Category Archives: Design

10 Still Life and Flat Lay Tips

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Life and Flat Lay Tips

What’s one area you want to improve on this year? Mine is really simple and I talked about it last week: I want to get better at taking photos, especially still lifes and flat lays.

The premise behind it is simple: these compositions are a chance to tell a visual story. They’re an accessible way of sharing things I’m into while producing content for my blog and social accounts. Also, like many of you, I sit behind a computer all day so any chance I have to step away and get the creative juices flowing is an added bonus.

The thing is, my life is already packed with a lot of commitments and I am short on time for personal projects. But, instead of using that as an excuse, I started a project last year called Still Life Friday. Every Friday, I would set aside 15 minutes to share a new still life composition on Instagram, hashtagging it with #stilllifefriday.

Looking back, not every composition was amazing and I missed a week here and there. But overall, it accomplished the goal I had hoped for: to get better at working with what I already had around me, just for fun, without the pressure of client expectations.

What I’ve learned along the way is that when you keep goals bite-sized and focused, it’s more likely that you’ll follow through with them. There’s a reason why I set up Still Life Friday and not Still Life Daily: I wanted to give myself the highest possible chance for success.

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Life and Flat Lay Tips

Today, we’re going to focus on 10 tips you can use to step up your still life compositions:

1. Pinpoint Your Style

It’s always easier to create an amazing composition if you can focus in on what you’re naturally drawn to. What gets you excited? If you need some ideas, follow some new accounts. I personally like MaeMae & Co., ban.do, Charli Burrowes, flatlays and flatlayforever. I’ve been collecting screenshots of ideas and keep them in a folder for when I’m feeling uninspired.

2. Get Consistent with Lighting and Surfaces

I take most of my photos during the morning to afternoon in my office, when the light is the brightest and least shadowy. I never use a flash, instead choosing a natural light source next to a window. For surfaces, I use my white glossy desktop or black or white tagboard when I need a larger area. You can pick this up at art supply and dollar stores.

3. Tell a Story

It’s always better if your still life has a focal point to build off of. What do you really want to share? Are you reading a book or magazine that’s inspiring you? Maybe you can add in glasses, a journal and your favorite pen. Did you just buy a new shade of lipstick? Add in a mirror, your compact and a fashion editorial with a makeup look you love. Did you just buy a rad pair of shoes? Lay them out alongside your ideal outfit.

4. Include a Natural Element

Still lifes feel more alive when you follow this tip. I tend to add plants like succulents or fresh cut flowers to most of my compositions. Crystals, sand, stones and leaves also work.

5. Add Some Shine

A little bling catches the eye. I am really big on brass accents right now for a subtle shine. I often use a brass pen, vases, scissors or clips to add warmth to my cool toned compositions. Mirrors, glitter paper, shiny gemstones and jewelry also work.

6. Focus on Color and Texture

One of the easiest ways to give your compositions a consistent appearance is to use objects in the same colors and textures. I focus on mostly black and white with plenty of dashes of green on my personal account. For texture, I stick with marble and brass. These create an on-brand look.

7. Keep It Simple

Less objects can actually be more compelling. Always place your favorite object first and build around it. White space allows the objects to breathe. I think of this step like a gallery wall. If you walk into a gallery and the walls are painted a dark color and crammed with artwork placed too close together, it’s visually overwhelming. If you instead walk into a space with artwork placed with plenty of distance between each piece on clean, white walls, there’s a better chance of you being able to focus on the details.

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Life and Flat Lay Tips

8. Include Items You Love

I buy very little for my office space but what I do invest in has to be really special and work double duty. I have a wire inspiration board with copper clips I use to pin up new ideas that also doubles as a backdrop. I have a Moroccan pompom covered basket I use in a lot of Branch photos that also holds my extra chargers and cords. I have a collection of Chad Wys prints that cover my walls and often make their way into compositions. Surrounding yourself with items that you enjoy means that you’ll have more to pull from when putting together a photo.

9. Shoot In Bulk

If I create a composition I really like, I’ll shoot it, switch out a few key items, shoot again and get a few variations. These batched images are great to roll out when I’m having a slow content day or need something to stand in with a quote or story I want to share. They save time and since they were shot in the same lighting and style, they’ll be more consistent.

