Recently in Financial Category

The first thing that came to my mind as a topic for this post is how innovation in design could affect the value of companies and brands. However, this seemed somewhat trite and vague for me to write about and for anyone else to read. Design innovations can make money if successful, but they are really a form of change, which could imply positive or negative financial implications for a company. In my previous post on social aspects of innovation I quoted an article by Scott Berkun, discussing innovation versus doing things consistently well. I tend to agree that a focus on doing things well is a good way to have financial success. So, instead of dwelling on that I thought it would be interesting if the rest of my post focused on how differentiation among designers/design companies can be its own form of innovation. I will highlight a few examples of business models or self-marketing decisions that help add diversity to the design business community.

LEGO Design byME (1)
I love toys, and LEGO has always had a special presence in the market. I was surprised to find out that a business direction of theirs now lets someone use free software to design a custom model out of LEGO pieces, as well as its box, and then have it delivered. Here's how they put it:
"Is there something special missing in your LEGO collection? Would you like to add a professional touch to your personal gifts? Now you can make, shape & even order the toy you wish in a box you design yourself." (1). I don't know what kind of financial effect this has for the company, but it is a really logical direction for their growth taking advantage of software and online ordering. The LEGO image is one of customization, and this takes it further than was previously possible.

MAKE Magazine (2)
This magazine (now 22 volumes) caters to do-it-yourself-ers and tech hobbyists, giving ideas and instructions for how to create devices out of available parts. Given its audience, I'm sure its online presence and community is just as strong as the publication for communicating ways to make stuff for fun.

Kontrapunkt (3)
Kontrapunkt is a Danish design firm that created a self-named typeface. As "a bit of a democratic experiment" (3), they allowed the typeface to be downloaded and used for free. This seems to me like a very generous, and useful, way to market your firm. I'll do my part in the promotion by putting the link right here.

Knock-Down/Drag-Out (KDDO) furniture (4)
Another design business strategy is to create something based on your needs, knowing that other people probably want the same thing. Christopher Douglas "recognized the need for furniture that was easily stowable..." (4), which lead the former advertiser to create a flat-pack line of furniture for people who moved a lot, like him.

These are just a few examples of how doing different things can be an innovative business strategy in design. The more diversity there is, the more likely there will be a spot in the market for a designer or company to settle in and make money.
(1) http://designbyme.lego.com/en-us/FAQ/default.aspx?id=137352
(2) http://makezine.com/
(3) http://www.kontrapunkt.com/en/
(4) Design Life Now. Bloemink, et al. Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York. 2006. pp 82-83.

How I Put My Portfolio Together With Less Than 100 Dollars

Lets talk about finance, more specifically let's talk about financing a portfolio. With a sweet vision and a slim budget I was able to piece together an appealing portfolio that reflected my identity, my style, and my work.

I started out with a vision of my box: an old hard cover suitcase. I ventured to a few antique stores but had no luck. I made my way to my favorite 2nd hand-clothing store, Everyday People and low and behold there was the suitcase of my dreams. It was bright red, big and hard covered, 15 bucks, not too bad.

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Later on I was talking to my boyfriend about what kind of boards I should use, being the highly skilled wood worker that he is, he suggested Masonite. He said we could cut them down to fit the suitcase just right. So we went to Menards and found a large Masonite board for only 8 bucks. And for a six-pack and a Jimmy John's sandwich ($10) Cooper, lovingly, cut out 12 beautiful boards with rounded corners and middle indent for easy accessibility.

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At that point I had spent 33 dollars total, I then had to remove the inside lining of the suitcase, it was quilted satin with ruffles (not quite the look I was going for). After which I ventured to wet paint in St.Paul. Wet Paint is conveniently stocked with the finest papers from all over the world and the finest people on that side of the river.

