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My, How Time Flies!

July 16, 2012

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An update on the new job

So, I’ve officially been at my new job for a month now. And I’m getting settled in nicely. I’ve already learned a lot and I know there is so much more to learn and do. Check out this recent project I did. It is a set of flyers that advertise products and services that we offer. Take a look!

A look into the N.C. Supreme Court

June 11, 2012

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In December 2011, I did a photo shoot for the N.C. Supreme Court in Raleigh. Some of these photos are to appear in a publication showcasing Supreme Courts throughout the nation.

Take a look at some of my favorites from this shoot.

Superior Court Clerks Conference 2011

June 8, 2012

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In 2011, I had the opportunity to attend the Superior Court Clerk’s Conference that was held at the Washington Duke Inn on the campus of Duke University in Durham, N.C.

The semi-annual Clerk’s Conference is held as a way to educate, train, and keep clerk’s current on legal issues and changes in the court system. It also builds and strengthens ties amongst county clerks and statewide employees and officials.

This was a great opportunity to meet clerk’s throughout the state, many of whom I had emailed with, talked to, or hear of but never met. I also got a great behind the scenes look at what it takes to be a clerk in North Carolina. Check out some photos from the event below.

Court of Appeals Ceremony

June 7, 2012

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I have done many great things at the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts in the last three years. One of my favorite events was the Court of Appeals swearing-in ceremony for Judge Cressie Thigpen.

This was a great photo opportunity and I got some great shots. Check out some of the photos below!

A Bittersweet Announcement

June 4, 2012

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Big AnnouncementI have been on hiatus for a few weeks but I am back and with an exciting announcement! I am pleased (but sad) to announce today is my last day at the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. It has been a great run going on three years but I have accepted a job offer with CafePress to join their marketing team as a web designer.

CafePressCafePress.com is an e-commerce company that specializes in applying customized designs to all kinds of products; from t-shirts and mugs to flip-flops and bracelets. An excerpt from their website gives a little history:

“Wow. To think it all began as a nifty-little idea back in 1999.

That idea – to apply printing & technology innovation to make it easier for the world to express themselves on T-shirts – has today blossomed into a “platform” (as MBA-types like to call it) big enough to fuel a multi-billion dollar industry. We call it CafePress Inc.

In the very beginning, this idea spawned a cottage industry of hundreds of thousands of individuals who created CafePress shops – each selling their unique products online. Early on, it also led to the creation of our flagship brand, CafePress.com – and the CafePress Marketplace (where sellers & buyers could more-easily connect). The innovation-friendly platform also freed us to broaden our product line from T-shirts and mugs to over 600 product SKUs and counting.”

Not only will I be working on marketing and web design projects for CafePress.com but also for their sister brands: Canvas on Demand, Canvas on Demand Pro, great BIG canvas, Imagekind, InvitationBox, and Logo Sportswear. I am hopeful this will provide a great opportunity to learn more about interactive design and marketing, and, ultimately, help me grow as a designer. I am excited about the possibilities and new challenges that await me at CafePress.

As excited as I am about beginning this new chapter in my career, I am also sad to leave behind my colleagues at the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. This was my first “big girl” job out of college and I am grateful for the opportunity that the NCAOC provided to learn so much about written, verbal, and visual communications, public and media relations, and the court system.

To celebrate the end of this chapter in my life, I want to share some of my experiences from the past three years in some upcoming posts. Be on the lookout!

Do you have any job transition advice?

Holiday photo shoot

April 6, 2012

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Holiday photo shoot

Happy Friday! I had the day off in observance of Good Friday so I took the opportunity to do an impromptu photo shoot at Lake Johnson Park. I set out to do a study of light and texture and wanted to share some of my photos. Enjoy!

Drop shadow overload

April 5, 2012

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Drop shadow overloadDrop shadow overload

It’s time for another pet peeve. Today’s post is all about pet peeve number two, overused and obnoxious drop shadows! Sure, drop shadows really make elements pop off the page. But are you overusing the drop shadow effect?

