A WORD OF ADVICE

What Every Business Can Learn About PR From Taylor Swift

WWTSD? Ya know, what would Taylor Swift do?

That’s what every business should be asking themselves when it comes to their personal brand. Having been out in the working world for over 11 years now, I’ve encountered my share of businesses. Large corporations, small businesses, personalities with personal brands–every business goes through some sort identity crisis or situation that tarnishes their brand to some degree.

Take, for today’s example, Taylor Swift. She’s been around for some time now. Her brand has evolved over the years as she’s transitioned from wholesome country starlet to music mogul with a vast empire of assets and ventures. She also has a lot of baggage that’s come with it. There was her always shocked reaction to winning awards early on that went from cutesy to pretty annoying. Then there was the VMA snafu where the Kanye West train derailed her big moment and thrust her into the pop culture spotlight. Then there were the men. The many, many, many men. Oh, and the feuds she’s carried on with Kim Kardashian posting voicemails from Taylor that disputed her involvement in Kanye West’s controversial weird video and the Katy Perry feud that I still don’t understand nor feel the need to understand at this point. Bottom line, Taylor Swift’s brand has taken a beating and has been put through the ringer over the years. But guess what? Taylor Swift is still on top and the reason why is a lesson every business and entrepreneur needs to learn.

 

This week, Taylor Swift released a new video for her track “Look What You Made Me Do.” The song itself is a bit repetitive, juvenile and is about as deep as a thin crust pizza. The video however is one of the best examples of addressing your brand’s weaknesses and taking control of the narrative. No brand or business is perfect. Everyone and everything takes a beating during the course of its run. Look at McDonalds and the question of what’s in those hamburgers that enables them to not go bad after a couple decades; Pepsi trying to tap into the political culture by suggesting Kylie Jenner can stop a racially-charged protest with a cold can of Pepsi; the entire Trump brand after the 2016 Election–stuff happens! But how should you handle bad PR, negative reviews, resistance from your customer base and criticism?

You do like Taylor Swift–acknowledge your weaknesses and take control of the narrative. The video for “Look What You Made Me Do” takes control of the story by addressing almost every Taylor Swift controversy in some way. While some may classify it as petty or catty, it’s savvy. First, it’s Swift’s way of saying, “Yes, I’m very much aware of the world and what it thinks of me and I’m willing to not only acknowledge it but poke fun at it, too.” It also takes the bite out of these criticisms and negativity. It’s only funny or harmful to her brand if she ignores it and pretends none of these things have been said about her.

So, as strange as it sounds, to build a better brand, you need to seek out the negative comments. What are your critics saying about you? What are all those 2 star reviews about on Amazon and Yelp? What sly little jabs is your competition saying about you in their marketing campaigns? Find out, keep track and take control of your story but addressing them in an upfront but savvy way. Open your next email blast acknowledging your last product launch kinda sucked but hey, you’re back and have something better to present now. Are you accused of being too slow to respond to customers? Create a new visual campaign giving reasons for why your business is too busy to respond–you’re watching YouTube videos of cats playing the piano, you’re playing beer pong in the break room, you’re working remotely from the beach–but hey, break-time is over and your sales reps are standing by to take those calls and respond to those emails in lighting-fast speeds. You see what I’m saying? Acknowledge your weaknesses and respond to it with a little humor and you’ll build a better brand as a result.

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Both Sides Now

There is this song by Joni Mitchell titled “Both Sides Now” where she sings, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now; from up and down and still somehow it’s cloud illusions I recall-I really don’t know clouds at all.” Well, this lyric can be applied to the relationship between the creative and the client as well.

How many times have you taken on an assignment or job where after a few communications with the client you’ve sat back, scratched your head and just wondered to yourself, “What the f*!@ is this person thinking?” You’ve communicated your ideas to them; you have X amount of years of proven experience but they want you to do something that a first year college freshman in an intro course would do; they want you to toss out all the rules you hold near and dear and do something crazy that you don’t even want to attach your name to; they ask you to do something, you spend hours working on it and deliver it on time only for them in one careless swoop to say, “Nah,  I don’t like that. Why don’t you do this instead?” If you’re a creative, whether it be the artistic sort or writer, you’ve been there. It happens to everyone. Have you ever considered the client and what their experience is?