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I brought my suitcase in and a bearded friend and I went through book after book of Japanese, Chinese, Indian and European papers. We finally settled on speckled, retro, linoleum like paper from Japan, for the inside of the suitcase. And a sea foam green paper from who knows where, for the back of the boards. In total it was 18 dollars, leaving me with 49 more dollars to work with.

Next I called Jonathan, who had previously told me about an office max in Roseville that was far more helpful then, any Kinko's. Anyhow I arrived at Office Max only to have my work printed by the nicest young man in the surrounding area and total costs brought me to $22.81. Leaving me with $26.19, not too bad.

All the cutting and adhesive materials I had at home, which goes to show one should never throw anything away because it could be put to good use someday (I guess this can also depend on what that thing is). So before you go and spend 500 dollars on your portfolio, think about reusing, saving money, searching for deals and nice people, and use your resources and friends, responsibly. We are all creative people, and creativity doesn't only to apply to art and design.

A couple weeks ago I attended MinneWebCon and saw a great afternoon keynote called Inclusive Universe by Wendy Chisholm. This was a great presentation shining light on how important it is to consider accessibility within design. I highly recommend watching this video but if you can't, here are some interesting points she brought up that relate to finance.

People with disability make up the 3rd largest market in the U.S., behind baby boomers and seniors; which represents 5 trillion dollars in spending. As designers, it makes a lot of sense for us to design for those with disabilities. Sometimes people are afraid to face the issue of accessibility because of additional costs, but designing with accessibility in mind from the beginning will save money down the road. For example, curb cuts are designed for people in wheelchairs and if they are installed right away, it saves money. If they have to be installed down the road, because designing with disability wasn't thought about, it will cost more money. While curb cuts are designed with disability in mind, others will also benefit from this design because designing for disability increases the abilities of everyone else even more. How great are cut curbs for your awesome rolling backpacks, strollers and skateboards?

In this talk, Wendy also talked a lot about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 defines how to make Web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. These guidelines also make Web content more usable by older individuals with changing abilities due to aging and often improve usability for users in general.

Taking a look over these guidelines and keeping disability in mind when designing websites is very important both socially and financially. There are endless opportunities for innovation when designing for disability. In Wendy's presentation she gives many great examples of innovative designs that have helped disabled people, especially within the web.

Beautiful Kinds of Stress: Pinching Pennies and Building knowledge Banks


Slowdown and Load Up

During this recession, advertising has been dramatically cut from many companies' budgets, and therefore design firms suffer. Then everything, in once sense, slowed down. The process of booking a project with a client slowed to a snails pace, not because there isn't as much to do, but because of the anxiety clients have when investing money into their project. It is penny-pinching time, and decisions that once seemed somewhat methodical have become more detrimental. Those people, who were not laid off by their design firms, have taken those unfortunate people's responsibilities. Does all of this slowdown and load up result in a negative outcome? There are many positive events that occur (believe it or not) during a recession. For one thing, hardship inspires and motivates people. According to the New York Times article Design Loves a Depression, an example of this kind of epiphanic boom occurred during the Great Depression, when an early wave of modernism flourished in the United States, partly because it properly addressed the middle-class need for a toned-down life without the luxuries of servants and other Victorian trappings (1). Stress can drive creativity, but by financially clearing the air can sometimes allow this to happen more quickly. Many corporate heads should now look at what their firms really need to have in order to get their job done, and then strip what is not needed (2). This can be from printing supply choices, to gourmet coffee in the break room. Anything that is unnecessarily hard on the wallet, could maybe head out for the time being. This financial environment creates stress, but a kind of stress that can essentially develop something amazing.

Build Skills

There is stripping, and then there is building. During the hustle and bustle of a booming economy, it is harder to keep up with what is happening in terms of communication just due to how fast the pace is moving in the workplace. During this time design firms must stop, and work on broadening their social abilities. Aiga states that one of the most important things that design firms and individual designers must do during this slow economic period is to update your skills (3). Our speaker Gwenyth, director of writing services at Larsen, demonstrates practices at Larsen that all design firms should do right now concerning social media. As technology increases people's attention spans decrease. It is important to invest in more traditional ways of advertising, such as bill boards and buss banners ( which no doubt will predominantly be digital soon) , and there is nothing wrong with defending those mediums, although investing time and money in more interactive and social means of communication is becoming the main way to reach people.

