Even though many Facebook users were outraged over this comment, many of them opted out on deleting their accounts ( How do bigger changes and smaller changes in the design of something change the way people react? People who experience smaller changes to Facebook seem to initially react almost the same way as they do to larger changes. What other companies have done this? How have consumers reacted towards those changes?

Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from

Vision Critical. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from

James Cosper. Knowing When To Stop Copying


James Cosper
Minimalism and the Personal Agenda

When considering minimalism and the personal agenda we should examine an area that cannot be eliminated. There are many tools we may utilize to make work easier but no tool is so useful as practice. Experience with a process or program speeds future uses. Similarly, studying the past will hopefully enable us to avoid mistakes others have made. Minimalisation can be found in the restraint a designer shows while incorporating new practices and elements from existing designs.

Jeff Veen is a web designer that has given a small talk about design and critical thinking. In this short lecture he talks about the cargo cults that arose in the south Pacific after World War II. The story is that during WWII the American military moved onto islands that had never encountered Westerners before and brought with them the wealth of industry. The indigenous people associated the planes and the practices of the Army, this was before the Air Force existed, with the bounty but did not understand what was needed to create the goods and services. When the military left so did the goods so the natives created bamboo planes and practiced behavior mimicking what the Army personnel did while there. They are referred to as the " cargo cults ."

He uses the iPhone as an example of designers influencing other Smartphone manufacturers in the same manner as the technologically advanced people inspired the cargo cults. Though two Smartphones may have a similar appearance they may not function in the same manner because the imitator fails to understand the working of the original.

He presents the idea that " great designers steal
," itself a paraphrase of Picasso's statement that "Good artists copy, great artists steal." The concept is that great designers will steal from a design that works and incorporate the principles and elements of the original into something new. An example of this is the " iPad
from Apple. Bell calls it "an act of aggressive tech convergence" that combines tablet computer, net book, e-reader, and media player into one. Here Apple has taken elements from other devices and joined them with the brand equity of the Mac to create a device that creates longing in consumers. Apple has shown restraint in minimalising the number of features the iPad incorporates from netbooks and tablets, however. Like the elimination of the floppy drive in late '90s Macs the iPad does not have a disc drive for media. Right now this may be a hassle but will be seen as an innovation in the future as more software and media is delivered wirelessly over the web.

An example of a copy, however, is found in the new Nook Color from Barnes & Noble. Nook Color has not been given a full review since CNet has just been given a preview device. Overall they were impressed but from my point of view Barnes & Noble is moving away from the strength of the e-reader. The original Nook, like the Amazon Kindle, used an e-ink screen to enable reading without the eyestrain or the difficulty of reading in sunlight of an LCD screen like the iPad. The new device uses an LCD screen like the iPad and adds a number of Android operating system features that may enable more functionality like a tablet computer but not as many as the iPad. This will result in unfavorable comparisons, which anecdotally occurred even when the device was black and white and a quarter of the price of the iPad. Before the Nook was a strong e-reader but by copying the iPad they may be reducing the usefulness of the device's key feature. I believe the designers at Barnes & Noble would be better served by taking only the elements of the iPad that make for a better e-reader rather than copying as much as possible. The restraint shown would illustrate an understanding of their device and help stand apart from competitors.

Works Cited:

Bell, D. (2010). Apple ipad (64gb). Retrieved from;contentBody

Carnoy, D. (2010). Barnes & noble nook color. Retrieved from;contentBody;2r

Veen, J. (2009). Great designers steal. Retrieved from

Veen, J. (Unknown). Jeffrey Veen. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (Unknown). Cargo cult. Retrieved from

Recyclability | Personal Agenda

If any of you have read my other blogs about recyclability, you will know that I sort of think recycling is mostly hype. Reusing is where it's at. It's where we, as individuals, have the most power to impact the issue of waste and create better lives for ourselves.

Today in class (yes, that's right . . . I'm doing this blog at the very last minute, just hours before it is due) we talked about what kind of monetary compensation we, as designers, can expect in exchange for our amazing design skills. Since I'm pretty sure I'm not the 'superstar' designer that all companies are looking for, I might be offered something around $20k per year for the privilege of working my butt off for an ungodly number of hours per week. Even if I'm working for Duffy (wishful thinking) I'll still have to figure out how to live on that teensy weensy bit of money.

