HTML, CSS & Web Design Circuit

This month, I finished General Assembly's HTML, CSS & Web Design Circuit. I was hesitant to enroll in the course at first -- I had already studied HTML and CSS through Codecademy, so why pay to learn the same thing again? But the high-quality videos, interactive exercises, classmates, and hosting of projects on GitHub made all the difference.

My project was a responsive homepage for a fictional agribusiness company, based on one of my team's clients:

To make the project extra relevant to my work, I used the World Bank's color palette and Flickr images.

This course was a lot of fun, so I'm planning to tackle another project related to front-end web design. JavaScript, perhaps?

Brand Identity and Landing Page Design

My visual design course at General Assembly is finished! I designed a brand identity and landing page for a global development organization, including audience research, color palettes, typefaces, and web and mobile mockups.

Explore a high-quality presentation by clicking the image below or a compressed version here.

Here's my landing page mockup. If you'd like to experience it like a real website, view the image at full size.

It's far from perfect, of course. See that wonky grid? Those ragged paragraph edges? That slightly illegible white text?

But I'm shifting my focus to the next phase of my project -- a real-life landing page redesign. Following interviews with colleagues, discussions with web developers, and prototyping in InVision, I hope to implement a variation of this mockup in real life.

I strongly recommend General Assembly to other career pivoters -- particularly in Washington, D.C. I love the mission on their Twitter account: "GA transforms DC's thinkers into creators."

Where Design & Social Justice Intersect

This week in my visual design course, we're diving into user experience -- a field of study that comes quite naturally to me, I've discovered. (It turns out designing a website landing page is not so different from designing a reader-friendly annual report!)

We were assigned a fascinating article, "Design as Participation." It begins with an anecdote about Modernist architect Mies Van der Rohe:

"Mies understood that the geometry of his building would be perfect until people got involved. Once people moved in, they would be putting ornamental things along the window sills, they would be hanging all different kinds of curtains, and it would destroy the geometry. So there are no window sills; there is no place for you to put plants on the window."

In brief, Mies Van der Rohe was the very opposite of a human-centered designer.

Of course, things are different today. In 1986, Don Norman invented the term "user-centered design," defined as engagement with the needs, desires and shortcomings of the user. This approach has become "instinctive and mandatory" in the design of any website, app or service.

But at some point, some participants were no longer valued. Uber, Amazon, TaskRabbit -- these services provide incredible ease and efficiency to their users. But what about the humans delivering the services? Shouldn't we consider their needs and desires, too?

I'm learning that the various projects and passions I've pursued -- global development, digital marketing, visual design, user experience -- share a few things in common. Empathy. Measurability. Problem solving. An understanding of systems.

And slowly, my career is coming into focus. At the intersection of design, communication and social enterprise -- and with empathy for all participants, regardless of which side of the app they sit.

Moodboard 101

This week in my visual design course, we're beginning to build brand identity systems for our hypothetical businesses. Mine is a non-profit or multilateral organization that promotes entrepreneurship in developing economies. (Sound familiar?)

We each designed two moodboards based on assigned colors, keywords and styles:

Purple + Digital

Swiss Modern

At first, I was disappointed with my assignment of "purple" and "Swiss modern," as those aren't styles I typically associate with global development. Now, I'm glad to have been pushed in a new direction -- and I discovered a surprising variety of brand identities among the major development organizations.

Photo Credit: World Bank Group, AkiraChix,, GPOBA, nailab, Acumen, UNESCO, TechnoServe, 1776

Grids & Guides

A journey of a thousand miles begins with learning how to draw guides on Photoshop. VisualDesign_1.28

That's right, I've started my visual design part-time course at General Assembly! And it couldn't have come at a better time: My organization might be rebranding this year, and I hope to play a leading role in the design of our style guide and web presence.

A few inspirational designs from the field of global development: