Monthly Archives: July 2013

Community College: Is It the Right Choice For You?

Community College: Is It the Right Choice For You?

Over the last few months I’ve gotten many, many emails from potential design students inquiring about whether community college is the right fit for them. I’ve lightly touched on the subject before but I want to go into more detail today as to why community college was the best choice for me to continue my education.

I’m pretty passionate about community college because not only was my experience amazing but it got me to exactly where I needed to be in my career without compromising my budget, timeline or goals.


My path to community college

In 2005, after wrapping up a degree in Business Administration, I just wasn’t content. I knew it was because as much as I loved business, I felt a nagging void in my creativity. I’d always dreamed of being an artist but I didn’t think it was a practical path I could earn a living at right away so I’d chosen the so-called safe route. But by 2005, I’d discovered graphic design on a more serious level and I wanted in. Everything clicked: I liked type and layouts and grids a whole lot more than painting and sketching. I’d found my calling.

I did some research online and made appointments with potential colleges. Every time, I kept running into a wall, both with class schedules and cost. I lived on my own and needed to work full-time to support myself, yet the classes would often have huge gaps of time between them, scattered throughout the day. I wanted in but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work with my retail hours.

It all came crashing down when I made an appointment to meet the head of a graphic design program at a university and he scolded me for turning up early (?!). Then, after a glance at my transcripts, he pointed out that I was missing an art history class that was required. Since it was only offered once a year, I’d have to sit out completely. I begged for a workaround — could I still enter the program and then make up that class when it came around the following year? He wouldn’t budge and his tone was condescending. I was beside myself; why would I ever hand over a huge sum of money to someone who couldn’t even treat me with compassion and respect during a 15 minute meeting?

The more I thought about that meeting as I walked back to the bus stop, the more I wondered whether I even needed another four year degree. Both my boyfriend at the time and our roommate had earned their design degrees from community college and were extremely skilled. They both had full-time design jobs, even without fancy credentials. Maybe I could do that, too.

I then remembered that there was a limited entry graphic design program at the community college I’d spent my first few years at (I’d found out about it long after I’d graduated).

I looked up the number and called them up right there, on the spot. The head of the program, Chris Maier answered right away. I explained that I already had a 4 year degree. Did I need another to be a graphic designer? I also didn’t have a lot of time or money and needed a flexible schedule (no, I wasn’t asking for a miracle, but pretty close to it).

She explained that the class sizes were very small and program was comprised of back-to-back classes two to three days a week. If finding a job was my goal post-graduation, she assured me she could help. And later, I would find that it all held true. I was 25 by the time Fall 2006 rolled around and my goal was to be a full-time designer by 27. I’d had more time to research and I knew for sure that the program was exactly where I needed to be in order to make that happen.

Community College: Is It the Right Choice For You?

Things moved along quickly from there. With only two years to learn about design, the projects were fast-paced and everything had a purpose; there was no time for filler content. I loved every minute of it. And funny enough, the girls seated on each side of me were in a similar situation as I was: both had Bachelor’s degrees in completely different subjects and were back in our program for design. It felt good to know that I wasn’t the only one in class that had done a 180 to start over in a different field because even though many people around me had the best intentions, they definitely questioned my move.

By this time, my brother had gotten into the cool art school I’d always dreamed of going to. The jealousy I felt quickly subsided when I realized that my entire program cost half of just his first year. By my second semester, I landed a project designing album art for Virgin Records and that check was the same amount as my first year of school. I’d broken even.

Once I’d finished that first year, I walked up to my teacher on the last day of class and told her where my dream internship would be if I could choose from anywhere. She had a contact there, and the next day, we were in touch. It took me the entire summer to get in but by the time year two of my program rolled in, I had a paid internship at a design studio in Portland. A week after I graduated, I had my first full time design job. Within a year of that, I was doing freelance for Forever 21 and had designed a line of goggles through Smith Optics.

Having a two year degree for design never hindered me in any way. When I was asked about it in interviews, I would explain that I already had a four year degree in a different subject and I’d wanted to break into the industry as quickly as possible. It was as simple as that.

Instead of worrying about whether there was a prestigious institution stamped across my diploma, I put all of my time and effort into improving the quality of my portfolio and learning on the job.


Can you really learn everything in two years?

When you only have two years, of course you’re not going to learn everything there is to know about design. Design is a massive subject and even with six years of professional experience now, I still feel like I’m only scratching the surface.

When it comes to design, you end up learning so much on the job that any perceived gaps you have are filled in quickly. For instance, I didn’t know much about print production. But then, I did a freelance gig at a studio that ended up lasting for over a year. Nearly all their work was heavily production-based and though the learning curve was high, I eventually broke through. It just takes time.


