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November 01 2012

12:46

An Interview with Designer and Developer Benjamin De Cock

Benjamin de Cock is a freelance designer who works out of his home office in Belgium. His focuses are interface and icon design, and he’s 28 years old. Benjamin spends most of his time designing Stripe and Kickoff. We caught up with Ben to talk to him about his design practices and approach.

What software/hardware do you use daily?

I exclusively use Adobe Fireworks CS6 as my design tool. I look more and more at Sketch 2 which is very promising but still a bit young to make the complete switch in my humble opinion. When I design for iOS, I also use quite a lot of LiveView and — surprisingly — iPhoto to quickly import screenshots to the Mac through Photo Stream.

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I’m not doing a lot of front-end development anymore but when I do, I still use the dying TextMate. I gave Coda 2 a quick try but I felt it wasn’t the right tool for me as I’m usually looking for extremely light text editors. I’ve heard great things about Sublime Text and Chocolat but since I lost some interest in coding, I must admit I haven’t found the motivation to properly try those apps yet.

As for the hardware part, I work on a MacBook Air 11″ (always closed) connected to a Thunderbolt Display 27″. I should probably mention my iPad too as I work quite a lot on it. For example, I do most of the email stuff there and I truly enjoy the experience. Many people find it difficult to type on the iPad but it’s not the case for me. Editing text still feels complicated to me (I hope Apple’s working on improving the loupe or an alternative to it) but typing works just fine with me. I wouldn’t say I’m as fast as I’m on a real keyboard but I’m honestly close to it and I love the feeling of my fingers on the glass. :)

Where do you get your inspiration from?

It may sound cliché but I look at everything Apple makes, from their website (the iPad’s feature page is still amazing) to their device boxes. I honestly still haven’t found another company where the attention to every detail feels so important. I guess I should also mention Dribbble. While I have mixed feelings about it (showing some graphics out of context rarely makes sense), it’s still a great resource if you want to get inspiration on execution.

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What triggered your passion of design and development?

Showing things to people and see those people actually using your creations has always been fascinating to me. Designing something exclusively for me wouldn’t be motivating at all. With the web, I have this amazing opportunity to easily share my work with so many people around the world so it was a no-brainer.

As for the development part of the process, I must clarify I’m not a developer at all. I’m very comfortable with HTML and CSS (which is definitely not what I call “development”) and I also do some JavaScript but that’s everything I know. I always wanted to understand how things technically work but I’m not really interested in implementation details. It also feels important to me to be able to prototype some of my UI ideas to see if they can actually work. I think every software designer should have at least some notion of the technical side of the apps they’re designing.

What’s a typical day look like for you?

I usually start the day around 9am by answering the important emails on my iPad and checking some RSS feeds and tweets before moving to my office. I try to then focus exclusively on designing things, hiding all kinds of notifications that could disturb me. I repeat the same scenario after lunch and I usually leave my office around 6pm to take care of my son.

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What would you recommend to anyone wanting to get started in the world of design?

I’m a huge believer in practice. Trying to replicate existing graphics is a good way to start learning your design software and to see how the original designer made all the details. Learning to make many iterations of the same mockup is very important too. We, as designers, are often too connected with the graphics we create. Trial and error is a frustrating but essential workflow to reach something really good. Experience is king.

Thanks a lot for your time – keep up the great work!

Thanks for having me Daniel!

February 06 2012

21:00

Finding the Inner Balance Between an Artist and a Designer

The similarities between an artist and a designer are quite easy to see, in fact those unaware of the distinctive differences might even assume that they are the same occupation. However for those that understand the functions of both creative endeavors, they know that is far from the case. An artist is a creative who creates to satisfy their own aesthetic pleasure, unconcerned with the wants and needs of others. A designer is a creative who creates in hopes of satisfying the wants and needs of others with their art, casting aside their own individual creative desires.

With that understanding in mind, it is clear that both creative paths differ by one being a creative for the people and the other for oneself. As designers, there is always some level of artistic input that must be imputed into a design for it to be affective. The problem many designers have is trying to incorporate the desires of their inner artist into their work as a designer. There can’t be too much artistic perspective used because then it will lean away from the intended audience, however too little and the design will likely look very generic and uninspired. That is why we are going to go over how a designer can find that inner balance between artist and designer.

What is Your Favorite Style of Art?



Image Credit: jiruan

In the design world it is the popular choice to renounce ones own true favorite artistic style and to design according to whatever style is currently trendy. An current example of this would be the universal fascination over minimalism. This is a great artistic style, with a really engaging philosophy behind it. However it is still not a perfect mesh for everyone.

So with that in mind, let’s go over a couple of questions that can lead anyone to the art style that best represents them.

What Does Your Personality Say About You?

Art is nothing more than an outward manifestation of the current mental state, and personal qualities, of the artist creating the work.. This makes artwork personal, and the need for a personal connection from a viewer of the work and the artist must be able to be formed from the art. Understanding this about art puts better perspective onto how and why some artwork appeals more so to some than it would to others.

So before anyone can go around looking at artwork to find what suits their creative palettes, there must be an understanding of oneself. That way when passing by and viewing artwork, the true connection with the work and yourself can be established.

Can You See Yourself  in the Artwork?

As already mentioned, art is very personal and allows for the inner workings of an artist to come out onto their canvas. It is important to be able to sense a connection with the artist  through looking at their work alone, however it is more so important when aiming for inner balance between artist and designer to be able to see oneself in the work.

This isn’t so much literally seeing yourself of course. It’s about looking at something and being able to see the inner workings of your mind, person, past, future, and/or soul in the work you are looking at.

How to Incorporate Your Taste into Your Work



Image Credit: Fifth World Art 

As designers, it is our predetermined thought that our craft has no real room for personal creative interpretation, surrendering our individual tastes for that of the masses at large. It is quite easy to see how this thought process came to be when considering how community driven we are. From creation to final product, our main goal is to create something that is liked by a vast amount of people. If that happens to lead to something that we like, then that is just a little extra bonus in the project.

Now with that ideology thriving in anything designers create, it is quite hard to see ways in which any true personal artistic preference can be placed. Here are a few tips on how to awaken your inner artist in your designs.

Look for that “One Thing” when Finding Inspiration

Everyone takes that walk, or surfs the internet, trip, etc., to find inspiration for what they are working on. However, often the case is that instead of looking for that one thing in particular that stands out, the object of attention is the environment at large. That is of course fine for any other instance, but specifying your hunt for inspiration will lead to better results. This result should then lead you to an ample amount of creative thoughts that will easily lend themselves to your design project.

Ignore Best Practices…to an Extent

There is no such thing as a proven theory for success in the art world, so there shouldn’t be any perceived one anywhere near your mind when trying to bring out the artist in yourself. With so many proven success methods, guides, tutorials, and things of that nature, it’s hard for anyone to actually want to be adventurous. We design for financial gain after all, so this really isn’t such a bad thing. It’s just from the artistic standpoint, the only thing you’re doing by blindly adhering to these is suffocating your artistic expression. Understand the ones that make sense for what YOU are trying to do, and just leave the rest alone.

Lessen the Community Input

It is quite tempting to want to post what you’re working on to a social network full of creatives eager to see what everyone is doing, but it is not necessarily the best move. The vision for what you are to create can’t be translated to anyone perfectly, no matter how hard anyone tries. So of course there is no way that anyone elses input can actually lead to a better way of bringing out your inner artistic vision. Just leave this aspect for down the line when the project is close to completion, and needs that designer touch.

Don’t be Afraid

We all are afraid of creating something that is not well received, or easily understood by anyone else. This is so because art is not mean to be understood, only to express the thoughts of the artist. Don’t worry about the fear of rejection and just create, you could end up with something that the rest of us will be personally interpreting for years.

In Conclusion



Image Credit: fiveforefun

The work of an artist and designer is nothing alike, only the means they go about in creating their work. A designer can learn many things from art and artist like personal expression, relieving oneself of the fear of rejection, and the drive to fulfill one’s creative vision among other things. Just make sure as a designer you don’t let your inner artist consume your work too much, your job description still says that you create for the community at large.

November 28 2011

07:00

June 21 2011

10:00

6 Things Designers Should Do in Summer To Keep Themselves Fit And Healthy

Summer’s here – ready or not. For some of you it has certainly brought some changes but some of you haven’t even noticed the new season’s here. I live in a resort town couple of minutes from the sea so summer has definitely changed my daily routine. I’ve spent nearly all these past days by the sea and acquired a quite red skin color which hurts a bit. For that reason I’m now at home and sharing this article with you. Summer can be incredible and memorable if want it to be. This article presents seven tips for designers (and anyone else) to make your summer superb and get you ready for the next working season.

Exceed your boundaries

Exceed-boundaries-things-summer-designers

Summer is the right time to do something wild and special. Break your routine and step out of your comfort zone. Put that laptop away and go surprise yourself. I bet you have a roaring desire for summer adventure. If you have always wanted to learn to water-ski, go and do that. Perhaps some of you dream about skydiving or scuba diving. What keeps you back? You’ve worked hard all year and it’s time to rest. Test yourself, get to know your body, exceed your limits. Next time when a friend calls with a spontaneous idea don’t grunt that you’re busy. You go for it with a grin on your face.

Exercise

Exercise-things-summer-designers

Summer is also the time to get back in shape. Designers spend most of their time sitting and that does not help your health at all. An immobile lifestyle can lead to a lot of serious health problems. Summer is the perfect time to start working out. Wake up earlier in the mornings and go for a run. If you have a lake or a sea nearby take a swim after the run. You’ll feel great and lively. Revise your diet – no more synthetic food from supermarkets wrapped in ten sheets of plastic. Drink a lot of water, eat fruits and vegetables. Visit your local market and buy naturally grown food. Summer offers so many active ways to spend your spare time. Go out and start training – your body will be grateful.

Tribesports-things-summer-designers

Tribesports is a recently launched website which helps the sports person in all of us do more. You can create your ultimate sports profile, follow other users, create or join tribes and take challenges. It’s a great place to start off. I suggest starting with the easiest challenges and slowly move upper. With Tribesports you can easily share training updates, get inspiration, guidance and advice from others that are taking or have previously completed a challenge.

Livestrong-things-summer-designers

Livestrong is dedicated to being a users most valued online source of inspiring, relevant and useful health-related information. To achieve that goal, they have combined the best in health, fitness and lifestyle content. You are going to find dozens of useful articles on Livestrong as well as exercises, diet programs and inspiration. You can also set your weight loss goals, track your daily caloric intake and log your fitness activities. Livestrong provides all the needed features to start working out and live healthy.