Now, I've been living on a pittance for several years, so I know how to do it, but I have to admit that I haven't been all that creative about it. You come over to my house and you just think "Damn, she's poor." That's all over. I've discovered that with a little creativity, some elbow grease, and a good amount of quirkiness (don't worry, you all qualify) we can live quite stylishly on very little cash-moola-greenbacks. It's all about REUSING!!

Myself, I'm going to start right off by shopping for an old Airstream trailer to make my home, but if mobility isn't a priority for you, the 'Redneck Mansion' might be a great place to settle in and put down some roots.


Furnishing your abode should be no problem: Aluminum cans, cardboard, abandoned shopping carts, and old compact discs with four years of homework assignments (useless for your portfolio) can all be repurposed into seriously chic furniture.

can furniture.jpg

For those little touches that make a house a home, check out the
Goddess of Garbage. She can show you how to turn any old piece
of junk into a treasure!

Here are a few of my favorite sites for creative reusing and repurposing:

Disability | The Personal Agenda | Christine Yakshe

The key in designing for disability is the main focus has to be on function. The most important thing is to design something that will make the life of the person with the disability easier. "It is the environment that renders people disabled and not the medical impairments" (Singit).

In the paragraph for the personal agenda in the syllabus, there is talk about addressing the latest trends or using the latest technology. Addressing current trends is not as important as addressing current technology and the basic needs of those with disabilities. As far as design, the truth is that the more simple the design, the better. The easier it is to use or understand, the easier it is for the person with the disability to continue in their daily life with as few bumps in the road as possible.

Disability design does not need to focus on the latest trends as it will most likely be used for a long period of time and needs to stay relevant. For example, the hearing aid which first came out in the 1800s was not designed to follow trends, it was designed to fit into a person's ear and do what it was intended to do (Watson). While over the years, technology has allowed the hearing aid to become smaller, better developed, and more comfortable for the user it has not changed much in terms of appearance. The same thing goes for the wheelchair; there have been a few more modern designs recently including the following but none of them have really gone anywhere or become mainstream.

I think as far as personal preferences in design go it's kind of either way as to whether or not it really matters in bringing that into the design. Obviously because you are designing it there will be some sort of personal influence but it may be best to try and be neutral when designing for disability. The most simplicity and easy of use is the best to make everything easy for the user. It may be difficult to objectively design for others and keep your preferences out of it but that's probably what is most necessary in disability design.

Singit, N. (n.d.). Disability research and design foundation. Retrieved from

Singit, N. (2009). Disability research design foundation blog. Retrieved from

Watson, S. (n.d.). How hearing aids work. Retrieved from

Communication | Personal | Lindsey Ostby


When I think about the role that communication plays in my personal life, I think about the impact that design and technology have on this relationship. I think about how communication design has changed throughout my life and how it will continue to change in the future. Early on in my life, communication by use of the Internet was very new and not as essential in my lifestyle as it is now. At the time, MSN Messenger, was one of the only social distractions in my life. That, and my Hotmail account. For me, it was the beginning of this idea of being connected to someone without actually having to talk to him or her on my home phone or in person. I got my first cell phone when I was 16. It was a simple design, only used for phone calls and the few amount of text messages that I could send each month.

As I reflect on my interactions with these designed things, I realize that it was just the beginning of the way I would communicate in my life now. During the time I have been writing this blog post, I have checked my e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, went on YouTube, etc., both on my now updated touch-screen cell phone and my one-year-old MacBook. My ability to communicate through these designed objects and interfaces have practically changed the way I function and live. And it will continue to change the role it plays in my life as long as technology and communication keep on advancing. So now the question to ask is how will communication be present in our lives in the future?

I found an interesting YouTube video of a presentation that Microsoft created which demonstrates their vision for the future by the year 2019.

I found their future ambitions very intriguing, causing me to imagine how this would affect the way I will use communication in my life in less than ten years. What I found even more interesting was the parody video that came up after I watched this one. This next video allowed me to think about the effect of what this future might hold.

I understand that this video is probably making fun of Microsoft and their ability to actually make this a reality, but I found that some of the points made were extremely thought provoking. For example, the idea of having mental implants allowing us to see hallucinating icons or the idea of a newspaper crashing or getting a virus. Which brings me to my point that we heavily rely on these designed objects to communicate with each other and within our lives. I am not saying that I don't think we should design these interfaces, but we have to understand that we have adapted to them. If I can honestly say that the role of communication in my life is dependent on these innovations, how is this going to affect us ten years from now? We will never really be able to fully answer these questions until we experience it, but looking back at the trend over the years, it is worth thinking about.

