Exit Through the (NPR) Gift Shop

Copied my interview from the NPR Intern Blog below! Original here. What a great summer.

 

Name: Amanda Buck

Internship Position: UX/Visual Design Intern

Hometown: Brunswick, Ohio

College/University: I went to Ohio State University for undergrad and I’m currently a grad student at MICA.

Major: MFA in Graphic Design

What drew you to NPR? I like working within the public realm. I am a huge fan of NPR and was excited about the possibility of working on projects that affect NPR listeners everywhere. 

What do you think separated you from other candidates applying for your internship? Being a grad student, I think I had more experience than other candidates. Also, my dedication to mission-driven work is apparent from my portfolio. Plus, my in-person interview went really well! I connected with the team right away. 

Describe some of your day-to-day duties and responsibilities. Digital Media’s process is agile, so we have daily scrums: one for the design team and then another for the specific project team you’re on. My duties day-to-day have changed for each scrum cycle, but all of the work we do is for NPR’s digital platforms: the website, blogs, mobile and tablet apps, connected television, connected cars, wearables, etc.

What’s your commute to NPR like? Since I go to school in Baltimore, I decided to stay there for the summer. I commute everyday on the MARC train, which takes about 1.5 hours each way door-to-door. It’s a long commute, but I’ve fit lots of reading in this summer!

Top three #NPRLife moments of your internship? Go.
1. Seeing some incredible Tiny Desk Concerts, including The Family Crest, Luluc, and Rodrigo Amarante. The Digital Media desks are close to NPR Music’s so I never missed a show!

2. Witnessing the live finale of Tell Me More with Michel Martin. Live radio is seriously amazing.

3. Being here when our teams in Digital Media soft-launched NPR One, the new NPR app. It was a great learning experience and I’m so happy I was able to be a (very, very small) part of it. So much hard work went into this app!

Favorite NPR show or podcast? I am a daily Morning Edition and All Things Considered listener. I also like Fresh Air, All Songs Considered and Planet Money Podcasts. Hard to pick a favorite…

Favorite album or song right now? Saintseneca’s Dark Arc.

What did you work on this summer? I worked on trying to solve these problems: How does the nav drawer look in NPR One for Android? How would NPR One work in a Connected Car? How can we add the search and suggestions functionalities of the NPR One mobile/tablet apps to the web app? What do sponsorship and promotions look like in the NPR One apps, across devices? I also spruced up the NPR Reddit page and am currently writing blog posts about what the Digital Media design team has been working on this summer. 

Words of wisdom for future NPR interns? Take advantage of your time here. There is so much to learn so make appointments with folks outside of your team to learn more about the organization as a whole. Even if you’re super busy, go to all of the things (intern events, Tiny Desks, etc.)!

The Exit Through The (NPR) Gift Shop series is a continuous effort to showcase the diversity of young talent at NPR. Interviews were coordinated by Hugo Rojo. Photos by Colin Marshall.

This summer at NPR

I am excited to announce that on Monday, June 9, I will be starting a summer internship at NPR! I will be working as a UX/Visual Design Intern on their Digital Media team. 

In January, I stumbled across this article in Fast Company about NPR's new Creative Director, Liz Danzico. I knew then that I wanted to work with her. Liz is a designer, writer, and educator. She is a founding chairperson of SVA's MFA in Interaction Design Program. And she's pretty legendary in the field. 

I am thrilled that the work in securing the position paid off, and I can't wait to join this smart and talented team. NPR's Design Group concepts, designs, and develops a framework to transform NPR's digital services. Their goal is to create "delightful, usable, consistent, and sometimes surprising experiences across products and services." They are truly pushing the standards of design and storytelling on the web, and I am happy to be a part of it. 

It's going to be an amazing summer!

 

My office for the summer

My office for the summer




Records for Life

During the fall semester, my class worked on submissions for a contest sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation called Records for Life. The challenge concentrated on rethinking and redesigning the global child health and immunization record — no small task!  

RFL Illustration 1.jpg

From the Gates Foundation:

Child health records are something every parent needs — no matter where they live — to ensure their child receives life-saving vaccines they need to live a healthy productive life. However, many families never receive health records for their children, or, if they do receive them, they can be easily destroyed or lost. In many cases, records are not accurately maintained because they are designed in a confusing way or are not adaptable as new vaccines become available. Accurate and accessible records are needed to maintain health histories for children, identify those who need to be immunized, and those who have missed immunizations or are off schedule. When the record is unclear, inaccessible or unused, it’s harder to reach children with life-saving vaccines. The Records for Life contest was launched to address these key challenges.


