Category Archives: Annual Review

Family photo

It’s that time of year again: to see where I’ve been and where I’m going. This has become an annual tradition: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. And now for 2015…

Personal

  • Paid off 3 debts leaving just one debt plus the house left to pay off!
    • Paid off last student loan. We now have no credit card debt or student loan debt.
  • Sold our house for lots of profit and bought a beautiful, new home.
  • Continued following the principles from Getting Things Done – including:
    • Weekly review of projects and tasks to ensure I know the next task on every project and that my head is empty (see next point)
    • Constantly keep my head empty of things to remember – by putting them on lists in Wunderlist (with due dates & reminders)
  • Wrote 2 Design Myth articles: Put it above the fold & Show me some mockups, then I’ll sign the contract
    • I launched this website in 2014 after years of frustration surrounding outsider perception of the design industry.

Photo shoots from 2015

Creative Improv

  • Worked with 15 clients (Including many mini-projects for past clients – retaining clients has been great.)
  • 37% decrease in sales from 2014 (which matches my 2012 sales). Reason: new baby – but no regrets about this.
  • Tripled the number of photoshoots I completed for clients from 2014. I did 6 photoshoots this year! See some of the photos here.
  • Photoshoots and stock photography royalties made up 11% of my total sales.
  • Completed fun & fulfilling projects like the many photoshoots as well as the website and portraits I completed for First Baptist Church in Kirksville
    • aka: Fewer projects that I was just ‘meh’ about.

ITS website

Full-time Job

  • Redesigned the ITS department website. This wasn’t just any redesign. It was a 6-8 month, extensive process. I utilized a content inventory, analytics, and other data to build a case for a redesign as well as define real problems with the current website (based on data). I also made the case for WordPress over other website building tools. From there, I began designing in the open and getting client input on every piece of the design. See the redesigned website!
  • Attend An Event Apart – a web design conference in Washington DC – my second in 3 years!

What I shipped in 2015

Seth Godin talks a lot about shipping (or launching & putting things into the public). He is a big proponent of, ‘ship early and ship often.’ Meaning – if you have a project that you’re waiting until it is just right to launch – push through and launch it now. In 2010, Seth Godin challenged his readers to think about what they shipped the previous year. I think this is a great way to hold my own feet to the fire and assess what I launched/shipped in the last 12 months. Here is what I shipped in 2015:

It’s that time of year again: to see where I’ve been and where I’m going. This has become an annual tradition: 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. And now for 2014…

Photography

  • Completed a 365 day photo project – I set out to learn more about flash and lighting in photography. To do so, I challenged myself to make one photograph a day that utilized lighting.
  • Related to the first point, I grew my photography gear by purchasing a second speedlight, my first studio light (AlienBees B800) and many light modifiers (color gels, grids, mini-softbox, etc)
  • I learned a bit about pet photography. Wrangling a beagle and a cat, as well as lighting to get a good photo is an interesting challenge
  • Among the many things I learned to photograph this year is glass – Things like vases and glass bottles.
  • Discovered ‘free-lensing‘ – where you reverse your lens to capture macro photos. It’s amazing what daily curiosity and experimenting will produce!
  • Photographed smoke on colored backgrounds, in camera – when previously, I could only produce the same image with lots of Photoshop fakery.
  • Honed the ‘white background’ look. It helps when you have more than one light.
  • Did my first real photo shoot – a newborn/family shoot with friends. All my lighting experience definitely helped make me feel comfortable with using 1 and 2 lights.

Personal

  • Paid 2 large debts off while continuing to follow the Dave Ramsey, ‘Debt Snowball’ plan. Since January 2011, we’ve paid off approximately $80,000!
  • I read and applied the principles from the book, Getting Things Done  by David Allen. He puts forth a simple plan for day to day productivity – mostly centered around to-do lists and calendar usage – and a structure for regular review of your projects/lists/calendars. This is the first ‘productivity’ book I’ve read that has actually changed the way I get things done day to day.
  • Decided with my wife to have a baby (New Year’s Eve). She got pregnant 20 days later. Then we met Amelia Rose October 15th, 2014!
  • Continued projects on the house: New fencing, Baby room, installed hard wood stairs, renovated half of basement.
  • Launched a side project – DesignMyth.com – a project 2 years in the making. The website is the result of years of frustration surrounding the design industry and outsider perception of it.

