The eAccessibility Iceberg

Throughout my years of making media, I have been taught the basic concept of creating a finished product that met my audience’s needs. Interactive pieces, for example, needed to have clear and decipherable navigation that led the user logically through the content. It wasn’t until I started my work at Miami University, though, that I really was exposed to the eAccessibility tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

The university, at the time, was undergoing litigation concerning electronic content that was not accessible by a blind student (their lawsuit has since been settled). Since I placed content directly on the web, I was exposed to basic trainings that helped me understand what made web content accessible and what did not. Descriptive alt tags and organized content were not a new idea for me, so I took the limited knowledge and just kept working away.

[Side Note] During this same time at Miami University, I was working closely with faculty from the Department of Special Education writing articles and developing a video for their new thematic sequence (above). This helped me better understand the complicated aspects and terminology associated with learners with a wide range of abilities.

My work with the Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) Accessibility Program at the University of Cincinnati has expanded my understanding and knowledge of eAccessibility. Not only have I gained a wealth of knowledge surrounding eAccessibility through workshops, program retreats, and online training modules (like Deque University), but through my position, I am now better equipped to talk to others about eAccessibility and the EIT Accessibility Program.

I am excited to be able to combine my past two degrees into a new professional adventure that is both challenging and stimulating. And in the future, I hope to post more articles about what I’ve learned. More uncovering of the iceberg to come…

 

2016 Portfolio

Every so often, I update my portfolio. I have various online spaces where I present my work and I also carry a graphic design print portfolio to show at my interviews, but this is a compilation showcasing a variety of finished pieces. Because it contains such a wide variety of projects, I can talk about what I’ve worked on within many different contexts.

For a larger pdf version of this photo, please open this file: 2015-rahtz-portfolio-email2015-rahtz-portfolio-email-2

The first project in my portfolio is a cultural manual I researched, wrote, and designed. This was a project for my Cultural Communications class at NKU. We had to write a manual for American business people who were traveling overseas so they would be aware of the cultural differences in the country we chose. (I chose Indonesia.) Using many different sources and open-source images, I compiled all the facts into one seventeen page manual complete with section breaks and information titles. This project was very well-received by my classmates and my professor. My professor liked it so much, he wanted to show it as an example in his master’s degree classes!

The next projects I highlight are the testimonial videos I created for the College of 2015-rahtz-portfolio-email-3Education, Health and Society. These were short four-minute videos where students talked about their home department and how they liked it. I was proud of these videos because I was able to complete them from start to finish, including scheduling facilities, developing interview questions, and managing the details of the shoot. The hardest part of this project was trying to find a suitable location where the interviews could take place. I finally found several classrooms where the backgrounds were interesting yet not too distracting. In the end, I received many compliments from the heads of the departments–they were eager to use them to promote their programs as soon as they could!

My Small Group Communications class was such a great experience for me and that’s why I included it in my portfolio. This class was entirely online, so I had to use the media tools available to me to communicate with my fellow classmates. We used video conferencing, wiki pages, and online chat sessions to 2015-rahtz-portfolio-email-4keep in contact with one another in order to complete our project. This writing, a collaborative effort, details the process we went through in order to define a problem, develop solutions, and arrive at a consensus for our final solution. Our group chose stormwater runoff as its problem and, through our research, came up with a plan to hold a walk-a-thon and festival on Earth Day to raise awareness and educate the public about the problems associated with stormwater runoff. My professor liked it so much he recommended the plan to one of his friends working in the Cincinnati Sewer District. It was this project and my Cultural Communications project that helped me to win the Outstanding Senior Award in the NKU Communication Studies Online Program.

If you’ve read around on my blog, you’ve already seen the next set of infographics in my post about Branding. When I first started at Miami University, the first thing I did was to 2015-rahtz-portfolio-email-5learn the school’s guidelines. This was a project that not only taught me about branding, it helped me to organize information in a visual form, which is why I love graphic design so much! I was handed a 4 page document filled with facts and statistics about each of our departments and I organized the most relevant information into four infographic sheets. These sheets were targeted toward potential students so recruiters could travel to high schools and talk about our program offerings. The facts were meant to be short conversation starters that would then prompt the students to ask more questions. I used the branded badges to highlight the key information about programs in the college.

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I included the next music review as a fun writing piece to show versatility in my writing. I do have a background in media criticism and journalism, so I have done a lot of creative writing as well as straight informational, as you will see later in this post. This review was written as part of my advanced speech class, believe it or not, as an exercise in writing for the ear. A good criticism passage will include colorful descriptive language in order for the reader to understand better what the writer is talking about. This was a fun piece because not only was I able to talk about an album I really liked, I was able to let loose a bit and really show some style.

