About two weeks ago, I got a LinkedIn digest email with career-related job openings. On the top of the list was an opening for adjunct professors in UMBC’s design department, which caught my attention. So quickly, I put together an updated resume, made some updates to my portfolio, and sent it in.

Last Friday I found myself wandering a chilly campus looking for the Fine Arts building (all gray brick buildings from the 70’s look the same), and the ensuing interview went very well. Today I got an offer, and cleared it with my boss: this spring, I’ll be teaching a lecture class called Word and Image, where “Students apply their knowledge of typographic and visual forms to projects that encourage the introduction of word and image with visual hierarchies.” It’s going to make for an interesting schedule, as I’ll be getting up super-early to get into work and out by 2, then be on campus by 4. The nice thing is that UMBC lies almost directly between my train station and home, so it’s not a painful commute either way.

I have no idea what to expect, and this may very well kick my ass. But I have a lot of fun teaching, and I’m hoping it goes well.

Date posted: November 24, 2014 | Filed under art/design | Leave a Comment »

It’s not quite how I wanted to get into the show, but the video I produced for WRI, Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change, made it into Society of Illustrators 54, a peer-judged competition held in New York.

However, this means that I’ve already met one of my stated work goals for the year. Sweet!

Date posted: November 18, 2014 | Filed under art/design, WRI | Leave a Comment »

This is the second installment in a series of posts geared towards designers getting a job. The first was Resume Help For the Design Professional, based on a nonscientific sampling of actual resumes.

So you’ve gotten a callback. Congratulations! Your resume, cover letter, and portfolio have passed the test. That’s pretty amazing. In my experience, you’re 1 out of of 50 to make it this far, which is a harder hurdle to clear than direct mail responses. This means you wrote a great letter, your resume was excellent, and your portfolio contained work that spoke to the job description and showed your proficiency and talent. Or, you had two elements of the trio that made up for a weak third–for example, a stellar portfolio will always make up for a lousy cover letter, but you better ace the interview. So how do you do that?

  • Show up on time. No, better yet: show up 1/2 hour ahead.
  • Come prepared. This seems like a no-brainer, but really. Come prepared. I’ve had two candidates empty yellow packing envelopes full of printed work onto the table and sort of slide them around to find something. Another had a bookbag full of loose printed pieces, but he was the rare exception to the rule–his work was excellent and he had both the chops and the interpersonal skills to help me overlook the presentation. He got the job–but I still give him shit about being very close to losing it. If you’re going to bring me printed material (and you’d better) I expect to see something great. This is a matter of pride; if your stuff is bumping around in the bottom of your bag and the corners are all bent, that shows me you don’t care about your work, and I’m already put off. If you have a ton of stuff, bring your four best pieces and show me the rest online.
  • Show up. For fuck’s sake, bring your A game or don’t come at all. I shouldn’t have to chase you out in the interview. You might be painfully shy, but show me some personality, please.
  • Be prepared to talk about each of your pieces. Here are some sample questions I might ask:
    • What was your role on this project? (designer, layout, photo selection, etc.) How much?
    • What was the hardest part of this project?
    • What did you learn while working on this project?
  • Ask questions. Your questions are as important as the ones I ask; if you just sit back and let us control the interview, I’ll know you’re not proactive enough for the job.
  • Do some research. I’ve invested time in you before you walked in the door–I’ve checked your LinkedIn profile, looked through your resume and portfolio, and maybe even Googled around to see if you show up anywhere. Do some homework on the company you’re interviewing with and be prepared to ask some questions. It shows you’re motivated.
  • Tell the truth. If you show me a piece that you only did 30% of the work on, explain why and tell me what you learned while working on it. Find a way to turn it into a positive or don’t show it to me.
  • Prepare to leave a spare resume and a business card. Always. Remember, there are 50 other applicants trying to get in the same door; any reminder you can leave behind is a good one.
  • Always send a thank-you email. It shows you have class and good manners, and it’s a good way to remind me who you are. Don’t pester me every day with a request for an update. Some employers are bad at keeping applicants up to date with developments; I try to be the exception.
  • Always leave the interview with a clear idea of next steps. If the interviewer doesn’t mention this, bring it up and ask them what will happen next. Something like, “So, when should I expect to hear back from you with next steps?” Blunt, but what can I say to that?