Zen-fitness-things-summer-designers

Zen to Fitness is an online magazine with free weekly articles on health and fitness that can be read in under 5 minutes. The focus is a quality design/content and the site is ad-free. All the articles are easy to follow advice that you can use in your day to day life.

Go over your past work

Revise-work-things-summer-designers

No matter if it’s school, casual work, or freelancing – if you’ve been diligent during the past months a thick folder of work should have been piled up. Excellent projects you might be proud of, ordinary worksheets, or maybe something you haven’t quite finished. Going over your past work and analyzing it is a great way to improve your future results. Try to recall what and why you did certain things, analyze your work and think what you could do to make your work better next time. Learn from your own mistakes.

The “Do it later” list

Do-list-things-summer-designers

Yes, I’m talking about the very same list each of us have to organize and plan our work. The list which we so enthusiastically wrote, but of which we flee and dread right now. I have a do it later folder in my bookmarks which stretches three times my monitor size. Interesting articles, inspiring interviews, useful websites – it’s all there, but somehow I’m still afraid of that list. Don’t be like me, though. Don’t sit there for two hours motionless refreshing your Twitter and Facebook. Instead close everything unnecessary and devote time to yourself and your unfinished tasks. No more naah, I’ll do this later. Sit down with your list and go through each point in turn. Organize your work smart and be awakening about your time. In the autumn you’ll be thankful, as you’ll be able to start work with no debts to yourself.

Widen your viewpoint

Widen-viewpoint-things-summer-designers

So you’re a designer and always wondered how would it be to be able to code your designs? Summer is the right time to give it a try. And I’m not talking only about design related things. Advance yourself, learn, digest. Traveling is the best way to get to know new cultures and societies. Why not to take a trip to some far-away place and stay there for a while? Go get to know the countryside if you’re a town dweller. Read the books you wanted. You accumulate your inner fortune with by doing things you thought you’d never do. Knowledge is never enough, keep that in mind.

Enjoy

Enjoy-work-things-summer-designers

Summer is supposed to be fun, joyful and full of adventures. Don’t spend your summer in front of a 24 inch screen reading some superior marketing techniques secrets. Put away those cutting-edge freelancing books and get out of the house. Believe me, computer tan ain’t as cool as you might think. Meet your friends, connect with people, do something crazy and just enjoy the summer. Memories are invaluable, you don’t want to remember trying to unravel that impossible CSS trick. You want to remember those beautiful nights by the sea with your friends, barbecue and beer. Reconsider your priorities and taste the life. Take a trip to some remote country, propose spontaneous ideas, break the lines. You won’t regret it looking at the pictures in autumn and remembering the times you had. So quick, close this window, think of something funky and awesome and go do it.

March 24 2011

10:00

Create Your Dream Workstation: Popular Computers And Gadgets For Designers (PC/Mac)

I spent several hours scouring the internet for designers’ workplaces and their specifications. Now, this will seem biased towards Apple products since almost everything I have seen on Flickr, Dribble, and other communities for designers indeed favor Apple products. But don’t worry here you’ll see all the most popular alternatives and everything else you need to build your dream workspace!

From what I have noticed the number of displays needed for a designer is always one more. You have two? Add another one. A good combination I have seen is a laptop and a cinematic display from 24” to 27”. Wireless mouse and keyboards are also favored.

Popular Displays


Dell UltraSharp U2711 27”–  Best Choice

Dell27

According to CNET this is one of the best monitors to use today. If you’re considering buying it you can read CNET’s official review and the user’s reviews.

It boasts amazing color accuracy, 2560 x 1440 resolution, 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Not to mention the price, okay, it’s a bit expensive at $987.00 but surely this is worth every single buck.

Best Alternatives:

1. ViewSonic VX2250WM-LED 22–Inch

2. NEC MultiSync PA271W

3. Samsung PX2370 23”Apple LED Cinema Display 27–Inch

4. ASUS VH198T 19–Inch

5. Apple LED Cinema Display 27–Inch

6. HP 2710m 27–Inch Diagonal HD Ready LCD Monitor

7. ASUS VW193TR 19–Inch Wide LCD Monitor

8. ViewSonic VA2431WM 24–Inch Widescreen LCD Monitor with Speakers

9. Acer V223W EJBD 22–Inch Wide LCD Display

10. Asus VH236H 23–Inch Widescreen LCD Monitor – Black

Sample Workspaces:

Popular Laptops


Apple MacBook Pro 15.4” Laptop –  Best Choice

Apple MacBook Pro 15.4” Laptop

Good choice for gamers and designers who love hopping from one place to another. With 15.4” display I’m pretty sure you won’t miss anything that should be in sight. Surely, this won’t make Steve Jobs blush of embarrassment.

It also now comes with Intel Core i5 or Core i7, giving near-flawless processing power. Something that even non-gamers and non-designers want to have.

Best Alternatives:

1. Samsung RF510-S02 15.6-Inch HD LED

2. HP G62-340us 15.6-Inch

3. Acer AS5253-BZ684 15.6-Inch

ASUS N53JQ-XV1 15.6-Inch

4. ASUS N53JQ-XV1 15.6-Inch

5. Lenovo G560 Series 067999U

6. Alienware m15x 15” Gaming Laptop (Cosmic Black)

7. Sony VAIO VPC-F133FX/B 16.4”

8. Toshiba Satellite M645-S4065 14.0-Inch LED

9. ASUS G73JW-ROG Limited Edition Republic of Gamers 17.3-Inch Gaming Laptop

10. Dell Inspiron Mini Duo 3487FNT Convertible Laptop/Tablet

Sample Workspaces:

Popular Desktops


Apple iMac 27” Desktop – Best Choice

There is all this talk about gigahertz, cores, RAM, HD, and relevant technical things. Knowing these will help you choose your dream computer. My take on all of these in six words: “the higher the number, the better.” Note: pricing is a different matter. There are products that closely resemble each other in terms of features but greatly differ in price. Is it about quality or the name? In the end we’ll just have to trust people’s reviews and ratings. What comes to mind? Apple iMac. 27 inches!

Best Alternatives:

1. Acer AspireRevo AR3700-U3002

2. Apple Mac Mini MC270LL/A Desktop

3. Sony VAIO VPC-J11BFX/B 21.5-Inch Desktop

4. HP TouchSmart 600 23”

5. Dell Studio XPS 7100(Piano Black)

6. Gateway DX4831–05 Desktop (Black)

7. Lenovo Ideacentre H405 77231AU

8. iBUYPOWER Gamer Extreme A537SLC

9. HP Pavilion p6720f PC

10. Apple Mac Pro MC561LL/A

Sample Workspaces:

Best Mouses


Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse (Black)

“BlueTrack Technology ensures that the Arc Touch Mouse works wherever you need it to, on a range of difficult surfaces – be it a rough wood bench, glossy granite countertop, or soft carpet.”

And hey, if you are thinking that the “curve” stops it from being easily portable then you are wrong.

Alternatives:

1. Apple Magic Mouse

2. Logitech Wireless Trackball M570

3. Logitech Wireless Performance Mouse MX for PC and Mac

4. Microsoft Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000

5. HP Wireless 3 Button Mouse

Sample Workspaces:

Best Keyboards


Apple Wireless Keyboard

Technical Details:

  • Anodized aluminum enclosure
  • Extended layout with document navigation controls, a numeric keypad, and special function keys
  • Low profile keys
  • Bluetooth Technology
  • Ultra-thin design

Alternatives:

1. Logitech Cordless Desktop Wave Pro Ergonomic

2. Microsoft Sidewinder X6 Gaming Keyboard

3. Logitech G19 Programmable Gaming Keyboard

4. Logitech Keyboard K120

5. Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000

Sample Workspaces:

Best Selling Graphics Tablets


Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch

It takes time to get used to using a tablet but it sure will help for illustrators, graphic artists and designers out there. If you have a fat wallet and can afford a much better version of this, you might want to go for Intuos4 or Cintiq 21UX.

Alternatives:

1. Wacom Intuos4 Medium Pen Tablet

A great example using graphics tablet!

2. Wacom Cintiq 21UX

3. Genius MousePen 8 x 6-Inch Graphic Tablet

4. VT 12-Inch Touch Screen Graphic Pen Tablet

5. Wacom Intuos4 Small Pen Tablet

Sample Workspace:

Best Tablet PC


Apple iPad – Best Choice

Touchscreen computers and smartphones have taken over the world today. Wherever you look there are always people fiddling with their touchscreen devices (except poor me). Is there a tight competition in the market or is a certain brand the definite leader? Can’t really say which product is leading because it all depends on how good advertising and PR is. Anyway, here’s a short list of fantastic tablet PCs to complete your workspace.

Alternatives:

1. Motorola XOOM

2. Dell Streak 7

3. Coby Kyros MID7015 7-Inch

4. Archos 70 – 8 GB Internet Tablet (Black)

Sample Workspaces:

Popular Books in Web Design


1. Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML

2. CSS: The Missing Manual

3. The Web Designer’s Idea Book: The Ultimate Guide To Themes, Trends & Styles In Website Design

4. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

5. Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 on Demand

6. Serif WebPlus X4

7. Introducing HTML5 (Voices That Matter)

8. Convert!: Designing Web Sites to Increase Traffic and Conversion

9. The Web Guru Guide

10. Website Design and Development: 100 Questions to Ask Before Building a Website

Anything you would like to add on this article? Would love to hear your feedback!

March 16 2011

04:00

7 Woes of the Freelance Creative Pro

When you work for yourself – as a designer, a writer, a photographer or some other creative job – you seem to have it made: no boss to answer to! You can set your own hours! You’re living the dream, doing what you want to do! But there is a downside to freelancing – seven that I’ve listed below.
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1. Friends and family expect you work for them for free. I am guilty of this myself, to a point. I ask my lawyer friends to explain legal stuff and ask doctor pals for medical advice. But I try not to take advantage. Acquaintances often naively think that everything creative pros do is fun, but they don’t realize that it takes time and money to produce the product, whether it’s photographing a wedding or building a website.

2. Those same friends and family ask you to run errands for them. How many times have you been asked to sign for a package or walk a dog between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. because people think you’re not on any schedule? They don’t believe you have deadlines to make or meetings to attend.

3. Taxes are hard. So much for the 1040EZ – all those freelance checks are unwieldy compared with one W-2 form from an employer. If you’re a first-year freelancer, it might be best to see a professional tax preparer, and before you go, check online to be sure you have all the proper paperwork.

