August 22, 2013

Mentorship keeps me awake and aware

Photographs courtesy of Tina Roth Eisenberg, Duane King, Dave Cuzner, Megan Coleman, Stephanie Di Biase, Shawn Hazen, Lisa Hazen, Sylvia Fernandez

The Web is an amazing window to the world. It can also be used as a means to mentorship. There are individuals, whose Web-based creations exceed first impressions and become a natural part of your daily Web-browsing activities. These people and their digital offerings inspire a regular ritual to approach, like a go-to snack. They reach a fidelity of self-driven mentoring.

Mentorship is guidance. It’s motivated inspiration. Mentoring needn’t be practiced in person. As methods advance to display information and its retrieval, mentoring can be done virtually.

More than a bookmark

Photograph courtesy of Tina Roth Eisenberg, with Tattly

Ever since I discovered Tina Roth Eisenberg’s visual journal SwissMiss in 2007, I’ve been motivated by the makers and products she features on and off the screen. Her visual journal is a stream that keeps flowing. I visit SwissMiss to quench my thirst for delight(1). This is complemented by my monthly attendance and coverage of CreativeMornings, one of Tina’s beautiful inventions, and my kind of design conference. SwissMiss and CreativeMornings comprise a scenic bridge I take pleasure in traveling.

Photograph courtesy of Duane King

I discovered Duane King through his passion project Thinking for a Living in 2008, adjacent to his collective discussion and workshop called The Practice Sessions. I had the opportunity to interview him for my series about people who love making things. When we spoke, he advised, “Be mindful and thoughtful of your audience. If they are spending their valuable time with you, make it worth it.” This particular consideration to attract the well-crafted, and likewise, let the inverse pop into existence, is one of the major reasons I revisit Duane’s Thinking for a Living showcase.

Photograph courtesy of Dave Cuzner

Also in 2008, I was drawn to Dave Cuzner and his passion project of Grain Edit. His collection of vintage/midcentury—classic—graphic design work is of the quality (and quantity) I envy, since I am also a collector of rare books. Dave’s blog(2) is my immersive dip into the lasting reverie of print. A period of graphic design history reclaimed and preserved.

What draws me to Tina, Duane, and Dave, is the dedication to their respective point of view—their taste—especially the generous identification, selection, and sharing of it through their home-grown destinations. Their creations are not just Websites and are more than reference points on the digital frontier. What they self-publish tickles my fascination. They are a part of my creative process in my struggles to be curious and creative, because a window to the world requires high maintenance. They help me graze.(3)

Mentorship by direct association

Photographs courtesy of (clockwise) Shawn, Lisa, Silvia, Stephanie, Megan

Whether as relatives or colleagues or friends or clients, the people you meet facilitate opportunities to become mentors, potentially for the long-term. They can become mentors without even knowing it. This is informal mentoring, which captivates me as the most potent form of mentorship.

My Web builder Megan Coleman, whom I met in 2008 by way of CollabFinder, mentors me about Web design and development, with her work on my Web-based efforts. Shawn Hazen, the force behind Book Worship and Robotcha among other passion projects, mentors me about typographic matter and composition, with his work on my Creative Role series.

Stephanie Di Biase mentors me about collaboration, with our completed book project. My editors Silvia Fernandez and Lisa Hazen mentor me about communication, with their reviews of my writings.

My continual work with Megan, Shawn, Stephanie, Silvia, and Lisa—their respective craft and creative discipline—contributes to my mentoring platform in straightforward or subtle ways, even in ways that I don’t yet readily recognize. The pattern of mentoring here is the collective narrative over time—the array of conversations I’ve had with each, the range of formal output each has materialized—that I’ve gleaned bits of instruction and insight.

Diverse mentorship

The sources of mentorship can vary. Some in regard to proximity, whether remote or closeby. Others with manner, whether formal or informal. The nature of mentorship can also vary, as personified in what my mentors create. To insert what author Louis Menand believed, “You care about things that you make, and that makes it easier to care about things that other people make.”

Mentorship may have typically been viewed as exclusively a one-to-one relationship: mentor (one) + mentee (one). This convention remains valid. But it can also be reworked as many-to-one: mentor accompanied by self-initiated core/side projects (many) x mentor accompanied by... + mentee (one). The many-to-one version transcends boundaries that current society visibly affords.

Humane mentorship

The creative practitioners I thankfully have the privilege to learn and relearn from, talk to, work with—whom I involve in my mentorship platform—practice a tone that is kind. Mentoring that’s easily memorable is due to kindness. Mentoring done in kindness is a reminder that being kind to oneself and others eases the long journey of self-improvement.

Invigorating mentorship

When mentoring is sparked by honest, hard, joyful work, fortified by kindness, the mentoring connection feels seamless. It realizes pleasures, in my case, like going to find out the latest creative goodness at Tina’s journal SwissMiss, perusing the Shelf at Duane’s Thinking for a Living, seeing more well-done visual design and illustration hand-picked by Dave at Grain Edit, working with Megan on enhancing my passion project of Design Feast, working on the next Creative Role illustration with Shawn, working on a book with Stephanie, learning about clarity in writing from Silvia and Lisa. These are refreshing pleasures, and I try to learn from them. It’s sincerely allowing myself opportunities to be mentored—to be awake and aware.

(1) Speaking of delight, SwissMiss gave the Keynote address at the 2013 SXSW Interactive festival. Here’s my summary.

(2) Concerning Dave’s blog Grain Edit, his thoughts on blogging became the debut for my series Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire).

(3) Graze is a positive verb. To find out why, view designer Chris Glass’ CreativeMornings/Cincinnati talk.

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Typeface of quote is called Massive designed by Shawn Hazen, who also makes wonderful typographic illustrations for Design Feast series Creative Roles.

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Big thanks to user-experience designer Amy Marquez for republishing this blog post at UX Brainstorm, which she co-founded.

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Related: Thoughts on Mentorship by Designer Jason Early, Past mentor at The Starter League and Creative Go-Round

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