Category Archives: Advice

Oh, The Embarrassment: A Little Reminder That We All Have To Start Somewhere

Nubby Twiglet | Oh, The Embarrassment: A Little Reminder That We All Have To Start Somewhere

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whenever I look back at my early design projects, I see promise…but for the most part, I feel embarrassed. Do you feel that way about your past work, too?

I actually think that a touch of embarrassment is a healthy reaction because it means that you’ve grown as a creative. Over time, your taste has evolved, your skills have improved and your sense of style has matured. You know that you’re capable of even better results.

Sometimes when I feel that embarrassment creeping up, I have to step back and remind myself that without posting those early design projects online, nobody would have known about my work. Even if I didn’t see the promise at the time, some people who came across those projects did. The people who saw enough promise hired me. When they hired me, it gave me the opportunity to build out my portfolio. With a growing portfolio, I was able to get my first agency jobs. Those jobs gave me the steady footing to take on bigger outside projects I loved which in turn built my portfolio even further. And eventually, all that work allowed me to launch my own boutique design studio. I now realize that it was a very slow domino effect over the course of seven years — each project I shared, no matter how embarrassing now, led to even more opportunities.

If you’re feeling uneasy about your work, always remember that it’s secretly the push you need to get over the next hurdle. If you’re always satisfied, there’s no reason to improve. You’ll settle for exactly where you are now because the urge to try new things that scare you isn’t there. Use that discomfort as motivation.

I still feel that discomfort all too often. I see portfolios of work that are much better than mine. I read blog posts that are brilliantly composed. I see photos every day that make mine look amateurish. And all of this leaves me wanting to improve.

We all have to start somewhere, even if that somewhere feels like a black hole some days. The only way to get out of that black hole is to practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect…but it will make you better. So the next time you feel that embarrassment creeping up, transform it into a positive outcome.


Photo: Made U Look.

The Secret To Reaching Goals: Keep Them Fun and Attainable

Nubby Twiglet | The Secret To Reaching Goals: Keep Them Fun and Attainable

All too often, I get sucked into the vortex of digital comparisons. Do you, too?

It starts out innocently enough — I’ll be scrolling through Instagram on the weekend and see one beautifully composed still life after another. You know the ones: that perfect golden light shining down over a beautifully prepared breakfast at the coolest cafe in town with a frothy latte peeking into the edge of the frame. Oh, and don’t forget the freshly done gel manicure casually resting on the table.

If you feel a touch of envy creeping up like I sometimes do, it’s a good idea to step back and analyze your feelings. When I stop and actually think about it, my feelings are not rooted in wanting to be there. My feelings are rooted in wanting to create images that look that beautiful. And from many years of experience, I know that it’s much harder than it looks.

Like most of you, I work full-time, splitting my hours between Branch and Blogcademy and there just isn’t a lot of leftover time to creatively experiment just for fun. The easy way out would be to make excuses — I’m too busy, I’m too too tired, I’m too whatever. But excuses will get you nowhere.

A better solution is to set small, attainable goals. I’m a big fan of goals that build up steadily but don’t take over your life. Who needs more stress and pressure?

With the goal set to improve my still life skills, I created a simple challenge for myself last year: on Fridays, I’d set aside 10 minutes or so and snap a photo of a new composition. To track my progress, I’d tag it with #stilllifefriday. Though I’ve taken a few weeks off here and there, the photos are starting to accumulate. It’s been nice having something simple yet fun to look forward to every Friday.

Whether you’re struggling to blog, Instagram, or *insert task here* more often, the key is to set manageable goals. That way, the finish line always feels within reach. Keep it fun and keep it light.

Nubby Twiglet | The Secret To Reaching Goals: Keep Them Fun and Attainable

Here are some suggestions:

• If reading more is on your list, join a book club to stay motivated! There’s a great one going on over at A Beautiful Mess and the selections change out monthly.

• If writing more is on your list, Morning Pages may just change your life. Really.

• If improving still lifes is on your list, join me every Friday by hashtagging your photos with #stilllifefriday on Instagram. I’d love to see your inspiring compositions!

• If learning new design skills is your focus, try out some Skillshare classes. It’s the easiest way to access the knowledge of creative experts.

• If stepping up your blogging game is on your list, Blogcademy Online launches January 29th and teaches you the keys to running a successful blog in a single weekend.


Your turn: what are you hoping to improve upon this year? How can you make it more attainable?

