Category Archives: Graphic Design

Project Spotlight: Miracle Worker

We Are Branch | Miracle Worker

Miracle Worker is an online course designed to help you find your next meaningful career opportunity and earlier this year, Branch had the honors of designing the branding, workbooks and social media assets.

I have a major obsession with gradients and I know it’s one of those love / hate things in the design world but I can’t get enough! The gradient solution worked especially well here because there are two distinct personalities behind Miracle Worker: Gala, the queen of fuchsia and Ellen, the queen of orange. Blending their two key brand colors made sure both of their personalities were represented.

We Are Branch | Miracle Worker

To learn more about Miracle Worker (and what that icon means!) please click through to the full post on Branch.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my design work — I always love hearing your feedback!

2010 Till Forevs: The Letterpress Invites

Nubby Twiglet | 2010 Till Forevs: The Letterpress Invites

In late 2009, I sent Joey a message on Facebook. Though I’d known him for years through some friends of friends, I hadn’t realized that he made really cool art. I loved making art, too and was curious to chat about his style and process.

One quick drink that fateful night turned into five dates over the next month. He moved into my place 4 months later and within 9 months of that meeting, we were married. Things moved quickly by anyone’s standards but I wasn’t worried — I’d learned to trust my intuition and have always lived by the premise that when things feel right in life, you’ve just gotta go for it.

I’ve never been known to be traditional and I wasn’t about to start with our wedding. We had basically no budget and the thought of running up debt for our special day just didn’t feel like a smart start to our life together. Instead, we flew to Vegas in September of 2010 with my BFF Bianca in tow and headed downtown for a quick ceremony in a chapel next to a pawn shop. It was short, sweet and full of lots of laughs. We did things our way and I don’t regret it at all.

Nubby Twiglet | 2010 Till Forevs: The Letterpress Invites

A few years after we were married, I was walking through Nordstrom when I spotted a dress on the mannequin with a bold, chartreuse stripe cutting through the middle. It was perfect for a trip I was taking to Palm Springs the next day to shoot promotional photos with Made U Look. I bought it on the spot.

Nubby Twiglet | 2010 Till Forevs: The Letterpress Invites

Nubby Twiglet | 2010 Till Forevs: The Letterpress Invites

Little did I know at the time that a single dress would end up inspiring our 5th anniversary party invites. Joey and I never had a celebration for our families and skipped taking a honeymoon. We passed on a lot of the more common wedding basics and I love a good excuse to throw a party so 5 years in, we are hosting a backyard gathering in September and inviting all our loved ones.

Nubby Twiglet | 2010 Till Forevs: The Letterpress Invites

And, it just happens that I’m really good friends with a letterpress shop in town, Darling Press. Our upcoming party felt like the perfect opportunity to embrace some special touches and design a letterpress piece my family could keep forever. Last week, I brought in my dress and we color matched the chartreuse stripe to the edges for a perfect match.

After our backyard party with our families, Joey and I are flying to Palm Springs to relax and commemorate our 5 years of marriage and it’s the perfect opportunity to bring that aforementioned dress along to once again shoot with Made U Look. This time, I’m even going to have a legit bouquet! 😉

Nubby Twiglet | 2010 Till Forevs: The Letterpress Invites

Nubby Twiglet | 2010 Till Forevs: The Letterpress Invites

It’s funny how everything works out. I’m glad we went with what we had at the time. Having a limited budget and little time never impacted how we felt about our day or each other. Without all the flash and distractions, it allowed us to focus on what mattered most: our relationship.

Five years in, this all feels right.

Whatever your plans are, always make sure that outside pressures don’t get in the way. Do things exactly the way you want — it’s your special day, after all.

Nubby Twiglet | 2010 Till Forevs: The Letterpress Invites

2010 Till Forevs will be continued later this year with photos from our backyard celebration and also, our shoot in Palm Springs. Thanks for reading!


Palm Springs Photos: Made U Look.
Letterpress: Darling Press.

Project Spotlight: My Non Leather Life

Nubby Twiglet | Branch: My Non Leather Life

My Non Leather Life is a vegan lifestyle brand that Branch recently worked with on rebranding, print collateral and a blog design.

What made this brand particularly unique is that it had two separate interests content-wise. This led to two distinct outcomes — for lifestyle and fashion-focused content, branding featuring moon cycles is used while vegan / fruitarian health focused content features fruits and veggies.