4. A lack of personal interaction can be harmful to social skills. I’ve found that when I work from home – even for one day – I talk to myself, to the television, to my cats and even to the plants. If I don’t, when I do encounter a human being, I don’t even understand what comes out of my mouth – it’s just an unintelligible rant of non-English. Freelancers would do themselves some good if they got outside to meet clients or even visited the neighborhood café to personally order coffee. Keep those conversation skills active!

5. You need to get your own clients. You could be the best designer or photographer in town, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get any business unless you seek it out. “Marketing” is one of the top answers I hear when I ask people about the downside of freelancing. Creative pros want to create, not sell themselves. But until they’ve earned a reputation that precedes them, self-promotion is necessary to get customers.

6. Freelancers must wear a lot of hats. Aside from marketing, self-employed creatives must also handle all business affairs: IT, human resources and accounting, for example. Sure, I’ve heard of people outsourcing some of these responsibilities, but can you afford to do so right now? Fortunately, a lot of free or cheap software is out there to help with some of these tasks. And rather than resort to point No. 1 – asking a friend to work for you for free – this could be an opportunity to barter your skills.

7. Your “hobby” becomes a chore. That previously mentioned idea of “livin’ the dream”? Now that you’re doing what you love, you might not love it so much. You don’t always get to use your creativity to make art – now you’re photographing uncooperative children, writing brochure copy or designing text-heavy web pages. And in your spare time, do you really want to be behind a computer or pick up a camera?

That’s quite a list of gripes, but all that being said, would you give up the freelancing life to go back to the 9-to-5 world? The freelancers I’ve spoken to value their freedom too much to return to having a boss and having to stuff their feet into close-toed shoes each day. Besides, the coffee you brew at home is usually far superior to that burned-tasting sludge in the office.

How have you learned to deal with your freelance woes?

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7 Woes of the Freelance Creative Pro

March 01 2011

05:04

Graphic USA – An alternate guide to 25 US cities

Travel Guides. We’ve all seen them, there’s hundreds to choose from. All with some sort of pitch for the best places to go. But, will the places be good? Will I even like them? I am basing my entire exploring experience on what ‘some guy’ in this book says… Enter: Graphic USAAn alternate guide to 25 US cities.

GraphicUSA photo copy

Graphic USA is an alternative guide that offers a fresh perspective into the boring travel guide segment. Each of the 25 cities are reviewed, written and illustrated by designers living in their respective cities. Not only does this book contain great places to go it also includes cutting edge creative design which, is a heck of a way to chart your way across these fantastic cities and a lot more user friendly that travel-guides in the past. The book is arranged with beautiful full color spreads and no detail has been left untouched. The best part about the book is that since each section has been handcrafted by an illustrator, artist or designer each section feels unique and showcases the vibe of the current city being reviewed. It also gives unique insight into local places that are off the beaten path. The great dive-bars that offer the best views or the best fresh seafood. You will use it as a gallery of beautiful images or a directory of talented illustrators and designers and most importantly a great travel-guide for a weird and wonderful alternative road trip across America.

spread1spread2spread3

The content of the book includes:
Anchorage, Alaska | Laura Feraco
Atlanta, Georgia | Laurie Forehand
Austin, Texas | Bryan Keplesky
Baltimore, Maryland | Elizabeth Graeber
Boston, Massachusetts | Esther Uhl
Charleston, South Carolina | Jay Fletcher
Chicago, Illinois | Daniel Blackman
Denver, Colorado | Gwenda Kaczor
Detroit, Michigan | Angela Duncan
Kansas City, Missouri | Ramzy Masri & Morgan Ashley Allen
Los Angeles, California | Tal Rosner
Memphis Tennessee | Alex Harrison
Miami, Florida | Michelle Weinberg
Milwaukee, Wisconsin | Mike Krol
Minneapolis, Minnesota | Adam Turman
New Orleans, Louisiana | Tom Varisco
New York, New York | Camilla BenBassat
Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia | Katie Hatz
Phoenix, Arizona | Jon Ashcroft
Portland Oregon, | Briar Levit
Providence, Rhode Island | Adam Lucas
San Fransico, California | Cameron Ewing
Seattle, Washington | Björn Soneson
St. Louis, Missouri | Rachel Newborn
Washington, DC | Joshua Graham Guenther

Graphic USA also has an older brother Graphic Europe which which takes you through 31 European cities. These titles are released from cicada books based out of London. If you want more information on either of these titles check out Cicada for the full details and availability. This book has taken it’s place in my suitcase for my new definitive travel-guide. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re looking for travel inspiration, great places to eat, drink or stay or something fresh in the travel industry.

Sponsored by

Made By Tinder

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Graphic USA – An alternate guide to 25 US cities

January 17 2011

10:00

Collaboration: An Important Factor To Have At Work

A successful project depends on how the working relationship of the workers involved are. In the process of working, collaboration is one factor that workers must have to reach their goals or be successful on the project they are working on. In this article, I will be focusing on how important collaboration is between entities.

Let us take a look on the definition of collaboration. I would like to share with you how Wikipedia defines collaboration.

A recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, (this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective, determination to reach an identical objective) — for example, an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.

I find this definition very appropriate on how I want you to understand collaboration. As what this definition says,

Collaboration is a recursive process…

It is a process by which you need to start from one step, finish the previous step and proceed to the other and so on to reach one goal.

Difference of Communication and Collaboration

Many people find these two words similar, but I tell you they are totally different. The only similarity they have is they both involve two people connecting with each other.

Communication is when you just deliver information from one entity to another. It just transmits in a one-way direction.

While collaboration digs deeper, it delivers information and throughout the process of delivering there is sharing or changing of thoughts and information.

Why Do Designers and Developers Should Collaborate?

I created here a chart that will help you understand on how important collaboration is.

CollaborationChart

Let us stick on the chart and answer the question on why do we need to collaborate at work with each points below.

To share own ideas

The first step is sharing of own ideas. It is important when two people express what they think of something, this applies especially to developers and designers. In this way, they can say what they think about the project they are doing.

Sharing of ideas improve analytical thinking, creativity and uniqueness.

Analytical Thinking. Of course you would like your project reach success, so all the thoughts you give must be properly thought of and will be for the good of the project.

Creativity and Uniqueness. We always want a project to be one-of-a-kind and creative. When you share ideas with this kind of goal you will always think of creative and unique ideas that can be appropriate to the project you are doing.

Sharing of ideas

Image by: Idea Maps

To come up with one concept

After sharing ideas, you can already come up with one concept. Not just a concept, but a clear and well-defined one.

What could be the benefits of having a clear and well-defined concept?

  • It will make your work very fast.
  • It will lessen critical moments.
  • It will avoid rushing onto deadlines.
  • It will lessen the expenses.

To avoid miscommunication

Wikipedia defines miscommunication as:

An interaction between two parties in which information was not communicated as desired.

A miscommunication happens when an information or message from one entity is not delivered, or delivered but not the way you wanted it to be.

When I was searching for an appropriate image about miscommunication, I have found this image that is an example of miscommunication between the CEO and employees. Please take time to read and do not skip any on what it is written on the image.

Miscommunication

Image by: sieersht

This is one good example of miscommunication. From the CEO down to the staff, the correct message was not properly conveyed.

Miscommunication should always be avoided for this can make or break the success of a goal or a project. To avoid this one, always talk to your co-worker and share what you think. Collaborate.

In the process of doing these things, a relationship is built between the designer and the developer.

How To Collaborate

1. Think of Ideas.

When we work, we should always think of ideas. Ideas are very much important to think of. For instance with designers and developers, there are times when a designer thinks of something but seems impossible for the developer to do it. Think of not only one idea, but several yet relevant ideas.

Think of ideas

Image by: thewoodenshoes

2. Speak Up

Speak your mind. Tell what you think of your project or of one idea. Speaking improves how we think and talk to other people.

Speak up

Image by: yo_steedgirl

Be friendly when you speak up. Avoid being aggressive or boastful, this can make your co-worker feel uncomfortable towards you.

3. Listen

Collaboration is a two-way transmission. There will be times when you will have to speak, and there will be times when you will need to sit down and listen to what your co-worker has to say.

When you listen, listen attentively. This will make them listen to you well like how you listened to their insights.

Listen attentively

Image by: “Anwaar

While listening, take notes. Remember when you are still at school? When your professor talks, you take notes. This also apply at work. Notes are very useful when you want to remember something important that will bring a good effect to your work. Make sure the notes you take are the important ones.

Take notes

Image by: Colin Devroe

4. Cooperate

Collaboration will not happen if there is no cooperation between two entities. Cooperate if you think you have an idea in mind that can help your project reach success.

See how the people in this image cooperate to carry those steels? That’s how you should cooperate.

Cooperate

Image by: 17may

5. Know your Goals and Priorities

Goals define your priorities. You should know your goals and priorities so that you will know where you can focus yourself.

6. Be Responsible

Always be responsible, do not ever waste your resources with irrelevant things on your work. Maximize your resources by being responsible so you will reach success and be acknowledged for it.

Responsibility

Image by: Liz Lawley

7. Do Your Best

Always do your best in everything you do, to reach S-U-C-C-E-S-S.

Success

Image by: Ali Eltom

Interview

I interviewed six people who already worked with a designer or a developer. This will reflect how these professionals value collaboration on their work.

1. In the 100% of time working with a designer/developer, how much is the amount of percentage you spent talking with each other?

  • 3 said 40%
  • 2 said 30%
  • 1 said 10%

With these answers, I can say that many still value talking and sharing ideas with co-workers which builds collaboration between entities.

2. Do you talk with your designer/developer even off at work?

Four people said they still talk with their co-worker even off at work. There are times when their topic is still about work, and oftentimes it’s about any topic.

One said she just talk to her co-workers if they are at work.

One said it depends on the personality of his co-worker. If he thinks their personalities won’t jive, then they only talk when at work.

Now, you may ask on why did I include this question. For me, talking to your co-workers and sharing your insights is one way of building a relationship with them. In this way, you can be comfortable working with them, and they can also be comfortable with you.

3. Rate from 1 to 10 (1-lowest, 10-highest) on how important collaboration is between a designer and a developer? Explain your rating.

Out of the six, three gave a rate of 10, two gave 9 and one gave a rate of 8.

Designer Jeizelle Anne said:

“The success of the project depends on how the designer and developer worked together, and when we are working collaboration is really needed.”

Developer Eric John said:

“I gave 10 for collaboration is one key to have a good output when working with others, especially between designers and developers. I find it also good to work when I see that the team or partners collaborate well together.”

