Entries in My 2 Cents (18)


Design Retreat 2012

Quite a few months ago I received an email from Promise Tangeman and Alyssa Yuhas inviting me to a design retreat at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. There were a lot of names on the list that I recognized as fellow designers... designers that I admired and looked up to. I was flattered that they invited me and I nearly jumped out of my chair with enthusiasm to go. Then, I second guessed myself and considered not going... I have emailed several of these girls about projects and about blogging but I had never met any of them in person. Meeting 20 new girls all at once seemed very intimidating, especially these girls - so on top of their game and as talented as they come. But I had so many questions I wanted to ask, and so many projects I want to collaborate on, and so many things I wanted to say... I just had to go. Plus I was dying to just let my hair down and have a good time. So I swallowed all of that stupid fear and I went. 

I am still nursing. Henry can't get over the boob. He loves it. So I had to take him with me. And I couldn't just leave him alone in the room all day long while I nerded out with my new design friends so I had to take Conor with me too. I felt a little awkward showing up with my husband and my baby. It was kinda like when I moved to a new school in 4th grade and made my mom come with me and sit by the playground while I met new kids and played. You know, so if anything weird happened my mom was right there to back me up. I promise I'm not that scared of meeting new people... but it was sorta nice to have my boys there, waiting for me to come home after late night dinners and pool side chats. It was really nice actually. I love those boys. 

The entire weekend was nice. I think it was so nice because it was all just for fun. No one paid an entrance fee. No one needed a ticket to get in. No one was "leading" the group. There were no exclusive events, sessions, seminars, lectures. No one was there to make money or sell their product. Everyone was simply there to enjoy each other, learn from each other and talk about the ups and the downs of being a freelance designer. I felt like everyone had something to bring to the table. Even the girls I considered "more experienced" designers were asking as many questions as they were answering. We hung out by the pool, we totally geeked out over Star's (my new favorite person) web developing skills, we told funny stories about our personal lives and gave each other friendly advice about our professional lives. We ate out and we took a lot of pictures. We complimented each other. We inspired each other.

On the ride home I wrote 10 pages worth of new ideas. Over the last few days I have been working harder, not to compete with these girls but because I am inspired by them. I guess my point is that if life hands you an oppertunity to surround yourself with inspiring, talented people jump on it. Even if it seems scary. Take a risk. Go outside of your comfort zone. Take your husband and your baby and your mom with you if you have to, but show up! Be nice, and share what you know. It will all come back to you. I am so glad I showed up because I definetely made some really cool friends and I loved every minute of it. 

Thank you girls for being so awesome! I can't wait for the next oppertunity I get to be around each and every one of you again! Until next time - babies totally exhist, get your mom to QA that f#$%er, cut everything your doing in half, and say no when you're spreading yourself too thin! Love you all to the moon and back! 


Lobster and Roo


I am so excited to share with you a recent project that I worked on! Remember this mood board here? Well,here is a link the the finished product. Lobster and Roo is a lifestyle blog that I was so honored to work on with the lovely Jen Tan, after you check out her blog check out her amazing Pinterest feed, trust me, you'll thank me later!Jen was an absolute joy to work with because she has great taste, knows what she wants and is just one of the nicest people I have met through the internet to date! Thanks for letting me be a part of Lobster and Roo Jen! It was such a pleasure.

Extra! Extra! So, I just thought I would share a little tip with other creatives out there about presenting clients with work. I typically create two different mood boards, style guides and often even render two completely different finished projects (if the project is small scale) and present them both to the client. I let them decide which concept is better and which elements they want to keep, combine, get rid of or change. I have learned over time that showing too many ideas to a client just makes their job deciding which direction to go in much harder. They hired a designer because they wanted creative direction. If I have several ideas at the beginning I usually try to weed out the best two and only show those to the client.