It’s been fun moving deeper into the food and lifestyle categories this year and there are many more projects in this realm to come. Feel free to check out the rest of the branding outcome here and thanks as always for your support!

You Have to Dream Before Your Dreams Can Come True

Nubby Twiglet | You Have to Dream Before Your Dreams Can Come True

This week has been very full-on as my studio wraps up the newest issue of Rock n Roll Bride Magazine. The whole thing was redesigned from scratch over the last two months and even though it’s the largest scale project I’ve ever personally taken on, it’s also been one of the most rewarding. Editorial design for me doesn’t really feel like work in the same way other genres do and that’s partly because it’s like an old, dusty dream finally coming to life.

When I was a teenager, I read Vogue and Bazaar as I sat in history class (and that’s exactly why I know most fashion designers on a first name basis while my history knowledge completely sucks). My dream was to work at one of the big, glossy magazines in New York but I don’t think I’d quite figured out what job I’d actually have there because my discovery of graphic design as a career was a ways off.

Even with blogging and agency life over the next decade, the thought of working at a magazine never really left. At my jobs, I always took on the lifestyle campaigns and anything with print was my jam. Life was good but the thing with dreams is that they never really go away. Sometimes, they just manifest instead in unexpected ways.

When I first started working with a British wedding blogger named Kat in 2010, it was first on a logo project and then a blog revamp. A few years in, she mentioned needing a brochure to hand out at a wedding fair and even though I knew I’d be taking on a lot more work for the same pay, I volunteered to turn that brochure into a 40 page magazine. That magazine turned into a print run of 1,000 copies and within a few weeks, they were completely gone.

Nubby Twiglet | You Have to Dream Before Your Dreams Can Come True

That eventually led to an annual self-published magazine. And finally, here we are producing a 160 page magazine with distribution across the U.K. including newsstands and supermarkets. I never thought something I designed would end up on the rack sitting next to the big guys I’ve long admired. As we get ready to send the files off to the printer in a few days, the nervousness is kicking in as I roll through the spell checking and print production. This is real life.

If you have a dream, always keep an open mind and look out for opportunities to make it a reality, even if things unfold differently than you imagined. My dream of working at a magazine got put on hold for a decade while I worked a variety of other jobs and then, with Kat’s small project, I saw an in. I had no idea it would turn into something much larger and in a way, that was a godsend because there wasn’t the pressure of expectations.

Keep a flexible attitude with your dreams because sometimes, the reality turns out to be even better.

“You have to dream before your dreams can come true.” —A. P. J. Abdul Kalam


Images: Rock n Roll Bride Magazine, Issue 4.

The Evolution of Branch

Nubby Twiglet | The Evolution of Branch

Most of my time is spent dreaming up ways to make other people’s brands shine even brighter but over the last few months, I’ve been putting more effort into thinking about how I want Branch to evolve. In September, it will be two years since I quit all outside work and threw my energy into starting a boutique design studio of my own. It was a lifelong dream of mine and while it’s been the hardest work of my life, it’s also turned out to be the most rewarding.

Nubby Twiglet | The Evolution of Branch

Nubby Twiglet | The Evolution of Branch

Nubby Twiglet | The Evolution of Branch

Nubby Twiglet | The Evolution of Branch

Nubby Twiglet | The Evolution of Branch

I miss doing more off-the-cuff blog posts here so I wanted to share a few snippets of things I’ve been working on over in Branch-land.

For me, the most fun always comes from creating the visuals of a brand. Here’s a taste of how things are starting to shape up! The evolution isn’t a complete facelift from where the brand was (the wordmark is staying the same) but there are a few subtle nips here and tucks there with pattern, color, imagery and copy.

Nubby Twiglet | The Evolution of Branch

The new website and media kit are being developed right now and both will be out in the world sometime in August. More soon!


Photos: Afsoon Zizia, Made U Look, Janneke Storm and Shauna Haider.

My 15 Must-Have Items For Running A Graphic Design Studio

Nubby Twiglet | My 15 Must-Have Items For Running A Graphic Design Studio

I love what I do but without the right tools, it would be difficult to get my work done. Every day that I’m in my office, I reach for these tried and true items to keep my projects running smoothly. I’m always on the hunt for products and services that have the right mix of looks, value and functionality and these are what I’ve personally found to work best.

