CUPID Studio: Learning from Mistakes

Guest Blogger and Former CUPID Associate Chelsea Vollrath, ’13

When I took CUPID Studio for the first time sophomore year, I was intimidated by the client project, doubting that my limited rhetorical knowledge would allow me to successfully complete the task required of me. It didn’t help when, after one meeting, my client decided she didn’t need my partner and my help to create a brag sheet for her department. We were given various small tasks to complete throughout the semester to stay busy and I was successful in those tasks, but I still doubted my abilities. Since sophomore year, I have taken more PWR classes, completed more client projects, in class and while participating in internships. I have consequently gained a better understanding of rhetorical strategies and their application and felt more comfortable taking CUPID Studio the second time around.

I hoped to have a better experience with the client project this year, and, right away, I could tell my experience would indeed be very different. Rather than questioning the involvement of CUPID Studio students, the client was very excited by my group members’ and my involvement. Our assignment was originally to create a department newsletter, but at our first meeting our client asked us to work on two other projects, one of the additional projects ironically being a departmental brag sheet.  We agreed to take on the other projects and were eager to get to work. A lapse in communication kept us from starting the project as soon as we hoped.

Not hearing from our client for a few weeks put us in a difficult situation I have often found myself in when working on similar projects. However, rather than trying to contact him using a different form of communication other than email or attempting to speak with him in person, we sent him additional emails to call him to action and therefore wasted time in doing so.

Eventually, we got a response, but it wasn’t exactly what we desired. His response blurred our understanding of what was required of us even more. Yet again, we failed to effectively communicate with our client. Rather than contacting the client again to ask for clarification, we decided to proceed with creating the brag sheet to the best of our abilities. That was a mistake. Though, visually, I believe we made all of the right choices (which I’m glad was the case considering we discussed font choice for so long it became humorous), we made choices concerning content that our client did not support.

When we sent him what we thought would be a final draft, we were met with an unsatisfied response, identifying that we misunderstood the message and audience. I was caught off guard at first. I’ve been studying rhetoric; I’ve completed similar projects. Why hadn’t we done a better job in meeting our clients’ needs? I soon realized that, because I felt we were behind as a result of the lapse in communication, I was anxious to complete the project as quickly as possible, thinking that’s what our client would have wanted. While, yes, he would want it in timely manner, he didn’t want us us to sacrifice an understanding of the documents’ message.

Through studying rhetoric, I have learned about rhetorical situations, the importance of context, and the interplay of visual rhetoric. Through completing client projects, I have learned three important lessons not explicitly mentioned in the texts we study.

  1. Be patient and flexible.
  2. Don’t be afraid to communicate.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.

Thankfully, we made our mistakes early on while working on one of the more minimal tasks required of us. We plan on learning from the situation and improving so we will be more successful in completing the remaining projects we are assigned.


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