Almost a decade ago, I had a little radio show at my former university called Young Folks. I was a little obsessed with Peter, Bjorne, and John. I used the moniker “Jonny Doom” and I thought I was the cooooooolest kid on the block… between 8pm and midnight on Fridays, anyway. I have proof that I had at least 5 listeners–that is the number of calls I received in a typical semester. I played upbeat, indie pop music, read odd news on air, and did a couple of interviews. I also made these HILARIOUS station IDs with badly impersonated celebrity voices.
This was in the days of Myspace. I was more than excited to get the word out via my Myspace page, which I fit with some (usually) terrible graphics. Actually, I think that should be “graffix”. The featured image is a campus poster I made that I actually really love and am only slightly embarrassed to show. I would change the theme up every month or so, resulting in some wacky color and photo combinations. AND MUSIC LYRICS. Oh GOD the music lyrics.
WTH WAS I THINKING AND WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP ME!?
Here is a series of embarrassing Myspace graffix…
Thank heavens I have grown since then.
It’s difficult to recall everything that has happened over the past nearly twelve months.
After I finished writing my thesis, the world was much too bright a place. I still had plenty to focus on, but I don’t think I fully comprehended (until much later) that my life was changing significantly from that point on.
Here is an itemized look at the year’s greatest hits.
Thesis and Graduation (AKA The End of College…Maybe)
Wrapping up my research on store brands and packaging was bittersweet. I was finally able to commit wholly to the work I was doing, which was a struggle for most of the time I wrote it. I had fears that it wasn’t significant enough, or interesting enough, or that I wasn’t pushing it far enough. I think that everyone has those thoughts. I entered the work in the Kent State Graduate Student Research Symposium – only the third or so VCD major to enter in some time – which was rewarding in its own way.
Frankly, once the work was done, defended, and complete, I ran away from it. “What if they change their minds?” I thought. Despite my fears, I passed my defense with some useful criticism for the future. I’m still fascinated by research, and I have ideas that I would like to pursue. Fortunately, it seems I will have the opportunity to do just that.
An accurate depiction of Assistant Professor Larrie King by an incredible student I had this fall.
Assistant Professor of VCD & Creative Director of Glyphix for Kent State University (AKA Take ALL the Jobs!)
My time with Glyphix was no where near an end with graduation. I was fortunate enough to receive an interview for the recently vacated position of Glyphix Creative Director (a position I hold in high esteem, originated by John Brett Buchanan in 1974.) I was granted the position and have not had much time to look back. To be honest, teaching at Kent State was a goal I established when we got here. After going through the program, I set my sights elsewhere – I thought that maybe I wasn’t quite right for this program, or for this culture.
The truth is, the culture of our program is evolving just as everything else is. Our student body is different. The way we run our classes is different. We adapt, and we draw from our well established history of success and rigor, and we keep pushing forward. Glyphix is now 40 years old, and I’ve been asked to help it move forward as well. I’m excited, and honored. I adore academia. I don’t think I could belong any place else right now.
As a freelance designer, I was able to continue some of the work we initiated in my last year of the VCD graduate program. Through Justin Ahrens, founder and principal of Rule29, we were able to do some amazing work with LifeWater International. The organizations WASH curriculum, which is used to teach developing countries about important water, sanitation, and hygiene practices for the benefit of their health and livelihood, needed to be optimized for use with a broad range of cultures in many different countries. I completed the illustration portion of the project, which required the simplification of complex instructions and concepts into international-style icons and images. The graduate team was featured in Print magazine last semester, which is still blowing my mind. I truly enjoyed every moment of it, and thus, in March I will be presenting the work at this year’s Design Principles and Practices Conference in Chicago! This will be my first trip to Chicago, and my first big speaking engagement as VCD faculty. Wish me luck!
Marriage (AKA I liked it, so I put a ring on it.)
For the past 5 years I’ve been privileged to have Mr. Trey Daniel Gehring be my everything, and in March of last year (yes, during thesis writing, his senior exhibition, and the million other things happening) we were wed in New York City, NY. With the support of our closest friends, his incredible family, my father, brother, and our Kent State colleagues, we have had an absolutely wonderful first year together. Eventually, we may even have a honeymoon!
The state of marriage equality in our country is making incredible progress, and our union is a testament to that. There will always be problems and inequities, but I truly believe in the power of the love shared by those closest to us, and the respect and humanity of strangers who recognize the struggle we all experience. We have to keep moving forward.
Well, it’s tax season, so I’ve got to get on with that. I have a few freelance projects going on (in both design and fine art.) Trey and I have a store to run, so with hope, I will be able to focus on that in my free time. I’d like to write a book that bridges the gap between what Trey does and what I do (literally just thought of that. Because I’m not busy enough.)
I’d like to make some friends around here. And learn to strengthen the connection to those I have made.
Thesis camp posts for the week fell off after the second day, and I apologize to those of you who were anxiously awaiting updates on my progress. Progress, by the way, has been good. I managed to extract the bulk of my paper from my head, and now have about 75% in black and white. I still have some sections to complete, obviously, like:
Defining national Brands and Private Labels (Store Brands)
Summarizing my Interview Findings (which is half done)
Noting implications of said findings
Decreasing the number of times I use “aforementioned” and “respective” in the dang paper
It’s not a great deal to tackle, but on top of this I need to produce my graphs and charts, and complete my poster for the Graduate Research Symposium, which is in 2 weeks.
Crap. I need to grade some books.
And plan a wedding party.
And finish work for a Sparrow Haus customer.
But I digress.