I hope this list saves you time on your search for the perfect mix of gear:

Nubby Twiglet | My 15 Must-Have Items For Running A Graphic Design Studio

1. Samsung Digital Camera:

I love this camera so much. After going through a total of six others over the last 15 years, this is hands-down the best one I’ve ever owned. While I loved my Sony, this is leaps and bounds above in picture quality, durability and looks. The best part is that it’s WIFI compatible so when you’re on the go, you can snap a photo, send it straight to your phone, edit and upload on the spot. The quality of this puts phone cameras to shame so for the last year, I’ve been exclusively using it to shoot photos for my Instagram stream, not to mention every single photo on my blog.

I could go on forever about this camera and its awesome features but the real proof is in how many people around me have the same exact model — Kat, Gala, Pam and even my mom swear by it!

2. Canon Scanner:

I used to have a big, clunky scanner until I was introduced to this model at one of my agency jobs. Besides being affordable, it’s super slim and the quality is fantastic. I’ve been using this for the last 5 years and it’s still going strong.

3. Samsung Color Laser Printer:

Years ago, I had an ink jet but once I started doing larger scale projects, the cartridges just got to be too expensive. I knew laser printers were the way to go but had always assumed that the color versions were out of my league. After some research, I came across this Samsung model and it can print hundreds of color copies on the same set of cartridges. Plus, it’s so small that it fits right next to my desk. The days of those massive copy machines in offices are over — the quality of this is on-par with them! While the printer comes boxed with a starter set of color cartridges to get you going, I’d recommend bundling it with the separate full set of cartridges as well so you never run out mid-project.

4. Aesop Body Balm:

When you’re designing for long stretches, it’s nice to have quality basics nearby. I picked up this Aesop lotion on a whim and love its non-greasy texture and super citrusy scent. I’m a minimalist at heart and it’s one of just a few things I constantly keep on my desk.

5. Pantone Coated and Uncoated Swatches:

I still send projects to print all the time and as you know, what you see on your monitor is not always accurate. It’s also nice to have these on hand so you can list the PMS swatch equivalents in a client’s brand guidelines. This is the set I have and it comes boxed with both the coated and uncoated books so you’ve got the basics covered.

6. Western Digital External Drive:

When I needed an external hard drive a few years back, I started my search on Amazon and kept coming across rave reviews for Western Digital drives. They’re solid, a great value and both Mac and PC compatible. I now have multiples and recommend them to all my friends and clients. I always keep two on hand to run backups — one is plugged into my computer at all times to run Time Machine and the other is a complete backup of my computer I do every few months and store in a separate, safe place.

As a sidenote, when I bought my first external hard drive, I threw it in my purse and was hard on it which led to the connecting cable going bad. Now, I’m much more careful and always carry it in a case. These cases are cheap, lightweight and fit the Western Digital drives perfectly.

7. Adobe Creative Cloud:

I renew my membership once a year and updates for the Adobe Suite download straight to my desktop. I use these products for a solid 10 hours a day and couldn’t do my job without them. If you’re curious about all the plan options, you can check them out here.

8. Apple 27” iMac:

My everyday workhorse, I’ve been on the same iMac for the last four years and it’s still going strong.

9. Dropbox:

When I finish a client’s suite of brand files, I send them a Dropbox download link to access them. It’s nice to have their assets stored in a place that they can grab as needed at any time. I have the Pro account and it’s more than paid for itself — I literally use it every day.

10. Fellowes Paper Shredder:

I’m super careful when it comes to printing out comps of my clients’ works in progress, dealing with junk mail and any other documents I don’t want end up in the wrong hands. This shredder takes care of business, handling up to six sheets at a time. Yes, there are cheaper shredders but they jam constantly and there’s nothing more annoying than that.

11. Kikki K Weekly Planner:

I’m super basic when it comes to tracking what needs to be done. There are a million apps and digital calendars out there but nothing has worked as well for me as good old fashioned pen and paper. I love these weekly planners because you can see exactly where you have gaps of time for meetings, projects and calls at a quick glance.

12. Spotify:

When I’m busy, I don’t have time to sift through a million new albums. I love the endless amount of playlists on here, especially those by Tim Schlesser, who does the Ace Hotel mixes. I turn one on and it lasts all day, allowing me to star the best of the best songs to revisit later.

13. Apple MacBook Air:

I used to have the regular MacBook but after a series of 10 flights in less than a month, I was left with an aching back and knew that the Air was a necessity. I travel with this 13” model everywhere and even though it’s super thin and lightweight, it’s solid. More importantly, the battery life lasts and lasts.