I ask this after an interesting role reversal a few months ago. I have a blog that I work on that’s totally unrelated to design. Long story short, it went from being a way to pass time to something that really interests me and takes up a lot of my time. In order to put more time and effort into it, I knew what I needed that was missing from it: a logo! Problem is, logos are not my thing. Yes, I’m a designer and logos seem to be the corner stone of our careers but honestly, I don’t do logos. I can wing it sometimes but it’s my equivalent of getting a root canal. You know, something you have to suffer through and at the end you’re glad you got it done but if you could avoid it, you’d definitely prefer to. So, in an interesting change of pace … I hired a designer. Yes, a designer hired a designer!

I went on Elance.com, posted my job, reviewed the proposal, looked at portfolios and found a company whose work stood and seemed very fresh and edgy. This was going to be good! Or so I thought. Having been the designer dealing with a client before, I got all my ducks in a row. I knew what colors I wanted, I had an idea of the basic elements I wanted the logo to have, I had examples. Examples, people! When I started the job with the designer I handed everything over, wiped my hands and smiled, thinking they were going to deliver something so creative I’d pinch myself. Well. First revision came in and I sat in front of my computer simply staring at it. I was about to be that client. The one that looks at the first revision and politely slides it back across the table and says, “This is not what I want.” The thought, “Did you … did you not listen to me? Did you not look at the samples I sent you? Why doesn’t this look like all these other pieces in your portfolio? WHY. WHY WHY WHY?!”

It took a little going back and forth but the logo got done. I used it for the blog. For about 2 weeks, then I designed one myself and have been using it ever since. Was the money I spent on having someone else design the logo a total waste? No, because as I started out this post with, it gave me new perspective. The further along in your career you get, the less of the “client” perspective you usually have. When you’re first starting out in your creative field, you are not a designer, writer or experienced professional. You’re a newbie, you’re a freshman, you are a client, meaning you’re not set in your ways just yet. You may be open to hearing opinions, to trying something different, to collaborating. The more seasoned you get, you view yourself less as a client and more as a professional—you have the experience so you know what’s best, you know what works and what doesn’t, you don’t want to have some client coming and telling you what to do, even if they’re the ones paying and thus calling the shots.

We all need to start looking at “clouds” from both sides. Clients need to trust in the creative type to be creative and deliver something worth the money and effort; creatives need to understand that the client usually just wants the best product possible so that they will benefit from it in some way, shape or form. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to identify something in your own field that you aren’t as skilled at and hire a freelancer to help you with it. Whether it be writing a press release or making a vector illustration, get a freelancer and work with them to get the finished product you’d like. You’ll quickly find out what many of your clients go through and should, in turn, pick up a few new skills in communicating and working with seemingly difficult clients and projects.

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What’s Your ‘Second Act’?

One morning over the holidays I got up with a question on my mind:

“What’s your ‘Second Act?’”

I think every creative professional at some point ponders on this same question. If you’re as fortunate as I’ve been, you’ve been getting paid to be creative for some time now. Even the most creative types though reach a point in their career where things just aren’t doing it for you like they used to. You’re not completely unhappy, no, but you’re not at all satisfied. You want more. You want to get excited again about going to work, you want to leap onto a project with glee rather than gloom, you want to feel like you’re going somewhere with your career and talents rather than spinning your wheels doing the same thing day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Guess what? It’s ok! You should want to grow and tackle new things as you progress in your career.

So that brings me back to the question: what’s your second act? Have you ever given thought to what’s coming next for you? If you’re classically-trained artist fearing that your talents are more a hobby than a real profession, what can you do to change that? If you enjoy blogging, how can you turn that passion for writing into a profitable business venture? If you like making stuff in general, what can you do to turn that fun activity into a job you’ll enjoy? The answer to this question  is what will become your second act.

Second Acts in your career are hard work. Sometimes it means slamming the breaks on what you’re used to and feel is safe to venture into new territory. For example, when I first entered the job market back in 2006 I was all about print design. While I had some knowledge of html coding, by no means did I consider myself to be a web designer. Fast forward to present day 2013. What’s happened to this area of my career that I once dreaded and resisted? Well, I’ve gone on to learn a great deal about WordPress. It started off as a hobby and once I saw that the company I worked for suffered from hard-to-manage websites, I convinced them to convert their sites over into easy-to-use WordPress CMS (content management systems.) After graduating from college in 2006 I was really opposed to doing anything that felt like school. As of today, I’ve taken 3 courses in web design, furthering my knowledge and experience with XHTML, CSS and Dreamweaver. Point is, what I used to resist I’ve now learn to embrace and turn into the “second act” of my career.

