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Critiques – a Learning (and Growing) Experience

Posted on July 17, 2009

I LOVE DESIGNING. It?s my passion, part of who I am. I put my heart and soul into everything I create. Yes it?s true, I?m kind of a design geek. But hey, I?m OK with that.

One of the many, MANY processes graphic designers go through is group critiques. During school, at work, in online communities. After you have put in countless hours, worked your butt off, and probably had one-too-many cups of coffee, you have to face the firing squad. And let me tell you, they are NOT AFRAID to tell you what they think.

Often times you?ll leave a critique with some helpful pointers, things that you didn?t see because you?re too close to the project. Suggestions that you know won?t work, but you try it anyway to make the powers-that-be happy. And even some ideas that you don?t think will work, but surprise, surprise, they do!
Every once in a blue moon you?ll leave a critique with grin on your face, a hop in your step and your head held high. Everyone LOVED your ideas and no one suggested any changes. They were PERFECT!!! Granted, this doesn?t happen often, but it?s something that every designer strives for.

And then there?s the dreaded critiques where no one likes your work. You slaved away for hours, put your blood sweat and tears into it, and what did that get you? Silence and empty stares as your peers attempt to figure out how to let you know what they think, without tearing your apart. It?s every designer?s nightmare and something that we ALL go through.

How we deal with it says a lot about who we are, both as a designer and as a person. We could hold a grudge, convince ourselves that our work is FANTASTIC, that the other designers wouldn?t know great work if it hit them in the face. Or we can suck it up and admit that we are not perfect. Everyone say it with me now: ?I AM NOT PERFECT?!

The truth is, a negative reaction only hurts ourself. It stops us from hearing what other designers (and customers for that matter) have to say about our work. It stops us from growing and improving as a designer. It stop us from communicating with our peers. And sometimes it can even stop us from trying.

In the real world we don?t always produce great work the first time around. Sometimes we have off days. Sometimes we just aren?t connecting with the project. Sometimes one designer can spend 30 minutes on a logo and come up with something brilliant while another designer slaves away for hours and comes up with squat. As frustrating as it is, that?s just the way creativity works.

Nobody likes to hear anything negative about their work, but I honestly think that 9 times out of 10 we knew deep down that it was not as good as it could be. Of course that doesn?t make the criticism any easier to take. But I think that some of the best work comes out of our biggest struggles. And we grow the most when we struggle. So instead of reacting negatively, we need to take that energy, turn it around and use it to our advantage. Easier said than done, I know. But if you really focus on using that energy to keep going, to keep improving, the next time around you just might have one of those PERFECT critiques.

Do you need a design team that is passionate about everything they do? A team WILL NOT GIVE UP until you are happy? Contact us or visit us at to learn how we can HELP YOU!

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Staying Motivated – Even On The Off Days

Posted on July 15, 2009

Every so often I find myself dreading the office. Not because I dislike my job, or the people I work with (actually the people are the reason I come in on days like this). Maybe it’s the sunny, cloud-free day begging me to come outside. Maybe it?s the fam pulling me in a different direction. Maybe it?s the ice cream truck down the street calling my name (mmmm, ice cream sandwiches). But whatever it is, I just don?t have the motivation I normally have. What to do, what to do? Give up and call in sick? I don?t think so, that?s not the Moxie way! Instead, I power through it and before too long, I find my motivation returning at full force.

