Quit Procrastinating Today (Not Tomorrow)

written by Georgia Schumacher 16 July 2014

If you have 2 weeks to complete an important project, do you find yourself waiting until the last minute and pulling an all-nighter to finish it? Is your attitude, “Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow?” Sound familiar? You’re probably a procrastinator.

The problem with procrastination is that a rush job probably doesn't result in your best creative or technically sound work. You’ll enjoy your studies — and get much more out of them — if you quit procrastinating once and for all! Here are 4 time-management tips to help you fulfill your potential in any creative field, from game development to fashion marketing to web and graphic design.

1. Make a schedule and stick to it.

Taking courses online is like working from home: Self-discipline is critical to success. When you’re working from home or studying online, you don’t have peer pressure in your favor. Online students must motivate themselves. The easiest way to improve your time management skills is to make a schedule and follow it.

First, make a weekly schedule listing upcoming deadlines and due dates. Break each project into smaller components and commit to completing each by a certain date. Post this list in front of your computer screen so you’ll see it each day.

Next, make a daily schedule. Designate blocks of time during the day to crossing items from your list. Set an alarm. Make a commitment that, regardless of what the alarm interrupts, when you hear it you’ll stop what you’re doing and complete the task you assigned yourself.

2. Set achievable goals.

Failure won’t stop procrastination, it will perpetuate it. It may be overwhelming to read four chapters on game development techniques, but you can probably handle two. Trying to design an entire brochure in one sitting would be daunting, but tackling the cover of a brochure would be reasonable. Set goals you can meet so you can taste success. Success is motivation to continue a good habit.

3. Reward yourself.

Whether it’s working out, playing video games, or watching TV, it’s hard for procrastinators to resist activities they enjoy in favor of work. Instead, use whatever keeps you from school work to motivate you. When you prioritize work over play, you’ll be able to play without the guilt of unfinished projects weighing you down.

4. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Remember why you're taking classes. It’s probably because you to pursue a career—in game development, design, culinary fashion, photography, animation, or one of the many other exciting creative fields--that you love. Snap a picture of something that represents your end goal and tack it to your bulletin board as a reminder of why work should come before play.

The 5-Step Guide to Making Your Home Office a Creative Space

written by Georgia Schumacher 12 July 2014

Home office

Your home office should be more than a place of style and comfort. The right office can help you to harness your creativity and fully enjoy the fruits of your mind. Following these easy and effective suggestions will let you tap into your inner creative genius in no time.

1. Personalize your space

Creating a home office setting that supports your personal aesthetics is an excellent way to cultivate creative growth. Surround yourself with décor you enjoy, pieces you created in your art school classes, and quotes that inspire you and offer motivation. Pictures of family, friends and pets can also make a workroom feel more cozy.

Keep in mind that color has a powerful effect on creativity. Research has shown that blue surroundings improve a person's imagination, while green can boost creative prowess. Adding these colors into the design of your office in even small accents is an excellent way to improve a creative environment. Listening to music is another proven way to reach deeper thinking. Researchers have even dubbed music's influence on creative thought the so-called Mozart Effect.

2. Get organized

Even among the creative community, many people work best amidst clean, organized surroundings. Securing ample space for paperwork and files, loading related content into binders and arranging commonly used items (such as jump drives, staplers, paper clips, phones, cameras, and chargers) in easy-to-access places can help create a calm office environment. Not having to search sporadically for your pen or sticky notes affords you more time for creativity to bloom. On the flip side, some people simply cannot operate without a few cluttered piles nearby. One way to maintain creative clutter while allowing for desk room is to use post-its or keep a white board nearby.

3. Design for intended uses

When it comes to a home office, you're using it to accomplish something. Whether it's budgeting, documentation, art school projects, freelancing or creative pursuits, the space should cater to your individual needs. When it comes to fostering creativity, ensure that the space is tailored to help you meet your goals. For example, calendars can help keep track of deadlines and appointments for work projects. Those who use the space for writing or brainstorming may find that a giant chalkboard or dry erase board can capture thoughts and ideas quickly. With the advent of chalkboard paint, a bare wall can instantly become its own workstation.

