Time For A New Challenge?

A Career In The Making?

When I first graduated from my graphic design course, the main focus was to continue working with my own business. I had been working as a professional writer and photographer for over 10 years by then, and it was time to expand my services. Graphic design was the next logical area to start moving into, so I went back to school. A business has to continue to grow and adapt to current demands, and clients were requiring more assistance with digital arts all the time.

In the background, I have been working with another business as a contractor throughout its growth and development. I have always enjoyed the work. Even if it was in a small way, it felt good that I could be helpful to someone else who was working to build something of their own as well. They were my first client when I started freelancing in 2004, and I have been on the periphery of that business ever since. My involvement has increased over the last three years as that business continues to take its industry by storm.

Life Is Hinting At Something

This is one of those cases where life will nudge something toward you, but it may not register to your conscious mind that it’s something you should be taking more notice of. If life really wants you to do something and you ignore it, it will grow tired of your lack of attention to it. This is when life will either stop nudging whatever it is toward you, or grab it and throw it at you. In this case, life threw it at me.

Fast forward to now, and I have a few open doors. I’m peaking through and loving what I’m seeing. Now, I’ve had my fingers caught in slamming doors before, and it hurts like hell. (Thankfully, only figuratively). As a result, I may not always trust what I see and wonder where the real catches are. I’ve always been cautious, more the type to opt for calculated risk, so there tends to be a bit of careful contemplation before making a decision.

I search for more cons, but they are greatly outweighed by the pros. I’ve given myself extra time to ensure I’m looking at it clearly, and from all angles. Then, there is the bottom line: Is this what I want to do? In an indirect way, it flows through my veins. I’ve been contemplating similar professions, but this may be the one I’ve been looking for.

A New Career?

I’ve already been learning about the industry through my contract work, especially over the last year and a half with the extra research and writing I have been doing for that business. I’m catching myself actively considering situations I see and read about in everyday life, and applying my knowledge to it. If I choose this career, it would not only afford me the opportunity to return to school to get into this industry as a qualified professional, it would offer me the chance to pursue my other degree in my free time. Then, there is the fact that we would be able to settle in one place. We have moved 14 times in the last 13 years. The final plus? We would be home again, and close to family. We could celebrate the holidays together and visit more often. Sure, there would be some sacrifices and it’s going to be hard work, but I can only see it being completely worth it. It’s an enticing challenge, one I’m confident I would succeed at.

I have been a little torn, more for personal reasons, but, after reading through what I have just written, the direction I’m leaning towards is clear.  There is a growing need to expand, to go beyond my current circle of comfort. Considering the internal conflicts I’ve been working through over the last three years, this would solve most of them. I’m a fish that’s outgrown her bowl, and believe it would be a big mistake not to grab this opportunity.

What About My Current Work?

I would continue to offer my services, but it would shift from full-time to part-time. Writing stories is an activity I’ve enjoyed since my mother first taught me how to hold a pencil and spell my name. I plan on publishing more work in the near future. (My other degree has much to do with this.) I love wildlife and landscape photography. Photography is a skill that previous work has allowed me to develop, and I plan on continuing with it. I’m still paying for my graphic design diploma, and I enjoy working on graphic art projects. I will always be happy to offer assistance in these areas, and will continue to work on them in my free time.

The bonus is that all my previous work experience, skills, and knowledge will continue to be a benefit to that business and new career, so it’s not like I would lose practice.

I’m At A Crossroads

I hesitate to state what I will do at this point. With plenty of time to consider this further, another month at least, I’m going to take full advantage of it. This decision would mean immediate changes, and a very different future to my original ideals. It’s an adventure I am cautiously considering. When I reach a decision, I’ll be sure to write about it.

We Are Moving

Life has a funny way of surprising us with a turn of events that we prefer to see as a positive change, just before becoming a welcoming opportunity that you have to jump for.

Big Move

With our landlord returning home due to a change within her career, we found ourselves looking for a new residence to rent while we focus on our work and education for the next year. Business, however, appears to have different idea. We are now not only looking for a new residence, but a larger place to accommodate a fully functioning office where we can offer support to clients full-time.

