If you change your view, that view changes you…

Alison3…says Alison Garnett, co-founder of a new agency located in the Bloor and Dundas area of Toronto; another great designer who came to tell us her story as part of web design at Sheridan College.

With a previous career in working for larger firms, Alison always felt that time lines played too large a role in the work she was doing. She wanted to find a place where quality and concept drove the schedule so she created that space herself along with a partner, better known as Field Trip & Co.

Alison’s big on using life experiences to inspire her creative endeavours, and getting out from behind the computers. She loves going out into the world for inspiration and she believes in creating more than just pretty designs for her clients, she also believes in telling the story of their brand, fleshing out their narrative.

“It’s important,” she told us, “to actually physically experience the environment of the client (the company home if you will), rather than simply connecting with them by phone or internet.

Still, if you strike out on your own be prepared to become a Jack-of-all-trades. A small organization doesn’t have the budget for specialization. Everyone has to pitch in and wear a few different hats…and be aware that every relationship can make a difference on where you go.”

A few tips Alison left us with, based on her many past career adventures are:

• Everything is an opportunity

• Never judge a project by its size. Do a small project well and it can lead to bigger opportunities

• Surround yourself with good people and you will look good

• Take the initiative, raise your hand and offer your services

• Follow up on interviews, people are busy and its a way for them to remember you

• Be original, don’t recycle designs and ideas you might find on Pinterest

• Be a life learner

• Pay attention to detail

They’re a cool new agency with a fresh new perspective on brand, identity, digital application and marketing. Check them out at www.fieldtripand.co or look Alison up www.linkedin.com/in/alisongarnett

 

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form&affect, A Little Gem to Keep on Your Radar

Brent Porter

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t—you’re right” ~ Henry Ford

It’s a quote Brent Porter, Creative Director and co-owner of a digital creative agency out of St. Catharines, Ontario, knows first hand. Brad attended one of our recent Pro-topics classes to provide some inspiration and inspire he did.

His company, form&affect, houses five or six employees, including himself and while it may be a small shop don’t make quick assumptions, the work this little gem is turning out, is simply stunning.

Some big names on the form&affect client roster are: CBC, Best Western, Days Inn, VISA, Samsung, Niagara Parks, United Way, Petro Canada and Niagara Region (which is by no means a full list).

Sustaining this success is based on the following five values, inherent to the culture of form&affect:

•  Ask why

•  Be honest

•  Have empathy

•  Share knowledge

•  Think big

Brent also bases hiring on personality and the right fit, then the right set of skills.

He likes to keep things light and lively but is a stickler about deadlines. These days as the demand for what he does grows rapidly, efficiency is important.

Life wasn’t always so rewarding though. What this man’s accomplished he’s won by struggle and wits.

As a high school drop out he spent a number of years on the streets of Hamilton, surviving by producing his own unique brand of posters and guerrilla street marketing. It was a talent he seemed born to and for which he followed and what would eventually forge the path to the hard won success he enjoys today.

And in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, guerrilla street marketing is an unconventional mode of grabbing an audience’s attention; often used by small businesses but also used by the big brands like McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Nike who have joined the movement to promote their own products.

A few existing examples of this marketing method are:

•  A Folger’s decorated sewer grate, made to look like a steaming cup of coffee

•  An Ikea couch placed in a bus terminal (A place to sit when you really need one)

•  A Kit Kat decorated park bench, made to look like a half opened candy bar (time to break off a piece), the brown horizontal slats of wood taking on the persona of giant Kit Kat fingers

Brent talks about the convergence of two circles and working within the space where those two elements overlap. You might call it the ‘sweet spot’, or you might call it ‘the zone’. Brad simply calls it ‘working within your element’.

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 In those formative years, with the night scene and the unconventional marketing, he’d made enough money to own and run two night clubs but it was a hard existence, it took its toll both on himself and those around him. With the loss of a friend to suicide, he began to feel the weight of those years. It caused him to re-evaluate where he was and what he was doing and it spelled the end of the night club scene for him.

Evaluating his own life led him to explore what motivates us, how humans relate to one another and to their environment, how they use their environment and if you haven’t caught on already, he’s perfectly describing ‘user experience’ which has become such a big part of web design today.

He tried college for a while, tried working for other agencies, both were less than constructive experiences but he’ll tell you even negative experiences can be instructive.

Brent’s advice to us is:

•  Success lies in mastering the details, and…

•  Trust your struggle, take what instruction you can from it. How you deal with adversity will form your career path whether you like it or not.