Our project was led and guided by Jennifer Cole Phillips, Director, Graphic Design MFA Program, with guest advisors Islam Elsedoudi, IDEO; Doug Storey and Manish Arora, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Lee Davis, MASD. We kicked it off with a weekend workshop led by visiting designer Islam Elsedoudi of IDEO (Thanks, Islam!). Together we brainstormed, prototyped, and created narratives to gain a better understanding of the experiences that caregivers, health workers, and government survey-takers have with current child health records. 

It's not really a brainstorm without lots of colored Post-Its.

It's not really a brainstorm without lots of colored Post-Its.

The Vaccinator Hero!

The Vaccinator Hero!

We then divided ourselves into teams to continue working on the project post-weekend workshop. My team included myself, Nate Gulledge, Sally Maier, and Yu Chen. 

Our proposal attempted to address the issues outlined above. We focused on instilling a sense of value to the record itself and creating redundancy in the record keeping process, through a hybrid of high- and low- tech solutions.

Our proposal is a clear, adaptable, portable, durable, and valuable solution for both health workers and caregivers. By utilizing optical mark recognition, the form simplifies record keeping and allows for easy reproduction and digitization, adding scalability and redundancy in the medical data system. An initial cover photograph adds value to the record, and the promise of a final photograph creates an incentive towards completion of the vaccination cycle. Plus, when technology is available, text-message based reminders and information can help encourage family compliance and vaccination comprehension.

There were over 300 submissions from 41 countries, and the Gates Foundation tested the top 40 prototypes in focus groups around the world. MICA had two team semifinalists (in the top 40). And remarkably, my team was also top-ten finalist, as well as a top-tier Honorable Mention winner, coming in after the Grand Prize winner, gravitytank – an innovation consultancy in Chicago. My classmate Nate represented our team this past week in Amsterdam at the IxDA conference, where the winners were announced. Thank you, Nate! 

The Gates Foundation will be posting more information about the contest in the coming weeks on their blog, Impatient Optimists. There is the possibility that part or all of our proposal will actually be implemented.

Please click on the thumbnails below to see and read more about our submission. 

I am super proud of our team! 

 

Road Trip: 'Rolla in Places

5,508 miles. Ten states. The Corolla made it!

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri

Carbondale, Illinois

Carbondale, Illinois

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Somewhere in Texas

Somewhere in Texas

Somewhere else in Texas

Somewhere else in Texas

Near Marfa, Texas

Near Marfa, Texas

Marfa, Texas

Marfa, Texas

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Near Zion National Park, Utah

Near Zion National Park, Utah

Green River, Utah

Green River, Utah

Green River, Utah

Green River, Utah

Green River, Utah

Green River, Utah

Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah

Curecanti National Recreation Area, Colorado

Curecanti National Recreation Area, Colorado

Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska

Somewhere in Iowa

Somewhere in Iowa

The end.

The end.

Farewell, Chicago

So much to be grateful for, and so much more to look forward to. 

 I recently returned from a 3-week road trip through the Southwest with OG, got engaged!, enrolled in classes for my first semester in graduate school at MICA, and moved from Chicago to Baltimore (with a pit-stop to see my family in Cleveland along the way).

We're still not quite settled into our new place in Baltimore, but I wanted to take a moment to publicly declare my appreciation and love for the city and people of Chicago! The design community there was so welcoming and open. From the moment I moved into town, folks were extremely generous and always willing to pass on contacts and freelance projects. It's such an active and accessible community — and I will truly miss it. 

So, thank you, Chicagoans! Until next time. 

 

More about the road trip coming soon...

Alabama revisited

From 2009–2011 I lived in a rural town of 2,700 — Greensboro, Alabama.

Greensboro is the county seat of Hale County, which was the backdrop of James Agee and Walker Evans' Depression-era Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. It's in the middle of catfish farming country, the middle of the Black Belt, the middle of the heart of Dixie. There is so much to love about this place and I am so grateful for the time I spent there. 

Over the course of the 2 years I lived there, I helped create a pop-up pie shop; helped build-out a permanent pie shop (PieLab) with community events, workshops, youth classes, and more; and also began my independent freelance career. The place and the people and the experiences were extremely formative for me. They set the trajectory for my life, both personally and professionally.

And after a 2-year hiatus, Will and I recently returned for a short visit. The nostalgia was as thick as the humid air...

Some photos from the trip below.

