Magateer Spotlight: Peter Ziff

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Maga Design’s Senior Designer and virtual reality evangelist Peter Ziff shares his path to Maga Design and his vision for the final medium


As a proud Washington, D.C., local, Maga Design Senior Designer Peter Ziff has watched the eclectic Adams Morgan neighborhood grow from quiet Main Street to millennial hangout. Yet one thing stands out in his mind as a constant feature among the coffee shops and nightclubs – a bright yellow facade that stood out among its concrete neighbors. While Pete worked hard to make his way down to the Wall Street of Washington D.C., finding a niche in media and design for the military and federal agencies, the little yellow studio in Adams Morgan also grew. Previously a furniture shop and now a hub for design innovation, this characteristic building would ultimately become a second home to Pete.

Pete began his creative journey at Maryland College of Art and Design (MACAD), before pursuing further education at Full Sail University and Ringling College of Art and Design. “I started as a photographer and then went through the ranks from graphic design to motion graphics to animation. I freelanced for two years after school, then when I was about to move to New York I got my first job at the Department of Defense (DoD).” In the DoD’s media department, he worked on the largest defense contract in the country’s history, servicing publication and design materials for officers in three branches of the military.

From the DoD to U.S. Central Command to the Department of State, Pete’s extensive military knowledge would lead him to find Maga Design.


Maga Design: What did you know about Maga Design before you came here?

Peter Ziff: I had been looking for a place like Maga Design for my whole entire career after coming out of school. When you come out of school you think you’re going to work for a design firm in New York or Chicago or Miami or something, but I never thought I’d find a company like Maga Design in DC. When I interviewed with CEO Scott and CCO Rebecca Williams, the first thing I said to them was “it’s about time.”

MD: How did you become involved with Virtual Reality at Maga Design?

PZ: Because of my 3D design and animation skills, I had always been looking for other mediums that were available. What happened was the video game engines that create these virtual reality experiences came out for free – Unreal Engine and Unity3D. That was the catalyst and I started thinking about how we could get more expertise in this area. Sabeen Khan, Communications Coordinator at Maga Design, and I started a social media campaign trying to cultivate enough people to find interest for VR. We developed white papers to figure out how we could implement VR at Maga Design, requested funding, built two computers for the department and started experimenting. Another team member, Chris Farwell, talked to a prominent client of ours about what we were doing and soon after we had our very first project – the experience around their new informed delivery product.

MD: You built your own computers?

PZ: Working with our technical coordinator, Connor Tufford, we checked out the computers, bought all the hardware and put it together one weekend – a VR computer. Everyone thinks VR is really expensive, and it is, but if you know how to do this stuff it actually can be somewhat affordable.

MD: What are your goals for the VR department?

PZ: I know our CEO wants us to put a Maga Design Map in VR format, which is very doable. And then my personal goal is to pull down real time data and actually be able to affect environments with that data.

MD: What do you see as the benefits of VR in comparison to other means of communication?

PZ: The big thing is that people look at VR as the empathy tool, a full immersion experience. The big benefits, I believe, are in training. AR (augmented reality) and VR are similar but there are differences, I think probably AR is going to be the bigger sell than VR, but the cool thing is that with both those mediums you can train people to do various exercises, there’s a lot of safety elements you can leverage so you can do things in a virtual environment that might be hazardous in real life, you can also test things out and it’s cheaper than actually building prototypes.

MD: How do you see Maga Design growing in terms of VR?

PZ: For Maga Design, I think the biggest department is probably going to be DoD. Also, I know we’re slightly getting into it, but the medical industry. For Postal and civilian government work, it’s more of a novelty, but where you’re really going to start seeing it is in the actual training and simulation work.

MD: What do you enjoy doing outside of work that also helps build your skills?

PZ: I’m constantly training on 3D animation packages, Photoshop and game engines. I also attend DC VR Meetup, where we engage with other people’s work and network with other people who are in that space. Maga Design also hosts those Meetups on occasion. We call them breakout sessions because the organizers will take a theme from one of their larger events and break it out to a smaller venue.

MD: How is Maga Design different from the previous jobs you’ve held?

PZ: The big difference between the military and government and Maga Design is technical skill. The Military and government require less creativity and more technical skill, and at Maga Design it’s almost vice versa. Obviously, Maga Design is going to start leveraging more into the technical skill, and I think that’s important, but in government it’s “can you do this PowerPoint deck,” and it’s not whether it’s creative or the typography is correct, but “can you technically get this done.”

MD: What’s your favorite part about working at Maga Design?

PZ: For me, the best part is just being given the opportunity to explore new stuff. A lot of companies aren’t willing to put the time and money into exploration and discovery projects, so this is rare.


Calling all design gurus! Pete Ziff shares his latest craze on EverCurated, and check out our website to learn more about the projects Maga Design engages in.