Make an impression on me. If you can’t do that, you’re in trouble, right?

Date posted: November 11, 2014 | Filed under art/design | Leave a Comment »

I loaded Yosemite onto my work laptop yesterday morning, figuring it would make a great test case for the rest of the machines I run (my home laptop, Jen’s laptop, a workstation under my desk, client machines, etc.) and overall it’s pretty nice. My work laptop is a Retina 13″ with an SSD, so installation took about 10 minutes and everything looks wonderful. It seems to be fast, there’s no performance hit with anything I can see, and all my apps seem to be running just fine (Adobe Creative Cloud, CS6, Office 2011, and a handful of utility apps I depend upon). The real test will be the aforementioned laptops–my home machine is an early 2010 model MacBook Pro which might not like as many of the visual improvements in Yosemite.


If you like data visualization, this book is like drinking from a firehouse.

Amazon delivered my copy of Information is Beautiful this morning, and I can testify, it is, indeed, beautiful. An entire book of charts, graphs, and visuals well-designed and displayed, about a huge range of subjects. Go to the site, absorb some of the work, and buy the book. It’s well worth the money.


Monday night I went out to the garage and started running wire to the ceiling for overhead lighting. Currently it’s a mishmash of plugin fluorescent fixtures scrounged from my old job run off extension cords, and I’ve dreamed of simply having a switch next to the door to light the space since we moved in. I ran wire from the panel to a new switchbox near the door and then started fishing wire up to the ceiling, then stopped because I wanted to make sure I was running the wire correctly. It’s looking like I’m on the right track based on this diagram, so I’ll continue getting things in place in preparation for buying the fixtures and a new breaker.

Date posted: October 22, 2014 | Filed under apple, art/design, geek, projects | Leave a Comment »

Anytime I feel like I’m not happy with my career, I’m going to look at this chart, detailing the poor career outlook for those of us with degrees in the higher arts…

Date posted: October 20, 2014 | Filed under art/design, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

This. This right here:

Do not start the presentation with an apology or disclaimer.

No matter how much more you had hoped to present, by the time you get in that room, whatever you have is exactly the right amount of work. Any resetting of expectations should have been handled before the meeting.

I worked with someone who routinely started client meetings with an apology. It used to drive me nuts. There are things on this list that I do sometimes when working a room, so I’ll have to brush up on this before my next presentation.

via 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations.

Date posted: October 2, 2014 | Filed under art/design, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

This is a really well-made video commentary on why David Fincher might be the best director in Hollywood today. I’d have to agree completely.

Date posted: October 2, 2014 | Filed under art/design, entertainment, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

After many years of lusting after these, I pulled the trigger and bought the 2013 Feltron Annual Report. Data visualization is more and more what my job is about, and this is a leading example of the discipline.

Date posted: September 22, 2014 | Filed under art/design, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I high school, I was a huge Frank Miller fan–based not only on the Dark Knight, but Elektra and Ronin, weird books that weren’t like any of the other ‘comic books’ I saw out there. Miller has gotten strange in the last 15 years or so, and Grantland did a great retrospective of his career which explores where he’s been and why he’s so uncompromising.

The thing Miller admires about his heroes isn’t their power — he’s yanked that away from them, over and over. He worships their certainty. Their moral clarity, their willingness to judge and mete out the punishment that society can’t or won’t, their refusal to back down or equivocate.

via Frank Miller’s Dark Night.

Date posted: September 1, 2014 | Filed under art/design, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

There is little in the way of mental rest. Being a freelancer means never turning down work when offered. You don’t skip a gig because of vacation or anything like that, because you know that’s leaving money on the table. You can see the money burning in your head.

–Drew Magary, one of my favorite bloggity authors, on Deadspin

Date posted: August 7, 2014 | Filed under art/design, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »