Ryan McGinley’s Advice for Young Artists

business, design inspiration, fine arts, photography

Or any artists, really. This is solid advice, y’all.

“Be busy. Seek and find a way to do what it is you want to do. Identify what that thing is and do it. Don’t stand around too long having conversations about it. Do it. Refine it. Do it more. Try it a different way. Keep at it until you break through to the next level. Don’t talk or think yourself out of doing it. Put one foot in front of the other and let it happen organically.”

Read/watch Ryan McGinley’s Advice for Young Artists on VICE.

ryan mcginley photography


Photo from VICE, copyright Ryan McGinley.



Entrepreneurs Take New Orleans!

business, design, freelance, non-profit

I’ve been so excited for this week for awhile now – and it’s finally here! I’m attending several sessions of New Orleans Entrepreneurs Week (NOEW) organized by The Idea Village (@IdeaVillage and #NOEW13 or #NOEW on twitter). I was delightfully overwhelmed with the turnout and quality of the speaker I saw today at my first session. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow! Confession time: I love a good conference! I love this conference even more than the ones I have attended in the past because it directly affects my business which I am so passionate about. Today was more like an idea session full of big thinkers than a traditional sit-and-listen conference. Today’s social media session was incredibly interactive and the speaker (@heyitsmegan if you want to look her up) was engaging and real. She laid out of lot social media ideas I’ve known for awhile since I’ve been in marketing for 7+ years, but she did offer up some new tricks and gentle reminders for those of us who have been doing it the same way for awhile. Sometimes it’s good to get back to basics!

photo(8) the idea village

So, here’s a little free advice I’m going to pass on! Make sure you have a clear goal in mind for your business social media. A simple calendar to keep track of your ideas and make sure you aren’t doubling up on topics can make your online social life much simpler. Pick some topics or ways of sharing and find a system that works for engaging your followers. Remember that your conversation twitter is different than your conversation on facebook. Social media should be fun, but it’s also a large component of your brand personality and you should spend enough, but not too much, time engaging your clientele (and potential clientele). I’m going to work on my calendar tonight! I’m feeling like a few more specifics would do me some good!

Having The Idea Village and NOEW here 1.) makes me realize I’m in the right place at the right time, and 2.) makes me think about how much growth there is in our beautiful city. New Orleans is known for it’s history, classic beauty and ability to hang on to traditions when other cities are paving over theirs. But there is something special about New Orleans that has been attracting and creating growth and new ideas for generations. It’s easy to feel like you have time and space to think in this city. Seeing history in action makes you think about creating something that lasts. I can’t wait to update you on many new things coming down the pike for me and Fried Green Design. It’s an exciting time to be in New Orleans and exciting time for a new business!

Designer Dilemma: Pinterest Ethics Grey Area

advertising, branding, business, design, websites

In the wake of buying ourselves a sweet fixer upper, my interest in Pinterest has been revived. This home needs help! I want to collect every idea for budget home decor that I can possibly find and funnel them all into one easy-to-access place. I will log into Pinterest and pin my face off! Oh, you’re getting married/having a baby/throwing a shower/eating a dinner/painting your toenails? I’ll send you my boards on those subjects! Do you Pinterest? Are we using that as a verb yet? I’ll go with it.

The point of this story is twofold. Warning: Prepare for a lot of questions and opinions! I cannot tell you how to behave on the internet, these are merely some thoughts.

Above logo from Pinterest website.

1. Is Pinterest being abused? Is it okay to love it? Is it okay to hate it? Is it okay to feel both ways? (I certainly do!)

There are a lot of issues surrounding copyright for designers and artists whose work is being pinned and re-pinned on the site with each degree getting farther from the original source. The farther from the source a web bit gets, the farther from appropriate credit being given to original artwork and design. Are we going to see a lot of copycats? Are we seeing a lot of folks’ work being credited incorrectly or not at all? I’ve read Pinterest’s user etiquette and terms of use pages, but I’m assuming most users probably haven’t. Read it and then read up on some recent copyright issues and blog posts  (be sure to read the follow ups at the bottom of the DDK blog). Pinterest seems to be taking a genuine interest in protecting both their pinners and their artists while still having fun. We’ll just have to wait and see how this matter turns out.

I am not a lawyer, but I’m of the camp that if a site has a “pin it” button, it’s probably safe to use. (This is based on my personal thought, not fact, so please don’t quote me on that, and definitely use your own discretion or consult your own lawyer!) To me, a “pin it” means that the external site you’re pinning from is comfortable sharing their copyrighted or trademarked material. In the case of a blog that posts the work of others and has a “pin it” button, I’d have to assume that they have gotten permission. But admittedly, I contact very few of the outside site and blog owners I cite material from. I meticulously link everything I use back to their original sites, including images. I also do not reprint entire articles in my posts, but link you over to their original posts or articles. I feel like the information is on the internet, so people must want it publicized and read/seen, but credit is always due where credit is due. That being said, after reading all of these articles, I’ve deleted my “pin it” button from this blog because I don’t want you to think those folks I cite say it’s okay to pin their work. If you have pinned from my cite anything that is not noted as my own work, I would love it if you “un-pinned.” If you’re thinking of pinning, go to the linked sites and see if they have a “pin it” or written permission, and then do as you see fit. And be sure to give credit and links! Always! I will do the same. When I post my own designs, I will be happy to leave a “pin it” for y’all. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in a law suit somewhere down the road.

