It’s been almost a week since my employer’s parent company informed us that our entire division’s services would no longer be required after February. I was late to the announcement, having been trapped on a motionless PATH train when it began, but I can’t say it was surprising given how compromised our sector (educational services) and our country were made by deregulated banks and short-sighted Washington leadership. The writing had been on the walls long enough for folks to see that it had not been written in dry-erase marker.
It was a little over seven years ago that I first signed on full-time at Kaplan K12, having previously temped and freelanced for an unsettlingly long period. I came in as a production artist. Shortly after, as the organization grew large enough to require almost continuous redefinition of structure and process, I became one of the company’s first graphic designers.
The nature of the work suited me in much the same way that my Creative Director Mike Young has described in his own account of this moment in our lives. The rigor required by the work’s content drove a great deal of my attempts to improve how well our information design communicated pedagogy and learning techniques to our customers in clear, easy-to-use form. We iterated and polished the hell out of almost every book. Concomitant praise from customers vindicated that effort.
Kaplan K12 was not a place engaged in the vapid struggle to sell ephemera, intoxicants, disinformation, or luxury playthings. Kaplan K12 was a private-sector attempt to fill a horrendous nationwide curricular gap, which we did one product at a time with careful construction and attention to detail. Our curriculum developers, production, editorial, creatives, and support services constituted a generally excellent collection of intelligence, cultural awareness, and steadfast exactitude. No slack jaws here. I will very much miss working alongside these folks, and I hope they all land safely.
Reactions here this past week have been subdued. If folks are scared, they’re wearing it well. Our best and brightest are all too aware of their status as categorical casualties of the nation’s waning respect for literacy. Kaplan was a refuge for exiles from that corrosion, many of them former public school teachers. I’m something of a refugee as well, having spent my seven years here primarily in print publishing. Other skills must now be polished off or acquired, and they will be.
My primary concerns right now are over medical coverage, the middle-class’ apocalyptic Horseman, but I’m fortunate to have a bit of other work. It’s not an immediate prospect for a full-time job with benefits, but considering, I have more optimism about my own fate than I expected to.
I have been told that at least one of the products I designed will continue to be sold and supported for a while, which is a comforting reassurance to hold onto as our group gets uprooted. Kaplan K12 products and their marketing collateral constitute some of the best work I’ve ever done, and I’m fortunate to have amassed a body of work here that I can point to with pride.
Goodbye, Kaplan K12.
UPDATE: My flagship product is still being sold, albeit by another division (pdf link) of the company. I expect it may require more training to sell and support than they’re willing to invest in over a long term. Here’s what part of it looked like.
ANOTHER UPDATE: That product got sold to another company. Strange to see it with someone else’s logo on the cover. They posted the promotional video we had created for it, too. Please play nice with my templates, folks.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE (29 May 2011): In which my friend Kirby relates the tale in far better prose than you’ll find above.