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I’ve been lucky to work with some very creative people over the years and my graphic design projects are no exception. The top piece was a baby announcement for a client who was a triathlon/Ironman participant. She came up with the idea and asked me to develop it into a design for her. The bottom two flyers were for local groups to promote their poetry contest and writing seminar. In both these examples I was given some body copy to work with and free-reign on the design idea. Through a collaborative effort, we worked to finalize the project and developed the flyers you see here. For more about the baby announcement, please see my post Creative Client Ideas.

The blog post (below) was written for the College of Education, Health and Society in order to announce the award of a grant to the college. This was an especially challenging post to write because I had to constantly work to find out the details. I was so proud of this article in the end because not only was it reposted by another department on campus, it was disseminated through the University news email. For more about my blog posts, please visit Blogs to Drive Audience post.

Lastly, I included a sampling of screens I designed for the digital display system in McGuffey Hall at Miami University. I talk about these in detail on my Social Media Channels post as well as my Branding post. These became a really important tool in order2015-rahtz-portfolio-email-10 for faculty, staff, and students to communicate internally. These were the announcement boards that I updated them every week. I developed an online submission system where you could submit text and/or graphics by the end of the business day Tuesday and I would work on them on Wednesdays. It was great to be able to see my work on the displays around the hall and know that the information was getting out to the faculty and students on campus. Every so often, I would stand and watch the screens to make sure they were displaying properly and to see if the order of the slides were logical. It was great to see people walk past me and wonder what I was looking at!

So these are the eight projects that I have included in my media portfolio. It’s important to me that I be able to talk about the range of projects I can work on, because I think a versatile worker can be an asset in the workplace. Projects are often times interrelated, so knowing graphic design is just as important as knowing how to write the information, for example. Or, at the very least when you are working on one type of project you can have a knowledgable conversation about a different type of project with your team. As always, if you see anything you like, please contact me on my Contact Page! I’d love to hear from you!

Social Media Channels

As I mentioned in my previous post about blogs, I implemented the idea that each social media channel should be used as a specific broadcast channel, pushing a particular flavor of content on each one. This idea first developed when I worked as a Producer/Director for the eMedia department at UC Blue Ash. With my team of interns, we developed content for the UCTV channel. Our local college tv channel was always in need of content to put in its line-up and it was a great way to get students hands-on experience while still learning the craft of electronic media. A lot of the content came from live recordings of performances held in the theater, but some of them were collaborations with faculty members, like the Cheeto Experiment I worked on:

When I moved on to the College of Education, Health and Society (EHS), I started to envision each “channel” where we communicated with our audiences as a broadcast channel, like channels on a television. Since I was the most familiar with Facebook, I started with that channel. I worked with stats on Facebook and the history of how it was used and determined that most of our audience was alumni. But I knew that current faculty and staff members also peeked in from time to time. I started using Facebook to post informational content that would appeal to alumni and current employees.

ehs-fb-01The content varied: articles I found during research about topics that I thought would be interesting to employees in our various departments, blog posts about current or former students (or divisional accomplishments), organic posts about presentations and opportunities offered through the division. Anything that might appeal to that target audience. I also spent some time interacting and commenting on posts by all the schools and businesses in the area as well as popular educational Facebook pages. We saw our audience grow and our stats go up:

2015-2016 FB Likes

I started in July, so you can see it can take a little while to develop an audience, especially organically.

Once I had a handle on the Facebook media channel, I started to grow our Instagram account. This was a bit more dramatic increase, from 37 followers to around 580 followers. Mainly, I did this with free eye candy photographs depicting our division and our university.

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A sampling of divisional photos posted on the Instagram account.

I did this mostly by connecting with as many people, places, and local businesses as I could. I would follow other college pages, our own university pages, every single local area school district, area business and visitors bureaus–anyone that I thought might be interested in following us. In addition, we gained a lot of photographers and artists as followers. The key audience here were mostly potential students and a some current students. So, for potential students I wanted to show what a beautiful place the division was, what a fun place to be, and an overall great environment. For current students, I was showing activities they were experiencing and hyping up accomplishments experientially.

