You don’t stop learning about your chosen field when you graduate from college. If you do, you’ll fall far behind and will quickly cease to be an asset to the company that hired you when you were “full of potential.” Part of being a designer is being able to keep up with trends and technology, and expanding your knowledge beyond what you learned in school.
Of course, much of this is done on the fly when there are clients to satisfy and deadlines to meet. Since I started here at Black Lake Studio, I have greatly increased my knowledge of WordPress, brand strategy, and many other aspects of design.
Most recently, I learned how to do a manual multisite WordPress install… in less than eight hours. I had to work with a third party to get multiple sites live for a client, and the guy on the phone said, “You should really do a multisite install, it will be faster and take up much less server space.” I thought to myself, “Alright, I’ll give it a go.”
After much frustration, and learning that I should have waited until after the DNS records were updated, I successfully completed a multisite install and brought both sites live. Upon learning this new skill, I saw how I could apply it to the development of sites under our own server for the future.
I also had to battle with Microsoft Excel for Mac recently. It’s laughable how designers can navigate many Adobe products with ease, but when you present them with a Microsoft product that they haven’t touched since several versions ago, they get completely lost. For this particular project, we had to make sure the client would be able to make their own on-brand pie charts in the future without needing us to make one in Illustrator every time. After once again mastering the creation of a pie chart (which took longer than I would like to admit), I went on to learn how to create a custom theme (which had to be done in Powerpoint for some reason) and apply it to the charts. Not bad for a day’s work, if I do say so myself.
While learning new things can be difficult (especially outside the safety of college and professors that always seem to have the answer), it can be very rewarding. Ultimately, it will help you stay current as a designer and not fall behind. I look forward to learning more things in the future as I move forward in my career. Bring it on, Adobe Digital Publishing Solution!
Today, Black Lake Studio & Press welcomes a new designer: Caraline Visuri. A small-town, “meat and potatoes” girl at heart, Caraline is eager to jump on board at Black Lake. Coming from the rural, southwest corner of Michigan, Caraline is thrilled to begin a new chapter in the beautiful town of Holland, and is eager to explore the lakeshore and bike trails.
Welcome aboard, Caraline!
Internships. One word with so much stigma attached. Here, shred these papers, get the coffee, staple this, etc. I am fortunate enough to not have one of those internships. Here at Black Lake, I’ve been given actual projects to work on. My first day, I wished they had just asked me for coffee. Instead, I was thrown into the deep end and told to swim. It was scary (which is weird, because I’m a great swimmer). Through a flurry of varying emotions and learning the beginner’s ropes, I have compiled a list of nonexclusive qualities to look for inside as well as outside of an internship. I am no expert (even though I should be, since this is my third internship and I still don’t have college credit for any of them), but here is what I have found throughout all of them:
1. Choose Well.
Find an internship that will challenge you. I could have chosen an easier internship or no internship at all. Instead, I opted for one that would push me outside my comfort zone as a designer and as a person. See it as an opportunity to grow and learn more than you could by just getting the coffee.
2. Be Willing to Look Stupid.
I know its been said a thousand times before, but this is key in an internship setting. Be humble. It’s better to look stupid first and get the task done right than to look smart for a moment until the task is done wrong.
Often, I’m scared to try my hand at designing a piece because there are much more qualified people here. Nine times out of ten, my design won’t be chosen. Internships aren’t about getting your piece published. They’re about learning, and you can’t learn if you don’t try.
4. Ask Questions.
Those you are interning under are experts in their field. Take advantage of the opportunity of being constantly surrounded by them. Conversely, ask questions that aren’t work related at all. You will learn interesting fun facts and get to know your coworkers better.
5. Have a Go-To Person.
Chances are you won’t be able to interact with your boss over every small problem that arises. Find someone who isn’t annoyed by or too busy for your questions, or even your small talk, and utilize that. They will be a great asset, and you’ll make a friend!
6. Negotiate Hours.
A part-time internship ranges from ten to twenty hours a week. Instead of working three full days a week, I work every morning Monday through Friday, freeing up my afternoons and evenings to work my other job. Figure out what fits your schedule and simply ask for that.
Internships should be more flexible than a job, especially if it’s unpaid. Just the other day, I asked my boss if I could come in late on Tuesdays so I could go to yoga on the beach with my mom. He said yes. If an opportunity arises, talk to your boss about it. Don’t just assume the answer is no.
8. Have Supportive Friends.
Most of my friends from school all check in and ask how my internship is going. Some days, I tell them it’s over my head. They tell me it’s not and to keep persevering. A good support system is of inestimable worth.
9. Have a Routine Outside of the Office.
Get on a particular sleep schedule. It’s much easier to get up early every morning if you go to bed at the same time every night. I don’t do this because I work late at my other job some nights, but its a goal of mine. Figure out an exercise schedule so that sitting at a desk for hours isn’t so bad. Schedule in time for just yourself so you don’t get burnt out by constantly working. Whatever it is you need to do to be your best self, do that.
10. Have Goals.
Figure out what you want to accomplish in your internship and then accomplish it. Make goals outside of the office. You don’t want your entire summer revolving around work.
So, there you have it. As much as I have learned hands-on designing skills here, I have also learned practical life skills that will carry me much further than a career in graphic design.