First stop: 20K 9. Built by Will Holman, Pernilla Hagbert, Clem Blakemore, and Danny Wicke for Rural Studio in 2010.

First stop: 20K 9. Built by Will Holman, Pernilla Hagbert, Clem Blakemore, and Danny Wicke for Rural Studio in 2010.

PieLab! It was busy. There were some familiar faces and some not so familiar faces. We shared pimiento cheese sandwiches, lemon pie, sugared pecans, and some great conversation with a couple from Tuscaloosa. 

PieLab! It was busy. There were some familiar faces and some not so familiar faces. We shared pimiento cheese sandwiches, lemon pie, sugared pecans, and some great conversation with a couple from Tuscaloosa. 

Same signs. Higher prices. Different menu. Same tables. Different people. Same sense of community.  

Same signs. Higher prices. Different menu. Same tables. Different people. Same sense of community.  

Busy lunch at the PieLab.

Busy lunch at the PieLab.

New addition to Main Street since living across the street 2 years ago: A beautiful classroom, event, kitchen, and office space for Project Horseshoe Farm. 

New addition to Main Street since living across the street 2 years ago: A beautiful classroom, event, kitchen, and office space for Project Horseshoe Farm

Friendly Fellows

Friendly Fellows

The HERO garden and fence Will built with YouthBuild.

The HERO garden and fence Will built with YouthBuild.

Some things change. But mostly they stay the same...

Some things change. But mostly they stay the same...

Walking down Main Street

Walking down Main Street

Chatting with Charles at the PieLab, just like old times.

Chatting with Charles at the PieLab, just like old times.

The sign Robin and I painted for Charles is holdin' up good! It is aging well, just like Charles himself.

The sign Robin and I painted for Charles is holdin' up good! It is aging well, just like Charles himself.

Exploring the streets I used to run down regularly. 

Exploring the streets I used to run down regularly. 

Gorgeous country.

Gorgeous country.

One of the latest Rural Studio Projects in Lions Park.

One of the latest Rural Studio Projects in Lions Park.

William Christenberry's green barn in Newbern.

William Christenberry's green barn in Newbern.

Stopped at Jessica Peterson's The Southern Letterpress on our drive from Greensboro to Birmingham. Jessica taught me everything I know about letterpress printing and she is amazing.

Stopped at Jessica Peterson's The Southern Letterpress on our drive from Greensboro to Birmingham. Jessica taught me everything I know about letterpress printing and she is amazing.

Once in Birmingham, we got a tour of the incredible Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Our friend Sara runs their educational programming. I would love to work at a place like JVTF one day.

Once in Birmingham, we got a tour of the incredible Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Our friend Sara runs their educational programming. I would love to work at a place like JVTF one day.

Wheelthrowing

I recently learned a new craft – wheelthrowing – and fell in love. The last time I had worked with clay before this class was in high school... so yeah, it had been a while. My friend from OSU, Nikole, recently moved to Chicago and I thought taking a class together at Lill Street Art Center would be a fun way to hang out every week, meet new people, and make cool stuff. 

Well wheelthrowing is really tough! It's hard to keep things centered and impossible to know what your glaze combination will look like after firing. Plus everything I made turned out much smaller than I thought. Like any other craft, the process is long — you have to be patient to get good results. Anyway, I had a lot of fun and am proud of these imperfect pieces! I hope I can take another ceramics class again soon. 

Field:Work at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Ten days ago I was in the midst of a 48-hour design blitz, held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with 30-some sophomore and junior design students, two of their professors (Brian Wiley and Eric Benson), and the two members of the Little Things Labs team who hadn't yet come down with the flu. 

I was there at the request of Megan Deal, who is a designer at the innovation laboratory Little Things Labs. Megan and I met during a Project M session in early 2009 and quickly became friends. We then worked together until mid-2010 on PieLab and related projects in rural Alabama. Until the workshop in Champaign, I hadn't seen Megan in over a year. It was great to catch up and learn about the work she is doing at Little Things Labs. They describe themselves as "a problem-solving laboratory that identifies and acts on pressing problems and emerging opportunities in mid-sized and post-industrial cities." To make it happen, they partner with foundations, corporations and non-profits, and then "discover, design and rapidly prototype tools that redefine community challenges as transformative opportunities." It's nothing short of inspiring, and I was happy to Amtrak & Megabus it down from Chicago to meet her co-workers and collaborate with them as an advisor for the weekend's activities.  