The next media channel I was to tackle was Twitter. I was unable to really get a good start on this channel, but I envisioned using it as a place where current students could go to get information about current events, deadlines and announcements. I think because of the speed of Twitter and the brevity of the posts, it would be a great place to put reminders, announcements, and other various opportunities.

ehs-2015 12-16 ehs-vision-01Lastly, I include the digital display system of the division. I’ve mentioned this before in my post about branding, but I didn’t really get a chance to talk about the purpose of that media channel. The digital display system was not being used when I arrived in the division, so I got it up and running and developed a system to make posting images successful. My first goal was to improve morale in the division and increase visual appeal of the items displayed there.

ehs-2016 01-20 ehs-grant-release-01The target audience for the display system was internal employees and current students and sometimes outside audiences. This is where we posted new class opportunities, events, internships, accomplishments, etc.–anything that would be of interest to (a mostly) internal audience.

ehs-2015 12-16 nz-blogger-01I received many compliments from the employees of the division who told me they actually stopped to read what was on the displays and they liked to see what was going on from the slides. I also received positive feedback from employees in other divisions complimenting me on the style and visual appeal of the slides. This was great feedback to get on a seemly small channel of communication!

ehs-2016 01-13 ehs-gradschool-winter-01When using media “channels of communication”, I like to think about the audience that I am targeting through that channel. This not only allows me to organize the information into logical outlets, I can also drive the right audience to the right channel. Instead of pushing out all communications on all channels, I can tailor the content to a specific audience making my communications more effective. The audience will watch and listen to the channel with more attentiveness because the information coming from that channel has a higher probability of being useful and pertinent to them. In this way, I can use these outlets together in a larger more comprehensive campaign instead of it all being one massive data dump.

Blogs to Drive Audience

About four years ago, I started a personal blog. While I was home with the kids I wanted to keep up on my photography and writing skills, so I chose to document the crafty fun things we were doing. (And, I saw all the other crazy cool craft blogs out there so I just had to join in the fun.)

It was a really interesting experiment for me watching what was popular and seeing how I could drive an audience to my blog. At the time, Pinterest was exploding so I was able to gain an audience there pretty quickly. My Cat Condo post blew up pretty much overnight due mostly to Pinterest, which was exciting. I also found a bunch of link parties happening on craft blogs which also gave my links a boost. I tried to send my links out to as many places as I could, like my Ikea Hack Sewing Desk that I posted on the IkeaHackers site, or the Silk Soymilk Box Organizer that was featured in a Facebook post by Silk Soymilk. These were all organic ways I tried to drive people to my blog.

Ultimately, my goal was to drive people to my Etsy Store to buy my photographs and handmade creations. In hindsight, I think I could have organized things on my blog a little differently and created some paid ads (especially on Facebook), but overall I was really satisfied at the audience I gained. A lot of views, a few (ehem-family) subscribers and a little bit of sales on my Etsy website. Not bad for a first time experiment with little financial backing.

When I stepped back out into the working world, I was hired to increase visibility for a local university division. Part of the strategy I came up with was to create media outlets focused on different audiences. This allowed us to slot different content creation into the correct broadcast channels. (I am a huge believer in not posting exactly the same content on all media channels–why would anyone watch any of them if they were all the same thing?) So, I defined our blog as where we posted all the internal divisional accomplishments.

These were meant to be more in-depth articles about experiences our students had in our programs, accomplishments of our faculty and staff, and larger events going on in the division. A lot of times we would push these articles out to other media channels (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or they would be picked up by our University News Division. This way, we could keep our Facebook or Twitter descriptions short, but draw in readers to longer more interesting articles.

2016 blog stats-March

Because our blog posts became publicized within larger audiences, our blog viewership rose and our visitor traffic grew larger. Our hope was to drive some of these viewers to our website so they could learn more about our programs and eventually apply to the college.

So, you can see from the two examples above that while creating content is important, creating the “why” behind the content can help accomplish goals (I just read a great article on this from Firebrand Ideas Ignition Blog). In both these examples, a blog was created to help drive traffic towards a website where products were sold. And an increase in viewers means an increase in a potential sale.

Project Organization

When I was an intern in the eMedia Department at UC Blue Ash, I developed an instructional manual for bulk film loading. Everyone used film cameras back then for department photography projects, so it was cheaper to buy film in bulk and roll it out ourselves. The problem was, every time there was a new intern, the process had to be taught by word of mouth: there were no reference directions. My manual made it easier to learn the task and created something to look back on if there were questions. (View low-res PDF: film-manual)

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After several years, I was hired on full time to manage and organize the media projects that ran through the department. I developed an organizational system for all the in-progress projects and their assets so we could keep everything together. After the projects were completed, I designed a system-wide packaging template to label all the archival copies. The final copies were stored in a library and could be immediately recognized as a part of the archives. (View low-res PDF: support-docs-web)

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0901012 Graduate Book-1In addition, I chose an online project management tool so team communication could be facilitated. I would assign a project number, enter it into our online project management system (at the time it was Liquid Planner), and fill in a framework of tasks that needed to be completed by the student interns. This way they would know exactly what was expected of them and if they had questions they could clarify.

