2015 Achievements, 2016 Intentions

UncategorizedJanuary 15, 2016 • 3~5 min read • 0

During the first half of January, I read more than one article about writing down accomplishments of 2015 before planning out intentions for The New Year.

So I grabbed a pencil and a post-it note, figuring that I wouldn’t need much writing space. 2015 wasn’t an eventful year, and I hadn’t made progress on any major goals in the past 12 months.

But the little yellow square quickly filled up with scribbled thoughts on both sides, as one memory led to another.

So, here’s my 2015 summary:

1. Started a Gardening Blog

• Vastly improved gardening knowledge by reading, experimenting and observing. Lots of learning by failing; but such fun planting and planning.

• And, likely to be of more practical value to me in days to come: I improved my HTML coding, writing, and photography skills.

2. Updated other tech skills by becoming familiar with current tools.

• Now comfortable working with Adobe Creative Cloud and the latest versions of design apps, both at the job and at home for side projects.

• Have gotten proficient at using project management tools such as Clarizen.

• Realized that I actually enjoy creating and editing Excel spreadsheets.

3. Got more involved in the Marketing side of the business at my day job.

• Did a lot of self-initiated reading and thinking about all aspects of Marketing.

• Took on additional responsibilities, such as planning media buys, without sacrificing time spent doing rewarding graphic design work.

4. Sorted through possessions and computer files, got rid of tons of clutter.

5. Started learning German.

• Duolingo is a decent free program. We also have Rosetta Stone software around somewhere but it’s not installed on the current home computer. Tenses and male/female/neuter variations are challenging: I enjoy knowing new words, but not the learning process so far.

6. Made visits to relatives that I’d been procrastinating about for years.

• My brother lives in Reno. We grew up in Nevada, but I escaped to the California Coast 20 years ago. I don’t look forward to going back there, even to visit, so I’ve usually convinced him to come see me instead. But this summer I had a good time meeting his cats, and checking out his favorite restaurants and fun places to shop. The mountains are still beautiful too.

• My father lives in California, and the drive isn’t difficult. However, attempting to have conversations when he has a vastly different approach to life, and we don’t share many interests, is quite difficult. I care about him, and want to stay in touch with more than written correspondence. So I’m proud of myself for managing a visit last year.

• • • •

My intentions for 2016 are not fully formed. Here’s a start, anyway:

1. Strengthen connections with people I value in the design/marketing world and my personal life.

2. Continue moving onward with my career, as stated in this blog so many times before, but still not sure about continuing at this day job, finding another, freelancing, etc.

3. Another persisting goal from years past: I want to not only start, but finish, art projects such as watercolor paintings.

4. I’ve started to break down my expanding gardening blog project into small tasks to complete each month. If this hobby turns into a true passion, I eventually want to find the best way to monetize it.

5. Become fluent in German. This may be more of a two or three-year project.

6. Improve my health and spend increased time away from the workplace and my home. The on-screen world is fascinating, but I need more exercise, and a variety of environments makes life more fulfilling. Looking forward to warmer days and the chance to sail, ride my bike or go hiking. Also hoping for at least one camping adventure or wine tasting trip.

So here’s to maintaining enthusiasm and forward motion, on these and other ventures.

Making things, and making things happen

UncategorizedJanuary 4, 2016 • 1~2 min read • 0

It’s an exciting time to be working in a creative industry.

The daily life of a graphic designer would be unrecognizable to the girl I was 25 years ago, starting my career with a summer job at a print shop. I could view the digitalization and tech-heavy aspects of current-day design work as overwhelming or daunting, but instead I look back with pride at how I dove headfirst into learning Photoshop, then QuarkXpress, then InDesign, then Dreamweaver and so much more… what a journey it’s been.

In fact, with all the tools now at our disposal, all the possibilities of who we can reach with what we create, and how easy it is to communicate with other creative individuals around the globe: who wouldn’t be excited?

I’m still figuring out what to focus on for the beginning of 2016. I’ve got the energy and the resources to make great things happen, both at my day job in graphic design and marketing, and with writing/photography/painting/gardening side projects.

