She’s Geeky: My First Unconference & Having Feels about Solidarity Between Women in Tech

This Friday I attended the first day of She’s Geeky here in Seattle. It was my first experience of the Unconference Format and I had no idea what to expect, but ended up having a GREAT TIME.

Discussions that I joined in on throughout the day included subjects such as Impostor Syndrome, Diversity Groups, Side- Projects, Aging in the Tech World and Being an Introvert.

She’s Geeky is geared toward women who work within the technology industry and those who work with technology within other fields. It was a roomful of people who all have related work experiences and all identify within the “woman” area of the gender spectrum but beyond that, we were both as diverse and as similar as humans tend to be.

As someone who exists within a number of minority groups, my feeling of “otherness” is always present. However, the level of respect and support that was present on Friday made this space feel incredibly safe and opened me up to become more aware of how my “otherness” effects how I view those around me and how I am sometimes not as “alone” as I may feel.

It brought up for me again, a feeling I expressed on a recent Pagebreak Podcast, that this is a very exciting time to be a woman in technology… that the level of solidarity that I have seen recently is greater than ever before and that a CHANGE is happening that makes me feel energized and inspired!

 

Hand Drawn Typography at Refresh Seattle

Refresh Seattle – February 2014

First off, what is Refresh? According to their website…

Refresh Seattle is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of New Media endeavors in the Seattle/Puget Sound area. Promoting design, technology, usability, and standards, Refresh Seattle is a part of Refresh and the associated Refreshing Cities.

Seattle’s branch of Refresh had been defunct since around 2008. It was resurrected last fall and this past Wednesday was the 4th official meet up for the group. Each month we are joined by a guest speaker, and this time local illustrator and designer Chris Ballasiotes came to talk with us about hand-drawn typography. He walked us through his process of developing work for clients and even brought a goody bag of art supplies for us to try out some hand lettering techniques on our own!

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I was excited about this subject! Since starting my web comic, I have been figuring out my process. How do I juggle hand drawing and also utilize the computer in an effective way? I was hoping to grab some tis from Chris, or at least some inspiration.

The most interesting portion of the presentation for me was seeing Chris’ sheet of quick concept sketches. It’s something anyone who has done logo design work is very familiar with. You quickly draw out everything that comes to mind. Many ideas are crap, but if you allow yourself to put things down unedited, you open the doors for potential gold that you might not have uncovered if working in a less open format.

Seeing these early sketches from designers reminds you that design is a process for everyone. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that when you only see the final product of amazing work that people are creating. Chances are before they made that perfect final design that you saw, they sketched out a page of 10 or 20 mediocre (or even awful) ideas, 5 or 6 good ideas and 1 or 2 genius ideas.

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Chris works to capture his final artwork as much as possible on paper. He said that for him and his work, he finds it best to perfect things in the original artwork rather than cleaning things up after digitization. His final drawings get scanned in (or photographed) and (if being used for print) Live Traced in Illustrator. Part of his style was to preserve the textured lines that come from hand drawing on paper, but for those of us who want a crisp line – there is still no other option than to manually redraw the work as vector art.

Later Chris passed out some paper and opened his goody bag of art supplies to the 20 or so designers and developers in the room so that we could try out hand lettering ourselves.  He said “Do your name… or your cat’s name.” Well… I don’t need to be told twice!

Here is what I ended up putting together. For a 2 minute pencil sketch and then moving straight into ink with a brush pen, I’m pretty pleased with this. I like the instant gratification of working with real world tools, but for me, drawing with my screen and tablet is still preferred. I still consider my technique hand lettering,  weather I am moving ink or pixels with my hand doesn’t matter, it’s still my hand!

Good Cop & Bad Cop: Laying Down the Law and Keeping People Happy As an Independent Business Owner

Earlier this week I met up for coffee with a client of mine. The two of us originally met when his employeer was my client and after leaving that job he hired me to customize his personal blog and we formed our own client/designer relationship. I was excited when he emailed me last week with the news that he was starting a new business venture and wanted to discuss working with me on branding and marketing materials.

We filled each other in on all that we’ve been up to, talked about family and pets and work. He expressed his excitement over building his business (which is a partnership with another owner) and that while he is working non-stop, he is loving it! We talked about dealing with clients… the art of retaining clients vs selling to new ones. The balance of looking out for your clients and also not being a push over. He said, “I don’t know how you handle this without a business partner. I need a ‘good cop’ in the scenario — I’m only capable of being ‘bad cop.'”

This got me thinking — am I both Good Cop and Bad Cop? I guess as an Independent business owner, you kind of have to be! It’s delicate balance of being able to lay down the law and tell a client something they may not want to hear, holding your foot firm on policies and generally being able to deal with people on a purely “getting business done” level and the Good Cop side is the smile you close with, the empathetic comment you offer when a frustrating situation arises, the hand holding for those high maintenance clients. It’s tough to play both of these rolls, but not impossible.

I’ve been dealing with a frustrating project lately. A client wants a feature added to a project that was not part of the original scope — trouble is, they didn’t anticipate the added cost of this from the get go, so they are struggling with passing along that expense to THIER client. It’s a mess and while yesterday I had almost reached the point of saying “I don’t care WHAT you do, here’s the bill for the time I put in — and here is some referrals to other devs you could hire to finish the project!” Instead I slept on it, pulled myself together (the good and bad halves) and told them “I know you’re in a really frustrating situation since you did not anticipate this feature being part of the project so the added cost was not part of your original budget (that was the Good Cop, now time to switch gears… Bad Cop, I know you have a ‘but’, right?) — BUT I have offered up some really good solutions and you can either go with the less expensive one that is CLOSE to what they want, but not exactly… OR you can go with the more expensive option that’s going to give that JUST what they want.” While the previous email from the client had been a little huffy — her next response after this message said “Thank you so much for all the time you’ve put into this! I am going to talk this over with my client and follow up with you next week.”

Thank you Good Cop and Bad Cop for Liz and her clients sane! :)

Do you recognize this in yourself? Is there one side you feel you need to get more in touch with?