Monday, October 29, 2007

Pierced ears, Barbies & Marian Bantjes

Mornin' all -- I am cleaning my office today. Woohoo! For any of you who have seen my office, you realize what an amazing feat it will be to finally have it clean. I usually thrive in the chaos of my unclean (though remarkably organized) office, but recently people have been walking by and looking through my open door with terrified looks on their faces. So, I think it's time.... I thought today I would go through my notes, to-dos, and ideas from the last few conferences and events I have been to and somehow make sense of them all so they don't get lost in the clutter. In the last hour, I haven't gotten very far...

As a child, my room was always messy. The rule in my family was that we had to keep our rooms clean for six weeks before we could get our ears pierced (I have three sisters, so all of us went through this ordeal at some point during our 'tween years). Anyway, I would spend hours cleaning my room -- not because I was OCD or because I was a neat freak, but because I am easily distracted. I would start "cleaning" my Barbie dreamhouse, only to find that three hours later, I had made no progress on my room, but WOW! Barbie and Skipper sure had beautiful outfits and hair-dos!

In my adult life, I find the same thing happening during my everyday activities. I find things that distract me and pull me away from my main goal of a clean office, a clean house, a trip to the store, my morning workouts at the gym. I have realized that these "distractions" aren't always bad, and certainly my distraction today isn't: Marian Bantjes.

During her presentation during the AIGA: Next conference in Denver earlier this month, Marian spoke about "unexpected nextness" which she described as "unforseen events, chance encounters, unimagined, unarranged nextness." I took a million notes in my little notebook during that conference, but as Marian's story unfolded, I scribbled as fast as I ever have to get her amazing story down.

Marian talked about the artistic influences in her life, and about how along the way, she didn't even realize the impact of these influences. Had she selectively ignored certain influences? Was her past influencing her present or was her present influencing what she selected to remember from the past? Marian started her career in design as a typesetter for a publishing company after seeing an advertisement for "help needed" in a local coffeeshop. She was not classically trained as a designer, but interviewed for the job anyway, and got it. She worked in that job for several years, and then opened a design firm, and spent several years developing logos, identity systems, brochures, and direct mail collateral. She began to think about what she really loved to do, which was hand lettering and typography. Marian gave herself one year to do what she loved, and made no money. So, she took out a loan, kept working, and gave herself six months --

her design career took off.

Marian's story is as beautiful as her work. It's about risk and the unexpected nextness of life. She revealed to the audience that she is still worried about what's next for her as a designer. She is worried that her work will eventually lose it's uniqueness. She knows that she'll have to take another creative risk, not knowing how things will turn out. But, she also knows that her quest for "next" distracts her from the "now."

I have spent the last thirty minutes of my office-cleaning endeavor deciphering my scribbled handwriting to find a small bit of inspiration to get me back to work: at the end of her presentation (following some slides of her amazing work-see below), Marian advised, "We must find the balance between constructing our future and accepting that we cannot construct it." You never know what might be next for you, so live in the now and the next will follow.

Click images to enlarge -- amazing!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tour de Hallmark

Here's a shout out to all of the KU Graphic Design students who toured Hallmark today, and welcome to cre.a.tiv.i.ty! We are so glad you were able to come and visit Hallmark. I know that time is tight when you are in the middle of a busy semester, but I'm so glad that you all made the time. Keep in touch!

After the student group left today, I was thinking ... Do Accounting majors tour accounting firms when they are in school to learn about what it's like to work in the accounting industry? Do Engineering majors? What about Ag Business majors? I would wager a guess: they probably don't. My sister was a Child Psychology major, and she did some visits to local schools, but it was for class credit. A friend of mine was an Entrepreneurial Studies major, and he interviewed various local entrepreneurs about their journeys to start their own businesses, but again, it was required for his class.

That being said, what is it that we creatives hope to learn by visiting studios? Why do we choose to plan these visits and take time (that could be spent working on our projects) to attend these extracurricular events?

As a design student at ISU, we went to Minneapolis, MN and toured firms like Orange Seed, Franke+Fiorella, and Baker Associates. At the time, I am not sure that I realized what we would learn that day. It was a blur: we rode on a bus in the rain from studio to studio, wiping our feet as we went in, walking through the halls, our shoes squeaking on the polished floors, designers turned toward computer screens, their faces aglow. We would stand with our mouths agape while the Creative Director or Art Director proudly showed us the latest work created by the amazing talent within, their latest AIGA or Addy awards displayed on shelves behind them. Our eyes danced about, catching glimpses of people celebrating a project completed, someone pitching an idea to a new client, the receptionist with a sweet smile and kind telephone voice.