Developer Rassel Jan said:

“Collaboration is really important especially when you are in those critical moments of the project. In my part as a developer, I should know on what are the weaknesses of the designer or what he likes to happen on a certain project and I can do that when there’s a collaboration between us.”

Developer Luigi said:

“No good project will be created if the two will not work and collaborate well. But there are persons that can do designing and developing at the same time, though rarely that happens.”

Developer Joren said:

“It is important that the two should come up with just one goal or expected output.”

Designer Benjamin Arthur said:

“If there is collaboration, the work will be easier for the two. Then, there will be a good output. If they came up with one concept, then all of their ideas will be focused there.”

4. Who do you think has the easiest work? Is it the designer or the developer?

Five out of the six said it depends on the forté of the person. If the person excels on designing, he will think that the work of a designer is easier than the work of a developer and vice versa. One person said that it’s the designer who has an easier task, since designing is the only work he/she does.

And I agree with the majority that it really depends on where you excel. If you think your passion is coding, then you will think a developer has the easier work and vice versa.

5. What is your best and worst experience between your designer/developer?

Jeizelle Anne said:

“The best experience I had is when they acknowledge the works I do. And the worst experience I had is we do not understand each other well due to language differences.”

Eric John said:

“The best experience I had is when the project was a success or the expected output was reached. While the worst is when we came to the point that we already fight. ”

Rassel said:

“The best experience is when my designer have done everything I explained. And the worst is when we already wasted an hour without getting over a small issue.”

Joren said:

“The worst experience I had is when we are experiencing misunderstandings, then what will happen is everything will be done repeatedly.”

Benjamin Arthur said:

“The best experience I had is when he acknowledge my works and tell my shortcomings in a nice way. While the worst is when he tell things that he himself doesn’t know how to do.”

To avoid negative situations, collaborate.

Share your Thoughts

How about you? How important is collaboration for you? You may also share to us your best and worst experiences with your co-worker. Comment now!

December 08 2010

14:06

Ultimate Secret Designer Christmas Gifts Wishlist Finally Revealed

Christmas is coming and people who deserve to enjoy it needs your presents! Below you’ll find a list of what a designer might like for Christmas.

There are too many items to cite but I only chose the coolest and most stylish. Things that a designer (developer, writer, etc.) would want to use not only at work but off-work, make your friend designer happier in this Christmas and remember there aren’t too many days left to get the gifts – huh..I need to remind that myself too .

SanDisk Cruzer 16 GB Flash Drive

Estimated price: $35.11

Sandisk

Adding to the fact that it has a lifetime warranty, it is capless so you won’t have to lose the cap. Massive storage for immediate and more portable needs. Features boasts that it includes JetFlash Elite data management tools which can help you to “Take your E-mail with you on the road” and “one-click automatic website log in”.

Livescribe 2 GB Pulse Smartpen

Estimated price: $99.99

Livescribe_pen

I believe this is the smartest pen ever invented. Features include voice recording for over 200 hours, things that you write is written and at the same time recorded which in turn you can upload to your Mac or PC for a virtual image of your notebook. From there you can “search” a term and the software finds it for you. Also has built in translator and calculator. Of all the items featured here this is the one item I want. Works well for writers, developers, and designers who are in meetings or far from a laptop/desktop.

Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch Fun Small Tablet

Estimated price: $83.57

Wacom

Several months ago I had the chance to use one and I loved it even if I’m not really good at designing. For starters or pro this is a good tool in digital painting and other artworks.

Star Wars Darth Vader Mini-Figure Alarm Clock

Estimated price: $49.99

Alarm_vader

Admit it, many designers have seen Star Wars and are amazed by it. Who doesn’t know Darth Vader? Let Vader wake you up!

MIMO USB LCD Screen

Estimated price: $149.99

Mimo

A busy designer’s screen has no place for e-mails and IMs, they won’t just fit in one. Here’s the solution, plug it and have an extra space.

Imagelab Slide and Negative Scanner

Estimated price: $80.56

Scanimagelab

From negatives to digital images, I never thought such a technology existed. Insert your negatives, wait a moment, and view your scanned images on the LCD.

Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printer

Estimated price: $59.99

Canon_printer_portable

Compact printer. Can print 4” by 6” photo in about 47 seconds with high quality. Wireless and has an LCD.

PanDigital’s 8.5”x11” Photo Scanner

Estimated price: $99.84

Scanner

A device which requires no PC to scan images. Can scan up to 8.5”x11”. Photos are scanned as 650dpi full color. Scanned images are saved directly to a memory card.

The Web Designer’s Idea Book, Vol. 2: More of the Best Themes, Trends and Styles in Website Design

Estimated price: $19.80

Ideabook_designer

A book to help avoid/remove designer’s block. Full of ideas, fresh and new.

Thinking With Type

Estimated price: $16.47

Thinking_with_type_ok

Reviewers of this book mentions that they “became better designers” just after reading this. I wonder, what’s inside?

Wi-Fi Detector T-Shirt by ThinkGeek

Estimated price: $19.99

Thinkgeekshirt_reloaded

Aside from its ability to detect human presence, it also detects Wi-Fi! Imagine that? You won’t have to ask people if the place is Wi-Fi enabled or open your device just to check. Cool guy, knows where Wi-Fi signal is.

App Magnets

Estimated price: $17.06

Apps_magnet

Too much time spent on your smart phone results to real-life App Magnets. Decorate someone’s fridge with these either for a laugh or for style.

Holmes Black Robot Desk Lamp

Estimated price: $23.15

Robot_lamp

You do not mess with the Robot Desk Lamp! Add a creative touch to a friend’s room, a designer would love this greatly!

365 Cats Page-A-Day Calendar 2011

Estimated price: $9.62

Cats

Meow for inspiration. Meow.

Sharkoon X-Tactic SP Gaming Headset

Estimated price: $69.99

Head_set

Every designer needs silence but holidays are coming and they will need to rock. Note: This is a gaming stereo headset for PlayStaion 3 and Xbox 360 with detachable microphone.

One Piece Anime Nami Oppai Mouse Pad

Estimated price: $49.95

Nami

Ergonomic mouse pad has good pads for wrist support. Yes, wrist support.

Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi Reading Device

Estimated price: $189.00

Kindle

Imagine a pdf reader that you can use for a whole month in just one-time charging. Impossible? Wired Magazine’s comment about this product is “Battery life is long enough for space shuttle missions.” Kindle is also Amazon’s #1 bestselling item for 2 years and running. It boasts to be the most-wished-for, and most-gifted product in Amazon.

The Art of God of War III

Estimated price: $40.95

God_of_war

If you know a designer who is a fan of God of War then this book will delight him/her. This book gives the reader a peek into the epic conception of its epic art.

Photoshop CS5 Digital Classroom

Estimated price: $31.49

Photoshop_cs5

Perfect for beginners and even for experts. It has a DVD that will guide you along the way.

Designer Notebook Sleeve

Estimated price: $19.90

Notebook_sleeve

Can fit in a 15.6” notebook and will protect it with its Anti-Shock System. Who wouldn’t love such a beautiful design for a notebook sleeve? I’d buy it for 30 dollars.

Logitech MX Revolution Cordless Laser Mouse (Black)

Estimated price: $152.99

Best mouse for designers. Offers vertical and horizontal scrolling. Scrolling is fluid, you will never have a problem with that. There is also a search feature, set your default search engine and just highlight a word or phrase and let the mouse do the rest. To sum all of the reviews, this mouse is one of the most smartest today. And it’s wireless!

Logitech Illuminated Ultrathin Keyboard with Backlighting

Estimated price: $61.21

Very thin, has 3 levels of  back-lighting to help see keys in the dark, ultra comfortable and the most elegant keyboard you’ll ever see. A reviewer says this is the best keyboard he ever bought. Good gift? Yes.

Logitech Comfort Lapdesk N500

Estimated price: $38.15

Has a heat-shielding design which protects your skin from the heat. Recent studies suggests that placing a laptop on your lap may trigger allergic conditions because of the heat on your skin. Be protected from harm. Aside from that, this lapdesk promises to give its users comfort whether on the sofa or on the bed, reviews from buyers supports this claim.

Shumacher PP-2200 Portable Outdoor Power Unit

Estimated price: $66.17

This is a good gift for a friend or to yourself. Going on a vacation far from civilization and you need access to your laptop or other gadgets? This one is for you. Reviewers of this product says it powers their laptop for several hours. Amazing, huh?

Optoma PT100 PlayTime LED Gaming Projector

Estimated price: $179.99

Who wouldn’t want to have a home theater at $179.99? Works with game consoles and computers, has built-in speakers, and exceeds general expectations for such a small amount. Clearly, a good gift if you want people to relax at home.

1TB USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 Ultra Portable External Hard Drive

Estimated price: $129.99

You know what’s cooler than 500GB? 1TB. Powered by your laptop/desktop, no need for an external source for power. Ultra Portable can fit inside your pocket.

Wii

Estimated price: $197.00

In France they call it Yes. Need I say more? Best gift for everyone.

Sony PSP

Estimated price: $169.99

Every designer needs fresh ideas and Sony’s PSP is a good gadget to get them fresh. Already finished work? Relax and have fun through PSP.

Website Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads

Estimated price: $27.66

Let’s face it, a website’s design is as important as the content.  Because humans are visual beings who decide quickly based on appearance of things, the principles should also be incorporated in web designs.

Fujifilm FinePix J40 12.2 MP Digital Camera

Estimated price: $59.00

Capture moments that inspire you. Great gift for an outgoing designer. Great price too.

September 27 2010

14:08

22 Must-Have iPhone Apps for Designers

iPhone is a smart phone developed by Apple Inc. This Internet-enabled phone was first introduced on January 9th, 2007. Numerous apps have been developed for these phones to help people perform various activities. It supports different multimedia options and this makes it a versatile one for all kinds of people. Designers are no exception to [...]

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September 20 2010

04:05

What Designers Can Learn From Hackers

Foreword: I first became fascinated with the ways white hat hackers took things apart to solve problems after joining an awesome local hackerspace called Collexion. I have them to thank for seeing the inspiring overlap of design and hacking (and for helping me to write this article).

The (virtuous) Hacker Ethic

What is the Hacker Ethic? In 1984, Stephen Levy wrote a book which describes six general tenets of a shared philosophy observed by (ethical) hackers. Each tenet applies in illuminating ways to the design process.

1. Hands-on imperative

handson
When computing power was scarce (read: behind locked doors), hackers would go to any lengths (e.g. picking locks) to get hands-on time with the latest in technology. They risked everything to gain hands-on time in order to make things and experiment. How does this apply to design? Today our scarcity isn’t tools, it’s time. If paying work hinders your learning new technologies and methods, then do personal projects. Ultimately design is not a spectator sport, it’s hands-on!

