005. The Dunning–Kruger effect

2005 flash site for the Ski/snowboard industry.

At this stage in my career I was still honing my design skills, and eager to sink my teeth into any meaty projects I could get my hands on. As an organization looking to maximize their marketing dollars my employer had no issue harnessing that young energy and saving agency cost wherever they could.

This resulted in me taking on the lion’s share of graphic design that year across a number of medium, email blast, newspaper ads, online display banners, t-shirt, posters, lanyards, stickers, and even the lift ticket key card for the 2006 season.

A few web banners for the ski industry

Looking back on that season I was very much on the wrong side of the Dunning-Kruger bell curve, I had a ton of confidence in my rather merger skills.

I still remember getting a call from the ad department at the New York Times one day to let me know the font size I’d selected would be illegible in news paper print, and if my organization was spending a few grand on our campaign… we’d probably want our offers to be readable.

On the other side of the coin I was given a great opportunity to hone my photography skills, as well as going through the process of selecting photos for our campaigns. I was playing mini-art director with some of the greatest natural landscapes in the world, and relished every opportunity I had to mix some of my own photos into our galleries and campaigns.

One of the biggest drawbacks of that job was the hours, while most days it was a 9–5 Monday-to-Friday gig, it also came with a free ski pass… which in practice I only really had time to use on the weekends, along with every other weekend warrior from the city.

I was roughly 20 minutes from my bedroom to the lifts, but because I was so tied to my desk I missed out on the best powder days of the season as there was always other deadlines to be met. Making it worst I was still dabbling in freelance at this time, I’d work all day at the office, then come home and work another 2–3 hours either on my own projects or offering support to another designer in town.

Additionally most of the other young 20 somethings in this resort town worked on hill with the resorts, meaning their “weekends” were typically Mon-Tues, leaving me with few peers that were ready to cut loose on a Friday evening. Sure I could have gone out for a bite to eat or a drink on a Monday evening, but that would have taken me away from whatever meticulous bit of photoshopping I was doing that night for some extra cash.

Reading this back 14 years later, I remember missing out on specific ski days & social events, but I don’t recall what specific projects I did instead. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees during this time, but I was planting the seeds of the eventual burn out that would bite me in the ass later on in my career.

Drawing boxes for money — In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic I started to draft up a long form career retrospective on my 15+ years working in digital design. Looking back on how the world and industry have changed since the first line of HTML I wrote.

I wasn’t sure if anyone would ever read it, and there’s still a large chunk of the story yet to be written. But in the midst of the 4th wave of the pandemic, it could be a nice distraction from the doom scrolling. Stay tuned for future chapters.

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Jason Dorn

UX Research Lead, which my wife describes as a “user design specialist” (he/him)