Viva Magenta!

web design, Work life

Welcome 2023 and the Pantone color of the year is Viva Magenta! As a graphic and web designer I have lived by the color bible that is the Pantone color books. If you do not know what they are, look it up, they help a lot in different media. This year’s color make me happy as it is one of my very favorite colors and really sets the positive and exciting tone for the year.

Along with being a web nerd I am also a tech geek and have my eye on the new Motorola Edge 30 Fusion which has collaborated with Pantone for a color of the year mobile device.

As we enter this new year, I wanted to remind myself (and anyone who indulges in my shenanigans here) to focus on what you can control. Make goals – professional, personal, recreational, etc. – that are realistic but elevate your life somehow, and make a plan. It is easy to make new years resolutions or wishes, but to turn them into an attainable goal requires a road map, a plan, a pathway. And it is okay to not know right at the top of the calendar year what those goals are. These timelines, after all, are social constructs, but they serve as a reminder to recollect and regroup, regain perspective, and clear your head.

To be honest, I do not know what my goals are yet. I have been mulling over some form of continuing education. Developing my skills to a higher level of ability with video editing and content creation. There is always room to grow with graphic design as technology advances and programs update. I would also like to work on personal health development and perhaps return to light jogging on a regular basis. What are your goals?

Leave your ego at home…

design, work-life balance

Any time I interview for a job, I am always very clear that my ego does not come to work with me when creating the designs and messaging for an organization. What does that mean?

When I work for an organization I am a conduit for their vision. While I have the tools and skills and knowledge to bring their vision to life, it is ultimately what they design that is produced through my labor. To me, this is an important distinction because when the client makes changes, I will make recommendations based on my education and years of training, but I will design to their request. Too often I see designers, or people in general, who put so much of their ego into their work and cause so much unnecessary stress and drama.

I understand there are some professions where your ego is interwoven in your career, and those are not the professions I speak of. But if you work in an office for an organization that is ultimately not created by or led by you, your ego should take a back seat to the decisions you make. Corporations bank off your devotion to your tasks and your ego investment to squeeze you for everything you are worth, but the problem is often it squeezes you towards the last inch of your sanity. Ask yourself, is it worth it?

Companies will replace you if you are unable to perform. That is a fact of life, a fact of capitalism, a simple and true fact. So while you should use your knowledge and education and skills to earn a living within either the private or public sector, bear in mind the fact that while companies are looking out for themselves, you should take a page from their book and do the same. Use your skills and squeeze them for every penny you can, but there is not enough money in the world to give them your heart and soul.

Mental health is one of the leading issues amongst us today, even before the pandemic. The truth is that ego that you use to defend a menial decision at work, and start wars with your coworkers, is the same ego that will betray you if you let it take the lead. It will tear apart the balance of your well-being and can lead to unstable grounds that quickly turn to quicksand into mental illness.

I used to lead with my ego. I was passionate and invested and determined to do things my way. I wanted to be seen and heard and respected. It almost destroyed me. When I left the organization I was with that I had driven all of my ego, heart, and soul into the mission and the people, there was nothing left but an empty desk and a faint memory that I was there – which I am sure will fade in due time.

So if you work for an organization – you can have passion, you can have heart, but make your ego take a back seat. Lead with your skills and glow with your knowledge, but the most valuable asset is the one willing to pivot and reconfigure at a moments notice. We know that now more than ever since the pandemic started.

It is a tricky balancing act – keeping your ego in check whilst putting in your best foot forward. It takes practice and a conscious effort to check oneself. One way that helps me is to watch those around me. I am currently working on a few projects where it is abundantly clear that there are some egos fully rooted in their decisions, and I am tasked with the challenge of navigating those waters carefully. Stroking egos and gently guiding them in the direction that brings us closer to a compromise.

This was just a quick note to work healthy – keep your head up, shoulder’s back, and egos at home. Deep breathes. You got this.

Quiet Quitting? A bad name for a vague idea…

Uncategorized, Work life

There has been a trend online of folks discussing “quiet quitting.” And like most things on the internet, people are at war about what it means, what it does, and whether it is appropriate. The problem with the argument on this phenomenon is that people are out here arguing a subjective, vague, and misleading idea.