As business grows and we prepare to combine individual workspaces into a shared area, it is clear there is a need to be creative and efficient in how we use our space. Everyone will need a comfortable spot to work in without feeling confined, while ensuring we can also include all the necessary equipment. Depending on the place we choose, everything will either fit into one or two areas. While having everything within one large room would be handy, it’s likely we will need to have the main office in one area and the research and development space in the other.

So Many Changes, So Little Time

As we discussed the upcoming move and outlined everything we would need to consider to make this work, the list continued to grow with each passing minute. To say there is a mountain of work ahead of us is a understatement. Not only do we have to push on our education and get our office set up and fully functional by the earlier deadline, we have programs to finish developing, new systems to put together, test, and have ready to go, and older files to review, update, and enter into a new filing system.

Fear? Excitement?

There is so much to do, but we have always met our challenges with success in the end. This is something we want to do, and the simple fact is we have to be ready by a deadline that has moved up. There is no time to sit around and be anxious about the crazy amount of work and effort that will go into this over the next few months. We either do this, or we don’t. Obviously, we’re doing it and couldn’t be more thrilled about it!

That being said, I cannot deny the stress everyone is feeling will significantly drop when the move is over. This is why we are pushing to find the right place available by April 1. Having a place to work without the worry of moving offices around our current work, while still being there for our clients, will make a huge difference.

Excitement is definitely winning out over any anxieties and stress about the upcoming changes. The fact that everything is happening about a year in advance is seen as a bonus we’re all cheering for. It’s only good news when business starts to grow faster than expected. We’re still a little cautious, as always, but very optimistic about these positive developments.

My First Dog Race

Wiener Dog Races, by Layla Baird

If you take the time to look, there is almost always something interesting going on. The search was rewarded last week when I saw an event posted for a Wiener Dog Race going at the Weyburn City Centre Mall. (I should thank Craig as it was he who had seen it and marked “interested”, resulting in the event showing up in my Facebook feed.)

With a love for dogs, especially the little ones, I had to go. I also thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get back into my photography, since I’ve had to shelve my camera for a while. I dusted off my gear, found some money to donate to the Prairie Sky Dog Rescue, and headed out.

Some of the contestants were focused on the prize, others were more interested in socializing with both old and new acquaintances. It was, without a doubt, a great outing for many of the pups who took part, and it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to get out there and watch the fun.

I’ve also included the link to the video recorded by Craig Baird, who runs Canadian History Ehx.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Warning: You May Be Sabotaging Yourself, by Layla Baird

We have all been there; you want to write a story, but you don’t know what to write about. Is this the result of writer’s block?

I think we cause our own writer’s block, mostly through the lack of confidence in our own ideas. As you start to put pen to paper, or start typing, thoughts of doubt rush into your mind. Maybe you start to think your ideas are not good enough, or your story is weak, or you will not get published anyways. While some critical thought of our work can be good, as it will prompt us to continue improving it, too much can stop you before you even get started

Write a sentence, and then another

I have been there, so I know how aggravating it can be to look at a blank screen and not know what to type. At first, I thought the inability to put anything down was due to a lack of ideas, but realized this is not the case when I think about all the notebooks I have filled with ideas.

My writer’s block was due to the lack of confidence in my ideas. I was dismissing words I should have been recording before any of them had the chance to develop into something more, because of doubt. This is when I questioned whether the doubt, whatever the reason for it, was legitimate enough for me to not give the story an honest shot; the answer was no.

Don’t Think The Worst

Who cares whether someone will like it? Who cares if it is good enough to get published? You don’t even have the story written, yet, so how can you even contemplate its value? The biggest part of the battle is to write the story; to finish it. At this point, you should only be concerned about writing the story.

Writing Prompts

If you still can’t seem to get those first words down, writing prompts can help you get started. Keep in mind that even if you don’t like the prompt, maybe the name of the character isn’t right, just go with it for now. Remember that you can always make changes at a later time.

Some helpful writing prompts to help get you started include:

I Would Like To Hear From You

How do you fight through your writer’s block? What suggestions or advice to you have for others suffering writer’s block?

(NOTE: Please keep comments respectful. Comments deemed abusive or spam will not be published. This is a place for those who can conduct themselves in a professional, mature manner. Thank you.)