2 cent Tuesday #12: Balancing work and life

I feel like I have written quite a few posts lately about working and being a mom and how the two don't nesssecarily fit together quite as nicely as I thought they would before I became a mother. I also mentioned that I was going to write a 2 cent Tuesday about the topic and "How I do it." But the truth is I don't really have a perfect way, or easy solution. So, I just want to preface this post by first saying that I strongly believe that "mother knows best." I think every mother truly knows what is best for her child and herself. So with that being said this post is less of a "this is what you should do" and more of a "this is what I do, not sure if it is working out that great yet but, I am surviving and things are going pretty well, so maybe it might be interesting for another mom to read" post. So here it goes: 

This is how I work from home (I currently write this blog, guest blog and curate roundups for other blogs, work as the art director at Verily Magazine, run an online shop, about to start a letterpress paper line and take on freelance projects when I can) and take care of my 5 (almost 6) month old son:

We wake up between 5:30 and 6:30 everyday (depending on how long Henry will let us sleep in). Conor tries to take Henry on a walk or play with him quietly in the living room while I catch another half an hour of sleep if he can. I get up, put a swimsuit and a big t-shirt on, we make breakfast, listen to some music, let Henry play on the floor and I try to get a few things squared away (pay a few bills, catch up on a couple of emails, maybe do a quick blog post). Around 9:00 Conor leaves and I put Henry down for his morning nap. This is a long, tedious process which includes nursing, letting him cry in his crib for 10 min, nursing some more, rocking, bouncing, leaving him to cry some more and over and over until he eventually gives in to his sleep demons and closes his eyes. While he is asleep I work on something - a blog post, an invoice, a portion of a project - whatever I think I can get done in an hour.

I have discovered that there is no hope of getting any work done while Henry is awake and in my care. The minute I gave up any notion of that happening the two of us became a lot happier together. He simply needs all of my attention and can't be placed in a bouncer while I get a few things done. So when Henry wakes up I change him out of his pajamas and head out for an adventure. We go on a walk to the post office to mail packages for Chief and Crown, to visit a friend, to the beach with other moms or play at the playground behind our house. 

When we get home I try to eat some lunch and get him fed and then we settle in for another nap. Tuesdays and Thursdays Conor comes home early so I work for the rest of the afternoon, taking breaks to feed Henry or to take a walk around the block to get some fresh air. Monday, Wednesday, Friday I either take an afternoon nap with him (or if I have a big deadline I try to get some more work done). On those days Conor gets home by late afternoon and I start working then. Around 5:30 we give Henry a bath, feed him a few bites of baby food (he is really in to that right now) give him a warm bath, put him in some cozy pajamas, read him a story and I nurse until he either falls asleep or is not interested anymore and then he goes in his crib around 6:30. Then, Conor and I make dinner, talk, clean up and I finish up some stuff that I am working on. I try to stop working around 8:00 but sometimes that just isn't possible and I end up working until 10:30 or 11:00. When I do finish around 8:00 we watch a couple of shows together, talk or have our good friends over for some cookies and a game or two (They live right around the corner from us so it is easy to have them over for a brief time before bed like that). 

I try to take weekends off - especially Sunday. We try to make Sunday as much of a family day as we can. We don't work, shop, watch TV, do chores or go to the beach. I grew up that way and it always made Sunday a fun special day to spend quality time with my parents.

The three things that I eventually learned after trial and error that have helped me out tremendously are-

1. It is important for me to have set work hours. Even if they are crazy ones, having separate distinct times for family and for work help me balance the two better than when I didn't have that.

2. I don't try to work when taking care of Henry. Working while taking care of Henry means that I don't do either very well. Both suffer. Giving up on that made both fall in to place a lot easier.

3. Let trusted friends and family help when they can. It has been (and still is) really hard for me to leave Henry with people. I don't do it often. I even felt guilty when I first startied having Conor watch him in the afternoons. Yes, I am his mommy and he does need me but I think it is good for him to have some time away from me, get used to other people and (in our case) spend some quality time with his dad. It is also good for Conor to get the opportunity to have that father/son time and feel confident in his abilities to take care of his son alone. 