5 of Our Favorite Google Font Combinations

One of the most important tools our designers have at their disposal is a font library. Typography is a vitally important aspect of design and most designers will develop a number of go-to font pairings that they can count on when pressed for time. Most graphic designers have a collection of thousands of typefaces that they mix and match to their heart’s content.

My personal font library includes nearly 13,000 different fonts within over 1,200 different type families. I’m constantly scouring the Lost Type Co-Op and Typewolf to discover new typefaces and new ways to combine the fonts I’ve already grabbed. I can describe from memory every classification of type out there and have spent hours agonizing over which pairings will work best for specific projects. And it’s an emotional process; I’ve been thrilled to discover that the latest typeface I’ve fallen for is affordable, and bitter when I’ve had to forsake my preference because clients aren’t willing to pay licensing fees for particular type families.

Font licensing can be a particularly tricky subject since many people do not realize that most typefaces are copy written materials that you have to purchase in order to use. Before Google Fonts launched in 2010, designers had to go through the lengthy and often expensive process of sourcing and purchasing typefaces from various type foundries. Adding to this challenge was the fact that most of these typefaces were not optimized for online use. Google Fonts changed the game in making a variety of web fonts freely available through open source licensing.


Here at Maga Design, we’re big fans of Google Fonts. Today, we thought we’d share five of our favorite combinations that feature these typefaces!

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Up first are Sans Pro and Source Sans Pro. Sans Pro’s highly contrasting stroke weights and lively accents add a bit of fun to the modern and serious nature of Source Sans Pro.

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Secondly, we have Muli and Domine. Muli is a unique sans serif that manages to be loud and powerful without venturing into the overbearing or austere realms that other popular sans serifs tend to occupy. It pairs nicely with Domine’s professional, yet approachable, style for a combination that will instantly grab the reader’s attention.

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In third place is Open Sans and Fanwood Text. Open Sans is known for being a universal font – it pairs well with pretty much any typeface out there. However, because of this it can often come across as monotonous and repetitive. However, when used as a display type and paired with a font as light and airy as Fanwood Text, the result is a unique balance between feminine and masculine.

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Next is Oswald and Quattrocento. Oswald is a unique display type in that it’s much more condensed than the majority of sans serifs. This, in addition to its angular nature, makes it a natural pairing for the equally angular Quattrocento. When paired together, these typefaces create an aesthetic that’s at once authoritative and approachable.

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Lastly we have Roboto and Crimson Text. Roboto is a great sans serif alternative to typefaces like Helvetica and Gotham. Paired with a traditional oldstyle typeface like Crimson Text, the result is a classic and well-balanced combination.


Which of these is your favorite combination? Are you a Google Fonts fanatic, too? Let us know in the comments!

Charleston Magateers “Run” the iFiveK!

Back in April the Charleston Maga team decided to put down their mouse pads and keyboards and lace up some (dusty) running shoes.

The team participated in the iFiveK, a 5k road race (and party) that is a favorite of the Charleston tech professional scene. Proceeds from the iFiveK support CODEcamp scholarships and other education related programming. While no one in the Maga team finished in the top 3, everyone crossed the finish line.  To celebrate our team’s achievement, we drew a comic that visualizes the collective experience!  
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Making Inclusion an Engine for Change at Maga Design

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Although there is a sizable movement towards inclusion in technology and design industries, a supportive initiative behind the hiring and recruitment process is still behind the times. Studies have shown that efforts to shift the cultural dynamics within an organization are confounded when the work environment does not provide an atmosphere where individuals of various backgrounds are integrated for the unique perspective they bring.

Instead of perceiving differences as an asset within the organization, cultivating ideas are often limited and devalued. The reality that equal opportunities are not afforded to individuals of diverse backgrounds stifles growth that comes from inclusion within the organization. As a result, the workplace suffers from denying the vibrancy of diverse design.

We interviewed several Maga Design team members for comments on implementing inclusion strategy within the organization. Digital Project Manager, Ashlee Ealy, comments on overcoming the invisible, and sometimes discordant, factors that may pervade the work environment:

“I think there is a tendency to try to fit into one’s surrounding environment. In some places, that environment is so homogenous that an individual might feel the need to be one person at work and a very different person at home in order to avoid making coworkers uncomfortable. This is slowly changing as the workplace becomes a more aware and accepting place.”

 

For organizations to prosper, it is crucial to take a proactive approach towards forming a community that fosters diversity as creativity. At Maga Design, we try to practice inclusion in our everyday activities. We recognize that inclusion leads to more creative views, innovative capabilities and profitable solutions. If an organization strives to gain a broader appeal, enabling an inclusive culture is a great way to start.  

Here are a few tactics organizations can use to develop an environment that celebrates difference.