What a wide world it is, and how fortunate I am to adventure down this path of continual discovery and creation.

Wise words, rediscovered

UncategorizedOctober 23, 2015 • 1~2 min read • 0

“Can’t be passive and be in charge.

Can’t expect to be given control unless demonstrating obvious ability to control.

Have people on “both sides” trust and communicate with you on any project/issue.

Court decision makers.”

• • • •

I was looking through advertising ideas I’d stowed in a folder over the past 3 years and found a post-it note with these few sentences scribbled on it. (I don’t know how this got stored with unrelated content such as sketches of layout ideas and pages torn from magazines that feature cool photoshop effects.)

Google searches have not yet led me to correct attribution for these phrases. I’ve read so many articles on marketing, communication, personality conflicts, leadership, business relationships, etc. that this could have come from a variety of sources. If I find the original, I’ll post a link to it here.

It’s serendipitous to find and thoughtfully consider these statements at a time when I crave focus and clarification of what I’m really aiming for at the dayjob, my career, how I want to relate to others, and what I want to build a reputation for. I can immediately apply these philosophies to help navigate office politics, while keeping my own values and goals in mind, at the old 8 to 5.

The Strategy of Threes

UncategorizedSeptember 10, 2015 • 1~2 min read • 0

Today I was reading about the value of having “go-to” combos for creating structure in design work.

“Your ‘go-to’ combos are there to give you confidence.
They have enough structure to be repeatable, but they aren’t so restrictive that your design ends up looking like everyone else’s.” – David Kadavy, author of Design for Hackers


One of my own “go-to” combos in print design is a “strategy of threes”.
Whether it’s considering primary, secondary and tertiary elements in a magazine ad, or arranging products in a 3×3 (9-grid) concept on a catalog page, it gives an initial structure that’s easy to process.

When I started learning web design, I found a tutorial that presented content similarly with 1. a header element, 2. a sidebar, and 3. a set of three clickable images that lead to other pages.

(This week I am exploring JavaScript and attempting to build image slideshows and header-story carousels, and keeping it simple by playing with three options for each).

Starting with a basic structure keeps things from getting overwhelming in the beginning. From this stage it’s then easier, once you’ve got a good understanding of the process, and a clear idea of project goals, to move on to a more diverse “toolbox” where needed.

The AdvencherUs Code: words to live by

UncategorizedSeptember 2, 2015 • < 1 min read • 0

1. Adventure and memorable experiences are found in everyday life: the extraordinary is all around us.

2. We live boldly when we are aware of our fears and inhibitions, yet persevere to achieve goals despite these trepidations.

3. Find the things you can be excellent at and passionate about. Aim to become the best version of yourself: never stop learning.

4. Be objective and think rationally as you move through the world. Be a problem solver. Share your solutions, discoveries and ideas with others.

5. Have enthusiasm for both productive work and indulgent play. A practical approach balanced with a fun-loving attitude provides rewarding adventures throughout our lives.

6. We are all imaginative, creative and curious in our own ways. We are all explorers.

TheAdvencherUsCode: downloadable PDF to print or share

The Artist Persona

UncategorizedAugust 5, 2015 • 2~3 min read • 0

How do others see us?
Do friends, family or co-workers perceive the complexities of our personalities, values and interests?
What conclusions do you tend to draw when meeting someone new?

Our personal experiences and approach to life tend to influence our impressions, whether we are aware of it or not. Many people learn to be fairly perceptive and openminded. But it’s nevertheless common for a person to be assigned a box or given a label:
“Corey is one of those geeky gamer guys.”

“Andrea is an artist.”

With that label, I’ve found that people habitually expect me to be dreamy, emotional, and ungrounded, unlikely to care about business, problem-solving, and the world at large.

When I present myself as as a productive individual with an objective, rational approach to life, much more than simply a woman with a creative career and craft-related hobbies, they can be startled or confused.

