Staffing/Recruiting Firms, Friend or Foe?

Yeah, I’ll burn some bridges with this one, but I’m curious
What are people’s experiences are with creative recruiters/staffing firms. I find some are more reputable like Paladin or Aquent. But I feel many are just using computers to keyword scan your resume, they call you “Oh I have a job that would be a PERFECT fit for you” you talk to them, and you find out they never really read your resume or  even looked at your portfolio. Even more annoying… foreign recruiting firms using Vonage/VOIP Us numbers trying to recruit you for a job thats not even close to where you live. Thoughts? Experiences?
Dice and Monster seem to be ripe pickings for the “I found your resume on xyz….” But these are more the IT staffing firms, who once again, don’t look at your resume or portfolio and trying to place you in a job where you don’t fit
The other funny thing, they will badmouth the other recruiting firms when they talk to you. They always ask “has another firm presented you for this job?”
Do recruiters work on commission if they place people on jobs, because that’s the feeling I get.
Creative Circle seems pretty much useless. You can send them resume after resume and they will never get back to you

The Difference Between Web Design and Web Development

Hiring Managers
Lend me your ears
There is mass confusion on what the difference is between a web DESIGNER and what a web DEVELOPER is. Then you start mixing in the words UI developer and designer and it gets even more messed up.
I could get into the whole Design Unicorn discussion again, but you can read/research that for yourself
Web DESIGNERS usually are in charge of the aesthetic look and feel of the website. They will use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator (or now, more open source tools) to create a look and feel for the website. Many know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript or jQuery. There seems to be a newly minted term in the UI field called VISUAL DESIGNER who also knows about interaction design.
I’ve met UI designers who never touch code, and only work in wire framing tools like AXURE and make some good coin.
A web DEVELOPER does the back end design, which can be all sorts of languages….ASP, JSP, .NET. Coldfusion, Java, databases, mySql
While web designer and web developer should both have a macro understanding what the other does, these are really two different skillets.
Though looking through the want ads you will find a whole lot of Robin Thicke Blurred Lines going on.
For example
  • Excellent written and verbal client communication skills
  • Professional web/interactive design expertise
  • HTML and CSS
  • JavaScript and jQuery
  • Experience creating UI & IA documentation (wireframes, sitemaps, etc.)
  • Proficiency in Photoshop & Illustrator
  • Active proponent of web standards, usability & accessibility
  • Emphasis on clean, usable & sophisticated layouts
  • Meticulous eye for detail & style
Bonus Skills:
  • PHP, ASP.NET, or other server-side and database programming languages
  • iPhone, Android, and mobile web design and development
  • Knowledge of web content management systems (Drupal, WordPress)
  • You don’t use Dreamweaver
  • Flash design / ActionScript knowledge

The likelihood this company will actually find someone who knows all of this stuff is pretty much close to none.

Illinois College of Optometry Redesign

At my brief tenure as the web designer/front end developer at the Illinois College of Optometry, I was given the opportunity of doing a full redesign of their website.

Next to my design of, this was the biggest project I had ever worked on with a lot of moving parts.

The two major objectives of the project were to a)move it from an ancient Joomla 1.5 platform to WordPress so the content manager could easily update it and b) to make it responsive.

I looked at it as an opportunity to start applying some of the UI/UX theories and techniques I had been reading about, and learning in my User Centered Design class. I also tried to modernize and clean up the design from its previous incarnation, creating visual hierarchy, and fixing one of the biggest pain points, the small type, and the lack of a search bar on all pages.

While very modern in look, feel and layout, I would not say this is purely Flat Design, but very inspired by it, using modern web fonts, large blocks of color. It avoids some of the trappings of the modern Flat movement like parallax scrolling or heavy icon usage.


It was a very big learning experience for me.

I had never used WordPress before so it was a quick crash course on it. I learned how to use its backend, all the various plug ins and even got into doing some child themes work.

As I stated above I got to apply some UI/UX techniques I had not done before on other web pages:

Design/Competitive Analysis – I looked at about every Optometry School in North America’s website to see what they were doing, how they handled navigation, information architecture, page layout, what they were doing wrong, and what they were doing right.

I also looked outside of higher education, and went through the popular design showcase websites like

Hand drawn wireframes before taking them into Adobe Illustrator for quick iterations

Usability Testing (well it was kind of half assed, but I did record the audio sessions from two students while asking them to perform tasks on the website and think out loud. You need at least 5 for a good Usability study, and to be video recorded, but it was a start)

But perhaps the biggest lesson here was the art of letting go. Especially when you design for a client using a CMS so they can make their own updates or has another developer work on it, a web designer loses control of their “baby” the second they hand the project over. Websites are ephemeral things, with maybe 3-4 years shelf life. Unlike print, you have do have a physical copy to hold on and preserve. Web design can seem like it’s out there in the ether.

Does the word “Design” need a makeover

A good topic on the Linked In Creative Design Pros group.

