Joe Rinaldi

President of Happy Cog

Joe Rinaldi

President of Happy Cog Episode 10

Episode Notes

Episode Transcript

Gary:
Hello, and welcome to Episode 10 of Design Edu Today, the podcast series discussing topics concerning the state of interactive design education at institutions of higher learning. I’m your host, Gary Rozanc, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Today’s guest is Joe Rinaldi. Joe is Happy Cog’s President. He is a relationship manager with a background in design and a lifelong dedication to community development. His professional background spans interactive marketing, recruiting, freelance illustration, teaching and UX consulting. Prior to joining Happy Cog, he partnered and consulted with clients in publishing, pharmaceutical, communications, financial services, insurance, retail and ecommerce and chemical industries. At Happy Cog, Joe has negotiated multiple projects with Harvard University, MTV, Ben & Jerry’s, Harvard Business School and the Black Hills Energy, while partnering with Nintendo Americas, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Kaplan Test Prep, the Annie E Casey Foundation, Yale School of Management, the McGraw-Hill Companies and Trek Bicycle Company.

A passionate Philadelphian and community architect, Joe co-founded PhilaMade, a professional organization dedicated to celebrating inspiring and cultivating creative brilliance in the Philadelphia community. Joe earned his BA in Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond’s Jepson School and studied illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design. In real life, Joe enjoys spending time with his family and when nobody’s looking, comics. Welcome, Joe.

Joe:
Thank you, Gary, I appreciate it.
Gary:
Just a quick question: what comics?
Joe:
I have been reading a lot of the Marvel stuff that’s coming out right now, so I do dabble in the Superhero comics. But I would say that the best thing I’ve read in the last five years is a series called Locke & Key that I’ve been a passionate fan of. It wrapped up about a year or two ago but I would heartily recommend it to anybody that’s interested in the medium.
Gary:
I’m always looking for the next The Maxx, by Sam Kieth, I just loved that comic and always want something that’s just as good! All right, so let’s actually get into some of the why you’re actually here! Before I began, I wanted to let me listeners know that you were interviewed on the UX Intern Podcast and you went in depth about the hiring process at Happy Cog, something that I wanted to ask you about. However, instead of making you repeat yourself and in the spirit of sharing, I’m going to put the link to that episode in the session notes and ask for everyone to listen to that episode. It also features Katie Dill of Airbnb covering their hiring process as well. Lots of great information in that episode that my listeners, you don’t want to miss. All right, so before I get into my questions, can you talk a little bit about Happy Cog in regards to the type of work you take on? Beyond what’s highlighted on the Happy Cog website, and the type of work you’re asked to do frequently, if those two things aren’t the same, what you do and what you’re asked to do.
Joe:
Sure, sure. So, we handle projects all the way from initial research and definition: digital projects, all the way through implementation. About fifty per cent of our projects we take all the way to the finish line and build it ourself so it might be Drupal Build, Craft, Expression Engine, WordPress, but about fifty per cent of our projects we don’t take to the finish line. We might take that as far as responsive templates and a style guide and then hand those assets off to a client’s internal dev team to implement themselves, or they might have a third party dev team they already work with that we’re handing off to, so it just depends on their internal development capabilities, but the majority of our projects start in research and go all the way through to the end of building it out. Most times, we are contacted for work in that vein. It’s important to note too that we work across a lot of industries by design, that’s our intent, so we work in ecommerce, we work with mission-driven non-profits, we work with higher education partners; that keeps us fresh, that ensures we’re always tackling new design challenges, that makes the case for us that if we tackle a higher ed project, it’s not just informed by our higher ed experience, it’s informed by something that we might have experimented with in financial services, or it’s informed by something we learned in travel and tourism. So, while we’re very industry agnostic, I would say that what most of our products have in common is just a massive amount of content; that could be the thousands of products on soccer.com or David’s Bridal or Zappos or it could be the mountain of content that Harvard University produces or it could be thought leadership that the Institute for New Economic Thinking is generating; so, really complicated content challenges kind of serve the core of what we do.

