I Haz Skillz.

UncategorizedJanuary 21, 2015 • 2~4 min read • 0

Everyone has a different set of skills.

I’ve been using Photoshop on a near-daily basis for a long time. So have some of my designer & photographer co-workers. But I know little about animation features of the program; while one guy has never used the filters. Another has found an amazingly complex non-destructive way of fixing color desaturation; while I like to demonstrate the “quick and dirty” methods I’ve discovered over the years.

A trap I’ve fallen into at times is to consider myself automatically superior because of my specific knowledge. Seeing that another print designer didn’t know how to rotate the content of an image frame in InDesign made me feel quite smug the other day.

The opposite situation, of course, makes me a little angry. I was re-working the treatment of a headline according to the Art Director’s instructions, but he decided to bring in another co-worker to help, figuring that this person knew more than I did concerning typography. And I must admit that this is possible. But I’m still cranky about it.

I figure that going through a lot of various experiences, at workplaces and other realms of life, eventually gives most of us the maturity to keep smugness and resentment at bay. Or at least below the surface.

As I continue my job search, it’s a constant reminder of what competencies I lack. Descriptions of what the ideal employee for the position would know how to do (or have a degree in, not necessarily the same thing) are daunting. “They want someone with a Master’s in Marketing who also builds websites from scratch and has over 10 years of experience in copywriting for Fortune 500 companies?! Yikes.”

Self-doubt creeps in, and I regret having focused so much in honing my print-design chops. “I need to learn everything I don’t know!” So I go through tutorials in UI/UX design. I read books on marketing. I practice writing.

But then I become concerned that I’ll be seen as “Jack of all trades, master of none.” So I’m back to wanting to specialize in the Photoshop work which I did almost exclusively for 8 years.

There’s many a balance to find: between pursuing multiple skill-sets and concentrating on getting really good at one or two.

Between appreciating the capabilities and different methods of others, letting them do their thing their way; and knowing when to share my own ideas of what might work better.

Between realistic assessment of useful skills I lack, and pride in all the ways I already know to create great things.

I’m still figuring it all out. It’s comforting to remember that I’m not the only one…

Well, that’s all for now. Back to pursuit of omniscience and ruling the world.

Being real

UncategorizedJanuary 9, 2015 • 2~3 min read • 0

Now, I like being me. I’ve come to appreciate my good qualities, and to accept my socially awkward, geeky, un-trendy, and downright odd ways. Often my outlook’s that other people will just have to deal with me as I truly am.

But, that said…

Sometimes I am acutely aware of my efforts to be someone that those around me will feel comfortable with.

Other times I barely notice the fact that I’m mimicking the vocabulary, the body language, the dress, the overt or subtle outward-appearance aspects of the people who surround me.

I feel like a goddess masquerading as a mortal. Or a child raised by wolves, aping the behavior of the civilized.

I’m an introvert by nature, but sometimes succeed at putting on the outward trappings of a ‘people-person’.

I probably wouldn’t have a decent job without conscious efforts to present myself as more businesslike and conventional than I really am.

I deliberately pick up buzz words, to use when they might impress or help me seem to relate: Full of win. Make it work.

Some circumstances seem to call for me (an opinionated, shrewd, cynical creature) to play the patient underling receiving instruction from elders, or the wide-eyed clueless newbie.

Ah, well. At least for me, and perhaps for many of us, there’s less need (or less desire) to fit in as the years go by. Gradually we find people who accept our eccentricities, and even prize us for our quirks. Yet every now and then (many years post-adolescence) a longing for companionship and affirmation can override the inclination to just be my own weird self.

The Self is such a complex design…

I am my collection of knowledge and skills. I am my code of honor and my stubborn adherence to it.

I am the sum of my own memories, and I exist in the memories of myself that reside in the minds of those who encounter me.

I am the creative brain, the adventurous scaredy-cat heart, the wandering old-ish soul…

I am a balance of individuality and accomodation, constantly in flux.

(I am the cat goddess.)

Already there

UncategorizedNovember 28, 2014 • < 1 min read • 0

So I’ve been wanting to write a nice long essay on being an introverted leader, or something along those lines. Yet I felt my own experience in leadership seemed limited.

But then I read about how anyone with even a shred of insight can create worthwhile resources and be a positive influence.

I was reminded that my experiences could have value to those just beginning: in their career, or on the journey to professionalism.

I can show leadership by sharing my discoveries, and also at times my missteps.

Each of us can contribute wisdom we’ve gathered from many sources, not just from our own life.

Listening, supporting, and sympathizing with others who are on similar paths is part of leadership as well.

