Jobs

I partnered up with the boys over at Krop.com to provide my readers with any creative job search help that I might provide. Of course, you could just go straight over to Krop.com, but what fun would that be? Isn’t it more fun to support affiliates?


Public services: use your spent tax dollars

If you fancy yourself a loyal citizen – and mind you, I’m not getting righteous and spilling yellow ribbons from my orifices – I hope that you take advantage of the services your tax dollars pay for in your town and country. There are a ton of great services that are sitting right under your nose, and if you’re anything like the majority of the people I know, you’re not taking advantage of these things that you help support with your tax dollars (with the exception of KCRW…everyone in LA seems to tune in from time to time).

Not all of them are free. In fact, I can’t think of many that are completely free. Even so, our tax dollars subsidize a lot of great things that we should all take advantage of. In Beverly Hills (not 90210, mind you), there are a handful of things that I’ve started using on the regular which are of great benefit to me, at little to no cost:

  • TelevisionPBS HD – how cool would it have been to see Fred Rogers in 1080p? It’s still pretty cool to check out all some of PBS’s shows…sometimes sinfully boring, but often worth checking out and/or DVR’ing, especially if the show is in HD.
  • RadioKPFK 90.7FM, KCRW 89.9FM, and KKJZ 88.1FM are all top-notch radio stations with a great mix of “less-biased” news(read: non-corporate, but still sometimes agenda-driven) and fantastic music.
  • Local libraries – I saved the best for last, seriously. Maybe I just lucked out living in Pasadena for 10 years, and now Beverly Hills, because both of these cities’ libraries are incredible. Beverly Hills Public Library recently changed its policies to allow their patrons to check out up to 64 items – any mix of books, audio-books, DVDs, CDs, etc. – for 2 weeks. DVD rentals used to be $.50 per day, and there was also a limit of 6 CDs that could be checked out at a time. I have 30 CDs at home right now, and 8 or 9 movies (mostly foreign, of which there’s a great selection).

I’m a media junky. For years I consumed DVDs, CDs, magazines, books, TV, etc. at a great financial loss to myself. Granted, now I have a very nice collection of the aforementioned items, but as it becomes easier to consume these items digitally through personal audio players, online reading, and RSS syndication delivered to my phone, I’m finding it increasingly wasteful for me to continue to purchase these things. I think I’ll always be a consumer, in that, I will consume or digest large volumes of information and stimuli. I always have.

But there’s no reason to support the wasteful production of unnecessary CD and DVD cases, when I can rent them from the library. I can listen to great radio on the stations listed above. And, in the instance of movies, I can rent anything unavailable at the library through my Blockbuster Online account (which deserves a whole post of its own). Instead of $200 shopping sprees on a fairly regular basis to stuff myself with music and movies, I pay Blockbuster monthly charges of $17.99 and whatever late charges I incur on my library card. You do the math.

The long and the short of it is, I’m tired of being so wasteful. If I’m paying with tax dollars to help support my local libraries and community services, I’m going to do my best to use them. I don’t happen to need public transportation, but if I could use it, I would. The Big Blue Bus on this side of town is bar none the best bus system I’ve ever been on.

After traveling around the world a bunch in the last few months it has been driven into my head again how wasteful our society is. There’s no reason for the excess, and as I have been trimming it from my life, I feel the fat in my soul; it’s like having spiritual love handles. And so I send myself up the street to the library to check out fistfuls of CD’s from Yo-Yo Ma, Clapton, Wilco, Hamza El-Din, Nusrat, and plenty more, all to make me feel better. And you know what? In the process of me checking these things out and using them, I’m increasing the circulation statistics which helps generate more funds to improve the health, selection and services the library provides.

Go find what’s great in your neck of the woods and share it with us here…

Conversation with a client

I have decided that I’m going to start writing about some of my client communications here on this site. I’m under the impression that I need to speak my mind with my clients (within reason, of course) and give them my advice when it comes to the projects that they’ve hired me for. If I don’t, I feel like I’m wasting their money just delivering back a comp or making design revisions that were handed down by someone with no design sense and/or understanding of the intricacies of the design process. (Granted, I always have a discussion about my role with new clients, making sure that they want to hear what I have to say.)

