As part of my hunt for a job in Detroit I worked with my class on nonprofits at Michigan State University to create a map of Detroit connections I had and ones I wanted to make. Through personal connections, emails, social media, and introductions with my professors I was able to meet or interview 10 different individuals involved in different avenues of Detroit communications. I interviewed Richard Feldman with the Boggs Center and Adriel Thornton with Allied Media Projects during the 2012 Detroit Design Festival. I interviewed via email Joel Heeres, Deborah Schumack, and Catherine Jun. I personally knew Issac Miller, Sam Molnar, Ben Alfaro, and Carlos Garcia from previous work and friendships. I was introduced to Joshua Breitbart through my interview with Adriel Thornton and was able to speak with him while he worked in Washington D.C. on behalf of digital initiatives here in Detroit.
Detroit Thought Leader Map
Each interview and meeting created a new branch on my connection tree in the city. I knew I had leads with many different organizations but it took an assignment for me to design the map. Each placement is intentional as are the color ways. For example Carlos Garcia is a secondary connection I was able to make, reaching out to my former friend, who at the time was living Downtown.
I was able to use my newly developed skills in Photoshop and Illustrator to create this map based off of an old transit map. This project wonderfully put together my interests in music, nonprofits, Detroit, communications, and design.
One of my first freelance clients that I had the pleasure of working with was Patty Brennan, Director/Owner of the Center for the Childbearing Year. It taught me a number of important lessons that I know and use on a daily basis such as having clear deadlines and expectations, how to build in already built custom WordPress themes, and lastly how to manage working with other freelance designers.
Services accomplished in first two months:
- Redesign of the navigation menu
- Social media training
- Newsletter set up with Mailchimp
- Plan for site redesign
Projects completed in the next 6 months:
- Logo redesign with area designer Krista Pass
- Site redesign in partnership with Patty
- Launch of new site with redesigned elements
Goals met over 9 month timeline:
- Created social media channel management program
- Launched and sent e-newsletters
- Site and logo redesign
- New branding and marketing efforts
I have been extremely fortunate to have worked for The State News web team, SN Works, for the past year. From the earlier post on The Cavalier Daily redesign I have worked on two major site redesigns, the main and most impressive being this past summer when we redesigned The State News. The site gets about 200,000 views a month and is one of the top rated collegiate websites and newspapers in the nation. When we began the site was a well designed site from 2008 that had gotten a few updates and been fairly well maintained, but when you redesign a site of such stature, it has to be on a huge scale. The main challenge was getting a responsive design that would work all the way from wide computer screens down to smart phone browsing windows. I was made project manager at the beginning of the summer and between myself, Matt Bush, Rod Dennis, and our manager Mike Joseph we entirely rebuilt the site from the ground up using Bootstrap as our responsive framework.
We worked together as a team but the pieces that I worked specifically on were the navigation, footer, sidebar, and multimedia. The “C” of the navigation, sidebar, and footer needed to be fully responsive and at the same time able to let the main content of the specific page take precedence over the pieces that are in the “C.” This was a momentous task for me because it involved working with Twig PHP languages as well as the Bootstrap responsive pieces. I feel very proud though every time I visit the site and know that the first things people see and how they navigate through the site depended on the consistent pieces I created. Secondly, and as you can see in the gallery below, the multimedia page took a full revamp. We went with a darkened background to enhance the media that State News is known for and made it easier to navigate through more pieces. Lastly, on the homepage we utilized another open source program, Isotope, which allowed us to make a very dynamic photo area that was still responsive. Between myself and Mike Joseph coding away we were able to make a very cool piece that our editor in chief gushes about at trade shows right on the homepage. This was by far the largest and most impressive web design project I’ve undertaken and has had such a rewarding feeling once it was all finished that I will continuously work on web design from here on out.
I’ve included below a full gallery of the process from beginning to end, how the site used to look followed by the wireframes and design documents and finally the finished product which is still live.
During my internship for Michigan Energy Options the communications team was tasked in creating the quarterly newsletter. The organization had previously sent out one other E-Newsletter and had created an account with MailChimp. Being unfamiliar with the program I immersed myself in the forums and learned just how tough it can be to work with newsletter clients. In the previous newsletter they had had issues with delivery and content. That is to say they had written articles and delivered it exculsively in email format and for my opinion I do not read full articles in my email, let alone 5-6 articles.