In parting, he left us with a lot to think about and suggested a few resources:

Podcasts to listen to:

•  Shoptalk, An internet radio show about the internet, with Dave Rupert and Chris Coyier   www.shoptalk.com

•  The Big Web Show with award winning Big Web Show features, special guests and topics like web publishing, art direction, content strategy, etc.   http://5by5.tv/bigwebshow

Books to pick up:

•  The Stretch Handbook and,

•  A Book Apart Library, now up to about 30 editions

And for questions or comments you can find him on LinkedIn. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving your Resume to the Front of the Line with Jade and Theresa

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Meet Jade and Theresa, two seasoned talent scouts from Creative Niche Inc., who joined our Pro-Topics class recently for the web design certificate program at Sheridan College. In case you haven’t heard, their organization is the largest recruiting firm of its kind, with more than 80,000 professionals on their roster and a vast network of Fortune 500 clients…and they’re always on the look out for new talent.

The end of our program is fast approaching and so they came to talk to us about  resumes.  Jade and Theresa see hundreds of resumes on a weekly basis so they know what they’re looking for, they know how a resume should read and how it should present visually.

Here is what they suggest for your next ‘pitch’ on landing an interview:

  • Make your resume one to two pages, no more
  • Your resume is a sales pitch. It should be a snapshot of who you are. If it’s good it may get you an interview. Most of your work however, will be presenting what you have to offer, during an interview. And by the way, the average employer only spends a few seconds looking at a resume so get rid of anything nonessential.

 What to include:

  • Who you are
  • What you offer in the way of skills
  • Where you’ve worked before
  • When you worked at the various jobs you listed
  • How you brought about improvement or change in these roles (quantitative data), for example “increased sales by 20%” or  “improved efficiency by 15%”
  • Any awards or citations given to you based on performance

What to say:

  • Use impactful language and use action verbs like, ‘managed’, ‘achieved’, ‘solved’
  • Avoid pronouns (I or me) and remember that bullets don’t have to be full sentences
  • Get rid of any jargon or slang
  • Use a consistent tense, past is best
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread! Be aware that 61% of recruiters and 43% of hiring managers will toss a resume based on a typo
  • Think, ‘most recent / most relevant’. If you’re a new graduate you can list your latest education first
  • Include an opening pitch, sometimes called an Elevator Pitch. It should be concise, clear, compelling and credible as per the following example:

I recently graduated from the graphic design certificate program at Springbanks College. As a student I worked on the graduation show both as coordinator and content creator. I’m looking for a job that will put my skills as a graphic designer and planner to work.

  • Include a call to action, for example:  You can reach me at: 999.999.9999

What to showcase:

Freelance work and smaller projects look great on your resume, so do school projects, case studies, special assignments, volunteer work, internships and awards and recognition.

 What not to showcase:

Your photo. Let what you potentially offer do the talking for you.

Add LinkedIn to your toolbox:

LinkedIn was launched in 2003 to help people network professionally. There are now millions of members. SEO for LinkIn searches, shows up at the top of a Google search so people actually research you.

LinkedIn is the most efficient way to manage your network and is the exception when it comes to a photo. You should include a photo on LinkedIn.

  • DO include a photo on LinkedIn
  • DON’T use a vacation photo or anything with a funny hat
  • DO choose something tasteful and professional
  • Sprinkle your LinkedIn content with industry keywords. It improves SEO in search engines
  • Formulate a job description based on what you’re going after for work
  •  Request some recommendations from current or former colleagues and associates

Tip: Search for leaders in your field to see what they wrote about themselves. It will help you craft some great content for your own LinkedIn page.

Online portfolio tips:

  •  Keep your online presence up-to-date
  • Keep the navigation very simple on the home page
  • Develop a very simple, easy to use contact page

Jade and Theresa suggested checking out: www.jackiengo.com. It’s a great example of a well done individual portfolio.

And in summary…know thy self

A parting suggestion from Jade, take the following test to gain valuable insight into where you as a person, might shine.

The survey takes about 10 minutes and helps identify your working style so you can seek out a good workplace fit.

For questions or comments contact either Jade or Theresa at Creative Niche

I’m sure they would love to hear from you.

 

The Story of Storybird.com

AN INTERSECTION OF ART AND BUSINESS AND THE CULMINATION OF A DREAM

Kaye Puhlman2Enter Kaye Puhlmann, Co-founder of Storybird.com, a publishing and literacy platform which she recently sold but is still very much a part of.

Having spent many years working with digital agencies, Kaye and her co-founder wanted to spread their wings and try to create their own product.

What they developed is a platform that inspires kids to write using existing industry  illustrations, and to re-contextualize a whole new story. The user just drags images onto the digital page and writes.