10 Tips To Get Your Work Noticed (and Land a Job!) at Design Studios and Ad Agencies

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Tips To Get Your Work Noticed (and Land a Job!) at Design Studios and Ad Agencies

As the year winds down and you have some free time to reflect, now is the perfect time to start thinking about what steps you can take to land your dream job.

The thing is, there’s nothing worse than putting in some serious effort when applying for a job only to receive the tired response of, “You’re not quite what we are looking for” or worse yet, no response at all. As creatives, we want our work to get noticed by the right people. I often receive emails from recent design graduates asking how they can land their first professional position but the competition for spots at design studios and ad agencies can be notoriously tough.

Today, I’m sharing 10 tips gathered from personal experience — over the course of seven years, I worked full-time and freelanced at a total of seven spots ranging in size from less than 10 employees to a few hundred. Each experience was slightly different but I used similar techniques to get into each.

10 Helpful Tips

1. Do your homework.

Before walking into an interview, take the time to research your employer. What is their visual style like? How do they communicate on their website? Is their copy buttoned-up or humorous? In a sea of creative studios, what do they stand for? Do they mostly work with corporate clients or small businesses? All of these pieces of information are cues for how you should present yourself and your work. Even if it means pulling an all-nighter, re-jig your presentation for a particular interview and study up. If it’s undeniable that you “get” their style (and sense of humor), you’ll be a shoe-in because they already know that you’re a good fit. I’d obsessed over Cinco’s work for years before I ever had an interview and because I knew their work well (and referenced it), I was able to get into one of Portland’s best agencies.

2. Design a resume that stands out.

When applying for a creative presentation at a studio, a standard Word document won’t make the cut. This is the perfect opportunity to show off your personality and turn a traditionally boring document on its head. In need of inspiration? Check out this roundup. Don’t go too crazy with the design, though — the bottom line is that legibility matters most. Before sending out your resumé, print it. Are the fonts you chose easy on the eyes? Does the hierarchy of information make sense?

3. Replace school projects with real world client work.

Start freelancing as early as possible to gain actual client work. Employers want to see what you can do outside of the very structured confines of school. Can you handle difficult clients, sometimes ridiculous timelines and still deliver beautiful work? Because honestly, this is what the world outside of school looks like. Client work conveys that you are a self-starter and took the initiative to create a well-rounded portfolio. Not every project is going to pay well in the beginning but think about it as an investment in your future. I did many $200.00 logos while I was in school but that work later helped me get into the door of my first few jobs.

4. Expand upon each project.

Even if you’re hired to just do a logo, take the time to do a full build-out on your own. During my first few years of freelancing, my clients had small budgets so I’d often take their logos and build them into a full suite of collateral free of charge to create a much stronger visual presentation. An example of this was Semiospectacle who only had a budget for a logo at the time.

5. Brush up on skills affordably.

If your skillset isn’t quite up to par with the job you’re applying for, study online affordably. If you need to dive deeper into the Creative Suite and learn every little tip and trick about a particular program, Lynda is fantastic. If you want to learn a particular skill like hand-lettering or logo design, Skillshare is great.

6. Take the time to mock up your work.

Don’t just show a logo and flat graphics on a portfolio page because they offer no context. Instead, take the time to show a more complete visual story. Search out appropriate templates to give your work some dimension and relevance. For instance, if you designed a logo for a coffee shop, show it on a mug, a sign and across a suite of collateral. It shows that you understand the art of presentation, which agencies in particular appreciate….because once you get in the door, you’ll be helping to build out a whole lot of pitches. You can play up the outcome with templates from Creative Market, Pixeden and Live Surface.

7. Develop self-initiated projects.

If you haven’t found the ideal mix of clients to build the portfolio of your dreams, that’s okay. Take the initiative and create a few self-initiated projects. Self-initiated simply means that you weren’t hired for a project but built it out for fun. As long as you’re clear about this in the description and not trying to mislead anyone, these types of projects can show off different styles and skills to potential employers. If you’re looking for ideas to create well-rounded, amazingly branded projects, Good Design Makes Me Happy is a great source for inspiration.

8. Polish up your web presence.

Remember, your interviewer can Google you in 5 seconds flat. Give them something good to look at! In your online portfolio, include more information about yourself, your accolades and an extended selection of projects if you have them. Before I launched my design studio, I used Cargo Collective as a platform but WordPress and Squarespace also work well.

9. Spell check, use proper grammar….and if all else fails, hire a copywriter.

Nothing is a bigger turn-off for a potential employer than opening a resume or portfolio and spotting one spelling error after another. It’s sloppy and conveys a lack of attention to detail. Whether you’re formatting your resume, the bio on your website or descriptions for your portfolio projects, always run spell check. In InDesign, go to Edit > Spelling > Check Spelling.