Lastly, I worked on a comprehensive 50 page manual detailing project-related procedures in the department. It covered everything through pre-production, production, post-production, and project finalization. When it was finished, everyone had a detailed reference to look up how a project was created from conception to completion. Again, this clarified expectations and allowed projects to run more smoothly. (Below is a small excerpt from the manual. View low-res PDF of excerpt: handbook-excerpt)

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Over the years I’ve learned that doing things in a procedural way allows more flexibility. At first this sounds like a juxtaposition: How can a more defined experience allow for more creativity? I’ve found, though, that once expectations and rules are expressly stated one can move on to the creative portion of his/her work with the framework of the project already in mind. This frees up the process for more creative details to shine through.

Action Shots

One of my goals working for the College of Education, Health and Society was to build up an image library of experiences of every day college life. These photos would be used in print, on the website, and on Instagram. They worked in conjunction with the Miami branding principle of showing authentic situations.

So, I set up a series of photo shoots while classes were taking place and tried to capture as many learning situations as possible.

When they were used on the web, they were reformatted for banner size and slotted into revolving image banks. What was nice about accumulating these images was that every department could use their own photos to show what was happening in their classrooms.

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Lastly, I used the divisional Instagram site to show images of the campus and various images of the buildings in which our classes took place. We developed a great community following both within the college and university and from the surrounding areas.

Creative Client ideas

The following projects are examples of creative ideas that I was able to assist in bringing to fruition. I liked them so much that I decided to showcase them here.

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A colleague at a sister department of the University of Cincinnati was retiring and decided to donate a collection of books to the eMedia Department Library. To welcome his generous contribution and commemorate his accomplishments, the eMedia Director decided to create a display in front of the Library, where we also videotaped a small ceremony marking the occasion.

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The display consisted of many photographs, a printed storyboard, and simulated negatives along with various tangible items for the audience to view. I assembled the visual files in Photoshop and printed them out on our large format printer. Since the sister eMedia department offered the same types of classes as we did, the photographs were chosen to reflect the production processes in video creation. The storyboard mockup contained photos of everyone looking through the donated collection. I enjoyed this project because it was a larger culmination of smaller pieces and really put my photography, post-production, and display skills to work.

Stand Ups

When my colleagues in the Career Services division of our college came to me with the idea of creating life-sized cardboard flyer displays for their events, I jumped at the chance to help them! (Keep in mind, this was over 5 years ago, so cameras didn’t have the resolution they have today.) This presented an interesting challenge.

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Woman08In order to create the stand ups, I used a white paper backdrop in the studio and lit the subjects with a nice soft 3 point lighting. We took a number of shots with and without the poster board. And because of the studio setup, I was able to easily isolate the models from the background in Photoshop. After the clients chose which photos they wanted, I sized the images so that they could be printed at life size (around 5 feet tall) and handed over the files. It was fun seeing them around in the hallways–they really attracted attention!

My favorite tutorial for enlarging jpegs is from PhotoshopSupport.com. I’ve used it over many years to enlarge photos for these life-sized stand ups, posters, glossy photos and more.

Baby Announcement

This was one of my all-time favorite client suggested projects; I couldn’t resist including it here. I was contacted by a client to create a baby announcement in the style of the IronMan Marathon. She provided the photo and I provided the design. This was a quick and easy project to create and very rewarding!

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I always like helping out with the skills I have learned over the years, but when I have a client that has a creative idea it is really exciting! Not only does that allow me to work within the constraints of a vision, but as a creative I have a better idea of what a client wants. Keep those great ideas rolling in!

Branding

The process of branding has been a journey of learning for me over the years. I was taught, through my communications design classes, that certain logos, elements and motifs were generally used to portray a brand for a company. So, when I emerged as a graphic designer in the work force, I was armed and able to create branded packages for the company where I was working.

Taking the thumbnail approach, one of my first projects was to create a business card/letterhead set for an online hardware company. The owners were able to choose a design they liked and we easily sent the files off to the printer.