Well, because this post was already too long three paragraphs ago I am going to stop here. I did find some interesting reading over on A Cup Of Jo by some blogging/working-from-home-moms on how they handle their lives and balance family and work. If you are interested in reading it click here. And to all of those moms out there trying to balance it all - you are good! You are the perfect person for your little ones and you know what is best for you and your family. Sometimes it is just a struggle finding that right routine or taking that big step to get help when you need it. Don't give up on your dreams because you have kids. Being a mom does mean giving up a lot of things but it doesn't mean giving up those things that make you feel fulfilled. Doing that is not going to do any one any good. I personally feel like if I am truly committed to my kids they will be inspired by my goals and determination instead of hindered by them.  


2 Cent Tuesday #12: Branding Yourself


I am having a real joy of a time trying to figure out my own branding. Sense the sarcasm? How did you come up with your branding, packaging etc? Any advice on how I should go about it?

This question made me laugh! It is so true! Designing for yourself can seem like a whale of a project, especially when it comes to branding yourself. It is hard for creative types to find one thing and stick with it and feel like it represents all of the different things they are capable of coming up with. A designer never wants to pigeon hole themselves into only doing one thing over and over again. It is also hard to give yourself deadlines because you have so many already so why add another one? Right? Right. I also think we tend to compare our work to others sometimes and don’t want to come up short so we opt to do nothing at all which can be the worst mistake ever. Here are a few tricks that worked for me when I went about branding myself (for the 7th or 8th time).


1. Do the whole process. Don’t skip steps.

Pretend you are the world’s best client. You love all of your work you are paying lots of money for this project (because in the long run branding yourself well really will earn you more money). How would you treat such a client? Would you put him/her off? Never send over estimated time frames for different portions of the project? Fail to create a mood board full of relevant and beautiful visual inspiration? NO! So don’t do that to yourself! Write out a time frame. Fill out your own branding questionnaire! Create a mood board. Do all of the little things that you do with clients and do them now! I recently refreshed my brand and went through the whole process with myself. When working with clients I usually give them two completely different design options. I didn’t think I needed to do all that extra work for myself but I did it anyway and it was really helpful. Creating two different looks that I really loved helped me narrow my vision and gave both designs room to breath because I wasn’t trying to cram every detail into one brand.


2. Don’t expect to create something that is instantly going to stand the test of time.

Brands are constantly changing and evolving and as an artist you should be to. Yes you should aim to create something that is going to be consistent and cohesive but don’t let yourself be so overwhelmed with pressure to get it perfect that you can’t create anything at all. I have been blogging under the name Jane Reaction for 4 years now and everything about this blog and my design for it has changed at least 10 times. I think the only thing that has remained consistant is the name (and at one point I even tried to change that but it just didn’t feel right and I had to follow my gut). Create an entire brand and try it out for a few months. If you hate it try something else, if parts of it feel good try tweaking the parts that don’t. It’s ok to evolve!


3. Be yourself!

3a. YOU ARE GOOD! I know how it feels to see something amazing and wish you had created it for yourself, but just think others are looking at your work and thinking the same thing. It is hard for us to realize that because we are our own biggest critics. Your work is good and you are capable of designing something beautiful for yourself!

3b. Let your personality show through. I have to admit that I feel like my branding half represents me and half represents something I thought I wanted to be. I never would have figured this out if I hadn’t put it all together and tested it out. It works for now but the next time around I know what to keep and what to change. The fox will stay. For anyone who reads my blog or knows much about me knows that my son’s middle name is Fox. I created my most recent brand identity while pregnant with him and I wanted to create something that reminded me why I am doing the things I am doing. Working is important to me because it helps me provide for my little one. It also reminds me to stop working when it’s time to stop because there is something more important to attend to. Branding doesn’t always have to be that sentimental or symbolic but make sure it is something that represents you.  


2 Cent Tuesday #12: The Process

I have an exciting project to share! I recently finished working on a project for a new Etsy Shop and Blog called The Farmers Shop. Cyndey contacted me a few months ago - she used to work as a buyer for Urban Outfitters but because her and her husband moved to Ohio she decided to open an Etsy shop selling vintage and antique home wares. This project was really fun to work on and I am excited to share that the The Farmers Shop is now open for business!