The couple of occasions where we’re asked to do things that we don’t typically do, maybe falls into the category of who we are often compared to in terms of competition. We often compete against significantly larger companies. We’re just about twenty people headquartered here in Philadelphia with some folks that work remotely in an extension of our team but we routinely compete against two hundred, three hundred, three thousand person agencies and in those cases, we don’t handle a lot of the stuff that a full service agency might offer like interactive marketing strategy or really deep search engine marketing; those are elements that surround our work that we don’t focus on that we bring in strategic partners to address so I think that’s the one area where we’re potentially asked to do things or thought of for projects that aren’t a slam-dunk fit for us.

Gary:
That’s really interesting about…and students, you should be thinking about this is that Happy Cog made the conscious choice to not focus on an industry. And I never realized that, looking at your site and doing my research, I saw you did all these different things but I didn’t put a strategic thought behind that, so that’s really interesting.
Joe:
The tide definitely currently has turned towards hyper-specialization and a lot of the folks that we know in the industry have really targeted a specific industry or a niche or market that they want to go after. We work exclusively with mission-driven non-profits or you know, Government institutions; we work exclusively in ecommerce; we really swim against the trend there as best we can and we look for clients that see the value in that kind of breadth of perspective. Some clients want a partner that has invested fully in one industry, and I get that, but I think the partners that we’ve been most successful with are looking for that broader experience and skill-set and how it could apply to their particular re-design or new product or whatever it is they’re looking for a partner to come in and help with.
Gary:
Well, diversity’s good.
Joe:
I think so.
Gary:
It’s a good way to make that your company mission. All right. Since the UX Intern Podcast stole a little of my thunder, I’m going to try a little different line of questioning. In the classroom, students kind of work in isolation, perpetuating the stereotype of a solo rock star designer. Because of the complexities of digital design, design has become a team sport again, so I’d like to know the specifics of what it’s like to work at a digital agency as an interactive designer. What does that look like now?
Joe:
Sure; I think you described it perfectly. It’s a team sport. I think that the way that that looks now in a given project, if you’re what we would term a designer here, you are most likely working with at least two other designers on the course of that project, maybe up to three other designers in the course of that project. There’s typically someone that inhabits a role of a lead designer; that’s the person that really is…what distinguishes that person from the other roles is that they’re the most embedded and entrenched in that client relationship; they really lead that client relationship alongside a development lead from our team and a project manager. The three of them really are the three-pronged assault that works directly with the clients; are designers are as client-facing as our project managers are, so that’s one focus for our design team. Or you might sit in a more supporting role where you are more often than not having some of your to-dos outlined for you by the lead designer; you’re providing design effort but it might be the lead designer that’s the internal lens that some of those decisions get vetted through. It’s important to note too though, in our case, that lead designers are hands-on designer as well; she’s likely designing one module while the supporting designer’s designing a second module concurrently. But then within that, we have our Design Director, Michael Johnson and MJ has a really important day to day role in ensuring quality and pushing people and mentoring, so you’re working in a peer to peer basis with other designers; you have a lead designer or you are a lead designer and then you have our Design Director who may often be the lead designer as well who also has a role in that, and that’s just the Design Team.

Beyond that, you’re absolutely working hand in glove with our front end development team whose role really sits as much in the design phase as anything, in thinking through responsive states, interactions and behaviors. I think that our designers have a digital focus but our front end developers are the ones who as often are saying, this is one way that you could handle this in an interactive development, or this is a behavior that you could use here, or this is how you could have a state that we could employ here that adds to the depth of the experience. And at the same time, if we’re building it, or even if we’re not building it, our back end developers are really the stewards of the publishing environment constraints, so if we know that we’re building in Drupal, we know enough about Drupal and the way that Drupal handles content models and relationships to impose some of that Drupal logic on our design thinking. We want to be blue sky and we want to be ambitious and really be unfettered but we also have to design something that’s’ implementable, that lives harmoniously in whatever CMS it gets implemented into eventually, so our designers have to be wide open to feedback and direction from our back end developers who ensure that we stay within the right sized box that the system has to live within ultimately. So there’s a lot of moving pieces, and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that clients can have active or less active roles in that too.

Gary:
I’m curious about two things that you just mentioned: one was, it sounds like it’s an inside-out model, when you mentioned one designer’s working on one module, so if you could expand on that, that would be great. And the second one, and I think the bigger one: the way you described the front end developer to me sounds like a designer.
Joe:
That’s a fair point! I think we’ve absolutely debated internally if even calling our front end developers is accurate any more; if it would be more accurate to call our front end developers front end designers. I think ultimately that comes down to a person-by-person skill-set by skill-set decision, so it’s hard to make a blanket statement one way or the other but those folks live in design just as much as they live in what you might consider code or programming, as much as anybody, so I agree it’s a very, very blurry line.