14. Wacom Tablet:

This medium size gives you room to sketch and explore and you can also pick up an optional mouse to use on the surface when you’re not drawing.

15. Poppin Ballpoint Pens:

I splurged when I moved into the new Branch studio last year and bought coordinating Poppin office supplies and not only are they fun but the quality is awesome. I reach for these ballpoint pens constantly.


Okay, now it’s your turn! What products and services do you swear by to keep your creative business running smoothly?

10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Biggest Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Big Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

Ten years ago, in 2005, I took on my first freelance project. Though the project was very small, it was a start.

I put aside my fear of not being good enough and just got going and as you know, getting started is sometimes the biggest hurdle. Once you believe in yourself enough to try something new, doors will slowly but surely begin to open.

In the time since, I’ve been fortunate to work at ad agencies on projects for Fortune 500 companies and now, I spend my days running a design studio, collaborating with dozens of small businesses to make their brand visions a reality. While that’s a short and sweet overview, the learning curve has been ridiculously steep. With the good comes the bad and with the career highs come plenty of lows. Having a creative career is a nonstop roller coaster and through it all, subjectivity plays a big part in what we do.

I’ve always felt that we can learn from one another’s experiences, both in an effort to improve ourselves and also to avoid the same pitfalls.

So without ado, these are 10 lessons I’ve learned during my first 10 years as a graphic designer:

1. Trust your gut.

That old adage trust your gut gets thrown around a lot. I used to get annoyed when I heard it, partly because I didn’t fully understand what it meant. Later on, I found myself in plenty of positions when I just knew. That general uneasiness? That feeling of being pushed into a corner? That knot in your stomach that just won’t go away? Simply put, your body is telling you to trust your gut.

It doesn’t matter how badly you want to work with a company, it’s important to pay attention to the signs. If they have issues communicating during basic email introductions, balk at your contract, flake out on calls or contact you only to disappear for weeks on end, it never ends well.

An email recently popped into my inbox from a massive toy manufacturer whose products line the shelves of every big box store in the U.S. After some quick back and forth, the contact blew off our call, then rescheduled and missed a second one on the same day. They then promptly disappeared, only to pop up two weeks later with an unplanned phone call, asking if we could push aside my studio process to start the project right away. The warning bells went off and after I politely declined, they promptly hung up on me. Crisis averted!

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Big Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

2. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Start where you are, right now. No excuses. With consistency and drive, you can build an amazing company, brick by brick. The reality is that when you’re starting out, you probably won’t have a fat bank account to keep you afloat for months on end while you design a custom website with finely tuned copy, create letterpress business cards and decorate a big, modern, all-white office. And, that’s okay. Don’t let a lack of anything hold you up, ever.

I started experimenting with graphic design from my childhood bedroom and when I couldn’t afford art school, I enrolled in a community college program. My business really took off in the spare bedroom of a house I bought with my brother and it wasn’t until I’d been freelancing for nine years that I finally signed the lease on a dedicated studio space.

Even though my first real portfolio was a basic template hosted on Cargo, that was good enough to bring in steady clients until it was time to take the leap to launching Branch. Oh, and that website has never been perfect because it was literally designed and developed in 10 days flat. Only now am I going back and refining my brand with a completely new site that’s launching later this summer. Wherever you’re at right now, good enough is good enough.

3. Being “the best” is a losing battle.

Instead, strive to be original. While it’s inspiring to look at the work of creatives you admire and use that as fuel to improve your craft, I’ve learned that being the best at what you do is completely subjective. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Not everyone is going to love what you do so trying to please a massive audience is a sure-fire road to mediocrity.

If you’re struggling to find the originality in what you do, start small. Before you share a piece of work, step back and ask yourself if there’s a final, unique touch you can add to the mix. Those small details are what make your work stand apart from the rest. If you’re having trouble finding your voice, start by writing more personal Instagram captions and tweets. Eventually, those snappy one-liners will grow into stories. Your voice and visual style are already in there but you have to flex your creative muscles every day to make them stronger.

4. Word of mouth is stronger than Google.

Some of the project inquiries I get are directly from Google or Pinterest but believe it or not, the majority these days are from good ol’ word of mouth. I recently did a spider diagram and was shocked at how many of my clients crossed over — most of them knew one another. Good, reliable help is harder to find than you might think so if you do a fantastic job for a handful of people, they’ll be more than happy to recommend you to their friends. Take good care of your core group of clients and in return, they’ll take good care of you.