Many of you have asked what my process is and how I get from start to finish so I thought for today's 2 Cent Tuesday this would be a fun project to share with you and let you see inside my head a little bit. When I start working with people I ask them to create a pin board on Pinterest to collect their favorite images, color schemes, typography and inspiration (Cydney's featured above). I think it is important to point out to clients (because usually they are not designers themselves) that they should look for similarities amongst their pins and try to pinpoint a single direction. I also ask them to weed out any distracting images that they might really love but can see doesn't really help their overall vision. This little pointer has helped a lot of clients narrow down their focus and direct me in a more specific path (which you know is REALLY helpful in the beginning!)

For this project I mocked up a couple different design concepts into two different PDF documents. They both had logos, fonts, color schemes and accent patterns. The first one included this pig (above) as the primary icon for the logo. Cydney loved the pig but after seeing it was compelled to tell me a little back story about her shop. 

The Farmers Shop is actually named after her God Mother who's last name was Farmer. It had less to do with literal farmers than I had initially assumed and more to do with a beautiful woman who inspired Cydney and loved Hippos! We went back and forth about changing the icon from a pig to a hippo a few times but ultimately decided the deeper meaning behind the hippo won. Every time. So we went with that.

I do most of my design work in Illustrator. I'm not sure why but I prefer it over Photoshop in every situation. I am faster and more proficient at it. That's not to say Photoshop isn't important I'm just a whole lot better in Illustrator. I mocked up a basic blog design that I wanted for Cydney's wordpress blog in illustrator and then got to work customizing. You can check out her blog here and her Etsy shop here.
When working with people I like to show them what their brand could/should look like in more than one situation. If someone hires me for a blog I try to show them what some of there print collateral could look. If they hire me for print collateral I try to show them what some of their social media buttons or blog header could look like. In this case Cydney fell in love with the rubber stamp idea that I presented and went ahead and contacted the girls at Our Paper Shop and had that made. It usually takes you 10 extra minutes to slap a logo on a business card or envelope to give your client an idea of what things can look like. I try to take that extra step when I can. 


2 Cent Tuesday #11: Photography + Presentation

1 / 2 / 3 / 4

How do you get people to buy your product? Do you have any photography tips?  It's no secret that photography and presentation play a big part in whether or not people want to follow your blog, buy your products or hire you for services. So how do you create visually pleasing images that will draw your viewer in and make them interested in what you are putting out there? Here are a few helpful suggestions for improving your photography and presentation. 

First - Invest in a nice camera. I didn't say get the most expensive camera out there. A nice but simple digital camera can do a lot if you know how to set up a great shot. Learn how to adjust and change the settings on your camera so that you can get the shot you are looking for.

Second - Place your items on a simple clean backdrop. I usually always use a white background when photographing things. Make sure that your product and your backdrop are not competing for attention. If your backdrop is too busy the viewer's eyes will miss important details in your work and it will not keep their attention for long.

Third - Use a lot of natural light. Some mornings you can find me crouched in my doorway over a white poster board with an object right in the middle. I have found that in the early morning, with all of the shades in my living room up and the door flung wide open I get the most natural light. 

Fourth - Play around with angles. Sometimes photographing and item from directly above seems like the most practical thing to do. Step back and take a look at your item. Is there a more interesting angle? Photograph it on a diagonal. Take some close ups and some far away. Give yourself some variety to chose from for when you sit down at the computer and upload your photos. 

Last - Keeping all of the photographs cohesive throughout a shop, blog or portfolio is also key. Here is a really great article from the Etsy Seller's Handbook that has a lot of great pointers for photography and presentation. If you feel that you cannot create acceptable photographs of your items or products invest in hiring someone else to take the photos for you. Or, like I said in this post, offer to do a trade. Do you know a great photographer that needs design work done for them? Offer to create some icons, or a brochure, in exchange for some product photography. If you simply cannot find some one else to help you take pictures invest in an online photography crash course. There are a lot of great ones out there! 

Just a side note for the budding graphic designer out there on creating a great printed or web portfolio: Yes, photographs of your work will make your school projects seem more legit, it definitely tells your client or future employer that you went the extra mile to actually produce the item in real life and not just on the computer. However, if the photography is not absolutely fantastic the details that made your design awesome will be lost. Seriously consider the pros and cons of using photography in your portfolio. Sometimes raw digital files showcases your work far better than an amateur photo ever could. 


