Apr 1, 2016

Finding Balance on a Bike…

Parked in DC, in spring.
Since grad school ended, I’ve had the opportunities to work and also volunteer with many dynamic organizations, companies, and individual clients. This is just one perk of my work.
It fits with my commitment to community engagement and my green(er) lifestyle. In addition to being dedicated to exceptional communications, effective design, and positive growth in my community (and planet). I’m committed to simplicity in all things. To this end I have chosen to live healthfully and employ this bike in a carbon-lite commuting existence.

Yeah, that’s great for those of us with the option to bike everywhere, but being accessible to clients and work means sometimes having to travel great distances. A bike is less than practical.

As I got rid of my private car in 2005—way back in my undergraduate years—motorized transport has always been a factor of my professional life; from MARC train, to metro, to driving on occasion. It became evident years ago that a balance must be struck.

Just last week, as a matter of fact, I undertook a week-long series of site visits and facilitated training workshops at various locations across the state; each necessitated at least an hour drive each way. I shudder to think how long I’d have to be on a bike, lugging my: led projector, laptop, course handouts, lunch, and water each way. What’s my long-distance transport? Zipcar, of course.

An annual membership means that I get to hop into a car, parked a block from my house, whenever I need to travel for work (right now, that usually means once a week, every month). Then I get to bike to my office or to campus to teach every other day. It’s the perfect

Feb 15, 2016

(surprise) Interview Question: What kind of Animal are you?

I helped out a new job seeker with a mock interview last month, over salads and wine. This young woman is in search of a junior designer position within an educational institution--a regional behemoth. But I digress…

She did a bit of practicing before we met up and I asked her a few basic questions over bread and olive oil. In addition to the  usual suspects I decided to throw in one of those curveball questions, just to break her out of the practiced answers that she was giving. I asked:

"If you were an Animal, What Would you be?"

That actually stopped my young friend in her tracks, she looked up to the right, thinking. After a long while, she said "I don't know." The curveball completely knocked all reasonable thought out of her head. This is a tactic employed by some interviewers. It's not actually meant to leave you stuttering, but rather it's meant to see how you think critically and might see yourself in the hierarchy of the organization.

I had to tell my friend not to freak out. Instead of pursuing the question OR giving her time to pick one of the millions of species of animals that she has to choose, I asked her the following questions…speaking not as a mock interviewer, but her friend who just bought her dinner:

  • Seriously, what do you know about the company and this job that you've applied for?
  • From what you know, can you seriously see yourself working there and making a difference to their mission? 
  • What are your traits that make it possible?

From her answers to those above, I used her words to formulate this follow up...
  • Okay, so in a setting like Organization X, that calls for hard work, and dedication to strong communities, positive growth, and increased academic achievement for youth, are your traits an appropriate fit?

How do you Answer that Question

I answered for her, "so, you would be a pit bull, or a Thai Fighting Fish, or a Rooster, or a Rabbit, or a Gecko". Pick one, or pick a completely different animal if you want. I had to explain that the actual answer is about the traits and habits that she brings to the table. She needs to pick the traits and morph these into an animal. Whatever animal.

We spent the next few minutes playing a game where I'd throw out random positive traits and she'd pick an animal and explain them in  a few words (like dolphins have great communication and organizational skills…). This was a bit of fun, but you get the idea.

In a nutshell, my friend had already thought about and outlined her strengths and what positive attributes she brought to the job. She simply needed to revisit those in order not to be blindsided by this surprise question. 

One last thing, this question may never be asked in a job interview, so don't stress yourself about coming up with the ideal animal that will play well with others in a professional setting.

More Interview Questions:

    Feb 1, 2016

    New Year, New You

    Well, Me Actually...

    I believe in starting each new year with a refreshed professional perspective:

    1. For those of us working, this is easily accomplished by refreshing updating the resume.
    2. For others, in the midst of a job search, it looks more like updating the resume, cover letter, website, and online presence. 

    I’m currently heavily engrossed in option one.

    Many of you have seen my 2-column resume layout. This design made it possible for me to stick to a single-page resume in the past. And it’s been the basis of several of the resume redesigns that I’ve undertaken on behalf of other job seekers this year.