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Big Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

5. Middle-of-the-road is career suicide.

I’ve always been an all-or-nothing type of person which can be intense and draining but it does have its benefits. Coasting along in a creative field just won’t cut it. Whether you have a full-time position or work for yourself, you have to be willing to hustle big time. Your ideal projects won’t just get handed to you out of thin air — competition is stiff and there’s some truly amazing talent out there. If your burning desire to create has softened, it may be time for a reboot. Read Damn Good Advice by George Lois (one of the original Mad Men) whose drive and chutzpah can inspire just about anyone.

6. Define your voice and style.

Focus on developing your personal style along with the way you package and sell your services. That packaging coupled with your unique voice is what’s really going to make you stand out from the 1,000 other choices your customer has at their fingertips. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re really no different from everyone else but the fastest way to climb out of that hole is to refine your voice and vision.

Not sure what your style is or where to start? Spend the weekend looking through the websites of your all-time favorite designers. Take screen shots and pin the best snippets of visuals and copy to a private Pinterest board. What is it about their style that feels cohesive? Do they gravitate towards hand-lettering, botanical prints, punchy colors, a lot of negative space or something else?

Even more importantly, subscribe to the blogs and Instagram accounts of the folks you admire. Now, comb though each and compare how they share their portfolios and their services. What feels the most natural and non-sleazy to you? I call this exercise market research — and remember, everything you need to know is out there!

7. Only share what you want more of.

The beauty of being online is that people only see what you choose to show them. This might sound deceiving but I assure you, it’s not. If you work a day job doing graphics for big box sports stores (I’ve been there!) but don’t want more of this type of work in the future, don’t show it. I used to show everything I worked on — the good, the bad and the questionable were all fair game. At the time, I needed the work and the work came flowing in by the bucketload. The only problem? It was a strange brew that I didn’t necessarily love.

Once I started Branch, I tightened my focus towards small businesses with an emphasis on fashion, beauty, food and do-gooders (those who are dedicated to making a difference in the world). All the stuff that equaled a good paycheck but left me unfulfilled got axed. By only sharing the projects I feel most passionate about, there’s been a huge domino effect of like-minded folks reaching out.

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Big Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

8. Bigger isn’t always better.

When I began freelancing, I knew I eventually wanted to run my own studio but beyond a few sets of helping hands, I never aspired to have a massive company. Why? Because I once worked at those big agencies and the people around me were never content. There was a feeling of more, more, more with no end in sight. More clients meant that there needed to be more employees to do the work. And naturally, more employees equaled more overhead. It was a never-ending cycle and I always felt a bit lost in the mix. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to grow your business — in fact, I encourage you to because you’ll never know if it’s a good fit if you don’t try. But, the key is to figure out what your goal for earning more money truly is. Not sure? Read Sian’s post.

9. Pitch, even if you’re scared shitless.

It doesn’t matter how popular someone is — they’re still a human sitting on the other side of the screen. Reach out and make a good pitch but always remember the golden rule of letting them know what the’ll get in return. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no and a no at least means that you stepped outside of your comfort zone and tried.

At the beginning of this year, I taped a list of goals to my wall. Six months later, two of the goals felt completely insurmountable on my own — I couldn’t seem to find the time or gather the resources so I regrouped and came up with another angle. I knew the ideas were too good to throw away so I gathered a list of creatives I could pitch my ideas to. Now, I’m working on two courses with businesswomen I admire and the ideas will be so much stronger thanks to their knowledge. If I’d never pitched, the ideas would still be there, gathering dust. Go forth and send at least one scary email today — it could change your life.

10. Stay humble.

Have you ever worked with someone who made everyone’s life around them a complete, living hell? Yes? It sucks, doesn’t it? Please don’t be that person. No matter how talented you are, nobody wants to deal with an asshole.

Kindness goes a long way and can shape a designer’s future. I still remember how unsure I was of myself during my first internship but through it all, the designers around me were so patient and helpful. We all have to start somewhere and it’s so much easier to grow into your full potential when you’re placed in a nurturing, nonjudgemental environment. Now that I have my own interns, I’m always thinking of new ways to show I care and checking in regularly to see if they have any questions. It’s cool to be kind.

There you go! 10 lessons in 10 years. The best learning happens on the job so here’s to 10 more! Thanks for reading!

Your turn: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your creative career?


Photos: Afsoon Zizia and Shauna Haider.