Category: articles

picking the right hills

“Lightning rarely strikes. Instead, achievement is often the result of stepwise progress, of doing something increasingly difficult until you get the result you seek.”

“The craft of your career comes in picking the right hills. Hills just challenging enough that you can barely make it over. A series of hills becomes a mountain, and a series of mountains is a career.”

When I read Seth Godin’s post about An Endless Series of Difficult But Achievable Hills, I just had to share it. A quick, but powerful read, this post sums up how I feel about the progress of my career in the last four years and how I try to make it continue to grow. It’s been difficult, sometimes overwhelming, but I’ve taken risks and they’ve paid off so far. All you can do is keep climbing!


wish I had known: the word “stuck”

I spent last Thursday in New York, listening to the legend of design, Milton Glaser, speak about everything from the projects “The Clients Didn’t Approve” to the power of color. He seems to have a pool of stories that’s never-ending (in a good way!). I took so much away from his talk, but one thing in particular will sit with me for a long, long time.

I have used the phrase “I’m stuck” plenty of times when I’m designing. It’s what I run to when a solution doesn’t come as easily as I had hoped, when I want to step away from something and take a walk, when I have exhausted all the options I can think of for a design and don’t know where else to go. After Milton had finished his presentation, they opened the floor for questions and a woman asked the question that we’ve heard so many times, ” Where do you go for inspiration when you get stuck?” His response was not what I expected.

“Stuck is just a literary term. It doesn’t exist. It’s not real in design.” He continued, “The only way ‘stuck’ exists is when you STOP WORKING. So don’t stop working!” 

Milton explained that design is most often times a process and if you find a solution that isn’t working, that’s very different than if you are “stuck”. If it’s not working, you move on, that’s part of the exploration. The work that you are consistently doing will influence and help you through the moments you think you’re stuck because you’ll begin to see what works and when to move on. “The solutions come when you are involved with the project so thoroughly that you know it’s a good answer.”

I realized then that use of “stuck” in my vocabulary needed to change. I was using the idea that I couldn’t go any further to encourage me to stop working or move to a different project or start the whole project over. It was the wrong answer. I do believe that sometimes you have to walk away from something, or sleep on it, but in most cases, the more you persist in moving forward, the more you’ll get from it.

Milton reminded me that design is as much a process as it is an art, and that to continue to create great work: don’t stop working!

thank you, Mr. Jobs

Trying to explain the impact Steve Jobs has had on my career is a little difficult. It’s not that I knew him, talked with him, or even saw him from a distance at any point in my life, but Steve Jobs’ impact on design and my generation is already legend. As a graphic designer, my career has transformed itself in a short 50 years so greatly, that most wouldn’t recognize the industry if they started in it some 50 years before. I was required to buy a Mac for my first design courses, and after using it, I came to call this little tool an extension of myself. I use an Apple product every hour of every day. I use a Mac computer at work, come home to my Macbook laptop, use my iPhone for email, GPS, entertainment, weather, twitter and even when I’m sleeping, my computer is backing up my files, updating my inbox and my phone’s alarm is set to wake me up in the morning. No other company I have ever known influences my day on such a regular basis. If ever there be a product or man to transform my life, Steve Jobs and Apple would be it.

His passion for design in an industry that originally shunned it, opened doors for people like me for the future. Not only did he make products that became extensions of ourselves, but he impacted how business sees design and showed the world that design and business can be, and are, one.

I became even more emotional about Steve’s death because of reading the article by Steven Heller about The Job Jobs Did, a sobering reality that this impact can disappear with his absence at Apple and that we need people like Steve to inspire and uphold the power of design or it will be lost. The article speaks with graphic designers about their response to his legacy and courage to resist and change design as we know it. It’s a challenge for us to continue this trend, even though we’re not CEO’s at Apple, we have the power to make design a prominent part of business and “give people not what they ask for but what they need.”

So, in his passing, all I can do is say thank you, Mr. Jobs, for impacting a generation, a career path, and an everyday person like me and for changing my life forever. It was a pleasure knowing you.

think different image

Oh Joy Rx Philly Recap!

