The sandbox has been fun, but I’ll be moving on. The new test site is HERE, and I hope to unveil it as the new DCGrrl.com on Drupal soon. I’ll be interested to hear your feedback as I move through this process. Thanks to everyone who is supporting me on this venture!
It’s the spring semester, and a new year, so I’m hitting the books!
Actually I’ll be hitting the keyboard and peering into the screen, learning some more about interactive web at the Corcoran continuing education program. I took an earlier class there a few years ago, which helped me redesign this here blog, and it’s time to kick it up a notch. So please bear with me while I play around a bit, make a few adjustments, and learn new tricks.
More exciting new experiments will be going on in my designated play area, my new SANDBOX.
Off to do my homework….
Constructive criticism sounds to many people like something you are meant to give a first grader, but we need to use this technique throughout our lives, with our partners at work, and even with our adult family members. If you want to ask someone to make a change (i.e., give some criticism), it’s best to do it in a constructive way, to keep the peace and nurture important relationships.
I work with a group of artists and writers on a daily basis, and every once in a while someone comes into my office complaining about how a client is going over the line with their critique. Almost as often, I get a client coming into my office asking me why an artist got their feathers all ruffled just because they wanted to make a logo bigger. How can this be avoided?
- Avoid disputes from the beginning. Make the project expectations crystal clear before anyone gets started. If the project is defined on paper on a creative brief or job description sheet, it will be easier for someone to execute. Ask at this stage what your creative team needs from you. And be specific about what is expected to be delivered at what deadline. At the next level, it’s easier when critiquing to point out what is missing, if anything. Then, leave room for a second round of drafts.
- Make changes clear. When you receive something and you know there will be many changes, take some time to be specific about what is obviously wrong or missing. If you have your job description on paper, this will be simple.
- Don’t be too clear. If you’ve delegated work to someone, don’t take all the fun (er, job satisfaction, that is) out of it by dictating font sizes or changing colors just because you feel like you need to make some comment. Ask yourself if your end audience will see a difference in the changes you are suggesting. If not, zip it! And remember, you have sent this work to this person for a reason – because you are too busy, because they are a specialist, because they have access to more resources – let them do their work.
I’ll just say this now, in case no one has ever told you – graphic artists/designers as a rule do NOT like it when someone stands behind them and watches them make changes – that’s pretty much universal.
- Be clear about what is right. If you find yourself filling a piece of paper with red marks, invest in a green pen. Is the headline good? Do you like the font choice, or photo selection? Circle a few things you definitely want to keep. These choices took time, and your appreciation of these items will make your creative partner feel a bit more at ease.
Start your feedback conversation by mentioning one of these items, and come back to one of these at the end of your discussion for a good ‘compliment sandwich.’
- Language is important. If you didn’t create it, you may not understand the creator’s motivation behind the way the project was done. Some language that has been helpful for me:
- I see what you’re doing here, but what if you tried some less formal language?
- I like this color combination, but it might be a bit bold for this product.
- This section is great, but I think we may have gone into too much detail for our audience. Can you break it down for the outsider to understand better?
- This image is really exciting, but I’m not sure if it fits the character of the rest of the piece. Do you have some others you can show me?
- Disaster plan. If what you have received is nothing near what you thought you asked for, then something could have gone wrong from the job description point. Keeping communication open is imperative, so everyone is in the same frame of mind. Maybe the project manager will step in with — “I must have really steered you in the wrong direction, we’re going to have to reboot this,” or something like that – to get everyone on the same side, and restart the project rather than slicing and dicing what’s been done.
The creative process doesn’t have to be painful. It can be a fun, collaborative adventure if it’s approached in the right way. I hope these hints will help you down that path!
Anyone on the East Coast of the United States knows there was a huge storm system a couple of weeks ago that took out lots of old trees and, subsequently, the power lines in much of the Washington area, and surrounding states.
We were affected at my house, losing power for nearly a full 24 hours, and we were among the lucky ones. This meant trying to sleep on a hot, humid night with no air conditioning, no coffee the next morning and wondering how to re-adjust our Saturday with no power. Sadly, most of the businesses we visit were suffering from the same power outage.
In addition, we were in a bit of shock — we NEVER lose power during these events — whether caused by thunderstorm or snow. Our street is an evacuation route, and we have been fairly well protected, so we really kept expecting the power to come right back on.
Lesson learned. We had a bit of an emergency kit, but after about one hour, we realized we were ill prepared. So did, apparently, much of our surrounding neighborhood, based on the run on D-batteries at local stores. (They were totally sold out at the Target and the CVS.) Lines at gas stations were blocks down the street when folks realized not all stations had power. So, time to get prepped. Not like ‘Doomsday Preppers,’ but reasonably prepared in case a very likely thunderstorm system comes through again, or we will have it ready for the next Snowmageddon.
Step 1 – Check out the Red Cross preparedness lists. These are reasonable targets. Their ‘Be Red Cross Ready’ General Preparedness list looks like a good model to me. State Farm insurance also has some good advice, under Disaster Preparedness.