When you’re on Pinterest repinning from other people’s boards, please remember that not all pins actually have a link back to the original artist/website. It would be polite to find the original artist/designer and link back to them. Photographers, I would recommend you make sure you have a watermark that shows your website, or at least your full legal company name if you have a “pin it” button on your site. Or even if you don’t. I imagine a lot of small business owners cannot afford to sue someone over pinning un-watermarked that that same owner willingly put on the internet. Do yourself a solid and put a mark on your pieces. Then, if your image gets separated from its link, at least the info is right there on your image. I’m going to do the same with designs and pieces I create from now on – create a jpeg or photograph the work and add a watermark. I’m also adding a disclaimer to the site that people are not to crop out the watermark. That’s not cool and not okay! And don’t even think of finding one of those sites that will edit out a watermark for you to illegally print. That’s just horrible. Artists deserve to be paid too.

These are just tips from one designer to another artist/designer/photographer. Please use your own best judgement or consult a lawyer if you’re confused.

2. What’s the deal with Pinterest if you’re just using it for fun and non-commercial stuff? Like, I want to pin a bunch of paint samples and cute room ideas from Apartment Therapy and Dwell. Did they get permission to use those images? Can I feel okay repinning?

I’m so on the fence here. A lot of folks I know are just deleting anything that might be questionable, thinking that if they were in the other designer’s shoes, would they want their stuff being pinned all over without knowledge? I love love love the ease of use with Pinterest – you can save all the things you admire, take your smart phone to the store and not spend one million dollars on magazine subscriptions or have to look up bookmarks to a hundred websites. This saves time, forgetfulness, money and phone G’s. I love all of these things. And when I’m innocently pinning, I’m not advertising these products to anyone commercially, but I am in fact advertising them online at Pinterest for other people to use any deviant way they might. Do I want to perpetuate that, even if unintentionally? Am I just being paranoid? I have no idea what to do about this dilemma. There’s basically no protecting yourself from what happens after you repin something. As it stands now, the Pinterest code of ethics says you own what you pin and you are responsible for it. Again, please see the etiquette page on Pinterest and refer to the well-written DDK dialogue about the info found there.

Basically, my feeling is that I’m going to skip the “pin it” plug in for my computer so I’m forced to use sites that place their own “pin it” but I’m going to err on the side of caution and be careful what I pin. Blog-based Apartment Therapy, for example, has a “pin it” button everywhere and they are heavily involved in Pinterest. Dwell, a for-profit magazine with legitimate, paying, real-life print/iPad subscribers, is not on Pinterest, as far as I can tell. It also has no “pin it’s” on the articles and home tours portion of its site, but does have “pin it’s” on the shopping area of the site. When in doubt, I’m going to contact the owner or not pin at all. It’s going to be hard to break the habit, but I think it’s good for me until this matter gets sorted out and some hard facts are out there. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that Pinterest’s terms of use are in place to protect them, not us.

Thank you all for listening! I can’t wait to have a little more hard evidence as to what’s right and wrong!

Super Big News from the Fried Green Blog

business, design, exhibitions, fine arts, freelance, galleries

Hello! I have a big big announcement – the Fried Green Blog will be relocating to my favorite place on the planet: New Orleans! At the end of the month, the Fried Green Husband and I will be making the 1,011 mile drive to the Crescent City and setting up shop on the West Bank. We are stoked! Completely stoked.

We will be super sad to say goodbye to our friends, family and colleagues here in Virginia, but I imagine we’ll have no shortage of visitors! It will be super exciting for me to move down south and make new friends, coworkers and clients. Things are looking very promising for me and the hubs, so wish us luck!

Here’s a condensed list of reasons I’m excited to be moving to New Orleans:

1. The NOMA and the Lifelike exhibit coming in November, among many others.

2. Seeing some Rodrigue’s that aren’t Blue Dog:

Image from George Rodrigue website.

3. Ferries. Ferries are neat:

4. Food. And local beer. I can’t even begin to link to just one of each…

5. Mardi gras of course, but also Jazz Fest and a million other festivals I have yet to discover.

6. Climate. New Orleans vs. Richmond (brrr… I will not miss Virginia winter!)

7. Music. Tons of music.

8. Trying something new. Priceless.

Here we go!