So I’ve realized I’m already at least a little qualified to discuss my topic idea, and hope to post a short article sometime in the coming year.

More, and Less

UncategorizedJuly 15, 2014 • < 1 min read • 0

Thinking about priorities, goals, and what I want my life to be like. Might turn this PDF document into a lettering/illustration piece someday. Currently just a list set in one of my favorite fonts, Aquiline.

More and Less

Thoughts on Diversity

UncategorizedMay 6, 2014 • 2~4 min read • 0

I’ve read many articles that observe “the tech industry” being dominated by men.

I’ve seen statistics showing that women may outnumber men in choosing a Graphic Design career.

I sometimes try to draw conclusions from my own experiences in this regard, and although I certainly hope my employers in the past were hiring me based on my demonstrated knowledge and experience, and on my potential to do great work for their company, I’ll never really know.

Once upon a time I was hired to be the Assistant Art Director of a model railroad manufacturing company in Nevada. The Art Director’s nickname for me was “Beautiful” (which I found obnoxious but decided to tolerate). Would he have hired a man with similar qualifications?

Later I worked for a couple, Mary and Sarah, who owned a newspaper. Were they feeling sympathetic towards an ambitious young woman like myself, and consequently willing to give me a chance at running their graphics department, although I had no experience in the journalism industry?

A few years down the road, I was part of the production team for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiast magazine, building ads and page layouts. The telecommuting owner, the editor, and half of the freelance writers were men. All of production, HR, and IT were women. Was I hired because I’d fit in with those who worked onsite?

Not too long ago I applied for a job with the design team of a well-known tech company in Cupertino. Being notified that they were impressed with my work, I was then granted an in-person interview: with eight men, most of them in their 20s. Did the fact that I’m female, or that I’m older, affect their decision not to hire me?

It’s been suggested that if I went by a gender-neutral nickname such as “Andy”, I might have better luck landing some job interviews. Another person recommended putting my picture on the resume, since potential employers could find my image appealing. But I’ll stick with my standard nomenclature, and save the room on my resume for detailing my skills and experience.

It’s human nature to gravitate towards those we find attractive, or who are similar to ourselves. Realizing this bias when it occurs is an important step towards dealing fairly with all individuals. I think we should attempt to make opportunities available for any who have the skills and potential to achieve, disregarding (often unintentional) personal preferences, or conversely, diversity for its own sake.

I do realize that in 2014, in the United States, I live in a world where opportunity is far more equal than ever before, and the resources to pursue my dreams are readily available. But we’re still working towards a truly even playing field of merit-based opportunity and reward.

Decision to Buy

UncategorizedFebruary 27, 2014 • 2~2 min read • 0

As part of a marketing team discussion last year, aiming to develop more effective advertising pieces, I presented 6 factors that drive a decision to buy Apparel or Accessories.

These are drawn from my own experiences, and from observing purchasing habits of the customers of companies I’ve worked with over the years.

1. The product’s appealing claims such as “waterproof yet breathable” are verified by other sources (Rated high by testers/reviewers, trusted logos/seals of quality, such as Columbia’s Omni-Tech logo).

2. I can tell exactly what I’m buying the way this item is shown (online, or in print advertising and catalogs), so will choose this over similar items with unclear photos, or vague descriptions.

3. Makes me feel like a wise shopper: the true value of the item is higher than the price. Everyone enjoys finding a great deal on a quality product.

4. Goes with my style: items on this page remind me of my own wardrobe/color preferences/lifestyle. (Showing complete outfits, & models that remind me of myself helps.)

5. This offer showcases an item that’s special, new, different. Makes me think that I’ll stand out if I wear this, and will feel unique and stylish, or be confident that I have the latest high-tech gear – The “cool factor”.

6. I can’t go wrong buying this familiar, tried and true basic item. (A presentation might emphasize comfortable fit and colors that go with everything, and show models wearing the same item in different circumstances & outfit combinations).


UncategorizedJanuary 29, 2014 • < 1 min read • 0

How many incompetent production artists does it take to build an ad for a lightbulb?


One to draw up ten different layouts on spec to show the client.

One to philosophize about the meaning of lightbulbs in our society while critiquing the others’ work.

One to call the Art Director for help.

One to hire a photographer to take shots of the bulb in a lamp, forgetting to specify that the lamp should be turned ON in the photos.

One to attempt “thinking outside the box” by smashing a bulb and then scanning the pieces (RIP $400 scanner).

One to take the only layout sketch that’s sorta relevant to the project constraints or the client’s needs, and outsource the design work to a freelancer.