I’m still buzzing with excitement and ideas from the Oh Joy Rx class I attended last night by the Philly’s AIGA. 40 women bloggers, entrepreneurs and creative-types collected in one room to talk about the power a blog has on your business, the importance of a personal brand and how to take your blog to the next level. I walked away with so much information and now feel like I have a clear direction in where my personal blogging can go!

I wanted to share some of the things that I learned and that might get you started on your own. Here they are:

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Connecting the dots & the big move

There are some very big changes happening today and in next few weeks for me. It is my last day with The Limited, and as of Monday, I’ll be a new resident of Philadelphia. I’m nervous, excited, hopeful and eager for the change and I’ve been searching for the words to express how I’ve been feeling and what inspired the move.

While having lunch with my friend Deron Husak and chatting about the changes ahead of me, he mentioned Steve Jobs’ commencement speech to Stanford in 2005. I immediately searched for the video as I got back to my desk and found that not only were my feelings recognized and relatable but they were put into the powerful words I couldn’t seem to find.

So in the words of Steve Jobs, I leave you with some of the feelings I’ve had and what brings me to my big move to the East Coast:

Follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path. You’ve got to find what you love. Do what you believe is great work and if you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. Follow your curiosity and intuition and let it lead.

Happy Friday and may your curiosity and intuition lead you to the things you love.

CSCA: Get Miggy With It

CSCA was proud to host Mig Reyes as our June speaker and with a little dance music, a little plaid flair, and help from Ten Buck Tony, Columbus was left mesmerized and inspired by the craft and wit of the designer from Threadless.

Here are some of my favorite take-aways from the night:

• Don’t wait for the brief, make what you want. Personal projects propel future paid projects and help you love your craft.

• We all come from crap. We’ve made something and thought it was the best thing to sliced bread and we now realize that it wasn’t. Keep going and your skills will develop more and more to discern what’s good and bad. That’s the only way to get better.

Networking Friendship is where it’s at. Stop the bull and just be nice. And don’t try to be profound on Twitter. No one likes that.

• Inspiration fades; don’t let it be your driving force. Just start creating.

and finally, Tequila followed by pineapple juice is delicious.

I left feeling invigorated to finish the projects I’ve been putting off and also to do some quick 15 minute excercises to sharpen my design skills and learn some new things in the process. Thanks for the long-term inspiration, Mig, and keep up the great work!

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, 2011

{ the stage at WMCfest, Dan Cassaro of Young Jerks, Mig Reyes of Threadless }

Wow. What a weekend. While I only made it to one day of the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, I can’t believe the energy, inspiration and sweet swag bag I left with in the short amount of time I was there. The energy was intoxicating and I felt lucky to have been able to have this so close to home.

It seemed that the overall theme from the speakers was work hard and keep making good shit. Almost every speaker touched on the subject and it made me feel good that my late nights lately will pay off, even if it doesn’t seem like it now. Alex Cornell also brought up a really great topic that serendipitous moments can change your path to success, too, you just have to keep working and take the opportunities when they come. We can’t write the career path we want to take and sometimes you can’t even imagine the place you’ll eventually be. Take the opportunities and let them shape your career, not the other way around.

{ the poster gallery, Quite Strong on stage, Danielle with her swag bag, more of the poster show }

I also loved hearing the ladies of Quite Strong and how they put their collective together. They focused on community and how they are able to harness the power of five to do the work they want and the work they feel strongly about including pro-bono and non-profit cases. With five women, they are able to harness each other’s strengths and do great work because of it.

Mig Reyes was just outright hilarious and shared his “Fuck the police, make whatchu wanna” attitude towards design. He showed the progress of how one personal project led to another bigger one which led to another which led to another. He said to never turn down the opportunity to grow and try something new. Who cares if you don’t know a program? Learn it!

It was a whirlwind of a day, but I’m so glad we made it. I’m already looking forward to next year!

CSCA: Jay Grossen, Frog Design

The CSCA April event was such a success! Jay Grossen of Frog Design spoke about “Staying Uncomfortable” and how we have to change and develop our roles as designers throughout our work life.