Create Clear Communication

As Gwenyth said, focusing on content and ways of delivering that content are elements that should be done during these hard times. Even when you create your own identity, just know that the way you describe yourself through not only aesthetics but words can determine how many jobs you could get, and thus how efficiently you can pay your rent. So, when you are sitting at your computer, stressed about a design project, getting a job, or a job you already have, just know that that stress can very well be your ticket to success. Stripping down to the essentials, practicing humility, creating priorities, and indulging in knowledge = Empowered Design.

1. http://www.designobserver.com/observatory/entry.html?entry=7177


2. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/weekinreview/04cannell.html

3. http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/how-is-aiga-helping-designers-survive-the-recession

Beautiful Kinds of Stress: Pinching Pennies and Building knowledge Banks


Slowdown and Load Up

During this recession, advertising has been dramatically cut from many companies' budgets, and therefore design firms suffer. Then everything, in once sense, slowed down. The process of booking a project with a client slowed to a snails pace, not because there isn't as much to do, but because of the anxiety clients have when investing money into their project. It is penny-pinching time, and decisions that once seemed somewhat methodical have become more detrimental. Those people, who were not laid off by their design firms, have taken those unfortunate people's responsibilities. Does all of this slowdown and load up result in a negative outcome? There are many positive events that occur (believe it or not) during a recession. For one thing, hardship inspires and motivates people. According to the New York Times article Design Loves a Depression, an example of this kind of epiphanic boom occurred during the Great Depression, when an early wave of modernism flourished in the United States, partly because it properly addressed the middle-class need for a toned-down life without the luxuries of servants and other Victorian trappings (1). Stress can drive creativity, but by financially clearing the air can sometimes allow this to happen more quickly. Many corporate heads should now look at what their firms really need to have in order to get their job done, and then strip what is not needed (2). This can be from printing supply choices, to gourmet coffee in the break room. Anything that is unnecessarily hard on the wallet, could maybe head out for the time being. This financial environment creates stress, but a kind of stress that can essentially develop something amazing.

Build Skills

There is stripping, and then there is building. During the hustle and bustle of a booming economy, it is harder to keep up with what is happening in terms of communication just due to how fast the pace is moving in the workplace. During this time design firms must stop, and work on broadening their social abilities. Aiga states that one of the most important things that design firms and individual designers must do during this slow economic period is to update your skills (3). Our speaker Gwenyth, director of writing services at Larsen, demonstrates practices at Larsen that all design firms should do right now concerning social media. As technology increases people's attention spans decrease. It is important to invest in more traditional ways of advertising, such as bill boards and buss banners ( which no doubt will predominantly be digital soon) , and there is nothing wrong with defending those mediums, although investing time and money in more interactive and social means of communication is becoming the main way to reach people.

Create Clear Communication

As Gwenyth said, focusing on content and ways of delivering that content are elements that should be done during these hard times. Even when you create your own identity, just know that the way you describe yourself through not only aesthetics but words can determine how many jobs you could get, and thus how efficiently you can pay your rent. So, when you are sitting at your computer, stressed about a design project, getting a job, or a job you already have, just know that that stress can very well be your ticket to success. Stripping down to the essentials, practicing humility, creating priorities, and indulging in knowledge = Empowered Design.

1. http://www.designobserver.com/observatory/entry.html?entry=7177


2. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/weekinreview/04cannell.html

3. http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/how-is-aiga-helping-designers-survive-the-recession

Many people believe that by implementing none-polluting, environmentally friendly products, services, and practices, the price must go up- basically that being green is opposite of making money. I vehemently disagree with that statement. There are many methods within design and within everyday life that do not have to turn out that way. This is precisely why I wanted to discuss,

"What is the price of pollution?"