Therefore I came up with a plan proposal for Executive Director John Kinch and the rest of the communications team to reinvent how we send the newsletter. I offered up to create a new template in MailChimp which would give snippets of information and then link over to a PDF full text document. Initially it was rejected but after convincing them that users don’t read past the first two articles with some impromptu user testing I was allowed to continue. With that I did just what the plan prescribed. I took the content we had after it was finally edited down and built out a full PDF with relevant images, formatting, and newsletter look and feel in adobe Acrobat. I then took those articles and edited them down for the email version that would be sent out to people on our list serve. You can click the image for a full sized version. I redesigned how layout of the article by putting the “call-to-action” buttons along the top of content and then used images and a slightly altered color scheme to have a “Read More” button that would then direct users to that article’s page in the PDF hosted on the Michigan Energy Options site.
View Full PDF
For my first attempt at creating my own Professional website I was fortunate to have a course based in web authoring. During the spring of 2012 I learned web development and design, information architecture, and proper semantic markup. I initially had a very novice understanding of HTML and CSS but this course took me from knowing how to make a <div> to actually designing databases and my entire own WordPress Theme. This course entirely shifted my outlook on my professional life as I knew once I starting building dynamic web pages I could become a front-end web developer. At the time I was also hired by The State News web team so I was able to use the skills I was learning in class at work and vice versa.
Version 0.5 of the site was a hard coded HTML and CSS site that showed just how little I knew about web design. However, it showed me just how much work goes into simple HTML semantic markup. I hard coded all the lists and pages enhancing my knowledge of tags, the DOM, and how web pages work in general.
After this initial design I worked on creating wireframes and detailed views of the actual pages using adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Once I had created dynamic markups and designs documents we were able to transition this into a WordPress theme, which you can see the final result below. Taking these initial designs into full HTML markup was another example of learning at a rapid rate because I was doing the same with my job at State News at the time. I continue to use these skills of markups everyday, so this skill will continue to benefit me for years to come.
During my course based in visual rhetoric were were tasked to create a document that epitomized a song, poem, or phrase. At the time I was going through some of my old hip hop and Blackalicious is one of my favorite groups so I knew immediately what I wanted to do. The caveat to the assignment was that were only allowed to use Microsoft Word to create the document. If any of you have worked in MS Word for document design I think it’s safe to say you just don’t do it. With the background coding MS does to documents and test along with the wacky constraints they put on the user, this assignment was not as easy as I first thought. Thankfully I was able to work through the struggles to have something that made sense. After turning it in I was told that my work was exemplarily and that I should re-examine it with a different software program.
That is precisely what I did, and took the initial idea and reiterated it into poster form using Adobe inDesign. This poster is available for print from the link below.
For this visual project I was asked by my insanely talented and smart brother to help him create a logo for his new student group, Students Organized Against Prisons (SOAP). It is a group that was birthed out of his work at the University of Michigan and is an advocate for prisoners and those affected by having their family members incarcerated. There has been flood of young men into the prison industrial system, specifically black and brown young men, and SOAP works to break the cycle through advocating for prisoners rights, abolishing mandatory drug minimum sentences, and recitivism of released prisoners.
For this logo I was tasked to create something that was simple while conveying the overall message of SOAP and make sure to have the groups acronym in the logo. As you can see below I am very much a minimal designer as I chose a font with strong lines to emulate the bars of prison, the fist for the O, and stark contrast to make the image stand out when printed or in web form.
During the fall of 2011 I was enrolled in a course on visual rhetoric. For this class we were taksed to create a poster related to something we felt we could claim expertise. For this my group decided upon making a beer poster detailing our favorite types of brews.
Click image for full size poster
In continuing with my fascination with hip hop and developing and more intricate understanding of the 5 pillars of hip hop I was involved during the fall of 2011 and spring 2012 in a study and research project based around Lansing hip hop. For my part in the project I created a comic detailing some of the finer details of graffiti culture. We successfully entered in the Michigan State University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) where we presented a full catalog of multimedia work – our booklet with photos and my comic, a research poster, and a video in which we interviewed local graffiti artists in REO Town in Lansing.
Here you can view the entire Graffiti Comic
517 Theory: An Interview with Local Artists from Jessie Whitmill on Vimeo.