Everyone an Artist

February 23, 2011

All the world’s a stage and everyone in it is an artist.

In this article I’m going to go as far as to say, you, along with everyone else that will read this is an artist in their own way. When I first presented this to someone, they responded with, “Yeah, everyone’s an artist, but some can actually make a living at it,” which is true, but they didn’t really understand what I was getting at.

So what am I getting at?

You are an artist. I am an artist. Everyone else, yeah they’re artists too. So why am I an artist? It’s not because I write poetry, design websites, create dust bunnies or play around with Photoshop in my spare time. Those play into my artistry, but it doesn’t define the why. The why is because I create. I am bringing something to the table, whether it has been said before or done before is not what matters, what matters is that I took the time to initiate a spark of an idea and brought it out from my mind into existence. That is what makes people artists.

From the stockbrokers on Wall Street to George my mechanic down the street, everyone is an artist. The medium is different, but that doesn’t discount or devalue their artistry. I look under the hood of my car and I see a bunch of tubes, wiring, and a few spots to check my oil, transmission and coolant levels. Other than those few things, the engine of my car is a mystery to me, but to George, my car is simple. There is an order, a routine to go through when problems arise for me and to him, my car makes perfect sense (most of the time). He is an artist, his medium happens to be Volvo repair.

In the same manner, you are an artist. I don’t know what your craft is or what contribution you’ll hope to make with the world. But I do know that you are creating things everyday that drive you on. Whether it’s relationships, analyzing theories, playing with numbers, or the thousands of other things that people do on a day to day basis, these things are your craft. They are your medium. You are an artist.

Seth Godin (author of the Purple Cow) once said, “Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist.” I agree with this completely and I believe that whatever your passion lies, there is where your artistry begins.

You are an artist, go out and create.


You Have a Website… So, Now What?

October 14, 2010

Congratulations, you have spent the last few weeks/months prepping, and getting your site ready to debut and the time has finally come to unveil your site to the world…. so now what?

For the most part, if you have a website the purpose of it is generating income, whether it be from direct sales of products and services online or simply pushing people to physical places to buy your products. But, generally speaking a websites purpose is usually to either get information out, bring people in or convince people to buy something. With that in mind, please note: just because you have a website, doesn’t mean you will profit from it. Thanks to sites like Angelfire and Lycos in the past and WordPress and Blogspot today anyone can set up a blog/website with little to no costs and attempt to convert internet surfers to customers.  There are billions (under-estimate I’m sure) of websites out there trying to get you to buy their product, so why would people choose yours?

Well if you’re in the business of providing a service, there are three primary reasons that you will get business: 1) Because you’re the best. 2) You are cheap. 3) They know you or have been recommended by someone reputable.  Let’s break that down some more. The best way to get good business is to be the best. To be the best you need to be knowledgeable, respected in your industry, (usually) not a new-comer, provide great customer service and quality work. With that combination, odds are you’ll get the most traffic. The next way to achieve a good conversion rate with your website is being cheap. People are cheap and often want the best quality for the lowest price and also people will often sacrifice quality for a lower price if they can get away with it. Being cheap brings in business, but it also usually reflects in your quality of work produced. The last main reason people will come to you is because they know you or have been referred to you. Personal recommendations have a far greater impact on decision making (especially when it’s quality work) than almost anything you can do on your own… unless you’re a celebrity. And people seem to just buy their stuff simply because they are famous. With that in mind, if you really want to generate leads and sales, first try to be the best. Second, have a good reputation which will generate good recommendations. And if you must, simply be cheap and you should get traffic. But there are no guarantees here.

Having a website doesn’t = sales. You are competing not only with local competition and other businesses that your potential clients have talked to, but now since you are online you are also competing with people all across the globe. A website is a great start to promote your business, but just because you have one doesn’t mean people will come, you need to promote yourself to have that happen. And you also need to be able to produce quality content in a manner that will make people want to hire you. That’s why you need to be the best and stand out from the competition. What makes you better that Joe Somebody down the street? Do you have better prices? Have you been in the industry longer? Are you more knowledgeable  when it comes to (fill in the blank here)?

People want to hire the best candidates. The better the quality content produced the more likely to be hired. Oh, and people like to have specialists. Be great at one thing. It’s not a business plan to be a jack of all trades and master of none. For me, I specialize in web design. Which encompasses graphic design (and branding) and how it all connects between the logo, the website, banners, fliers, newsletters, etc. I’m not great at programming, but I’m learning and the more I work with it the better I’m getting at it.  So on my website, I will say that I can code programming sections of the site, but I am much better at the visual aspect of websites, which is why I’m more of a front-end developer rather than a back-end coder. Therefore I will branch out and focus on the design and aesthetic components of a website more so than the functionality, not that I don’t do it, I just am better at the design.

