• Flash Catalyst: How You Too Can Look Professional!

    I am in a love affair with Adobe Creative Suite.  It’s true and I’m not even going to try and deny it.  The software is just so useful!  But it’s also so powerful and comprehensive that learning how to use it to its full potential is nearly impossible.  That being said, I’m starting to get decent at it.  At least I can make mock ups for graphic designers to work off of.

    But I can honestly say I’ve got Flash Catalyst pretty much down!  In fact, I just built my first real site for a few friends of mine attempting to start their own Non-Profit Organization, Educators For Change.  The site is early in development and we need to pump it full of content, but I’m feeling good about it’s look.

    Of course the project has a long ways to go with my next goal being a custom blog template for the project.  I’m 90% done with the Adobe Illustrator mock up.  Now just to learn PHP…  Anyone want to help out?

  • Call Me Old Fashioned, But I still Write Thank You Notes

    Business and society are funny things.  We talk about the rapid pace of technological progress and how technology ultimately improves our lives (and businesses), but rarely do step away from our infatuation with technology and talk about what we lose as we continue to do things quicker, faster, and “better.”  And that’s something we should do more often.  Stepping away from technology for a few hours not only allows us to reflect on what we have achieved, but in my experience, it allows us to learn how to use technology better.

    I was recently reminded of this while reading a blog post from Paul Gumbinner, a NYC based Executive Recruiter who often writes about advertising jobs, interviewing, and his experiences in the Madison Avenue Advertising World.  I’ve sourced Paul a time or two for my post on Beyond Madison Avenue and I highly recommend reading his blog.  It’s good stuff.

    As a whole, we are technically more connected with each other today than in any period in history.  But at the same time, I continuously find that we are much less personally connected.  In fact, I often feel like we are quickly becoming almost impassive.  Yes we email each other in what seems like a near constant stream of messages, participate in involved Twitter based conversations, and interact via social media, but less and less do we communicate via real personal interaction.

    This is especially true in the business world where anonymous job posts are becoming what seems like the standard.  As a result, we have become a society that seems to feel contacting potential employers via a phone call is rude.  Furthermore when we do initiate a connection, interview with a potential employer, or even ask for advice from someone, it seems like it’s become a rare thing to write a real thank you note.  And that is  rude.

    In the “old days” (the days before email, Twitter, Facebook, etc), we relied on three major forms of communication: personal interaction, snail mail, and the telephone.  And although snail mail and the telephone seem impersonal compared to a personal meeting with someone, sending a letter to someone or making a phone call can in fact be a very personal way to communicate.  Think about all the letters soldiers sent to their friends and family during the American Civil War.

    Although business letters are not exactly in the same league as Civil War letters, both types of letters share many common threads; most of which stem from the effort involved in writing and sending a real letter.  Compared to email, which seems to have been reduced to quick informal messages, writing a true letter takes time no matter if the letter is three pages long or three sentences long.   And that effort shows; especially when it’s a thank you note to a business contact.  Add in the fact that the business world is increasingly tough and guess what, that extra thirty minutes may in fact lead to great opportunities.

    That being said, call me old-fashioned, but I still write snail mailed thank you notes.  Yes they take time, but in my experience, they make a real impression on people.



  • Not Getting the Job, but Making the Right Connection

    The business world is a tough place.  And if you think it’s going to get better in the near future, let me introduce you to this novel concept called reality.  It’s something that the governments of the world are currently being introduced to (If you are unfamiliar with Marx’s Das Kapital; it’s a long, often difficult to understand set of works discussing the functions of capitalism, the history of capitalism, and most importantly, Marx’s famed view on capitalism’s diminishing rate of profit.  Like I said, it’s not an easy read.  Nor is it what I call uplifting).

    But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today.  I wanted to talk about the value of being rejected by a potential employer.

    Like I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m currently in a purgatory like state of employment/unemployment.  I’m in that fickle and highly stressful stage of life between my undergraduate degree and my graduate degree.  Yes I graduated from a top tier university with a true liberal arts degree (I could of graduated in 2.5 years… I studied 4) and a work ethic that most employers would kill for, but the fact remains that I’m also competing in a world that is in all honesty a wash of “cheap” undergraduate degrees.  (Notice how I did not describe the undergraduate as inexpensive.  They are anything but inexpensive).

    But I do not let that detour me.  Doing so seems in my eyes unproductive as worrying about things that you can’t do anything about is simular to travelling via rocking chair: you expend a lot of energy, but you don’t move anywhere.

    What I can do (and I encourage others to do) is continue forward progress.  It may seem like you are constantly being pushed back 4 steps, but if you make 5 forward steps, that’s still a net gain of 1 step.  It’s not a huge gain, but with the college football season coming up (and my string of productive Saturdays about to start disappearing), a gain is a gain.  It’s not a touchdown, but neither are most plays in a game.

    And that brings me to my point.  When you get rejected by a potential employer, take it for all it’s worth.  Make a connection with the people at the company, make a solid impression, and initiate a relationship.  It’s not a job, but it’s forward progress.

    That being said, I want to leave this post by re-visiting an old idea (the SaySomethingNice initiative) that I was reminded of by a recent (and non related) Improve Everywhere Campaign.  On a side note, Charlie Todd, the founder of Improve Everywhere is also a UNC alum and one smart guy.


  • Photoshop CS5’s Shapebuilder Tool and Reasons why I need to Learn to Read

    I really need to re-learn to read.  And I’m not talking about the ability to look at a word and know what it means.  I’m talking about the ability to see the small details in a passage that most readers skip… things like exact dates.

    It’s because I “skim” most articles that I read.  “Skimming” is a bad habit that readers tend to sink into and I personally think that it’s a result of years of having to “skim” through pages upon pages of reading for school.  I was a literature major after all.

    But enough of that.  Today’s post focuses on a new tool that I’ve been playing around with in Illustrator CS5.  It’s the Shapebuilder tool.  And it’s wonderful.

    So what is the Shapebuilder tool?  It basically works like the Live Paint tool that makes coloring shapes in Illustrator super easy.  Back in the days of CS4 and before, to make the shapes required for the Live Paint tool, a designer either had to use the somewhat complicated pathfinder tool or stick with very basic shapes… like circles and squares.  But if there is one theme that defines CS5, it’s the way that it has simplified a lot of simple to solve issues.  Unlike previous versions of CS, CS5 seems to have focused on doing things better, not just expanding CS’s capabilities.  In other words, CS5 didn’t just put a bigger engine in the vehicle, it fixed the cup holder problem.

    If you want to learn about the Shapebuilder tool via Adobe TV, just click on this link.  Adobe has been kind enough to create this online series explaining virtually every tool in the CS5 family.  It’s a great example of how companies are using customer relationships as a primary advertising tool.

    Want a quick example of what the Shapebuilder tool can do?  This comes from my attempt to enter a logo contest for a local based advertising company that ended 5 years ago…  Like I said, I need to re-learn to read.  But anyway, it was a great excuse to exercise the creating juices and learn a new tool in Illustrator.

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