Category Archives: Advice

Creative Chronicles: Show Up and Do the Work

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Show Up and Do the Work

There are classes and courses that promise all sorts of things that will get you ahead but there is no shortcut for simply showing up and doing the work.

Over the weekend, I met a graphic designer named Calypso (best name ever!) for coffee. As we sipped our lattes, the conversation turned to careers.

“How did you get your start?” she said.

“I interned and that led to my first job” was my first response but that was too nice and neat. There’s always a story behind the story and it’s usually full of hard work and years of sacrifice.

The truth is, new skills can be learned by nearly anyone. There’s always going to be someone more skilled than you. So…how do you get ahead in your industry?

1. Arrive on time.

2. Show up and do the work.

3. Be a decent person.

4. Make the lives of the people around you easier.

5. Get the work done, even if you’re having a bad day.

6. Stay late if needed and don’t complain about it.

7. Have a sense of humor.

8. If your job is done, help someone else out.

9. Clean up after yourself.

10. Act like you want to be there.

Rinse and repeat.

I know this all sounds like common sense but it’s easy to forget these little things when you’re in the thick of it and stressed out with looming deadlines. I clearly remember that I was never “the best” at any of the jobs I worked at. Most of the designers around me had a lot more experience. The reason I was still able to get ahead was the exact list above.

I learned something early on: showing up and doing the work and being gracious while making the lives around you easier will take you further than any advanced degree in your industry (which I didn’t have).

The next time you see someone who you internalize as being more talented and skilled than you, remind yourself that’s not all that matters. That’s only part of the equation. Being the best possible version of yourself and showing up and doing the work is the other half. And once you realize that…things seem much easier.

This quote from Chuck Close drives the point home perfectly:

“In life you can be dealt a winning hand of cards and you can find a way to lose, and you can be dealt a losing hand and find a way to win. True in art and true in life: you pretty much make your own destiny. If you are by nature an optimistic person, which I am, that puts you in a better position to be lucky in life.”

Showing up and doing the work isn’t easy but if you’re driven and treat people with kindness along the way, there are so many doors waiting to open for you.

Creative Chronicles: Being Different Is Good

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Being Different Is Good

I have a simple message for you today: being different is good. Read on to see how it can actually be your biggest asset.

“A” wrote:

I’m a web developer and graphic designer living in a small town and I’m having a hard time creating much buzz here.

I have some long term clients that usually come by referral from people I know, but as the black sheep of my family, I have been unable to get an “in” with local business or make many connections in my area. I just don’t connect with the scene.

After 8 years on this path, I’m wondering if it is worth it because I feel like I don’t have much of an audience for my work, though my actual clients (all remote) love me.

I love art, design and fashion. My personal style is more edgy/creative than what I show on my site because I have worked with mostly older, less style-brave clients until now. I want to change that but I’m not sure where to begin.


My Advice:

First off, I feel you. I think we can all remember a time in our lives when we didn’t fit in. I find it fascinating when I read interviews from famous people I admire because for the most part, they didn’t fit in, either. I know it can seem difficult in the moment but trust me, it builds character and empathy.

The sooner you own exactly who you are and play up your interests, the sooner your like-minded tribe can find you. “Just be yourself” sounds cliche but it’s the best gift you can give to yourself. I distinctly remember the stigma of being a goth in high school. The payoff was worth it, though because I was able to discover a whole new social circle that was just as weird as I was. Being yourself and knowing that there’s no pressure to impress anyone else in an effort to be cool is so freeing.

I know it can get lonely if you’re different but remember, there’s a whole world outside of your small town. If you can’t move due to various circumstances, make the best of it. I was born and raised in Portland and even though I love living here, I don’t really fit in. I’m not into anything remotely rustic, I hate hiking, don’t drink beer and all black is my uniform of choice. My design aesthetic also doesn’t fit the local mold and because of that, I have very few local clients.

Instead, I choose to focus on a worldwide audience. Most of my clients at Branch are based in New York, Los Angeles and London. It’s worked out well being “different” because I’ve gained an entirely new audience and group of clients I click with in the process.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Being Different Is Good

Rapid-fire advice to use being different to your advantage

1. Embrace your personal style fully. If knee-high black boots, eccentric jewelry and purple lipstick are your thing, rock it. If you already feel like you don’t fit in, you really have nothing to lose. I remember my neighbor’s bewildered looks at my goth get-ups and it still cracks me up. Have a good time being you — maybe your small town needs a shake-up!