At first, that seems like a lofty, unanswerable question. However, with President Obama's new Cap and Trade system, it's simply a matter of plugging in a few figures and out comes an actual number with a dollar sign. Pretty cool stuff. Business Week explains the system quite simply:

Obama proposes that companies buy an allowance, or permit, for each ton of carbon emitted, at an estimated cost, to start, of $13 to $20 per ton. (Those permits could also be bought and sold.)

Another part of how it works: It is essential that there be a set total amount of permits available; then, that number will need to go down every so often to lower the country's total pollution.

This system will not only encourage sustainable, environmentally friendly practices by reducing emissions- specifically those of carbon dioxide- but it will also stimulate the economy! Although it's quite inaccurate to say that financial gains are opposite of environmental protection, that is the belief of the vast majority of Americans so, a lot of the time, it is true- but it totally doesn't have to be. With this system, there is actual proof that people and businesses can financially succeed without paying the cost of pollution. It's really exciting.

Companies that are already implementing green practices won't be short-changed, either. They can buy up their allowance and sell it to the highest bidder, probably turning a very large profit that they can invest in more green solutions. I, and the Environmental Defense Fund, sincerely believe that eventually, businesses that use as many "pollution permits" as they can get their dirty little hands on will not be able to afford it anymore. Their customers won't be able to afford their services because the prices have gone up substantially because of the high cost of the pollution permits so they will be forced to cut their emissions to lower their prices to stay in business. It's a beautiful cycle.

(This is a similar system to the carbon tax idea and the two methods are thoroughly compared here.)

As an added incentive to consumers, most of the profit made from this Cap and Trade system will find its way back into their wallets in the form of lower taxes. I think that a large portion of the money could also be reinvested in other eco-friendly areas like creating green jobs, providing green business/automobile/housing tax breaks, making more efficient recycling systems, encouraging mass transportation..... Regardless, I'm sure the government will have no problem spending the extra profits.

In conclusion, I simply wanted to open up the discussion by including a very large, realistic example of when environmentally friendliness can actually make you money, now and in the future. Maybe start a super eco-design firm and then, by the time all this goes through, you can sell off all your allowances and make some mad cash. Now that is green.

Hello fellow seniors + Richelle and Jenny. Biodegradability isn't all maggots, worms, flowers and sunshine. There is almost always a financial concern tied directly to the next "green" idea. It is easy for people to say: "just get rid of that plastic wrap", "don't use those chemicals", or "use less of that". Yet we all expect to continue living our same lifestyles. We have grown attached to our products and services. We also have come to expect a certain price range and availability for these products. If one company tries to change its ways to be more "green" by decreasing the quality of the product, or increasing the cost, (two common results of doing so) most consumers will simply choose to buy from a different company who can offer the quality and price they are accustomed to.

We live in a capitalist nation where companies and people get rewarded for generating profit, not for having good values. It is very unfortunate, but it's the truth of the matter. If I personally had my way, I'd eliminate currency all together. In an ideal world we could all live in a harmonious community where we all help each other out because it's what we do. We would be a single class living for the well being of mankind as a whole. Unfortunately, this would greatly decrease graphic design careers...

...And back to reality in 2010. Since companies need to see profit from changes they make, making biodegradable products and packaging isn't always at the top of their list. One step that many large companies have taken is the idea selling reusable bags. Here: you can see that Walmart is selling a reusable bag for 50 cents.

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This should reduce waste created from grocery bags. Positive step? Yes, but it was still influenced by money. First of all, Walmart probably makes money on the bag its self. Secondly, they will save money by reducing the number of grocery bags it buys. The only real point here is that financial issues go hand in hand with biodegradability. If you go again to the site I referred, you will see halfway down the second paragraph where it talks about how much the government pays to take plastic bags to landfills. This once again raises the question in my mind, why doesn't the government step in? Since people and companies only seem to be moved by money or punishment, why doesn't the government mandate an extra tax on costumers who don't bring a reusable bag? Not only would this be environmentally responsible of our government, but it would also help contribute to the costs associated with removing our waste.

