Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So True

I just came across this great article from Forbes, Never Act Like the Smartest Guy in the Room. Not that I would ever claim to actually BE the smartest person in a room, but this is superb advice. Grab your cup of warm milk, it's story time:

Back in the day, when I was young(er) and neon green, I was working my first freelance gig. The client was passed to me by my professor, who knew that this organization needed a designer and had had students do work for them before. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to cut my teeth, learn a little something and make a bit of money in my chosen field, beyond my regular paycheck from Dick's Sporting Goods. So client and I, hand in hand, embarked on a journey together. Things went well, they liked my work, and I learned many lessons in collaborating with print shops and finalizing files and how to work around less-than-ideal photography assets. But I made one major mistake; for a minute, I got a little too big for my britches and decided, at the end of the project, it was time I educate the client on something.

Then I wrote an email....I wanted the client to know that I truly enjoyed working with them and it was wonderful experience, but may I make one suggestion? And suggest I did....looking back now, I realize I basically told a client, who'd handled their annual report many times without my all-important help and worked with the same print vendor for years, that they were a bad partner. I informed them that as a designer I know how important it is that people be fair to their team and that they (the client) should really be more respectful of their print vendor. I felt that we didn't give them enough time to produce the piece, that we gave them too many changes that should've been taken care of up front, and that the way we handled revisions was unfair and inappropriate for a "professional organization such as theirs."

WOW. I was an idiot. While I may have made a couple good points, my delivery was awful, and I was definitely forgetting how much experience my client had. They knew what they were doing, and I was standing up for a print vendor who quite frankly, didn't seem bothered by what I was so vehemently defending them from. The client kindly responded that I had much to learn and they wished me the very best in the future. We didn't work together again. Lesson learned.

I think of this experience often. I've learned a lot since then, and I know I will continue my education through adventures in advertising. But it doesn't hurt nearly as much to learn from someone else's mistakes. So carry the main points of Forbes' article into your next meeting with you: People know you're smart, don't make them choke on it. And remember, chances are, they're smart, too! (I mean, they hired you, didn't they?)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Advice for every employee.

Today I am leaving my agency family, my second home of four years, a place where I have learned many lessons and made many friends. I am leaving to pursue the wonderful world of working for myself, a place where I will undoubtedly enjoy many new freedoms and face many new challenges. But now that I am saying farewell, I would like to take the opportunity to share a few pieces of advice. Advice that I think applies to any employee, anywhere, doing anything, really. (And advice that I may not necessarily have taken for myself as often as I should have, but hey, hindsight is 20/20!) So here they are.

1. Be passionate. But be sure to understand the line between being passionate and having a bad temper.

2. Be on time. As often as possible. Even if they say it doesn't matter, it probably does. At least to someone.

3. Work harder. Yes, you probably already work hard. But when that moment comes along that you think, hey, I can just slack off for a minute. Or an hour. Or a day. You're wrong. You shouldn't. So don't.

4. When you think you have nothing to do, find something (of value) to do. And if you can't find something, ask around. And if asking around to every single person in every single nook and cranny of every single office of your company gets you nothing, start looking for new clients, become an expert in Excel, learn to create a website in WordPress. Whatever. Learn a skill or find a contact that will be beneficial to your team and to you, and I can guarantee you won't be sorry.

5. Be social with your coworkers. We're all busy, we all have other friends and family things going on, but those happy hours and lunches and wine nights and whatever other crazy things you get to do together outside the office will bring you closer. You will become friends. You will work better together, understand each other better, and care about each other more. It's worth it.

6. Suck up. I don't mean blatant, annoying, sucking up. I just mean go out of your way to talk to that one higher up that you don't click with. Do whatever you have to do to find common ground. Talk to them daily. Be sincerely interested in their feedback, their opinions, and/or their personal life.

7. When you want to freak out, don't. Take a walk. A long one if you have to. Breathe deep. Count to 183. Whatever. Just keep it together and freak out on your own time. I know it's hard. But practice makes perfect.