To simply say you are for or against quiet quitting as a blanket statement is completely missing the point, in my opinion. The general concept is, one will do their job duties as described within their agreed upon work hours, no more no less. In essence, I see this as being the concept of working to live and not living to work. It does not mean that the employee will not do their job as needed, well, and with the utmost professionalism. It simply means that they will not do more than required (whatever that required spectrum is). Other people have clarified that this applies to avoiding burnout.

The problem is business owners and supervisors are taking this stance as an attack on work ethic. They believe that going “above and beyond” is a critical part of professionalism and workplace development. Without putting in the extra hours and extra work, how will people develop their skills and show their drive for promotions? This concern is slightly laughable in so much as there will always be people with the drive to go the extra mile and put in the extra effort to move up. If anything, this open admission of “quiet quitting” should be considered an opportunity to understand where your employees are in their career path and professional aspirations. Learn if your employees are suffering burnout, or prefer to be rank and file versus moving up the ladder. It will help supervisors better manage projects by being aware of who can and will handle complex duties while those who can run the assembly line and keep that going. There is room for all kinds of employees in the world, it is just a matter of people working at the place and at the pace that best suits them, their capabilities, and their lifestyle.

My takeaway from this trend is that this is absolutely nothing new and nothing different from what you see of employee types all around the world. Whether you call it “quiet quitting,” or “work-life balance,” ultimately what we are arguing about is differentiating where you stand in one of two categories: do you work to live, or do you live to work? The truth is, neither is a bad lifestyle, it is simply just that, a lifestyle. Some people are career driven and place their identity and focus on their profession. Others are home life driven or hobby driven and use their occupation as a means to live the life they want outside of their job. Both are perfectly meaningful lifestyles.

The part that I believe people struggle to reconcile is when they want a time consuming career whilst not letting the career consuming their time. I see this a lot with college professors who have aspirations for publishing research but also want to have lots of free time to do things they enjoy. The argument being they put in the hard work getting their professional degree so they are somehow owed the freedom of time with the professional advancement. Same with other professionals that dedicated years to higher education. The truth is, from what I have seen, the two are one in the same – dedication to an advanced degree is a preview to dedication to a career that is near the same level of time-consuming as acquiring the degree was. Continuing education, research, and so forth. Early on, you make the choice that you want to live to work. A PhD does not earn you a free ride to a successful career… But I digress. I stand by my believe that a title or a degree does not automatically earn you respect or notoriety.

Quiet quitting, at the end of the day and in my opinion, is an internet trend. Period. It is a buzz term for clickbait that means no more than “working to live” or “work-life balance.” Ultimately, what the takeaway should be is that there is mass burnout. Capitalism has taken its toll and squeezed the lower and middle class masses for all they are worth and we are tired and drained and need a break. Also, there are people who want to work without climbing the corporate ladder or making waves. And that is perfectly fine. Let people be what they want to be, work with their strengths, and adjust accordingly. No need to get hysterical over social media shenanigans.

Just my humble opinion. Now my lunch break is over so back to work.

Until next time friends. Be good, stay safe.

Returning to the office?

covid, in-person

Is your job going back into the office sometime soon? Or maybe you are already back in the office? If so, did you have a choice in the matter? Was risk level of each employee considered prior to the recall to the office? If it was not, then your employer learned absolutely nothing from the pandemic.

Two weeks ago I received a call from an old coworker, the one person on our team who was still going into the office died of covid. This person was still going in conducting the administrative duties of the team, only around a skeleton crew of others needing to be there. They were high-risk, which management was aware of, and only went into the office. There was a covid exposure at the office and this individual was infected. They landed in the hospital where they spent the remainder of their days before they passed. Aside from being high risk, they were vaccinated and only in their 20’s.

Why didn’t management change their duties so they could telework? Especially knowing they were high risk. So I ask you again, did your office consider the risk level of the individual employees before insisting they return to the office?

Plenty of people are still catching covid. It is inevitable. And plenty are surviving just fine after flu or cold-like symptoms. Many workers are tired of being at home all day, many managers are tired of managing certain types of employees long-distance. It is easy to dismiss my story and say, “well she was high-risk,” but consider what you are saying. Given what we know about covid, what is high-risk? And what is not? More importantly, are you sure you are not?