Everyone has something they can do for a ‘Second Act.’ Perhaps it’s something that scares you, or something you think is boring or too complex for you to learn or try to break into at this point in your career. But really, these days and in today’s economy, who has the time to be complacent? Few people are going to be able to stick with one job for their entire lifetime as you may have seen or heard from your parents, grandparents and old television shows. Things change; technology evolves; your professions and jobs change and those who don’t stay ahead of that curve will find themselves wishing they had a ‘second act’ to fall back on.

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Embrace The “Dislike”

When it comes to designing, everyone has something they really enjoy doing. For some, it’s illustrating; others it’s Photoshop special effects; some really enjoy storyboarding while others like print design. But … what is it that you don’t like to do? It’s a simple enough question but one that we as designers and creative types often overlook or ignore. We figure, “I don’t like doing … but … I have to.” In my view, that’s what causes burn out, weak design and a distaste for the creative field all together.

I look back on college and the people I graduated with and realize that after six years I’m actually one of the few who have kept with graphic design. Isn’t that a bit odd? I don’t think it is but I know the source of this migration out of the creative field comes from people not spending enough time with the question, “What is it that I dislike doing?” I know for me, I can’t stand logo design. Oh sure, designers could find enough logo design work to keep them busy throughout the year but logos are simply not my thing. I can list all the reasons for my strong dislike for this field of creativity but simply put, I detest it. Whenever a logo design project comes across my desk I feel my eyes rolling to the back of my head, fingers gripping the sides of my desk and feel the life slipping from my body. That is exactly why I turn down any logo design work that comes my way unless it’s forced upon me in work.

There was a time early on in my career that I felt obligated to do whatever was offered or given to me. It was that sense of, “Well, this is work … you aren’t going to like everything you work on and this is money. I MUST do this!” Not always the case, though! I’ve found that after six years of working professionally, there are many times when it’s ok to say, “Hey, I really appreciate this opportunity but I’m not the designer for you.” I know my strengths and what I like to do. I enjoy illustration, I enjoy using very pop-ish colors, I enjoy learning more about web design and communicating my ideas and opinions about design and other topics. I do not enjoy, however, logo designs or setting up entire websites simply because both involve a billion revisions and I know I’m better at one-shot designs than I am at something that calls for meticulous attention and a lot of revisions. This being said, I occasionally do the things that drain me creatively but they are limited to only a few times a quarter or year rather than all the time.

People. It’s okay not to be good at everything. It’s okay to dislike certain creative projects and tasks. It’s okay to express this to your employers, employees and clients. You will feel less drained and more excited about what you’re working on if you’re doing the things you’re good at or are interested in. Identify and embrace the “dislike” so that you’ll spend your time working on the things you do like.

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Imitation Design

Where do you draw your inspiration from? When does inspiration and imitation go from an extreme form of flattery to a blatant rip-off? If you’re into pop music, you may follow or at least be aware of the ongoing “feud” between Lady Gaga and Madonna. You see, Gaga is a fan of Madonna’s work and career. She grew up listening to her music. She began taking cues from Madonna’s book of publicity and fame by imitating how Madge dresses, how she flirts with controversy and in the past few years, according to Madonna, even how she writes her songs! Madonna went from being flattered to clearly ticked that Lady Gaga patterned her rise to fame after her own because considering Madonna’s been at the top of her game for 30 years and is still relevant, who would want some newbie like Lady Gaga climbing just as quickly to reach that mega-star status?

What does Lady Gaga and Madonna’s spat have to do with design? It’s all about where you draw your own inspiration from. Someone once told me that no idea in design is truly original. As creative, artsy folk, we designers should cringe and feel faint at such a thought. We are creative! Everything we produce is groundbreaking, fresh, new, trend setting. Or … is it? The truth is that we’re all Lady Gaga in a sense, looking at what’s been done, what’s worked well, and have attempted to put our own spin on it.

As a designer, I draw inspiration from far too many sources to make the claim that I’m truly an original. If I’m out and about and see an interesting color combination I mentally log it and will toss it into an appropriate design. If I see an awesome painting I’ll sometimes take elements of what I liked from it and will create an awesome vector from it. As I’m reading a magazine I’ll rip out the layouts that stand out to me or will save the ads that made an impression. Yes, in a way I’m a graphic recycler and if you’re a designer or creative type, so are you!