Sketch It First

It doesn’t matter what I am working on, whether it is a personal project or commissioned work for a client, the sketchbook is the first tool I use after the note-taking and research phase. It is where I sketch out ideas or images that cross my mind, and it is where I plan out my projects before I even consider opening the Illustrator program. While Illustrator is basically a piece of digital paper, I still find it easier to develop an initial plan of action the old fashioned way. In fact, many experienced illustrators and graphic designers will often suggest sketching out a rough plan of your project to develop a solid, clear idea of what you are working towards.

Sketches Are Your Blueprints

While your idea may appear clear in your mind, the smaller details may not be as refined as they should be. Even if you are certain about the design or illustration you are creating, taking the time to do a quick sketch can help you identify areas of the project that may need some adjustment, or more thought, before putting your plan into motion.

Perhaps the best way to view your sketches are as blueprints. These blueprints are there for your reference as you work to build the image on your screen. With most of the problem-solving and planning done ahead of time, you could save yourself some time and frustration. This is not to say you will not hit rough patches throughout the process, but careful planning can help reduce them.

Shortcuts Rarely Work

Shortcuts rarely pay off, and it is only by pure luck the odd time they do. Rushed work and lack of careful planning leads to disappointment for you and your client. Even if you do manage to fix the project before sending it off by the deadline, you will have wasted valuable time and suffered unnecessary frustration as you worked to correct the mess before your client saw it.

I Would Like To Hear From You

Do you have anything you would like to add about planning a successful project? What is your process?

Breaking News: You Have Competition

Let the Competition Begin by Layla Baird

Okay, maybe that’s not news, and it shouldn’t be. Of course you have competition!

Life is competition, regardless of which path you take. Right now, it can feel like everyone wants to be a graphic designer, or a writer, or a social media expert, or a marketing guru; self-employment is the dream. Unfortunately for those who think it’s an easy gravy train, it’s not, which helps to cut away some of your competition as they give up after reality slaps them on the face. Fortunately for those who realize it will take some real serious effort, and are committed to doing their best to make it work, there is a chance to see some real success.

Maybe.

Possibly.

Nothing in life is guaranteed, and what’s worth getting is not going to come easily.

How To Be Competitive

Run some searches online, and you will be bombarded by pages of links to articles written by people who claim to have the golden answer to beating out the competition. While there is some great advice to be found online, there is also quite a bit of fluff that contains no real value. It will not be long before you’re left wondering, “What really works?”

The fact is, what will work for you depends on a number of variables, including what kind of business you are running, which services or products you are offering, who your competition is, who your customers are, and more. If there is a true method out there that fits all situations, I have not seen it, yet, and I would remain skeptical if I came across anything that claimed to be a “one solution fits all”.

Get Started and Experiment

Developing a strategic social media plan that works best for you will take some trial and error. This is not to say that looking into what other people have done wouldn’t be helpful, but you should keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily work for you. If you are going to do a little research, which you should, try to look up businesses or professionals who are doing similar work. You can then take what appears to work for them and give it a shot. As you work with your social media, you can adjust it to better suit your specific needs.

A Few Words of Advice

Don’t go crazy and sign up on a bunch of social media platforms all at once. Pick two or three that you believe would best work for advertising your business and work with those while you test out different strategies. Keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t, and then replace what doesn’t work with something new that might.

I Would Like To Hear From You

Which social media platforms work best for you? What advice do you have for individuals and businesses building their social media presence?

(NOTE: Please keep comments respectful. Comments deemed abusive or spam will not be published. This is a place for those who can conduct themselves in a professional, mature manner. Thank you.)

Where Do The Ideas Come From?

When the idea well dries up, it could be you have exhausted your “raw materials” and need to collect more. Ideas are often inspired by outside influences, such as experiences, someone’s story, an image, or an emotion. Inspiration is everywhere, but you have to be around the sources of inspiration in order to be influenced by it.

Be An Observer

Observation is key for anyone looking to create designs or artwork, whether it is a commissioned piece or a personal project of self-expression. The information you take in through your observations is the raw material that can be used in current or future projects. This is why you should have a journal or a little notepad with you at all times, because you never know when a great idea will cross your mind and you don’t want to forget it. You should also take pictures to record visual pieces of inspiration, but be sure to make a little note somewhere to help you remember what ideas came to mind when you first saw it.

