Category Archives: Clients

A few years ago, after one too many ‘things’ related to my work as a designer got under my skin and frustrated me, I resolved to find the common theme and discover how to overcome this frustration I was experiencing. The common theme was that people who aren’t designers don’t understand design, designers and the design industry. This makes sense, right? I don’t understand medicine, doctors, and the medical world. I don’t understand accounting, accountants and the financial industry. I could say the same for every other industry and career that isn’t mine. However, these frustrations were also coming from those in positions that should understand design, designers and the design industry, maybe even sometimes those with the title of designer. I would often hear statements regarding designers that range from discounting what designers do to just plain misconceptions about what we do. Many of the things I was hearing would be so opposite from my creative compass and guiding principles.

Never going away

After much reflection, I realized that this problem will not be going away as I move through my career and I need to find a way to deal with these ‘design myths’. Not being an angsty high school kid, I couldn’t revert to posting passive aggressive tweets and Facebook posts (although I might still do that on occasion). I also didn’t think contributing to something that calls itself ‘clients from hell’ was good enough. I needed a better solution to deal with these ‘design myths’. One that allowed me to fully explore my own principles and creative compass in regards to these design myths.

Two years in the making

Two years ago, I began writing about a few design myths and sketching some ideas for a website. I also started brainstorming a name for the website. I kept putting the project off because I was too busy with other projects and too scared to actually publish this thing and get it out there. Then over this last Christmas break, I created the website within a week – but still didn’t launch it. Until this week. The result is designmyth.com – A place where I can write about one design myth at a time and sort of debunk them – or at least provide some clear thoughts/opinions about why we should think about things differently. For me, the process of researching, critically thinking about and writing each essay helps to solidify my opinions and further hone my creative compass. Am I the only one who can’t clearly define their opinions/thoughts without first writing them out?

[sidenote]

I’ve been using the #clientsfromhell hashtag when I tweet about designmyth.com. This is mostly because the #clientsfromhell tweets are design myths in a way. The difference? Hopefully designmyth.com does a bit better than someone posting a snarky/passive aggressive post about how, ‘the client just doesn’t understand’. If they don’t understand, come alongside and educate them, but leave the snark at the door. That’s what designmyth.com tries to do.

DesignMyth.com

 

  • 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

Today I presented to a group of teachers at Truman State University about using social networking tools and blogging to grow support for gecko mathematics – a unique math curriculum that was translated into English from Korean. Last year Creative Improv, the design firm I run built a website, blog and social network profiles for gecko math – we called it ‘Publish the Gecko‘, because it is a campaign to get publishers interested in gecko mathematics. This Summer, a grad-level course was put together to show elementary level teachers how to use this curriculum. I was asked to speak about the marketing of the curriculum through social networks and blogging and show the teachers how they might share things about the curriculum with their educator friends.

I will have a video of my talk very soon, but for now here is just a bit of what I shared:

  • TV, newspapers and radio used to be the global platform – today that global platform is the Internet – a world wide web filled with social networks, websites and blogs.
  • This new global platform allows ANYONE who has good content, products or services to gain support for free. This is HUGE.
  • Blogs – a successful blog is one that encourages interaction among the community of people with the same interest
  • Facebook – a way for businesses or organizations to reach their target audience on a personal level. It puts a face on an otherwise faceless corporation. If you have a business, you should have a facebook fan page and talk to your fans often and encourage feedback
  • Twitter – basically the SMS of the Internet – a quick way to share short messages. Retweeting or forwarding messages has huge endorsement power, because you are saying this person or business is worth paying attention to.
  • Retweeting has the power to make something go ‘viral’
  • All these online tools are a way to interact with a community of people online that have the same interests as you – whether it is someone else who shares your love for the Smurfs or someone who might be interested in your business, product or service. Dude, smurf it up!
  • Today, blogs, social networks and websites have provided the opportunity for anyone to pursue what you love – for more on this idea watch the following video (try to ignore the language)

Path of Principles homepage, featuring a slideshow with images generated from Flickr, color-coded buttons and news/social media links

Path of Principles subpage featuring a visual timeline slider and popup captions to define certain keywords

Check out the live ‘Path of Principles’ website

We (Creative Improv) recently launched a website for the national Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity. It aims to provide a home for their lifelong membership training program. This project focused on their program, prospective audiences and social media links. We gave specific attention to outlining key information via visual sliders as well as an ease of use and navigation.

