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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The New Normal

June 20, 2009 at 1:08 pm (Design, economy, unemployment) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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Last night we watched part one of the New Normal, a 20/20 special on ABC. One of the stories, Workers Learn New Skills, showed how cotton farmers in Mississippi are now planting corn and beans, and how a former car plant, MasTech, in Manistee County, Michigan has been retooled to produce wind turbine generators (you can have one for around $8K).

What does this have to do with design? Well, as designers we are noticing a trend where we have to adapt, too. Many web companies are no longer looking for that extremely specialized graphics guru who can turn a design over the programmers to figure out how to make it work. They want someone who can design it to look beautiful, and program it to work.

Just like the auto manufacturer who took the welding, machining, and assembling process for cars and repurposed their skills for a new product, I have transformed a bulk of my skill sets to other industries. Where the majority of my design work was in exhibit, set, and environmental graphic design, now the greater part is in logos, branding, and illustration. In addition to just design, I have also transitioned into a Manufacturer’s Representative position at a signage company.

The Plant Manager of MasTech is challenging us to “think the same way.” It’s time to retool and repurpose our skills for the new economy. So go look at previously unthought-of avenues for your skills – I wish you luck.

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