Dæmian Garett


Designing with a Pro-Social Attitude

A short personal narrative introducing my background and work as a Web designer. I have not relished the idea of making sites merely to push products. Rather, I have always been attracted to designing within a pro-social internet environment.

(View larger images: click a title, then click download for full-size.)

EXTRA FOAM - mock-up screens for a psycho-geographical social network Dæmian Garett

I began learning to make websites toward the end of my Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, upon apprehending how screens might be usurping books. I didn’t want to miss the virtual train, so I enrolled in a certificate program called Technology, Arts and Media. One of the first realizations that struck me while learning how the Web worked, and how to publish to it, was that artists could benefit from online patronage. It would consist of distributed forms of micro-patronage from the audience itself, rather than bestowed from on high by a few rich Patrons or State grants. This could potentially make an artistic livelihood viable for greater amounts of people, and lead to less elitism in general: a DIY meme for social Art.

My interests in literary theory easily meshed with the new-found discipline of Media Studies; it became clear that the medial aspects of literature had been the most fascinating, and that the Web had introduced a new mode of literary activities. Doing a Masters in Digital Media Studies gave me further training in visual design, technical foundations of IT and the critical thinking around new media. When I began taking clients as a freelance Web designer, my motivation grew out of enthusiasm for the cultural environment surrounding the web, as opposed to having been trained in advertising/PR to push brands and extract profits.

I especially kept my ears out for artists, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs as potential clients. I wanted Web projects that would teach me something rather than just line my pockets. I sometimes gave away my services, for instance, to the Boulder-Dushanbe Sister Cities Project (designing a chat portal linked to the cybercafé in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which Boulder had helped build). I worked so inexpensively, for nonprofits and academic programs, that I really never got accustomed to banking on Web design. I mainly used the skill to help support myself during grad school, and as a necessary praxis for my pursuit of media theory.

In the last project I did (Extra Foam, above), I became my own client, working to mock-up a social networking concept. Its technical requirements were beyond my scope (my skills were in design, some Flash, but basically in hand-made sites with static pages). So, with Extra Foam I simply wished to create something to attract future partners and specialists who could thereafter develop its user database. I also envisioned a psycho-geographical application that would combine Google mapping with chat windows. (More on this Extra Foam prototype in, ‘Social Networking Ideas’.)

In addition to the three examples below, I did Web work for these clients:

International / National Volunteer Service Training Program (INVST)

University of Colorado, Boulder

Immunotec Ltd. Independent Distributor

(Boulder) shopping-cart site

Boulder-Dushanbe Sister-Cities Project

pro bono

Paul Whittacker

UK-based consultant to nonprofits; this was a Flash website promoting his services

The Center for Training in International Relations

University of Denver

Metropolitan Glass, Inc

(Denver) the largest glass contractor in Denver, Colorado

The Jared Polis Foundation, nonprofit

(Boulder) graphics contributions to the Foundation website of Congressman Jared Polis, representing Colorado’s Second District

Leader’s Challenge

(Denver) nonprofit working on equal-opportunity education

Sabre Technical Services

‘biological incidents’ decontamination company that cleaned up after Anthrax attacks in Washington DC post offices

The University of Denver Philosophy Department

The University of Denver Psychology Department

Dr Richard Shane

(Boulder) sleep therapist whose sleeping-aid products were picked up by a major distributor following the website I did for him, and now he blogs for HuffingtonPost.com

In the Spotlight, Inc

(Boulder) reputation management

Matlapeng Retreat Center

(South Africa)