In terms of an inside-out approach, because we work with extremely large experiences typically, that’s what our big content sites lead to, our really large digital experiences, we’re not ever going to build every page of the site that we re-design, so when we re-designed the Holocaust Memorial Museum, that site alone has hundreds of thousands of URLs. It is the largest living repository of content about the Holocaust, as well as about current-day global genocide. It is a mountain of information. So, in that instance, we were not going to design every page in that experience; our clients really have to be able to extend our design thinking, so we build systems. We build extensible systems that are built of component parts. I wouldn’t say that we subscribe wholly to the concept of atomic design; I think that there are tremendous benefits to thinking of things in terms of atoms and molecules and building up from the smallest idea to the largest idea, but I think what’s lost in a lot of atomic design thinking is the ability to look at full page compositions, to look at the overall site experience. I think that we’re really careful to balance that kind of micro-thinking against the overall system design and the overall experience, so we do think in terms of modules, we do think in terms of elements at times but we are also not losing sight of the fact that it’s not as simple as designing sixteen Lego pieces and then expecting all of those sixteen pieces to snap together harmoniously because you have a set of Lego instructions. There are bigger, broader decisions that fall in between the cracks of the modules that get built that have to be considered as well. So, we do have an inside-out approach but we also have a high altitude-down approach and we kind of meet in the middle.

Gary:
This is for the listeners: the atomic design that we mentioned, you can go to Brad Frost; Google Brad Frost or Atomic Design and you’ll find a lot about that way of thinking. So as a follow-up to that is, that’s my biggest, when I’m teaching a beginning web design class and by that I mean I’m teaching them how to use HTML, CSS, maybe how to utilize a JavaScript plug-in, I keep wrestling with…I like the idea of the atomic design of let’s just design an interface, let’s design an interaction and then plug them together, because I think that’s easier for the students to focus on that one thing, but then in the end like you said, you get to this big conglomeration of things, this Frankenstein that could potentially not …not work, and that’s something I always wrestle with is just what’s the best way to get my students into that?
Joe:
I think it’s a huge struggle and I think when we have designers that are starting out with us and maybe this is their first role after they graduate from school, it’s their first full-time job, I think that’s where some of the most important experiences gained in the first twelve months is thinking in terms of systems but still being able to isolate the trees from the forest and make specific decisions within a module and look at things extensively as well. It’s as easy…that example is consistency across URL link-styles; you might make a decision in one area and then you have to be careful to be consistent with that decision when it applies to other areas, so I think there’s a lot of resources that we employ that act as a safety-net to ensure those gaps are met so we will build, typically, a kind of living, breathing digital style guide that will populate as design decisions get made, but at the same time we are much more likely to share our design thinking with the client as organized into a template or a page in a full composition rather than let’s show them a product module, or let’s show them a share module; all those parts add up to a whole and I think that’s where atomic design in a lot of ways can really, really break down. I think that if you have an incredibly competent design partner in your client that has a team that understands things at that kind of level, it can be a really powerful way to drive ideas forward. I think in my experience, atomic design is still only taking root on the agency side, not a lot have the clients really been able to follow up on it so I think sharing things atomically with clients can be a real miss. I think there’s a lot more value to it if your client happens to be a product company or a product and they think about and they live in their product in these micro-interactions, in these small decisions, these discrete atoms every day, all day. If they think in those terms then this approach is very analogous to them, but if they don’t think in those kinds of details then you’re really prescribing a methodology that might be good for you but is really dense and hard for the client to understand.
Gary:
Again, this is a follow-up question, jumping back a little bit, you mentioned…that role of designer and that role of front end developer and that intersection where they’re crossing over. From the designers, coming from a design school, what are they missing to be able to be that unicorn that can do both? Where do you see their deficiencies that you do need to hire a traditional front end developer who deals with interactions, animations and HTML and CSS?
Joe:
Well, I think it’s hard to find any one person that’s great at all of that stuff and I think even within what you might consider more traditional design capabilities, I identify strengths within our team that focus on different areas. We might have a designer who is much stronger in terms of thinking of systems and we might have another designer that’s much stronger in terms of user experience and IA and some of those attributes that are more traditionally associated with an Information Architect and we might have another designer who really thinks in terms of content outward. So, part of it’s just a personal preference and personal strengths lead you into certain areas.

