Winning the Internet

Level up: A graphic design primer

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

candice dayoanAs we get ready for Netroots Nation 2014, we’re taking a closer look at some of the convention’s most exciting training sessions. We’re interviewing the trainers and taking you inside some of online activism’s most popular and elusive topics.

Today we’re interviewing Candice Dayoan and Chris McNeil, who’ll be leading Level up: A graphic design primer.

NN14 Training Session

Level up: A graphic design primer
So you want to be a graphic designer? We’re surrounded by designers’ fingerprints on our phones, billboards, mailers, even the logos on our clothes. Where do you begin? Join this training as we go through the basics to kickstart your graphic design adventures, beginning with changing the way you look at the world in the first place. We’ll discuss the basics of color theory, fonts (what is kerning, anyway?), composition and more importantly, the best way to keep your skill set up with this ever-evolving art.


Q: Tell us about yourself and your experience with graphic design.

Candice: I’ve always been a computer geek, starting off in programming and eventually found my true calling in the arts. While earning my digital animation degree, I also became very involved in student advocacy. In 2009, I used these combined experiences as a Field Organizer and Deputy New Media Director for Organizing for America – California, where I began designing local volunteer materials. I’ve since been fortunate enough to work on more than 30 campaigns as Creative Director at 50+1 Strategies, where I’ve created several original campaign logos and 100+ pieces of literature and mailers. I love making things pretty while maintaining its utility.

Chris: I spent over a decade with a medical nonprofit doing graphic design and videography and little bits of web development. My favorite part of that job was designing the outreach literature and for that reason I’ve long admired the reach of political propaganda. So I started working for a political consulting firm for a few cycles, and now I freelance.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most common reason that organizations and individuals shy away from design work?

Chris: Information overload, no question. Even if you’re not a professional designer, you still have plenty of resources online. Between Adobe &, there are enough software tutorials to last a lifetime. Google fonts and Typekit are doing the same with fonts. So you’re left with a sifting problem. What’s useful? What’s not?

Candice: I’m going to quote one of my favorite movies Galaxy Quest here: “You don’t have to be a good actor to recognize a bad one.” The actual technical aspects of design aren’t exactly hard if you have the right tools (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc). You just know what you’re putting out is not as nice as that flyer you saw once, but you can’t figure out why. Even a “simple” flyer can take hours to make it look right while conveying all the right information, and I think that people underestimate how long something takes and how much background experience it takes to make quick design judgements.

Chris: Galaxy Quest is literally my favorite movie of all time. “See, that’s your problem, Jason. You were never serious about the craft.”

Q: What are the two most important things to keep in mind when designing graphics yourself?

Chris: 1) Less is more. 2) Good photography is half the battle.

Candice: 1) Make sure you decide the ONE thing you want to communicate with this piece; make every decision towards that goal. 2) Give yourself a realistic timeline.

Q: Why should folks attend your session at Netroots Nation?

Candice: You’re where I was when I started: really interested in design and how it works, but lack the confidence that experience brings. You won’t walk out of our training a professional designer, but you will have the building blocks to start with. You’ll start viewing the world a little differently. Oh, and you probably won’t be able to look at fonts the same way again.

Chris: There’s usually no obvious difference between good graphic design and bad graphic design. It’s a million little things that add up. And somewhere along that path a design turns from bad to mediocre, or from mediocre to good. We’ll talk about as many of those “million little things” as we can during our talk.


To attend this training, or one of the 39 others at Netroots Nation 2014 in Detroit, register now.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.



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