10. Set it Up

Have tools on-hand that can step in and give you the best results. Sometimes I use colorful washi tape to secure photos while also adding a pop of color. Sticky tack is great for holding round objects in place like pens and lipstick. Antibacterial wipes are perfect for quickly wiping down a surface so you can avoid bits of dirt and dust. Also, decide whether you’re going to use your phone or a camera — I personally use the Samsung NX500 for every photo I take because it’s higher quality. After I’ve taken a photo, I use the built-in wifi to email the photo to myself and edit with a combination of Color Story and VSCO.


I hope these tips help you take better still lifes and flat lays. Let me know if you have any questions or tips to add in the comments!

P.S. I try to post at least one new still life per week — if you’d like to follow along, my account is here.

Living It Up In San Francisco At The Haunted Mansion

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

I always say that there’s nothing like a brand new set of surroundings to make you feel inspired once again. This badass Victorian house in San Francisco took that sentiment to a whole new level.

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

I flew into the city by the bay last month to gear up for The Blogcademy and as my cab rolled up to the equivalent of a modern haunted mansion, I couldn’t quite believe that it was going to be my home away from home for the next few days. Coated from the rooftop all the way down to the front stoop in a pristine coat of black paint, this 1885 era beauty stood out in the best possible way. I felt as if The Munsters had matured, became very wealthy and settled in San Francisco.

While this glorious place isn’t for everyone, if you’re traveling in a group (it comfortably houses up to 4) and looking to splurge, it doesn’t get any better than this. Located in the heart of the Liberty-Hill Historic District, it’s next to loads of great coffee shops, restaurants, independent shops and bars. We barely had to leave the neighborhood the whole time we were there — and since parking is so difficult within the city limits, it was nice to have everything we needed nearby.

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

In my opinion, the real showstopper of the house is the dining room. With a row of matte black lights featuring gold-toned interiors, stacks of art books, a gallery wall full of fascinating art and faux taxidermy, we did plenty of entertaining and hanging out in here. It’s no surprise that this place was voted the “best of the Bay Area” by SF Magazine in July 2012, and featured in Dwell Magazine in April 2011.

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

The attention to detail that Supernatural put into this space gave me a lot of ideas for my own house — I loved that they weren’t afraid to get a little weird. Vintage glove molds, very busty salt and pepper shakers and more livened up the space.

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

The room we spent the majority of our time in was the bright and airy living room which had the best sound system around. The art and furniture combinations were all a little unexpected but worked perfectly in the space — I especially loved the foot stool which resembled a jumbo ball of yarn.

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

I stayed in the back office / guest room which had the most amazing book collection lining the walls. It was located right off the super modern, pure white kitchen and faced a decent-sized back yard complete with a fire pit. No shortcuts around this pad! Having a legit backyard in the city is such a luxury.

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

The Lolita poster in the master bedroom was perfectly on cue. Not shown: A marble bathroom complete with a jacuzzi and walk-in closet. Yes, this house literally had everything that dreams are made of.

Nubby Twiglet | The Modern Haunted Mansion in San Francisco

If you’re looking for something special for a honeymoon, anniversary or want to explore the city in style and not be confined to a hotel room, you’ll fall in love with the perfect mix of old grandeur and new technology tucked inside this grown up goth masterpiece.


All photos: Shauna Haider.
Featured place: Exquisitely Modern and Victorian in San Francisco.

Designer Wish List #4: Stylish Gadgets and Tech Gear

2013_wishlist_4

All creatives need some solid gadgets and tech accessories in their arsenal but it’s always an added bonus when they’re well-designed. I’m especially loving the old school stylings of the Fuji Instax and the Lomo smartphone film scanner! How about you?


1. Fuji Instax Mini 90 Classic Camera, 2. Megaphone iPhone Amplifier, 3. Nooka Mirror Watch, 4. FRENDS Taylor Headphones, 5. Crosley Floral Record Player, 6. Block Dock, 7. AirPort Time Capsule, 8. Venus of Cupertino, 9. Pentax Q7 Camera, 10. Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner, 11. Dracula iPhone Dock and 12. Rock Out USB Key.

