don't stop imaging

Posts tagged ‘life lessons’

The Top 10 Things I Learned at the Princeton Conference

As Nell had me write a reflection after missing half a class to see my Dad, I’m going to cover my behind and justify missing all of Monday’s class. While on the plane home from NYC to Atlanta, I drafted out the ten things I learned while attending Business Today’s International Business Conference, a highly-selective program run out of Princeton University. I was supposedly surrounded by the game-changers of Generation Y. Many of them started non-profits as early as middle school, and just as many are already CEOs. To be upfront, I have done neither of these things. That’s probably a good thing, because attending the conference became a learning experience.

The original format of this blog post

The original format of this blog post

Without further ado, the top 10 things I learned at the Princeton Conference were:

  1. Stand out. Will Ethridge, the CEO of the North American division of Pearson, could not stress this enough. There is no way that somebody can climb to the top if s/he just blends in, even if s/he is doing phenomenal work.
  2. Networking isn’t just about who you know. It’s about who they know, how well you know them, and how far they are willing to go for you. Of the 150 attendees of this conference, I friended about 50 of them on Facebook. Of those 50, I intend to keep in touch or follow the careers of 20. These relationships are extremely valuable, and I don’t intend to lose them.
  3. Comedy has power. I asked a feminist question to SAP CEO Bill Mcdermott that I prompted with humor, and intended to follow up with a real question. My prompt was a joke about women changing their names when they got married (Mcdermott had just closed his keynote on personal branding). Though I was cut off from the rest of my question with an uproar of laughs from the smartest people in my generation (were they laughing with me or at me, I’ll never know…), many individuals sought me out afterwords to talk feminism. Had I alienated myself with my  following question (how come SAP only has one woman on their executive board and how is SAP encouraging gender diversity), I don’t think I would have been as interesting to so many people.
  4. Be beautiful. Not only was everyone at this conference intelligent and accomplished, but they were beautiful too. Most of the men were tall and gorgeous, and the women were slender and well-polished. I don’t think that this was a coincidence. As much as I don’t want to believe it, personal appearance, in my experience, may have a direct correlation with success.
  5. Make passion into your business, not the other way around. There is no way to achieve happiness if you do not love your job; of your average week you spend 35% of total awake hours at work. I refuse to throw that time away! Also, of the CEOs that I talked to, a majority of them were more successful when focusing on their passions. If business becomes one’s passion, be prepared to lose friends, family time, and personal life.
  6. Invest, in yourself, in businesses, and in other people. Unlike many people in the business world, I view my goal in life to continue living a happy life, not getting rich. Invest in what makes you happy. However, in order to make these personal investments, it’s best to have some capital to do so. Venture capital, as I had known previously and as this conference has proven, is a phenomenal way to make money. Finally, invest in other people, which includes…
  7. Check In. Networking can only go so far. Checking in is a great way to maintain relationships and all the effort one puts into networking. Send holiday cards, write on people’s Facebook walls, do not let them forget you!
  8. Agnes ScottLiberal arts doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. I found this to be a sad truth of the business world. Most of my successful colleagues were business and finance majors; even the economics majors had some troubles finding a job for next year. That being said, knowing how to think can help network and stand out.
  9. Brand Matters. Your personal brand that is. If people are naturally attracted to you, figure out why and capitalize on those traits. Go as far as picking out “your colors.” You want to do everything you can to convince people to have warm feelings towards you.
  10. You can talk to anyone. Without realizing it, I met people who make far more than $5 million a year, people from Ivy Leagues around the US and equivalents from around the world, and celebrities. It was no harder to talk to them than it was to talk to fellow Scotties. As of now, any inferiority complex that I may have had is now gone. People are people, not to be idolized, and not to be forgotten.

Scratching the video project… again

So I decided to go in another direction with Auggie and MJ. I like this movie better, but I still don’t feel like it’s “done.” As of now I don’t know what else to do with it… I’m letting it rest for a day. All said, I think it’s significantly better than the first video.

The Selection is Made

I have finally decided on the four images that I will use for my o and g project, representing the need for space, the feeling of being in love, a fight, and growing old together. The image above has been modified to grayscale so that the viewer can see it a bit better.

Needing space

Sometimes, g can be a bit overbearing

I find that when g is capitalized, it is a rather antagonizing letter. It stands taller than most other letters, intimidates, angers. The lower-case g, however, is far more passive, curling its tail well below the baseline in submission. Using the submissive g, I can still play on o’s underwhelming presence, using color (well, black and white as per the project’s limitations) to point out g’s intrusion on o’s space.


Letters in Love

In closeness and cuddling, g and o express their love for one another. The cursive font allows for g to reach for o, yet still allow for o to prematurely curl into g. The vast amount of negative space only compliments the closeness of g and o, regardless of their size dragging g’s descender slightly out of the parameters.


G has a temper

G has the propensity lose it, and o tends to submit. Playing dead on the floor, o waits until G’s tantrum is over. G looms far above, screaming in its scratched-out font, in frustration in whatever o did this time.

Growing old together

g and o's Long Lasting Love

This is by far my favorite of the illustrations. It was first found in the “in love” work book, but I liked it so much that I used the piece in this section. Both o and g are content with each other, curled into one another’s arms. They are small relative to their borders, but that doesn’t seem to both them because they are so lost in one another. I can see them laying here forever, growing old together.

