Do We (Designers) Hold Projects Hostage?

So, I thought the days of this practice were long gone, but stories about this horror still surface from time to time. We at Washington Media Services thought it might be a good idea to make sure this practice is clear to all you readers so you’ll know what to look for, or ask, before signing a contract with a design firm. Spoilers: Washington Media Services does not participate in this practice.

What exactly is this practice? Holding a project hostage basically means that the client does not own their project when it’s finished. The design agency makes the client pay for their services, then demands another payment (or “ransom”) if the client wishes to have access to the raw files for any reason. As you can imagine, this practice causes more problems than anything else. It is stressful for the client on so many levels.

But, is it legal?

Sadly, yes, if it’s in the agency’s contract. If you sign a binding agreement that includes giving ownership of the project to the agency, then they can hold the project for whatever their release terms are. In some reports I’ve read, clients have stated they had to pay 50% of the design cost (after they already paid off the full design cost) to have the raw files released to them.

That is insane. We wanted to address this for anyone reading our posts, and especially for our current and prospective clients. Washington Media Services will NEVER hold a project hostage. Why? It’s simply not good for anyone. It isn’t a way to build or maintain a healthy working relationship with your clients. Washington Media Services believes that local businesses and organizations should thrive and we pride ourselves in doing everything we can to help you. Anytime we finish a project, and the project has been paid in full, the client owns the files. We will keep a copy of the files in our offices in case of technical difficulties, but we don’t believe in causing distress in our clients. If you partner with us to build a website, we will offer to purchase the domain and host your website, but you still own both.

So, what should you do? When you are looking for an agency, you should make sure to ask them what their policy is on ownership of projects. If the agency doesn’t explicitly say that the client will own the project, then I would say that this is not a partnership you want to jump into. Another thing you should do is read the contract and ask any questions you have (no such thing as a stupid question here). While it’s a good idea to know what you’re signing, anyway, asking questions is healthy and can give you an insight into how willing the agency is to communicate with you as a client. If you don’t get an answer you understand, or one that doesn’t completely answer your question, don’t hesitate to ask again or reform your question!

Remember that, at the end of the day, you’re hiring the design agency to create something for you. Make sure they won’t cause this unneeded headache for you.

Social Media and Your Business

Facebook has been in and out of hot water of late, Twitter seems to be trying to stay out of trouble, and many people I’ve worked with don’t understand Instagram. While these aren’t the only social channels, they seem to be the “Big 3” social media networks. Are they really important? Should your business/organization be using them?

In short, YES. Your business or organization needs an online presence and, let’s face it, websites just aren’t enough anymore. You need to engage with your customers, and the most effective way is through social media.

Ready for the longer answer? You should consider what works best for your business. Facebook is almost a default to have, especially given the breadth of the platform. Until something comes along that can pull everyone away from the giant, it is a good practice to have a page for your business/organization. It allows you to make fast updates about your business, and you reach the masses faster than you would by just putting the information on your site and hoping for the best. Even this blog post will make the rounds and go to Washington Media’s social platforms. Why? Because we know it’s smarter to post it in as many places as possible than to just hope it’s seen on our blog. It will reach more people if it goes to Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

Twitter is another matter. Do you need one for business? Well… Do you want one? Twitter is the platform that seems to keep coming back from what some would deem a permanent grave. From what I’ve seen (and based on the experiences of clients and colleagues), the platform works best for those who are going to use it consistently. While that can be said to be true of any social media platform, I think it’s especially true here. A user’s feed fills up so fast that you have to use the site more than once per day to ensure your tweets are being seen. So, if you like the platform and plan to use it, then set up a Twitter account for your business!

Instagram… with all your hashtags and models? Actually, Instagram is a very good thing for a business to use. The sad fact is just how long it took for Facebook to make Instagram business friendly. The platform is based around the idea of capturing the moment. You can capture your products or services, share the antics going on behind the scenes, or share information about events (either in progress or by posting the event flyer). In a way, Instagram is Twitter for picture/video.

Of course, there are other platforms (LinkedIn and Snapchat are probably another two that most people have heard of), but they rely heavily on being right for your business/organization and your client base. Like all things in business, be smart about your social media channels and make them work for you.