Using artwork as a scaffolding, picture books, long form chapter books or whole novels are possible. Storybird studio has a set of tools for educators as well, to create projects for students, to sort by assignments, review work, etc. All within the secure sphere of the classroom. There’s also a unique fundraiser component to Storybird where parents can buy the books the kids made thereby directing 30% of all sales back to the schools and classrooms to fund supplies, and anything else required by the curriculum.

Users can pay to have their books printed in physical format or downloaded as a pdf.

As Kaye will tell you though, creating a popular, successful product is only half the story. Sustaining the momentum of that product is truly the other half.

While Kaye worked on both product and growth for Storybird and while growing the user base annually to 6m members, a short time with RBC really opened her eyes to what was needed in order to continue to grow Storybird. She began to understand the missing part of her own business equation, coined by her as Capital Design, i.e. designing a product for ongoing and sustainable generation of income, or…designing a business.

“To sustain any business, happy customers are only part of the picture,”she tells us. “Creating something that customers use but don’t buy will only result in the failure of that business.”

The reality is, you’ve got to find a balance between customer satisfaction and customer investment, i.e sales. You’ve got to balance the needs of your users with what you, as a company, are trying to achieve. A reward system is one of the devices we developed to improve user retention,” says Kaye.

To this end she implemented a system of reward where kids can earn badges and where they can earn a form of currency, the more they use the platform. With this currency they can buy things like faster printing, or downloading of their book in pdf format. Selling memberships is also coming, she tells us.

Storybird, a truly inspiring success story in my books.

Interested in learning more? Just go to www.storybird.com or connect with Kaye Puhlmann on Linkedin.

 

HumanKind: A Philosophy People Buy Into

LEO BURNETT TORONTO

To finish off the first semester of web design, we welcomed three talented folks from the prestigious Leo Burnett Network Agency, an organization found within Publicis Communications which is the creative hub of Publicis Groupe SA., and known as one of the most effective ad agencies in Canada.

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The approach at Leo Burnett is simple: focus on a brand’s purpose in the lives of everyday people to create messaging that will truly connect with them; a proven philosophy that resonates with clients who stay with the company for many years.

Their mission:

To show the world a level of creativity, design excellence and innovation that will blow people’s minds.

Their mantra :

Stay hungry, we are only one idea away from:

  • making a brand famous
  • shaking up a category or maybe just…
  • changing the world

Their Philosophy:

HumanKind, which is to say that to succeed today, a brand has to do much more than offer a benefit. It needs to be driven by a human purpose.

In other words, a brand must truly understand what drives their audience to seek out a product. To understand that human desire or need for a product is to understand how to plug in to that need for marketing and sales.

Yes, HumanKind, it’s a the philosophy used to identify a brand’s human purpose and then to create a platform for growth that will drive results for clients. This HumanKind approach has forged innovation and creativity across every communication channel out there today and helped Leo Burnett agency win Golds in the CASSIEs, the EFFIEs and the ARF David Ogilvy, effectiveness shows of North America.

Their People

According to Zad, great work starts with a great strategy. Everything flows from a well researched, well designed, innovative plan which dictates method and medium right down to the last detail.

According to Charlie and James, great solutions evolve when people work together, bouncing ideas off of one another until something great emerges, something larger than the sum of it’s parts.

You might call it the team machine churning out greatness on a fuel of multiple minds.

Their Leader

Another inspiring personality (though not present in our Pro-topics class) but certainly well worth following, is Judy John, the company’s Chief Creative Officer. Everything about Judy’s work ethic and management style, was shaped by waiting tables and packing take-out orders in her parent’s restaurant many years ago. I can’t think of a more human centred environment to learn what drives people, what motivates them. Her human centred approach to work is right on point and, more importantly…an approach people really buy into!

Nov. 2017, Forbes named 14 people that all good companies should have on their Speed Dial. Leo Burnett’s Judy John, is one of them.

Judy joined Leo Burnett Toronto as Chief Creative Officer, adding the CEO title in 2011 and North American Chief Creative Officer in 2016.

Under her direction, the agency gained global recognition, was ranked #1 agency in Canada and #5 in the world by the Gunn Report.

Judy was Canada’s Marketer of the Year in 2016 and named among advertising’s most creative people by Advertising Age and Business Insider.

Interested in learning more about Leo Burnett? Check out their website at: Leo Burnett

A Fresh look at the business side of working for yourself

As new web designers a lot of us will find ourselves starting out with contract and agency work. And while we’re training to successfully meet the creative demands of our chosen field, many of us will struggle with the business side—invoicing, time-tracking, and maintaining a healthy relationship with our inescapable financial partner, the CRA.

MuditaEnter Mudita Shekhawat, Business Development Rep. for a company called FreshBooks. She visited us to introduce her company’s offering, a business solution for freelancers currently using MS Word, Excel and/or a shoe-box, and finding their system of record keeping in dire need of an upgrade.

