storage | design

A (motion) picture says more than a thousand words

11/7/2017

I have written an article and articles have been written about me, yet you’ll believe when you see it.

 

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Nose on the paper

08/8/2017

This article about me was originally written in Dutch language by Saskia Derks for the HoiUtrecht online magazine. I did my best to translate everything correctly.

Nose on the paper

“When I’m sitting in front of you, I can see you and your outfit, but I can’t see what’s next to you. Most people are able to look around up to 90 degrees without having to turn their heads. My visual field is about 30 degrees. I see so little details that if we were to meet again tomorrow – and you would wear a different outfit – I wouldn’t recognize you anymore.”

Passion and talent

I always tell people: “I put my nose on the paper to see up close what I have drawn. When I look at my screen my nose would leave marks on it. As a child, I always enjoyed drawing, and I quickly realized that my drawings were quite different from those of my peers.

Because of my bad vision (between 20% with glasses and 5% without), which I had for my entire life, almost everyone thought that I was crazy [for wanting to work in the creative industry]. That’s why I started studying psychology. Unfortunately, proper assistive tech wasn’t available back then and the few audio books I had access to were often outdated. In addition, excessive reading caused me headaches [i. e. eye pain], so I eventually had to quit. I was weighing different options for a while, however, I still couldn’t let go of my dream to become an artist/designer. So one day I decided: I’m just going to give it a shot and sign up for an art [design] school. If they won’t accept me, I’ll then would have let go of my dream forever.

Armed with a portfolio full of [random] drawings I went to the meeting. It felt a bit like an interrogation. They asked me a lot of difficult questions and I also faced some criticism. Just when I was about to give up, I got the news that I got enrolled. As you can imagine, I was in shock.

During my years in design school I tried to keep a low profile but that proved somewhat difficult, since older students always kept asking me to help them out with their artworks.

Working life

I [still] lived in Germany when I started working. At first, I had to deal with a lot of distrust and intolerance [towards my capabilities/skills]. I certainly don’t want make generalizations about all Germans, but many of those I met were completely convinced that what they didn’t think was feasible, simply wasn’t possible.

Being an almost blind designer is something most people can’t wrap their heads around and according to many, such thing is impossible.
On the other hand, some people treated me with a lot of compassion, sometimes too much for my liking. I don’t want to be defined by my disability, I would like to be appreciated [as a person] and taken seriously as a professional. All I want is a regular job to be able to support myself.

Around the world

In the last years I have worked in Thailand and the United States. I have beautiful memories about Thailand, because there I was judged by my work and talents, which got me great opportunities. Here in the Netherlands I’m also doing well, even though I encounter laws and regulations that can be quite hindering. For example, I have been offered jobs a number of times but employers wanted to apply for a job subsidy. Though I understand their point of view, there are disadvantages for me. I’d be under the thumb of the UWV [Dutch employment agency] and get paid only minimum wage, while all my sighted colleagues make a lot more [for the same work]. Obviously, I don’t want that.

Tips from Agnieszka

“Know your strengths, but know your weaknesses.”

“Know how to adopt and be flexible.”

“It’s not for other people to define who you are and what you can do.”

Bonus material

Agnieszka gave a little tutorial on how to draw an eye. Give it a try and share your drawing with us on Facebook! Good luck!

About Agnieszka

Agnieszka Czajkowska is 41 years old. She has been living in Woerden for a year, where she has been working as a graphic designer. She was born three months early. Due to an oxygen overdose in the incubator, her retina was severely damaged, causing a condition called “retinopathy premature”. As a result, she has been visually impaired almost all of her life. Regardless of this, she succeeded to travel on her own as an expat for many years. She has been working around the world and has built a beautiful portfolio.

Agnieszka also specializes in [inclusive] accessible design and branding. Based on her own experience, she knows how to cater to a visually impaired audience, both online and offline, or as she’d put it: “I would like to bridge the gap”.

Agnieszka is currently working with the Municipality of Woerden to help them improve the accessibility of their (online) services. As “design by pxlgirl”, she is always open for new projects, either as a freelancer or an employment contract, as long as it is not subsidized through the UWV.