When I’m called in to art direct or run creative on a project on a freelance basis, I’m a consultant. Therefore, consulting with my clients is one of the main responsibilities. In that place, it is my job as a service professional to open a dialogue with my clients taking full note of all of their desires and main objectives, and making sure that I manage the communication throughout the entire process, which includes giving them suggestions and ideas if necessary.

Have faith in your knowledge and confidence in your ideas. Make your recommendations and explain why. It won’t always work out how you suggest, but it will have a positive effect on the process more often than not. The point isn’t to sell your designs or to make things the way you want to. Rather, you are responsible for helping your clients understand what you are doing for them, and why. Remember, this is your profession, not theirs. Also remember, this is their money, not yours.

So, here’s a recent back and forth with one of my clients. The names and projects have been omitted for privacy reasons, but that shouldn’t be of any real concern. I hope that this helps in some way. I’m going to give this to you backwards…with the initial response to the comps I delivered shown first:

Quoting the client (initial comp feedback):
Yo. slight curveball for ya….can you retro fit the home page look and the profile page and the feel like {client’s favorite site}? {Name here}…the lead guy is really hoping to just copy the general look of that site.

Quoting me (my response):
{Client Name},
The short answer is “yes, I can.” The long answer is much more involved and filled with opinion and advice. And, since you’re paying me, I’ve gotta give it to you.{Project name} is going to be a huge site. It’s currently #3 or #4 when searching for “{some keyword}” on Google. So, imagine the traffic and the readership immediately upon launch. It’s large. I think it’s absolutely shooting yourselves in the foot to copy, emulate, or even heavily borrow on the design ideas of another greatly successful site and brand. With all the focus on music distribution online, this brand has left a rather indelible mark on folks.With {project name} we should be attempting to set ourselves up with a new brand, with something strong that can stand on its own. Not something that will make someone think or feel like they’ve seen this site before. And the backlash in the design industry will be quick and severe if we piggyback on the design concepts and layout structures of last.fm. It’s one thing to do that with an adult site…in fact, it’s almost expected on some level that a great site design will end up with a counterpart in the adult industry.

So my recommendation is that you really mull this one over. It’s not a small decision. What if we decided that we liked say, SoBe drinks’ logo, and fashioned {project name} after it? It’s not like SoBe has the recognition of Coca-Cola or anything, but it’s a brand recognizable enough to trigger a reaction like the one I described above. You don’t want people to associate your brand with anything else. You want your brand to stand on its own. No other great site out there emulates another when it redesigns.

What we’ve created thus far does just that; and I’m not speaking in defense of the design that I’ve completed. I always know that this is your money, and you can do what you want with it. I’m not fighting for my design. I’m merely saying that this design is something that can stand on its own. I would just hate to see you guys shoot yourself in the foot before the starter’s gun has sounded. I don’t want {project name} to limp out of the gate – I want to charge.

So please think about it, and talk it through. Let’s create something that is eye-catching and strong in and of itself.

In a good way,
Greg

Quoting the client (final response):
cool…i agree…so i think i need you to look at why we like {client’s favorite site}’s soft feel…or {another client favorite}’s soft feel…and come up with something new like those. i like your design but i feel like it needs to be a little softer. give me a shout whenever.

So, the end result was not exactly what I wanted, and I had to go back and rework some of the design, but I was able to help my client avoid design suicide. I remember at all times that my clients have hired me, and I am responsible for much more than just delivering source files, HTML, or animations. In my opinion, I am responsible for helping guide them past potential pitfalls and short-sightedness (not due to any defect of their own, again, web design is not their job, it’s mine).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with clients making requests like the one made above. They like a couple of different sites and would like for their site to have the same feel. And they trust me to help advise them; I am more than just a hired ranch-hand spitting out design emulation. I will tell clients straight out that I am not the best designer if that’s what they want – I will tire too quickly if I’m being asked to copy something else, and I’m far more expensive than other cats who’ll do it for next to nothing and claim credit for the design.

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, please share your experiences. I’d love to hear more.

Ciao Italy! Mark and Franchy are married!