Speaking of Creative Improv, have you become a fan on facebook or followed us on Twitter?

Have you subscribed to this blog’s RSS?

Check out this article on whether freelancing is a commodity or a profession.

My favorite part is this:

There seems to be a basic disconnect between what is needed to earn a living as a freelancer and what clients seem to want (at least on these outsourcing sites) to pay. The disconnect goes even deeper. Suddenly a client can define all aspects of a job from price to design, causing the designer’s role to change from that of a professional to that of a technician. It is unnerving.

I have to admit, though, I HAVE entered design contests in the past. I did so knowing that I may not win and get compensated for my work. I actually did win one contest for a website header, but it was the worst experience. because there were probably 20 revisions by the client and there was no contract to set the limits. Essentially I had no control over the project.

I won’t say that I’ll never enter another design contest, because I did enter another one only a month ago. I can say that I will do so with caution and much forethought, if for no other reason than to build my portfolio, when I’m looking for a particular client or project to include in my body of work.

A few months ago, when Creative Improv was in it’s infancy, the Parallax View project came our way at just the right time. I had wanted to work on this project since high school. I knew Ben & Seth in high school and thought it would be cool to do a website for them back then (before they were Parallax view).  I believe we even talked about me doing the website. I also received an email two years ago from the band asking if I would do some work – Sadly it got lost in my email and I never read it.

This time, everything seemed to work out. With Michael’s and my experience designing and marketing for the Church, this was a perfect project for us. Check out the Parallax View Band website that we launched a few weeks ago! Michael’s initial design ideas, sketches, endless creative direction, keeping me on task, writing skills and client relations is and always will be priceless to Creative Improv’s design process. This and every other project I’ve worked on with him always turns out a zillion times better because of what he brings to the table!

Check out our design process for this project. Interested in Creative Improv?? then become a fan on facebook or check us out on our official website.

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The first step in this project was to sketch out logo ideas.

We ended up deciding on this logo because it was the most memorable at a very small and very large scale.

We ended up deciding on this logo because it was the most memorable at a very small and large scale.

The website sketches came next, incorporating the logo's colors and style. This first sketch used a left narrow column and the header was a bit more crowded than what we ended up going with.

The website sketches came next, incorporating the logo's colors and style (for these, incorporation of color was in my head 🙂 ). This first sketch used a left narrow column and the header was a bit more crowded than what we ended up going with. These black/white pencil sketches help decide on layout without the distraction of color to give a false sense of completeness.

This sketch was the base for the final website, though still a bit different in the final implementation. We used the divine proportion to decide how wide each column should be. I know, how ironic, since this is a Christian band. :-)

This sketch was the base for the final website, though still a bit different in the final implementation. We used the divine proportion to decide how wide each column should be. I know, how ironic, since this is a Christian band. 🙂

The final website: featuring content from various social media and a brand new blog for the band to keep in touch with their fans. The most dynamic aspect is the MySpace Music Player, the Flickr feed and YouTube feed.

The final website: featuring content from various social media and a brand new blog for the band to keep in touch with their fans. The most dynamic aspect is the MySpace Music Player, the Flickr feed and YouTube feed. Check it out now!

The CD was one of the funnest parts of this project. I've only designed one other CD in my life, unless you count the fake CD for portfolio purposes. The typography, textures, photos and illustrations just came together nicely. It did take some thinking to get the hierarchy just right between the title and logo for the cover.

The CD was one of the funnest parts of this project. I've only designed one other CD in my life (for Truman's Jazz Ensemble, which I performed with as well). The typography, textures, photos and illustrations just came together nicely. It did take some thinking to get the hierarchy just right between the title and logo for the cover.

The Poster was the very last piece to complete. It matched the website header nicely.

The poster was the very last piece to complete. It matched the website header nicely.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend about design styles. The question was posed to me…

That begs the question….is it better to develop your own “style” that you become recognized by, or have an arsenal of styles to draw from to please your clients?  Both have valid arguments…

That’s a tough question.