Where do you draw the line?

Example of what not to do

In this example, drop shadows are used to overcompensate for neglect of basic principles of design

Graphic design is nothing but a series of decisions. Design decisions should be made with the following things in mind, in order of priority and importance.

1. Does it contribute to the visual message?
2. Does it contribute to the visual appeal?

Number one is the end all, be all. Period. If it doesn’t contribute to the overall message you are trying to communicate, then it is nothing but an extraneous detail that is most likely better left undone.

Drop shadows have their place

Example of good drop shadow use

In this example, low opacity (about 10%) drop shadows are used to provide more contrast between the white of the image and background.

I have nothing against this effect. It has it’s purpose and I have even used it on occasion! But keep in mind, drop shadows are most effective when used sparingly and at low opacity settings to create a contrast between text or an object and the background.

Often times, I find there is something lacking from the overall design or messaging that provokes the overuse of this design element. So before resorting to drop shadows to overcompensate for something lacking in the design, take a step back and explore what is actually missing in your visual communications.

Always be aware of the design decisions you make and how they affect the overall message, look, and feel. By making small changes you can take your design from novice status to professional!

Learn to use drop shadows properly!

Similar to drop shadows, what other small changes can you make in your design that also produce a large impact?

AIGA Studio Open House 2012

April 2, 2012

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AIGA Raleigh Studio Open HouseAIGA Studio Open House 2012

April with posterFriday evening I had a great opportunity to participate in the AIGA Studio Open House. This was an opportunity to see what’s going on in the Raleigh graphic design, web design, and advertising scenes. The Triangle is a hot bed for creative studios. And since my dream job would be to work in a creative studio, it was especially exciting for me.

The following studios welcomed tour participants for the evening. A big thank you to all of them for the free beer, good company, and wealth of information!

  • Back Home Productions
  • Baldwin&
  • Brasco Design+Marketing
  • Capstrat
  • Creative Associates
  • Everest Agency
  • Fragment Labs
  • French | West | Vaughan
  • Generate Design
  • Howard Merrell & Partners
  • Hesketh
  • MedThink Communications
  • Mellonaid
  • New Kind
  • Red Hat
  • Signal Design

Since it’s virtually impossible to hit all participating studios in the Raleigh and Cary areas within a three-hour timeframe, I decided to start in the Downtown Raleigh area and walk to several studios.

My friend Ashley was nice enough to tag along and help me navigate Downtown Raleigh in a scavenger hunt for design studios. After parking on the wrong side of Hargett Street, we finally started our tour at French | West | Vaughan.

French | West | Vaughan

Who is FWV?

FWV is headquartered in their Downtown Raleigh location but they also have offices in New York City, Tampa, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

French West Vaughan Projects

Recent projects and awards on display at FWV

What do they specialize in?

FWV is heavy on public relations work but also employs creative professionals. Their capabilities range from employee communications and issues and reputation management to brand identity development and social marketing.

Who are some of their clients?

Some of their clients include big brands such as Coca Cola, Wrangler, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and SAS. They also do work for smaller, local organizations such as N.C. State University, Downtown Raleigh Alliance, Camden County, N.C., and Tweetsie Railroad

What is their space like?

The FWV space had a wonderful welcoming feel. We were immediately welcomed as we stepped foot in the door and automatically felt at ease. The front of their house was nicely designed and I can easily imagine them welcoming potential clients into the large conference room and kitchen.

The workspace was a short twisty, turny walk to the back of the house. It was nicely set up into separate but collaborative workspaces, with a centralized comfy-looking meeting space.

Their space definitely felt conducive to doing some hardcore creative work and was a great first place to start our tour as it really helped to break the ice and get me excited about learning something new.

Any advice received or lessons learned?

I talked to a few people but truth be told, I am a little shy when first meeting new people. It’s a behavior I’m trying to work on and I definitely think being in this environment helped me get comfortable with talking to others about what they do and how they got into the business.

