Monday, October 26, 2009

Between Something and Nothing

or Behind The Wheel (Route 66)....

My work space goes from really messy to really neat in a few hours when planned company is set to arrive the following morning. We normally keep a pretty clean & tidy (dusted and swept) office space, but we got a lot of stuff and each working job has a folder (or several piles of folders) of stuff. If we are heavily into a few things at the same time, that means that every available flat space- and some not-- are covered in drawings, sketches, books, meeting notes, hand-written notes and well, just stuff. The bigger the job- the more stuff there is to it! Things get misplaced often with so much stuff around here.

So when we have a potential client paying us a visit, we have to spend a few hours dusting upstairs and down, vacuuming, mopping the concrete floor in the lower level, putting away records & CDs, and filing the stuff. This is good on two levels: 1st- it makes the office look snazzy in it's own cool design-studio-in-a-barn way, all sparkling, shiny clean, and 2nd- all the stuff gets reorganized. The 3-level bin on my desk being the happiest, as it gets de-stacked, un-crammed and filed. It is nice to have several meetings on the clean-the-office level in a row. More bang for your vacuuming-buck, for sure!

Everything Counts (In Large Amounts)

Though I have always heard it said that a 'clean desk is a sign of a sick mind' I must admit, I have felt it to be true. I don't have time to neatly organize things on a day-to-day basis. My daily desk grows to be piles over the week. Taking the time to plow through the piles, throw some things in some folders, throw some folders in the file cabinets- makes a world of difference in the long run. So I might be preaching a sort of 'messy-in-the-short-run' with a dose of 'neatness-over-time' method to all this.

I guess some people must see the value in everything organized all the time. Visually they may go as so far as to have cork or magnetic boards with everything evenly spaced, nothing overlapping. I think that would make me a bit nuts.... but I guess if I could find that phone number I thought I tacked up here... somewhere.....hhhhhhhmmmmmmmmm. Shoot.

Groove Me, baby

Being the creative type I am stimulated by visual clutter. I like walls of postcards, photos, posters and stickers. I like shelves with miniature figures, knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, gadgets and geek toys. I really like books and magazines and listening to music (but I think I am digressing...). I need to see samples of colors combinations and moods set in photos and graphics around me, reminders of typefaces and design elements, techniques, styles and grooves. I guess my office gets the full mixmaster treatment - samples and clips of different things, unrelated visuals- existing in harmony- like a good mix tape that has a lot of different types of music.

I think most people/future clients that are looking for some sort of graphic, design or web service-- and have never been in a design office-- still know what to expect. A lot of people get a real charge about coming over here to the graphics company and some are, quite frankly, oblivious to it. No one has been shocked, so far (that I can remember).... Your average lawyer, doctor, etc. expects us creative folks to be a little nuts and wouldn't be surprised if they walked into our space and it looked like Pee Wee's Playhouse or a set on the '60s Batman TV show with a lot of angled windows and doors. So I think this attitude has given designers worldwide the right to have a nutty office- and it's expected! I don't think I could trust a neat and tidy designer with nothing on their walls... would you? What about a messy, colorful, movie-postered, rock-flyered lawyer's office?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Know Your Chicken

Confessions of a Graphic Designer- part 45:

I was talking with a designer friend about why a smaller, 'boutique' firm is better that a larger agency-type of company. I have always heard freelancers say they 'can often juggle more that one ball at a time..." In our little firm, we are always working on multiple projects at the same time- sometimes juggling them. I was born into my work-life multitasking- circus-like!

Homefries For Church Folk

I've had a job ever since I was able to get my work permit at 16 (some 25+ years ago). At most of them, it was a balancing act of working on many things simultaneously. I am talking about my pre-design jobs, including my very first job of packing and un-packing trucks that took new clothing and sold it to senior citizens at old folks homes. Hey, I thought it was a kinda slow business model, but it gave the residents an afternoon of shopping and they were fashion conscious! Though we often spend time waiting around for trucks to show up, we were always packing, unpacking, pricing, counting, re-hangering... well you get it.

With a few jobs in between-- including lawn work, furniture delivery guy, pizza delivery guy for one day-- I found something I could do for the full 4+ years I went to the 'ol alma mater, Buff State. I started out as a dishwasher at the Sheridan Family Restaurant and worked my way up to a closing line cook. It was crazy fast-paced, and I learned to organize, evaluate hierarchy of importance, delegate tasks to my team and cook a breakfast steak in mere minutes. It was all about teamwork, moving fast, thinking fast and doing everything at once over and over again for several hours! Things could get hairy on a Sunday morning--post-church with a lot of hungry church-folks waiting in line outside to follow a helping of the Lord with a helping of homefries! Learning to think under pressure and solve problems was a valuable skill I learned while slinging soulvaki.

Computers Make Ya Go Faster

Once I moved into the now extinct, yet glorious world of digital pre-press- things happened even faster- it was the computerized '90s after-all. At The Retouchables, owned by airbrush master Dan Schuder, I would balance a slew of customer's jobs, checking files, troubleshooting, outputting film and making matchprint and dylux proofs... all while promising deadlines! It was early in the computer age & things moved at the speed of 800k floppy disks, all happening at once: Pow! Zoom! Click! Whirrr! I was born into the design business running as soon as I hit the ground and my restaurant experience really got me prepared to do so (Thanks, Nick!).

Better, Faster, Meaner, Leaner

So do you get a better, faster version when you use a small shop vs. a larger shop? In our case, I think you do. Often we have to switch gears on the fly and we are equipped to do so. You can go from sitting, thinking and writing a proposal (estimating time and doing math), to writing headlines for the ad we have to design right now because "...we forgot that was due today and we forgot to call you about!" But we'll do it, we like doing it. The next hour you are meeting with potential clients dressed up in a tie (the "Superman Suit," as Dan from The Retouchables used to call it), sitting, listening trying to impress. You can go from adding content to website template pages, resizing a large batch of photos, to suddenly having to slow down, clear your head, sit down and create with a pencil and paper. You know, really design.

I try to make it sound real exciting, and sometimes it is, but the point being is having the ability to keep it all organized, being able to switch gears to attend to a clients needs, and working on 2-3 things at the same time is a skill I am not sure I have seen in every designer I have met. I see it more in a smaller agency, where the owner is doing a lot of the work and see it less in larger agencies where a lot of people are good at doing a single task. They have experts that can do this and ones that can do that- but can they do more that one at the same time? How fast can they switch gears? Are they allowed to? Do they have to have it approved, fill out a change order, etc....

I guess I never realized when I was either inventorying blouses or deep frying fish on a Friday night that was learning skills that would become useful in your local octopus-limbed, ambidextrous graphic design team!