The Typographic Sins of Graphic Design

On Graphic Design

Stefan Sagmeister is graphic design’s Johnny Depp as the strange rockstar of the industry. Boasting diverse clients like the Talking Heads, Rolling Stone, and Time Warner, he is consistently granted the opportunity to immerse himself in original and sometimes strange work. I, personally, like it.

Not too long ago, Sagmeister participated in two TED TALKS. In 2004, he spoke on “happy design,” that is, how certain projects made him feel as an artist, and how it impacted the work. Here, he explores “moments of real happiness.”

Sagmeister on Happiness

In the first half of his speech, he compares the difference between “the visualization of happiness” and “happiness.” In doing so, Sagmeister carefully leads his audience to the complex relationship between happiness, as an ideal, and design.

Unfortunately, when Sagmeister presented how to engage happiness in his designs, he noted that it was difficult to be “authentic” and avoid being “sarcastic.” He moves on to address the more demanding issue: campaigns that made him, the viewer, happy.

The subtlety in what makes Sagmeister happy speaks true to graphic design. He pulls at the drudgery of riding the Metro, the simplicity of watching the clouds, and advertisements seen around New York City. In essence, what makes Sagmeister happy, and what I suspect makes other viewers happy as well, is taking common knowledge and adding something special, a certain “flare” if you will.

In design, I suspect that the flare that Sagmeister calls attention to is what makes him so effective as a designer. It is within the minute details to everyday objects and concepts that bring his artwork to a new level. Positive images, colors, intention, and style in everything from typography to location helps the viewer experience satisfaction and happiness.

In moving from his favorite projects to his own, Sagmeister takes the time to list what makes him happy while working on his projects. I took them as words of advice from a master:

  • Think about ideas and content freely––with the deadline far away
  • Working without interruption on a single project
  • Using a wide variety of tools and techniques
  • Traveling to new places
  • Working on projects that matter to me
  • Having things come back from the printer well done

On most levels I agree with him in and out of working with visual media. I like to do my work early so that a deadline doesn’t stifle me into “just get it done” versus taking the time to enjoy the work. More than anything, I enjoy working on projects that matter to me, which I think is something that is more of application of attitude than anything else. However, what Sagmeister fails to mention in this list is immersing yourself into work. Sometimes I get so concentrated that I don’t notice that hours have passed and I haven’t eaten. That is why I––and I suspect other designers as well––enjoy crafting our art so much.

Sagmeister closes his talk with his life lesson “having guts always works out for me.” Yes, Sagmeister, take leaps of faith. Tie toilet paper to trees and participate in TED TALKS. Those “guts” are what makes you different from the rest of the crowd; without individuality or the willingness to be different, no one will think that you are special.

Sagmeister on What He Has Learned

More recently, in September of 2008, Sagmeister gave another TED TALK. He expanded on his life lessons and how he turned his personal life into his personal portfolio. For example, he took the lesson “Everybody thinks they are right,” inflated some blackand white monkeys, and attached each word to a different monkey. In another scenario, he picked a fashion street and, with several thousand hangers, wrote out the words, “Worrying solves nothing.”

In essence, Sagmeister starts with an idea, a phrase that is important to him, and then breathed life into it with imagery. With everything, place and medium had significance, and impacted the viewer in a different way. In graphic design, or rather in all art, it is necessary to pick words and tools with distinct meaning, or else the entire thesis of the piece falls through.

More importantly, Sagmeister has found what has inspired him: his life lessons. His talk begs the question, from where should I, as a designer, gather my motivation?

Marian Bantjes on Intricate Beauty by Design

Stefen Sagmeister notes that Marian Bantjes is “one of the most innovative typographers working today,” and he isn’t off base. Bantjes sometimes strange and always intriguing work begs the question, “how can she have such vision?”

“The appeal of what I do is why I do it,” Bantjes explains. People enjoy her work because they see that spark in her design and it resonates with them. She focuses on work that is “mutually beneficial to herself and a client.” Wow. Harping back to Sagmeister’s words of advice, work that is important to oneself seems to be so inspirational that it improves the quality of one’s work. Bantjes argues that the work should ultimately be personal—if ego is not involved, then the audience won’t be either.

Sagmeister says happiness, Bantjes says ego, I say that they are the same thing. In order to feel good, you must feel good about yourself. Improving yourself makes you feel good. Both ideas really are one overarching absolute in graphic design and in art itself. The amount of involvement, passion, and personal interest in a project increases the effectiveness of the final result.

Bantjes also plays with the idea of “wonder in design.” She plays with awe and image in her patterns and templates, ultimately intertwining the two. Art and information, she argues, is one of the more impactful underused tools in adult literature.

I would love to be able to tap into that creativity, that symbiosis of design and idea, that Bantjes hints at. But isn’t that why I’m learning digital design?

As someone who is also studying creative writing, what particularly appealed to me was Bantjes’ use of prose. Her valentine was beautifully written and crafted, perfected with the right font (or handwriting—I honestly couldn’t tell). Again, the marriage of literature and visual art astounds me.

Finally, when preparing whether or not to accept a commission for a piece, Bantjes asks, “Who is it for? What does it say? What does it do?” In answering these questions, Bantjes connects the piece to herself, her ego, and decides whether or not it satisfies her. I think that these inquiries are necessary to address the beginning of any design, art or not, to ensure that it is fully effective.

“Inspiration is cross-pollinating.”

Bantjes closes her speech calling for her work to inspire others, that the reason that she does what she does is to inspire ideas in others. That is why design is so important—that is why, I think, we all do it.

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