4. Create adequate space

It's crucial to separate your pursuits. Having a writing station that's covered in oil pastels can interfere with progress when inspiration strikes, so make sure that each of your interests has some space (at least a drawer or corner) to itself. If you have multiple purposes for your home office, consider installing a second monitor at your desk for a dual display set-up. This conveniently allows you to work on two separate projects or perform various research endeavors at the same desk. If the space allows, having a large table for artwork is ideal, particularly if most of your desk is taken up with a desktop or laptop computer. Extra space allows more freedom to experiment freely without getting frustrated at a lack of elbowroom.

5. Don't neglect comfort

Anyone who has suffered through an all-day training or meeting atop an unforgiving metal chair knows firsthand that a comfortable environment can make or break productivity. No matter the setup, a good workspace must include comfortable seating, a cozy temperature and adequate lighting. Noise-cancelling headphones block out irritating background noise and allow you to hear your own thoughts. Comfort can also come through your sense -- through pleasing visuals like plants and flowers, a coffee-brewing station or mini fridge, and candles. Interestingly, fragrant candles can do more than just add to an office's ambiance. Some studies indicate that cinnamon-vanilla and orange scents have a positive effect on creativity.

Ready to get started in art school? Explore The Art Institutes today!

7 Things to Never Do in a Job Interview

written by Georgia Schumacher 3 July 2014

Many people say that first impressions are the most lasting. In a job interview, this is doubly true. Job interviews are your chance to make a stellar first impression in person. At this point, the interviewer knows a lot about your art school education, technical skills, and work experience from your resume and application, so it's time to put a face on that information. Make it count by avoiding these pitfalls.

1. Don't leave your cell phone on.

Before the interview, turn the phone off, or, if possible, don't bring it at all. Receiving calls or texts during an interview tells the interviewer that you have better things to do and that the job you're looking at isn't a priority.

2. Don't badmouth current or former employers.

First of all, ranting about a previous employer is unprofessional. Second, you never know how this company might be related to your former employer. Perhaps that company is a valued client, or maybe the interviewer's spouse works there. Play it safe and stay professionally neutral about entities with which you had a bad experience. It'll show that you're above emotional reactions in the workplace, as well as avoid starting off with any poor relations.

3. Don't forget to research the company.

Solid candidates do their due diligence before the interview by getting acquainted with the business, their products or services, what makes them unique in the industry, and other pertinent information. Go in with a good idea of what the company does, how they do it, and where they are headed.

4. Don't be late.

Being late sends off a bad vibe. The perfect time to arrive is about ten minutes prior to the appointment time. This tells the interviewer that you are punctual but not desperate.

5. Don't lie.

It's tempting to tell a little white lie to land a job you are confident you can excel in. Don't. Even if your job performance is outstanding, a company can fire you years later for lying on your initial resume, application, or during the interview.

6. Don't talk about money or benefits.

The interview is the midway point of the hiring process -- between the initial contact of submitting your application and the end point of receiving a job offer. Keep the interview about your qualifications and what you have to offer the company, as well as what they have to offer you in experience and upward mobility. Save the negotiations on pay and benefits until they have extended you an actual job offer.

7. Don't forget to bring an extra resume.

Always have an extra resume on hand in case the interviewer didn't get a copy, misplaced theirs, or needs a clean copy without their scribbled notes. Even if your resume includes a link to your online portfolio, don’t forget to bring a physical copy if at all possible so that you can better discuss your natural talent as well as show the creative work you completed in art school and past jobs!

