Published: We teach clients the skills to do our job, and you should too

I loved writing this article for Web Designer Depot.

I really do believe in this approach: When it comes to business, empower others and your openness will come back to you tenfold.

This setup is the professional theory behind much of what we do at the marketing and web design agency where I’ve worked for years. (And as a note, I feel extremely fortunate to be part of a workplace environment embracing this mentality.) 

Over the past few quarters especially, we’ve been practicing the “empowerment” mentality more and more – and have only seen growth.

The negative side effects naysayers love to tout (you’ll run yourself out of business! no one will be interested in what you do if you show them how you do it!) have been absolutely nil, zip, zero, nada, etc.

In some ways, I see our mentality of client empowerment as an outgrowth of a shine theory approach to life, which encourages women to support one another in a world that all too often insists that women are catty competitors. Perhaps this is because many of the clients we work with day in and day out are women (or, at least, our favorites are 😉).

Of course, I believe an empowerment approach is the best approach for any client or customer. But I do feel passionate about connecting with women-owned businesses for mutual support, encouragement, and growth.

Anyway, you can check out the article here: We teach clients the skills to do our job, and you should too

Additionally, however....

What happens when you take the OPPOSITE approach to your client relationships? When you really, honestly are set out to chain clients to you ad infinitum? (With some BS excuse to justify it, of course).

I wrote about that too. But in a publication that allows more, uh, ...vibrant tenacity?

Rage. Rage. That's the word I’m looking for, here. Rage. Total outrage.

Prepare for some major rage (and obscene language) here: 3 Things You ALWAYS Need to Own When Creating a Website

Published: You’re Replaceable, You Miserable Humans

Actually, that’s not what this piece ended up being called at all.

Sometimes in life, you don’t get to make the rules for headlines’ appropriate levels of punchiness. Pretty much anytime in life, to be honest.

Find the less dramatically titled “Face facts: You’re replaceable, and there’s only 2 things you can do about it” here. [But check out how that URL reads for the slightly more spicy title before it was toned down 😉 ].

Peace out until our robot overlords trample us all. ✌🏼🤖

When Your School’s Posters Suck, Consider Making New Ones

I remember in detail only one poster displayed specifically for Black History Month at my high school.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. It had a quote. It blended into its surroundings. Somewhere nearby, letters said “February is Black History Month.” It was a boring poster. It made MLK feel boring. He himself looked bored with his own poster.

I actually only remember it because it was so boring. More on that in a moment. 

I think it was this one:

Find this poster  here  for all your boring poster needs.

Find this poster here for all your boring poster needs.

Paired with the iconic quote, MLK’s expression is quietly powerful. The portraiture is beautiful and timeless.

But in physical reality, hung on a school wall that was crowded with other posters, it could very well have been blank. 

This is not the goal of classroom posters.

Please consider the last time you witnessed a classroom of high school students getting pumped to learn and discuss something because they found it quietly pensive and beautiful for its stoic, aesthetic qualities. After observing from a distance.

I don’t think so.

In contrast, I remember a whole host of National Poetry Month posters.

They were provocative, dynamic, and compelling. They called out for you to engage with their content. I remember talking about them with other students, as well as with our teachers.

And then I remember reading the poems they contained. 

That is the goal of a classroom poster.

Posters are means to an end. They serve a purpose. And when posters are displayed in a classroom, that purpose is to spark students’ interest and begin a discussion. I have a lot of strong opinions on this.

Anyway, the TL;DR version of this story is that the disparity between my school’s posters for Black History Month and posters for National Poetry Month was frustrating. It wasn’t intentional. But I didn’t like it.

So I made new ones.

I chose Black American cultural, political, historical figures that I found exciting and compelling to learn about. Then I learned about them. Then I made some posters. Here are the posters.

Clockwise from top: Haki Madhubuti, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Zora Neale Hurston, and Louis Armstrong.

I printed these out, laminated them, and hung them up. I’m not sure if they were effective. I like to think they were, anecdotally, but it’s not like I collected data. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If you’d like to print your own, please do.

Here are links to hi-res, full-color 11x17 PDFs of all four:

Zora Neale Hurston poster
• Louis Armstrong poster
• Haki Madhubuti poster
• Martin Luther King, Jr. poster

Additionally, learning is exciting!

Zora Neale Hurston links: The Zora Neale Hurston Digital Archive out of the University of Central Florida has lots of info on ZNH, her life, and works. You can also visit the Zora Neale Hurston official website.

Louis Armstrong links: The Louis Armstrong House Museum has lots of biographical info as well as audio material. Also, check out that trumpet.