In conclusion, be the best at what you do. People want to hire a master of a trade rather than jacks of all trades. A website does not make you receive traffic. It also doesn’t automatically generate income. You have to promote your business and work hard to sustain it. Personal recommendations go much farther than you think and being the best at what you do helps a ton.

When Creatives Fail

October 4, 2010

Sometimes people fail, actually in the larger sense, people in general tend to fail most of the time. Whether it be on a large scale or in the small things that happen daily, things tend to not always go as plan and thus we fail in these simple routines. Now this post isn’t about getting down on anyone, but more just bringing up the fact again that we are all humans and we tend to fail a lot, myself included.

For the most part, creative jobs are based on a little bit of actual information and a lot on heavy speculation and first impressions. Creative jobs take on the task of gathering up a little knowledge and attempting to transform that knowledge into something visually appealing that both lines up with the company or product itself and also connects with the user/consumer. And when that doesn’t happen it can be devastating. Not just to the client or the customer, but also to the designer. Creatives tend to pour out more of themselves into their work (in a different sense) than the rest of the workforce. And by this other sense I mean that when creatives create they tend to put part of themselves into everything they do; yes they are trying to match up and perfect a graphical representation for their clients, but more than just making a great depiction for the outside consumer, the designers end up putting themselves into the design and sometimes they just get it wrong.

With work done primarily on gut instinct and a bit of information, don’t be surprised if it’s hit and miss. Even the best designers or the highest priced website developers will get it wrong sometimes. No one is exempt from it. So the next time that you’re working with a creative and the designs don’t come out as well as you’d like, just remember that you’re working with another human being that makes mistakes. It is not the end of the world. It can be fixed and the design can be redone, modified or you can go and use another designer down the road. Sometimes projects just fail. At least with design work, nobody’s going to end up dead if the design fails.

Firestone Tire FordYes, I just went there

International Freelancers Day (Sept. 24-25, 2010)

September 23, 2010

Tomorrow and Saturday comprise the first annual International Freelancers Day, two days packed with 25 great speakers in 1 spectacular event. And the two best parts of the event are: 1) It’s completely free; and 2) It’s all online (no travel required). I’m attending this event and I can’t wait to watch some of the presentations and learn what I can be doing better for my business and if you’re even slightly interested in this I recommend you sign up for it too! All you need is an email address to sign up, and you can do it here. For more information on the event, watch the video below or take a look around their website, http://www.internationalfreelancersday.com.

3 Simple Keys for Logo Design

August 18, 2010
  1. Be timeless.
    Take a look at the differences between Coke’s logo and Pepsi logos over the years, see full image here.Pepsi and Coke Logos

    The biggest thing to note is that Coke really hasn’t changed their logos too much from the original design. Pepsi, on the other hand, seems to revamp their entire image every 10 years or so. Coke branded their design with a classic elegance, seen in the consistent design. Yes, Coke’s logo has changed through the years, but most of the changes kept the features from the original design. The only thing that really changes with Coke’s logo designs are the background elements, or making the scripting cleaner. Pepsi’s logo as of 2008 is very different than it’s 1950 logo. And the previous statement can be just as much applied with the derivation of the 1950’s Pepsi logo from the first logo of 1898. Coca-Cola has a classic, elegant feel to it. It started with that feeling and maintained it throughout the years. Pepsi started out with a rougher logo design and when the design didn’t suit the current trends, they would revamp their logo as necessary, and as frequently as every few years if needed.

  2. Have it consistent with your profession.
    One of the biggest mistakes a company can make with their logo design is not having it fit their company. If your logo is the face of your company (both online and off-line) imagine how crucial it is to have it consistent with your profession. If your logo (and website) are not fitting to your profession, it can drastically challenge your credibility. For example, a graphic design company is going to have a logo that shows off their knowledge of design and their website should do the same. On the other hand, a forensic investigator is not going to have the same graphic elements in their logo (or website) than the graphic designer has. This should be logical enough. If a graphic artist has a plain, clip-art looking design for their logo would you trust them with matching your company to a new logo? Or would you more likely go with a graphic designer whose own logo is consistent with design standards and fits their profession?
  3. Make it appropriate to your target audience.
    This point is closely related to the above point, but vital enough to merit it’s own section. One of the biggest things to know about marketing is knowing who your target audience is. This can be as broad as an age category, like we are targeting college students, or it can be as detailed as targeting 20-22 year old, Caucasian males who spend 10+ hours a week playing Modern Warfare. Whatever your demographics and whoever your target audience is, make sure that your logo (and website) design is consistent with appealing to them.

5 Reasons to Have an Updated Website

July 26, 2010

Everybody wants to bring more traffic to their site, whether its a personal blog or a corporate company, but it can be difficult to know exactly what you need to achieve this. In this article, I describe 5 ideas to help you realize why your website needs to be updated consistently.