In Closing

Community college won’t be for everyone. And if you have a big college fund set aside, by all means live it up! But for me, it was the perfect choice. I have absolutely no regrets and the education I gained in two short years got me to exactly where I needed to go. And remember, there are other paths you can take — once you’re done with the two-year degree and have all the basics out of the way, you can always transfer into a university or art school and continue on (many of my classmates did).

I had friends that went to art school and I sometimes used to wish that I could have had that experience, too. But to be completely honest, the only reason my design loans are paid off now is because I chose the community college route. I definitely didn’t want massive debt hanging over my head as I moved into the next chapter of my life.

When it comes to college, always weigh your options carefully, meet with multiple schools and understand what you’re signing up for. Community college is something that’s not talked about a whole lot as an option when it comes to graphic design so I just want to remind you that a quality education doesn’t have to be solely attached to a huge price tag.


I attended the MHCC Integrated Media program with a focus in Graphic Design.
Photos by Made U Look.

What I Wore: 7.29.13 | Newsprint!

What I Wore: Newsprint

Newsprint, big baubles and distressed white heels with lucite buckles? Just another typical Sunday outing! I have a crush on anything newsprint but finding clothing covered with it has always proven difficult.

What I Wore: Newsprint

This is one of my favorite outfits ever. Carrie Hammer sent me her Newspaper Skirt earlier this year and I need to remember to wear it more often. I love that the waistband of the skirt sits a little higher because, well, I accidentally shrunk that sweater I’m wearing and it’s obscenely short. Yet, I like it too much to give it up!

What I Wore: Newsprint

I Wore:

Newspaper Skirt, Carrie Hammer
Sweater, Sonia Rykiel for H&M
Necklace, H&M
Heels, Quelques Shoes De Plus


What I Wore: Newsprint

And, a few avant garde / newsprint inspired items I’m loving: 1. Carrie Hammer Newspaper Skirt, 2. Altru New York Times Shirt, 3. Maison Martin Margiela Lock Necklace, 4. Alexander Wang Agata Heels, 5. Diptyque Candle, and 6. 3.1 Phillip Lim Scout Bag.

Have a great Monday!

The Week in Pictures: 7.26.13

Week in Pictures

Week in Pictures

Week in Pictures

This week was very trying but there’s always bright spots if you look for them. Rocky always makes everything better. And, he is the most pampered dog in the entire universe. He loves organic chicken and organic cotton Pia Wallen cross blankets.

Week in Pictures

It feels good to be getting so close to finishing a project that’s been in the works for months — Rock n Roll Bride magazine. Editorial design is one of my biggest passions and even though it’s a lot of work (I do the art direction, design and production on these issues) it’s such a huge payoff to see it in print. Needless to say, I’m so proud of Kat for the effort she’s put into the content — we’re itching to show you the full thing!

Week in Pictures

During the week, a few packages arrived in the mail, even though I hadn’t been shopping. A confused grin spread across my face when I noticed a Kate Spade box on the doorstep. Huh?! When I tore it open, I was met with a glistening turquoise Palm Springs or Bust bracelet and a thank you note from Kat for (another) project we’d just wrapped. And then my client Susie surprised me with a box of chocolates from San Francisco. Really cheered me up — nothing can replace snail mail!

Week in Pictures

As the Austin and London Blogcademy dates creep closer, we’ve been putting together posters which we use to advertise with online and then put up at the events. These are always a nice little escape from client projects and a creative challenge to keep styles consistent while giving each city some iconic representation.

Week in Pictures

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’ll be hiding out getting Rock n Roll Bride ready for print and hanging with my two favorite boys, Joey and Rocky (always). It’s the simple things in life these days that mean the most to me: long walks, good dinners at home, surprises in the mail and texts from my mom.

Any plans you’re looking forward to?

Link Love: 7.25.13

link love

Link Love

• If you’re ready to take your DSLR off auto once and for all but need a refresher on the basics, this overview is super helpful.

• I love Braid Creative’s tips for manifesting money and dream clients.

• Looking for a way to pick up some basic Photoshop skills? Check out the PS I Love You e-course.

• Elsie and Emma talk about how they got their book deal.

• Made me laugh: medieval pet names.

• I’m always curious to read about other designers’ processes.

• Was all that time you spent watching Netflix worth it?

• Behold the best 404 pages on the internet.

• Design*Sponge covers the modern etiquette of navigating food allergies and dietary restrictions.

• It’s always interesting to scroll through Humans of New York. One question leads to so many great conversations.

• Anil Dash’s 10 rules of the internet.

• Where have all the good book covers gone?

• If I ever make it to upstate New York, Bear Mountain is on my must-see list.


Image: Fancy.
Check out even more Link Love columns here.

Mastering Business Basics with the Computer Arts Design Studio Handbook

Computer Arts Design Studio Handbook

Computer Arts has been killin’ it lately with their handbooks and the recently released Design Studio Handbook is no exception. Whether you’re a creative that’s always dreamed of running your own studio or you already are, this guide is for you.