Thesis Camp has been great good. I really did get on the ball, and I put myself in a “constantly working” mode. I will basically have a daily “Thesis Shift” during which I devote as much time as possible to pushing out more of this work that needs to be done. I’m meeting with my actual thesis advisor on Tuesday (with whom I have not discussed my thesis is a literal calendar year… long story) and I’m hopeful that he won’t have a bunch of changed for me to make, research wise.
I’ve found that a lot of what I began this paper with is already happening, and specifically, happening in the brands I chose to research. A part of me feels like I’ve made a giant mistake, but it’s too late to turn back now. I will of course get into more details as I post my research and my conclusions in later posts, but for now, let’s just say that I wanted to make some recommendations to these brands to improve consumer loyalty and trust, but they already figured this stuff out for themselves, or at least are working towards that. My research will not be completely useless, as it at the very least confirms what other brands should probably be doing, and give insight into a more specific product area than is generally targeted. My research, to quote my other advisor, “contributes to the body of knowledge”. And that’s about the best I could hope to achieve with this. And you know what? That is totally okay.
Did you know that Crest produced the first whitening toothpaste to bear the seal of American Dental Association?
Today I worked on the comparative analysis portion of my thesis. I had most of this complete before today, but it turns out that I didn’t actually COMPARE anything. It sort of read more like a history of brands, which was not very informative to my research on its own. I have now compared four major components (innovative marketing, clearly stated goals, unique product, and loyalty to consumer base) of each of the national brands, and will then do the same with the store brands. After this, I will compare the results from these two, and determine what my research indicates are opportunities for design.
I chose these four components because they presented themselves in significant ways during my research of the three brands. My thoughts are that each of these contributes to a strong, well loved brand, that these qualities will be greatly lacking in the store brands I compare, and, that even if included in a small way, these qualities can benefit the sales and strength of store brands. I will investigate this further tomorrow.
It has been a long day. I announced my marriage to Trey on Facebook this morning, which was a bit of a mistake (the announcement, not the marriage!!) But we really just could not wait another week for it. It’s been significantly harder to ignore my phone and Facebook today, not to mention how sleepy I am today. And hungry. I have (nearly) reached my quota for today, and there is still more day to go, but I still feel good about my progress.
I probably should have something other than candy and coffee in my body right now :-/
Hey! So I have Spring Break week to really focus on my thesis. I’ve procrastinated quite a bit until this semester, and I really need to get to work. I do so much on a weekly basis, that this break is really the best time for me to get focused and barefoot. (If you don’t know, I work better when I’m barefoot. In the library, at school, in the craft room…not sure why.)
So each day this week have a thesis quota of approximately 1000 words and some major research component. Following this plan over the next 6 days should allow me to complete my thesis with some time for editing and rewrites before my defense, though my time is still a little tight. As I continue to write, I will post updates, which will include whatever I find interesting about my research each day, along with questions to you all, just for fun.
Today I broke down each of the 6 interviews I conducted for my behavior and brand impression analysis. I categorized the 170 extracted statements into ten categories, based on how they addressed general attitude, price, brand recognition, design and color, inclusion of information, trust, national brand impression, store brand impression, purchase history, and product usability/effectiveness. LOTS of writing on a white board (and some windows!) I find that if I am able to be physical when synthesizing my data, I have a better time. It’s as if when my body is active, my brain is more active. I just need the physical space to think. But I digress.
These statement groups will be evaluated and discussed in tomorrow’s writing, but their implications are pretty clear already (for instance, people like to use expensive, name-brand products when it comes to their hair, face, and body, but they don’t mind buying Apple-o’s instead of Apple Jacks.)
Today I wrote my comparative analysis of Suave, which was no easy matter at first. I really had to dig deep for the information I needed, as I suspected I would need to do with ALDI’s store brand of cosmetic and hygiene products, Lacura. With ALDI, I got lucky by searching for more general terms, like “ALDI brand cosmetics” instead of “ALDI Lacura brand”. Weird, right? I also wrote a draft of my acknowledgements. I know – it isn’t really the main course of my thesis, and I’ve been avoiding it, but I realized the importance of it as I began jotting down ideas. I also filled out some other comparative analysis stuff (a general description of what it is and how it is important to my research.)
Anywho, updates to come at the end of each session this week. See you tomorrow!
PS – What is UP with this site? It looks like I never actually finished it, eh? Expect some minor changes soon. Bye!
I saw this yesterday and unlocked a sweater mystery! Lawl.
On the season 5 episode of Glee “The Quarterback” (the SADDEST episode ever) Kevin McHale’s character Artie wears a sweater with a bird, the sun, and a rainbow on it. It turns out that it is the exact sweater (or a striking replica) of a sweater that Billy Crystal wore in 1975 on some television program. Crazy!
This is what happens when you watch way too much television and get too immersed in Buzzfeed.
Thesis update coming after Turkey Day!
I meant to add this entry a while back, because in my research process this step came before the comparative analysis (but coincided with the questionnaire). If you have 5 minutes, please go fill it out! Your input will be confidential and valuable to my research.
Including assumptions as a part of the research strategy has great benefits. My peers and I found it quite helpful in our Design Studio course last year. By listing all assumptions of our research topic, we gave ourselves a place to start with the literary review. It became our job to prove or disprove those assumptions, and thus they transformed into knowledge. Continue Reading
In order to move forward in my research, I needed to determine which brands would be the focus of my comparative analysis. I chose six brands total because I felt it would provide me with a well-rounded scope of companies on each side of my thesis – three national brands, and three comparable store brands.
I found that while trying to focus on individual brands, I came across brands within brands (within brands even!) Many of the products that I found in my household were sub-brands of larger companies, like Proctor & Gamble, Johnson &Johnson, or Unilever.
Which is exactly why I chose those three as my national brands. (Crest, Tylenol, and Suave.) Continue Reading