What’s #Trending

I know we all like to see what’s the best new trend in just about any market. We all want the latest in gadgetry, social media, clothes, and more. However, should this spill over into graphic/web design?

Wait! Don’t click away, yet. Let me explain.

In talking with other designers and creatives, in general, we’ve all found that potential clients sometimes want to know what’s the latest trend for their product. Presumably, this is so they can appeal to a younger audience, which is good logic. However, trends shouldn’t always be the determining factor in a business decision.

At WMS, we tend to look at trending designs in this way: Does it fit for you? A construction company doesn’t necessarily want their website to look overly artsy, so they don’t want something that looks more like a photographer’s portfolio (like this). A company providing a necessary service (like a medical institute, fire department, etc.) will need their site navigation to be easily found, thus the trend of making the menu blend with the rest of the site won’t help them.

Let’s look at this in other aspects, shall we? Another thing we’ve recently seen a lot of companies change is their logo and/or branding. Here, too, what’s trendy shouldn’t be the crux of your decision for this change. Example: a law firm doesn’t necessarily need the bright colored gradient in their identity (think of the Instagram branding for that visual). On the flip side, a beauty salon doesn’t want to look too dressed down or overly serious (like, say, the Chase Bank logo or the logotypes often used by law firms).

In reality, a design/media company should suggest designs that benefit your business. Someone should be able to look at your website or printed material and say, “Yes, this has [business name] written all over it.” If there’s too much of a disconnect between what you do and how you present your business, then people might look for alternatives.

So, what was this all about? In short, it’s just a reminder. We just wanted to remind you that trends come and go, especially website design trends. What’s considered trendy one day will be old hat the next. So when you’re looking to refresh your business’ look (whether online or via print), take trends into account, if you like, but focus on getting a good design that fits your identity.

Do You Need Print in Your Life?

Thought time! Washington Media Services has seen a lot of clients look away from print products. However, we’d like to run down a little rabbit hole on the importance of print…

First off, we don’t want to say that digital isn’t important. Digital ads and promotions can be a business lifesaver. It’s super efficient for projects that are meant to be one time things and run on a short shelf life. This post is meant to look at the importance print can play in our lives. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but one has been touted as superior, to be sure.

So, what are we talking about when we say print? Everything. From the small items like business cards to large publications, anything material can make a difference in how people interact with your business/organization. While digital media is efficient and clean, it also takes away an aspect of an important human sense: touch.

Imagine you’re meeting with potential customers. After you talk to them for a while, you’d like to let them know how they can get in touch with you or your business, right? You can point them to your website (which is a good thing to do regardless), but actually handing them your business card gives them something tactile. It allows them to make a bit of a connection. They have your information right there in their hand… easy, right?

Let’s try another. Imagine you run an organization and want to put out a newsletter so your members know about all the events your organization is putting on. Sending out email newsletters is effective and uses fewer resources, but are people actually reading your newsletter? Let me explain my question a bit. In doing some research for this piece, I came across a paper called “What Can Neuroscience Tell Us About Why Print Magazine Advertising Works?” In reading through the paper, I found an interesting point. The researchers put forward the idea that (at least in most cases they witnessed) reading on a screen was mostly comprised of skimming through data. It showed that reading a printed piece was usually slower and subjects read deeper into the material.

In short, print isn’t dead. Print hasn’t truly come close to death. Some studies suggest that young people purchase physically printed (non-digital) magazines and papers more than was done a decade ago¹. So, when you are looking to have a project created, don’t just assume digital publishing is your only option. Instead, ask “Is my audience going to value a printed copy?” In the end, you have to know your audience and predict what they might prefer.

 

¹Scott McDonald, Ph.D., What Can Neuroscience Tell Us About Why Print Magazine Advertising Works? (A White Paper from MPA– The Association of Magazine Media, 2015).

Responsive Web Design – Do it NOW

You’ve probably heard of responsive web design, but why does it matter? Imagine sitting on the subway, fighting off boredom. Naturally you grab your smart phone and start browsing the Internet. You’re thinking, “This is a great time for me to learn how to give my pet giraffe a makeover,” so you Google “pet-friendly giraffe toenail polish.” Luckily for you there are a ton of sites to help guide you in your quest for giraffe beautification.

