Geri Coady is a designer, illustrator, and photographer living and working in Newfoundland, Canada. She runs a succesful freelance business and blogs through her website hellogeri.com. Geri loves teaching kids how to make websites and is a self-admitted conference junkie. She has been published in magazines including .Net and Digital Arts, and recently illustrated a children's book for Scholastic UK.
We are pumped that Geri offered to take some time out of her hectic schedule to talk with us about herself and her experience in the industry.
1) First and foremost, tell us a little more about yourself. Where did the interest in design, illustration and photography start?
I’ve been interested in drawing and illustration my entire life, but as soon as I got a computer in 1998, I began teaching myself how to make websites. When it was time to decide what I wanted to do after graduating high school, I ended up choosing something completely different and I enrolled in a computer technician and network support program at my local college. There was an older student in my class who worked in graphic design back in the nineties, and when he saw my work, he repeatedly told me that I was in the wrong program! I listened to him, and a couple of years later I went back to college to get a diploma in print design and offset press printing. For the past three years, I’ve found myself coming full circle again and focusing on web design and illustration.
As for photography, I took some classes in college but I struggled with it quite a bit. I practically hated it. It wasn’t until I graduated and spent time with my friends Becki and Chris, who are both incredible photographers, that I really starting to push myself to improve. These days, I do photography as more of a hobby than part of my job, but I absolutely love helping out fellow speakers with profile photos and I can’t say no to shooting at conferences!
2) You recently made the decsision to leave your succesful job as an Art Director to freelance full-time. Was balancing the two difficult?
That’s right. Since I submitted my original biography to FITC, I decided to pack it in and leave my full-time job as an art director at the agency where I’ve worked for the past five years. I was definitely finding it difficult to balance a full-time job with freelance work, especially with more and more cool opportunities popping up in the freelance side of things. I’m happy to say that I can completely focus on my own work now and I’m really excited for what the future holds!
During the time when I did have a full-time job, I managed my workload by only accepting freelance projects I knew I could handle on my own and gave myself plenty of time between booking jobs. I’m lucky that I never reached the “burnout” phase that many designers experience!
3) We ran our FITC Women’s Initiative again this year, which gave 50 women the chance to win a free ticket to FITC Toronto 2013. All they needed to do was submit something creative (website, poster, blog post, anything at all) that told us why they wanted to attend the festival. We feel this initiative is important because in the tech and design sectors of the industry, men can often outnumber women. Do you feel it’s important to start initiatives like this to encourage more women to come out to events like FITC Toronto? If so, why do you feel it’s important?
I think many women who have never been to a tech event may have perceptions about all of them being incredibly male-dominated. When I attended my first web conference, I expected to be one of very few ladies in attendance, but was very pleasantly surprised when over a third of the attendees and speakers were women! Unfortunately, not all conferences turn out this way, which is why it’s great that FITC is doing their part to encourage women to attend, and more importantly, make them feel comfortable and respected there. We also need to encourage more women to speak up and share their own thoughts in the tech community. Role models are essential to encourage and inspire the next generation!
4) As a featured speaker at the upcoming FITC Toronto conference, what are you most excited about? Also, could you give us a little sneak peek access to some of what you will be talking about in your presentation, ‘Colouring the Web’?
I’m honoured to be speaking at such a well-known event alongside some of my own favourite designers and developers! This will be my first time at FITC, so while I can’t wait to share my own thoughts, I’m really looking forward to taking in other presentations and events, too.
In my presentation, I’ll be talking about a number of things — how to make informed colour decisions in your work, colour accessibility and how it impacts people with colour-blindness, and even things like colour management workflow.
5) To borrow a bit from the last question, could you talk a bit more about your opinion on the importance of colour? As you discuss in your presentation description, colour is often brushed aside by industry professionals. Why exactly do you think that is?
I think a lot of designers choose colour palettes out of the blue without much deeper thought, just because “it looks good.” But, like good copywriting, typography, photography, and layout, colour is another element that should add further meaning to our work. We need to be able to explain our choices to our clients — especially if they push back with colour preferences of their own that are inappropriate. We need to be more mindful of people with colour vision deficiencies, too — what we take for granted as a subtle, crafted element on a page may be impossible to see for others. There’s a lot more colour-blind people out there than we think, and we need to be more inclusive in our work.
Many people are afraid of experimenting with colour, and they don’t feel confident with their abilities to make choices that work well together. Maybe that’s why so many people love black, white, and silver cars — they’re afraid of committing to a colour they’ll get sick of! Fortunately, websites aren’t like cars, and we can always tweak them or update them later. Let’s not be so afraid to experiment.
6) And, just to get a sense of what we can expect from you moving forward – could you talk a bit about any upcoming projects that you’re working on? (We’d love to hear about what you’re up to!)
The biggest thing I’m working on at the moment is a book for UK publisher Five Simple Steps called Pocket Guide to Colour Accessibility. It’s scheduled to be released later this year, and I couldn’t be more excited! In between writing and editing, I’m also working on new branding and a new website for my portfolio to promote my career move as a full-time freelancer. Other than those two big things, I’m keeping busy with client illustrations and polishing off my presentations for the summer.
Thank you for your time, Geri!
Be sure to catch Geri's presentation Colouring the Web Monday, April 22 from 3:00-4:00pm.