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The Universal Traveler, New Horizons Edition, Don Koberg & Jim Bagnall, 1991

It started as a snarky Facebook post I made in my college major’s alumni group, poking fun at a book that was required reading my Sophomore year. I pointed out some of the flaws in its layout, its tedious book-long metaphor about traveling. But mostly — just how hard a book it was to read as a college student. The post drew a few notes of agreement from fellow alumni, some laughs, and comments from my friends and fellow University of Delaware Visual Communications alumni. …


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The boss who taught me about psychological safety, coaching, and talent whispering, Cece Morken

The journey from individual contributor to manager, for me, was an enlightening one. In several of my previous companies, I was promoted into managerial roles with very little training — or even rationale. In many cases, the only path up in those companies was a managerial path. Promoting me as a manager was a reflection of my strength as an individual contributor and perhaps an acknowledgment of my potential. In nearly every case, I was asked to “keep doing what I was doing” — just do it while in charge of others. A player-coach model, I suppose.

I’ve learned that managing people effectively requires an entirely different set of muscles than contributing, individually, or even collaboratively. Maybe that's why, for a long time, I felt like a failure as a manager despite the fact that I was being pushed in that direction. …


Designing a durable, delightful, sustainable product is a challenge that takes intense research, tons of failing and learning from failure, and conviction to do what’s right especially when it isn’t easy. Designing a durable, delightful sustainable design team to deliver said product takes all of that stuff — plus a ton of trust. It’s like willing another family into existence. And somehow doing it all with your hands in your pockets, figuratively.

What do I mean by hands in your pockets? Karl Leiberman, the Executive Creative Director at Weiden Kennedy put it like this:

“When you’re a creative, you’re basically trying to drive a 2007 Buick LeSabre that’s on fire down a winding mountain road in a blinding hailstorm. …


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Most designers that I’ve spoken to, who are looking for jobs, are unprepared to answer two simple questions: What’s your dream job? And what’s keeping you from getting that dream job now?

Aim for the bull’s eye, hit the target

A critical piece of career development is setting SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-oriented. As a graduating senior starts pushing their portfolio across the table (virtually, physically, whatever) to be inspected by a hiring manager or recruiter, I can understand the hesitancy to declare your dream job. I also understand the mindset that “Any job is a good job.” …


How does a designer get promoted? Get a raise? Get the exciting new assignment? Get a better job? These are questions I get — from my own team and also from designers I meet, in person and virtually, on a regular basis. These are great questions. There are no easy answers.

Your company may not have “that role” for a next level designer. And by that role, I mean the need for, or budget for, next level skills and experience. It’s important for you to understand the economics of your role — and your business. Understand the levers that drive revenue and expenses, and what your company’s targets are for each. …


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My Covid-19 bunker, replete with infinite Zoom backgrounds and a Stratocaster at arms length.

Zoom. Overnight my job, my social life, my ongoing personal and professional development have been transformed to Brady-Bunch-esque, cleverly back-dropped virtual collaborations paired with a variety of beverages.

Literally. Overnight.

COVID-19 has revealed many things about my life, my family, my personal and professional relationships. My sleeping and exercise habits. My son’s ability to distill an 8 hour school day into 45 minutes of daily school work (probably not really). My wife’s impressive yet until now untapped skill at scratch baking. One thing that has given me long pause is the organizational resilience of Intuit in the face of an event that has impacted our operations at every level: place, culture, tools, productivity, operations, engagement metrics, business forecasts. COVID-19 is, to properly use a mostly over-used term, a game changer. …


Last week I asked my broader Linkedin community if they‘d help me with an experiment: a craft exercise to help designers use their skills to frame their value on projects, and their potential to an employer. I got many gracious offers of support and more than enough volunteers to run a quick over-the-weekend experiment.

I shared a simple assignment with a small collection of volunteers. I gave them 48 hours to complete and upload their interpretation of the assignment. …


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Aurélia Durand For Black History Month 2020 — Facebook Analog Research Lab Posters

Mandy Price, CEO and Co-Founder of Kanarys, lays out a pretty compelling case for getting diversity and inclusion right in the workplace: “…A recent study shows that less than 30% of people of color reported a sense of belonging in their workplace. This is a problem for both employees and companies because those same employees end up leaving, resulting in attrition costs of approximately $144,000 per employee, annually.”
Attrition costs are just the tip of the iceberg. “Diversity and inclusion is not for people who have been excluded. It’s for all of us,” according to Exelon EVP, Chief Strategy Officer Bill Von Hoene, in Forbes. “It’s for our business to get better. It’s for us to be smarter. It’s for us to be more perceptive as a collective organization.” …


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Tom Hansen, my first Creative Director and Mentor

2019 has been a tough year for me. I lost three of my most influential leader-mentors. Like 3 well-landed punches in the ribs, their deaths knocked the wind out of me. Thrice spurring a humble reflection on my own mortality. Most importantly I mourn a world with them no longer in it — because they opened so many doors for me and my peers. It’s heartbreaking that they’re no longer here to inspire a new generation of creatives. I suppose that’s my job now. And while I can’t hope to live up to what made these guys great, I’ll try.

Glenn Eddie Gill
I first met Glenn at Square One, about 6 months into my first job. He was a tenured creative director who’d built his career at Ogilvy & Mather in New York, Leo Burnett in Chicago and the venerable Richards Group here in Dallas. He was a copywriter. I remember him best perched in front of his laptop, with proper posture, quietly and diligently tapping away at headlines, taglines, radio scripts for our clients like Whataburger, Dave & Busters and The Parking Spot. Glasses perched on his nose. Freshly shorn flat-top. …


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Image credit: Wine Folly

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately learning about wine. And by learning, yes — there’s been some drinking, too.

I recently shared, by way of kicking off our 5th Annual Design Week, how I’m starting to learn about the many things that go into the craft of wine making. …

About

james helms

Design Leader, Advisor, Speaker, Student, Advocate, Enabler.

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