We might have a designer that is really capable of putting on a little bit more of a front end dev hat and think in terms of code and thinks in terms of behavior and interaction but I would say that there isn’t a designer that I know that exists that is extraordinary at all those things. If you’re great at typography and you’re fantastic at modeling content relationships and you’re out of this world in terms of thinking of what JavaScript can make possible, I don’t know that that person really exists. So that’s where…it’s a team sport, so identifying this is this person’s strength, this is this person’s weakness, if we combine these people together, you get the best of both worlds, that’s where studios make sense and that’s where I think, even when you look at friends of mine that I know that freelance, they still tend to aggregate a studio-like team when they tackle big projects so I think there that responsibility gets shared across a few really talented people rather than ensuring that one person can do everything.

Gary:
You’ve mentioned now a lot about interactions and user experience and user research. What does that look like? What exactly does that entail at an agency like Happy Cog?
Joe:
Erika Hall coined this phrase and we adhere to it very closely: Just Enough Research. So we don’t over-prescribe what we’re going to do in terms of the research phase; we call that phase of our project “Project Definition”. One of the most important things that we do in that I think is consume everything that our Clients have already done because typically we’re more often working with very mature brands or very successful ecommerce experiences or .edu sites that have a lot of audiences and the stakes are really high and these partners know themselves fairly well. So, we typically review as much of those insights as we can and we do a little bit of a gap analysis and when I say we review those insights, we’ll look at qualitative data, like the Google Analytics and other site analytics that we can consume and draw conclusions from; we’ll look at behaviors as they can be mapped through the experience; we’ll look at what they’ve been able to study themselves or track themselves, but all of that is for nothing if we don’t really invest in qualitative conversation-based research. I will be a proponent of this until I have three teeth left in my head but you learn things talking to people that are irreplaceable, that you wouldn’t learn otherwise. I think it’s impossible to do just qualitative or just do quantitative if you have to have an appetite for both but you have to have an appetite for both and we will talk to stakeholders within the client environment, we will talk to users that experience the site and know the site well or we’ll talk to people that have never used it before and are getting exposed to it the first time but that kind of conversation-based insight is incredibly important.

And then, honestly, when we talk to clients, we beg them when sharing information with us to err on the side of ruling things in rather than ruling things out. They might have a marketing strategy from three years ago that they’ve since abandoned but that document might still have some really interesting insights and pertinent details that still apply that are assumed known by the client or isn’t really documented somewhere but we need to read that, consume that, to add it to what we know, so we treat research as a pretty aggressive full-contact part of this team sport. The designers have a really huge role in that; our project managers have a really huge role in that; our developers have a really big role in that. Everyone really gets involved in gaining a comprehensive knowledge of this but everything we do hinges on the inherent knowledge that we will never know our client’s business as well as they do, so we don’t build an approach that holds our clients at bay or keeps them at arm’s distance; we build an approach that centers around what our clients know; we keep them meaningfully involved in everything we do. We have a very iterative process but we share as many steps along the way as we can, without over-burdening the client or the project with too much feedback.

There’s an art and an alchemy to figuring out exactly when you need to feed back, what kind of feedback you need, what kind of artifact you can deliver to the client that’s going to confront them the right way and drive the right feedback but we don’t want to do a year’s worth of research where we can replace what our clients know. We want to know enough to do our work, we want to know enough to really drive the project forward but we subscribe, MJ, our Design Director, says this a lot and I’ve kind of adopted it too: we subscribe to Einstein’s idea of combinatory play. It’s really mixing these ideas together that gets the best results, so if we can mix what our clients know with what we know from fifteen years of experience working across all of these industries where the stakes are highest and the scrutiny is the tightest, we’ll get the best result, so it’s really a blended approach and it’s very, very customized to what clients have when they come to the table but I guess the most important thing to take away from it is that the balance between qualitative and quantitative and the balance between what our clients know and what we know.