I think a designer should provide the client with the best ‘solution’ for their particular design problem. That solution should transcend any particular ‘popular design trend’ but could have elements of various design trends and styles. I think designers come up with their own style from looking at great work and remembering what they felt was effective. The design solution should ultimately be the best one that reaches a particular target audience. So, really what a client ‘likes’ doesn’t matter so much as what reaches their target audience. Hopefully the client has their target audience in mind and there is no problem pleasing the client and reaching the target audience at the same time. That is part of the job of a designer: to educate folks about the design process.
 
There’s also an argument that says designers should show more than one solution for a design problem when presenting ideas to a client. I’ve read a lot that this just confuses the client and puts them in the role of ‘art director’. Really they should be advising and reminding us who their target audience is and answer all questions in terms of whether their target audience will respond to it. That’s why design ‘styles’ and ‘trends’ really aren’t the point.  It is true that everything does somehow fit into a particular style or trend but that is the nature of design and how we group things in our minds. Maybe a particular design style should be defined by what reaches a particular audience at this particular day, month or year. Therefore, when that design style changes it really is a reflection that what is reaching a particular audience has changed.

This is the first of many weekly posts. I hope to publish new design work weekly.



ATSU NEWS RELEASES – http://news.atsu.edu

ATSU was publishing news releases statically on their website. I worked with the Communications & Marketing department to integrate a blog-style news releases website. It’s complete with an RSS feed on www.atsu.edu

ATSU GLOBAL NAVIGATION
The various websites connected to atsu.edu really needed consistency of design and style without being too bulky in the top header area. My solution was to implement a site map in the footer of every new website that is created (just http://news.atsu.edu so far). This allows us to get rid of the drop down navigation on the top and leave more room for a page-specifc header and content.

Meadow Heights Church New Message Series ‘Zip It’
I’ve been designing message series’ for Meadow Heights for over 4 years now. This particular design is one side of an invitation card. Check out the Imagine Campaign and Signage I completed for them. It’s interesting to me how for some clients I’m used more as a graphic designer and for other clients I’m more of a web designer for them. I kind of enjoy having regular graphic design work to do for Meadow Heights – it keeps me using those skills I learned at school. BTW – it’s strange to speak of ‘school’ as a past tense thing.

I would never have guessed that of all places, Fredericktown, MO would be home to a really awesome illustrator like Tim at Unique Ink.

Michael Goldsmith and I teamed up to create a truly ‘unique’ website for Unique Ink. They offer screen printing/poster design/vinyl lettering and a bunch of other stuff. His artistic style is really hip. It’s hard to put my finger on something that it reminds me of, but it’s sort of retro, detailed, flat colors & monochromatic.

The cool thing is that Tim designed the website and handed it over to us to turn into a website. His website design is very fresh and ‘never been done before’ because he doesn’t bring to the table past website design experience (like I do). I think that’s what I like about it most… that he designed it… and Michael and I just helped to make his design a functional website, while adding our own touch of detail, accessibility & functionality.

Michael & I have started Creative Improv, a print/web design firm, a few months ago. For a sneak peak at our mantra, check out CreativeImprov.com. We will be launching the full website very soon – get ready.

Oh yeah, and I’m starting my new job at A.T. Still University as web developer on January 5th.  It should be an exiting two months!

The best is yet to come.

I’ve been working with a high school friend to develop a brand and website for his newest endeavor – to offer free online financial planning to lower-middle class people. He currently lives in Chicago as a financial planner. He had a good idea of what he was looking for. Colors, imagery and wording were some of things he had a good idea about. So I took his ideas along with new ideas I had come up with and created a few versions.

Sketching and ideating: I also wrote some keywords that I thought fit his service. ‘moving forward’ and transform finances were some of the more important ones and what I guided me to abstract the globe to two swooshes. Notice I used his some of his ideas at the top to build from.

Although I knew a globe would probably not be best, I created variations with it so he could see what the result would be. I feel it was important to not throw out his ideas because they are great building blocks for the final idea.

I then created an abstraction of the globe and wrapped it around the wording. Typefaces were switched also. The tagline was way too small here, and also the wrong wording.

I changed the typeface for ‘financial plan’ and nested ‘my free’. Tagline is still too small

Blue and orange have been adjusted and changed typefaces and the tagline is working much better here.

The final version! I’ve capitalized “My Free” and made the tagline larger and black.