As graphic designers and creative individuals, I feel like we can help think of new ideas that can generate profit and are environmentally friendly. As we venture out into the world of professional design, we shouldn't just sit quietly designing in a corner. Always keep your creative hat on and try to find ways that you can assist the environment and your company.

In addition, there are many things you personally can do in regards to biodegradability that can actually help you save money. For example, I recommend growing a garden of your own if you can. This saves you a ton of money. Seeds are incredibly cheap and produce a lot of vegetables. This would also help reduce energy waste it takes to ship grocery store vegetables to you. On top of that, your garden could act as a compost pile where you can dump your biodegradable items. Please stay tuned, in my next blog I will be talking all about biodegradability from a personal aspect and things you can do.

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"biodegradable polymers"
this link discusses the increasingly popularity of biodegradable polymers. Much of it has to do with its cost continuing to go down at the same time standard thermoplastic prices have been increasing.

This was a video I found about designers who got laid off from ad agencies and the effect that it has had on their lives for the better.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/120840/lemonade

As the economy has been buckling down there are less jobs out there (paying jobs) than probably could be hoped for. With all the people getting let go and the ease of use of design programs, there is a lot of competition in the marketplace. It may not be entirely crazy to assume that some people will start out or may eventually become freelancers. We have talked somewhat about pricing in class and what to pay attention to so I would like to select some sites and possibly reiterate what we have talked about.

Hourly rate. How do you come up with an hourly rate? It actually takes a lot of research and planning on your part to decide how long projects are going to take. It is made easier if you have experience in knowing how long projects take but it is more than just making that awesome brochure or radical poster. You need to think about business calls, writing up proposals and invoices, meetings...ect.

Are you going to be printing? According to About.com, if you are then you should charge "typical to add an extra 10-20% onto what the printing will actually cost. This is your fee for any additional time involved in dealing with the printer."

You also need to remember to charge one-time costs such as having to buy a certain font or a certain kind of paper than will add to the expense.
There are basically four things people need to think about when pricing out projects: these are salary, overhead, and profit.

People should also think about who should they accept as clients. Should we accept anybody that walks in the door? Do we really need to put up with sticklers just for their money or should we hold our clients to a certain level of professionalism? Is it really ever ok to turn down a client?

I think that is something that needs to be thought about when we all start to venture out on our own. Is it better to have the money or to set a personal standard? I think it definitely depends on the situation but it should be noticed that not accepting everyone as a client can portray people in a positive light at times.

Lastly, the internet strongly suggest if you are going to freelance you need to have professional business programs. If you want to be professional then be professional and fork up the dough for those expensive programs in Best Buy. It will save you a ton of time and keep you organized. They say a lot of people justify not buying it because they don't feel like a professional company really or it is too expensive. Bull pucky the internet says.

Just do it.
http://www.allfreelancework.com/articlelehavi.php
http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/freelance/a/pricing.htm
http://www.allfreelancework.com/start.php
http://designm.ag/freelance/starting-freelance-business/
http://articles.sitepoint.com/article/interview-freelance-designer


In my last few posts I have brought up the fact that today's technology can push awareness through expedient information dispersal and gorilla marketing. The marketing campaigns that I have mentioned all have an underlying fact; the product, service or idea that they are trying to raise awareness for is in some way interesting or engaging. The question that can then be raised is how can one use the technology of today to raise awareness and change within topics of little to no public interest.

The financial mess that the US has found itself in, has helped to shine some light on just how financially irresponsible many Americans are. An alarmingly small number of people have an understanding of the connection between the financial actions they take and the consequences of those actions, immediate or future. The key to bridging the knowledge gap is by appealing to the basic human reward response (1.)

