A peek into the past: "Ready, Freelancer One"

I haven't updated my personal/professional blog in quite some time. Ruh roh. Life's been good and busy. And given a whole slew of cool new things that I've been learning and working on, there seems to be a need to write about them on a place that isn't Tumblr or a private Facebook account. 

While thinking about this, around midnight as is often the case, I came upon this draft—titled "Ready, Freelancer One"—that I never published about diving into the craft of freelancing for a living. This was late last year, after I had left my 3 year post at the best first full time job of my adulthood. I'm now employed as a designer at a tech company which is growing steadily in notoriety and life's been quite the whirlwind since this post. I found this a funny and interesting insight into my past frame of mind, given my new situation, which I'll hopefully actually write about in coming weeks. So I'll share it:


I love video games that mirror real life. RPGs are the usual choice, games like Fable, Civilization, the Elder Scrolls franchise of titles, Destiny, Elite Dangerous. I like games with complex and flexible narratives that allow you to choose your own adventure. It gives me more of a sense of accomplishment and reward than merely shooting things for points, or racing. I like options!

Cut to: actual real life. I left my 3 year appointment with a job I love because I began to feel my wheel grinding under me. I wasn't creatively fulfilled, and to some extent, I desired the recognition and sense of accomplishment that I saw around my fellow colleagues or other working compatriots in design. I'd love to travel for my job, I'd love to meet new people and help steer a wheel towards something beneficial not just for profit or a business, but for a community. Understanding that a certain part of my financial rug would be pulled out from under me, I decided to go full time with a seasonal gig at a lovely photography company, and spend the off-hours diving head-first into solidifying my personal brand, learning how to find clients, and learning how to run a small business.

As with my favorite types of video games, I wanted to see what I could do, striking out on my own. What options could crop up. What skills could I discover? What neat new people could I meet? Are there save points on this thing? ...uh oh.

No surprise: it's difficult. It's scary. But at the same time (with the slight financial padding of a regular job) it's rather fun. I cannot profess to knowing exactly what I'm doing, but I don't have any desire to be spoonfed instructions on How To Be A Successful Freelance Designer. It's a bit like reading the instructions for a video game. They're a nice roadmap for what buttons to push, but ultimately YOU must learn how to play the game in a way that suits your personal style. The best way to learn is nearly always to bump your head and figure out how not to make mistakes; how to do things better; what the terminologies mean, etc. Learning is life.

A month into it, it still feels like an adventure. I am learning that I need perseverance, patience, passion, and above all else, consistency—both production and practice—in what I do. My consistent worry is that it all might not work out. Maybe it'll turn out that I won't like this freelancing game very much after all. But I can't get to that understanding until I give the game my best shot.

Follow me at various places!

To Whom It Concerns

On prompt from the #WomensMarch movement, and to help kick off their proposed 10 Actions In 100 Days post-march campaign, I'm going to do something that I've actually never done and use my skills for something else...sending postcards to my representatives (in my case, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), Gary Peters (D) and David Trott (R).

As a creative communicator whose industry has consistently and likely will continue to come under less-than savory notice from the current administration, I have an unspoken obligation to take the side of intellectual and artistic political protest, which is a key duty of those involved with The Arts.

It might not be much, but it is a start and it is something as opposed to nothing.

To be continued...

A Brief Musing On Graphic Design and Art

This is a line. It's straight and plain—it's a 2 point stroke in black ink.

This is the start of a Graphic Designer, and an Artist's work.

Whether you're working on a digital tablet, with a pencil & pad, with code. It all starts with a single line. That line becomes styled with rhythm, color, shape, overlays and patterns, textures. That style is executed with the intent to communicate—whether that communication is an idea, a statement, a story, a call to action. With thought, that simple 2pt stroke goes from a sort of stock, primordial form to something tangible, something with effect and weight.

The process of coming to that tangible state is called design.

Now, there is another line that is often drawn.

 

The title of "Graphic Designer" has a tendency to be relegated to a specific way of being. One who is a Graphic Designer works strictly with paper, with logistics, letters and logomarks. Or so we tend to think, because that's the aesthetic that is somehow attached to the word. We, as both clients and creatives, tend to separate the technical nature of a Graphic Designers work from the aesthetic nature of an Artist's.

Why?

Both are logisticians who work in lines, color, shape and texture. Both must communicate in ways that resonate with reached and yet-to-be-reached audiences. Graphic Design is far from being a truly "Left Brain" task, in that the most visible successes of the craft are as much successes in beauty and execution as they marketing pieces. Human beings are drawn to things that can be touched, that are visually pleasing and straightforward, clever even. Approaching projects with a purely logistical eye does not foster that type of connection to the audience. To connect on a human level, one must embrace the sometimes indulgent sensibilities of the Artist.