2. “Information wants to be free”

infofree
Your experiences and talents are uniquely yours, but ultimately worthless without execution. Yet chasing every idea can get nothing done. Get into the habit of getting all of your ideas down. This habit both helps you to remember moments of brilliance and to generate new ideas. The best ideas will nag you (for months, even years) until you grant their freedom.

3. Mistrust authority

mistrustauthority

You should not blindly follow (nor reject) prevailing conventions, rules, or trends. Hackers value facts over fancy, and can explain their reason for solving a problem in a particular way. In design, you may have encountered the boss that wants the buttons to be red because it’s the hotness. When the authority demands more cowbell, should you yield? It is easy to say “no” on principal but why not take the hackerly approach and test the assertion. If testing is not practical, be armed with facts and information to defeat the request. Learn to mistrust authority, even your own.

4. No bogus criteria

boguscriteria

True hackers judge one another on their hacking, not bogus criteria like degrees, race, age, sex, or position.

We all know the designer who cites a design degree, a lucrative job, or an advanced experience level as the reason they are more of an authority than you are. Often the same designers produce little and/or terrible work. But what’s important? To a hacker, not these criteria—the important thing is the work you do. All else is bogus.

5. “You can create truth and beauty on a computer”

beautytruth

A computer alone does not make a great designer just as a powerful calculator doesn’t make a great mathematician. Ultimately, it’s about idea and execution. But do not be numb to or biased against new technologies as they represent fresh canvases and stages for your ideas.

6. “Computers can change your life for the better”

computerscanimprovelife

Computers clearly have impacted the way we design with new tools and expanded marketplaces. However, a frequently underexploited channel for designers to thrive is through social media. Designer-focused social media (e.g. Dribbble, Behance, Forrst etc.) are drastically changing the business of design.

Conclusion

We have looked at some of the ways the methods and ethics of hacking can inform your design. But (in the hackerly advice of Levar Burton), “don’t take my word for it”—get hands-on by checking out your local hackerspace!

Sponsored by

Made By Tinder

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What Designers Can Learn From Hackers

September 06 2010

21:00

Beautiful Designer Quotes – Mindsets and Inspiration

There are many ways to get inspired these days. For designers, looking through design pieces around the internet help them grow their ideas for current or future projects. Though sometimes when you’re down, it doesn’t matter if you are designers or not some quotes or phrase can inspire you to move forward and think creatively.

In this article, we have selected 75+ various design quotes. Some you will recognize coming from the great artist like Pablo Picasso. Others are inspiring quotes created by designers across the world based on their mindset.

Picasso Type – Quote by Picasso

Design’s fundamental role is problem solver.

- Fast Company, 2005

Design is in everything we make, but it’s also between those things. It’s a mix of craft, science, storytelling, propaganda, and philosophy.

- Erik Adigard

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

- Steve Jobs, 2003

Pablo Picasso

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.

- Red Adair

Invention is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.

- Thomas Edison

…designers can make life more bearable by producing stuff that touches its audience rather than fucks them in the head.

- Jon Wozencraft

Dead Serious

Good design is good business.

- Thomas J. Watson Jr.

The only important thing about design is how it relates to people.

- Victor Papanek

A design isn’t finished until somebody is using it.

- Brenda Laurel

Creativity

You are what you are seen to be.

- Erik Spiekermann

To say that something is designed means it has intentions that go beyond its function. Otherwise it’s just planning.

- Ayse Birsel

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

- Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Sweet In The Sour

Truly elegant design incorporates top-notch functionality into a simple, uncluttered form.

- David Lewis

Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.

- Orson Welles

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

- Pablo Picasso

Excellence – Aristotle

Design is as much a matter of finding problems as it is solving them.

- Bryan Lawson

Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.

- Judy Garland

The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.

- Tom Waits

Person You Are

Good art inspires; Good design motivates.

- Otl Aicher

Color is a creative element, not a trimming.

- Piet Zwart

Sometimes you can draw more inspiration from the people who don’t believe in you, then from the ones who do.

- William Childs

You Learn Something New Everyday

Education is not the answer to the question. Education is the means to the answer to all questions.

- William Allin

Design is where science and art break even.

- Robin Mathew

I’m convinced that without bad design, the world would be a far less stimulating place; we would have nothing to marvel over and nothing to be nostalgic about.

- Carrie Philips

Typography

The definition of an expert is someone who knows what not to do.

- Charles Willson

Practice safe design: Use a concept.

- Petrula Vrontikis

Just because something looks good doesn’t mean it’s useful. And just because something is useful does not make it beautiful.

- Joshua Brewer

Never Tell Me

Good design goes to heaven; bad design goes everywhere.

- Mieke Gerritzen

When you eliminate quality as a requirement, the entire design process becomes a whole lot easier.

- Jared M. Spool

If you’re more susceptible to interruption, you do more out of the box thinking.

- Don Norman

Life Is…

By far the dominant reason for not releasing sooner was a reluctance to trade the dream of success for the reality of feedback.

- Kent Beck

You can have an art experience in front of a Rembrandt… or in front of a piece of graphic design.

- Stefan Sagmeister

I don’t think that design needs theory, but I think designers need theory.

- Johanna Drucker

The Only Thing Worse

Design is the contrast of the core of limitations therefore there are no boundaries. It is simply an interpretation of creativity.

- Jenaiha Woods

Don’t worry about people stealing your design work. Worry about the day they stop.

- Jeffrey Zeldman

Simplicity does not mean want or poverty. It does not mean the absence of any decor, or absolute nudity. It only means that the decor should belong intimately to the design proper, and that anything foreign to it should be taken away.

- Paul Jacques Grillo

Fight With Tools

I know the price of success: dedication, hard work & an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.

- Frank Llyod Wright

Design is creativity with strategy.

- Rob Curedale

There ain’t no rules around here. We’re trying to accomplish something.

- Thomas Edison

BeAmazing

Design is an opportunity to continue telling the story, not just to sum everything up.

- Tate Linden

Typography has one plain duty before it and that is to convey information in writing. No argument or consideration can absolve typography from this duty.

- Emil Ruder

Wisdom is to knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.

- David Starr

Compassion Will Cure…

Designers have a dual duty; contractually to their clients and morally to the later users and recipients of their work.

- Hans Hger

Imitation may be the “sincerest form of plagiarism,” but it is also the mark of an inferior person.

- David Ogilvy

Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.

- Paul Klee

Rising Sun

Some designers create things to show you what they did. I design things to tell you what I solved.

-  Brian Yerkes

The quality of any creative endeavor tends to approach the level of taste of whoever is in charge.

- John Gruber

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

- Leonardo da Vinci

Quotation 6

The secret of joy in work is contained in one word: excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.

- Pearl S. Buck

Designers think everything done by someone else is awful, and that they could do it better themselves, which explains why I designed my own living room carpet, I suppose.

- Chris Bangle

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.

- Neil Gaiman

Mr.Mandela Said…

Designing a product is designing a relationship.

- Steve Rogers

The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire, and persistence. Talent without these things vanishes and even modest talent with those characteristics grows.

- Milton Glaser

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.

- Pablo Picasso

Reminders

I never design a building before I’ve seen the site and met the people who will be using it.

- Frank Lloyd Wright

I don’t design clothes, I design dreams.

- Ralph Lauren

Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.

- Charles Eames

Worth Having

We hope you can be inspired and motivated by the quotes in this post. Join and tell us which is your favorite one or if you have your own quotes, feel free to write it down on the comments. In the meantime here’s mine.

You can’t reach the top before you start climbing from the bottom

- Ari Suardiyanti

July 23 2010

10:00

How To Find A Qualified Designer for your next Project

Whether you are just starting out as an internet marketer, a seasoned business person or just a mom-and-pop shop you will eventually need a designer to create a whole plethora of designs for you. You may even be a veteran designer yourself, but there comes a time when out sourcing some designs is the only answer.

But how do you find a quality freelance designer who knows his, or her, stuff and won’t screw you over? Read on to find out how to get top class designers begging you for work, how to qualify them all, how to weed out the bad, how to finally choose one and how to handle payments properly and safely.

Before you begin

This isn’t a course on project management, but there are a few things you have to know before you can even start looking for a designer.

1) A high-class (aka: a good designer you can trust) will not even look at poorly written job proposal. It simply isn’t worth their time.

Think about it: if the designer is already a successful freelancer, then they know what to look for and they know which jobs will pay. Therefore, they know to look for quality written job proposals because then they know exactly what the client wants. And when the client knows what they want, it makes the designers job a lot easier. Which brings us to the second point.

2) Make sure you have a complete project description.

This doesn’t mean post the whole project idea and description up on the web for the whole world to see, but make sure you have the completed idea somewhere in your notes.

You have to know everything that needs to be done and in the way you want it to be done. If you have examples of the style you want used, make sure you keep links or copies of them that you can give to the designer. Once you have picked the designer, then it’s time to give them the full details, not before.

3) No great designer will work for pennies, unless you make it really interesting…

If you’re outsourcing that means you are trying to save (and thus earn more) money, but asking top rated designers to work for cheap just isn’t going to happen. BUT, if you make it very interesting and very creative they just might be willing to do it. This highly depends on the project and the mood of the designers, but once in a full moon you will be able to snag a great deal.

For the most part though, top rated designers do come with a hefty price tag. What is very interesting though is that if you don’t require the creme of the crop designer, you can still get professional and high quality designers for a good low price. You just have to shop around.

4) Don’t forget to shop around.

There is no one best place to find a designer. In this dime-a-dozen economy they can be found in all the usual places and even the most unusual places. Look at the designer job boards, freelance sites and even on designers private website. Ask anyone worth asking because you never know who will get back to you with a positive response.

Where to find designers

Designers are everywhere, you just have to know where to look. Here is a quick list of just some of the places you can find great freelancers.

Get A Freelancer (GAF)

GAF is one of the most well-known freelance site for both employers and freelancers. It features many categories of which one will most likely fit your needs. There are plenty of freelancers looking for work there. You can also post job with your requirements (more on this later). This is definitely one place you should look.

Freelance Switch

This blog based design website is a premiere site for designers and the like. With fresh content each week, many designers visit and sign up through this site. You are bound to find not only many designers here, but also very knowledgeable and friendly designers. This site is more community based than job board based.