The first site you click on immediately redirects you to a mobile–friendly site, but the loading process takes so long, that you lose interest and click away. Why waste your precious mobile data on a site that takes 30 seconds to load?. Nope. Next.

The second site looks promising. The home page loads quickly, but you have to zoom in and out just to read text and navigate. The buttons are so small that you keep accidentally tapping the wrong thing. This process continues until you’re so frustrated you give up. Besides, your stop is up next. You leave the subway feeling irritated.

If any of those sites had been optimized and responsive, the outcome could have been much different. The website’s content, buttons, layout, and images would be optimized for mobile viewing, loaded quickly, and the user would have gotten what they needed quickly and efficiently.

But who cares? Can’t they just wait and search on a desktop computer? A few years ago that may have been a reasonable expectation, but statistics are showing that mobile users are quickly becoming the majority for web searches. Don’t you want to capture the fastest growing web browsing audience out there? Take a look at this nifty infographic from 2013 (http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-2013-mobile-growth-statistics/). It clearly shows where the trends are heading.

So what’s the point? The point is if you have a website that hasn’t been updated since 2010 (technology changes fast…doesn’t it?), it’s time to make the leap and update. If you want to keep up with the competition, you need to go responsive. NOW.

So don’t wait. Capture an entirely new audience by optimizing your website and making it responsive today. And to “toot-toot” our own horn, WMS totally can help.

Thanks for reading!

How to Behave After an Internship Concludes

The time is now coming where your internship is coming to its conclusion. You’ve learned a lot and hopefully made some new friends (*cough cough* References *cough cough* ). Here are some tips to consider just before your last day and beyond.

Part 5: How to behave after an internship concludes:

Be gracious – On your last day before leaving, thank your employer/mentor for their time. Internships usually mean an extra time commitment from your mentor, and sometimes it’s not paid. Look them in the eye, shake their hand, and sincerely thank them (just don’t be creepy about it…).

Ask for constructive criticism – What went well? What didn’t go so well? This is your chance to get some really good last advice. When you finish school you’ll have a leg-up on other graduates who don’t have that professional office experience.

Ask if you can use your boss or co-workers references – It looks great on a resume! Help beat that catch 22 that fresh grads often struggle with. Show potential employers that you do have some professional experience.

Send a thank you letter, or emailPlease please please do this! It’s just polite to do so. There’s nothing more professional than an extra thank you. You don’t have to drool over them, but everyone appreciates being thanked and recognized for their time. Remember, they took the time to mentor you… Plus, who knows?! Maybe you’ll have a chance to interview with them for a full time job someday. Better safe than sorry.

Thanks for reading!

How to Behave During an Internship

You’ve successfully found an internship, applied, interviewed, and have been offered the position (FINALLY!). The hard part is over, right? NOPE! Sorry intern, it’s just beginning. But don’t be afraid: this is also when all the cool fun stuff happens too. Here are some helpful tips to consider during your internship.

Part 4: How to behave during an internship

  1. Be on time – For the love of Bob, and I can’t even believe I have to say this, but ALWAYS be one time. These people have generously hired you as an intern; please show them gratefulness and respect by showing up on time. Plan for traffic and “oops” time so that you’re never late. If, for some reason, you are unavoidably delayed, make sure you call and explain where you are. Some offices have a policy in place for this, so make sure you learn what that is and follow their protocol.
  2. Continue to dress professionally – Remember, you’re not a full time employee: you are low-man on totem pole. Make sure you’re put-together, ironed (i.e. NOT WRINKLY!!), and you’re following the office dress code.
  3. Hygiene – This may seem like a no-brainer, but sadly it isn’t for some. Always shower. Everyday. Please, I’m begging you. It’s just polite. And sanitary. Slap a little deodorant on yourself as well.
  4. Learn – Learn as much as you can! This is your chance to soak it all in. Be a sponge and absorb your surroundings. This is such a wonderful opportunity to get your hands on a ton of different projects. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. These people know you’re a student. They know you’re greener than grass. They’re expecting you to ask questions. Take advantage of that.

Thanks for reading!

How to Behave After an Interview

Okay, so you’ve totally rocked the interview, but now you’re waiting to hear whether or not you got the internship. Believe it or not, there are a couple of things you should do while you’re waiting.