Look, no one wants to be a Lady Gaga, continually dodging “copy cat” calls or defending the authenticity of our design. At the same time, you can’t be a great designer or creative type without looking at what came before you and making it better. That’s how I’d define graphic design: the art of taking what’s been done a dozen or more times and refreshing it to make it look and feel modern and even better. Consider yourself a DJ and you’ve been handed a standard classic song that people have heard played non-stop on the radio (like, any Adele song). How do you get people to continue to listen to it without growing tired and ill of it? Remix it! Change the beat, change the vibe, give it some new cover art.

Acknowledge those who’ve come before you and where you draw your inspiration from but don’t be afraid to put your own spin on what many may see as an old and tried idea.

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Tips for Young Creatives: Know Thy Self

Continuing with the Doug Bartow “29 Tips for Young Designers” article in How’s January 2011 issue is tip 5: be yourself. I’ve tweaked it a tad bit to “know thy self” and am not in full agreement with Bartow on his spill on personal style vs. personal approach to design or creativity. Doug Bartow makes the argument that you need to have confidence in yourself as a creative type (designer, photographer, writer, creative personal in general).

That, I definitely agree with. Art and creativity are based upon how free and willing to share you are. Believe it or not, if you aren’t sure of yourself then that lack of confidence and authority over the subject matter will show in your work. I’ve come across many designers who lack confidence. The result is a piece that looks more like a mosaic of experiments and trials than a finished, coherent idea being played out. When creativity is a hobby and you are developing your craft, it’s ok not to be sure of yourself and to experiment a bit. When design and creativity are a means of your livelihood and financial support, you sure as heck better know what you’re doing. Clients and your employers aren’t paying you to experiment or find your way; they are paying you for work that will generate a profit and money and you can’t accomplish that through uncertainty.

This though is where I’m in disagreement with Bartow a bit. He writes, “Don’t work in a particular personal style …. Your commissioned work should never be about you, but it can certainly reveal your hand as the designer.” As a young creative (I can still call myself that at 26, right?) I’ve found that in most cases, this is the complete opposite in many situations. Most of the work I’ve picked up on a freelance basis has been based on my personal style rather than me just being a designer. Sure, some of that work and the work I do for my employer may be based on the style or work of someone or something that’s been established before I’ve come along but my clients and past and present employers expect to see my trademark style elements worked into my design pieces.

The biggest mistake I think any young creative could make is to become a chameleon creative type. Rather than having a style that will make someone snap their fingers and exclaim, “That’s (Fill in the Blank)’s work!” they try to copy and imitate what they view as cool or in style rather than putting in the time to work or develop his or her own style. Why should you have a personal style? You will enjoy your work more because you will have a more intimate connection with the work you create. Rather than your work being just another job, you will be able to look at it years from now and have it conjure up an emotional reaction. Don’t be afraid to insert yourself in your work – whether it’s for personal use or commissioned by another. Just be sure when the client or employer asks why you made a design/creative decision in the work you present that you have a better reason than, “I just like it” or “It looks cool.”

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Tips For Young Creatives: Who do you think you’re talking to?

Continuing on with the commentary about How magazine’s recent 29 Tips for Young Designers article by Doug Bartow, we’re on to the fourth tip: define your audience. I’ve worked with a lot of designers; I’ve worked within a company setting and as a freelancer; I’ve looked online and have been the recipient of design and I can easily say one mistake many designers or creative types make, me included, is not always being considerate of the audience who you are designing for. This is a double-edged sword and isn’t as clear cut an issue as one may believe.

Different audiences respond differently to various messages. In my opinion, successful designers are those who don’t really see themselves as artists or designers; they see themselves as marketers. Those in the advertising field will tell you that coming up with any successful campaign involves lots of research. You probably got into your chosen creative field so that you didn’t have to do research! Sorry buds, but graphic design is like any other professional line of work – it takes research, it takes knowing your audience, it takes time and some trial and error.

When I first started out as a graphic designer, I often designed things that I liked. If it looked good to me, I deemed it good design and called it a day, shut the door on it. That’s why when I look back on some of my early work, I cringe. It feels dated, a tad juvenile. Nowadays, I am constantly looking at other people’s work for inspiration; I usually start each design task with the question of, “Who do you think you’re talking to?” meaning if my audience is 56-70 something year old women into gardening, I had better not design something that a college freshman would jump on. Sometimes, I often will do something of a “red pill vs. blue pill” approach to design to present to the client: one is tame and in line with what is expected and has been done before to appeal to a certain group; the other is usually a bit more out there and pushes the standard. In the end, it’s rarely an either/or situation but a compromise of the two.

