5 Ways to Stay Current as a Creative

September 2, 2009 at 12:08 pm (Art Event, Design, Design Events, economy, Education, Florida, Fort Lauderdale, marketing, Miami, networking, News, social event, Social Events & Networking, social media, South Florida, Uncategorized, unemployment) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

gaping1You’ve been downsized, laid-off, or decided it was time to strike out on your own and try the world of full-time freelancing and consulting…Now what? In school we’re taught that “no one designs in a vacuum”, but lets face it, when your whole company consists of you, your computer, and maybe a pet, you are not constantly surrounding by other creatives that provide inspiring stimuli. Have no fear, here are five ways I’ve found to keep myself  out of the vacuum and up to date while working as a design consultant:

1. Stay in the loop through social media
Social media can mean different things to different people, but what it comes down to is forging relationships with people online who you may not have otherwise met or stayed in contact with. Though reluctant to it at first, I have found Twitter to be one of the most informational and beneficial social media hubs. The reason for this is because I follow other professionals, media outlets, and design related companies and websites through Twitter. Here’s an example of a tweet from Smashing Magazine:

“@SmashingMag: 30 Amazing Retro Posters and Flyers – http://bit.ly/nG9i4#retro #inspiration

If I’m interested in the topic I don’t have to search through the website, because the link is right there. Other good online networking and portfolio sites are: Facebook, LinkedIn, Behance, and Coroflot.

2. Socialize and network in real face-to-face situations.
If you are on Twitter or Tumblr you might want to attend a local tweetup, where twitter members gather to have real conversations. Refresh and barcamp activities are usually free and informative. The open platform allows for a wide variety of topics to be covered by several presenters. Meetup.com is another great resource. You can find social groups for just about anything. I’ve written several posts about the Shoot Miami photography group that I belong to, but there are groups for WordPress, photoshop, young professionals, etc.

You can also go to art galleries, design events, museum openings, and other social events. Mix with a new demographic, tell them what you do, and maybe you’ll generate some new business contacts.

3. Read industry (and non-industry) related publications:
You don’t have to subscribe to the publications because most of them are online. Some of my favorites for inspiration are: Smashing Magazine, Inspired Magazine, Freelance Switch, Web Designer Depot, and Wired Magazine, and I still receive printed versions of Event Design Magazine. Computer Arts Magazine is a great resource that I check out when I go to book stores, and Smithsonian Magazine and Reader’s Digest are a great resources for escaping from all the creative stimulus when you want a well written and engaging story.

4. Start a blog:
Having a blog and actually trying to write interesting, topical, and engaging information everyday really helps to change your thinking. You start looking for new technologies, techniques, events, and anything else worthy of note to add to your blog. Pick a general topic you are interested in and write about it. As our good friend Benjamin Franklin said: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

5. Expand your creative horizons:
While working full-time you probably hit a comfortable stride. You knew what your boss wanted to see, how things should be done, and what type of clientele you were dealing with, so shake it up a little bit! Do projects outside of your comfort zone; this helps you expand your design reach. Be careful not to over extend yourself, but look for a project that is in a different style than what you are used to, or a new industry that you haven’t explored. E.g. I recently created a logo for a cake decorator. Most of the concepts I did were feminine with script fonts. This is not my usual style at all, but it expanded my design style a little further.

Another great thing you can do is volunteer. Find a museum or charitable organization within your field to help support with your time. You’ll feel better about yourself, have access to industry developments, and make valuable contacts all while doing some good in your community.

Hopefully these 5 little tips will help to keep you out of that design vacuum. Good luck in this new phase of your life, and remember to enjoy the journey.

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STOP, Or I’ll Tweet You to the Police!

August 31, 2009 at 11:49 pm (Florida, News, social media, South Florida, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

tweet-policeWe’ve heard of people posting updates to social media sites that have cost them their jobs and relationships, but how about their freedom? The City of Boca Raton, Florida has started using Twitter as a crime fighting and public information tool. Who knew that the little blue bird from twitter would replace McGruff the Crime Dog?