8. Last but not at all least, LOVE YOUR TEAM. Every member of it. (I like to think I was especially good at this.) Whoever you're working with, in whatever department, remember that you're in it together. Be good to each other. Offer to help each other, even if it means staying late to do things that aren't in your job description. Try to understand each other. Try not to kill each other. And if you argue, apologize, get over it, and be better to each other next time around. That is how good, strong relationships are built, and good, strong relationships are the foundation for a full and happy career.
I have made many of these, and I wouldn't exchange them for anything.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Aww, Now That's Unfortunate

Every once in a while I come across a product that's got the perfect name and the perfect look. On the flip side, every once in a while I come across a company that's made questionable naming choices. Like the kid in grade school whose last name was "Licker" and his parents chose a first name like Richard. (Even if it was his grandfather's name, I'm sorry, it's still not ok to do that to your kid.)

I really wish someone would've thought twice about this one: 

Jolly Pets....featuring the "Peek-a-Bone" and the "Jolly Ball." Now, maybe I have a dirty mind, but this name doesn't immediately translate into the pure happiness a tug-toy brings out in my pup. Rather, it conjures up a highlight reel of Gordy's regularly scheduled hump date with his plush doggy bed. (Not cool. Especially when we have guests.)

While I'm sure this is an awesome product—in fact, I'm probably going to go buy one right after I post this—I can't help but think someone should've suggested an alternate name. Though honestly, these dogs do look pretty damn jolly. (Just not that kind of jolly.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

30 Second MBA

This is a great series I just came across via Fast Co. Who submitted the best video on there? Why, Conan O'Brien, of course.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Follow Through

There are three kinds of people in this world:
1. Those who overcommit, but somehow still manage to get shit done. (That's where I fall.)
2. Those who commit to nothing, ever. But, they never end up letting people down.
3. Those who volunteer, talk out loud, and then drop the ball, leaving those who bust their asses to wonder why they're working so hard. 

(Sure there's probably like one in 32 million people who fall into a fourth category of "appropriate commitment," but it's just too rare to include. )

So, who do you want to be?

Friday, April 6, 2012


There are moments in every designer's career where we question our skills. (Yes, even Advergirl has those moments. And they aren't pretty.) Days—or weeks—when we we're off our game, we don't feel passionate, we feel less that thrilled with the work we've been churning out for clients that request illogical revisions that meet moot goals. We all have those days when someone reminds us that our work is not as good as it should be, or could be, or as good as we wanted it to be.

Those are learning moments. Days, not to be taken lightly, where we must step back and analyze the true value of what we do—the value of it for our clients, our employers, and the value to ourselves. And figure out how to do better. How to be better. How to keep creating despite doubt, so that the fruits of tomorrow have at least a shot at being sweet.

The next project—big or small—could be amazing. And you can't know unless you try.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tattoo removal.

We all make mistakes. But nothing - NOTHING - grinds my gears like looking back at a project I was super proud of, and finding a mistake. I'm furious at myself if it's my fault in any way - if I missed the error in the proof, or if I actually did it myself. The only thing that's worse? When it happened without me even knowing, at the hands of a vendor too lazy to print it on the paper we spec'd, or someone who was multi-tasking while releasing the file. It strips that would-be success of all joy and satisfaction, leaving me with a piece I can't put in my portfolio, won't be proud to share with my designer friends, and can't stand to look at in my box of "actually produced final pieces." Even years later, it burns me to know that mistake is there, even if I've long since replaced it in my mind with many other more well-designed pieces also made with my own blood sweat and tears. That mistake is in print and permanent, like the tattoo of that ridiculous ex-boyfriend's name on your ass, typeset in Hobo, no less - an undeniable mar on the surface of your otherwise relatively beautiful body of work. Come to think of it, kinda hurts like that tattoo, too.