To state you are not high-risk with certainty given the aggressive and wide nature of the virus, you would have to confirm you have little to no health conditions. Even conditions that are otherwise easy to manage, and not lifespan altering. Since covid is still relatively new, any condition based on its mechanics can be a trigger to a larger infection. The most benign heart murmur, asthma, wide range of allergies, obesity (American averages, I am looking at you). The point being small conditions have proven to be larger issues. They are like the little crack in the foundation that the virus can use to break down the walls.

If you are a manager, I ask you this – are you willing to take that risk? And will you be able to sleep at night if one of your staff fall to the fate of my former colleague?

I understand the desire or maybe even business need to return to an office that is empty and costing rent, or holding business needed documents and files. But before packing your staff back into cubicle cells like sardine, consider ensuring the ventilation system is up-to-date and stronger, separating cubicles or desks out further, installing windows that open for fresh air and ventilation (many many offices do not have windows that can open causing a horrible lack of ventilation which spreads viruses like wildfire), consider a hybrid experience with staff on a rotating schedule to avoid 100% capacity, and most importantly consider your employee’s individual circumstances. Your employee, just like you, is a living breathing human being. They have health conditions, risk factors, family members they live with who could be at risk. Children under the age of vaccination, children or spouses who are high-risk.

Perhaps your employee is alright but what about their family? An outbreak in your office could lead to employees becoming carriers of the virus. Although they make go unscathed their children, spouse, or elderly parents could not. If someone’s family is annihilated because of a virus your employee transmitted from your office, what is your role in the tragedy? Surely it is not as an innocent bystander.

Employers, managers, are in a position of power over their employees. Many cannot simply walk away from a profession because they are forced to go back into an office. Who’s responsibility is it when faced with these moral dilemmas? If your employee’s child dies due to an outbreak in your office who is at fault? The employer for requiring staff to be in the office? The employee for not resigning knowing the risk level of their child?

My intention is not to advocate for solely telework at all costs. I firmly believe that some professions only function with an in-person environment. And some employees only operate well in an in-person environment. My intention is for employees to be looked at like human beings more than simply assets. For us to stop looking at things in black and white, and start looking at circumstances holistically.

Most of these dilemmas can be avoided, but the key here is communication and understanding. Be open-minded and willing to have these difficult conversation and make accommodations to individual circumstances. This is not the time to worry about fairness to all employees. Remember the difference between equality and equity. Stop thinking of staff as a liability that must be treated the same across the board in order to avoid issues, and as unique individuals who will thrive when provided the opportunity to given their unique circumstances.

Just my take. Until next time, friends.

Work-Life Balance Matters

work-life balance

Today my dog died. He was my best friend, my biggest fan, the sweetest boy you could ever meet. His name was Charlie Brown. He died at 5:08am PST in my arms. I wrapped him in a blanket, scooped him up in my arms, and held him as close as possible. I put my hand on his chest and kissed his little forehead repeatedly. I pet him gently, and told him how much I love him. How he changed my life. How I will never be the same because of him, and without him. And, that it was okay for him to go. I felt his last two heartbeats, and saw his last two little breathes, and then he was gone.

10 days earlier…

Work was hectic, the project I was working on was all-consuming, and I found myself working straight through the day with little to no breaks, and sometimes at night. In those 10 days, I took Charlie for granted. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to him or his brother because work and kid made life action-packed. I didn’t snuggle with him as much as I should have. I didn’t take him out for a walk like I usually do. By the time I realized he was sick, I think it was far too late. I looked for vet appointments, tried to feed him gentler food, held him and kissed him and begged him to forgive me for not paying attention. He looked at me with his loving gaze, like he always did. But this time, his eyes were heavy, his body trembling. He was in really bad shape and at this point, too far gone. It came fast and furious, and blind-sided me when I was already at my limit with stress.

It was just days prior that he went on a walk with me, that we snuggled on the couch, that he kissed my nose. I didn’t see it coming, so I let work consume me. But that’s all it takes, taking your eye off what matters the most just for one moment – one defining moment that changes everything. In those 10 days, I was too tired to take him for a walk. Too tired to play with him. Too tired to cuddle with him and watch our shows. Too tired to brush his hair, bathe him, or put him in one of his cute little outfits. I was too tired because I broke my own rule – I let work get to me. And maybe that is okay for some people. Some people thrive on work, their identity is their career, their purpose. Those people have a different work-life balance than I aim for. I work to live, I do not live to work. I work to provide for my child, my dogs, and myself. So that I can afford for my tiny family to be comfortable and happy, and have as much quality time together as possible.