I didn’t really have the opportunity to ask many questions at FWV to get any good advice. But, I came to an interesting realization. Since FWV is a well-known firm with multiple locations, I assumed their Raleigh headquarters and workforce would be large. I was wrong. Though their workforce is around 70 employees across the country, I was surprised by the intimate feel of the workspace and tight-knit staff.

Brasco Design+Marketing

Who is Brasco?

Brasco Design+Marketing is just as it sounds, a full-service marketing agency. They compare themselves to an in-house marketing department.

What do they specialize in?

Brasco specializes in strategic marketing in the areas of branding, web development, marketing management, and online marketing. An excerpt from their website seems to sum it up nicely, they are “someone who knows sales, branding, and understands what the customer needs. Someone who can design marketing materials, work on your website and manage online marketing.”

Who are some of their clients?

While they seem to have a diverse collection of clients, three main markets stick out. These include healthcare, solar / renewable energy, and residential / commercial services. Particular noteworthy clients include Progress Solar Solutions, World Beer Festival, and Nags Head Inn.

What is their space like?

The Brasco Design+Marketing office is nicely situated on the second floor of a Downtown Raleigh building. Smaller than FWV, it has a modern feel with a front reception area. Conference rooms and workspaces radiate out from a central hall that runs the length of the building.

We didn’t get a tour of the offices so much but that’s okay as everyone was super nice, friendly, and welcoming. The Brasco employees were informal and we were immediately welcomed with free beer in their break room! After taking full advantage of that, we had the opportunity to informally speak to the employees about their company and what they do.

Any advice received or lessons learned?

I had a great discussion with their web developer about Content Management Systems and I learned that they use WordPress for their client sites. He highly recommended WordPress for its ease of use and even recommended a tutorial by Chris Coyier on Lynda.com. I use WordPress for my website and blog so this was a great piece of advice I will definitely take advantage of. Be on the lookout for a potential future post about this tutorial!

I also had the opportunity to speak with Brandon Ives, marketing strategist, for Brasco Design+Marketing. I picked his brain regarding how he became involved in this industry and received some great advice for moving forward in my career.

Fragment

Who is Fragment?

Fragment is a small firm of seven employees that specialize in web design and development. Sidenote: I LOVE their website and work. Be sure to check it out!

What do they specialize in?

Web design and development is their specialty but they also offer print design, logo design, branding, and web-based marketing strategy.

Who are some of their clients?

Their past clients include NHL Wide Open, Raleigh Convention Center, Shucker’s Grill, and Invitation Duck. After checking out their portfolio, I am definitely impressed with the work that they do.

What is their space like?

Fragment is on Fayetteville Street in Downtown Raleigh in a street front building. Their workspace was very small but open and conducive to the creative process. No physical or creative barriers here! I was impressed by the atmosphere and can see that this must be a fun place to work! (They even had cornhole set up outside their office!)

Any advice received or lessons learned?

I was able to speak with Brandon Houlihan, their lead designer, about the work Fragment does and received some great advice about career advancement. Things we discussed include:

  • Attend community meet ups.
  • Barter – Redesign a local business’s website or logo and present this to them as a way to revamp their current branding / marketing efforts. This is a great way to beef up your portfolio, potentially get your work noticed, and make new community connections.
  • Pro bono event – Organize a pro bono design event for local non profits. Invite non profits to submit proposals and create free designs for their use. Similar to bartering, it will beef up your portfolio and it’s something that you can feel good about when it’s all done.
  • Stay connected. Never stop learned and being involved – Our industry is constantly changing and evolving. If this is something you are interested in you cannot get stale.

Hesketh.com

Who is Hesketh?

Hesketh is a local small web agency full of smart, dedicated individuals. (I can say this because my company is currently working with them to finalize our intranet site!)

What do they specialize in?

Hesketh specializes in all things web—website design, custom applications, mobile development, research and strategy, online outreach, and in-house training.

Who are some of their clients?