Folake, Sidney and I just returned from a 6-day vacation to see Mark and Francesca get married in Padernello which is west of Treviso and north of Venice, Italy. We flew out Tuesday, arrived Wednesday, and it seemed like the party started rather immediately. We all went out for dinner the first night at a nice little restaurant in Treviso, and had our first Italian pizza. I’ve always heard people say how much better (and thinner) the pizzas are in Italy, but had no idea they’d be that tasty. I was quite excited about the fact that you can finish an entire pizza without really stuffing yourself; very, very thin crust.

After a nice, long sleep, Sidney, Mark, Erica (Mark’s sister), Brian (her fiance), Megan (her best friend), Peter, Paul, Ben, and I jumped on the train and took a day in and around Venice. We seemed to have picked the hottest week of the year to visit, as the temperature tipped around the century mark and combined itself with the 90% humidity to really echo the weather in Thailand. Folake didn’t even test it, thank God, and just stayed in and around the hotel to avoid the heat.

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.greghuntoon.com/swf/ssp-gh_italy.swf” height=”475″ width=”600″ /]
Photos from our trip to Venice and Treviso.

Venice was pretty incredible. You can feel the history as you walk through the old town, a steady mixture of old and renovated buildings, but all renovations made with keen awareness of the historical significance of old Venetian style. The canals are pretty dirty and filled with debris, though I suppose not as bad as I anticipated. Mark actually found himself swimming in the canals a couple of weeks back, due to a lack of proper facilities – 5 hours on a boat with no “water closet” and a night filled with drinking would put me in the canals for a “swim” as well – and has found no real ill effect from the swim.

After a fantastic lunch at a little spot across from the train station in Venice, we headed back up to Treviso to unwind before heading out for the evening. The train ride back to Treviso was unbearable; an hour in a sun soaked, poorly ventilated carriage was enough to put all 9 of us out. I was afraid we were going to have to carry Sidney back to the hotel, which wasn’t far, but in the heat would’ve felt like 5 miles.

We spent the next day, Friday, just kinda relaxing and waiting until the rehearsal dinner in the evening. Sidney was all up in arms about the forced grounding for the day, but we all needed the rest. To support our decision, and you can actually seem some of this if you go through all of our pictures, Sidney was just sleeping everywhere we went. He set new records for the amount of places and positions in which one can fall asleep. Let’s see, he fell asleep with his airplane snack pack and drink as a head-rest on the way to Treviso, slept at every single dinner table we ate at, and actually ate dinner asleep on Thursday night. He slept in cabs, on trains, in lobbies, at gelatto cafes, and if I wouldn’t have arrived so quickly, I caught him dosing with standing with the support of one arm on a street sign. And of course, he slept powerfully each night. If only he could’ve slept past 7am each morning, I might’ve been able to catch a few more needed z’s each night.

The wedding itself was just a fairytale wedding, dotted with extreme bouts of overheating (and overeating…keep reading). We started out the day with a “small continental breakfast“, or that’s at least how it was described to be in our briefing at the rehearsal dinner. But what unfolded on Francesca’s front porch was far larger than anything small, and enough to keep us satiated until the afternoon meal. This was the warm-up.

Then we jumped back on the bus and traveled a short distance to the church and enjoyed the full mass wedding, complete with choir singing hymns and songs, though without ventilation or air-conditioning. The church, adorned with frescoes, sculpture and various relics hearkened back to a time much older than the priest’s white robes and suggested that these ceremonies had been performed in this exact location for hundreds of years. The priests, the faces in the crowd, the clothing, and hair styles come and go, but the church seemed to have endured generation after generation of Padernello citizens. In a town 2000 strong, there’s a pretty good chance that many of the locals ancestors walked through the streets and performed similar ceremonies. It was inspiring, and definitely lent a sense of history and importance to the rituals and proceedings.

After a good deal of rice, confetti, and mad applause, the tears, hugs and photos took over. Little did anyone know, the food was probably cooking already.

When we arrived at the first reception, the food started immediately while we waited outside on the patio surrounding the hall. Fried shrimps, caviar, and other various appetizers attempted to break the fast endured through the mass. What should’ve been told to us, was that shortly after arriving upstairs in the reception hall we would be seated and served food continuously for nearly 5 hours. I lost track, but I believe we were served 18 courses. Italians definitely know how to cook and surely laid waste to anything put on the plate. They painstakingly lay out course after course, and carefully group them as appetizers (five, to start), first courses (of which there were five), and second meals (which are basically the meats, and again, there are five), and then a small and nearly rude display of dessert by only delivering us two full each (this, of course, is sarcasm). I have to tell you, I have never eaten that much in my life. I also have to tell you how proud I am of myself and my man Pat for finishing all of the food set in front of us. I believe that we were the only Americans and/or non-Italians to accomplish that feat.