As I look back on that experience, I am not able to pinpoint the major lessons that I learned that day, but I do take with me the experience. Maybe we learned that we had a long way to go as designers. Perhaps we realized that an agency wasn't the right fit for us or that we knew that upon graduation, we would apply to the firms we had visited. Or perhpas we realized that one day, we would be a part of it all. But did we realize how big of a part we would play or where we would end up? If nothing else, the studio visits inspired us to create, and to keep creating. Inspired us to innovate and to grow. Inspired us to have the drive to get to where we are today.

That is my hope for you, KU, that you are inspired and ready to create whatever is next. The design world awaits...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

An update from AIGA -- Post Conference!

Ok, so, I neglected to update my blog while I was at AIGA in Denver last week (as I promised in one of last week's entries). I'm still trying to figure out "how much blogging is too much" and "how much is enough to keep everyone reading -- and thirsting for more!" I need some input from all of you. Comment below, or take my survey (see right) to vote for the number that best describes your blog posts in a week. I'd love to have your feedback!

Now, as for Denver. The AIGA:Next conference was an amazing experience, and I can't wait to share about all of the things I learned while there. I'm travelling for work again this week (in D.C. for a recruiting conference honing my skillz), but I have my notes from AIGA with me and free time in the evenings, so there will be lots to read in the next three days! For now, I want to talk a bit about what I was busy doing in Denver when I wasn't attending sessions.

At conferences like these, there is always an exhibition floor with booths from many different companies that are fascinating to we designers: Neenah Paper , Adobe, Veer, and Sappi. I always spend time browsing the booths (which the exhibitors/sponsors pay big bucks to get, and I did so at this conference (I picked up lots of free paper samples, books, t-shirts and trinkets (so much designerly stuff that I had to check my carry-on bag on my way home because it was too heavy!).

Anyway, prior to the conference, I was brainstorming with a couple of designers: How can we (Hallmark) network at a conference and get our name out there without paying a lot of money for a booth? How can we get creative with networking? Here's an example of what happens when you "network" the common way. I usually end up with so many business cards after networking at a conference that they end up getting mixed into my underwear compartment in my suitcase. Then, when I get home an unpack, I find them a few weeks later and wonder... why is the business card of Chip Kidd in my underwear drawer?? I have found business cards in other random places as well -- in the back of my notebook, mixed in with my receipts for lunch, in my shoes... you get the idea.

You are probably thinking, is she simply disorganized? Does she just not care about the cards people give her? On the contrary: I am so organized that I am practically considered OCD (ask my boyfriend Eric - it drives him nuts), and I get business cards that I definitely want to follow up on from people who are amazingly talented and interesting (Chip Kidd for one)... The issue is quantity.

So, back to my brainstorm with the designers I was talking about.

The images below are what we used as our "business cards" during the conference. We handed them out, along with buttons that matched each of our campaigns. And the result: we handed out over 600 of them, and around 60 people came to a Happy Hour we sponsored. It was a lot of hard work, but really fun -- much more fun than handing out a 3.5" x 2" piece of paper with 6pt. type on it! We met some very cool people from all over the country: Santa Fe, NM; NYC, NY; Brookings, SD; Atlanta, GA; Minneapolis, MN; and now we have a whole network of people to keep in touch with regarding careers in creativity!

Left: front of card, Right: back of card. Copyright 2007 Hallmark Cards, Inc. For those who haven't met me, I'm the one in the third photo. We did a photo shoot with Hallmark's Photography Studio to get these fun pics! Note: Click on each card to enlarge and read each of our info. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

See how far a card can go.

I am so excited to share this news.... Hallmark's has just announced a partnership with (Product)RED!

Hey to all from the AIGA Conference in DENVER!

I'm going to be giving conference updates on my blog while I am here. And if YOU who are reading happen to be here, I'm sure you'll see me at some point...Watch close, and you'll find me and two other designers from Hallmark! Hint hint! More soon!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Comments Enabled!

Ok, so I'm still relatively new to blogging. I got an email yesterday from one of my readers telling me that I need to enable my comment feature in order to allow people to leave comments....

Yes, I am a rookie blogger, that happened to make a rookie mistake. SOOOOOO.... comment away friends! And if you still have trouble, someone's going to have to email me a detailed "how to enable comments" description... :o) More news to come soon -- I'm a little behind and there is MUCH to tell!