Gary:
Just a quick observation on that. And it makes sense based on most of your clients are already existing clients looking to take their existing product, existing service, whatever that looks like, to the next level. I would just assume then, if your research would look a lot different if you’re doing it for a start-up idea?
Joe:
Absolutely, absolutely.
Gary:
There’s not going to be existing information. Well, there might be, because you’ve got different models that maybe somebody else tried something similar, but I think that’s going to look a lot different.
Joe:
You might do more landscape analysis and look at what else is out there and draw conclusions from other existing experiences. And you might have a really sound research that backs up your thesis for this new project or product, so there’s usually thinking there, for sure, but at the same time, I agree. I think that there’s pluses and minuses to both though. With an established client that’s had an ecommerce experience for the past nine years and they have this institutional knowledge, there are things that those clients hold dear that they just hold dear because they always have. Or it’s become this kind of institutional inertia around an idea or a strategy and it’s up to us to kick the dust off that and dispel them of this assumption or disprove this idea that they’ve been handcuffed by for some time so, knowing what they know, our clients can drive things forward really rapidly . Knowing what they know too though, they may be dug-in and really fixed on an idea that we don’t hold nearly as dear and we want to call that into question and then validate it. We don’t want to assume that. With a new product, you have greener pastures, bluer skies, less in front of you, but you also have less ammunition so there’s absolutely pluses and minuses to both but they’re very, very different.
Gary:
Thanks. You covered…I’m going to go onto a different subject, but you covered the hiring process in the UX Intern Podcast, but you didn’t really cover how a student is going to get their foot in the door beyond the custom drafting of a cover letter. So, what do you want to see in their portfolio if they manage to get your attention with a well-crafted cover letter?
Joe:
Sure, sure, sure. So, once they’ve gotten to that point and we’re scrutinizing their work or we’re looking at, we’re trying to learn more about them, so assume they’ve opened the door and now we’re at this point where we’re putting them under the magnifying glass. At a minimum level, there is an attention to detail that we’re looking for that becomes immediately apparent. So, we’re going to look at your…so let’s say you have a digital portfolio, you’ve created your own website that showcases your work, it tells a little bit about yourself. You can bet your bottom dollar we’re going to look at that site in a couple of browsers; we’re going to look at it on a couple of devices; I’m not going to crack it open on the latest, greatest version of Chrome on my desktop and assume that this is going to make sense on an Android phone or something like that. So, if we’re serious about somebody, we will scrutinize them to that level of detail and things can break down on small screens, or things can break down in those in-between screen sizes too. So, if we see that the labeling for this one image starts to interfere with the image below it and maybe they didn’t really consider what this thumbnail was going to look like at a mobile screen size; that jumps out at us. If we see that the site takes a painful amount of time to load and they’re making all these really ambitious creative decisions about interactions and animations and all these special effects, but they’re sacrificing site performance, that raises an eyebrow. I think we look at beyond that, it’s what you choose to show and how you choose to show it and we read a lot into what they think is valuable, beyond just the website.

I am immediately drawn to a designer when I sit down with them and they’ve brought their sketchbook, they want to show their work, not just the end result, they want to show the work that went into it, show their process. And honestly, I don’t care what the process is. I just want someone to be able to articulate the process that works for them; I want to hear…I always start with blank and then I typically take it to blank and then most times, I’ll revise because I learn this. It can be anything, it really can be anything and I think students’ process is often informed by the assignments they’re given, so it might even be that the process is kinda kooky based on the kind of projects that they got tasked with too. But I’m super-forgiving of that if they have a process, if they say, the first thing I do is I brainstorm a bunch of ideas and I throw them down on paper and then I cut them out and then I re-open…whatever, whatever it is, as long as there’s a process, I’m drawn to that and as long as there’s a value on their part in shining a spotlight on the steps they took to get to the end result and then they can articulate their thought process and because I liked it, or I was really drawn to this or this looked better or whatever, those are real buzz-kills, when someone’s making decisions based on aesthetics and they’re just kind of winging it. We are very clear in our preference to look for designers, not decorators. And designers are problem-solvers and if you have a graphic design output then you’ve solved several problems to get there. I want to know what those problems were; I want to know what failed solutions you tried before you arrived at the right conclusion; what conclusions you drew from your results and then how extensible those conclusions are. That’s the biggest piece of it: we can’t…I don’t think; I don’t think anybody can teach someone to think in that way. We try to dig up and surface, does this person think that way, does this person have that in them and then if we can identify that and they have a strong portfolio and references from their instructors or from freelance clients and a million other things that I can get into but at its core, that’s the part that I don’t think we can train someone to have: you’re either born with that or you accumulate that through your life and you arrive at your first job with that, but I don’t know many people that can learn to think that way.