We’re excited to welcome Black Lake’s new design intern, Kay Foster. We’re thrilled to have her, and hope she isn’t too confused on her first day.
The Bat-Signal is an iconic part of the Batman mythos. Whenever the Gotham City police department requires help fighting a particularly tough villain, they turn on a searchlight and project the Bat-Symbol into the sky, summoning the Dark Knight to their aid. This way, Batman can intervene whenever the authorities need him.
We may not have a branded searchlight or snazzy capes, but the Black Lake team does actually work a bit like Batman. Let me explain how.
I’m sure the Gotham police force loves having Batman around so they can call him in when they’re in deep trouble. But would they want him involved in every case? They don’t exactly need his help with every carjacking or purse-snatching, and he’d get stretched awfully thin if they used the Bat-Signal for petty crimes. Plus, if they kept summoning Batman when they didn’t really need him, they’d develop an unhealthy dependency. The officers themselves would never perfect their crimefighting skills if they knew that Batman would back them up at any time. Lighting up the Bat-Signal in emergencies is a great way to keep the city safe, but if overused, it would actually hurt the cause of justice.
Likewise, clients come to Black Lake when they genuinely need our services: developing or reassessing their business model, brand messaging, and communications media. But then what? What happens when the project is over, when the brand campaign is created and successfully launched?
Black Lake doesn’t abandon its clients after a project, but it doesn’t micromanage them, either. We help clients put systems in place to manage their brands by themselves with whatever level of support they feel is necessary. We call it STAR Support:
- System Build: We help clients make internal adjustments, including hiring and restructuring, so they’re organizationally equipped to carry on their brand.
- Training to Operate: Imagine that Batman personally trained key members of the Gotham police force, who then used their newfound Bat-Skills to bolster the entire department. Black Lake trains key personnel on how to maintain and update their communications assets, continue communicating their brand message, and follow their business model effectively.
- Adapt Over Time: As organizations grow, messages evolve and media assets need to be modified. That’s why Black Lake transitions into an as-needed support role. We’re on-call if you should need our help making adjustments—it’s like having your own personal Black-Lake-Signal on your building’s roof.
- Reach Forward: Black Lake helps organizations grow and develop, to overcome challenges and meet the requirements of a changing world. That doesn’t have to stop when the project is finished.
Brand management is a day-to-day affair requiring a level of vigilance that exceeds the capacity of a lone vigilante like Batman. Businesses and nonprofits have to be able to manage their brands independently. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t need help from time to time, and that’s where Black Lake’s ongoing campaign management services come in.
If you need me, I’ll be on the roof, watching the sky.
I was happy to take part in Artists in Transition by being a juror for their art show in South Haven, Michigan, in January. Artists in Transition exhibits art created middle and high school students. The show had a variety of art in different mediums and showcased the creative talents from the schools. The art consisted mostly of painted and graphite mediums, but a few pieces were sculptures and collages.
I, as well as two others, received the chance to pick three pieces each that stood out to us. This was extremely tough, since there were many pieces that were not only aesthetically pleasing, but also well executed technically. There was also a people’s choice and the art center’s choice of winners. Continue Reading…
Feelings are helpful and shouldn’t be ignored—but they’re not always the most accurate things in the world when it comes to determining what you really need. I’ve observed that this issue often boils down to the difference between what we feel we need and what really need.
For example, if you’re walking down the cereal isle at the grocery store, you might feel quite strongly that you need to buy a box of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. After all, sugary cereals are fun, and who doesn’t need a little more fun in their life? The reality is that you’re not seven years old anymore, and you ought to decrease your sugar intake and consume more fiber. Something with lots of bran or granola probably suits your body’s needs much better than pure high fructose corn syrup.
But who cares about that, right? The Sugar Bombs’ packaging has flashy colors and friendly cartoon characters that remind you of the carefree days of your childhood. On the other hand, the box of bran cereal is mostly white with some muted accents; it’s kind of boring. Your emotions are pulling you toward the swirl of primary colors, artificial flavors, and marshmallows. Your grown-up senses are apparently out to lunch. Should you go with what you feel you need, which looks a lot more appealing, or buy what’s good for you, which doesn’t sound like much fun at all? This seems like a no-brainer. Continue Reading…
Previously, I posted about Kate Turabian, The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), and how they’re relevant to our work of verbal storytelling here at Black Lake. (You can find that post here.) CMOS’s rules are designed to increase the clarity of your writing. After all, the clear communication of ideas is one of the main purposes of written prose, especially in the business world. You’ll do no one any favors if your writing causes confusion instead of understanding and engagement.
Another aim of CMOS is imposing consistency, both internally (within a single written piece, or within a single organization) and externally (between organizations that subscribe to CMOS’s standards). This may sound uptight and oppressive, but it’s really a matter of professionalism. If the same word is spelled differently in two different places on the same brochure, or the headline formatting on your website is all over the place, you’re going to look sloppy and unprofessional. And if too many different style guidelines are being used by different organizations, or if these guidelines differ too widely, mutual intelligibility will suffer.
To summarize, style guides like CMOS help us write clearly and professionally, and they foster consistency between organizations. However, in your efforts to comply with CMOS, you may run into some tricky style issues. There are a lot of rules, and they can be hard to keep track of. Here are the top four that I’ve run into, with some tips on how to get them right: Continue Reading…