Digital Point Forums

The Digital Point forums are a great learning resource, but they are likewise a great place to find freelancers. Under the Business section there is the “Buy, Sell or Trade” forum. There you can post your job and find many other DP users who can do the job for you, or at least point you in the right direction. This is a rather friendly forum and fun to hang out at, so be sure have a presence there before posting in the job board.

Creating A Quality Job Post That Will Gather Attention

You do not need to be a marketing expert to create a job post but you do need to create an attractive and descriptive title and description.

A title such as “I need a designer” is not good. You need to be more concise so that you can attract the right type of designer and not just bottom feeders. You title should be reasonably descriptive. Something like “Logo design needed for Design niche website” is significantly more descriptive and will garner more attention. Try to mention what specific item(s) you need and for what niche at a minimum. Also try not to make the title too long. 7-12 words max.

The job description should include what items you want them to do, such as a logo, banner,  or site design. It should also include your style requirements and any examples you want to show them. It’s also a good idea to state the time frame.

Let’s review, a good title will:

  • Be short, but descriptive.
  • State the item or items needed to be made
  • List the Niche or topic
  • If it’s a fast or small job, state so (ie: “quick job”).

A good project description will:

  • Restate what needs to be designed.
  • Give a time frame
  • List your design requirements:
    • Color
    • Size
    • Style
    • ect…
  • List of example work to explain some style points if need be
  • List the budget (more on this below).
  • State payment process (if need be, also more on this later)

But there is one more extremely important part which will significantly increase the quality of freelancer you can choose from and ease your vetting!

Pre-Vetting Designers

One step which most people never do and regret later, unless they get lucky, is to pre-vet people who respond to them. What is ‘vetting’? It’s the process of weeding out the bad and leaving the good! Pre-vetting is simply for doing this process before the actual selection process.

This is done in a very simple way on your job posts. At the bottom of your job post, you give the respondents a simple task to complete. This is not something such as making a mock-up design, it’s something very simple and really a no-brainer assignment. It’s a task that even a monkey could do!

Here is a short list of task you can pick from:

  • “Respond to this job post with ‘I understand all the requirements!’ for me to consider you. Failure to do so will mean you will not be considered”
  • “To make sure that you understand the requirements please Respond to this message/Private message me/E-mail me/Contact me with the message ‘I read all the requirements and understand it all’. If you do not I will not consider you for the job.”
  • “To be considered for this job, please answer this preliminary question first: Is a hot fire hot or cold?”

See? You ask them to do something very simple. If they are unable to complete this extremely simple task or answer the question then they probably don’t have the brains to follow any of your other instructions.

Interviewing Potential Designers

After your job has been posted for a few days you will have several replies. From the people who replied, select the ones who replied correctly. Out of those who replied correctly, it’s time to sit down and interview them.

You do not have to do a full-blown job style interview, but there are several things you will want to know about them. You will also not want to interview them all.

Some job board websites have bidding and user ratings for each job and designer. If a designer bid above your budget, then it’s probably safe to ignore them. Try to follow these tips when picking final interview candidates:

  • Does the user have a good rating? Yes? Good!
  • Ignore users with no previous jobs done, zero rating(s) or a negative rating/feedback.
  • Do not pick designers to bid above your budget. Though you can try to talk to them and negotiate a lower price.
  • Talk to the highest rated users first.
  • Don’t care if they don’t speak (or type) English (or your language) perfectly. This is design, not highschool English class.

When you are talking to the candidates, there are several very important things to ask for which will ensure that they are good for you and your project. You should ask:

  • Have they done this type of project before?
  • When (ie: how fast) can they complete the project?
  • Do they have a portfolio to show you of their previous work?
  • Do they have references?

The most important aspect is can you work with them. Do they fit you and the project? What’s the point of getting a great designer if you can’t stand them?

Weigh all the attributes and pick one that works for you. Don’t forget, pick one that has proof of past history of quality. And don’t be afraid to call their references!

How to handle payment

Usually the designer will be paid full price at after the project is complete. This is the norm for project such as logo designs, banners, ads, and (smaller) web page design. If you order through a private or company website, then you might have to pay upfront.

If you use a site like GAF or Freelance Swtich then payment will most likely be through Paypal. Most designers have their own Paypal account, so if you don’t have one make sure you create and verify one before you post to job boards.

For any small job, like the banner or page design, it’s ok to pay the designer after the project is complete. But if you have a larger scale project, the most secure way to establish payment is with milestone payments and through an escrow account.

An escrow account will hold your money for you, and is guaranteed for the designer at certain intervals and after approval from you. They are many places to create escrow accounts and each place will act as the 3rd party intermediary should any problems arise.

After project completion

Once you have sent the payment for the project, be sure to give a small tip. It’s not required but is a good gesture if the designer did a very good job and in a very quickly. This also creates loyalty. The designer is significantly more likely to work for you more often in the future if you treat them well.

If you are satisfied with their work, be sure to keep their name on file for future work or to reference them to others. If you send work to them, they are also very likely to recommend you (and your products) to their friends and clients.

Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions to the designers or to even ask for recommends of other designers for other tasks (if your current designers isn’t an expert at a certain task). Be friendly and they will surely do an extremely good job for you now and in the future.

May 20 2010

21:39

Becoming the designer you want to be

I receive many emails of questions on how to improve as a designer. Here’s a great list I found that might should help.

April 26 2010

10:00

Client Handling:Finding your Client’s Pain Points

In my years of dealing with a variety of different clients, I have noticed one curious trend. It is amazing how many other Web designers have left a bad taste in people’s mouths from previous experiences they’ve had. I think this boils down to two things: lack of experience and lack of awareness.

I want to cover the second point today. As a Web designer/developer, you have an amazing opportunity to shape your clients’ perceptions of what the Internet and online technology can do for them and their business. Your actions will largely determine how successful your existing clients are and who your next client will be. How you go about this can take a variety of forms, but as many a marketing expert will tell you, one very effective way of growing your business is identify your customers’ pain points.

Recognizing pain

Photo by Tomasz Kobosz

Every customer is going to have one or more frustrations related to their business or their Web site. You need to learn how to read between the lines and listen past the immediate requests of your client. The goal is to keep reinforcing the idea that you understand what they really need and can articulate it better than they can.

Many business owners are intimidated by technology. There’s an obvious pain point: “Help, I don’t understand how this stuff works!” Therefore, the more you can educate your client, translate computer/Internet jargon into plain everyday speech, and empower your client to learn more about good Web practices and the benefits of regular updates (news, product updates, blogging, social media, etc.), the more you will be seen as a vital business partner.

Learn to recognize pain points by asking the right questions and listening to the answers. You can ask about your client’s goals and vision. You can ask about who they want to target to grow their business. You can ask what motivates them and what doesn’t. For those with existing Web sites, you can ask what features they get requests for often, or which off-the-wall things they might wish they could do. The goal isn’t necessarily to implement their requests verbatim, but to get an idea of where to focus your invention and ingenuity.

Eliminating pain

Photo by Ali Farid

For example, suppose you’re working on a niche community site for a client, and they ask how you can allow members to embed videos on their profile page. You know the client doesn’t have the funds to pay for a video streaming solution like Brightcove, so you suggest simply allowing users to post videos from YouTube. They say “great, make it so” and agree to a bit more cash to pay for your implementation. Now you have three options at this point:

  1. Create a free-form HTML box and allow people to paste in YouTube’s code for embedding videos. Simple for you to implement but rather confusing for many users. Hardly a great experience and it only creates another pain point.
  2. Find a prefab JavaScript widget that can automatically suck in videos from a user’s YouTube account. A little bit better, but remember, your client wants community members to embed videos that are relevant to the topic of the site. Besides, you don’t want to blindly copy someone else’s UI. This is an experience that YOU are creating for your client and their audience.
  3. Develop a solution where a user can copy a YouTube video URL into a field and you’ll generate the embed code automatically. Make it better by allowing users to add and delete specific videos from their profile. And, while you’re at it, let users provide a username, then show a list of recent videos from their account and allow them to choose a video to embed. Top it off by adding support for the popular alternative video service Vimeo as well. You or a developer can program this by using the publicly available APIs that YouTube and Vimeo provide.

I chose the third option for a real project I worked on last year, and my client was thrilled with the outcome. Remember, their pain point was “how do I support videos on my site? I don’t want it to cost lots of money!” By creating a transparent, straightforward process whereby social media videos could be added and displayed in the context of the site’s personalized UI, I reinforced the idea that I understand needs, know how to solve problems, and make cool things that work right.

Don’t be afraid of pain

Photo by Jamie Brelsford

It’s easy to find articles circulating like “How to avoid bad clients” or “Freelance clients that suck”. While it’s true that some clients are more trouble than they’re worth, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for potential money/time drains, I think it’s wrong to have the attitude that clients are generally a bother who need to be contained.

Don’t be afraid of your clients’ pain. When they seem to be making unreasonable requests or are exasperating you with their endless questions or concerns, remember, YOU are the professional. You weren’t hired to be a hot-shot, you were hired to solve problems.

Find out what the client really needs. Dig a little deeper. Perhaps those endless requests to tweak a certain HTML form is stemming from them not really knowing what info is most important to capture. Take a step back and help them determine what the particular business need really requires, then implement the form accordingly.

Or maybe you find yourself going back and forth on the colors of the header for a site. Stop and think: did you talk to the client originally about what colors they like or don’t like? If your client hates sky blue, no amount of convincing on your part will make them love your sky blue background image. After all, if you think you should have the ultimate say on what looks good, then go join an art gallery. Fact is, you’re a designer for hire. Your client’s happiness is ultimately all that matters.

Become the Expert that Everyone Wants

Photo by Asif Akbar

Imagine a business owner you’ve worked with telling their friends: “you’ve got to talk to my Web designer — s/he is so easy to work with and always knows how to make things work better and fix problems that come up. I used to be confused by all this Web stuff, but s/he made it simple for me!”

A client will of course be happy with the good-looking design you create or the nifty feature you implement, but the truth is they’ll be most happy with your professionalism. Stay on track, ask lots of questions, go the extra mile, and eliminate their pain points. It may seem like a lot of effort to jump through every hoop that arises, but when you go above and beyond the call of duty, you cement your reputation as a can-do key player in the Web design business. In the end, it will definitely pay off!

What do you think? I’d love to hear your feedback below.

Thumbnail photo by Derek Kimball

April 23 2010

10:37

15 Insanely Awesome Toolkits for Icon Designers

Icon is a visual anchor which helps us to navigate through the interface. Icon design is the process of designing a graphic symbol that represents some real, fantasy or abstract motive, entity or action. Icon designs may be of many designs and can be simple with 2d drawing or a black silhouette, or complex presenting a combination of graphics design elements such as one or more linear and radial color gradients, projected shadows, contour shades, and 3D perspective effects.