Gary:
OK, I’ve just realized we’re running up on time, so I’m going to have two questions and one’s actually more of an observation. You mentioned that site performance is something that you look at and I agree and that’s actually what I teach now; I make them do a performance budget, but then I also think, then I get into this loop of, well, if I’m teaching them to focus on this performance budget and this idea of this needs to be universal to everybody, they’re not pushing the envelope of the medium and isn’t that what school’s about is to be able to push the boundaries? Because you can reel that in but it’s really hard for me to get students to cast out, so a student that casts out far, I can say whoa, this is great, you really explored this, but now let’s think about performance. It’s like wondering what you think about that when I phrase it that way?
Joe:
Sure, sure. Well, I would say performance is just a constraint and there’s always going to be constraints, so whether the constraint is performance or something else, the most important skill I think you can…well actually I’m saying too many things are the most important. An important skill you can learn is designing within constraints; you’re going to have constraints. A client is very rarely going to hand the whole thing over to you and say, “Tell me when you’re done.” They’re going to have constraints they’re going to impose upon you. Performance is just one of them, so I think I’m drawn to the idea that some educators will allow students to have just blue sky possibility and design and I think you had mentioned this to me in the way that you approach it potentially, and then impose a performance budget afterwards. Here: explore, go crazy, take this as far as you want, get as adventurous as you want; really, really, really push the limits to the end of the edge of the envelope. But now that you’ve done that, here, I’m imposing this performance budget upon you and now you need to whittle down, now you need to kill the thing you love, you need to turn down one thing and trade this thing off for that; you have to make some really, really hard decisions and arrive at something that you still feel is true to your central idea, but now can live within this much smaller container I’m giving to you, so I think that’s one way to encourage both but I think performance is just another constraint.
Gary:
OK, all right, well the last question I have comes to, and this is a theme now that I’ve been seeing from these podcasts and things that I’ve read that I want to talk to you about and you’ve mentioned it yourself. So, you mentioned that being pro-active as a designer is a huge bonus. Others have said this. So, for you to actually outright say, this is advice, this is something that I see…are you seeing a lot of young designers who aren’t pro-active? That you have to make this a statement?
Joe:
I don’t know…I would say that it’s not a matter maybe of being pro-active. I would say…I would say that it’s important just to realize that you could be the most talented person on the planet, but if no one’s ever met you or heard of you, you’re going to live a pretty lonely existence with your talent. So I think there is a little bit of just getting out in front of it and owning the fact that you’re as good as your connections in some ways and honestly, there are designers who are well connected, who are less talented than really talented designers who are poorly connected and the connections and making those relationships a priority tends to bear fruit. It’s the nature of working. It’s not even a matter of design or our industry; that’s just the nature of working; that’s why something as God-awful as LinkedIn exists, just to manage those relationships because it’s core to working. So, I think being pro-active, I think putting it that way puts too much of a pejorative on it and it makes it sound like students are by default reactive. I would say that students by default emerge from school with a very limited community that they’re plugged into. It’s their class-mates, it’s the people that they’ve started to interact with on Twitter, there’s a little bit of an eco-system they’re building around themselves and at the under-grad level, but I think once you’re on your own and once you’re out in the wilderness, it really is up to you to cultivate your network and build relationships and make inroads into opportunities, so whether that’s attending a conference or it’s just being a valuable member of a conversation on Twitter or it’s sharing your thoughts in a blogpost and people reacting to it or vice versa, I think that there’s never been easier ways for the bashful in real life to introduce themselves more boldly online and I think it’s up to everyone to really take advantage; not just students, but students just have, by the fact of their age, they just haven’t had the life experience to accumulate connections like a snowball and you have to start that ball rolling downhill.
Gary:
Yeah, and it’s not that hard!
Joe:
No! Yeah! Agreed.
Gary:
This industry is really open to helping people.
Joe:
