Wednesday, January 14, 2004


After I finished my undergraduate studies I began looking for a career that would allow me to utilize, and further develop, my skills as a writer. Having just wrapped up my tour as a starving student I wanted a position where I could use these skills to do glamorous things like pay the rent. Advertising seemed like an ideal compromise: a profession that is both thoroughly creative and viable as a career. My pursuit of this goal eventually led me to the east coast and an Internet services company named Modem Media. It was an event that triggered significant changes in my career goals and in how I perceive technology. It was an event that led me to you.

We created our fair share of banner ads and email campaigns at Modem Media. The company claims to have created the first banner ad after all. But there was a lot more going on than just traditional advertising. We were using information architecture, interface design and innovative new technologies to help change the ways the nation’s top corporations do business! We frequently ran into the boundaries of technology, tested the limitations of our budget or butted heads with clients. Ultimately, our efforts yielded online applications that would allow customers to interact with our client’s business and get the information they wanted, when they wanted it.

While I was there I learned how to process large batches of information and how to thoughtfully present it online. I learned about usability and the necessity of an effective interface. It was an opportunity for me to experience a different type of creativity that would, unlike most pop-up windows and spam, be valued by my audience. Suddenly, advertising was the blight on an otherwise magnificent career. The epiphany came in a Barnes & Noble bookstore while I was brainstorming for a Coors Light/NFL ad campaign. I realized that my goals had changed and that the compromise I found so alluring a few years before was no longer acceptable. The creative profession I was seeking did not hinge on hundreds of ad concepts. It revolved around the creative new ways we delivered information. This insight was accentuated by another venture that I picked up during this time: blogging.

Web logs, or blogs, are online journals that are run by a vibrant and diverse community of people, including myself. Now, my effort is relatively insignificant, but my participation has opened my eyes to new issues, both technological and political. Blogs taught me about growing copyright issues. They forced the issue of Trent Lott’s racist comments into the mainstream media. A blog is the mechanism Howard Dean is using to reach mainstream America. It is a free and wildly democratic method of communication that is different from other media for one significant and simple reason: it is bi-directional. It invites discussion and debate. It engages people instead of delivering messages and it is all made possible by a few simple programs and basic HTML. This distinction is changing the face of our democracy. These, however, are not the only applications that are changing our lives. I see it happen every day at my current job with Apple Computer.

During my time with Apple I have seen how a thoughtfully designed interface enables people to use technology in ways they have never considered before. I have seen grandmothers who are building web pages and editing digital photographs. I have seen nine year-olds who are seasoned video editors. The catalyst for this change was not the power of the computer itself. Computers are machines that bewildered hands can do little with. It was Apple’s ability to distill these functions into convenient, intuitive and approachable applications that has opened up new methods for creative expression. The interface changed their lives.

I want to help create and design tools that have a similar effect. That is where you come in. Technical communications is a field of study that can help me achieve these goals. I even took time to visit the campus, meet with the faculty, and sit in on an informative class given by Dr. Farkas to confirm it. Just as my time with Modem Media and Apple before it, I feel the program will help me augment my current skills while concurrently helping me discover opportunities that I have not previously considered. I cannot think of a better way to begin doing that than by participating in one of the leading technical communications programs in the country. Let’s get started!


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