For the greatest success in communication, an overlap of Graphic Designer and Artist is necessary, if not imperative. Propaganda art is—no irony intended—a great example of this. But also, product packaging. App UI/UX. Architecture. Art and Design go hand in hand.

Design is communication. Communication without intent is white noise. Intent without Art is careless. Art and Design must be champions of each other to resonate, instead of dissipate.

 

 

Peace out 2015, Time for a new 365

Thanks to everyone to keeping in touch and interacting with me and my work all these years! I got to work on lots of cool things this year, and I hope to keep the trend constant in the next.

Art and design are never simply about making the paycheck, they're a part of a greater whole that is intended to help the artist improve themselves. The arts are a discipline--a muscle. And the only way to honor that discipline and to keep that muscle toned is to BE disciplined and persistent about creating. Like all my compatriots in the craft, I'm looking forward to the next big idea and the next big collaboration, and making 2016 the year I sink my claws in. Can't wait to share more work with you and, as always, as best as I can, make it happen for you.

I wish everyone the best and safest in your ventures into the brave new world. Peace out 2015, let's do this 365 again, shall we?

Don't Fear The Fangirl • 1

A project I always have fun with is my Clone Club Mystery Series. It's super fun and silly and I always have a blast plotting out the "stories", which are kind of an Orphan Black flavored take on Welcome To Night Vale's quirky, weird nonsense narrative.

I have yet to do a project specifically in this style because, well, no one's ever asked me. They're a vaguely popular series among a nice chunk of the fellow OB fans I interact with, I presume because they are a bit different from usual fan art and paint pictures of fun/weird stories that could be told in the Orphan Black universe. So I derive a bit of satisfaction from that! If I did do real book covers, I'd love to get a gig where I could do something in this vein. Something quirky and clever, maybe a little disturbing, minimal and eye-catching.

You can see the full series here, and below is the latest installment.

The best part about fan projects for me is that they keep the creative juices going, without necessarily asking you to invest a huge ton of time. With these, I spend maybe 2, 3 hours total conceptualizing, sketching if need be and then illustrating. I don't really intend these to be major projects. They're just little arts for the love of it.

In a vague way, projects like this one are my little nobody spit-in-the-eye to people who want to argue what is art and what isn't. From people like Euclase who draw gorgeous realistic renderings of actors and TV or movie characters, to skilled and established artists like Dan Matutina or James White who create the occasional piece based in a TV show or film, I don't think there's any real place to argue over what is creative and moving to someone when all of it has equal potential to be. Unless, of course, you talk on a more technical, law related level, which Fan Art Is Fair Usage is currently tackling. Check them out, they're doing something interesting.

The Craft is Communication

I really liked this thing that Aaron Draplin said to The Great Discontent. He essentially said that he wasn't just in design for the commerce and cash—he's in it to help people. To bring something different and useful to the hands of people and causes and organizations that need it.

Yeah...I dig that.

It's taken me a little while to define for myself why I love all aspects of graphic design so much, and hearing Aaron say that resounded with me. As a student and as a creative gun-for-hire for others, I've encountered the occasional odd sort of who doesn't understand what the term "graphic design" relates to, or who tends to clump graphic design into some vague "artistic" category that, to them, doesn't signify much in the grand scheme of things. And that's not necessarily a wrong thing to do...it's simply uninformed. Take what google tells you if you ask what graphic design is:

the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books.

Ehhh....yes and no.

Graphic Design is communication.

Design isn't merely about pretty pictures and making things look good.

It's about helping people.

Design does an important deed in helping to change people's lives because it helps to tell stories and send messages. And this is how you speak to people—to audiences. Tell them stories, engage them viscerally and visually. People love to feel engaged and pampered, and good design, like good storytelling, good code, good strategic planning, helps to accomplish that. The craft of graphic design is the craft of communication, and to disregard it is to disregard a key step of the communication process. And honestly, a good designer should be able to explain that in some way or other to someone who doesn't.

A key reason I love this craft is I'm a generally quiet person who keeps her vocal opinions to herself in conversation. But in writing and in design, I find that I at last have an outlet to speak my voice and be heard and not interrupted (hashtag: introvertproblems), and to even help others be heard. Which is incredibly rewarding. I love well crafted stories, and with design—whether a logo or a poster commission—I'm able to help people craft visual narratives, which is a great source of joy for me. The written word can speak louder than the spoken word in many cases, and with the supplement of strong, thoughtful design, even more-so. It's a powerful, to be able to help people communicate. It's a tool I'm proud to wield as a designer.