  1. Your services, rates and content will change over time.
    If you have the same content on your website that you’ve had since you started, it’s probably time to freshen up your website. If your website text only changes when you add a new page, visitors won’t want to return. People want to know when the products and services will change so that they can do what is necessary on their end. If you suddenly increase your rates or add a new service but never tell your customers then you will end up missing out on more business. People can’t utilize your new addition if they don’t know about it. Keep your content updated and your clients will be happier. And it will also be less trouble to update in the future.
  2. Design changes.
    Look at fashion, hair styles and even art from ten years ago. I can guarantee that the styles of then do not match up with the current trends of today, unless they are some of the select that coming back into style for a little while.  Design is no different. The way that websites appealed to people in the 1990’s does not work today. People want to see things change and evolve; your website is no different. It should reflect the look and feel of your company of today, not who you were ten years ago.
  3. More traffic to your site.
    The more you update your site, the better it will be indexed and ranked on search engines. Everyone wants to have better placement and rankings in search engines, so the more you update your site with good content, the more it will be noticed by search engine robots. With better placement and getting your content out there it will further extend your brand’s reach which will in turn open up the possibility for more people to come back to your site.
  4. More relevant keywords = better specific traffic.
    Deriving from the last point, the more you update your content, the more keyword optimization you are able to use. The main thing to keep in mind in here is that you could simply fill all your pages with just keywords, internal links and not have any real content, but that practice is called keyword stuffing and it’s not recommended. Sites that keyword stuff are more likely to be lowered in search engine rankings, flagged as spam sites and then your credibility is shot, which results in lower traffic, if any at all. At that point it is very difficult to gain your credibility back. But if you have fresh content being added to your site consistently there are more keywords added into each page which will bring in more detail-specific traffic; the people are often going to stay longer as well because the content on your site is relevant to their searches.
  5. More links add traffic.
    The more you update your site with fresh content, the more links you create. Each of these links are potential bridges that connect your website to the world. The best way for these new links to receive traffic is to promote them. The most efficient way that I have found to implement your new content is publishing it on other sites, or at least link to them. Some of the most prominent sites for linking your content are: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, DesignBump, etc. On that note, when you are on those sites, share links and contribute to others links. If you are on Twitter and tweeting only your links you won’t get as much traffic (at first) until you start contributing too, respond with your followers, keep it business oriented and follow some of your followers so that you can keep the circle of information going. Find others with the same industry, follow them, learn and give your two cents and you will start receiving more traffic.

In conclusion, there are many different ways to receive more traffic to your website. And ultimately that’s what a website is for. Further, the best way to bring in more traffic is to keep your content updated, your website looking good and keep the people reading interested. Without updating the content and design regularly you are only hurting yourself and your business.

5 Elements That KILL Your Site’s Credibility

July 23, 2010
  1. Not utilizing white-space.

    White space is a crucial element in both print and online graphics. A poorly laid out website will hurt you more than it can help you. White space in the past has often been overlooked. With the current web trends, utilizing your white-space is essential to come across as professional and it will also show that you have worked with a designer that knows their stuff. Look at the image below and tell me if you would trust this website simply based on the design alone.

  2. Using tables over divisions and style sheets.

    Table based layouts in websites are outdated. Tables in websites are perfectly acceptable as long as they are not used to define the structure, layout or positioning of the website. Tables should be used for their intended creation, for representing tabular data, that is it. Division tags and style sheets are the standards when it comes to the positioning, sizing and layout of web sites. If you’re still using a table-based design it’s time to consider having your website redesigned.

  3. Out-dated fonts, colors, and graphics.

    There is a time when all good websites need to be updated or just completely overhauled. The prevalent designs seen throughout the 90’s and anything that resembles MySpace pages should not be used in a website that plans to take itself seriously. Websites need to stay current by knowing what the standards are in the industry (the designer at least should know them). Some of the current standards are clean designs, current pictures (unless your focus is outdated/old images), strong typography and better content writing.

  4. Clip-art in your logo.

    This is another step back into the 90’s, b ut the practice still happens today. If your logo is composed of clip-art that can be found through Microsoft’s clip-art g allery it will reflect poorly on your company as a whole. Having simply your company’s name in regular text is better than clip-art in your logo. The only thing worse that I can think of in this situation would be to have your clip-art logo missing and not having your logo on your website. Your logo is the face of your company/brand. It is not just for the online world, so it is important that your digital presence accurately portrays the face of your company.

  5. Visual over-stimulation.

    I don’t know if the website  is a joke or not, I think it’s was, but it could also just be really old, but having an old website is no excuse for poor visual design; even back in the 90’s there were web standards. A good website should be organized and have certain visual elements that stand out in order to guide the user to the best sources of information. That is why there are different sizes and colors for headings, paragraphs, and everything else. If there are too many visually appealing elements on your site then it is time to rethink your strategy. Too many distractions will cause your reader to lose hope of finding the information they want and will proceed to leave your site very quickly.