The University of Cincinnati was where I discovered the ins and outs of a larger, more strategic branding system. I learned how and when to use the UC logo and “sweep” motif, the official colors of the university and the official fonts. From this, I was able to create everything from branded bulletin boards (above two examples) to powerpoint sets (bottom examples, above) to video backgrounds. The branding model here was a very loose, fluid interpretation but also kept strict focus on the voice of the brand.

mgs logoIt was at UC that I was introduced to the idea of “personal branding”: everything you do and create is part of your own brand. I carried this idea straight into freelancing. The first thing I did was to develop a name and logo while I was on a creative hiatus from the business world. Through the Mint Green Studios branding, I developed an Etsy storefront (now closed), Facebook business page, Instagram account, and blog. This allowed me to post content that was more relevant to what I was doing as an artist rather than opening up my personal accounts to the public.

I was also able to work with the Miami University brand standards. These standards were a lot more strict and defined than my previous experiences. Miami used badge elements in their branding, as well as tiny simulated hand-drawn embellishments. I leaned on the larger University Communications for examples and then adapted the designs to work for our own division.

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Through my experiences in branding over the years, I’ve been able to learn how to correctly use a logo and company elements to convey the voice and vision of the place I’m working for. I’ve also learned that consistency in design and voice upholds brand standards while also reinforcing the expectations of customers and audience. I really like working within brand guidelines–as a designer I feel it gives me a framework in which to create my designs.

Digital Solutions

One of my first jobs after earning my Electronic Media Technology degree was as a graphic designer for a jewelry company. At the time, tracing and isolating images in Photoshop were relatively new concepts and we were having fun applying it to marketing materials. One of the strategies this company used was to photograph a whole page of product and then typeset the prices/descriptions on top of the flat image. This yielded great product photography, but didn’t allow for flexibility. If we needed a piece moved, the whole page had to be re-shot.

We were also hiring people, at the same time, to trace and isolate product images in bulk. So, the Charms flyer, for example (below), was a relatively new undertaking for the company. Instead of having to send the jewelry off to the photographer for professional layout, we placed it on the page where we wanted. It was really fun developing themes and adding the charms to the bracelets in Photoshop.

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Our catalogues were developed the same way: lay out the jewelry in rough draft page form, take a low-res photo of the page, send the jewelry and rough layout to the photographer and wait for the high-res images to come in for the background to the typesetting. This time, though, we decided to make the Jackie Kennedy mini-catalogue (excerpt below) in a new way. Low-res images were taken of each piece of jewelry and I created a rough digital mockup of each page in the page layout program. We sent the jewelry off to the photographer, I traced each final image, added drop shadows and added them individually to the catalogue. We could move and alter the page as needed throughout the design process.

Likewise, technology wasn’t advanced enough to show different color options to the consumer on a website. To solve this problem, I developed a Photoshop action that could be run on a gem image after it was traced (examples below). This way, you could take a catalogue page of traced rings, for example, that were all one color and have a set of images that showed all colors without having to photograph all of them again. This enabled the company to show all available product on their website and increase potential sales.

“Photoshopping” is widely known now, but ten tears ago it was a relatively new tool in the smaller industry. These examples show how a simple digital solution can cut costs or save time when applied creatively. I’m proud to be able to say I was able to participate in this revolution so early in the game.

A Creative

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When I was a child I was lucky enough to be exposed to a whole host of multimedia-making tools. I grew up playing with still cameras, video cameras (tape based), cassette recorders, and eventually computers. I made crude digital drawings, audio recordings of my stuffed animals talking, and photographs of miniatures. Hey–everyone has to start somewhere!
about-photo-03In high school I enjoyed a plethora of extracurricular activities along with my academic rigor. I was highly involved in plays and musicals, which eventually turned into helping college friends make a homemade movie. After my stint as crew, makeup artist, sound recordist, and sound effects editor, I emerged wanting to participate in the professional creative world. I trained as an audio engineer at The Recording Workshop in Chillicothe and finished up by professionally recording the soundtrack to the movie. My professional path had begun.
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Over the years, I continued my education to gain an Electronic Media Technology Associate’s Degree, a certificate in Media Criticism and Journalism, and a Communications Bachelor’s Degree. I’ve worked with many clients creating print materials, taking photographs, creating videos, and telling stories. I’ve worn many hats, so to speak…

 

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And that’s what this blog is about: highlighting and talking about all the projects I’ve been involved with over the years. If you’re not into all that reading and discourse, you can head over to my smaller portfolios: Flickr, YouTube,  Graphic Design portfolio Facebook page or Instagram account.

But, if you’re interested, please stick around and read about where my passions have taken me. Leave a comment. Start a discussion. Inquire into bigger picture questions. I may not have an answer, but I’ll try and help in any way I can.

Thanks for stopping by! ~Andrea