Brian worked to select a local non-profit, Prosperity Gardens, as the community partner and focus for the weekend's projects. Little Things Labs planned and facilitated the schedule, which began Friday afternoon with an obligatory icebreaker activity, followed by immersion — an on site visit and conversation with the community partner. The students documented the visit and took notes, preparing to share observations with the group later that day. The rest of the afternoon was spent assessing the challenges that we could work on, brainstorming possible solutions and opportunities, and then categorizing and delegating tasks to 5 unique teams: collateral, PR, funding, signage, and transportation. Each team of 5 or so students then worked into the night, trying to come up with unique and creative approaches to address these issues. 

On Saturday, we met back up bright and early in the morning. The students spent the day rapidly prototyping designs and ideas within each category:

  • Collateral — simplified identity, website, brochure, presentation, business cards, rubber stamps, and other applications
  • PR — promo video, social media accounts, unique ways to tell the story of Prosperity Gardens (comic book), a press release, etc
  • Funding — brainstorming creative ways to raise money for the nonprofit — one  idea was to focus on value-added products, in particular, "Prosperity Salsa" made with the garden's signature collard greens
  • Signage — prototyped t-shirts and possible solutions for main sign on the lot, as well as removable and updatable billboard/mural options for the building's currently bleak, street-facing wall
  • Transportation —began a test in social media, attempting to make a viral campaign that encouraged the donation of a truck within 48 hours

The students did a great job and I had a lot of fun working with them. They worked late into Saturday night and then presented their ideas to the client the next afternoon. Nicole of Prosperity Gardens was blown away by the amount of work that was completed in such a short time. The class plans to continue working with the nonprofit on implementing some of the proposed concepts over the next few weeks/months.

Even though they had to be in studio, working on Valentine's Day weekend (!), I really think the students enjoyed themselves and were delighted to see all they had accomplished in 48 hours. Also, despite the flu, which eventually hit Megan on Sunday morning, the workshop went remarkably well and ran smoothly. 

And I learned something as well. Even though it was just a taste of it, I determined that I really enjoy teaching. So, thank you Megan, Brian, Eric, all of the students, and the rest of Little Things Labs. Hope we can work together again soon!

make it go viral. WE NEED A TRUCK! 

make it go viral. WE NEED A TRUCK! 

motto for the weekend

motto for the weekend

list

list

prototyped products

prototyped products

the class

the class

National Day of Service

To wrap up my tenure as a designer for the President, I offered to do some work, remotely, for the Inauguration. I was assigned to the design of a logo for the National Day of Service, as well as some corresponding print pieces. I worked on the design with a former OFA co-worker, Ryan Roche. The logo we designed was a simple, straightforward seal. Photos below of the logo in its various applications on the official National Day of Service, January 19, 2013. 

I also was able to make it to D.C. for the Inaugural Ceremony and Balls. It was a great way to wrap up this chapter. Now, on to the next adventure!

Passport to Service

Passport to Service

Buttons!

Buttons!

Placards and stickers

Placards and stickers

Signage

Signage

Signage

Signage

Podium Sign

Podium Sign

The final seal

The final seal

We made it to the ball!

We made it to the ball!

Share Graphics

While working for the Obama campaign, one of the most common projects that came up (almost daily) were share graphics. These images were strategically emailed or posted on specific Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and/or the official blog, and had a lifespan of anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Often, these graphics felt insignificant in the scheme of things, especially while simultaneously working on a more in-depth project. Plus, the turn-around always seemed unrealistically quick, but somehow, we'd manage to finish in time.

They had tremendous impact. It always amazed me to see the statistics. In some cases, millions of people viewed, hundreds of thousands liked/re-tweeted/shared, or commented. From these graphics, many thousands of people donated to the campaign, signed up for events, or joined in in the movement... all things that helped re-elect the President.

Many of us on the design team had a hand in the campaign's share graphics, but here is a selection of some of my favorites.

Definition of design

“One could describe Design as a plan for arranging elements to accomplish a particular purpose.” – Charles Eames

A few days ago, I heard Christopher Simmons addressing this quote on Debbie Millman's podcast, Design Matters. I really loved what he had to say about it. He broke it down into five components, which explain Eames's definition of design:

  • plan = strategy
  • arrangement = formalism
  • elements = content
  • accomplishment = how effective the design is
  • purpose = how worthwhile is the goal?

He believes this defines design, with one annotation: the act of creation, of making. And if all 5 of the above components are met, then it can be considered "good" design. If the designer invents something new, or adds their passion to the work in some way that can move the field of design forward, then it moves from good to great design.