At times it’d be easier to just portray characteristics of the assumed stereotype, so that people are at ease, as I meet their expectations. Instead of going that route I like to spend more time listening than talking, to figure out where they’re coming from and why they see me as they do.

These days, being viewed primarily as an artist isn’t extremely important to me. This was not so when I was in my teens and early twenties.

My efforts to dress as a “dramatic artsy type”, and to be associated with aspects of Goth culture, almost made me into a caricature back then. I’d go about campus in my long black coat and beret, ostentatiously carrying my portfolio and Artbox of tools. Eventually I realized that my attempts at conforming to this narrow image were exhausting and silly.

As I try to avoid putting people into boxes myself, to instead discover the unique facets that we all have, I’m comfortable displaying a complex identity to the public. I can be wildly creative, practical, businesslike, fun-loving, serious, and mysterious. I’m a writer, a boater, a gardener, a nerd, a project manager, an adventurer, and an artist.

So, what do you think when you hear that someone’s an artist? Setting aside stereotypes is not easy, but I’ve found that it can lead to better interactions and deeper relationships.


UncategorizedJune 11, 2015 • 1~2 min read • 0

There was a great post on Twitter the other day from Tim Brown.

“3 decades of a designer: ‘Holy shit, I don’t know what I’m doing’ ‘I am a golden god’ & ‘Hey let me see how I can help you guys out.’ @monteiro”

The humor and truth of this statement delighted me.

I’d already been thinking about the variety of ways I help out at my day job, and had mentioned to other creative types online that I wanted to share the templates, tutorials, tips, and other possibly useful stuff I’ve collected over the years of my design career.

I like the idea of using my blog-space to provide value. While some may empathize with the workplace struggles I write about, there’s probably more interest in “takeaways” of the tangible sort.

So I’m putting together some links and downloadable materials, and have started posting them to my Resources section.

Once my employment situation is more settled, and I get a grasp of how much free time I’ll have for side projects, it would also be fun to make my own tutorials. Eventually.

A need for balance in Advertising Design

UncategorizedMay 19, 2015 • 2~2 min read • 1

This morning I was reading a great newsletter post on icon design by Kyle Adams, How to Make Cohesive Icon Sets, in which he mentions the need to communicate individual messages clearly while establishing some conformity between related images.

“Don’t sacrifice clarity for cohesion.” – Kyle Adams

I immediately saw a parellel to my own struggles in maintaining a cohesive “look and feel” (so emphasized by management at my job in advertising design) while creating work for differing applications and formats. I strive for a balanced layout and an appealing message, and often feel stifled by narrow project or branding guidelines.

Too much emphasis on cohesion for all marketing collateral, such as for a sales event, can lead to creation of awkward layouts. Some end up with odd blank areas, or a crowded page, making our work look amateurish and reflecting poorly on the company.

Management might want an 11×17-inch store poster and a 500×500-pixel Pandora ad to have the same content and format. Or horizontal graphics that dominated a billboard will get crammed into a tiny area at the top of tall vertical web banners, making our message for the customer too small to read and not communicated effectively. In some instances, stacking the text and photos on top of each other instead of side by side could make it work for a different format, but rigid standards for sameness between all the materials might not allow this treatment.

The solution for striking a better balance could be found with improved communication on our team. As much as it helps me to clarify my thoughts in a blog post rant, wiser decisions are more likely to happen at my job here if I assist other designers in finding new approaches, and if I can find a way to contribute more at the initial strategy stage of our advertising projects.


UncategorizedMarch 5, 2015 • 2~3 min read • 0

We all have ideas about what changes we’d like to see in our life, and in many instances we have at least a vague plan on how to help these events to happen.

We can set it down on screen or paper, for everything we want to accomplish: weekend chores, getting a novel published, researching our ancestry, launching a website, building a boat… we’re encouraged to “Make a To-Do list! Share your goals with the world by posting them in social media!”

But just as your real values are those you live, your actual priorities are those which are reflected in your actions.

It’s so easy to imagine myself with a higher-paying job, where I’m treated with respect, and my colleagues are competent at their own work. I often think about how wonderful this would be. I formulate plans for my job search. I buy businesslike clothing to hopefully wear to interviews.