There really isn’t much else to tell beyond that. There was a second reception, and some really hilarious rituals, but I think I’ve said enough for now. It was an amazing experience, and I trust the bride and groom enjoyed their day as much as could be. I hope them nothing but the best, and will continue to enjoy all the time our families spend together.

Man, has it been a busy couple of months. It feels like we’ve barely been home, as this trip followed close after our honeymoon in Thailand, our wedding and festivities in Gaithersburg, Maryland in the middle of last month, and Chris and Isela’s wedding in Cherry Valley which began the streak of weddings back at the end of May. Three best friends and our ladies are now three happily married couples; and it’s so cool that all of our ladies love spending time with each other, and it was never forced upon them. I think we’re a pretty blessed bunch. I know I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried. Continue reading Ciao Italy! Mark and Franchy are married!

Changes this summer

After nearly three years on the farm, Brian and I have decided to hang our saddles up on the barn wall. Go Farm is shutting down, and I am starting a new position with a local firm here in Beverly Hills, Real Pie Media. I have been working for myself for the better part of seven years, after leaving my post as creative director of Media Temple back in the day. I had a brief stint down at Juxt in Orange Country, but have been on my own (or with a partner) for a long time now. And I have to tell you, I’m a bit apprehensive about working for someone else.

I’m leaving for Italy in about 18 hours to see one of my best friends off into marriage, and when I get back, I have about 3 days until I start the new gig. That being said, I’m going to be completely forthcoming about the variables in my decision, and about the things that went through my head. In no particular order, here are a few of the thoughts, both pro’s and con’s:

Pros

  • No more long drives to Pasadena every day; my daily commute has shrunk from 2 hours in the car driving across hellish downtown twice a day to a leisurely 12 minute walk, door-to-door. The other great thing about the short commute, is that I’ll soon have a newborn at home; the closer I am to home, the closer I am to my baby girl.
  • Working for someone else means a release from the stress of owning a company. I’ll still be responsible for keeping projects under budget and making the company’s clients happy, but I won’t have the daily weight of the books, finding new work, salaries, benefits, vacations, scheduling, etc.
  • Starting a new job means meeting new people, making new friends, and challenging myself in a whole different way.
  • Have I mentioned I can walk to work? My son Sidney can walk to my office after work, to boot. How cool is that?
  • Steady paychecks are always nice. I freelanced for a long time, and while large checks sure are nice, 2 months without any checks can get real old.
  • The company I’m working with has a very nice client roster and lots of projects. It’s always a good feeling to be in a studio that’s steadily producing, and producing great work.
  • I get to do what I love doing – growing brands. Very excited about this.

Cons

  • Less freedom
  • I have a boss now. Urgg. (Fortunately he’s cool, so I can’t put too much else about him here, otherwise I won’t be able to count this as a “con”.)
  • There’s a ceiling for how much I can make now, as opposed to the limitless horizon of working for yourself.

Freelancing (Option #3)

  • Pro: more money
  • Pro: ability to decide how much time is spent developing side-projects and income-generating ideas
  • Con: more time to manage the projects, clients, accounts, etc.
  • Con: very unstable pay cycles
  • Con: it always feels like you’re at work when you work at home
  • Pro: working from home means more time with the family (errr, read the previous point…maybe not)
  • Pro: can vacation whenever you want and make the hours and schedule that make the most sense for all the other priorities in life

As my new mother-in-law said to me recently, “I’m sure that you’re going to have a hard time working for someone else, and it might take some time to get used to, but I think it’s a good thing.” I was telling her about some of my concerns, but also making it clear that I feel very solid about my decision. Freelancing was a thought, for sure, because of the money, but it’s just not a stable environment for starting a family.

For anyone out there struggling with the same quandary, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line to discuss. It’s been a decision that has taken about 6 months to finalize, and I’m terribly excited about what’s happening right now.