If you want to create effective icon designs, then you should take a holistic approach to issues such as audience, size, simplicity, lighting, perspective, and style. Here we bring you a good opportunity and a good starting place for making icons that using these below toolkits will work together with you and fits within your budget.

1.Adobe creative suite

Adobe CS5 is most important tool for icon designers. It might seem prohibitively expensive, but it includes a lot for your money. For icon designers, CS5’s most useful tools include Photoshop, the market leading piece of image editing, manipulation and compression software; Illustrator, an artwork program used throughout the creative industries; and Fireworks, which lets you allow to  optimize images for the web.

2.Axialis icon workshop

Axialis Icon Workshop6.5 is a highly compatible piece for your  icon creation priced at $49.95, conversion and editing software available for Mac, Windows and Unix OS too. Besides the standard features you would expect, IconWorkshop is the only icon editor which lets you create and edit Image Strips for toolbars. The new generation of icons uses variable transparency (alpha channel). This feature permits creating beautiful icons with smooth borders and shadows. Axialis IconWorkshop also simplifies the icon creation process by providing you with a vast array of basic image objects, You can drag and drop on top of one another for professional looking results and it’s compatible with graphic industry standards.

3.Awicons

AWicons Pro has both home and business editions. The latest version offers advanced graphics processing mechanisms rarely found even in leading photo editing applications – everything from high-detail true color alpha-blended icons support to advanced drawing modifiers, such as anti-aliasing, multi-color gradient and transparency is included.User-friendly and an interactive interface, multiple tutorials and sample icon libraries included in the software package AWicons is easy to learn and use even for someone who have never tried creating graphics before.Business edition for $59.95 and Home edition for $39.95.

4.Icon developer

Easy to create your own Windows icons using icon developer. IconDeveloper allows users to just import images made by other programs and turn them quickly and easily into icons. It  also makes it easy to change the colors of icons, batch conversions, and  variety of scaling techniques to ensure the highest possible quality.This beautiful product has a reasonable price is $19.95.

5.Icon builder

Icon builder is available for both Mac ($79) and Windows ($49), IconBuilder works compatible with Adobe Photoshop and Fireworks to make creating icons easy. Some main features are

  • Create icons of any size
  • Create icons of any shape
  • Save all icon resources as one Photoshop layer
  • Import existing icons
  • View icons against various background colors

6.Icon machine

Icon Machine is a $25 shareware icon editor available for Mac users only (Mac OS X 10.2 or later). It contains various tools that make it possible for you to produce rich, attractive icons in a range of colors and sizes. You can import icons that you’ve created in Photoshop, and edit them using the machine. Drag and drop functionality is there, as well as the Edit Icon plugin, which lets you open files in Icon Machine from the Finder, make this tool a pleasure to use.

7.Icon Packager

You can change all of the icons on a computer’s desktop at the touch of a button with Icon packager. Use IconPackager to transform hundreds of icons at once. There are tons of icon packages available for you to use, so you’re bound to find one that’s perfect for the project at hand. IconPackager also allows users browsing through their system to right-click on any file and go to the added “Icon” tab and change the icon.You can trial the software for free, or buy it for just $9.95.

8.Icon Cool

IconCool Studio is a complete solution for 32 bit icon editing and creation. The program includes all standard image editing tools, as well as a variety of filters and effects that can be used to enhance your icon designs. In addition to icon and (animated) cursor formats, the program also supports editing of GIF, JPG and PNG image files. Other features included
  • Support for latest Vista icons
  • Photoshop plug-in and transfer
  • Multi-format import/export and more
  • Powerful marquee operation is available
  • Flexible gradient editing
  • Powerful color management
  • Friendly user interface
Pricing only $39.95/$49.95(PRO)

9.Icofx

Award winning freeware icon editor.Better solution for icon creation, extraction and editing. It is designed to work with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and MacOS icons supporting transparency.No limits to create your icons. You can easily convert your favorite images into icons, or icons into images. Possible to create icon libraries. You can easily work with multiple files using the batch processing capability of IcoFX,Multiple language support features,Multiple undo is possible,For more features please view this http://icofx.ro/features.html

10.Microangelo

Available for Windows only, is a family of icon software comprising On Display ($24.95), Toolset ($49.95) and Creation ($59.95). You can buy the whole package for $79.95, saving $55. On Display lets you right click on and change any icon, wherever it is on your computer. Tool set includes an icon editor, icon manager, icon explorer and animated cursor editor. Creation lets you make icons and cursors that look stunning in Windows XP, using a similar set of tools to Photoshop, with layers, gradients and a fully customizable color palette.Each package has special features.

11.Greenfish

Powerful icon program and its completely free, cursor, animation and icon library editor.Professional and unique freeware tool for designing small pixel graphic images. Greenfish offers high-quality filters like Bevel, Drop Shadow and Glow; supports editing animated cursors and managing icon libraries. It’s lightweight (< 1.8 MB unzipped) and also has a portable version – A clean, customizable, multilingual user interface makes it really easy to learn and use.

12.SIB

User-friendly icon utility for Windows. It allows to create and edit icon images and manage icon files and libraries.You can edit PNG packed windows vista icons,Create and manage icon libraries and Convert MAC icons in to windows format and much more features.You can buy it for $29.95

13.Liquid icons

Free and most popular Icon Editors in the world. (no Adware, Spyware, Guaranteed), portable and lightweight, and works on every version of Windows. Some of the important features are  Integrated icon browser for easy icon extraction,image manipulation functions,Set of image effects that will help you in your icon creation and Standard set of image editing tools.

14.Icon maker

Easy Icon Maker is a small and easy icon utility for icon making, editing, changing, extracting, searching, and exploring.It allows you editing a transparent or opaque icon. You may edit your own professional icons easily and quickly with the built-in editor, Extract an icon from an EXE or DLL file.,You may import graphic file such as BMP, JPG or GIF and save it into icon file or export icon file to graphic file.Available price is $29.95 .

15.Iconographer

Mscape Software is no longer supporting Iconographer, but you can still download this piece of software and use it for free, ideal for those of us not so willing to splash the cash! With Iconographer, available for Mac only, you can create and customize your own folder icons.

Which software is your favorite for designing Icons? Don’t forget to share.:)

April 08 2010

04:15

LG presents: Design the Future Competition

LG Mobile Phones, the fastest growing mobile phone brand in North America,  is partnering with crowdSPRING, an online marketplace for creative services, and Autodesk, a leader in 2D and 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software, to hold an innovative competition to define the future of mobile communication.  Starting on March 15th, LG Mobile Phones will give consumers the chance to design their vision of the next revolutionary LG mobile phone and compete for more than $80,000 in prizes.

LG-DesignTheFuture-LogoA

The competition will award over 40 winners.  The first place winner will be awarded $20,000, one Wacom Intuos4 medium tablet, and Autodesk industrial design software.  The second place winner will be awarded $10,000 and Autodesk SketchBook Pro software, and the third place winner will be awarded $5,000 and Autodesk SketchBook Pro software.  To reward as many people as possible in the name of creativity, LG will also be giving out a whopping 37 honorable mentions at $1,000 each.

This year’s competition marks the inaugural participation of Russell Bobbitt, a world renowned movie prop master.  Bobbitt has worked on a variety of visually stunning films such as Star Trek, Iron Man and Iron Man 2™.  He recently received the prestigious “Behind the Camera” prop master award for his work on the first Iron Man film.  Bobbitt will serve as a guest judge to reward one contestant’s cutting-edge design with the Prop Master’s Choice award.  The contestant’s design will then be created into a non-working mock-up that could wind up in Bobbitt’s next blockbuster film.  The Prop Master’s Choice winner will also receive $3,000 plus Autodesk SketchBook Pro software.

“We’re very excited about this competition because it gives consumers and design enthusiasts all a chance to exercise their creative imaginations and have their ideas be heard,” said Ehtisham Rabbani, vice president of marketing and innovation for LG Mobile Phones.  “You don’t have to work for LG to make an impact on the future of mobile phones.”

Autodesk will supply participants with a free 15-day trial of HYPERLINK SketchBook Pro, a paint and drawing application for use on the Mac or PC.  It offers an intuitive, streamlined user interface so even new users can be productive within minutes. The 15-day trial will give all competitors access to industry-leading professional design software and levels the playing field for professional and amateur designers alike to create the phone of their dreams.

“We’re thrilled to partner with LG and Autodesk on this innovative design challenge. The challenge represents the real power of crowdsourcing – by allowing anyone to have the opportunity to design the next generation mobile phone for a global leader,” said Ross Kimbarovsky, co-founder of crowdSPRING.  With a pool of over 55,000 designers and writers in more than 170 countries, crowdSPRING is one of the world’s largest creative communities and is an open platform where anyone can post projects or submit entries. Both seasoned and aspiring designers can submit their entries until April 26th at http://www.crowdspring.com/LG

Competition Details:

Eligibility: Any U.S. resident (citizen or green card holder) that is 18 years (or age of majority in state of residence) and older

Start and End Dates: The competition begins on March 15, 2010, at 12 a.m. PST and ends on April 26, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. PST

Winners will be announced on May 14, 2010 at http://www.crowdspring.com/LG/winners

Prizes:

First Place:

$20,000 Cash Award + 1 Wacom Intuos4 medium tablet (ARV of $349) + Autodesk industrial design software (ARV of $500)

Second Place:

$10,000 Cash Award + Autodesk SketchBook Pro software (ARV of $100)

Third Place:

$5,000 Cash Award + Autodesk SketchBook Pro software (ARV of $100)

Prop Master’s Choice:

$3,000 Cash Award + Autodesk SketchBook Pro software (ARV of $100) + 1 non-working concept mock-up creation (ARV of $4,000)

37 Honorable Mentions:

$1,000 Cash Award

Official rules can be found at http://www.crowdspring.com/LG NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

Sponsored by

Made By Tinder

Advertise on Fuel Brand Network.
Fuel Brand Network 2010 cc (creative commons license)

LG presents: Design the Future Competition

March 18 2010

10:05

Client Tactics: How to Spot a Deadbeat Client

Imagine if  freelancers have x-ray vision or suppose Apple approves a gadget that makes x-ray vision possible, (iVision). If this is possible then freelancers will not have any problem in discerning a potentially great client from a deadbeat one. Sadly freelancers don’t have x-ray vision but, learning how to identify a deadbeat client the old-fashioned way is an invaluable tool. So first things, first.

