This past weekend, I participated in a very interesting experiment. A group of creatives from different disciplines got together for a single day, working on mini-projects for various non-profits. It was called Goodwork 2013 and was the brainchild of the founders of the Secret Handshake meetup I keep blogging about.
I’d heard some grumbling about this event for some time. Once the word got out for volunteers to take on the projects, I gave it serious consideration, but decided against it as it was getting close to my wife’s delivery date, and I don’t own a laptop. An iMac is not as cumbersome as a desktop model, but isn’t exactly portable. But toward the end, there was one last call for print designers to sign up. I told them I would volunteer if the site could accommodate setting up my iMac. They said it could, so I was in!
Two days before the event I was emailed some information on my mini-project along with some assets to help me out. The client was the Spence Neighbourhood Association. A small but dedicated community-led group running a lot of programs in one of Winnipeg’s sketchier neighbourhoods. I was to build a set of brochure templates for the organization. Five of them. And a document describing how to use the templates. A pretty tall order. Back in the day, when I was laying out catalogs and other publications, I wouldn’t have blinked at this assignment, but I don’t do a lot of long documents anymore and am not as familiar with page layout software as I once was. The good news, the project manager in charge of me, Leanne Schmidt (and one the founders of the Goodwork event) was sympathetic to my situation. She was willing to work with me so I could provide something suitable to the cause and realistic to the time demands.
After some thinking, I planned it all out and decided that if I couldn’t produce the five templates in one day, I’d march into my place of work on Monday and resign. Which would have caused quite a stir at work since no one knew I was doing this. I received nervous laughter from Leanne when I told her this. I’m still sort of an unknown element at these Secret Handshake meetups, and my sense of humour can be hard to detect. She probably had no idea if I was joking or not! If it helps, sometimes I don’t know either!
Not knowing what the heck I was going to do for the brochures, I pretty much packed up my whole office, sans printer. I did give some serious thought to packing the printer, as it was an all-in-one combo and the scanner could have come in handy, but that was getting a little too much. I kept the box the iMac came in so schlepping all the equipment around wouldn’t be too bad. People were impressed that I had brought my iMac and commented on my enthusiasm, but honestly, it’s the only computer I’ve got (besides my phone, which wouldn’t be much use), enthusiasm would have been me buying a new laptop just for the event. And I’m way too cheap for that.
The al-day event took place at the United Way office on Main Street. They have some nice big meeting rooms on the main floor that could house all of us. And by all of us, I mean about forty creatives and some United Way staffers. Not to mention the sponsors and various media people coming in and out.
The event started with breakfast and some speeches. And then we were off to the races!
At first I was very worried. The computer turned on okay, but Adobe InDesign wouldn’t launch. I was having problems connecting to United Way’s network, and it seems either InDesign or one of the plugin-ins I installed was trying to phone home, and was preventing the program to start-up. I eventually got everything running, but it was a few minutes of panic I didn’t really need!
The energy and excitement of the event was great! Everyone was pretty jazzed to be there and the mood was positive. All good things to help the flow of creativity, and in keeping my mind off my nervousness in designing in front of people I don’t really know. The coffee and cinnamon buns helped too.
The first few hours were pretty rough. As I had mentioned earlier, it’s been a while since I had to put together a real serious brochure. Especially one where I pretty much had to decide where everything should go totally on my own. The only other person on my “team”, Leanne, was pretty busy doing the talking-to-the-media-thing, and had quite a few other projects on the go, so I pretty much went it alone to prevent myself from being a pain. I did bug her a t the beginning, just to clarify a few things before getting myself in too deep.
Eventually though, I did manage to settle on a design that met my standards and with some last-minute tweaking after speaking to someone from the Spence Street area that was familiar with the SNA, I had put together some serviceable brochure templates Hopefully the client will be able to make good use of them. Being a professional designer, I built everything in Adobe InDesign. The client had up until now used Microsoft Publisher. Not a program I’d recommend to anyone, especially if you plan on getting anything professionally printed. I’ve been assured the client is gun-ho about using whatever I recommend using, but professional design programs can be quite daunting. Despite my quickly approaching personal free time black hole, I have already made it clear (I hope) that I would be willing to help out beyond the scope of the project to prevent the client from becoming frustrated if my InDesign files become a problem.
Somewhere just before 6 o’clock, I was finished! Once completed, we were given some snazzy USB thumb drives to put our files (I wonder if could get one of those, I’d pay a few bucks for one of them) and then we could pick a goodie bag containing some pretty cool swag. A nice tee commemorating the event that I will have to model for one day, a Goodwork journal, that unfortunately is lined (I am a doodler, so I prefer unlined paper) and something else rather peculiar. A little iron-on patch. My wife took one look at the patch and wanted to know what I was doing with a Girl-Guide merit badge. I’ve already been chided online for brining it up, but on second look if does look like a scouting merit badge. I imagine the swag came from New Media Manitoba, one of the event sponsors. Someone there have a sense of humour? If it *IS* a merit badge, then if there are any older scouts out there in the greater Winnipeg area reading this and have some design, writing, or marketing skills, check with your scout leader and see if they’ll accept the badge. It does sound like there will be future events.
I’m not certain I’m joking.
There was an after party, but I had been away from my eight-and-a-half month pregnant wife all day, and I figured she was due for a foot rub, so I went home instead.
I have since found out that an estimated $40,000 worth of creative work was donated that day. Not too shabby!
A video of the event was made. A link to it can be found here. Blink and you’ll miss the back of my head! I’ll be posting the ultimate outcome of the project I was working on in a later post.