Haki Madhubuti links: Read selected poetry at Poetry Foundation. Or, also, you know, libraries. You can also learn a bit about BAM from the concise A Brief Guide to the Black Arts Movement from Academy of American Poets.

Martin Luther King, Jr. links: Read a short biography of Dr. Martin Luther King from the King Center.

Just one more note, because I don’t think I will be able to get this in anywhere else:

Speaking of effective presentation and purpose, The blog of the NMAAHC should win prizes for effective, professional, academically-appropriate use of Tumblr. Yes, Tumblr. For digital history, public history, and academic storytelling.

Read the NMAAHC’s entry on The Complicated Racial History of Missouri and tell me, is that not the most succinct, swift, well-structured explainer on why Missouri’s history is so complicated that has ever been written? I say this a lifelong Missourian, lightly obsessed with both online content and making history relevant.

Anyone and everyone studying academic history, plz take a time out and reflect on how excellently the NMAAHC leverages their online format. Okay, yes, thanks, yes, you can go back to your academic publishing now.

Enjoy the posters 😊

Published: Why Every Web Designer Should Embrace Site Builders

Who’s ready for a nice chat on site builders?

You know, the largely drag-and-drop, template-based website creators like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc.?

After writing about the missed opportunities Squarespace offers to small businesses and web designers alike on the Hoot Design Co. blog, we pitched the concept to Web Designer Depot to see if they’d be interested in running an article based on the same principles. 

They picked up the idea, and we narrowed down the scope to target web designers specifically. At the same time, we expanded the concept’s reach to include other site building platforms as well (not just Squarespace).

Though Squarespace is my platform of choice thanks to its great mix of aesthetic customizability and an unchanging, user-friendly backend that clients – even technologically challenged ones – have no problem managing, the underlying principle of the article applies to other services as well.

Unfortunately, we had to take out the article’s original He-Man gif before going live.

Unfortunately, we had to take out the article’s original He-Man gif before going live.

Though I was worried, the article got a lively response.

People with diverse opinions (for, against, rebuttal, refinement, etc.) weighed in and started conversations with each other, which was great to see. Check out the comments section to see what I mean. 😉

→ You can check out the full article on Web Designer Depot here: Why every web designer should embrace site builders.

→ And give the original piece a read on the Hoot Design Co. blog here: Hey Squarespace Snobs: You’re Missing Out on Major Business.

Data Project: Vital Stats on Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938-1975

I have always loved picture books. Between the ages of four and twelve, my reply to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was always “An author and illustrator.”

But I wanted to look at picture books in a different way: as a set of quantifiable data points.

For someone happy to write a 25-page paper analyzing concepts like the intersection of art theory and social realism in Middlemarch, a data-driven analysis of children’s literature was definitely a departure from the norm.

But the small data set from which articles on topics like trends in racial representation in children’s literature were able to draw bothered me. I wished there was some sort of standardized collection of data to writers and researchers could lean on in order to gauge change over time.

Enter the Caldecott Medal, which has been awarded every year since 1938.

Though the committee which chooses the winners states that the Caldecott is not awarded for “didactic intent or for popularity,” the title “most distinguished American picture book for children” certainly indicates a book that exemplifies national values. And even if winning a Caldecott isn’t intended to reflect nation-wide popularity, the award catapults these books into the national spotlight as well as the homes of many families.

So I attempted to analyze the individual components of each Caldecott winning book from 1938-1975 as objectively as possible in my project Caldecott Stats.

I wanted to to see if any trends in genre, morals, or representation came to light. There were some very clear trends I found, particularly in the type of stories that were being told. For example, there was a very clear, sharp increase in the number of fables or fairytales winning the Caldecott throughout the sixties and early seventies. 

However, analyzing the particulars of race, culture, and class status proved much more difficult than I initially hoped.

The category (apart from genre) that proved the easiest to parse was gender.

→ The percentage of books centered on male protagonists steadily increased between 1938 and 1975. (The decade with the largest percent of female protagonists was, actually, the 1950s.) The representation of mixed-group protagonists or stories without a protagonist peaked in the 1940s and dropped off the map entirely after the 1950s.

What was particularly surprising about the rise of the percentage of male protagonists per decade was that this trend corresponded with an increase in the percentage of female Caldecott winners per decade.

(When noting these trends, keep in mind that it’s the illustrator, not author, who wins the Caldecott medal each year. This certainly complicates the numbers, and is one of many difficulties I ran into when working on this project.)

Unfortunately, many areas of analysis are still missing from the current project website.

I’m not sure when I will be able to devote time updating the project, but in the meantime you can check out the Caldecott Stats project in all its incomplete glory.