Wordy Wednesdays

On Wednesdays, we look at artist statements or design philosophy statements and discuss the best vocabulary to describe an artwork or design. Today we’ll look at the About page for Heather Shaw, a graphic designer in San Francisco, U.S.A.

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Here is the text from her About page, in italics. It’s a bit longer than is typical, but it’s done well.

For almost twenty years, I’ve been helping clients of all shapes and sizes create beautiful and usable things. Having started my career in print design, I learned how to design for the web and to code websites early on through professional experience and freelance work. I’ve had the opportunity to learn and collaborate with the best, at top design firms like Happy Cog, Mule Design Studio and Tangible UX, where usability and accessibility are top priority.

I broadened my experience working as an in-house user experience designer at Radian, as an application design consultant at a couple early stage start-ups, and as a design consultant with Facebook. In each of these positions, in addition to designing, I’ve conducted research and user testing to inform the user experience and site structure.

In 2014, I decided to dedicate my professional time to working with my own clients. I love having the opportunity to learn about what my clients are passionate about, and to help them visualize what they’d like to portray to their audiences. From sustainable flooring to wearable technology, non-profits to venture capital, and tiny start-ups to the biggest social network on the planet, diversity is what makes my job amazing.

Not only are my clients diverse, but their projects are, as well. As an independent designer I can take on projects of all kinds, which allows me to tap into all of the experience I’ve accrued through the years. I design brochures, menus, business cards, books, annual reports, Powerpoint and Keynote presentations, responsive websites, applications—anything my clients need. My professional partners (listed below) help me take on projects of any size.

Working for myself (and omitting a commute) also allows me the opportunity to dedicate more of my free time to wildlife rescue and rehabilitiation, my second passion. I volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center, working with seals and sea lions; the Peninsula Humane Society, working with small mammals, songbirds, sea birds and raptors; and California Whale Rescue, the official whale entanglement response network of Northern California, of which I’m a co-founder, the Operations Coordinator, and a responder.

First, I want to take a look at some of the words Shaw uses in her statement. She does a great job of including a variety of professional vocabulary to effectively describe her work. Let’s break them down by parts of speech.

Adjectives: beautiful, usable, professional, top, passionate

Nouns: usability, accessibility, research, user testing, user experience, site structure,

Verbs: learn, collaborate, broadened, conducted, inform, dedicate, visualize, portray, accrued, design, allows, volunteer

What patterns can we see in these words? As I mentioned, she has a good variety. She doesn’t repeat most of these words. The adjectives describe characteristics you want in a good design or designer. The nouns include many elements that are important to good web design. The verbs suggest positive forward movement and working with others. They are also somewhat formal words, which give them a more professional feel. When writing your statement, it’s important to use the correct vocabulary to show what you know about your industry and to present yourself in the best way possible. You don’t want to sound too casual or use too many buzzwords.

Let’s also talk about the meaning of the phrases in this statement. Shaw uses the phrase of all shapes and sizes to describe the diversity of her clients. She talks about how early on, meaning in the early part of her career, she learned about coding. At the end of the third paragraph, she uses the phrase from ___ to___ multiple times, again to demonstrate variety through extreme contrasts. She says she takes on projects of all kinds, yet another way to indicate variety. She uses the phrase take on to mean do something challenging and tap into means to access prior knowledge. In the last paragraph, she uses the phrase working for myself to talk about being self-employed. All of these phrases make her writing a little more interesting and are good to use when possible. These types of phrases are very nuanced though, so non-native speakers should be careful about using them correctly.

Finally, let’s look at the structure of this design statement. First, Shaw gives a little background about how she got started in design and where she’s worked. Then she continues giving us information about the skills she developed through her work experiences. In the third paragraph, she talks about her decision to work for herself and what inspires her. Next, she talks about the kind of work she does as an independent designer and gives examples. She finishes by talking about her personal interests and volunteer work. This is a very well-structured statement and is a great example for other designers to follow.

What do you think of this About page? Do you agree with my comments? Do you have questions about the vocabulary? Do you want to suggest a piece for me to discuss next week? Leave a comment below!

I’ve chosen 5 words or phrases for you to focus on today. They are in bold. If you don’t know them, look up the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and other forms of these words. You can find links to Merriam-Webster dictionary sites at the bottom of this page.

To see this designer’s website, click the link below:
http://heathershaw.com/about.html

Published by

Jessica

I help artists and designers with their English so they can focus on being creative and changing the world.

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