"Microsoft's Future Vision 2019." YouTube. 01 Mar. 2009. Web. 09 Nov. 2010. .
"Microsoft's Vision of the Future (Parody)." YouTube. 19 May 2009. Web. 09 Nov. 2010. .

Another interesting article:

Competitiveness | Personal Agenda | Allison Hall

As we all know, graphic design is a relatively new career field to be in. Perhaps it would be better to say that graphic design as we know it now is a new vocation to have. Even with our current advanced technology helping us design at fast speeds and in high quality, things are constantly changing. What's popular this year may not be popular two years from now. Keeping up with design trends could shoot us forward from being just another designer, to being a valuable employee. Ultimately, it is one of the many ways for us as individuals to stay competitive in the graphic design world. It's our personal responsibility to educate ourselves and stay in the loop.

Knowing what's in style in terms of color, layout, typography, etc. is vital to actively participate in brainstorming and ideation for a project. This is also important in communicating with clients and those above you; understanding references and comparisons while trying to imitate a style or feeling in design helps avoid confusion and promote efficiency in completing a project. Therefore, on a larger scale, being aware of what's going on in the graphic design world will help the company you're working for stay competitive in the market, which in turn makes you a competitive designer in the field.

Fortunately, we can depend on the Internet to inform us of design trends before we get into the work force. Can you imagine trying to appear knowledgeable in an interview without being able to look at the company's website to see their portfolio, or using the Google machine to inform yourself on what's new in graphic design? The tool is there, so we need to use it. Here are some fun articles and sites I came across that talk a bit how to keep up with design trends (first link) and some professional designers' opinions on current trends (second link).

Looking at company's portfolios, personal portfolios and keeping up with design blogs can give you an idea of what's out there and what's the topic of conversation. This is one such blog, who happened to post on logo trends for 2010. An interesting highlight on this blog: "One should not follow trends for the sake of following them." I think part of being a good, and competitive, designer is knowing when to follow a trend, and when to take a risk and go outside the box. So, step one is being familiar with what's trendy. Step two is deciding if and when the style should be used.

We all need to take a personal responsibility in educating ourselves as we prepare for the real world of design. If we do so, our portfolio will obviously be better and we will be able to talk about our work in a professional way... but once we get that job we want, the potential to become a valuable designer who can contribute to concepting and developing of a design/idea is much higher.


When it comes to the world of design, it is important to own your personal style, tastes, and judgments. While working with clients, it can get harder and harder to own up to your personal beliefs and tell the client "no" when they ask for something absurd. I'm sure many of you out there have visited the blog, Clients From Hell, where some of the crazies questions, demands, and situations of designer-client relations have been documented. While it is amusing reading them from the outside, it is important to think about what you would do in some of those situations. Would you cave and give the client what they want? Would you try to persuade them to your point of view? Or if they are still stubborn, will you have the nerve to drop them all together?

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While working with a client, there will be many times that you have to sacrifice some of your perfect design to satisfy the (what you believe is) unintelligent requests of your client. Maybe its that they want a different background color, or they want to change the wording of a certain phrase, sometimes you just have to do it. In an article by Dennis Kardys called "Give the Client What They Want," he explains that it can be hard to make changes you don't fully believe in, "you've poured passion and problem solving into a design which is both well thought out and remarkably tasteful [...] and there is a pride of ownership that goes along with that." But, he also asks you, "how drastic is their request? What would the actual consequences of implementing those requests be? [...] Client involvement is part of the web design process. In order for the project to be deemed successful, designers need to be able to objectively listen to the client, and give them something they want." Sometimes you need to pick your battles. In the real world of design, when you have a client who's paying you, sometimes you have to drop your personal ownership and do what they think they want. Of course there are times though, if you feel a bit more strongly, you can try to persuade the client.