I would challenge any recent college grad who graduated from the Business School at Liberal Arts University XYZ to contact a CEO of a company that you really admire and see what kind of response you get and then compare that to a young designer just finishing with school reaching out to an agency owner or a digital shop owner and seeing what response they get. It is a night and day…I’ve been on both sides of that coin. It is a night and day comparison. It is…this is a wildly open and really pleasant and welcoming industry by comparison. That’s the result of several things but I can assure you that that is the case.
Gary:
We’re running out of time so, Joe, before I let you go, is there anything you are working on that you would like to share or something you want to promote?
Joe:
Sure, sure. So, I would say knowing that this is going to go live some time in October, at this point, our work on philly.com is well under way and we’ve been documenting that as we go. We are partnered in this case with my good friend, Dan Mall and his agency, SuperFriendly so we’ve kind of merged our two teams together in pursuit of this project so that’s under way and some of that work is coming to life at this point. And this past summer we’ll have seen the launch of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, that’s ineteconomics.org. It is a gorgeous website that we built to really drive a dialog around emerging economic theory. We are also proud, probably, at this point to see our work go live with Papa John’s as well as Coldwell Banker…
Gary:
You’ve been busy!
Joe:
Yeah! So, Coldwell Banker Homes is going live by this point. Lagunitas Beer is live at this point, some work for a couple other clients is probably live and if it’s October, we are probably up to our eyeballs in our schedule for An Event Apart as well as our Digital Project Manager Summit is occurring in Philadelphia this month as well, So in the Fall we see a big uptake in the programming that we put out there, so I think that’s all the news fit to print, if I’m imagining us in October.
Gary:
I’m going to steal just another minute of your time, because I’m just going to mention, this is for educators and this is for students. Attend An Event Apart.
Joe:
Thank you!
Gary:
It is really beneficial because there’s so much we don’t know as educators that the way Event Apart is designed, it’s single track so you see all of the speakers so you’re not making this difficult decision: which one do I go to; I like both, and you don’t find out later that you made the wrong decision. But again, it just opens up your world to things like, oh wow, I didn’t think of that; oh, I wasn’t thinking of this. And I think it’s really worth the investment to go, so if you ever see one in your neighborhood to cut down on the travel expenses it’s definitely worth the price.
Joe:
Thank you, thank you. I appreciate that. We’re in eight cities typically every year; you shouldn’t be, at worst a short plane ride away from one of these events. We see ourselves as a company of educators just because we come from An Event Apart and A List Apart and Jeffrey’s book on web standards and a variety of other things, so I hope that an event like An Event Apart feels pitched towards educators in some way, just because it’s a bunch of educators pushing the content out there.
Gary:
And Book Apart. I didn’t even mention A Book Apart. Again: great books for the students and for listeners. They’re great, easy reads; they take maybe three hours to sit down and read one from cover to cover and there’s not a single one that wasn’t amazing and didn’t give me some new insights and one of them’s even got an audible book for…my favorite…what’s Mike Monteiro’s book?
Joe:
You’re my Favorite Client.
Gary:
You’re my Favorite Client. Oh, another one he’s got on Audible.
Joe:
Is it Design is a Job?
Gary:
Yeah, Design is a Job. So if you’re lazy, you don’t want to read; you can listen to some A Book Apart. And A List Apart as well, your online magazine is the best way to put it, so that’s all part of the Happy Cog family.
Joe:
It is indeed. We’re fortunate to be a part of that and sit at the intersection of all those conversations. There’s a lot of great people outside of Happy Cog that contribute to all of those things but we’re really fortunate here that we get to sit at where all those things overlap and get exposed to that amazing conversation so if you’re interested in any one of those mediums, there’s lots of ways to catch up on what we and our friends and colleagues are discussing, so welcome people into that conversation as best we can.
Gary:
Yes, very open faced, Happy Cog is. Perfect.
Joe:
That’s our plan!
Gary:
Well, that’s all the time we have for today on Episode 10 of Design Edu. I want to thank today’s guest, Joe Rinaldi of Happy Cog, for being so generous with his time. I want to thank the audience for listening and I want to thank the Design Edu Today hosting sponsor, Digital Ocean, and CDN Sponsor Fastly for making the hosting and distribution of these podcasts possible. Finally, I want to thank the AIGA and the AIGA Design Educators’ Community for their generous support of my research that led to this podcast series.

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