As designers we often find ourselves stuck in a role that we can’t get out of. Trained as thinkers, we find ourselves straining to understand a client better, find a solution and grow in our knowledge of the problem and how we can solve it. While Jay held many different jobs, his knowledge about his clients and projects grew from the different hats he wore. I asked him if he planned to take this many different directions or if they fell into his lap and he said “I’m not one to plan for how things go in life. They came to me and I took them.” Here are some of my other favorite quotes from the night:

• [Today,] you’re not just designing one system. You’re now designing an ecosystem.

• Things are changing. We [as designers] have to change.

• Expand outside of your comfortable circle and make new friends. Learn new things.

• Be humble. When you’re doing research, you can’t walk into a situation like ‘Hey, I’m the designer. I know what it’s gonna be.’

• We (Frog Design) are about making sure there aren’t boundaries in a job title.

• You have to understand boundaries to understand how it will work for someone.

• Expand what you think is necessary to do great things and deliver the best experience.

• You have to think about the breadth and depth of a problem. You’ll deal with different ‘languages.’

So many great morsels to take away and help me stay uncomfortable every day. A big big thank you Jay! Come visit us again any time!

CSCA: Matteo Bologna, Mucca Design

I felt so honored to co-host Matteo Bologna, President of Mucca Design, this past week at our Columbus Society of Communicating Arts March event. The entire day was surreal and I couldn’t have met a more insightful, fun, friendly designer in my life. His lecture was fantastic, filled with stories about clients and designers and drool-worthy portfolio pieces. It was also sprinkled with some design sarcasm and perverted moments, too. A nice touch to the sophisticated type treatments.

I took away a lot by spending my half-day with him. Here are some of my favorite “food-for-thought” moments:

• Half the battle of a designer is getting the client to be on your side. To do this, it’s important to walk them through the process so that they see that you’re not just hired to make something pretty, but you’re a thinker and working on the project as a business.

• You need to be a good communicator. If you can’t talk about your designs and thought process, you won’t be able to get the confidence of your client.

• Love what you do. If you don’t, start loving something.

• You can be typecast into a role as a designer. If you do restaurants, you’ll keep doing restaurants. Make sure your portfolio is what you want to be doing.

• You don’t need an education. Start learning on your own, right now.

Thank you, Matteo! That was an event and eventful half-day I truly won’t forget!

All pictures copyright Ray LaVoie (who ROCKS) and design above by Meredith Reuter.

A Word Of Advice: Be Better

While this project may not have effected me directly, I was really moved this week by Frank Chimero’s The Shape of Design Kickstarter project. He asked to raise a total of $27,000 to publish his book and reached it in under 5 HOURS. The outpouring of designers and supporters was phenomenal. After 2 days, he has raised $53,000+ for his book, almost doubling his goal.

Now what about this moved me, you ask? The fact that so many, many people supported him. I started to ask myself, what is it about Frank and his book that so many people wanted to be a part of? As I read his FAQs on his site yesterday, I found my answer in his “How Do You Promote Yourself?” answer. Frank’s Kickstarter project was something he could have promoted the hell out of, and didn’t. He tweeted once, maybe twice, but what drove the surge were the people that support, admire and appreciate his thoughts and actions. He works hard to make the design community better and designs with intention and impact, unlike many designers out there right now.

As I get more and more tired of “pretty design,” I crave change, a breath of fresh air. Someone to be different and speak to becoming better and thinking about design. Design with purpose. Frank’s project inspired me to take a risk, brainstorm more and work with intent to create a better solution. My lack of posts this week comes from spending more time sketching, thinking and repositioning my goals. I’m inspired to be better.

So, here’s Frank’s answer for how you promote yourself. A great reason to become better at what you do.

How do you promote yourself?

Unsexiest answer ever: be better.

Do something interesting and do it really well. This is way harder than promoting yourself. Service your clients really well. Come up with damn good work that has thick value.

Do something compelling. There’s a trillion people writing blogs that need something to write about. There are magazines hungry for content. There are hundreds of thousands of people bored on the internet wanting something to look at or do. For the most part, people have exceedingly low standards on the internet. But, I think people are hungry for better. Make something better. People will notice.

The number of people that are consuming creative work keeps growing (because it’s fun and nourishing). The number of people doing solid, compelling creative work is staying the same (because it’s hard work). You do the math.

Thank you, Frank, for inadvertently encouraging me and many designers who want to be better. Looking forward to even more food for thought in your new book.

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