2. Reach out to clients who embody your ideal design aesthetic. If you don’t have a lot of work examples to show them, you may have to work for discounted rates or trade in the beginning but just a handful of the right kinds of projects can transform your portfolio and in turn, your business. Years ago, I halved my rates for a lipstick brand but showing that one project in my portfolio has brought me in a half dozen more beauty-related projects.

3. Build a new portfolio site. Whether it’s a custom WordPress site or a Squarespace template doesn’t matter. The sooner you can show people who you truly are and what you excel at, the sooner your business can thrive. Don’t worry about what the locals think — this is your vision. People around the world are looking for talented designers daily — I just got off a call with a client in London this morning who embodies my ideal principles and aesthetics. I wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for the internet.

4. Share your work often. If you have limited time, I’d recommend three platforms to share your design work: Instagram, Dribbble and Pinterest. Each post and pin is an opportunity to make friends, meet clients and practice crafting your aesthetic and voice. You are full of personality and you got this.

5. Get out of the house. I know your town is small but there may be a good friend lurking around that you haven’t discovered yet. Everything is more fun when you have a partner in crime and someone to bounce creative ideas off of. You never know where you’ll meet someone! I met my friend Sarah at a Steampunk convention and all it took was complementing her outfit to strike up a conversation. Most people feel like they’re out of place, too — you just have to make the first move.


“Honestly, if you don’t fit in then you’re probably doing the right thing.” ― Lights Poxleitner

Stepping out from behind a toned-down image you’ve created can be scary…but it’s the only way to be truly happy. When you’re happy and comfortable in your own skin, people will be naturally drawn to that. Doors will begin to open. And pretty soon, you’ve managed to step into the life you always wanted: a life that allows you to live authentically, make a good living and surround yourself with friends who like you for exactly who you are.

Good luck!

Photos: Made U Look and Afsoon Zizia.

Creative Chronicles: When Your Job Is Uninspiring, How Do You Stay Motivated?

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: When Your Job Is Uninspiring, How Do You Stay Motivated?

An email from a long-time reader just landed in my inbox and I think it’s something we can all relate to. What happens when you feel like your creative spark has dried up and you’re just going through the paces, trying to do your job but nothing feels inspiring?

Her Question

I graduated high school in 2010 and during those years I felt so inspired by every project and was given 100% creative freedom. When I enrolled in college, I learned more structured things about design, how I couldn’t just paste pretty pictures wherever and that it had to have meaning.

Now I’m into my first real job with a real paycheck in marketing. I’ve been here about a year and a half and somehow I feel like all my ambition I once had is gone. I’ve become so used to doing everything how the client wants that most times I no longer feel like a designer but a middle man clicking and dragging things in InDesign.

How can I get that passion back for design I used to have in a job where everything is based on templates or dictated? What are some things I could do outside of work to help? I no longer create much of anything and don’t even draw anymore. How do I overcome the fear of failure when I try to create and it isn’t as good as when I was practicing/using my skills weekly?


My Answer

Let me start off first by saying that this isn’t a permanent feeling. It’s not the end of the world. With a little effort, it can get better.

Secondly, we’ve all been there. Remember, what you see online is only part of someone’s story. Most designers only show the hyper-creative, stylized work they want more of because that’s what makes sense to build their business.

The truth is, most designers have other gigs, some on the side a few hours a week and some full-time that pay the bills. These other gigs allow them the wiggle room to take on the fun, creative jobs that are often lacking the big, juicy budgets while giving them the opportunity to build out their portfolio and attract more of the right kinds of clients.

Quite a few years ago, when the economy was dismal, I took a long-term freelance gig that was mostly production work for sports brands. I loved the people I worked with but the work I produced wasn’t exactly what I was passionate about. Still, I stayed for over a year because that steady paycheck allowed me the freedom to take on freelance jobs I was excited about on the nights and weekends.

Thanks to that job, I was able to set aside extra money to travel and stay inspired. I was able to splurge on beautiful letterpress business cards for my freelance business. I was able to design the branding for a makeup company that had a smaller budget. I was able to pay all my bills on time. So, while the job wasn’t the perfect position I’d dreamed about, it covered my basic needs so I had the luxury to explore the creative side of things on my own time.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: When Your Job Is Uninspiring, How Do You Stay Motivated?