When you set out to do your creative work – look back at what’s been done before and see what you can do to “remix” it. Yes, take the approach of a DJ would to a song and take something people already like and make it a tad bit better. Don’t go too far out and lose sight of what made the original thing appealing to begin with but don’t always play it safe and deliver what’s been done time after time. This seems a bit paradoxical but I’ve found this approach has helped me produce some good work that all audiences have responded to. Keep in mind that whether you are a graphic designer, photographer, web designer or writer you’re first and foremost a communicator. Don’t just create eye candy but create a piece of work that has a purpose and connects to a specific audience. Only by doing this will you create something that has a lasting impact and impression.

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Tips for Young Creatives: What’s Your Type?

Have you ever been asked, “What’s your type?” If so, it’s probably been in reference to the type of guy or girl you’re into and not in reference to typography. One of Dough Bartow’s 29 tips for young designers in the latest issue of How magazine was not to fear type but to master it. I decided to add my two cents to this cornerstone in being a good graphic designer.

When people think of graphic design, they usually think of graphics – pictures, colors, composition, images, visual. A major part of being a good graphic designer is having a good grasp on typography. Now, you may be taught some of this in a class but it’s one of those things that you often need to pursue on your own and get a grip on earlier rather than later in your career. Typography can make a break a design piece. If you work with publications, fonts and type will be even more important than the images you may use or create. Think of good graphic design like a burlesque show – you go to a show like this with the intentions of seeing a woman do her thing but everything has to come together for you to actually enjoy the show including her looks, her outfit, her dancing, how well she interacts and connects with the crowd and so on. Graphic design is much like flirting or being a tease in that the images and design have to be alluring enough to get you to examine a piece more closely to get the main message. You can’t go about doing that with bad type as it’ll quickly turn your audience off.

What makes good typography? Too many factors to get into on here. Know the difference between Sans Serif and Serif fonts; one will work well in small, tiny print in a publication while the other will be easier on the eyes for a short online piece. Be wary of using free online fonts. I know, you probably gasped and clutched your pearls at that. There are some good ones out there; there are a ton of really bad ones. The problem with many is usually within the fine details; the lack of a built in bold or italic version of that font, the spacing between the characters being too lax and far off and fonts that are simply too hard to read for both young and older audiences.

Know all the little terms such as kerning, leading and tracking – these little terms help make typography and type heavy pieces easier to read and more professional looking. For example, tracking that goes below -30 would squeeze the characters together too much and make it extremely hard for the reader’s eyes to differentiate between the characters; aim for your leading to be 3 points sizes more than the font size for a large body of text; the usual minimum threshold for readability is 7 points so try your hardest not to make the size of your font smaller than that. Also, learn about the license restrictions of your fonts. This is something they don’t talk about in most classes and yet it’s important to know when, where and how you can use certain fonts because if the creator of that font were to find you used it in a manner that goes beyond the terms of use, they could sue you and win. See, suddenly that question of “What’s your type?” doesn’t seem all that easy to answer, does it?

Typography may not be the funnest or most thrilling part of graphic design or being a creative guru but mastering it will set you apart from those who don’t take their craft as seriously as you do. If you want a good go-to source on typography consider referring to the books The Elements of Typographic Design by Robert Bringhurst, Thinking with Typeby Ellen Lupton or Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Muller-Brockmann.

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Tips for Young Creatives: Be Careful of the Bridges You Burn

A couple days ago I mentioned the article by Doug Bartow in the January 2011 issue of How magazine on tips for young designers. While the article may have been geared toward those in the graphic design field I believe his tips are ones that apply to people in all sorts of creative career paths including (but not limited to) writers, video and audio, film, painting, etc.

The second tip following “sweat the details” (which I posted about last week) was to play nice. Now, this sounds like something we all learned back in elementary school and have been told by our parents as we were growing up. You would be surprised by how we forget this savvy business rule as we get older. Working, especially in today’s economy, gets stressful. Our first reaction rarely is to ” let it go” and  in all fairness, it’s hard to just let something go when it really gets to you. So what do we do? We pick at it, we think about it non-stop, we complain to our friends, co-workers, family about it and usually we let those little things build up and seep into our professional careers and work. We’ll belittle a client who doesn’t have the slightest idea what a person with your creative talents really does; we’ll refuse to go beyond our definition of our given profession because we think or say we’ll never be compensated for our hard work; we’ll get online or go out in public and completely tear down somebody or a group of people because we think it’ll make us feel better to vent and let it all out.