Get Out There

There is only so much observing you can do when sitting behind a desk, or sitting on the couch in front of the television. There is a whole world of inspiration and ideas out there, but you aren’t going to collect any of them if you don’t get out there.

Grab your camera, sketchbook, or notebook, or all three, and get moving. Participate in activities, try something new, visit some of your favourite places, talk to people, or volunteer; living a little will bring great results when looking for those fresh new ideas you need.

Still Feel Like You Don’t Have Any Ideas?

I’m sure you have plenty of ideas, but maybe you’re being a little hard on yourself. Maybe you think your ideas are not good enough, or developed enough. Relax and let your mind wander a bit, you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.

If you are still drawing a blank, why not head over to Creative Bloq’s 20 tips on how to overcome creative block.

I Would Like To Hear From You

Where do you get your ideas from? What suggestions do you have for someone suffering a little creative block?

(NOTE: Please keep comments respectful. Comments deemed abusive or spam will not be published. This is a place for those who can conduct themselves in a professional, mature manner. Thank you.)

 

Psychology of Design

Infinite Happiness by Layla Baird

Gestalt Theory

Graphic design doesn’t just take some imagination and creativity, it requires a little understanding of human psychology and how we perceive the world, or objects, around us. This brings us to the Gestalt Theory, which “emphasizes that the whole of anything is greater than its parts. That is, the attributes of the whole are not deducible from analysis of the parts in isolate”. – Gestalt psychology, by the Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

There are a number of principles within the theory that can influence an individual’s perception of a whole object, including Closure, Figure, Proximity, Continuation, and Similarity. A good quick reference for anyone looking for a brief review about each principle is The Gestalt Principles.

With Gestalt Psychology in mind, it’s obvious a designer has to put more consideration into their work than many non-designers realize. A clever graphic designer, or artist, can play with the individual elements within the composition to further emphasize the final message or emotion they are trying to get across to, or evoke from, the audience.

Looking For Something Meaningful?

This is where professional graphic design will be more expensive. Basic images and graphics are simple enough to put together, and can be done at a relatively low cost; however, someone looking for an interesting, meaningful, and captivating piece of work will have to understand it is going to cost a little more.

Thoughtful and intentional graphic design takes a decent grasp of human psychology and perception, up-to-date awareness of current trends, excellent research skills, and, above all, time to plan and compose the work.

I Would Like To Hear From You

If you have something to add or share regarding this entry, leave a comment below.

(NOTE: Please keep comments respectful. Comments deemed abusive or spam will not be published. This is a place for those who can conduct themselves in a professional, mature manner. Thank you.)

 

Graphic Designers and Their Specialties

Development of Ideas into Visual Communication by Layla Baird

What Exactly Is A Graphic Designer?

Graphic design is the art of conveying a message or information through the combination of images and words.

While most people refer to those they hire for the above purpose as graphic designers, they will sometimes refer to the same professionals as graphic artists. Some would argue that graphic design is more about getting a message across, while a graphic artist is focused on creating a piece that evokes an emotional response from their audience.

The divisions within the field of Graphic Design does not end with the distinction between designer and artist. Divisions continue as you start researching the job requirements of graphic designers who work in different industries, such as advertising, web design, news, and more.

The term graphic designer is broad, and is not all someone should be looking for when seeking the professional they need. What many businesses or individuals should be seeking is a graphic design professional who specializes in the area their project is focused in.

Are Graphic Designers All The Same?

What is not fully understood by many non-designers is that graphic design is a whole industry that includes multiple areas of study and expertise.

For instance, one designer may specialize in website design, while another down the street is focused in advertising. Website design and advertising may have some crossover when it comes to the use of colour theory, etc., but each is going to require a different kind of consideration and problem-solving.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to have a look at the List of Job Titles on the Government of Canada Website. When looking through the list, consider what each job is likely to require of the person who holds the position and you will begin to see the differences between the needs of each job. The fact is, there are many different types of graphic designers, each with varying strengths, skills, and knowledge that are better suited for more specific areas within the graphic design industry.

I Would Like To Hear From You

Are you a graphic designer? If so, what would you say your specialty is and how did you decide to focus on that?

(NOTE: Please keep comments respectful. Comments deemed abusive or spam will not be published. This is a place for those who can conduct themselves in a professional, mature manner. Thank you.)