What is a deadbeat client?

A deadbeat client is any client who gives the freelancer extra problems during the span of the project, outside the normal specifications of the project.

In this article we will see different types of deadbeat clients and how to spot them.

1. The Walking Billboard or Profit Share

On the Surface:

Calm, cool, and collected. The Walking Billboard sometimes known as “The Profit Share”, will seem very charismatic. Opportunity is this client’s middle name. After meeting with this client for the first time, one feels refreshed. One may even feel vaguely inspired. Everyone knows this client and the Walking Billboard knows this. This client may even have the reputation of a mover-and-shaker or hustler.

Common Phrases:

  • “By letting you help with our site, you should see some big money.”
  • “I really think this site is a million dollar idea.”
  • “I know and /or partied with (insert random celebrity)”

What’s the Pay?

Name dropping, and a byline. The Walking Billboard will assure you that the referrals will happen. The Profit Share will guarantee you a part of the business. Which of course is a million-dollar-can’t-lose idea, remember?

The Ugly Truth:

This client doesn’t value your time. They believe that their brains hold the keys to the next Facebook, Myspace, or Youtube. They think that by “letting you” design their site they are doing you a favor. Why do you need to get paid? They are going to tell all of their friends about you and allow you to put your link at the bottom of their footer. With all of their networking connections and web traffic, that’s better than money in the bank!

The Strategy.

With this client, try not to get caught up in any double talk or lip service they throw your way. By sticking to your pricing guide, and knowing when to say no; will sort out the deadbeats from the premium clients. Stay professional and don’t make exceptions.

2. The Too Busy to Breathe

On the Surface:

Frantic and high paced, The Too Busy to Breathe is a go-getter. This client is over worked and looking for someone to complete a project for them within a fairly quick time frame. This client may even be another designer looking to outsource a project that they don’t want to pass up the paycheck on.

Common Phrases:

  • “I’d finish this but my other client has a rush and it’s a higher priority.”
  • “Do you think this project can be completed next week?”

What’s the Pay?

They will pay you but, only after dragging you through design hell and back.

The Ugly Truth:

This client doesn’t value your time. They are up to their eyeballs in work and haven’t had a day off since before Apple released the iPhone. Most of the time with this client, they are disorganized. This means that emails may get overlooked and work may have to be reworked. This client may even be another designer, which will only add to the headache. Not only will you have to work twice as hard to complete this within their time frame, you may have to give up your personal work flow and design style.

The Strategy:

Avoid this client if at all possible. If you are already in this situation; power through it, remain positive, and focused. Until this project is completed try to devote as much time as possible to finishing this project.

3. The Picky Pickerson.

On the Surface:

Attention to detail is at the top of The Picky Pickerson’s GTD list. This client may not have a specific time frame in mind with the project you are doing for them but they sure have a vision. The Picky Pickerson will come off as being creative, inspiring, and very attentive to the project. Like the deadbeat client before, this client may be a designer too.

Common Phrases:

  • “Could you do this again but in green?”
  • “Did you get my email?”
  • “I really would like for this project to turn out like I have it envisioned.”

What’s the Pay?

Like the client before, they will pay you.They may haggle about the price and count the money several times before paying you.

The Ugly Truth:

Two words with this client: daily emails. This client believes that their project is of the utmost priority. They believe that their two page website for their champion pedigree chihuahua “Turbo”, should take precedent over that new e-commerce site that’s paying you twice what they are.

They will want you to work extra hours without any extra compensation.This client’s best friend is scope creep. Do not give this client your home phone number!

The Strategy:

Contract. Contract. Contract. Make sure this client signs and understands your contract. Clearly detail out your working hours, turnaround time for emails, and any other details of your standard process. Since this client will pick apart every part of the design you complete for them, advise the client on how many revisions they get to make.

Make sure they feel important because besides an awesome website, your attention is all they are really after.

4. The Thrift or Late Payer

On the Surface:

The perfect client. This client is everything that the other are not. This client gives you feedback, you educate them about different aspects of design. Only one part of the process they question, money. This client just wants to make sure that you are not taking them for their money. It’s better to be weary right?

Common Phrases:

  • “Why does a content management system cost so much?”
  • “I am on a really tight budget.”
  • “The check is in the mail.”

What’s the Pay?

You’ll get paid. Expect to haggle through the entire project about price, better yet expect payment about three to four months after you send a final notice.

The Ugly Truth:

This client hears prices but doesn’t see the value in those prices. The designer they were working with before only charged 1/3 of your going rate; never mind the fact they were related to the client’s girlfriend.

This client will fight tooth and nail over the price the entire length of the project. Expect to spend twice the time chasing this client for payment than what you spent actually working on the project.

The Strategy:

Make sure this client signs and understands your contract. Clearly define your payment schedule, and require a deposit. The client needs to understand the value of your services. Take the time to educate them on the time and intricacies of what design takes. Take care to not go into too much detail because that will only confuse the client. They value their barber, and their mechanic, they should value you too.

Final Thoughts

This article is by no means exhaustive, any of these clients can be combined for extra headache. Each one of these situations, can be detected and avoided or turned into a more favorable experience. Each client is different, what looks like a deadbeat client may just be a confused client who needs some guidance.

Our role as a designer is more like that of a problem-solver. By keeping cool and sticking to your contracts and principles; you’ll be able to educate the confused clients and weed out the deadbeats like a pro. So maybe one day x-ray vision will be available but until then, trust your gut and listen to the experiences of others regarding deadbeat clients.

March 11 2010

05:22

March 03 2010

06:54

Tales of an Ex-designer

Tired of clients? Sick of toeing the line between artist and “mad man” (without the added bonus of the martini lunches)? Want to get paid? Want to get paid on time?

Me too.

photo by yushimoto

I was sitting on the plane from New York to Los Angeles racing to finish a project for a client. My battery life was rapidly dwindling and the pressures of design and technology restrictions put me over the edge. I closed my laptop in frustration and took a look at my surroundings.

Why haven’t I noticed this before?  The plane.  The passengers. The many small problems that were being solved by highly competent and professional people. I almost choked on a peanut as I came to a new realization; flight attendants do what we as designers do, only they do it 32,000 feet in the air. This was the strangest and perhaps the purest translation of design I had ever seen and there was no Helvetica in sight. I have seen design that lives in the web or on paper, but this was design that just plain lives. There was no way to but acknowledge that designers and flight attendants are peas in a pod. But it is more than just that. Are designers and flight attendants brothers (and sisters) in arms?

That observational moment changed everything. Instead of racing against my Macintosh death clock to try and finish my project, I decided instead to go analog. I pulled out a pen and some paper to do some proper thinking and wondering. I posed to myself the ultimate question, “What will I do if and when I become an ex-designer?”

photo by Melissa of craftgasm
photo by Melissa of craftgasm

Apply, then reapply

Before applying for any job, it is best to take an inventory of skills. The things that make this list are things that only we, the designers can bring to the table. It is important to also take note of what we want out of the job, for the sake of happiness.

Basic Skills:

Understanding of grids, hierarchy, filtering information, editing, mixing and combining of elements, sequencing, communication, multi-tasking, immaculate taste, the level headedness of a business man and the heart of an artist.

With these skills, we also expect to achieve a certain personal gratification; what I call the “design high.” That feeling is one of the main reasons we do what we do. I am certainly not ready to lose that feeling.

Basic Needs:

Control- Design is the ultimate control. Not only are we giving people something to use or look at, we are showing them how they look at it, how they approach it, and how they should think about it. We like this.

Organization- Messy makes me nervous. Disorder is cause for disdain.

With these things in mind and with the classifieds in hand, I have circled three perfect jobs for the ex-designer.

photo by paxbgd
photo by paxbgd

Flight Attendant

The one that inspired it all. The job description for a flight attendant is seemingly simple. Keep ‘em safe and keep ‘em happy. Sure that might be the “important” part, just as graphic designers do more than “make things look good” the duties of the flight attendant go far beyond passing out peanuts and ginger ale. When examining the flight attendants I found myself watching the way they masterfully work up and down the aisle. The way they majestically move from seat to seat, with complete authority and uniformity. The order, the control, the grid! Flight attendants are Swiss design in action. All three of the following design alternative jobs offer face to face interaction. They get to see the good, when their life design makes things better, and they also get bad clients, just like us.

Librarian

Books, silence, systems, and organization—need I say more? Being a librarian is the odd combination of critic, mastermind and boss. A librarian gets to not only make personal recommendations but they get to decide what to showcase and promote. That’s like having a client ask for your advice, then take it. Every time! The main duties of a librarian include; keeping the library organized (organization? Check). Instruct others how to use the library resources (communication? Check). Promote reading (promoting an activity? Check and check).

Like an interesting “ex” anything, you should be haunted by your past, or at least reminded of it. This adds intrigue to not only your profession and you as a human being. Similar to the way an ex-cop who now works security constantly battles flash backs of stakeouts gone wrong. The designer turned librarian would be similarly haunted by a room full of books. Every bad rag, every widow every river in those default justified set books mocking you, “You could have made me better, you could have made me beautiful.”

photo by Maverick Digital
photo by Maverick Digital

Bartender

The people’s choice. A job that not only has designer perks, but it has a whole new set of perks. Think about it. Number one job task of a bar tender communication. Someone walks into the bar with a frown plastered across their face, it is your duty to find out what’s wrong. What does your customer want, what can you offer them? What if they ask you what’s good? Then you find a little bit about them, and you recommend something. The same process a designer undertakes when starting a project.

The next part is what makes “bartender” a more viable option than “waiter” or “waitress.” The mixing of the drink, the combining of elements. Different drinks make different colors. Think of tonic as your classic serif typeface, lets say Baskerville, and then the bartender picks Helvetica (gin) to go with it. The classic combination. The bartender designs the drink.

The last step, bartenders produce deliverables. Designers love dropping off deliverables. Sure, some of the picky drinkers may send the drink back, but that only means the bartender has a chance to show what they can really do.

What I’ll Miss the Most

As we near the end of our search, there are some thrills and experiences as a designer that cannot be duplicated. The tradition and evolution of our trade and the creative outlet it provides. The strange juxtaposition of artist and businessman that can only be associated with graphic design. The command we have to translate our thoughts onto paper, the web, and any other media we can get our fingers on. The swagger and confidence that can only come from blowing a clients expectations out of the water.

You know what? That list might just be enough for me to fire up my laptop back up and prepare for my meeting. The “ex” prefix may have to wait a few more years.

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Tales of an Ex-designer

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