Designer Wish List #2: Creative Minimalist

Nubby Twiglet | Designer Wish List

This wish list is dedicated to that design minimalist in your life that’s obsessed with black, white and of course, great typography. But let’s be totally honest here — this is basically my dream shopping list so it wasn’t very difficult to gather up 18 swoon-worthy items!


1. Braun Alarm Clock, 2. Ghost Chair, 3. Imogene + Willie Candle, 4. Stedig 2014 Calendar, 5. Glass Dome, 6. Pantone iPhone 5 Case, 7. Eames House Bird, 8. Pattern Society Rug, 9. Sebastian Bergne Ring Calendar, 10. Ivory + Mason Glasses, 11. George Nelson Asterisk Clock, 12. House Industries for Heath Ceramics Numbers, 13. BKR Heart Water Bottle, 14. House Industries Flour Sack Towel, 15. Crushed Bowl, 16. Vitra Toolbox, 17. Hay Tower Block and 18. Binchotan Toothbrushes.

Designer Wish List #1: Style Savvy With A Pop Of Color

2013_holiday_wishlist_1

Creatives can be a hard bunch to shop for. Notoriously picky and detail-oriented, they are a difficult group to please! Over the next two weeks, I’ve put together a series of four gift guides that will hopefully alleviate some of your shopping stress. First up: a collection of twelve items that are perfect for that friend who is style-savvy, strives to keep an orderly desk and welcomes a pop of color.


1. Kaleido Trays, 2. Eames Side Chair, 3. Graphic Notebook, 4. Le Mouton Noir & Co. Mug, 5. Nesting Boxes, 6. Echo Flash Drives, 7. Silk Pantone Pillow, 8. Uten.Silo Small, 9. Cosmos 4-Port Travel Charger, 10. Pantone Espresso Maker, 11. Nelson Ball Clock and 12. CMYK Necklace.

Cyber Monday Sales: Design Edition!

Nubby Twiglet | Cyber Monday

I’m a little late posting today but hopefully you can still make the deadlines for some of these amazing design-related sales! So much good stuff at deep discounts:

• In need of business cards, stickers or postcards? Moo is offering 25% off their printed products including the awesome Luxe line!

• Fab is offering 30% off site wide and is the perfect one-stop-shop for those art and design lovers in your life.

• Spruce up your desk with new supplies from Poppin. Use the code CYBER30 to save 30% off any orders of 60 dollars or more.

• Overnight Prints is running their biggest sale of the year. Get in that order of promotional postcards quick!

• You Work For Them has hundreds of fonts on sale!

• Theme Trust is offering 30% off all of their WordPress themes. Just enter the code CYBER at checkout.

5 Tips To Jump-Start Your Post-College Design Career

5 Tips To Jump-Start Your Post-College Design Career

‘Tis the season for graduation! But beneath all the anticipation and excitement, I have been receiving a number of nervous emails from freshly minted design grads looking for ways to carve out their post-college careers. Most of us have been in that boat as well and I know how stressful it can be so I’ve compiled some tips to help make the transition smoother.


1. If full-time work is your goal but you don’t have a job lined up, try placement agencies.

I’ve worked with both Aquent and 24 Seven in the past and have had fantastic results with both. Placement agencies are great for a number of reasons. If you’ve never been to one, here’s what happens: first, you’re interviewed by an agent and they review your portfolio in-depth to determine your skill set. From there, it’s their goal to place you in jobs that they feel are the best possible fit. They have a good reason for wanting to keep both you and your employer happy: for each hour you work, they earn a commission.

Through placements, I was able to get into a number of boutique design studios and even Nike. The experience I gained was incredibly valuable and by moving around, from the tip of corporate America all the way down to 10 person studios, I learned a lot about how the design industry functions in a really short period of time. By trying on different hats, you become much more adaptable to varying management and design styles and I would argue, more valuable as a designer.

With placement agencies, since the work isn’t consistent (unless you get offered a contract), you tend to get paid substantially more than you would at a full-time position. I had times where I would get booked for two days but I can tell you that if you’re a good fit, they will find a way to make room for you. One particular short-term gig I had turned into an entire year! And if the company loves you, there’s a chance that they will offer you full-time employment.