A job is only as uninspiring as you let it be

Yes, you have to listen to your boss and the clients you’re responsible for but you can find ways to still have fun.

At my past jobs, I would often do a version of the design I was told to do but also include a second version of what I thought it could be.

You might not always have the time to do this on quick turns but when you do, flex your creative muscles.

Between projects, I would scroll through Pinterest and look at design and style blogs to get a creative jolt.

There’s a world of inspiration out there and it is also a great reminder that your current position is temporary if you want it to be.

When I felt really uninspired, I would walk to the nearest coffee shop.

A few minutes away from what’s dragging you down can provide much needed clarity.

On really bad days when I felt like I needed to quit immediately, I called my agent, Dan and he gave me pep talks.

Find that one person who can help you keep things in check. Your situation isn’t that bad.

No Job Is Perfect

I’ve gotten hired at places I thought were perfect from the outside and they weren’t. Branch isn’t perfect, either. It’s always easier to think the grass is greener on the other side.

Think of every job you have as a stepping stone. Each place you end up teaches you something new. The jobs you struggle the most at will also teach you the most.

The times where I felt uninspired, exhausted or was driven to the point of tears felt completely unbearable in the moment but I learned a lot about myself, what I was good at and where I fell short. Those moments taught me what I wanted more of in my career and what I should steer away from all costs.

The only way to learn these things is through life experience. It’s not fun…but it makes you stronger and it makes you a better designer.

Your Job Is Not Your Life

Outside of your job, do whatever it takes to get inspired and bring that energy with you to work.

Make friends with other creatives who are driven and motivated. Invite them to classes, events and parties.

Commit to creating a self-initiated project that will keep your skills fresh.

Make time to visit bookstores, museums and coffee shops.

Always carry a camera, even if it’s your iPhone. Pay attention to what you’re drawn to.

Remind yourself that creative slumps are normal. Nobody is “on” all the time.

Being a designer isn’t easy and you’re going to have plenty more ups and downs. But, I think the ups far outweigh anything and you’ve got this under control. Good luck!

Creative Chronicles: Pay It Forward

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Pay It Forward

Pay it forward is defined as responding to a person’s kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else.

There are points in our creative careers when we need a helping hand — someone who is willing to reach out and make a connection that gives us a chance to take a much needed leap.

When I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer in my mid 20s, it was a bit overwhelming. Learning the skills needed to find a job in the industry was hard enough but perhaps more challenging was the fact that I didn’t have a single connection to make it happen. A decade later, I’m happily running my own studio but it was a battle to get here. Luckily, a few kind souls along the way believed in me and gave me a chance.

So that’s the topic of today: paying it forward and being genuinely helpful without expecting anything in return.

I’ve been thinking about this topic because I get emails from fresh design graduates all the time wanting to meet for coffee or do portfolio reviews. Though I can’t say yes to everything and am often traveling, I always try to respond and make the time whenever possible.

A few weeks back, I met a wonderful girl named Rose and as we were reviewing her portfolio, I mentioned that it was really important for me to get out and meet with new graduates because it was my small way of giving back.

The reason for this is because if it wasn’t for the four people below believing in me, I don’t know where my career would have ended up.

Here’s the backstory: when I decided to go back to school for the third time at 25 (yes, it took me awhile to figure out I should be a designer AND that it was a viable career), I knew that I wanted to work at a studio or agency within 2 years…but knew no one.

I got to work on making that happen but with rent to pay and full-time hours at a shoe store, I never had time to go out and make many connections. The one time I did was to a party at Nemo Design. I walked in and thought, “I want to work here.” Little did I know that a few years later, it would be my first design job.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Pay It Forward

ENCOUNTER #1: CHRIS

Chris ran my design program at Mt. Hood Community College and as our first year of classes came to an end, I told Chris I wanted to have an internship during my second year. “Where at?,” she asked, without missing a beat. “My dream would be Nemo Design.” She fired off an email to a former student who worked there a minute later and that eventually opened the door to my first interview.

ENCOUNTER #2: PADDY

I spent the summer of 2007 sending emails and walked into Nemo a few months later for an informational interview, my cheap plastic portfolio with just a year’s worth of projects pieced together. All the designers and art directors were busy so Paddy met with me instead. We hit it off because she liked that I enjoyed blogging and working in a variety of design styles. Thanks to her kindness, I started my first ever internship a few weeks later.

