Readings 15 + 16

December 8, 2009

How do you handle a frustrating creative process? How do you handle potentially negative press about your work? How do you keep working as hard as you can and as good as you can? Ask Will Bryant. I think he’s on to something.

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How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
Chapters 8 + 9
Self-Promotion + The Creative Process

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Christy and I decided to googlechat instead of writing a reading response because we had both waited until the last minute to finish them all and we were sick of writing reading responses. Well, that’s at least my outlook on the whole thing. Below are some excerpts of our conversation, interspersed with my own thoughts and some found images that are supposedly relevant to our conversation.

Self-promotional piece from Cari Vanderyacht, PSU alum. Whoops! I guess it worked! She works at W+K now!

Christy: ‘I don’t want to be famous, I just want my peers to like what I do.’ lol

me: oh hey

one second

Christy: cool 🙂

me: but that’s what I define “famous” as!

Christy: I know, that’s sort what was funny about that because that’s what we all strive for.

the acceptance from our peers

me: Agreed. I want people to want to put my work up on their walls as inspiration!

Christy: me too, I’m not there yet but hopefully soon …

Admiration + respect, not fame

me: yessss

Promotional design by Kyle Van Horn. Pretty smart.

me: There was an interesting note about fame in terms of getting press.

Want to hear a quote I typed?

Christy: yes

me: Oops, no quote. Just a paraphrase: One piece of design press (one article, one blog post) doesn’t equal instant fame, it’s accumulative. People have to read about you + see your work a few times in order to recognize that you’re capable of greatness.

Christy: lol

me: That one made me humble =)

Christy: Self promotion is the ability to make it in people’s minds, mouths and walls … in addition to our doings when we give people our cards and promo pieces. Blogs help get others to see what we can do.

me: Yeah, blogs are really interesting in that regard. They are real enough to make us feel like attaining acceptance onto them is the ULTIMATE, but they’re super ephemeral.

There were no blogs around when Charles and Ray were making things together. I have a sneaking suspicion that they didn’t give a shit about being famous. They just wanted to make good stuff. Let’s all learn from the Eamses!

Christy: the reputation such fame brings or the reputation one strives for

as you make the press will come to you

me: I want my reputation to be that I’m a forest creature that lives in a tree house! (=totally false)

Christy: I want my reputation to begin, but at the same time I don’t even care. I just love working with other people and getting out there in any way I can. If I go throughout my whole life never being mentioned in a magazine or blog, I’ll be ok. Just as long as I am working with great people like Nicole, Precious and many others 🙂

me: Oh, you! If you have your mind set on making making making and challenging yourself and putting your work out there, you’ll totally make it happen.

People will notice, whether you are trying to get them to or not!

Some advice on how to approach the idea of getting written about on blogs or not getting written about on blogs. I wish I could say, “Jeez, they’re just BLOGS, get over it!” But ask any one of my roommates how much I freak out when I get a google alert with my name in it…

Christy: I agree with that. lol, I’m trying to go through this chapter

me: Did you read the part about self-initiated briefs? “Graphic authorship?”

Christy: Oh, constraint, that’s interesting.

no both chapters is good

I haven’t read them fully

me: Yeah, constraint!

I really liked the concept of giving myself a brief to work with.

Like, defining my goals, touchpoints, themes for a project, making a proposal to myself, and then striving to accomplish it.

It makes me think that all artists wish they knew about design briefs!

Christy: “designers need briefs like cars need fuel”

me: oooh did you make that up?

Creative Process in Action: Jesse Brown and Chad Kouri of the Post Family camped out at Renegade Handmade in Chicago for a week and worked in the window.

Christy: Oh man, the creative process … it’s a long one sometimes

me: Whoops, sorry, was taking screen shots of my brand book.


That is what I need.

I think that is what a brief will help with.

Christy: I sort of just want to find a design job or something in the field that pays me well enough that I can go to Holland for a holiday and come back inspired and well rounded.

me: YES.

That sounds perfect.

Sorry. I can’t stop thinking about bloggers. This lovely little thing was made by David Fullarton. SWEET.

Christy: see you tomorrow at 2!

me: yeah! nice chatting with you

Christy: you too . bye


I intended this project to be a long one. One that I could focus on long after school finishes, and certainly into the next two academic terms.

So the word “final” applied to these images and ideas is somewhat of a false one. In the realm of Art 470, Fall Term 2009 with Lis Charman, these are final images and ideas. But in the rest of time and space This Place Projects is an ever-evolving project.

Download a PDF of my brand book here: BRANDBOOK

See close-ups below.

Thank you!

Places that inspired the formation of This Place.

Visual Mood for the project: nostalgic, timeless, regional.

The Hometown Lecture Series: Documentation of peoples’ lectures.

TP1 > An Ode To Summer In The West by Nicole Lavelle (me!)

(See more on Flickr.)

Reading Response #13 + #14

December 7, 2009

How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
Chapters 6 + 7
Winning new work + Clients

In lieu of serious or introspective thoughts about clients, I’m going to re-post a number of links to funny scenarious where clients ask or do things that make your jaw drop (in horror? In appreciation of humor?)

A Funny letter showing the mindset of some customers

A HILARIOUS collection of the Funny and Bizarre world of Client requests

Real (?) Email exchange: “It’s like Twitter, except we charge people to use it.”