Clients will always have, to us, silly opinions and requests. Again in Karbys article, he emphasizes that "it's really important to be able to communicate the rationale of your design decisions to the client." Even if the client already agrees with your decisions, they should understand the thought behind it. But it is even more important that they clearly understand why you did something if they are asking you to change it. You, as the designer, need to take ownership of your design and personal decisions and stand up for them. Explain to the client why you believe in your choice, don't argue, blame, or get upset, first try to be rational about things. In the end, its your work, and your name is attached to it, you need to be able to own that design. Karbys makes a good point when he states, "blaming an ineffective website on the result of poor decision-making by a difficult client, will not change the fact that ultimately you build ineffective and unusable sites." In some cases though, when a client is truly unruly or difficult, you may need to take complete ownership of yourself as a designer, and drop the project or client all together.

Being proud of your skills and owning your work can sometimes call for firing a client completely. In an article by Doc4 Design, an ad agency in Arkansas, called "Live to Design Another Day: Know When it's Time to Fire a Client," Doc4 explains that "an extremely successful businessman once told me that if you begin to compromise work, prices and time for clients, then the reputation and credibility of your company is lost, and for a design agency this is everything." This is especially true for freelance designers as well. Your work, time, and prices are everything, and clients will often try to take advantage of you if they can. The blog, and now book, Clients From Hell is filled with stories of clients trying to get out of paying full price, insisting on poor design requests, and devaluing design, and if you are faced with a client like this, you may need to end business with them. If a client compromises your design too much, that can also be reason to end business. Doc4 explains in the article a situation where the client had so many changes to a design, they hardly recognized it anymore. They stated that, "to put it simply, we were embarrassed to have our name associated with the project. So, if you have to sacrifice your integrity to please a client, they should be fired, because the success or failure of the project will ultimately fall on your shoulders." As I explained before, you need to get your clients to understand your rationale and justify your design; sure you can let things slide, but not so much that the design isn't yours anymore.

Keeping ownership of your personal design opinions, judgments, and skills can be a sticky situation with some clients. I know I've already dealt with some similar situations as those on the Clients From Hell blog. I've had bosses take advantage of free labor from an intern, I've had clients pay me far too little for the work I was producing, and I've had some requests that really compromised my design. In all of these situations I've slowly learned when to stand up for myself, and even when to fire the client or quit. As I mature as a designer, I am gaining more and more confidence in my skills and in standing my ground, and only regret that I didn't take a stand sooner in some cases. In the end, Karbys puts it well when he says, "be flexible and accommodating when it comes to matters of personal taste. Be firm in your objections to demands that reduce the effectiveness of the design or impede usability."

Returnability (reusability) | Personal | Lisa Hocraffer

| 1 Comment

Reuse is a personal decision, but one that affects all of society. Consumers have to be willing to work harder and spend more to purchase products that last longer. Most people who do not use reusable products or recycle don't do this because it is inconvenient (Schiller, 2010). To change this cycle, designers and manufacturers need to give consumers the facts by creating commercials, advertisements, and point-of-purchase displays that demonstrate the annual personal savings from using reusable items. This campaign could also describe the average annual waste from specific non-reusable items per consumer. As designers, we need to motivate people to use sustainable practices. We need to make reuse personal to consumers. That is the only way to make a permanent change. As designers we need to hold ourselves personally accountable for the projects we work on and the designs we make.3-plastic-cup-earrings.jpg

        As a society, we need to make reusability easier. One way of doing this is by expanding local reuse programs. College campuses are particularly suited to broader reusability programs. Every year around move in and move out there are staggering amounts of useable furniture, appliances, and school supplies that are thrown away, abandoned, or left to be ruined in the rain. A little known reusability program at the U of M works to solve this problem. MIMO, the Como-area free store, operates during the months surrounding the start of fall and the end of spring semester. MIMO takes in furnishings, keeping them safe from the elements, and provides a place for students to come and get furnishings for free. MIMO builds on the idea of thrift stores and second-hand boutiques, which are another great option for reusing items.

         Thrift stores and second-hand boutiques provide an affordable way to practice 4-shirt.jpgreusability and still have new things, or at least things that are new to you. The popularity of vintage clothing has made thrift stores a trendy place to shop. This image shift is making reuse fashionable and sustainable. Concepts like this make reusability an issue people can get on embrace.