ENCOUNTER #3: DAN

When the economy tanked, design work was hard to come by but a chance meeting with Dan changed everything. He became my biggest cheerleader, sharing my work with studios around town and eventually got me a gig at Nike. One placement at a studio was supposed to last 3 days and ended up stretching on for over a year, giving me much needed stability. To this day, Dan and I still grab lunch and keep in touch — I know I can trust him, no matter what happens in my career.

ENCOUNTER #4: JULIE

Cinco Design was somewhere I’d always dreamed of working but it felt completely out of reach. Their work is so smart, sleek and polished. A day before I was supposed to sign a contract with another studio, Julie emailed me out of the blue. We’d met during an interview at another company years before and she asked if I wanted to stop by. At the end of that meeting, I had a job offer. Soon after, I started working on their branding team. I only had the chance to stay for a year and a half (Blogcademy took off and traveling kept me on the road) but I’ll never forget everything I learned during that time with Julie as my Creative Director.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Pay It Forward

A lot happened in between each encounter but these 4 meetings stand out as being the catalyst that helped me build a career. We’ve all had moments where someone believed in us when things felt impossible and their acts of kindness helped us reach our goals. The great thing is, as we reach new levels, we can each do the same.

How can you pay it forward?

• The next time you have an overflow of client inquiries, recommend a friend who needs some extra work for the job.

• The next time you hear of an opening where you work, think of the people you know who may be looking for a new job.

• The next time someone asks you to introduce them to someone you know, take the time to make it happen, right then and there.

• The next time you spot an opportunity on Twitter, Instagram or a blog, forward it to to the first person who comes to mind.

Acts of kindness don’t have to be massively time consuming — setting aside 10 minutes can literally change someone’s life.

Pay it forward.


Photos: Made U Look

Creative Chronicles: 3 Sources for Choosing a Color Palette

Nubby Twiget | 3 Sources for Choosing a Color Palette

I saw the images by photographer Dominik Tarabanski featured in this post months ago and have been thinking about the color palettes ever since.

There’s something about the bold hues that draw me in — they’re soft and slightly unexpected yet thoroughly modern.

When I see a color combinations as unique as these, I often wonder how the creator behind it pulled it together.

What was their inspiration?

How did they know it would even work?

I’ve always struggled with color palettes — they just don’t come naturally to me. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you can see that outside of the client work I produce, my personal style veers towards a very minimalist palette of black and white.

When it comes to choosing unique palettes for branding projects (I often have 5 going in the studio at any given time), there are 3 tools I use to source the right mix of colors.

Nubby Twiget | 3 Sources for Choosing a Color Palette

1. Color Lovers

I’ve been using Colour Lovers to gather unique combinations for years because I love the ease of searching by keywords. Depending on what my client is drawn to, I’ll type in a variety of search terms just to see what comes up and screenshot my top picks to sample from. This process has a bit of market research thrown in, too since you can see which palettes have the highest number of “loves” and votes from the community.

Nubby Twiget | 3 Sources for Choosing a Color Palette

2. Adobe Kuler

Kuler isn’t just another site full of cool color palettes — its secret weapon is the camera icon in the top right. When you click on it, you can upload a photo that’s full of colors you love and it will pinpoint the key swatches for you. Creating your own original palettes has never been easier.

NUBBY_TWIGLET_CREATIVE_CHRONICLES_COLOR_PALETTES_4

3. Pinterest

When I’m doing image research for a client project, I usually start with Pinterest which is also super convenient for color palettes. Tons of folks keep inspiration boards dedicated to the subject and you can check out my color study board here. I’m always adding combos for future reference.

Between these three sources, I never feel stumped when it comes to building out a fresh color palette and I hope they help you do the same!

Your turn: Do you have any special techniques for pulling together color combinations?


Photos: Dominik Tarabanski for Thisispaper.

Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips For Getting Comfortable With Saying No

Nubby Twiglet: Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips For Getting Comfortable With Saying No

Saying no when it comes to your business seems easy enough, right?

“No” is only two letters…but it can evoke so many loaded responses.

I’ve never had a problem saying no to anything outside of work. If I don’t have the time, if something makes me uncomfortable or if I just need some space, “no” comes very easily. But for some reason, it’s always felt harder when running my own business. There’s a reputation to uphold. It never feels good disappointing people. It’s nice to be helpful. So even when I should say no, I sometimes say yes.

