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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Online Identity – How We Use Social Media

July 21, 2009 at 5:42 pm (marketing, networking, social media) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Social_media_superhero

The other day I was sitting in a conference and heard a continuous and steady ticking noise – the sounds of twitter and facebook being updated, text messages flying, and emails sending. Isn’t it funny how social norms have changed? In the past it would have been rude to be completely enthralled in something other than what the speaker was talking about. Now, at least in some arenas, it is not only accepted, but expected, that people will be using social media throughout the entire presentation. The job of stenographer has been passed to anyone with a cell phone, laptop, or other portable uploading device.

Many of us are fully connected to each other through social media. We can get a minute-by-minute update of conferences or events through the use of hashtags, podcasts, and micoblogs. Not only are these forms of social media developing their own unique set of rules and personalities, but they are reshaping social norms in the real world.

Some of the personalities I have witnessed in social media are as follows:

  • Class President – Organizer of social media meetups, tweetups, mashups, etc. Usually just known locally by the social media groups in their own region.
  • Professional –  Social media is their job. They produce content to drive people to their company’s site, promote their products, etc, but still provide relevant and current information and news.
  • Networker – They are involved in meetups, online conversations, sharing information, and the like. They don’t always create their own content, but can find something relevant to any topic. These people are constantly connected.
  • Reply and Retweet Informant – This person has no original content. Their sole purpose in social media is to regurgitate what someone else said, or comment on what others have posted.
  • Comedian – Their updates are just to get a smile out of readers.
  • Business – Click here and buy, endorse, or promote my crap.
  • Diary Keeper – They let us know every little detail about their meals, workday, bodily functions, or whatever other monotonous thing is happening.
  • Porn – The people that for an unsolicited reason friend, connect, post, and pursue you because they have an army of 22-year-olds who match you perfectly based on God knows what.

I have also noticed that social media is used in different ways:

  • Retribution – To get back at those who physically or mentally harmed you in the past by showing how great you life is now
  • Self-esteem – The people whose online persona looks like they are living the highlife and loving every minute of it. In reality none of it is true, but it makes them feel better.
  • Therapy – These people share their problems with the world; everything is drama.
  • Bragging – Their life is going well, and they want everyone to know it.
  • Reconnect and Friend –  They really do want to know what happened to everyone, and how they are doing.

I think it’s funny how we all hide behind our personally constructed online identities. Like superheroes in masks and colorful costumes, it’s usually not that hard to tell that Clark Kent is Superman with glasses. I’m sure there are more personality types and reasons people use social media than I listed here, these were just the ones I see the most. There’s a great presentation by Social Interaction Design specialist Adrian Chan that describes social media personality types in a more detailed and professional way. It will be interesting to see how social media psychology and etiquette develop over the next few years, and how it will interact and influence our traditional social norms.

What kind of online personality am I? Find out: @IamBartleby

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