         Some designers have made themselves personally responsible for combining reusability and fashion, bringing this topic into focus for consumers and adding credibility to reuse. Elizabeth Seward works to bring reusability into fashion by writing Do-It-Yourself directions for the website. Some examples of her ideas include making earrings from plastic cups, jazz up an old shirt, or make lip gloss from beets. Reusability doesn't have to be hard, which is why designers need to make it a personal goal to do to make sustainability more reachable.2-lipgloss-319.jpg
         Reuse--personal yes, but key to helping to prudently use the world's resources. As designers, we have the opportunity to serve as leaders in helping make the world a better place through reuse by helping consumers make that personal decision.

Works Cited

The Como green village. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Schiller, Ashley. (2010). Why people don't recycle. Retrieved from

Seward, Elizabeth. (2009, June 26). Diy tinted beet lip gloss [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Seward, Elizabeth. (2009, June 30). Make your own t-shirt: empire waist with a personal touch [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Seward, Elizabeth. (2009, July 1). Reuse those plastic cups as earrings [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Convenience - Personal Agenda - Manon Ibes

| 1 Comment

In my previous posts I've considered how designers should consider convenience in terms of their audiences and their clients. This post is going to take a different approach and discuss some developments, specifically in the online and technology sectors, that are making designers' lives easier and the design process more convenient.

The "digital age" and increasing technological advances are making design easier. Designers can go online at any time of the day and get inspiration, advice, and assistance on almost any topic. Designers use the web and social media to connect with and support each other. This support ranges from design strategy suggestions, like this info-graphic designed to help designers determine the best font style for a project (created by Julian Hansen, and posted at Inspiration Lab) to free stock art and vectors that cut down on the amount of time needed to create a design, like this collection of 60 free vector packs for design professionals, (from vector tuts+: ). In addition to free files and design advice, there are also tutorials for almost any technique imaginable, which in addition to adding convenience, can also save money because they cut down on the need for expensive tutorial books that are outdated every time Adobe puts out a new Creative Suite edition.

Designers are also using the Internet to form communities and foster relationships among themselves. Designers can use each other as inspiration and give encouragement to each other by acknowledging great designs online: I have recently discovered DesignSitesUp, which is listed as a Digg-type site for designers to link together their designs and inspiration. It is constantly amazing to me how many designers, in addition to publishing their own work, operate design blogs that share advice and knowledge. AIGA, as a professional organization, is a great example of a place were designers can go to get information not just on design itself, but on business practices and other areas that designers are not specifically trained in. There are many other resources that offer advice on everything from design education to design business. A popular blog and community site is which: "is a Graphic Design education directory with resources & articles for Graphic Designers & Web Designer," and offers knowledgeable advice on everything from where to get a design education to crafting your final portfolio.

The web is also making it easier for designers to get their work out into the public. There are numerous portfolio websites (Carbonmade, Shownd, Coroflot, to name a few) that are not only free services, but are also job-posting sites where designers and employees can connect. Even large companies that one might assume would only be posting on the major sites (or their own employment sites) are using these venues to find new, creative talent (see Target's numerous postings on Coroflot). Other portfolio and creative sites like Behance and DeviantART allow designers to connect with each other to provide design feedback and to share inspiration and resources.
New tools are also making judging the effectiveness of designed materials more convenient (which is great for the designer and the client). 3M has created the "Visual Attention Service" to simulate eye-tracking and provide information about what a viewer would see in the first seconds of exposure to a design. The VAS program would cut down on the costs of usability testing because designers could use the program to test the piece several times and bring the product to the highest level possible, so that real eye-tracking could be used only to fine-tune the design.
Writing this post has made me extremely thankful to be living in this digital era. I cannot count the hours I have saved by an online tutorial or free vector icon. Although design is a competitive field, it is so incredible that so many designers are out there and helping each other out.

AIGA | the Professional Association for Design. Web. 07 Nov. 2010.

Andersen, Julie K. "So You Need a Typeface." Inspiration Lab. 16 Apr. 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2010.

"Design Job Search Results." Coroflot - Design Jobs & Portfolios. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. .

DesignSitesUp Web. 07 Nov. 2010. .

Graphic Design Software Directory & Portal for Graphics Tips : Desktop Publishing Resources & Graphic Design Links. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. .

Spooner, Chris. "60 Free Vector Icon Packs for Design Professionals | Vectortuts." Vectortuts | Adobe Illustrator and Vector Tutorials, from Beginner to Advanced. 20 Nov. 2008. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. .

"3M Visual Attention Service - 3M US - Home." 3M Global Gateway Page. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. .

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