10. Always say thank you.

Manners go a long way. After an interview, send a simple thank you the next day. An email or a card are both perfectly fine. Studios are busy places and the fact that the interviewers blocked time out of their busy schedules to meet you means that you’re a definite contender. If you have impeccable taste and manners, they won’t be able to resist you!

I hope these tips help you land a position you love in the new year. Good luck!

Little Lessons #8: Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Nubby Twiglet | Little Lessons: Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

On Saturday, I received an invitation to somewhere I least expected: the rodeo. I’m a city person at heart and my personal style and taste in music can best be described as avant-garde…or just plain weird. It’s about as far away from country as you can get.

But, I was intrigued. There’s something fascinating about entering a completely different cultural realm and soaking it up. I love seeing how other people live, what types of hobbies they’re into and what their version of “normal” looks like. Do you, too?

It’s good to get out of your comfort zone as often as possible because it will leave you feeling inspired in ways that you least expect. I ended up having an absolute blast at the rodeo. I made friends with some very handsome livestock, hung out next to a very patriotic carousel and happily stepped in to snap photos of folks posing on saddles in the rodeo bar.

The rodeo was the last place on my mind when I woke up but by that night, I was thankful that I’d kept an open mind, said yes and let the rest unfold. When we become overly attached to our idealized way of living life, it becomes too easy to play it safe and miss out on experiences.

Lesson learned: Inspiration is lurking everywhere. Everywhere! When the potential for a great adventure comes your way, say yes, even if it’s off the beaten path.

Your turn: What unexpected adventure have you been on lately?

What’s Your Personal Mission Statement?

Nubby Twiglet | What’s Your Personal Mission Statement?

A mission statement is a company’s purpose for existing but I like the idea of individuals having them, too. Do you have one?

For the last year, my friend Joey has been working on a personal project where she takes a photo of a different person every day and then asks them a handful of questions. The excerpts go here and I’m always most intrigued by their personal mission statements. I feel like these few words can speak volumes about a person. Some are self improvement focused while others are focused on changing the world at large. Either way, they’re always inspiring and remind me that we each have goals, dreams and passions that hinge on changing ourselves and our surroundings for the better.

As I sat next to Joey a few weeks ago while she interviewed one of her subjects, I wondered aloud what my personal mission statement would be. It came to me pretty fast:

Work hard and play hard.

No matter what I’m doing, I give it my all. When I’m working, I’m focused on creating the best possible solution. I want to put work out into the world that that not only stands the test of time but makes my clients happy. The second I’m off the clock though, I want to play hard. I want to explore whichever city I’m in at that moment, snap photos with family and friends and hit a mix of the nicest restaurants and dive bars alike. I want to soak in as many experiences as possible.

What about you?

What’s your personal mission statement?
What does it say about you?
Do you feel that it keeps you on track and gives you direction?


Photo: Diane and Mike. Playing hard for me often requires confetti and jumping on beds. ;)

The Comparison Trap: Your Real Life Isn’t A Highlight Reel

Nubby Twiglet | The Comparison Trap

Whenever I’m around someone that mutters “Comparison is the thief of all joy,” I tend to roll my eyes. “I already know that and I’ve heard it a thousand times,” I think to myself. But then I realize how often I forget about it and fall back into the comparison trap.

When I look at people’s lives through their online filter, it feels like one big highlight reel. How can my real life possibly compare? I sometimes get caught up in the comparison game because as much as I love my life, it’s far from perfect. What about you?

When I really start tripping up, I have to remind myself to step back and remember that for the most part, people only share the best moments of their lives online. They’re showing the blockbuster movie trailer while leaving the mortifying moments and sad times on the cutting room floor.

I can’t really blame them. I do the same thing.

When I’m out on the road with The Blogcademy, chances are that I’m dressed up in something fun paired with a full face of makeup and perfectly straightened hair. Though I do have “work days” on the road, most of the time I’m exploring a new city, checking out the coolest shops and restaurants with two of my best friends.

The second I’m home though, I revert back to twelve hour days running Branch, Nubby Twiglet and The Blogcademy. I eat lunch at my desk and my only real break is flipping on Dr. Phil at 3 pm to keep myself entertained.

I wear the same unglam uniform every day when I’m home working — black Urban Outfitters skinny jeans, a black t-shirt from H&M and no makeup. Simple but effective. Sitting in the same place all day, there isn’t much to show so I resort to making a lot of still lifes to fill in the gaps on Instagram.