Other than my current company, N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, Hesketh has done work for IBM, AOL, Microsoft, Duke University, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C.. They tend to attract clients in the non-profit and public sector, education, and social entrepreneur markets.

What is their space like?

Located in what appears to be an old schoolhouse off the beaten path of Downtown Raleigh, Hesketh occupies a lower level office space. I loved the old, rustic yet modern feel to the space that included lots of exposed brick walls. There were two great conference spaces, one of which is uniquely elevated above ground level. The primary workspace was in the middle of the large open office. I even spied a Foosball table in the distance!

Any advice received or lessons learned?

It was great getting to interact with Hesketh in an informal way. I have met several Hesketh employees from their work with us on our intranet project. But it was great to have a conversation about design and agency life without it being directly related to our work partnership.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Karl Sakas, project manager, and he is a great wealth of knowledge about agency life and different agencies in the Triangle area. I was lucky enough to be able to pick his brain and gain some great insights.

New Kind

Who is New Kind?

A line on their website sums it up best, “Part communications agency. Part design studio. Part management consulting firm.”

What do they specialize in?

New Kind specializes in brand, culture, and design. Their typical market is business, government, social sector, education, and associations.

Who are some of their clients?

Clients include NCDOT, Institute for the Ages, The Redwoods Group, and CAM Raleigh.

What is their space like?

New Kind occupies a unique architectural space near N.C. State University.

Any advice received or lessons learned?

A major take away that I learned from New Kind was the importance of getting involved with the local AIGA organization. New Kind is highly involved with the organization and they ensured us that you get more out of AIGA than you put in.

Did you attend the Raleigh AIGA Studio Open House tour or something similar this year? Share YOUR experience now!

Are YOU ready for timeline?

March 28, 2012

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facebook barAre YOU ready for timeline?

In case you aren’t in the loop, Facebook has set a date, March 30, for the mandatory switch to timeline for all fan pages. This includes all business and non-profit organization pages. Though this does not apply to personal pages, it’s not too early to start thinking about your own timeline and cover images. There hasn’t been a date set for an official timeline switch for all pages but it seems it could be coming sooner rather than later based on the mandatory switch for fan pages.

I have been trying out timeline for a few weeks now and, I have to tell you, I am really liking it. I know Facebook has a reputation for changing rapidly and dramatically and not always for the better. But, I think this is a great update.

The best part of timeline is the ability to add a large image to the top called the cover image. The whole point of the cover image is to represent yourself; your likes, your personality, your humor. Be creative! Check out these awesome personal page covers and non-profit fan pages.

facebook example 4

Cover photo by Fabio Maravilla

facebook example 3

Cover photo by Jerome Vadon

facebook example 2

Cover photo by Louise Lundberg

facebook example 1

Cover photo by Aly Moffatt

Creating your own cover image

Inspired by these awesome examples, I decided to create my own creative cover. There is a great Photoshop template at the end of the personal page covers article from above. You can create your cover directly in the template in order to get a good idea as to how it will actually look on your timeline.

Using the Photoshop template, I decided to combine the following images into something unique and unexpected. Take a look at my Facebook cover.

April Rummage yell face

toy dinosaur

empty landscape

Don’t have Photoshop?

No problem. There are tons of websites and apps dedicated to helping you create unique cover pages.

My personal favorite was Sumo Cover. It is an app that integrates with your Facebook page. I found that it has a super easy to use interface that allows you to upload photos from your computer, select pre-existing backgrounds, or select from any of your Facebook photos. In creating your cover image, you can add various effects, text, increase or decrease image size.

Beware though. One problem I did encounter with this app was I could not figure out how to upload my saved cover to my Facebook timeline. I alerted the company so hopefully this glitch will be fixed.

It’s always better to create a unique image, but if this isn’t realistic for you, Sumo Cover, offer pre-designed covers for download. However, be on the lookout for cheesy “Myspace-esque” templates and layouts.

Sidenote

I recently created a Facebook cover for the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem program. Take a look!

You’ve seen my Facebook cover. Now, I want to see yours!

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