Part 3: How to behave after an Interview

  1. Follow-up – Email your interviewer immediately after the interview. This is not only polite, but it keeps your name fresh and in the front of their mind.
  2. Give Them What They Want – If they call up and ask you for more examples of your work, give it to them! If they have more questions, answer them! Don’t be offended if they keep asking your for more information: they’re just trying to get to know you.

Thanks for reading!

How to Behave During an Internship Interview

Welcome to part 2 of “How To Get An Internship.” So now that you’ve found your prefect internship and been offered an interview, what do you next? I’m so glad you asked!

Part 2: How to behave during an internship interview (or any interview really…)

  1. Dress professionally – While expressing your personality as a designer is important, let your work do the talking. Generally it’s safer to dress business casual and professionally, even if the office dress code is more casual. Dress for success!
  2. Answer honestly – Interviewers can tell a fake and canned answer when they hear it. By now they’ve interviewed enough to spot it right away. So always tell the truth! Do a quick Google search about the most common interview questions to help you prepare so you’re not stumbling around (TIP: practice in the mirror or with a friend and do a dry-run).
  3. Prepare Questions for the Interview – In my own experience, at the close of most interviews you’re going to be asked if you have any questions for them. Show your thoughtfulness and ask relevant and meaningful questions about the company, and about the internship in particular. One thing I always like to ask is when you should expected to hear from them about the job. Two days? Two weeks? Make sure you clarify so that you’re not waiting for a call that might never come. If the contact deadline passes, politely call and inquire, but don’t be pushy if they don’t have an answer for you. My first design job took me four months to hear about (but hey, I got hired so it was worth the wait!).
  4. Research – Know about the company you’re interviewing for! Become intimately familiar with their company website and social sites. Know everything!
  5. Thank Your Interviewer – A simple “thank you” goes a long way. Let them know that you appreciate their time.

Thanks for reading!

How To Get An Internship

I love working with students. If I hadn’t pursued web design, I probably would have been happy staying at WWU and working with Resident Life forever. But, since that didn’t happen, my hope is that I can help to inspire and motivate young students interested in the graphic design (print and web). I first realized that web design was the path for me my junior year in high school. I had always had a passion for art, but I also loved working with computers. Web design was a natural next step.

Before entering my junior year at WWU (Go Vikings!) I had almost no experience in designing, let alone using any of the software that graphic designers usually work with. I was starting from scratch, which was scary considering most of my classmates had at least some experience.

One thing that I regret about my time at WWU was that I didn’t participate in an internship. Internships are a great way for young designers to get their feet wet and get a taste of the professional workplace. It’s not always easy to find, or get, an internship. Fret not! Here are a few tips to help you through your journey to professional office experience!

Please keep in mind that these are just my opinions from my past experiences. There are a ton a great resources out there filled with to help you out. These suggestions are just some of many. Go out and search around as well.

Part 1: How to get an internship:

  1. Do a quick search – First check the design firms that you’re most interested in. Check their website if they offer internships, and especially pay attention if they don’t. If they expressly don’t offer mentorship/internship opportunities, move on. However, not every firm is so specific, if you’re not sure, you may want to call and inquire.
  2. Email the design firm – Craft a short, but descriptive email letter to the firm inquiring about their internship program. Make sure you tell them how you heard about the internship, and include a cover letter, resume, and link to your online portfolio. If you don’t have an online portfolio, make one, or send in hard copy examples of your work. If you do send in hard copies, make sure to specify whether or not you’d like them returned. If you’d like your work returned, make sure to provide appropriate packaging and postage. WARNING: there is absolutely no guarantee that you’ll get your portfolio examples back; what’s more, the pieces might get damaged in transit, or at their office. Make sure that you’re prepared to lose anything you send. DO NOT send anything you absolutely cannot part with.
  3. Return calls! – If you provide your phone number, make sure you always check your voicemail. Don’t leave a potential employer hang’n!
  4. Be persistent – Make sure you keep your name fresh in their minds. Don’t pester them, but after sending in your application, call and make sure they received it. After a week or so, inquire again; ask if they need anything else from you. Wait another two weeks or so, and call again.
  5. Be Patient – Sometimes it takes awhile for a company to make a decision. Don’t get too panicky if you don’t hear back right away.