I wake up early 4 days a week, intending to spend an hour re-wording resumes or sorting through online employment opportunity listings before getting ready for my current job. But in reality, I’m just as likely to be found spending that extra time in bed, not-quite drifting back to sleep, reveling in the warm comfort: not in front of the computer in my home office, furthering my goals.

So as much as I tell myself and others that finding a new job is my top priority, the ways I’ve spent my free time over the past few weeks reveal that my true focus is on relaxing.

What delusions we tend to live under, what stories we tell ourselves! What fallible and foolish creatures we can be.

Well, I figure it’s healthy to make a realistic evaluation, from time to time, and come up with revised ways to reach our destinations, when it becomes obvious that current methods aren’t working. It’s also practical to stop and reflect about WHY we want to achieve certain things, and reinforce our vision of a better life.

So I gave my goals some serious consideration, and found them to be sensible. I then thought about my methods, and realized that I won’t always have the mindset to be alert and businesslike in the early morning, so when I’m not, I can get online or write on my tablet computer during lunchbreak. I recharged my enthusiasm for continuing, despite all the disinterest and rejection encountered in a job search, by talking with supportive friends.

What challenging situations we are capable of getting through! What complex problems we are able to solve. What clever and triumphant creatures we can be.

Being an Introverted Leader in the Workplace

UncategorizedFebruary 27, 2015 • 6~10 min read • 1

The Introverted Personality

A definition from Vocabulary.com:
“Introvert comes from Latin intro-, “inward,” and vertere, “turning.” It describes a person who tends to turn inward mentally. Introverts sometimes avoid large groups of people, feeling more energized by time alone. The opposite of an introvert is an extrovert, who finds energy in interactions with others.”

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one widely-used test that evaluates personality type. There are 16 4-letter types, determined by results favoring either extraversion (E) or introversion (I), sensing (S) or intuition (N), thinking (T) or feeling (F), judging (J) or perceiving (P). An example of one introverted type is INTJ. http://www.humanmetrics.com/hr/you/personalitytype.aspx

The Five-Factor Model (Big Five) is another popular evaluation tool. This test rates openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Results are given as 1% to 100% in each category. For instance, a strongly introverted individual would score below 20% in extraversion. http://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/

An understanding of personality traits can be valuable in comprehending the words and actions of others, while furthering your own professional growth.

As an introvert who has increasingly sought leadership roles as my knowledge and job experience has developed, I’ve researched advice and reviewed my own struggles in order to find a path to leadership that can work for those who are not innately assertive.

Six Strengths Introverts Have That Can Make Them Great Leaders

1. The rational introvert’s commitment to logic and systematic approach to problem-solving is held in high regard in a variety of industries.

2. We frequently take time to reflect, and so gain a reputation for being thoughtful. The ability to see to the core of issues can give an impression of unusual insight.

3. Being methodical and precise with thorough attention to detail comes naturally to many introverts.

4. Our serious demeanor and calm composure tend to be perceived as appropriately businesslike.

5. The natural caution of contemplative personality types can prevent rash business decisions.

6. The introverted are often good listeners.

Challenges an Introvert Faces in Work Environments

Being Heard

At times it has seemed to me, as a reserved person, that the loud, bossy people always end up dominating a conversation.

Introversion can get confused with shyness or fearfulness. For instance, if you take time to carefully formulate a reply to a question instead of immediately starting to talk, some may intrepret this as being afraid to speak.

The struggle to be heard, respected, and seen as confident can be quite a trial, but figuring out solutions is important for success in the workplace.

So how can the thoughtful, quieter individuals avoid getting drowned out by forceful voices in meetings, or in any discussion with more than two participants?

Those instigating a meeting can establish guidelines that emphasise professionalism, respect, and the opportunity for all to have a chance to contribute. Meeting Guidelines PDF

Statements such as “Input from all team members is valuable at this stage” or “Let’s get the opinions of those we haven’t heard from yet” can get both large gatherings and smaller conversations to be more inclusive.