My Top 5 Ways to Stay (or Get) Motivated

  1. Make a List. Write down all of the projects you are currently working on, all of the projects that are ready to begin and all of the projects that need to be revised/updated. You might just realize that you have more to do than you thought. Sometimes just seeing the amount of work you have is enough to kick your butt into gear.
  2. Give Yourself Projects. Did you make that list and it came up short? No worries, give yourself a creative project. What would you design if you had no limits, budget constraints, or time line restrictions? This is a great time to free your creative mind. And if you?re really lucky, you can use this project for a future customer.
  3. Focus. Focus. Focus. Get rid of all distractions, be that co-workers, office pets, email, or the fridge (who doesn?t snack to avoid doing work after all?). If your only choice is to work or stare at the wall, you?ll soon find the motivation to get moving again (as soon as the boredom of wall staring gets to you).
  4. Remember, You?re Still Getting Paid. It?s a tough world right now and even if work is slow remember that you still have a job. Be thankful for that and focus on ways to make yourself a valuable part of the company.
  5. Learn Something New. One of the biggest motivators around is simply learning something new. Pick up a new skill, dive into a new program or learn about this thing they call Twitter. And along the way, you?ll add more value and skill for yourself and your company.

When all else fails do something other than the task-at-hand. Browse through the newest HOW buried on your desk. Take a quick walk through the office and try to un-motivate everyone else (or maybe their motivation will rub off on you). Go outside for a quick sprint around the block. Anything to get you out of the office and out of your head.

Are you looking for a creative team that is motivated to work with YOU (even those days when the the sun shining and the birds are singing)? Visit our main site to learn more about what we do, and how we can help you.

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Learning to Sketch All Over Again

Posted on July 10, 2009

The last two weeks have been devoted to working a brochure for a new customer. This is the first project we’ve done with this customer, the product is brand new and the sky is our limit. Normally when I begin a new project, I typically do one of two things. I browse though design annuals for ideas or I take a trip to Barnes & Nobel or the local cool flower shop hoping that the new environment will spark an idea.

But this time around I decided to try something new. Sketching. I know, it?s a ground breaking idea. But over the years I found myself getting further and further away from sketching. It seemed quicker to just jump on the computer and start design away. Everything is at your finger tips after all, stock photo resources, fonts, etc. Who needs to sketch when you can do it all on the computer?

Well, what I found out is that I need to sketch. And more than that, I enjoy it!

I was skeptical at first. I thought it would add MORE time to the project, just like stopping at Starbucks on my way to work adds more time to commute (but it?s totally worth those extra few minutes!). But to my chagrin I found that it made the entire process faster, more efficient, and ? dare I say it ? resulted in better designs. Why haven?t I been doing this all along?!?

Thinking back, I used to sketch ALL THE TIME. It was drilled into me in college. Before we could even look at a computer, we had to submit sketch books for critique. I think that being forced to do it for so long, my rebellious streak too over and demanded ?NO MORE SKETCHING!? And so I stopped, and it seemed to be working. That is, until I went back to it.

All of a sudden sketching opened up this whole new world. It was like I was living in a pitch black cave and suddenly the lights were turned on to reveal that the cave is actually a stunning rain forest. Before I even got near a computer, I picked up my pad of paper, some design books, competitor literature, my thoughts and went to work. And an amazing thing happened. Instead of using only what was available to me on my computer, I thought more closely about the project and what the best solution for it was. Not just what would look good, but what would be the most effective way to sell the product and reach the target market. And I sketched?and sketched?and sketched until my mind was empty, my body was exhausted and my creativity was tapped out. But it was worth the effort because I had tons of ideas and I was able to quickly weed out the ones that would not work. So when I finally did make my way over to the computer, the comp-ing stage went much smoother and more efficiently than before.

What did I take away from this experiment? I?d like to say that I will never again begin a project without first sketching. But let?s face it, habits are hard to break and sometimes you have a clear enough picture in your head that going straight to the computer will work. The biggest lesson that I?ve learned is sometimes you have to take a little more time at the beginning of a project to produce better work, and to sometimes it even saves time in the end. So many times it?s ?go, go, go!? without stopping to question is this the best solution that I can come up with? Is it the best solution for the project at hand? I’m going to slow down, spend more time brainstorming, researching, and especially sketching. And if I?m working away at the computer, struggling with a layout or logo concept and nothing is working, I?ll step away from the computer, sketch book in hand, and see what ideas start to flow when I spend some quality time with the project.

Do you need a creative team that takes the time to think about your project? A team that learns it inside and out? Visit our web site to learn more about what we do, and how we can help you.