Step 2 – Make our own readiness plans. We realized we actually have a lot of what we need in the house, but the frustration of having no air conditioning and no access to TV news or the Internet really threw us off.
Step 3 – Go shopping. There are definitely some things missing from our emergency kit, and one of those things is a real ‘KIT.’ Time to take these things seriously.
Here’s my shopping/packing list:
- Hand-crank/solar-powered NOAA radio
- Candles, a lighter and matches.
- Box of easy-burn logs for the fire place. These don’t keep us super warm, but they do help take the chill off when the furnace isn’t working. Hard to prioritize this when it’s 90 degrees outside, but they ought to be cheap right now.
- Bottled water — we have a water filter in our refrigerator, but it’s easy to keep a case of water bottles in the basement.
- Dry goods — cereal/oatmeal for a no-electricity breakfast, canned soup for lunch, other foods with long shelf life we can store for a year or two. Shelf-stable rice milk.
- Contact numbers for family and utilities — these were all on my mobile phone, and my reception died, and so did my phone batteries. That said, we do have a land-line phone that works in our house. Points for that.
- Solar-power cell phone charger (I have this, but it wasn’t where I needed it!)
- Fresh 6-volt battery for our large camping-type flashlight. This is the light we relied on most, and we definitely should have a backup battery for it.
- AA, AAA, C, D batteries – Everyone seems to want them when the power goes out. If we don’t use them, I suppose under dire circumstances we could barter them.
I’d love to get your suggestions and hear your power-out stories. My fingers are crossed that we don’t see another week without power around here this summer. We’ve paid our dues.
Music has been a guiding force for me since I was a kid. I got the opportunity to be a part of musical theater performances in high school. As a part of the cast, I found a place to belong, a gang to hang with. Since then, I’ve found leadership positions in college radio, local music zines, and a record store.
Now I’m volunteering with Girls Rock! DC — a rock camp for Washington-area girls — and though I joined to donate my time and talents, I have found that after volunteering for a couple of years, I have gotten back as much as I’ve given, especially in the form of leadership experience. I have a few tips I can share, which apply to more than just musical organizations:
- Share the microphone. Leaders aren’t responsible for providing ALL the solutions, but for guiding the team towards one. Don’t shy away from leadership because you don’t know all the answers.
- Audition your band members carefully. Better teams make better leaders. When you have a good group working for you, it’s easier to communicate, to reach goals together, and eventually succeed.
- Write lyrics as a group. Seek solutions from the people you are leading, and help them organize a path to the best solution.
- Enunciate. Especially when you are delegating, be clear with expectations.
- Go wild on stage! …to a degree. Leaders take risks, but that doesn’t mean doing things haphazardly. Risks can be taken after looking at the necessary considerations, and then moving forward in an educated manner.
- Now, with feeling! Passion is contagious. Gratitude is rewarding. These tools are free and if they are genuine, they can brighten up a workspace more than changing the wallpaper.
- Practice, practice, practice! Don’t ever stop learning. The world is changing around us. People learn and work in different ways, and effective leaders must be willing to adapt. Keep on your toes. Take a class, or volunteer somewhere like Girls Rock! DC, where you can energize your leadership batteries.
As much as non-profit organizations like Girls Rock! DC can benefit from your time and talents, you can often use your volunteer experience on the job. For instance, I kept my website and design skills sharp at Girls Rock! DC, talents I’ve been able to take back to work with me. Groups like Girls Rock! DC are real résumé-building opportunities.
This year, Girls Rock! DC is planning their fifth annual camp for girls 8-18 years old. If you have some time to donate, especially if music is one of your passions, visit girlsrockdc.org for more information. No musical talent is necessary. If you are interested in being a role model for these young people, we’d like to hear from you!
*This post originally ran on Sisarina Speaks! a blog from Sisarina, under Melanie’s Be a Leader series. Check out their awesome branding, marketing and web design services.
Words are powerful things. There are lots of great quotes about this…
The pen is mightier than the sword.”
“Loose lips sink ships”
“If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”
Importantly, as powerful, dangerous and funny as words can be, they can also be a source of encouragement and warmth.
Thinking on this topic, I was reminded of a compliment I got at a job interview in 1995. Yes, 15 years ago.
It happened to be an interview for a part-time, low-level position with a pretty high-profile guy, but he told me “I like your style.” I can’t tell you how many times I have repeated this story, and how much I have looked back on that moment and reveled in it. I am sure he has no idea what an impression he made on me. (I didn’t even take the job.)
If such a small, ambiguous compliment can stick with me for so long, think about how I would feel if I’d had “You won’t fit in.” echoing in my head for 15 years.
Treating each other carefully is simply the humane thing to do. It starts with polite conversation.You have a choice. You can decide to make someone’s day with your words. You might even make their decade.
Thank you for reading.
Does your company give employees awards of any kind?
- Increase morale
- Reinforce good practices
- Highlight achievements that should be remembered around review time
- Justify promotions or bonuses
The best part is, a company doesn’t have to spend very much on recognition. It can be as little as a piece of paper.
Of course, it can be as much as an iPad or a trip to Hawaii and most employees wouldn’t complain. Just a thought.