Web Design

  • Continued to build websites using WordPress and features like custom fields/custom post types. This allows for very custom websites that are very easy to edit for the end client.
  • Continued my education of web technologies/software through Lynda.com

  • Completed projects in these areas: Websites, HTML emails, training, logos, photo licensing, photoshoots
  • Expanded my photography services – including a newborn photo shoot and licensing my Kirksville photos locally.
  • Made my business processes more efficient by utilizing lists, how-to’s and canned messages.
  • 28% increase in sales from 2013
  • Worked with 15 clients: 9 existing clients and 6 new clients
  • Completed my most extensive website project to-date: Also the one I’m most proud of since I started building websites in 2005 – That was the new website for Kirksville Tourism.

What I ‘shipped’ in 2014

Seth Godin talks a lot about ‘shipping’ (or launching/putting out into the public). He is a big proponent of, ‘ship early and ship often.’ Meaning – if you have a project that you’re waiting until it is ‘just right’ to launch – push through and launch (or ship) it now. In 2010, Seth Godin challenged his readers to think about what they ‘shipped’ the previous year. I think this is a great way to hold my own feet to the fire and assess what I launched/shipped in the last 12 months. Here is what I shipped in 2014:

  • Crushed 2 debts
  • Created 365 photos that utilized studio lighting/flash units.
  • Contributed 113 photos to iStockPhoto
  • Crafted and Launched 19 websites (12 with Creative Improv & 7 with my full-time job)
  • Launched a side project – DesignMyth.com
  • Crafted 2 HTML emails
  • Designed 1 logo

Flash photo a day - 365 photo project

I did it!

I shot a photograph a day in 2014 that utilized lighting (studio lights or flash units). I wanted to learn how to use lighting to make great photos – so this was my solution. I didn’t cheat either. Each day I shot a new photo (excluding 5 days during a family emergency). To see the whole photo project in a pinterest-style layout, check it out here. You can click on any photo to see it larger. As I wrap up this 365 day photo project, I want to recap what made this project a success – and it far exceeds just learning how to use photography lighting. Here are the many ways this photo project helped me grow and get better at my craft.

Create something I’m proud of every single day.

Something that isn’t directed by a client. Something I have full artistic control over. I’m the client! For so many years – literally since I started college and doing design on a professional level, I’ve never put forth a consistent effort to create for me. It forced me to get better because I couldn’t blame the flaws on ‘the pesky client’. I now see the evidence and benefit of having a side project that I have full control of.

Even if I had a day full of ‘minutia’ – I could look forward to the photo a day.

Even if I spent my day making detailed design or coding revisions and replying to endless emails, I could at least create one thing each day that I was proud of.

Think on my feet.

I was forced to think creatively every day. What would I photograph? How would I light it? How do I shoot a photo, edit it and post it when I have a looming deadline on a freelance project or other obligations? These challenges helped me think on my feet and push to create something I was proud of, whether I had 30 minutes or 3 hours to create something.

It made me a better designer and developer.

The act of creating a photo a day with lighting pushed me to be more agile and learn faster and try new things in other ares of my professional life – like web design and development. I would often think, “If I could figure out that lighting problem last night, why I can’t I solve this coding problem on this website?”

In these fresh stages of creativity, we are not affected by financial worries or job obligations—we are simply playing, expressing ourselves, making our soul grow and returning to the essence of creativity. The realizations that we recognize during these activities should be transferred over to our main craft.

Paul Jun

Practice makes perfect.

By doing something every day and trying something different each time, I learned a whole lot about good and bad light and how to use my equipment. Now, I feel that I’m a much better photographer than this time last year. I’m now thinking about how I can utilize this, ‘do something everyday’ concept to other areas of my life: web design/development, learning guitar and harmonica, photos of my daughter? How could I do something for just me in those area that I would learn a lot from and get a lot better?