It’s refreshing to see that local police are adapting to the new frontiers of social media. Sure cybercrime units are nothing new, hey there are even some movies featuring cybercrime now, but to use social media as a communications link between the top brass of crime prevention and the community is fairly new. Boca Police Chief Dan Alexander gets it. His blog, The Chiefs Corner, outlines why he chose to create a blog:

“Through this blog, I think we have an opportunity to provide another, perhaps more personal angle to the issues we face and the work that we do. We have turned on blog comments, but we will screen any messages in order to avoid the obscene, offensive and otherwise inappropriate. I hope you enjoy this blog and look forward to hearing from you.”

He later discusses that the department’s use of social media is to be “not interested in technology for technology’s sake.” We have eliminated those [social networking sites] that don’t reach our target audiences and will try to avoid merely being fashionable when it comes to new programs in the future.”

So you may be asking “what real world application does all this web based Tom Foolery have for a serious police department?” Well, he can tweet things like: “If you work in a bank, please call when this guy walks in. Please make patrons remove hats and glasses.” with a link to a surveillance picture of the bank robber. Or a link to information about a recent hit and run involving an officer. This way the public can assist in the community policing effort and information can get released in real-time instead of hearing about it on the news after the fact.

I say well done to Chief Alexander! You can follow him @bocachief and the police department @BocaPolice.

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How Does Social Media Affect You?

August 20, 2009 at 10:27 pm (advertising, Branding, economy, marketing, networking, social media) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

What is social media, how do people use it, why do they use it, and how does that effect you as a designer, advertiser, marketer, etc? Watch and learn:

Thanks @saribrooke for the link!

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Buzz Marketing, What Made Twilight Sparkle

August 17, 2009 at 10:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

twilightcoverIn this world of fast paced real-time information how are books not only relevant, but still becoming cult phenomenons well before the movie is even in preproduction. We saw this meteoric rise with the Harry Potter series and now with the Twilight Saga.

Everything I saw about Twilight just reeked of teen and tween drivel about adolescent angst and insecurities mixed in with a love story and some vampires. Fast-forward to a few nights ago when I was having dinner with some friends, and the conversation shifted to who was on which book. Four out of the six adults, all in their 20s and 30s, were past the first book, excited about the next book, and talking about the saga with affinity.

How is it that book written for the teen and tween market jumped demographics into the realm of professional adults? Buzz Marketing. According to Advertising Age: One strategy that Summit Entertainment produced was to promote the books to moms. “We started trying to expand the mom base by offering it up as a portal to talk to their daughters,” said Nancy Kirkpatrick, president of Summit’s worldwide marketing. They even launched a blog called TwilightMoms. Many of these parents read the books, then got hooked themselves. They inevitably told other adults, who told other adults, etc expanding the demographic further. To help enlarge the fan base and talking points about the movie a nationwide mall tour was launched, and when the DVD was released it was done on a Friday instead of a Tuesday to avoid the school week, resulting in 3 million units sold on the first day.

To continue this buzz marketing strategy some DVD versions of the movie come with a free digital download from iTunes. In buzz marketing, seeding campaigns, where free or reduced price products are given away, can help boost cross pollination into other demographics. This is genius in the case of digital downloads for movies. Why? Consider this situation: Someone is going on a flight and taking their laptop with them. Instead of lugging DVDs around, they choose to use iTunes movies. Another flier is in close enough proximity to see parts of the movie that they otherwise never would have come into contact with, thus sparking their interest in watching the movie. After watching the movie he or she chooses to read the books and/or go see subsequent films, resulting in higher revenue.

While we’re talking about movies, here’s another fun tidbit: On August 28, 2008 Stephenie Meyer posted to her blog that “my partial draft of Midnight Sun was illegally posted on the Internet and has since been virally distributed without my knowledge or permission or the knowledge or permission of my publisher.” On November 21, 2008 the Twilight movie was released to theater going audiences. Talk about a happy accident! What better (free) promotion for a movie than scandal, not bad scandal – viral scandal. The kind of scandal that spreads faster than fingers can type on QWERTY keyboards, and news channels can broadcast the scoop.

In the wake of the Twilight Saga’s success there have been a multitude of branding opportunities including a make-up line, video games, conventions, comic books, and even an SAT prep book that uses vocabulary from Twilight. Will my eyes ever gaze upon the serifs of Twilight’s pages? Probably not, but I do know that it has entered an empirical piece of pop culture that few books ever have.

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