FreshBooks is the number one cloud-based accounting software out there right now, designed exclusively for service-based small business owners. Their success is testament to the changing landscape of employment today (for better or for worse), moving from a permanent full-time model, to a long and short-term contract model in many industries.

Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Toronto, it currently employs 275 employees of its own and is still growing!

FreshBooks’ product development team is made up of the product owner, UX designer, scrum master and the very necessary developers. Their specific focus is on customer need and effective design to meet that need.

In order to remain competitive Mudita tells us they’ve left the waterfall approach to design and innovation behind and embraced the agile method—an approach to process that we, as students have been hearing so much about, which goes something like this:

Design a segment of the build —> review —>adjust —>design a little more of the build —>review—>adjust—>design a little more of the build—>review—>adjust…you get the picture.

It’s a philosophy of working which allows for design improvement and adjustment, throughout the build process rather than deciding if the designers got it right, right at the very end of the build and probably just when the marketing department needs something to start marketing.

As problem solvers and designers, Mudita reminds us that:

– an idea is only as good as someone willing to use it, and…

– an idea has to actually address the need, in her words, address the ‘pain point’ experienced by the client

And in order for new employees to fully comprehend this mindset at FreshBooks, all new staff, regardless of job function, spend their first month with the support team, answering emails and phones from clients.

The company operates on nine values:

– passion, ownership, results, change, honesty, fun, a drive to strive, empathy and trust

I was impressed by Mudita’s passion and belief in the value of her company’s offering.

So if your system of accounting could use an upgrade, Mudita would be happy to connect with you. Just drop her a line at: mshekhawat@freshbooks.com

A Racing Guide for Students of Web Design – 2017 edition

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Inspired by Sean Patrick, Strategist for hire, Former Sheridan College Instructor, Director, Business owner and…

Gillian Chubb, Retired Coordinator, Wed Design Graduate Certificate at Sheridan College

We’re approaching the end of the first semester, here at Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario, and if this were a horse race you could say we’d just be approaching the quarter pole (a post on the infield rail that indicates there are two furlongs more to go.

Ever been to one? Standing right up front you can feel the hammer of hooves against the dirt, right as they make their final turn, hear the laboured intake of air, the wheeze of forced expulsion. Best not to lean too far forward. That spray of sweat and spittle off the whole, aromatic rush of flesh, carries over a fair distance.

Which is just about how most web design students are feeling right now (myself included), exhausted, sweaty (probably in need of a few hours sleep and a shower), feeling the sting of the crop as we push for the end of projects, those ever pressing deadlines, pushing ourselves forward, farther into code and design then we’ve ever gone before.

Exaggeration? Hmmmm….not by much. And yes, the teacher’s are feeling it too. They, after all, are responsible for eventually getting all their tired, cranky ponies over the finish line.

So, it was with much relief, when we took a little breather, 28th of November, welcoming Sean Patrick, former instructor at Sheridan and Gillian Chubb, a retired coordinator of the web design program, to provide us with a few running tips on how to make it to the end.

Seasoned racers in the design game themselves, they offer the following advice:

  • Don’t be afraid to fail, failing is a part of learning, an iteration of learning you might say. The only true failure is when you don’t take what you’ve gained from an experience and apply again, for a second try.
  • Know your fear triggers, these are probably areas you’ll instinctively avoid and they are the very areas you’ll need to spend more time on.
  • Try everything, it may not relate directly right now but could come in very handy down the line. It’s thinking outside the box and can sometimes lead to an unconventional solution to a problem.
  • Know when you’re approaching tunnel vision (blinkers work for horses, not so much for designers). This behaviour leads to repetition of unsuccessful solutions. You’ll find yourself going over the same line of thinking, again and again, wasting a lot of time. Break the cycle. Get up and go do something else for a while (maybe go take a shower). Then come back to the problem.
  • Make sure you build in time for preparation. That could be for a meeting or simply properly observing how you’re submitting assignments.
  • Remember not to expect perfection right out of the gate. We didn’t come to this course as functioning web designers. We came to this course to learn how to be functioning web designers.This first and second quarter of the program should really be more about picking up the skills. As much as we can. Perfect aesthetics, comes with first mastering the skills.

And in closing, Sean and Gillian left us with a few quotes, those that have resonated with them as design practitioners, over long and successful careers:

  1. Design is not about how it looks, it’s about how it works ~ Steve Jobs
  2. If I’ve seen farther than others, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants ~ Isaac Newton
  3. Be careful what you get good at, you’ll always be doing it ~ Jo Carson
  4. The more you fail, the better you get ~ Sean Patrick