 

Leadership

Empowering qualified individuals in upper management positions is a great way to establish an inclusive environment. According to Greenhouse’s eBook published in April, 4 Method to Build a Diverse Team, inclusion in every sector of the organization should be top priority:

“Diversity and inclusion efforts are often reserved for a single segment of the business, and this is why they often struggle to be effective. In order for short- and long-term D&I efforts to work, a concerted effort must be made by an entire company: employees, executives, human resources and/or the People team, and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), among others…Culture and priorities are often signals from the executive team (intentionally or not), and the success of a diversity or inclusion program relies on the right culture.”

When the organization make a conscious effort to incorporate people of diverse backgrounds  at the administrative level, it symbolizes that the responsibility of ensuring inclusion thrives, is not only a lower management objective but the initiative of the entire organization.

 

Recruitment

Aside from leadership, recruitment also needs to enact diversity practices that actively battle the inequality quotient within the industry. To fully benefit from the diverse perspectives that come with inclusive practices  within the workplace, it is important to focus on authentic talent. When hiring employees, identify key skills that can be an asset to the organization.

CatchTalent CEO Christina Lock comments on looking beyond the perceived differences to leverage diverse skillsets:

“For a workforce to truly thrive, it not only needs to attract and retain diversity, but know how to use it. The inclusion of each individual’s talents, perspectives, and vision is a recipe for success, and one that not only produces results for clients, but a positive work experience for employees.”

This helps ensure that both the individual and the organization can work together to create an inclusive environment. Its also provides an opportunity to acknowledge what insight the employee can offer as an addition to the team.

 

Community Outreach

A great way to incorporate diversity into your organization is through community outreach programs. By getting employees involved, it raises awareness and helps formulate a collaborative environment that establishes a network of diverse candidates.

Juancarlos Morales, UI/UX designer, explains how community outreach is a valuable impact engine for the organization:

“Reach out to technical school and local organizations to foster these relationships. Talent is everywhere if you look around, you can find extraordinary talent in people from all walks of life that can be utilized to make your company a success.”


Rather than view diversity as an obstacle, create an integrative space that establishes a sense of mutual respect and appreciation. Go beyond tokenized diversity hiring practices and acknowledge each diverse individual for their unique experiences and creative skills.  Understand that learning has to happen on both ends and made with a conscious effort.

Maga Design influences a culture that nurtures inclusion and celebrates different perspectives, bringing them together as whole-brained thinking. How we collaborate creates an inclusive environment that shapes our Ever Curious nature, and makes a profound impact on the work we produce.   

The Best Design Blogs to Follow on Medium

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We asked our team what their favorite design blog publications are, and they came up with quite the list!

Following the trend of Tumblr and WordPress as leading blog publishing platforms, Medium rises as a force to be reckoned with. It hosts a huge following, ranging topics from established corporate entities and publishing firms to startups and growth hackers.

Our top picks cull submissions from all around the world, from designers of all backgrounds and professional levels, to bring you the very best of best practices for modern design in a digital age. At Maga Design, our team loves these publications to access professional training, reflections on experiential learning, a lab for creative ideas, and editorials from the experts.

 

Dear Design Student

Dispelling the myth that design school teaches you everything you need to be prepared for a job in the real world, ‘Dear Design Student’ gives motivation, inspiration, and advice for fresh talent in the industry.

Our top pick: 10 Things You Need to Learn in Design School if You’re Tired of Wasting Your Money

 

Ideo CoLab

Ideo has several publications on Medium. The CoLab explores collaboration between prototyping research and design technology. Find great stories about inspiring innovation and collaboration on the product design floor.

Our top pick: R&D for the Current Age

 

Frog Design

The latest and greatest from beloved design and strategy firm, frog, from San Francisco by way of Germany.

Our top pick: Chief Executives Learn to Innovate by Thinking Like Designers

 

Ideo Stories

A monumental mainstay on Medium, Ideo’s largest publication focuses on stories from innovators within the industry, growth hacking booms and busts, and wistful ideations.

Our top pick: Be the Leader You Wish You Had

 

RGA by Design

From the strategists and creatives at R/GA, their publication covers topics from social impact design to building millennial brands, and doesn’t miss a beat in between.

Our top pick: Combatting Unconscious Bias in Design

 

Context

All about brand storytelling for those who want understanding on how market trends are affecting their work.

Our top pick: Why Complex Storytelling is Thriving in a Digital Age

 

Magenta

Branding behemoth Huge, Inc., brings its inventive new blog platform, Magenta, to Medium, with a bang.

Our top pick: How Steven Heller Redefined the Design Industry

 

The Design Team

An addicting and entertaining journey through Silicon Valley design startup land told through the story of Junior Designer, Petunia.

Our top pick: How to Pretend You’re a Great Designer

 

Thinking Design

Insights, notes, and pick-me-ups from the completely defensible “people who obsess over design”.

Our top pick: From Form to Function, Our Thoughts on Design are Changing

 

SAP Design

The experts at SAP Design offer end to end design innovation advice not limited to its signature UI technology suite, but also about enterprise design and business strategy (to name a few!).

Our top pick: Does All Design Need to be Intuitive?