This issue covers all the juicy business details that I’ve often found to be scarce in detail when searching online. Topics covered include what it takes to launch your own studio, managing money matters, how to be more efficient, how to win more work, the nitty gritty of dealing with clients, advice on building the perfect team, creating an awesome studio culture and more. Even better, a resources section is included in the back of the guide with links for startup advice, basic business information, the best design blogs, events and of course, books. Everything you need to acquire essential business savvy is at your fingertips. Pretty awesome.

In the first chapter about launching your own studio, that pesky document a lot of designers tend to skip over when launching their studios is right there, in a very simple breakdown: the business plan. With the design industry becoming increasingly competitive, this is a must-have. What I like most about their explanation of what to include is that all the jargon is cut out — which, if you’ve ever researched business plan how-to’s, is definitely the exception. Funding is also covered, as well as how to make your business legal.

Next up is money. Most of us creatives hate talking about it because it always feels a little dirty, like we’re admitting to not just doing a project for the sheer love of it. There’s no escaping it, though and the better informed you are, the better you’ll be able to manage your bottom line and heed off potential disasters. Setting rates is always a struggle — do you charge the same for a similar project scope but for very different clients? How do you build in pricing that takes into account your reputation and experience? This is all covered, including the basics of balancing the books (ugh)! Oh, and project management software options are also recommended.

As a studio, if you want to be profitable, efficiency is key. Time is money and the more efficient you can make your processes, the more time you’ll have to focus on the creative side of your business (which is what we all really want, right?) Understanding the basics of creating an automated workflow that functions in a similar manner for all of your clients is so important — the more informed they are, the easier it will be to manage their expectations and avoid disappointments.

Without new work, your studio will grow stagnant. But the process of how to win it can be a little fuzzy. This guide details how to spot opportunities and what to consider for your pitch. Pitching takes a lot of research, polish and confidence and it’s important to know what to include so you have the best shot of winning.

Computer Arts Design Studio Handbook

And without clients, your studio wouldn’t exist so it’s important to take care of them. After all, word of mouth is a powerful thing and happy clients create happy referrals. Managing expectations and giving them what they want (before they even know it) is key. The basics to building long-term relationships are covered and I especially agree with the tip to “become irreplaceable.” That, my friends, is key. But not all client relationships are meant to work out — understanding how to choose them wisely and recognizing red flags will take you far.

Finally, for a studio to grow, it takes a team. Understanding how to expand it in a healthy, flexible manner will keep you from becoming overextended both mentally and financially. With employees comes a whole set of laws so understanding what you’re responsible for before you get in over your head is also important. And, once you have a team in place, you need to take steps to keep it (thank god that’s covered as well)!

I adore these guides (remember, I covered the Design Student Handbook a few months back?) because the information is very straightforward and avoids fussy language that only accountants and lawyers can understand. I love that these issues are written by creatives for creatives. Computer Arts constantly knocks it out of the park — while beautifully designed, their publications are never just about the ‘pretty’ — I always feel like the business side of design is demystified and for that, I’m forever grateful.


Images: Computer Arts Design Studio Handbook.

Tools of the Trade #10: Spice Up Your Placeholder Text With Meet the Ipsums

Tools of the Trade

I’ve been tackling a number of web design projects lately and truth be told, using the Lipsum Generator to fill up my layouts was getting old. I wanted some personality splashed into my placeholder text!

Thankfully, a friend just introduced me to Meet the Ipsums, which is an aggregator that pulls together all the eccentric ipsums from across the internet in a beautiful, easy to navigate interface. Of course, there’s something for everyone — cupcake ipsum, cat ipsum and cheese ipsum just scratch the surface!

There’s nothing like injecting some fun into the mundane and Meet the Ipsums does just that.

What’s your favorite ipsum of bunch?


Images: Meet the Ipsums.
Check out more Tools of the Trade posts here
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What I Wore: 7.21.13 | Coming Up Roses

What I Wore: Coming Up Roses

Yesterday we spent the morning walking through the rose test gardens in Ladd’s Addition. This dress has been in constant rotation in my wardrobe over the last month (see here, here, and here) and especially while traveling since it’s wrinkle-free. There’s nothing worse than opening a suitcase to a jumbled pile of wrinkled dresses with no iron in sight!

What I Wore: Coming Up Roses

And have you checked out the shoe sale on Zara? They have a lot of nice, affordable sandals left. These got a bit damp as I ran through the rose gardens but hey, it was fun!

What I Wore: Coming Up Roses

I like that this dress has no zippers or buttons — no fuss! Just throw on and go. Ladd’s is only 10 minutes from my house but feels like a whole different world.

What I Wore: Coming Up Roses

I wore:

ASOS textured dress
Zara combination wedges
H&M tights
Gold Door woven bracelets


P.S. Jess Lively just interviewed me for her Design Your Business feature and I shared five key ways I run mine with intention. Check it out here!