It revolutionized my productivity.

I work a full-time job, do freelance work, home improvement projects, prepare for a new baby, AND this flash photo project. When I started this project, I was hesitant as to whether I could get everything done each day. Adding this photo project forced me to utilize my time wisely and get my work done first and procrastinate later (oxymoron, right?). What also helped was reading and applying the concepts in the book Getting Things Done

2013 year in review

It seems I’ve started an annual tradition where I recap my year personally and professionally, to see where I’ve been and where I’m going. See the past years: 2010, 2011, 2012… and now 2013…

Personal

  • Paid off 2 large debts while following the Davey Ramsey, debt snowball idea.
  • Bought my first house with Rebecca (her second house)
  • Completed numerous renovation projects with Rebecca: installed laminate, crown molding, light fixtures, bathroom fixtures, and painted an infinity of white walls.

Photography

  • Focused on learning about and creating landscape photos. This included long-exposure, focus stacking and HDR techniques. Check out my best 13 landscape photos.
  • Learned a whole lot about HDR editing techniques from Trey Ratcliff (via his video course) – i.e. this photo
  • Began placing my best photos on my new 500px profile – as a result, one of my photos made it to the 500px ‘Upcoming’ page. This page is where photos that are voted/favorited in a high percentage are placed.
  • Finally got some good fireworks photos (after a few years of failed attempts)
  • Started doing photography as part of my freelance work, rather than solely for personal enjoyment and iStockPhoto.
  • Contributed 67 photos and raster illustrations to iStockPhoto (two times more than 2012) – where they can be licensed by people worldwide.
  • Increased my iStockPhoto sales by 50% from 2012

Check out some of the photos I contributed to iStock this year:

landscape photos Arizona  Austin, TX

Web Design

  • Created many responsive (mobile-friendly) websites while continually learning about creating better responsive websites
  • Attended my first web design conference, An Event Apart. I gained a lot of clarity about what I need to learn next. I blogged about each and every talk from the conference here.
  • Started building WordPress websites that utilize custom fields and custom post types. This allows the client to very easily edit their website content, in a failproof manner
    • This technique landed the largest web design client I’ve had to-date!

Creative Improv, my freelance business

  • Implemented the very first redesign of CreativeImprov.com – the new website is mobile-friendly and reflects my current skills.
  • Worked with 27 clients to create meaningful websites, print campaigns and logos. 10 of which were new relationships and 17 were returning clients.
  • Grew Creative Improv by 36% from 2012 – all while creating higher quality work than ever before.

What I ‘shipped’ in 2013

In 2010, Seth Godin challenged his readers to think about what they ‘shipped’ the previous year. Here is what I shipped in 2013:

  • Crushed 2 large debts
  • Contributed 67 stock photos to iStockPhoto
  • Crafted 11 websites
  • Crafted 11 HTML Emails
  • Designed 2 logos
  • Designed 6 print pieces (billboard, business cards, etc)

Landscape Photo Project

thank you

In 2012, this blog saw 1,906 unique visitors which is a 38% increase from 2011 and a 99% increase from 2010! 86% of  those 1,906 people were new visitors to the blog! The top three referring websites were digital-photography-school.com, google.com and facebook.com

I’m so grateful to each and every one of you who took a moment to check out my blog this year, ‘like’ it, comment or share the things I post here. Thank you!

Here are the 6 most visited blog posts of 2012:

1. Line and Shape in Nature

A photo project I did where I spent 10 minutes at a location just taking in my surroundings and then the next 5 minutes taking photos that show interesting line, shape, composition, subject matter. This forced me to really take in the environment before putting the camera to my eye.

2. What Widows & Orphans Really Are

This is a post from many years ago where I was responding to a few things online that I read where people had the wrong definition for the typographical elements of widows and orphans.

3. Poster Design

A few examples of posters I had designed during college

4. David Carson style type design

A few example designs that loosely follow the same design style of David Carson.

5. Truman Campus – Winter Sunset

Photos of Truman State University campus during a snowy sunset.