    This year, I’m going back to basics. One-Column! This means I run the risk of spanning two (or more) pages. With this in mind I fearlessly embark on a new look for 2016! A quick note on my design process:

    •  Rewrite: update text phrases, and accomplishments 
    • Brainstorm: choose font combinations, sketch potential layouts, research what other folks are doing (you bet!) 
    • Mock-up / Comps: these are practically done, and are sent to a few discerning editor/designers for notes before I finalize anything. 

    So far, two layouts—of the original seven have made it to the Comprehensive phase.

    Note: Peers and students always ask about my more corporate/less creative field layouts of my resumes, and the answer is simple (and a two-parter). I rarely pursue positions directly in agencies or art departments, but instead in nonprofit arenas. There’s a gravitas of design that’s expected to get in there. Second, starting with a more universal, sedate layout can be pushed toward a more creative style easier than the other way-round.

    Here are a couple other examples of 2-pagers that are relevant and well-designed
    (Click on the image to view full-size):


    Holding Steady: Graphic Design Salaries

    In past years I've found this information on Monster, CareerBuilder, US Government jobs survey and a few other sources. This time around I decided to check out a  website, service that caters specifically to creative designers in our industry, Coroflot. This site is another of the free portfolio sites that I've referenced and still promote to students. Needless to say Coroflot is making a comeback in a big way…their participant surveys are one strong indication.

     As always, this is an independent source which has solicited responses from a few thousand creative professionals that specifically use their service. They capture nationwide data unevenly, so the results may be different in specific geographic locations.

     Findings for Graphic Designers:

    The precipitous drop in creative professionals' salaries--from the global recession--seems to be stabilizing. There's no great decrease or increase over last year. According to Coroflot, median salary is in upper-mid 40s. Get the details...

    We'll remember just two short years ago, 2014, the national average salary for designers rose a full 8%—from 2012. This was reported in HOW Magazine and sticks roughly to the Indeed Salary Data I shared last year.

    What's Different?

     In checking with the Indeed Salary Data for this year--keep in mind that this company does not survey anyone--instead it compiles and analyzes salaries from all vacancy postings listed on it's job search engine. According to this job search site, median creative professional salaries are indeed up a bit over last year, to the tune of approximately $2,000

    Be sure to note their further analysis, average salaries are lower most.

    Jan 13, 2016

    Collaborative Learning Space Design

    I recently posted about the Pre-Christmas Open House that showcased the new Technology Incubator Lab. This was a project on which I embarked with my team in Ed Tech. The aim was to create a space where testing, learning, trying, meeting, teaching, thinking, and collaboration can take place on the campus of a small, Jesuit,  liberal arts school on the eastern seaboard.

    To design the space, we had to consider the audience, the pre-set layout, and our purposes, in equal measure.

    Color Theory and Learning

    We chose deep aqua blue for the  prominent colors. Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect. Blue is strongly associated with tranquility and calmness. In heraldry, blue is used to symbolize piety and sincerity.
    • Deep blues represent knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness.

    For this location, I chose to include the recording/editing studio in which the Instructional Media Developer (and faculty, and students) can work in a pro-style setting to create the best quality audio and video for their projects. This was simple, as the tiny studio room already existed--after sound proofing, the reverb dampening was simple, and the layout followed the function.

    For this location, I chose to setup two small group spaces that could combine  to accommodate up to seven. It can easily break apart so that each individual can work, uninterrupted with headphones, or just quietly undisturbed. My director selected these swivel-desktop, comfy chairs on casters for the optimal maneuverability (excellent choices).

    For this space, we wanted also a place where conference calls, meetings, and focus groups could be held. My director and team made this happen by creating an easily accessible conference table space. This is a work station that breaks down into four individual tables.

    Collaborative Space Design for Teaching & Learning

    What does the "classroom of the future" look like? Instead of the traditional lecture-oriented room, this new classroom emphasizes group learning and collaboration. The instructor serves as a facilitator, handing out projects, answering questions, providing resources, and moving around the room as necessary. Students work in groups to learn, and activities are structured to emphasize collaborative, active, student-based learning. - Learn more... 
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