Payne’s Gray all over my best work blouse

UncategorizedOctober 17, 2013 • 2~3 min read • 0

When deciding to experiment with creating a WordPress blog, I’d originally intended for the content to be not only essays, but some images of my design work.

So far it’s been easier to jot down a few thoughts, go back to edit a bit, and post what I’ve written, than it is to sort out artwork/graphic design projects that might be appropriate for sharing in this public space and then PDF, scan or photograph such things to create a blog-ready image.

I’m still spending 40 hours a week as an in-house designer for a retail corporation. I build page layouts, do intensive Photoshop work, design web ads, and participate in other sorts of content creation. Often I’m quite proud of the results.

“Intellectual property”, however, is such a grey area. I would only consider posting samples of work to this blog if I’ve gotten approval to do so by the company I’d done the work for.

(Seeing my magazine ads printed in national publications every month is still satisfying, and I sometimes wonder: who are the other unsung artists behind all these pages of eye-catching advertising?)

There’ve been freelance projects over the past year that I could probably share here, since my clients are friends who it’d be easy to discuss usage rights with, but none of this is work that really shows my own artistic voice or range of skills.

So while thinking about all of this, I found the large community of fine arts professionals and hobbyists on Twitter, through searching the hashtag #DrawingAugust. As I discovered some excellent drawings, paintings, and etchings I began to feel the desire to get back into non-computer oriented work myself.

In September I started assembling the supplies for watercolor painting, and then dove enthusiastically into the world of actual paint, brushes and paper, with all the accompanying delight and frustration that I remembered from art school 20 years ago.

I also decided to document the whole process, to create a tutorial of my system for watercolor painting from concept to finished work.

Finding the time to pursue this has been more tricky than re-discovering the passion for it in the first place.

My long-term vision is to have images of paintings to post, as well as the tutorial article to share here and/or on Twitter, maybe even YouTube content…

Pixels are never this messy.

Some things I’ve learned over the years

UncategorizedJuly 19, 2013 • 2~3 min read • 0

Today I’m thinking about a couple of things I wish I’d been aware of when first starting out in a Graphic Design career 23 years ago.

1.) The ability to articulate the strategies you have employed in the creation process, and to explain the reasoning behind design decisions is essential if you want to be taken seriously. Effective communication skills can be just as valuable as being able to put together quality work in the first place when it comes to establishing your reputation as skilled and knowledgeable.

This can be a very difficult facet of the professional identity to establish for an introvert. But once I realized I was selling my career short by avoiding public speaking whenever possible, I forced myself to speak up in design review meetings. I practiced using the appropriate terminology. I studied the non-verbal communication signals of my colleagues and became aware that I needed to stop figeting, mumbling, and avoiding direct eye contact. Even now I still rehearse by talking to myself while driving as if I were presenting my work to a client or interviewing with a company president.

2.) There will always be people who consider professional designers to be similar to those who do arts and crafts as a hobby. There are otherwise respectful and sensible people who figure I spend my days “playing in Photoshop” or “making things look pretty” and accordingly place a low monetary value on all design work.

I realized eventually that it’s up to me, and other competent and thoughtful designers, to change the way our work is viewed in the world. Establishing Graphic Design as a valid and profitable career path is an ongoing battle. Making a point of comporting myself in a businesslike manner has been a good tactic so far. Attempting to educate those around me on the importance of good design by recommending well-written articles is also helpful.

So as my skills have developed and my aesthetic has become refined, my overall insight on the world I have chosen has also begun to mature. My journey of learning, self-improvement and becoming a better representative of the design community will continue: probably even after I retire in another twenty-something years!

The Beauty of Discovery

UncategorizedJune 25, 2013 • 1~2 min read • 0

Now and then it strikes me as wonderful that I have the sort of life where an aspect of my work is to search out what’s beautiful, workable, useful or captivating.

The discovery process itself can be a thing of beauty. We go forth with a spark from the depths of our minds. It takes shape in words, paint or pixels, perhaps in solid form… such an array of media to choose from. Our ideas develop complexity and are refined, the glow of anticipation builds, and finally the full glorious concept is brought to light.

Just seeing what’s OUT THERE and waiting to be appreciated or to become part of a new creation will often fascinate me. Nature itself is mysterious and extraordinary; and many members of humankind are capable of greatness.

I think we tend to forget that sometimes, when so much discussion appears to concentrate on the failures of societies or individuals.

So I try to counteract this negativity by championing the ability of creative people to brainstorm and to turn daydreams into reality, hoping that someday my own existence will be seen as an example of adventure, creation and discovery.

Staff: Andrea (45)