Cognitive science has been clarifying human motivation for decades, and although psychologists have not agreed on one overarching explanation, all consent that motivation is key to understanding how and why humans act as they do (2.) Humans are hardwired to engage in goal-oriented activities (3.) we get pleasure from it, which in turn drives us to continue and expand the behavior (see addiction (1.)) How does this all relate back to financial awareness, or awareness in general? Well, if you turn learning into a goal-oriented activity, with tangible or artificial rewards, you can play to human's native response and not only engage them, but also encourage them to continue.

I strongly advise everyone to take ten minutes and watch the following video:
http://www.ted.com/talks/jesse_schell_when_games_invade_real_life.html

While Jesse Schell's vision of future connectivity may be a little extreme, it just points out that the fantastic and relatively unexplored medium of goal-oriented, game-inspired learning, could be applied to every aspect of your life and encourage you to not only further your knowledge, but be a better you.

Any person who has tried to learn or teach themselves something that is intrinsically boring or complicated will tell you that it is typically an unpleasant activity. Ask any person if they would rather read a booklet about home mortgages or play/watch a game/film, I assume they would choose the later. When ever, if ever think-tanks and investors turn their attention from making money, to making a better society, we could possibly see an implementation of Mr. Schell's ideas. After all shouldn't learning be a fun?

1. Bozarth, Micheal A, http://www.addictionscience.net/ASNreport01.htm
2. Alpay, E. "How Far Have Cognitive Theories of Motivation Advanced Our Understanding of the Motivation to Learn?"
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivation

Will Davis, the Partnerships and Negotiations dealer for Target, was one of our recent guest speakers in class. One of the interesting information that he stated and caught my attention was the issue with security at Target. After hearing him talk about all of the things that go through negotiating partnership and cooperative plans with businesses, the design processes of promoting products, and the self-image that Target is lucky to have, in a way, what he said did not surprise me as much as I thought it would. Basically, Will Davis told us that someone could literally get away (until later) with walking into one of the Target stores, pick up a product probably regardless of size, and walk out without paying and without being stopped. He explained that the reason this would happen is because Target has already developed for itself an extremely powerful image and by getting security involved right away in the store may create a panic or fear of shopping in the store.

I've never thought of that but it doesn't surprise me that Target would see to act with such behavior. And they're probably not the only ones. Big and popular stores that have gone through a process of developing a friendly, caring, and safe image (thanks to design, crew, popularity, and success), are forced to keep those qualities in mind even in tough situations such as with the issue of theft. (Of course, the store would have everything caught on camera and so the issue would be resolved eventually, but not during the present. ) But they also have to worry of wrongfully accusing someone for it, which then would be even worse for the company.

Perhaps it is a psychological issue though that we'd prefer to not be aware that there are thieves in store and perhaps ultimately this links to the issue of money. Target has such an attractive image that by making their shoppers aware that a theft had just occurred, it would ruin it and hint or impose that their products might be too expensive, thus leading to people wanting to steal. I read up on article that explained even further that at Target "only a very small number of people per store have the authority to stop shoplifters. Therefore even if someone steals an item in the presence of a security guard ... Target does not authorize the guard to stop the shoplifter."

I'm curious as to if someone actually agrees that by witnessing a thief being caught on the spot in, let's say, Target, would they feel scared, unsafe, or assume the store is overpricing their products? I've previously experienced a similar situation two years ago but it was in a JC Penney inside a shopping mall. Two girls were in the process of stealing a few jewelries, attempted to walk out of the store, but only to be stopped by a woman employed there. Since then I've only been to JC Penney twice.
Regardless, I do feel that it's ok that companies such as Target would react in such a way. What we don't know, won't hurt us, right? (Maybe.)

Sources:

1) Guest Speaker: Will Davis
2) http://www.620wtmj.com/shows/jeffwagner/45156192.html

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