Nobody’s life is nonstop entertainment. And now that I think about it, I’ve never actually known anyone in real life who had a house that was “Pinterest perfect.”

Because it’s important to stay focused on what I’m doing in real life, I’ve developed some coping mechanisms to block out the noise:

1. Take the weekends and holidays off from social media.

Even if you have to use social media to promote your businesses (like I do), your weekends and holidays should be sacred. Over Memorial Day, Gala and I both knew that we’d have to stay home working and prescheduling blog posts while everyone else was having barbecues and camping so we made a pact to not check other people’s accounts. My productivity went through the roof because I was in the moment and not focused on what I was supposedly missing out on.

2. Accept that committing to big projects is so much more rewarding than tiny, fleeting moments.

It’s easy to look at social media and see people knocking out quick but photogenic DIY’s, rearranging their breakfasts at chic cafes and mostly sharing other people’s work.

It can feel like the cards are stacked against you, especially if you’re writing a book that’s going to take two years, working on a design project at an agency that takes six months (I’ve been there) or remodeling your house on your own (five years in, it feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface).

The point is, longer projects are meant to challenge you and downright suck a lot of the time. They’re the ones that really force you to grow and learn about yourself. In the end, you’ll be much better for it.

Those quick, fleeting projects? Sometimes they’re nothing more than a form of procrastination to keep you from digging into the meatier ones you’re scared to start.

3. Remind yourself that what you see others doing is never the full story.

I always tell our Blogcademy classes that they need to stop the comparison game because they don’t really know what’s going on behind other people’s photos or blog posts. It’s never as effortless and pristine as it looks, I can promise you that. You’re not seeing the epic fails, the hilarious antics of balancing on crates to get the perfect shot or the in-between takes of a “casually arranged” still life. You’re seeing the beautifully executed final shot. The outtakes? They’ll never make it to the internet to be judged.

Nubby Twiglet | The Comparison Trap

I actually think it’s more interesting to share the behind the scenes moments, the so-called “picture behind the picture.” When I was staying with Gala’s parents in New Zealand, I happened to be wearing a silk J. Crew shirt covered in oranges. Her parents happened to have a beautiful painting…covered in oranges. While my shot on the left showed me effortlessly posing in front of the painting, the truth was much more involved. I had to lay on the floor while Gala’s dad held up a black blanket to give us a neutral background. Gala leaned over me with her iPhone as I directed her on the angle I wanted.

Kat posted her “behind the scenes” shot right after mine and guess which one people responded to better? The one showing the full story.

Your turn: How do you keep yourself from falling into the comparison trap of the perfect lives you’re bombarded with online?


Image: Shell de Mar.

Stop Playing It Safe

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“You see, Siegfried and I are living a modern poem! A fairy tale…and we always want to tell the story of our lives, because it is very glamorous. It’s very eccentric, very colorful.” —Roy Horn

As soon as I got home from my trip to Chicago, a package was waiting in my mailbox. I hadn’t done any shopping while on the road so I was a bit puzzled. Ripping open the envelope, I was met with a softcover book emblazoned with a 90s-era portrait of Siegfried & Roy. It could only be from one person: Gala Darling. The week before, as we sat at the kitchen table in our Chicago rental, she read this interview aloud to me. I was transfixed.

All my life, I’ve been drawn to the eccentrics. Musicians, magicians, animal handlers, you name it. I’m intrigued by the people who aren’t afraid to go all out. There’s something inspiring watching those with a devil may care attitude ignore the status quo of what’s deemed normal to go on and live a life that others only dream of.

I’ve long admired personalities like Marilyn Manson, Michael Jackson, Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor and Boy George. I love people who embrace boldness in their opinions, their personal style and their outlook on life.

When you’re a bit outlandish, people will write you off as weird. Abnormal. Crazy. Kooky. They’ll snicker behind your back. But people like Siegfried & Roy? They got the last laugh as they became the most successful entertainment act in Las Vegas history.

It’s always easier to play it safe and to be normal…but normal is boring.

When I’m at a party and meet someone who’s an eccentric, I immediately gravitate towards them because I know that they’re going to have the best stories. They live full lives because they’re busy gallivanting around on far-flung adventures, not letting the fear of judgement get in their way. The experiences they’re having are much too interesting for them to stop and update their Facebok status with what they had for lunch.

Here’s to the eccentrics, the people that dare to dream a little bigger; that aren’t afraid of what’s around the corner but instead welcome it. We need more of them in the world. Next time, instead of playing it safe, ask yourself how you can go bigger and bolder. If you hold yourself back from who you really are and try to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one.