But no, really. I work with clients three days a week  and for the most part people are genuinely kind and respectful of your specialized knowledge of your chosen field. I think the biggest and best thing I’ve learned while at my current job is that trouble arises when expectations of client and designer (or client and printshop) are not the same expectations. Taking steps to clearly communicate what you’re doing, what it’s costing the client, and what they’re going to get in return can qualm hiccups that might appear along the way.

Communicate, be honest, and don’t be afraid to say no to clients who you think you might not work well with.

Reading Response #12

December 7, 2009

Bruce Mau knows a thing or two about running a studio.

How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul
Chapter 5
Running a studio

Dear Mr. Shaughnessy,

Again, THANK YOU for wading through all the boring details. I appreciate it. I won’t waste time restating the good tips you gave about project managers, receptionists, and hiring people. I will instead talk about developing a design philosophy.

You state that a design firm must establish and work according to an ethical and creative philosophy. I’m interested in this assertion in light of how much we design students worry we’ll be working for soulless firms doing jobs for heartless clients. You give me faith that no one really WANTS to do these things. Sometimes it just happens.

Your studio’s philosophy is to do high-quality work for all clients, regardless of the budget.

Your logic is that low-budget work often offers more freedom. Doing good work with a small budget leads to bigger, better jobs.

You employ creative individuals to whom you then grant freedom to work towards their own creative visions.

You claim that people work harder and produce better work when allowed to experiment and create independently.

I’ll buy that!

Nice philosophy.

I’ll let you know when I develop one. Here’s what I have for starters:

Enjoy going to work everyday.
Make things that you want to show your friends.
Don’t work with assholes.
Don’t promote products that kill people.
Don’t cause more harm than good on this here good planet.

I’ll have to narrow it down at some point, but that’s what I’m thinking so far.

Thanks for making me think.

Sincerely yours,

Nicole Lavelle

The philosophy of Bruce Mau Design: “We create massive change. We invent cultural possibility. We design positive innovation, we ignite audacious action.” You should probably read this book:

Readings 9 + 10 + 11

December 7, 2009

Chapters 2, 3 and 4 from How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul
(How to find a job + Being freelance + Setting up a studio)

Each of these chapters could have been its own book. They need more room to stretch. That’s my sole criticism.

Tips on portfolios were useful. The anecdote of the young woman trying to open her portfolio only to have turned it upside down made me cringe and laugh at the same time. Awkward!

Even if I work at some huge soul-less firm and don’t have a workspace of my own, I want to make sure to have a fully-stocked home studio for tinkering in on the weekends (and early mornings!) (Skinny Laminx studio via sharesomecandy)

The prospect of the ultimate flexibility that accompanies being freelance is SO utterly appealing that I have to keep from quitting school, quitting my job, and running out into the world of graphic design to fend for myself. That said, the stability (financial and schedule) gained from a regular, full-time job is also more realistic and practical. My goal is to find a happy medium that allows me to take time off to hang out with my sisters AND that gets me up at the same time every morning. Working on freelance projects but in the company of others is the MOST appealing scenario this book has posed for my future working life. Having creative people around to bounce ideas off of PLUS having the freedom to take a nap after lunch sounds terrific.

The ULTIMATE cabin studio of Mel Kadel and Travis Millard (Via Fecal Face.) I would work here. Happily.

Skinny Laminx makes working for yourself look REALLY GOOD. Teatime anyone? (Via sharesomecandy)

I most appreciated the insight into the client-designer relationship and how it manifests in each of these three scenarios: working within an existing studio, working on your own, or setting up your own studio

The client-designer relationship is one that mystifies me. At the point we’re at, most of us design students have only worked for our parents, our family friends, our neighbors or the coffee shop down the street. The end objective for accepting such jobs is usually to boost the variety of work in our portfolio. We rarely get paid, and if we do, it’s measly. We don’t choose our clients and our clients don’t choose us: these relationships are the result of circumstance and convenience, not typical scenarios that pop up in the “real” design world.

A place to talk to clients, in the Minneapolis studios of Eight Hour Day. (Via sharesomecandy)

I also liked the idea of a craving for authorship as being the impetus to start one’s own studio. At least for a while, I’d like to continue having support to ease out of the school environment. But as soon as the work I’m making under the direction of others starts to feel stagnant or separate from my creative input, I’ll get my own digs. I’ll keep the notion of authorship in the back of my mind to help me pinpoint if I’m getting bored.

Can’t stop gawking at dream workspaces. APAK studio via sharesomecandy.

Considering authorship is another way to tie these three separate (but related) design existences together (working for another studio, being freelance, setting up your own studio.) In a freelance situation, you retain sole authorship of your work, your voice is heard and your aesthetic is obviously stated. This appeals to me the most, but I also am wary of diving into a situation where my skills and work are judged so directly until I feel comfortable in my design shoes! Must find that voice, must have that commanding use of type, must be SO GOOD before I break out on my own.

Some beautiful personal work by Lisa Congdon. (via sharesomecandy)

Margaret Richardson said in Art History class the other day, “Your life will start as soon as you start thinking of yourselves not as design students, but as designers.” She meant, “Do it now.” Make that mental switch and things will start to make more sense. The transition out of school won’t be so difficult.

Thanks, Margaret. Now, can you get me a job at Nike? (Just kidding.)