Introverts should endeavor to share thoughts in discussions, even if ideas are not yet fully formed. You can pre-prepare a mental list of topics you want to see addressed, and think about how you might phrase any questions, answers or statements. Also, remember to sometimes verbally express your agreement or support for what others are saying instead of simply nodding.

Demonstrating Your Value

Promotions often go to those who bring positive attention to themselves and their record. But some reserved individuals take a high level of achievement for granted, not worth mentioning since it’s natural to them. Others undervalue their own contribution and hesitate to bring up the subject of their performance.

Be aware of your strengths: think about why you were hired. List the skills and knowledge you’ve picked up from both work and life experience. Realize your successes.

How do you then demonstrate your value without seeming boastful?

Occasionally, I have asked those above me in the chain of command to share their own achievements, studies they’ve pursued, or solutions they’ve found to common issues in our industry. This creates a natural opening for me to relate stories of my similar successes, or to express how I understand their problem-solving approach since it resembles my own. Steering conversations does not come naturally to me or most introverts, but an effort in this direction now and then can increase how favorably we are perceived by those who delegate assignments or make hiring decisions.

Quiet people are sometimes seen as being “out-of-touch.” How does one counteract this bias?

One way is to take opportunities co-workers use for small talk to contribute: instead of discussing what you’ve eaten for lunch with an associate at the water cooler, mention articles or podcasts you’ve found that you think they’d appreciate, or new productivity apps.

In addition to sharing resources, you can initialize change: Don’t hesitate to be a “self-starter.” Be the one to get projects rolling, track each stage, and insure that communication with the team is maintained throughout. Introverts may be wary of taking charge, but try to have a realistic assessment of the risks of doing so. The reward is frequently worth the initial difficult steps outside your comfort zone.

Awareness of what’s going on around you can take effort for those who are really most comfortable in the “cave” of their office, cubicle, or home workstation. But paying attention to what others are working on, current department or company-wide goals, and innovations in your field can give you confidence and provide the impression that you’re connected.

Offering to teach skills is another excellent way to show your willingness to be involved. Introverts can be great teachers when they remember to practice patience and maintain awareness of different learning and communication styles.


Professional writing competency is important for composing everything from a businesslike e-mail, to product information online, to a press release. Even for introverts who already feel comfortable at conveying data or connecting with others through writing, it’s beneficial to fine-tune this ability throughout your career. Developing a large vocabulary (especially in the terminology of your profession) gives you greater options in choosing the best way to word statements or respond to colleagues.

Proficiency can then translate to improved verbal skills, which are difficult to acquire for any of us who tend to avoid conversations on the phone or speaking face-to-face for any great length.

Get more comfortable with speaking by reading out loud what you write at times, striving for a natural, confident cadence. Have you been told that you are soft-spoken, or that you mumble? Pay attention to the volume level of other voices in conversations or meetings, and adjust your own accordingly. Recording your voice and playing it back can help you practice clear enunciation.

Use your powers of observation to make a study of non-verbal communication: posture, body language, and facial expressions. This helps us gain insight regarding how others are feeling and what information we all might be conveying in ways other than words. Do you get the impression people find you to be stern? Practice pleasant, thoughtful, attentive expressions in the mirror. It’s also important to avoid figeting if you wish to convey competence and to be someone others are comfortable to have taking the lead.

These self-improvements and attempts at relating to others may take some willpower to instigate and persistently pursue. What I’ve found most helpful are written reminders of my goals and values, and a collection of inspiring quotes and articles from those I admire. In addition, seeking out the support of friends and family (especially other introverts!) and like-minded mentors can provide encouragement when confidence wavers.

Go Forth and Lead

We may think of leaders as those who are in management, but any of us who stands as an example or provides direction can motivate others and be seen as an authority. Our contributions may not be obviously reflected in our job titles, but we all have the chance to be role models while realizing our own successes in many endeavors.

“Leadership is an action, not a position.” – Donald McGannon

“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“Earn your leadership every day.” – Michael Jordan

Staff: Andrea (45)