Beginning Summer
June 1, 2011

In May of 2002, I was a college teacher of first-year writing. The semester was winding up and I was preparing to go to a different kind of teacher's conference - one that focused on teaching rather than on subject specialty. I felt like I was hitting my stride professionally. The Wakonse Conference on College Teaching is really a lot like summer camp for teachers - it's held at the American Youth Foundation's Camp Miniwanca on the shore of Lake Michigan and it's an absolutely magical place. Having missed out on any kind of overnight summer camp as a kid, I was pretty much in heaven. I needed the back-to-nature time just as much as I wanted the discussion and stimulation of other college instructors/professors dedicated to the craft of teaching. I encouraged a few graduate teaching "assistants" to go the following year and we all had a wonderfully renewing time. The following year my partner protested: I'd spent two Memorial Day weekends gone in a row and she wanted to share the holiday with me. Little did we know that was my last chance to go as my position was eliminated at the end of the school year, 2004.

Wakonse Conference, on the shore of Lake Michigan

Fast forward to May of 2007. I was working as a web designer (and sometimes copy writer) at a large-ish dot com. A good friend offered me a chance to jump over to a junior design position at the agency where he worked, but I was afraid my portfolio was still weak (in print work) and I thought if I hung on a few more months where I was, I would have the chance to add quite a bit of print work as well as my web work. Alas, planning something doesn't always make it so.

A mere two months or so later, the company unexpectedly shut down and we were all out of work.

Fuzzed Version of an Ad

(Sorry for the poor quality - had to mask the company and couldn't find the original room image)

Still and all, it was a good summer to hone my craft - and I still felt that I needed a lot of honing.

Since that time I've held jobs in-house and freelance both. I've read a ton of books, studied a lot of designers, tried to immerse myself in theory and in practice ... and kept striving to better my craft on personal projects when the paying gigs weren't necessarily places I could stretch my wings. I found myself coming back to usability again and again - whether talking about web design, or even how a room is constructed, a shop set up, the design of a car's cabin. Don't get me wrong, I love illustration and print design both and enjoy doing them. But invariably, my brain circles from artistic to practical and back again. Last summer, I attended An Event Apart ... and I knew I'd found my people.

I don't believe that artists are flighty and designers have their heads in the clouds. You get flaky and reliable folks there just as you do with any other profession. I think that stereotype that an artist only thinks of some unattainable aesthetic goal and not the needs of the person requesting the piece is a load of hooey that does artists, designers, illustrators and the like a huge disservice.

But here I was at this conference and I was hearing people espouse my pet theories as fact. Many of them had had the resources to do actual studies or tests to back up these theories. And even whilst I learned from them ... I mostly learned that I needed to trust myself more and I needed to really start acting on my ideas. It was definitely a confidence booster.

Fast forward to this summer:

I got a gig with a company that is absolutely amazing. We are going to do great things with the website. I have some gifted, passionate co-workers who get it. I'm in a state I adore. The only thing that would make it better would be if our house sold and we could get a house here in the next month or two. (A pretty impossible timeline, to be sure.)

All I can think about is when I was a kid and summer marked glorious things to come. Everything is fresh and warm and bursting with possibilities.

Petroglyph National Monument

Posted by Red Monkey at June 1, 2011 8:01 PM | Blog | Design | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Tara R. said:

Have to say I'm envious of all the gorgeous photo opps you have now. Good luck in the new job. Hope your house sells and you all find a permanent place soon.

June 2, 2011 7:22 PM


Claire said:

I am SO pleased that you have found people that you can work with and most of all I hope they appreciate your talent.

I am dying to know who they are!


June 3, 2011 12:00 PM
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