6. GOP Candidates & the Obama Design Aesthetic

This covers the odd similarities between the various Republican presidential candidate’s websites and Obama’s 2008 campaign website.

2012 Year in Review

Personally

  • Officially became free of all credit card debt while paying off 4 large debts using the debt snowball idea from Dave Ramsey
  • Completed numerous house projects – renovated kitchen, refinished shed, shutters, doors, etc.

Photography

  • Learned many new post-processing techniques to use while processing my photographs. Check out my photos here!
  • Became an exclusive contributer at iStockPhoto.com, meaning I no longer sell stock photos at many other websites. Learn more here!
  • Speaking of iStock, my earnings have quadrupled from 2011
  • Cranked out many watercolor raster illustrations which were really popular on iStock. Check them out here!
  • Created 33 stock photos (photos and illustrations combined) in 2012. This is down 300% from the previous year but the new work’s popularity outweighs the previous work’s popularity

Website Design

  • Honed my WordPress, responsive design, and HTML5/CSS3 skills through constant Lynda.com training courses

My business, Creative Improv

  • Worked with 25 clients to create meaningful websites, logos and print collateral. 10 of which were brand new client relationships

What I ‘shipped’ in 2012

In 2010, Seth Godin challenged his readers to think about what they ‘shipped’ the previous year. So here’s goes:

  • Crushed 4 debts
  • Created 33 Stock Photos
  • Crafted 15 Websites
  • Designed 3 Logos
  • Designed 4 Print Pieces
  • Crafted 3 Motion Graphics Pieces
  • Created 4 HTML Emails

  • Married Rebecca, my beautiful wife
  • Began working from home once a week
  • Starting using a budget and paid off 6 debts using the Dave Ramsey ‘debt snowball’ plan
  • Grew Creative Improv 18% this year and 48% in the last 2 years
  • Continued to hone my photography skills (really understanding exposure, aperture, etc)
  • Grew my stock photography portfolios and began earning money from stock sales
  • Started selling audio files on AudioJungle – recordings of my saxophone playing – Check them out!
  • Featured in the Envato Graphic Designer Bundle (with this photo)
  • Featured in an interview on Envato Notes

A few years ago, Seth Godin challenged his readers to think about what they ‘shipped’ the previous year. So here’s what I ‘shipped’ in 2011 (and this doesn’t include my full-time job – just freelance work):

  • 81 stock photos
  • 10 websites
  • 7 HTML emails
  • 5 logos
  • 1 motion graphics piece (featured at a large tradeshow)

2011 brought 1,375 unique visitors to my blog—that is a 61% growth from 2010. I’m grateful to everyone who took a moment to check out my blog this year, ‘like’ a post, comment or share the things I post here. Thank you!

I thought it would be interesting to check out some statistics for what the most popular posts were this year. In order – starting with most popular….

1. What widows and orphans really are

A brief description of what widows and orphans are in terms of typography. I quoted the ‘typography bible’, The Elements of Typographic Style to support my premise.

2. Poster design

A small showcase of a few posters I have designed – from 2008

3. David Carson style type design

A showcase of a few typographic exercises I completed while in college. This post features a David Carson style of design – really pushing the typography. I liked to call it my ‘make my professor happy’ era of designing.

4. Political impact of design on people

Here I discuss how design for politicians and political movements can negatively impact people. I discuss the very old Daisy commercial along with Sarah Palin and Barack Obama’s political design choices.

5. Designers don’t make things look pretty

I discuss the common phrase I hear; “You can make it look all pretty“. The fact is, designers communicate visually, not just make things look pretty.

  • Created and launched 18 websites
  • Created 3 logos
  • Created and coded 4 HTML emails
  • Created 5 motion graphic pieces (animated banners and otherwise)
  • Connected with 10 Creative Improv clients to complete design projects of all sorts
  • Grew Creative Improv by over 30%
  • Learned guitar well enough to play with a singer – see YouTube.com/rebakville
  • Learned a lot about photography and became a contributor to iStock, Shutterstock, and many other stock websites.
  • Most importantly, I met the woman I will spend the rest of my life with, and proposed to her – see StephenLovesRebecca.com