Is a Designer Born, or Made?
From an early age I realized communication and presentation were an important part of standing out from a crowd.
As a fifth grader, I was tasked with writing a poem for a youth literary contest. I quickly scrawled the first thing that came into my head and tossed the poem on my teacher’s desk. It was a simple poem about the changing of the seasons, maybe thirty words, on a sheet of looseleaf paper. She gave it a quick read and as the bell rang for the next period she held me back to have me make two seemingly irrelevant changes. Each time I mentioned the leaves falling she had me write the letters of “down” vertically. It seemed a silly task, but I did it quickly so that I could rush off to the next class.
A month later the county winners were announced – I had received first place in the poetry section. Not because my poem was particularly good (it wasn’t) but because the presentation made it stand out…it was a presentation that translated well into the literary magazine’s printed edition and made it distinct from the other poems.
Lesson learned. Presentation changes the way people interact with your message. I have learned this lesson countless times, from hurriedly writing last minute term papers in college to designing startup business canvases. If you take the time to consider your design and really make your work standout, you open a door to opportunity that didn’t exist before. (That’s not to say that design makes up for poor content, but it will give you a leg up on content that’s equally as solid.)
Even before I knew what to call myself, I was a designer, focused on the clear communication of everything I touched – from artwork to essays. It wasn’t until college, when I was spending as much time as Editor-in-Chief of my newspaper and Design Production Editor of my yearbook, that I realized the extent of my passion and decided to devote more time to understanding design.
The Winding Path to Presentation Design
In retrospect, I’ve always had an appreciation for strategic communication design, like presentations. In college, I kept finding things in the fridge that should have been in the cupboards and visa versa. It irritated me to no end. Instead of picking a fight or bringing it up at our house meetings, I stayed up until 3am one night and made a PowerPoint deck called “The Rules of Refrigeration.” It was a silly, light-hearted presentation that was really well received by my roommates (sort of a “Marcie is crazy, but this is kind of fun” reaction). But, do you know what? The mayo found a permanent home in the fridge.
As I bounced through my twenties, experimenting along different paths from medical chart creation to starting my own catering company, I focused my spare time on design. I read blogs, books and articles and eventually started taking small web projects as I trial-and-error’ed my way through HTML and CSS.
I began, like many non-professionally trained designers, by taking jobs mostly to build my portfolio (which meant a very low hourly income). Little by little I worked with more and more talented people, learning as I went. On various projects I frequently found myself leading design teams that were comprised of designers whose design skills were far above my own. But who often failed to understand the purpose of their design. I realized that I had a knack for putting content in the driver’s seat and artfully assigning design a “navigator’s” role in the process.
Good design is critical to conveying the message but most designers are bad at understanding the message! This realization propelled me towards presentation design. I love “weeding” your message out, organizing it and presenting it beautifully to get real results.
I love to work with companies – startups and established businesses alike – who understand the importance of design and value an honest take on their content.
In the last decade I have been regularly “employed” by over a dozen startups, have consulted with more than 70 and have had two of my own (PokerNearMe and ListSanity) with one successful exit. I’ve also participated in the respected 500 Startups accelerator program in Silicon Valley. I’ve been a finalist in pitch competitions and have been a core part of startup teams that were funded for an aggregate exceeding $10M.
As a front-end developer and designer who’s married to a Bitcoin expert (who is obsessed with self-driving cars), my startup interests lie largely in tech. But the startups I’ve worked with run the gamut in specializations and include: the Internet of Things, live and online poker, social networking sites, Bitcoin, on-demand warehousing, high school sports technology, sleep mask technology, on campus beacon technology, handmade soaps/lotions, public speaking instruction, scavenger hunts, real estate, security technology and many more.
Since founding Braden Strategic Design I’ve focused on presentation design but will work with clients on any content that requires strategic information design.
So that’s me in a nutshell! If you have great content that’s not delivering for you, that’s not driving customers or revenue and if you understand the value of presentation design – creating clarity of message and supporting it visually – and are open to honest feedback and willful revisions – I’d love to speak with you!