2 Cent Tuesday #10: Confidence

Photo of actress, director, and screenwriter Rachel Ward off the coast of Newport R.I. Photo and quote found here via Tomboy Style

Today's 2 cent Tuesday is short and sweet. It is also more for me than any of you (although I think we can all benefit from these words). While surfing the web the other night I came across this awesome photo and quote on Tomboy Style and couldn't get it out of my head. It is so true. I think of people I know who are really successful and I know they got there with a whole lot of confidence - sometimes even faking confidence if they had to. So go out there and get what you want! Today! You can do it! 


2 Cent Tuesday #9: Getting Inspired

Above: inspiration board for a current project I am working on.

What is your main source of inspiration and how do you continue to get new ideas project after project? Good question! I had a similar question when I was in school for design and so I wrote a fan letter to Miss Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co. (one of my favorite designer/artists) and asked her. She was so sweet and wrote back with several bits of advice but, my favorite thing she said was to try to get inspiration from nature and culture. I have since tried to step away from looking at other people's work so much to get inspiration and find inspiration in unconventional places. I look at the way my grapefruit is divided into similar but uneven sections. I look at current fashion trends and note the shapes that they create when worn. I collect branches. Yes, I have a stash of branches stuffed behind my couch that my husband throws away weekly (only to be replaced the next week).

It isn't always the easiest to get out of the house and find new and inspiring sources for creativity. I will be the first to admit that I scour the internet for inspiration, probably more often than I should. This isn't always a bad thing (just don't make it your only source). It can be a good thing - in fact I would say this is how I learned most of what I know about what works together and what doesn't. I found pieces of work that were really amazingly designed and I dissected them. Then I copied them. When you try to copy something else you have to ask your self "what makes this work?" and "why does my version of this not look right? or "how can I improve on this design to make it even better?" The challenging part about this is making it your own. Simply copying other people's work will teach you some fundamentals about design but it won't help you be original. There is nothing wrong with getting inspiration from other talented designers but you have to make it your own. Otherwise it's just plagiarism. 

When I am feeling a creative block I try to take a walk, draw, write in my journal. I step away from my computer completely and try to clear my mind of any deadlines or problems for at least ten minutes. Getting a good night sleep always helps me feel more creative the next day. My other main source of inspiration is photography. Not other people's photography. My own. I think this is why I am such a huge fan of Instagram. I love spotting a color combination or pattern out in the world that just looks awesome and snapping a little picture of it. When I get home it's like I have a little pocket full of inspiring gems to get me excited about my project again. 

SO, how do you find inspiration? What do you do when you are fighting a creative block and feel like the inspiration will never come again? ...and while we are on the topic of inspiration check out this AMAZING series called Recreate It by Moxee. I think she does an incredible job of finding something that was designed really well, pulling out the key elements and recreating it in her own way. 


2 Cent Tuesday #8: NETWORKING

We all know the design world can be pretty competitive. The talent out there is insane and getting more saturated every year. Getting consistent work coming in can be difficult. Of course the best thing you can do for your business is have an online presence – a blog and/or a website. But just doing that much usually won’t cut it. You need to go a few steps further to generate more traffic and get more referrals. Here are a few things you can do to promote your services and get more work coming your way. 

1. DO A TRADE – Trading with other creative professionals is not only a good way of making great connections but is also a great marketing tool. Are you a designer that needs to get the word out that your work is awesome? Contact your favorite photographer and ask if you can do design work for them in exchange for some ad space on their blog. Think of something you can provide in exchange for something you need. Make sure both sides feel like they are gaining something in the process.

2. COLLABORATE – Working with someone else will do many things for your business. First you will get more experience working with others which is always going to come in handy someday. You will also create more work for people to notice and display in your portfolio. And last of all you now have their followers as a captive audience to your project in addition to your own. Both sides benefit from more exposure.

3. JOIN THE CONVERSATION– Everyone knows that leaving comments on other people’s blogs will generate more traffic to your blog. It’s a known fact. However always leave comments that are sincere and relevant. If you find yourself typing, “This is nice. I like it.” Don’t even bother pushing the publish button. Also, think about joining the conversation on Instagram or Pinterest. I have to admit I am still pretty excited when someone I am following, “liking” and commenting on (read: totally drooling all over their awesome work) clicks through and leaves a comment on a photo of mine on Instagram. It makes my day every time! 