Brand Creation, Rejuvenation and Architecture. Building Brands Without Advtg, Culture Transformation WorkshopsTop Contributor
Design means so many things – from fashion, to graphic, to product…. The popular meaning of design is pure aesthetics. The idea of strategic design has eluded business decision makers. Perhaps a new nomenclature like Strategic Creative Intervention can change the perception of design. Any takers?
This was my response:
I can draw a parallel between Electronic Music/DJing (another area I’m interested in) to the Design world. With the price of home computers and technology coming down drastically over the past 30 years, those who weren’t able to afford computers and the software years ago, now can. So everyone is a “Designer” or a “DJ” now. It’s a double edged sword. I like the fact that without a ton of money people access to tools they were not allowed to. However at the same time, you end up with a lot of BAD Designers and Design (and DJs!)

However as in most industries, the best really will raise to the top, so I think the word “designer” is still a good one

I think the word “Designer” is getting more muddled in the web profession than perhaps print.Pouring over many job ads, I see companies asking for a “web designer” when they actually are more looking for a web developer with coding skills.
(I won’t get into the whole Design Unicorn thing, but you can read more about it here)

It seems a new role has risen up in the web/ui/ux world called the “visual designer”. Which to me is a bit of a confusing term.

Why Does the US hate Station Wagons?

One of my hidden loves is Car Design. I wanted to be a car designer when I was a child. I went to the Chicago Auto Show an amazing 12 years in a row as a child. I had a huge plastic bag where I could collect as many car brochures as possible, take them home, then pour over them. I would attempt to make up my own cars. I even had my own car company. It was called Mega Motors! They’d probably be bankrupt by now based on my elementary school designs and drawing ability.
But it’s fun to talk about it here.
Much like Neutella, Kylie Minogue and the Metric System, Station Wagons (or Estates in many countries) and hatchbacks are insanely popular everywhere around the world..except in the US.
Once upon a time in the US wagons were plentiful. Even the Ford Escort and Chevrolet Cavalier offered Station Wagon variants. Celebrity, Taurus, Camry, Accord all had wagons..and not massive Country Squire, Grand Marquis, Colony Park, Roadmaster, Caprice, and Safari Station wagons
You can count the amount of wagons sold in the US on one hand
The Jetta Sportswagen (The Golf Wagen in the rest of the world)
Acura TSX Wagon (The Honda Accord Wagon in the rest of the world)
If you notice, (besides the Jetta) it’s all luxury or near luxury brands offering wagons…mostly out of reach for the average family looking for the Family Truckster.
There have been some sexy wagons in the 2000s but they were more shooting breaks and didnt really have the utility of a station wagon like the discontinued Dodge Magnum or even the still on sale Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. They are also not volume cars.
What killed the Station Wagon in the US..a a triple punch of being horribly uncool, the dominance of Chrysler (then other companies) Minivans. Then Minivans became uncool mom mobiles, so they switched to the SUV. Then the SUV was massive fuel guzzlers so they go for the CUV
Based on article featured on car enthusiast website Autoblog, a GM executive thinks “America Deserves A New Wagon
So what could possibly bring the US back around to the Station Wagon.
It would have to be
good gas mileage 
good seating capacity
good cargo capacity
GM has some options. They would be badge engineering jobs, but thats Basically what Buick is now right…Opel of America.
Bring over the Insignia Wagon and make it a Regal Wagon
Bring over the Chevy Cruise Wagon
If you need a Shamu wagon from the 70s and 80s, bring over the Holden Commodore Wagon (Which is the new US Caprice Police Cruiser and the Chevy SS)
All handsome vehicles in my not so humble opinion. But would Americans buy it? As ugly as it was, the Chevy Malibu Maxx sold in decent numbers. Maybe an experiment with the Chevy Cruze Wagon is the safest way to go.

Disconnect for Creativity

I enjoyed reading this Fast Company article about creativity. Especially the part about tuning out and dropping out.

1. Create time for solitude. 
In interviewing others, I found that solitude is the No. 1 creative habit of highly creative people. If you’re immersed in online distractions and other busy-ness, you’ll never have the space to consider the ideas you’ve gleaned from elsewhere, or think about how to remix them. So while connection is important (see other steps below), time for solitude is just as critical and often forgotten.”
As an electronic musician, I always found melodies and song ideas come to me doing mundane things..walking the dog, taking a shower, washing the dishes.

Since I am redoing my online portfolio, can this work for me visually/graphic design wise also?

Unless I’m doing some intensive reading, I almost have music on ALL THE TIME. So the silence is a bit jarring. I even fall asleep to a light “relaxation” playlist of mostly soundtrack, ambient and classical music.

I took up long distance running in the Spring of 2013, so after reading the Fast Company article, I decided to do something i NEVER do. I ran without music. I was mostly playing with music ideas in my head though! Can I get visual thoughts too?

I’ll try it again this morning!

I Really Need To Learn jQuery

I have to stop procrastinating and fighting the forces of life. Every employer out there is looking for it. I guess I’m afraid of it. But not knowing it is killing my career chances.

But can I call myself a “front end developer” without knowing it. Just knowing HTML and CSS isn’t enough.

I think it boils down to fear. I’m very right brained and visual. I’ve always coded because I HAD to, not because I wanted to.

My brief experiences with PHP and JavaScript just left me scratching my head. But I guess it’s time to go down to the public library today and face my fears head on.

I do have a book on it, but I’m thinking of starting with code academy to soft launch me into it.

What are other people’s experiences with jQuery