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the hero and the loser 

04/22/2017

whenever there’s a headline about achievements of people with disabilities, many would often say how “brave” and “inspirational” they are. It’s implying the notion that having an impairment is somewhat of a burden. A lot of activists try to counteract by turning a disability into a part of one’s identity of which they have to be proud of, yet they criticize anyone who in their mind is reducing a person to that very crucial part of their identity. 

let’s face it, having any kind of impairment is not fun, much less something to be necessary proud of. Whether you like it or not, your life is tough(er), you have limits that you can’t cross and you get reminded of that every single day. The people around you are sometimes overwhelmed, insecure or downright rejecting. Dating can be a bitch and a half, because you’re seen as some kind of asexual being and you’re expected to be grateful to have gotten the leftovers from the bottom of the dating barrel. As for your career prospects, you can pick between a sheltered workshop/welfare or be married to someone who can provide for you. Then you would sit in your armchair watching TV about some fellow cripple who “made it despite all”. As much as you wish them the best, you know too well that you and 99,9% of your kind will barely get out of the woodwork. 

is there anyone to blame for this? The answer is not as simple as one would want to think. It’s so easy to say that it’s all society’s fault but that’s only partly true. Yes, life is hard, and not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone else too. On the other hand, entitlement and too much optimism cause that people are unable realistically determine their own abilities. Having to face the pull from both sides, one keeping you down, the other lifting you up leaves you either depressed or manic, either way having unrealistic expectations about what you can or can’t do. 

your advocates and activists aren’t making it any better, ironically enough, they even willingly or unwillingly enforce either side. Many of them are blinded by their ideology, claiming to know what is the best way make people with disabilities a part of society. There are tons of charities and organizations competing for their good deeds for the day. But in order for them to function, they need to maintain the divide and keep pushing for a victim-mentality among those they deem helpless. The few selected heroes are used as a scapegoat for a misguided media representation, showing a problem that has been already created by those who claim to fight against it in the first place. 

in all of this debate about people with disabilities, one thing is missing: the people themselves. It’s all about them, but rarely with them. Each and every one is different. Each and everyone has different needs and desires. Don’t expect the world to adapt to them, but let them have the agency to adapt to the world instead. 

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how to design accessibly?

02/24/2017

insights | design by pxlgirl

there are a lot of organizations out there focusing accessibility. The goal is to make life easier for those who are limited in any shape or form, let it be disability, ageing or disease. When it comes to information technology, web development is already relatively well covered.

as much as organizations and charities try to advocate their cause, they often lack professionally done and well-thought design solutions and communication strategies. Due to the misconception that design cannot be “seen” by their audience, most don’t consider it as important. However, conveying the message in the right way is crucial. People who have low vision or learning difficulties need a clear and easy visual language making sure that the content is understood. This requires conceptional thinking and some out of the box design skills for the web and far beyond. If you’d like to know more, check out my presentation slides on accessible and inclusive design, along with a series of articles on this topic.

the few design/advertising agencies dealing with accessibility try their best to cater, but the lack of proper content creation and often restrictive guidelines make such jobs rather a burden than a pleasure. As a result, the end product is often a rotten compromise, which is anything but benefiting the actual target audience. Not to mention that most designers ignore this matter altogether.

how can this gap be filled? This is where I comes in. Being visually impaired and a designer, I can provide insights and perspective first hand. I can help organizations and charities to (re)brand their identity so that the audience can connect with them. I can also help agencies with accessible solutions for their projects and show them ways how to satisfy the clients’ needs without cutting on design quality. Feel free to contact me.

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the brand, (the) new logo

03/20/2016

is a brand just a fancy term for a logo? That’s what many would think but is this true? Of course not, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post. I will spare you the dictionary definition of a logo, but in a nutshell, it’s a visual representation of a company name, it may or may not include a graphic attached to it.

a brand however, is a representation of a company as a whole. What does that mean? You can compare a company to a human. Everyone has a name, but that’s not the only thing that represents them. Every human has values, goals and other personality traits that make up a unique character. This is where a brand kicks in. It does more than just visualize someone’s name, it makes sure that things like appearance and behavior match the personality and values.

applying this to a company, a brand would be the concept as a whole, the logo being one part of it. Take Apple as an example. Their branding strategy involves so much more than a bitten apple logo, it goes all the way from their internal name badges, over advertising to packeging and so much more I won’t list here.

in order to accomplish this, the work process of a designer is a bit more complex. Just like with a person, it takes time to get to know them, just like it takes time to grasp the identity of a company. It is then up to the designer to create a concept and find creative ways to get the right message across. I have prepared another example to illustrate this. On the image below you can see a concept behind a brand I once created. The client was a startup company selling medical devices:

MedView - WIP | design by pxlgirl

You can check out the full project here.

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