Start Small Campaign

The start of a new school year for the Accessibility Network brought the unveiling of a new campaign: Start Small. This is the idea that everyone can start incorporating accessibility techniques into their electronic materials by choosing one small way to begin. First, I updated the website and reorganized its content.

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Next, I designed bookmarks to hand out at new faculty orientation. These, we hoped, would be a good resource on how to “start small” in daily activities. Each bookmark contains five ideas for each category on how to incorporate accessibility into electronic materials.

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Four Bookmarks containing tips on how to incorporate accessibility into electronic materials.

For a larger accessible view, please take a look at the Start Small Bookmarks PDF.

Last, we printed handouts and a large poster of an accessible syllabus.

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Illustration of techniques on how to make a syllabus accessible.

For a larger accessible view, please reference the accessible syllabus PDF.

These materials were well received when new faculty stopped by our presentation table at the new faculty orientation.

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Accessibility Website Refreshes

The Accessibility Network at UC website has undergone several refreshes while I have been the Communications and Engagement Coordinator. The first iteration was a one-page informational site to get basic information out there about our program. This worked for a while, but we quickly came to realize that our audience (faculty and staff at the university) wanted more than just who we were; they wanted tips and techniques about how to complete accessibility techniques.

The second revamp of the site included just that:

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Website screen grab illustrating the first refresh of the site, organized based on audience.

As you can see, this was a 5 page microsite, containing info about the program, and resources based on our audience. This also worked for a while, but there were a couple of problems with the organization. First, we had trouble defining what students really needed to know about electronic accessibility. Though the creation of accessible electronic materials impacts them, they are not expected to use any techniques themselves–at least not currently. Organizing the information by audience only exacerbated this problem.

The second was that each resource page–student, faculty and staff–contained the same information on each, with the exception of a minor addition here and there. This resulted in our resource pages existing as very similar sources of information. Additionally, who really was to say that faculty did not need to know about accessibility for websites or that certain staff didn’t need to know about universal design for learning.

Both these downfalls made me want to organize the information in a different way–but how? I set off on a journey researching how other universities (and sometimes government sites) organized their content. I kept a spreadsheet of what I liked about each site and based our new site on everything that stood out to me as being the best.

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The second website refresh, shown here with the second page highlighted. The content is now organized by type of material the audience wishes to remediate.

As you can see from the screen grab above, I decided to organize all content based on what type of material the viewer wished to learn about. This theme is reiterated throughout the site. The main categories down the left-hand side of the page–Electronic Files, Digital Course Content, Websites, and Software/Applications–all lead to a main page about the content and a checklist to include accessibility in that type of file. All pages push the viewer towards the Best Practices, Tutorials or Workshops page through the use of a left-hand callout box. And, as illustrated in the example above, there is ample use of links to more information.

The organization of the microsite now leads the audience to as little or as much information as they wish to investigate. The many links help to tell the story of accessibility in different ways, so the visitor can learn through methods they feel most comfortable. The site pages now follow a more universal design for learning approach and, hopefully, appeals to a broader range of audiences, instead of a select few. This also allows the site to reflect the very techniques the program wishes to see incorporated into all possible electronic materials.

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!

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.