What’s the Big Deal about Branding? (part 1!)

branding, business, design

In and among the fun, fine arts and out-of-the-proverbial-box installations and architecture posts, I like to remind myself why I’m in the design and marketing business. I love branding. Love it. Logos are my passion, and developing a branding system is a thrill for me. But I hate poorly used, poorly executed and ignored brands. Hate them. Well, maybe I don’t hate them, but I certainly feel sorry for them.

Image from SMPS Marketing Communication Awards 2012, Brand Constructors award winning piece.

So here’s where you are: You spent a bunch of money to have a fancy graphic designer make you a logo and create a website for your business where you can house that little beauty, and you probably ordered a bunch of business cards and new letterhead and you couldn’t wait to start shipping those lovely items off to your clients and colleagues. I bet most of your audience noticed the change and some of them probably even sent you a “congrats on the rebrand!” or a “lookin’ good!” But then the fanfare died down and you were back to business as usual.

Now what? Think your branding exercise is complete? Think again! Branding is so much more than a flashy logo and a killer tagline. Your brand is the face of your business when there are no human faces to be seen. Your brand speaks for and with your company personnel. Treat it as such! Your brand is an extension of your staff and probably speaks with more volume and to more clients than a lot of your technical staff. Would you take your most inexperienced CAD technician to a fancy industry dinner and leave him or her to fend for themself? No! You’d introduce them around and be sure they’re making friends, of course. You’d make sure they are meeting the right people and saying appropriate things about the company. Treat your brand like one of your employees. Promote it, sell it, live it and talk about it like the living thing it is.

If I can give you one piece of branding advice, it is to make sure your company is living your brand (who are you? what do you stand for? why are you here? and why should I care?) and that your brand message is being received. This applies to rebrands, new brands and long-standing brands. Periodically check in with your employees to make sure they are clear on what your company stands for and why it’s important for clients to know what that is. Even employees who never leave the office are business developers. They are on the phone and emailing with clients every day and you really have no idea what they are saying. And don’t forget to check in with clients from time to time to make sure they are receiving the appropriate delivery on the message you’re sending out. Is your company being heard? Are your employees living the brand?

I feel like there is so much to be said about branding, especially in the architecture/engineering/construction community where I spend so much of my day. This will absolutely be a multi-part series of a conversation. Tune in for more to come!

Design Competitions, Yea or Nay?

business, design, freelance, non-profit, Uncategorized

I’m having  a bit of a philosophical debate with myself over the thought of entering design competitions. I’m really on the fence here. Part of me really likes the idea of the exposure, the cheaper-than-advertising self-promotion, and of course the ego boost that comes with placing in a competition. But part of me really hates the idea of not doing proper marketing, filling the pages of a magazine or website by paying them to host my work, and also the fear of rejection. I think of these competitions as a way for the magazine researchers not to really have to work that month. Is it a cop out for the publisher to do competitions? Do I really want my work up against everyone else for critique? Is that the point? If the client is happy, isn’t that all that matters? I don’t know what to do. Anyone had any success in building business after winning or being featured in a competition? These things can add up monetarily, so I would have to be really selective in my competition choice and would hope for a return on the investment. I welcome any comments or opinions on the matter.

Beyond the  industry magazine/online competitions, there are a lot of other competitions that have no real prize other than exposure. I know there’s a big industry debate (and cross-industry debate) over the ethics surrounding such competitions. Charlotte, North Carolina held a competition for their Democratic Convention 2012 poster and only $1 per poster sold is going back to the artist. Presumably, the artist believes in the organization, I guess. That’s better than some though – last year the Huffington Post was bombarded by angry designers accusing them of soliciting speculative work, when they put out a call for people to submit new logo ideas for the online mag. They claimed not to be soliciting design work for free, but this is really common practice and I can’t imagine that all of these supposed non-solicitors are genuine. Techradar has a good article related to free web design. These kind of “competitions” are happening every day in all areas of design. According to most reports lately, architects and other people in art-related fields are the most unemployed in America. Why, then, are we entering “competitions” for free work if there’s no promise of a paying job at the end? Why aren’t we all charging for spec-work? Why do some designers feel it’s okay to partake and others don’t? Aren’t there better ways to build a portfolio? I’m not saying I haven’t done this in the past, but I think we can find a better way and teach the next generation of designers to learn from our mistakes. I would think that if folks in the design industry stopped entering/supplying, then the hosts of these competitions and calls for free work would have to start paying. We would all consider our work to be more valuable. So would our clientele.

While I’m on this rant, I’d like to add that we need to come up with a clearer definition in the design industry on what’s “pro bono” and what’s just working for free. Designer David Airey wrote about how to find pro bono-worthy organizations, in order to help the public good and boost your portfolio. To me pro bono implies that you’d be doing the work for a non-profit, some organization you have a special belief in, etc. But maybe that’s just me. On a lighter note, hop over here to see Jessica Hische’s infographic on “Should I Work For Free?” Hits hilariously close to home.