The thing is, your business will have a hard time growing into what you envision if you’re afraid to say no. I know that sounds counter-intuitive so let me explain: If your calendar is full of calls, meetings, projects and events you’re not excited about but agreed to do anyway, you’re going to be completely drained of energy before you even scratch the surface of all the things you feel passionate about.

Saying no is uncomfortable but it’s the only way to keep your sanity intact and more times than not, you can actually turn it into a positive for yourself and the person on the other side.


If you’re tripping up about saying no, remind yourself of these 5 points:

1. It’s not personal. Business is business. If you don’t feel you can truly deliver what someone is asking of you, saying no is going to help both of you in the long run. Hurt feelings are better than missed deadlines and broken contracts.

2. You have to protect your time. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. You have an infinite amount of energy, so use it wisely. It’s as simple as that.

3. You know what’s best for you. If something doesn’t feel like the perfect fit, recommend someone who you feel can do an amazing job — saying no can help others around you grow their businesses.

4. Your values are everything. When you say yes when you should say no, you’re compromising what your business stands for. Always choose quality over quantity so you have the space to produce the best possible outcome for your clients.

5. High pressure equals sub-par work. And honestly? Nobody wants that. If timelines and deliverables feel out of your reach, it’s important to be honest. Your clients will respect you for being a professional and setting guidelines.

Saying No Isn’t The End of The Road

Saying no doesn’t have to be abrupt or rude – it should always be done with care and consideration.

When you say no, always offer helpful solutions, referrals or recommendations. Being genuinely helpful will make you memorable for all the right reasons.


Your turn: Are you good at saying no when it comes to your business? Have you been in any tough situations? Do you have any tips to make it easier?

Creative Chronicles: Overcoming the Pull Between Creativity and Criticism

Nubby Twiglet | Overcoming Creative Criticism

Criticism and flat-out meanness stings…and we’ve all been on the receiving end of it.

This topic has been back on my mind a lot lately because I see negativity everywhere. Whether it’s a rude comment left on the video of a Youtuber or a nasty one-liner left on an Instagram post, I cringe because firstly, artistic expression of any kind boils down to personal taste. Secondly, I think about how much confidence it takes to release work for public consumption in the first place, which is so easy to forget.

Maybe all the senseless violence lately has me feeling extra sensitive (2 incidents just happened while I was in Florida last week) but the world needs more compassion and caring. We can each do our own part in spreading positivity and being supportive, no matter how small it may seem.

When I think of sharing, this quote from Taylor Swift comes to mind:

“We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”

The fear of judgement is real when you’re sharing. I speak from personal experience when I say that praise from people I don’t even know feels like the ultimate adrenaline rush but on the flip side, just one negative comment can tear it all back down.

I’ve written thousands of blog posts, shared tens of thousands of photos and released hundreds of projects and the only reason I mention this is because sometimes I think that over time, it should feel easier to put it all out there. But sometimes, I still feel like retreating.

Part of being human comes with vulnerability and a personal attachment to your work.

The one truth we can all agree on is that as creatives, whether you’re writing your first book, creating a logo for a client, filming a makeup tutorial or putting together a solo art show, it all comes from the same place: your heart.

Not sharing your work and expressing who you are in the short term is easier but in the long term, you’re only hurting yourself.

Nubby Twiglet | Overcoming Creative Criticism

If the fear of rejection is holding you back, always remember:

1. Not everyone will love what you do. It’s as simple as that. A body of work, no matter how brilliant, is never universally loved. Accepting this from the start makes putting yourself out there easier.

2. You are the only person who can produce creative work in your own, unique way. There is power in what you do…so own it fully. Trust yourself.

3. If your work elicits a reaction of any kind, that’s good. Art should do that. Attracting and repelling is necessary, even though it can be uncomfortable.

Sharing your work and who you are on some days feels harder than others. Sometimes I’ll sit on a blog post an extra week because I’m afraid to release the words. There are also times I’m scared that a client will hate everything I’ve just created. But after giving the content space, I always hit publish / share / send because buying into fear is never worth it.

Always remember, you are brilliant in your own unique way and any negativity coming your way usually isn’t even really about you. Remind yourself that you never really know what the person on the other side is going through.

Leave your mark. Keep sharing and keep shining bright. And most importantly, pay it forward and support those around you who are brave enough to put themselves out there.

Positivity drives more positivity and we definitely need more of that in this world right now.

I believe in you.


Photo: Made U Look.