Today is the last day of 2013, so, like most people, I’m taking a moment to look back at the year and all that has happened… in my life, the lives of my friends and family, and beyond. This is my professional blog space, so that’s the part of 2013 that I’m going to look at here – what I’ve learned in my professional life. According to BuzzFeed, 23 (the age I was for the vast majority of this year) is supposed to be the worst year of your 20s. I wouldn’t say it was a bad year, but it definitely wasn’t easy. Looking back though, I think I’ve come a long way as a designer. I’ve tried new things, learned a lot and even found my way to an old passion.
So here are my five favorite professional learning experiences from 2013:
The Business Observer launched a total rebranding effort in January 2013. Know as the Gulf Coast Business Review for the past 16 years, we changed our name to the Business Observer, launched a new website and redesigned our print product. While the initial redesign was done by an outside entity, hired before I came on staff, I got to take what they came up with and implement it into our weekly product. I had a lot of fun creating new features, graphics and the many special sections we run within our new, beautiful framework. Here’s a look at what we did for our first redesigned issue:
I also redesigned some features for my other publication, Diversions. I did an initial redesign when I first started at the Observer in June 2012. I’m very proud of that work, but as this was my first effort in redesigning, it wasn’t perfect. I made some changes in the fall of 2013, definitely for the better.
Finally, I redesigned the Business Observer’s biggest, most time-consuming publication, the Gulf Coast 500.
One attractive selling point on my resume to the Observer was my ability to create information graphics. Infographics became my main focus in school after I took my first class in it junior year. Most of my work at the Observer has conisted of small things, like charts and maps. But in 2013, I created some longer-form graphics that I’m really proud of, and hope to create more of in 2014. I also created the Observer’s very first interactive graphic.
Though graphics were something I was excited to bring to the Observer’s table, I always made it very clear that I was NOT an illustrator. I did not have a lot of confidence in my drawing abilities, and whenever I got a request to do something more on the artistic side, I shied away. Until November 2013. Granted, I was leaning on the crutch of the illustrations’ aim to be “sketchbook-esque” – in the style of The Oatmeal or xkcd. They were for a feature on local inventions, showing how they work. We called it the “Inventors’ Sketchbook.” I think it turned out pretty good, and I got good feedback from my peers. Here’s one of the illustrations I did showing how BriefSkate, an invention out of Tampa, works:
Inspired by my recent success, I took on some illustrations for a Thanksgiving feature – “The procrastinator’s and accident-prone’s guide to Thanksgiving.” These were a lot of fun.
4. 40 Under 40.
We decided in 2012 to do a major overhaul of the Business Observer’s annual 40 Under 40 issue. An issue about the younger crowd making it in Florida deserved a fresh look. Our web editor, Amanda, and I devised the concept with the focus primarily on the website. We launched a separate WordPress site for the 40 Under 40 project, complete with custom graphics, studio-shot photos, a spotify playlist and videos for nearly all 40 subjects, and then some. We garnered thousands of page visits in the first day, outperforming our wildest expectations. I created a fresh look for the print edition, inspired by Amanda and my design for the web, but what I am most proud of is the website, and the fact that I was able to break out of my print bubble and help design and construct the site. Here’s the custom header I created for our website:
5. Writing again.
The Observer acquired ThisWeekInSarasota.com this year, a website geared to Sarasota’s youth, an underserved demographic in the area’s media scene. The timing was great for me, because I had just started blogging about my adventures as a young person in Sarasota on my new blog, Adventure Thursday. I got into journalism because I loved to write. That’s why I started Adventure Thursday. I just missed writing, and I wanted to write, whether people read it or not. But when the Observer acquired TWIS, I saw it as an opportunity to maybe get my writing to a larger audience. So I pitched a few of my stories, and voila! I’m a published writer again! I even got the opportunity to pick up some stories, one of which required me to go to a press dinner at a fancy new European restaurant… oh darn… 🙂
So here’s to 2013, and all that we’ve learned! And bring on 2014.