Placement agencies are a great way to test the waters, especially if you’re still finding your way and settling into a niche. You’re able try out a variety of places and determine what works best for you (Agency or in-house? Digital or print? Design or production?) And if things don’t work out, that’s okay, too. Your agent can help you with parting ways gracefully and it’s a lot less painful than quitting a full-time job.


2. Before you reach out, whip that portfolio into shape!

When I graduated in 2008, print portfolios were absolutely mandatory. I know that since then, a lot of job seekers have switched over to digital portfolios exclusively to showcase their work. While I do use my iPad for supplementary work, I still have a print version. Maybe I’m old school but I know that a lot of the people I meet with are older than I am and appreciate the time and energy it takes to put together a print portfolio. I limit mine to 10 to 12 projects max and then share a larger variety on my iPad if they request more samples. If you’re curious, here’s a peek inside the last print portfolio I did.

While my print portfolio is very tightly edited, my digital portfolio is much more broad. I love Cargo for its ease of use and very reasonable fees. The pre-made templates are fantastic and with a little CSS magic, you can refine them further. I’m working on a full website to house my projects (more on that later!) but in the meantime, Cargo has treated me well over the last two years. Also, Squarespace has some beautiful template options, too.


3. Nail the interview basics.

We’ve all heard tips for nailing a great interview from friends, family and industry professionals enough times to feel like they’re one big cliché. Show up on time! Dress the part! Act enthusiastic! We know, we know! UGH!

But seriously, all of these small things combine to make an unforgettable impact. I’ve been on dozens of interviews and can vouch that most run incredibly smoothly — most creative staff were once in your position and remember that nervous, uncertain feeling well. As long as you move through your portfolio quickly, they are usually incredibly accommodating.

But, there’s always those curveballs when we least expect them and that’s where practicing these tips comes into play so you can remain graceful under fire! There was one interview that I’ll never forget: it was so intense that I felt like I’d been transported to the O.J. trial. I kept thinking, “I’m being interviewed for a job so why does it feel like an interrogation?!” Even so, I made it through, smiled, shook the interviewer’s hand and thanked him for his time. And then quickly left. Always keep your cool! My 11 tips for acing your next design interview can help you get started.


4. Knowledge Is Power.

I’m always reading books about my field in an effort to stay current with design trends, strategy and business. My top three picks for highly valuable insight on breaking into the industry are:

A. How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy

I found this book to be hugely beneficial when I was first starting out — it’s simple, relatable and immediately applicable. And that’s exactly what I needed.

B. Work for Money, Design for Love by David Airey

I love the smooth flow of this book, from beginning to end. It’s so rare that hugely successful designers open up and share the inner workings of their businesses along with detailed insights of their processes.

C. Design Student Handbook by Computer Arts

Looking for a guide that covers all the nitty gritty of prepping a killer portfolio and breaking into the design industry? The Design Student Handbook is for you. I wish there was something like this on the market back when I graduated!


5. Blog about your projects. Always.

When I was first starting out, I used my blog to share all of my new client work. The good, the bad and the ugly made its way up for the world to see and each project I shared brought in new prospects.

Getting comfortable with sharing my work was hugely beneficial in getting my foot in the door at a number of design jobs because I’d already developed my voice and style very publicly. It can be scary putting your work out there but it’s something you have to get accustomed to because you never know who’s reading it. A good example: In 2009, I was three days into a Nike contract when I got called into my department manager’s office. I thought I’d done something terribly wrong and was getting fired! Instead, he said he’d recognized me from my blog and wanted to know if I’d be interested in permanent positions.

If steady work doesn’t pop up right away post-graduation, your blog can be a great way to drum up freelance work. And who knows, you might be so successful at it that a full-time job becomes a fading memory. Oh, and don’t forget to share those in-progress snippets on dribble and your glowing final outcomes on Behance.


Graduates, I know it’s not easy but view each opportunity (no matter how small) as a learning experience and with time, your path will unfold. Good luck on your new, exciting journey!