Why You Need an Online Portfolio

written by Georgia Schumacher 1 July 2014

Online PortfolioThere are many reasons why you, as an art school student or graduate, should have an online portfolio, but finding jobs and landing project work are certainly two major reasons to make sure yours is up and running. It doesn't matter if you're a freelancer trying to fill your schedule with client work or a career creative working your way up the corporate ladder--an online portfolio is one of the most important assets you can have. Here's why:

Freelance Creative Professionals

As a freelance creative professional, you're asking clients to take a chance on you. Until you have a reputation for delivering quality work, your portfolio is the only thing they know about you and your services.

Take photography for example. Today, everyone has a friend or family member with an fancy SLR camera that seems professional. However, not all of these photographers compose professional images or have studied photography at an art school. An online portfolio helps clients figure out who can deliver top-notch work versus those whose pictures are less polished. The same is true of other creative services where the lines between amateurs and true professionals can be hard to see without work samples.

Creative Careers and Job Searching

Sticking with the photographer example, it's easy to throw the title “photographer” on your resume. Anyone with an SLR camera and a single paying client can call themselves a professional photographer. This makes it difficult for hiring managers to differentiate between the top talent and relative beginners. However, one look at your online portfolio will let an employer know exactly what type of work you can deliver.

Even better, having your work show up in search results can yield unsolicited calls from staffing companies looking for your skills and services. Rather than plastering your resume all over town, create an online portfolio and employers can contact you directly.

These same ideas apply to all art school students and creative professionals, including web designers, game designers, photographers, interior designers, animators, graphic designers and all manner of creatives. Starting an online portfolio will help you:

• Land freelance gigs.
• Find side projects.
• Get in front of interviewers.
• Have your projects appear in search results pages.
• Land the job you've always wanted.

People need to see what you've created if they're going to hire you for their next project, and an online portfolio is one of the best ways to display your talent for prospective clients. Get started on yours today!

Interested in attending art school? Learn more about The Art Institutes!

How to Capture Mouth-Watering Food Photographs

written by Georgia Schumacher 20 June 2014

Do you delight in creating new appetizing masterpieces in the kitchen? Do you take pride in the color and appearance of your culinary accomplishments? If you want to remember more than the lingering flavors after a meal, perhaps you might consider trying your hand at food photography. With some guidance, the proper technology and techniques, and a bit of practice, you too can produce fabulous images that let you document the gastronomical miracles occurring within your kitchen, or someone else’s.

Get started with these tips, consider taking photography classes to expand your skill set, and practice with other enthusiasts.

Choose a camera with a good macro setting.

Most of your food photography is up close and personal to capture the textures, colors, and shapes of the food. A camera with a good macro lens and feature set allows you to take the focal range within a few inches of the subject you’re photographing. This brings all of those details into crisp, clear relief in the photos.

Master basic lighting skills.

Most photography classes provide extensive information on lighting techniques, the appropriate type of lighting for different situations, and tools you can use to direct the light. White paper and even cheesecloth help out with food photography in the kitchen. Ideally, a kitchen would have a great deal of natural light, but if it doesn’t or you’re working in a professional kitchen, daylight light bulbs provide a similar lighting environment. Consider using a tripod when light conditions aren’t ideal and increasing the shutter speed so you have an appropriate amount of light coming through the aperture.

Work on your plating.

If you want to create exceptional food photography, look at the plating designs that high-end restaurants use to make their food look irresistible. You might not have a food stylist waiting around for your photo shoot, but you can use their techniques to help elevate your home food photography to the next level.

Mix and match serving platters and backdrops.

Some food simply looks better on a plain white plate; others look good with a complex backdrop. It requires a bit of trial and error, but taking a look at some of the popular food photography blogs will give you plenty of composition ideas.

Capture the entire process.

Don’t just snap a picture of the cooking conclusion. Take photos of the ingredients, the preparation, and the cooking process. This helps the viewer get an idea of how the entire cooking process goes, instead of guessing at the way the dish comes together.

Keep it clean.

Wipe away any drips, grease, and smudges that may end up on the edge of your plates when you’re putting the food together. You want every part of the food placement on the plate to be deliberate, so take a second look at your plating before you start snapping pictures.

Explore our photography programs at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh -- Online Division.