There is nothing wrong with being committed to your career. There is nothing wrong if you want to work 30 hours per week, or 80 hours, as long as you know your limits. As long as you know what your priorities are. That is what we call, work-life balance. Knowing how much work you are committed to, and how much of the rest of your life you are committed to. What priorities you hold, how you want to define who you are and what you want to do with your time. There is no wrong or right answer. It is an individual decision that no one else can make for you because at the end of the day you are the one that has to live with the choice. It is your heart and your conscious; like they say, whatever helps you sleep at night.

The takeaway from this story is this… Take time to learn what you value, and what you prioritize. Decide what your work-life balance is. Take time to figure it out now. Do not put it off, do not dismiss it, do not wing it. Figure it out and decide what your boundaries are, and set those boundaries, taper expectations. Because all it takes is that brief moment in time, when you look away and lose something you hold so dear to you.

**And I know what you’re thinking, it was just a dog. But he wasn’t just a dog. He was my little guy. An adoption turned into family. He was the biggest momma’s boy you could imagine. He snuggled with me, he gazed lovingly at me, didn’t sleep when I wasn’t home, wouldn’t eat when I was away. He put up with my toddler climbing and petting and screaming at him. He didn’t judge me, or get mad at me, even when I was a jerk. He was always happy to see me, always excited to go for a walk, ride in the car, or just get head scratches. He wasn’t a biter or a barker or a chewer. He was with me during times when I was lonely, when I was sad, when I was lost. He was the sweetest dog, easy going, healthy until the end. He was one of my priorities, and I forgot, and I hate that.

Find your work-life balance. Make sure it is something you can live with. Life is short. Especially for our little furry loved ones.

Best of luck, friends.

The value in continuing education…

design, web design

Recently I encountered a web team who had little to no familiarity with WordPress, Gutenberg, visual design rules, or recent tools used by the website community within their industry. This was both shocking and frustrating. It was uncomfortable to have to train “experts in their field” on the latest tools, styles, and security measures used by the webmasters of their industry. This made me wonder why they were behind in their industry and frustrated to learn that they were behind because they expected any additional training needed to be handed to them on a silver platter. I explained that I do independent continuing education (CE) because technology and trends move so fast that in order to keep up, I do independent research, take online tutorials, etc. This concept seemed foreign to them – taking their own personal time to refine and update the skills they are paid to be trained professionals at!? The audacity of my suggestion!

I am a huge advocate for education… Well, let’s face it, I’m a BIG NERD. But while some people see CE on their own time as company theft of their personal time and space, I see it as an investment in yourself. Much like going to college – it is a price we pay to learn tools and trades that help us stand out in a competitive market. Frankly, it’s even better than college because you can do it from home and many online tutorials are free! Plus there is the added bonus of learning to use tools that help make your work faster and more efficient – and that alone repays you for the time spent learning with CE.

Remember friends, as the old saying goes, work smart not hard!

The design double-standard…

design, graphic design

Recently I saw a post of people celebrating a magazine cover of a Kardashian sister. I will be honest in sharing that I did not read said article or know which Kardashian it was, but that is not the point. My point is, people were congratulating her on how she looked on the magazine and it made me wonder – where is the kudos for the designer of the cover? Okay, so, not literally. But also… A little literally. It seems that there is this design double-standard that we do not pretend exists when it comes to celebrities images and the designers who fix them. It is not rare for an audience, or even the celebrity themselves, to publicly shame a magazine for the designer’s heavy handed editing. People stand up on their soapbox about unfair beauty standards (which for the record, I agree which is why I do not work in that particular industry contributing to the false imagery). But what about when the design is gorgeous and the person looks flawless? Is that somehow magical genetics? No. It is simply someone who to use the terms of popular culture, “knew the assignment.” This means, they were able to edit a design to a level that is both flawless, but socially acceptable – which believe it or not, is not always easy. Nonetheless, where is the love for the designers? It is a difficult and delicate balance between heavy handed editing that leads to complaints, or heavy handed editing that leads to celebrity or model praise; but one thing I can promise you is, it was heavy handed.