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Geri Coady on public speaking, accessibility and riding her Vespa

One of the 10 nominees for Designer of the Year in the 2014 net Awards, Geri Coady is a designer and illustrator living in St. John’s Newfoundland—the most easterly city in North America. In the last year she has made the transition to working on a freelance basis, advanced her speaking career and published her first book. We chatted to her to find out more.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

I started out with web design as a hobby, later making websites for small businesses while attending college. My first job was as a user interface designer, which I left to go back to college to study print design. I then worked in the e-learning sector as a designer before settling down for five years at an advertising agency as an art director. I'm now approaching my one-year anniversary as a freelancer!

What have you been working on over the last year?

Last year I wrote the Pocket Guide to Colour Accessibility published by a Five Simple Steps, and I've done a lot of talks on the same topic at conferences like Future of Web Design New York and Reasons to be Creative. I did more personal writing as a contributor to the Pastry Box Project and 24 Ways. I worked with France-based company Withings doing illustration for their Health Mate app, and I started a big project with Simply Accessible — more to come on that in 2014.

Another big highlight was mentoring a programming student to prepare him for the web design competition at Skills Canada. Although he didn't have much web experience under his belt, he ended up winning a medal at the national level!

What have been the particular high points of your career?

My first conference talk was a real turning point in my career, for sure. If you told me in high school that someday I'd be standing on stage in front of hundreds of people, I wouldn't have believed you. Also, leaving a job I loved to go freelance last year took a lot of courage, but was absolutely one of the best decisions of my life so far!

Geri's new book on choosing colours for accessibility

Geri's new book on choosing colours for accessibility

Who and what influences and inspires your work?

One of my favourite fashion designers, Paul Smith, wrote a book called “You Can Find Inspiration in Anything,” but that's my lazy answer. More specifically, I love travel, music, record and book covers, fashion, and cartoons. I love animation in general. Hayao Miyazaki is definitely an inspiration. One of the best cures for "designer's block" has to be taking my Vespa out for a spin — fresh air does wonders.

What are you excited about at the moment?

Working with Simply Accessible is a joy and I can't wait to share what we're working on. I have two more exciting projects in the pipes, too, but I can't talk about those yet!

Tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career.

I think many people in this industry lose sight of the fact that we're supposed to be helping people by finding, designing, and building appropriate solutions to their problems. To gain respect from our clients, we need to treat them with respect, too. A little empathy goes a long way, and that applies to how we communicate with our peers in the industry, as well.

Name an 'unsung hero', someone you admire who deserves more recognition for their work.

Unfortunately, accessibility is often seen as a pretty "unsexy" area of web design, so it's home to a huge number of unsung heroes. My vote goes to the entire team at Simply Accessible who do such incredible, hard work to make the web a better place for everyone.

Vote in the net Awards!

Celebrating the best in web design and development, the 15th net Awards is open for public voting until 24 March. With a record breaking number of nominations this year, it's set to be the biggest and best yet. Have your say by casting your votes here.

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