4. DO SOMETHING BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT– Every once in a while a project comes my way that I am so thrilled to be working on only to find out that there is no budget behind it. When this happens you have to ask yourself if the project is something you believe in and want to be a part of regardless of how much you are going to get paid. I have never regretted taking on a project that I really loved even though I was doing it for dirt cheap (or even free). These projects often end up being the ones that generate the most interest in my work and end up being the most fulfilling.

5. BE GENUINE– Often people will reach out to get a quote or just to compliment your work. Always be polite even if you “don’t have time.” Find the time to respond to all inquiries even if it is just to let them know that you are busy for the next couple of months. Thank them for their interest in your work. A kind word and a genuine attitude go a long way. If you are too busy to take on a project refer a friend or offer to find someone else in their area that might be willing to take on their project. What goes around comes around.


2 Cent Tuesday #7: Building a Website


What is the best platform to build my site on?

Anyone trying to develop a web presence these days either needs a website or a blog to display their content and get their message or product out there. But what is the best platform for building your site or blog on? I have been asked this question or some variation of this question quite a few times over the past few months. Actually quite a few times just in the last week. I know there are so many different options out there for building sites but few allow you to really customize everything while still making it easy enough for you to do yourself. I have found that the easier a platform is to use the less customization you will be able to do. The following 4 platforms are my favorite to work with and I'll tell you why they are so great (and maybe a little about why they aren't so great)...

#1. Wordpress.org (different than wordpress.com) is probably the most popular option right now. Wordpress.org provides thousands of customizable templates both for free and for sale. With so many templates out there to chose from it is easy to make a site/blog that looks completely unique and different from anything else out there. The down side of wordpress.org is that in order to really customize it you need at least a working knowledge of HTML and CSS or you will need to pay a coder or programmer to help you out. When working with wordpress for a client I am usually able to do most of the HTML and CSS myself but I have needed to reach out to a programmer a few times to help me out. They usually charge a reasonable fee and do a good job so everyone wins. A group of designers and programmers out here in Hawaii have put together a really great collection of wordpress templates called Organic Themes that are beautifully made and fairly easy to customize. I also like working with them because they provide a long list of people available to help program when you just can't figure it out yourself and they provide technical support for free when you buy one of their templates.

#2. Squarespace.com is another popular option. Many popular, successful sites/blogs are built using squarespace.com, Kinfolk Magazine, Uppercase Magazine, Creature Comforts Blog - I also happen to be using squarespace. It is easy to use and allows for quite a bit of customization. The downside to using squarespace is that on top of your domain regitration fee and your web hosting fee you also have to pay a monthly fee for your content to be supported by squarespace. There are several different packages that you can choose from ranging from $12 to $36 a month.

#3. I recently started working with showitfast.com and I am really excited about the things that you can do with it. I really like the way it allows for so much cusomization and is still easy to use. Basically as easy as drag and drop! You can build a completely unique site from scratch withough using a template to start from. There are also several templates out there that you can work with – again some are free and some cost money. Promise Tangeman (the showitfast queen) has some really beautiful templates for sale that you can customize to fit your needs. She also recently made some available for free on her site. The downfall of showitfast.com is that it makes it almost impossible to have a blog connected to your website. If you build your site using showitfast you will probably need to have a separate site for your blog.

#4. Last (but certainly not least) there is Blogger. I feel like so many people shy away from Blogger – maybe they think it isn’t professional looking, or they think that all blogs on Blogger look completely the same. I'm not sure why so many people start out with a blogspot domain and then when they become successful or gain attention they automatically run to wordpress or some other solution. Blogger is awesome! With the right template and a little playing around with HTML and CSS you can make a completely unique look while not spending all of that extra money. Many people have made it big using their blogspot blogs only to ditch them and spend tons of money on something "better." If you just want a blog and do not have the need for an entire website stick with blogger. It is easy to use, free and gets the job done.