Be careful of the bridges you burn in your career. Let’s get honest and real – we all have bad days, we encounter people in our careers who really seem to defy logic and reason and in some cases we are undervalued and mistreated. That being said, there is no reason for us to completely burn bridges in our professional careers that will leave us up the creek. You can’t anticipate the future or what’s to come. Say you’re laid off (which I have been) and all of a sudden you need references or help with leads on a new job. If you’ve played dirty and have had a reputation for not being a team player, you may find it a tad bit hard to find someone willing to help you out in your time of need.

The same goes for what you do online. We’ve heard countless stories of how seemingly nice people at work suddenly turn to the darkside online. They’ll go on Facebook and will rip a certain co-worker, they will complain about how much they hate their job, they will rant on and on about things related to their career giving you the impression that perhaps this person is in the wrong line of work. Don’t be that person. I’ve personally adopted a policy of not talking about work outside of the confines at work, and complaining while you’re at work seems like a waste of time. If you have nothing but complains and negative things to say about your job, you should probably be seeking new employment elsewhere.

So people, play nice. It’s harder than it sounds and takes more effort than simply ranting and raving about the downside of being a professional in today’s economy, but it’s worth the effort.

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Tips for Young Creatives: Why Successful Designers are Great Communicators

I’ve been going through the January issue of How magazine and came across a great article where Doug Bartow, the principal and design director at id29 in Troy, NY, offered 29 tips for young designers. I graduated back in May of 2006 and nearly four years, nine months later I’ve come to rather big conclusion about my college design education experience – it really feels worthless. Don’t get me wrong, I learned some things while attending college and it has been nice having a journalism background as a graphic designer but when I’ve zeroed in on my design courses in particular I’ve realized I really graduated having been told or taught little to prepare me for real world design.

Young designers really have it bad these days. Most probably have a background similar to mine – they grew up loving art, enjoying drawing and making things and then showing them off to the world to marvel at. I went through that phase most artists go through with thinking I could never make a living off of being an artist … until I found out about graphic design. Being a graphic designer, or graphic artists as I’d like to think of myself, has kept me employed from May of 2006 through the present. It’s gotten me internships, freelance work and all around it’s been enjoyable. A lot of what’s made me a good designer though isn’t what I learned through a class but lessons I learned outside of college and on my own while trying to stay afloat and relevant. That’s why I liked Bartow’s article and would like to harp on his 29 tips for young designers. I’m still young(ish) at 26 and know I’m still learning but I’d like to put my perspective and thoughts to some of his points over the course of the next month.

Bartow’s first tip was to sweat the details. My college degree doesn’t say anything about graphic design or even art. My official degree title or track was visual communication. Designers are communicators first and foremost. When you create a poster for a concert, it can’t just be pretty but it has to clearly communicate the information and ideas pertinent to the event. If it does not get the point across, no matter how pretty it is, it’s a bad design. Something I’ve noticed with young people in general is that they have absolutely no concept of communicating like professionals. Everything is communicated with acronyms. LOL! IDK WTH these PPL are thinkn!

Communication is important to success. The sentence above looks ridiculous and I hardly take people serious when they choose to communicate with me in such a manner. I have clients who are years or even decades older to me who will send me an E-mail typed in all lowercase letters or one that’s decorated with profanities and obscenities. Really? This is your idea of professionalism and at times your idea of how to make a first impression? People, keep it professional.

I believe all graphic designers or creative types in general need to learn how to communicate in professional manners. That means in a way, you need to think of yourself less as a designer and more so as an editor or journalist. Edit everything you do to death. While Bartow recommends having a Chicago Manual of Style by your side at all times, I recommend going with AP Style as it’s the guide used by most publications and in other professional writings. Never write in shorthand. Get into the habit of communicating in sentences – start off with a capital letter, end with punctuation and have proper spelling and grammar running throughout. People seemed surprised that even on Twitter I write complete sentences and use punctuation and hardly shorthand anything. Sure, it may make me look or seem like a geek or an ancient old man but I have rarely encountered an issue of not getting a point across due to it.

When you are looking for a job, employers will be looking at how you communicate your ideas. They will notice grammatical errors on your resume, in your cover letter, even glaring issues that may be present on your design pieces. Anything you publish – whether it be online or in print, for work or for pleasure, to family or a friend, on a blog or for Facebook – should be edited, reviewed and easy to understand. It sounds a bit much or a bit of a pain but believe me, being a great communicator will take you far in your career.

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