Category Archives: Graphic Design

Creative Chronicles: Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Q: I’m reaching out because I feel stuck in my career. When I graduated with a design degree, I was hired by a company that I’ve now been with for  7 years and I’m ready to move on. I have applied for Art Director positions at many companies with no luck so far. It seems like I’m getting a lot of no’s instead of a yes but I don’t believe in giving up so I’m wondering what else I can do. Maybe my portfolio needs a big improvement? I’m willing to do whatever it takes.


A. To this very day, the most common questions that land in my inbox relate to portfolios and landing a job. And trust me — I get it. As a designer, your portfolio is the link to your next big opportunity. Have you ever heard of that saying, “Show, don’t tell?” Well, a portfolio does exactly that. There’s only so much you can say about your accomplishments and the notable clients you’ve worked with. Showing your interviewer actual outcomes is the proof.

Though I’ve written a handful of portfolio-related articles in the past, today’s is a little different since the writer isn’t a freshly graduating student but someone with years of professional experience looking to transition out of her current role and into a new company.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Without ado, here are 10 pieces of advice to succeed when you’re prepping for an interview for a design position:

1. Show relevant work

This is a big one. Think about the company and the industry it is in. What types of projects do you have in your arsenal that would be a good fit? Once you’ve been working professionally for a few years, chances are that you’ve weeded out most of your school projects and have a mix of both corporate and smaller freelance projects to share. Remember that your interviewers have a limited amount of time and usually, there’s no need to share more than 6 to 10 projects. So, how can you make the most impact?

When I was looking for a full-time job a few years back before starting Branch, my previous position had been mostly production work but I was interviewing for a spot on a brand team. Because of this, I left most of the work from my previous employer out and showed mostly branding projects I’d personally completed with freelance clients since these were more relevant. If you do have a project you’re proud of and want to include but it’s not super relevant to the position, just make sure you have a really good story to go with it!

2. Self-initiated projects are fair game

I know how hard it can be getting the right types of projects you want during the first few years of your career. If you don’t feel that you have the ideal mix to share with a potential employer, that’s totally fair. I felt that way for a long time, too but the easiest way around that is to create a project or two for your ideal fantasy client.

This isn’t misleading as long as you’re clear that it’s self-initiated and if anything, it’s a strength to be able to show that you took the initiative to complete a large-scale project on your own time…and finished it! My brother interviewed at Nike years ago and though he didn’t have a lot of work that tied into the job he wanted at the time, he designed his own dream shoe and included it at the end of his portfolio. He got the job!

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

4. Keep descriptions short and sweet

For the most part, designers have a harder time writing than they do putting together visuals and oh boy, do I get stuck when describing my own projects and the outcome! The thing to remember is that you really don’t need more than 3 sentences max to get your point across. If you’re struggling big time with getting to the point and keeping your descriptions short and snappy, I’d recommend hiring a copywriter. It’s worth its weight in gold to have a second set of eyes that can tighten up your writing.

5. Do your homework

When I think back to the best interviews I ever had, yes, my portfolio mattered, but equally important was having a personal connection to the company through a story I could share. When I interviewed for my first-ever design job, I was familiar with the studio’s work and style because I’d attended many of their art openings and parties so it was easy to make them feel like I already fit in.

Be friendly, sign up to newsletters and follow your dream company on social media. The more integrated into their world you are before the interview, the easier it will be to make a great impression. My current employee, Samantha had been following this blog and knew about key Branch projects I’d shared on social media so when she interviewed with me last year, I felt like she was already familiar with our culture and shared common interests. I hired her by the end of our interview because she felt like the perfect fit — I could sense that her integration would be seamless.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

6. Conduct market research

This is one of my favorite pastimes! Some people would call this stalking (ha!) but hey, I look at it a little differently —everything you need to know about a company is already out there. Take some time to read through your potential employer’s website, scan their social media accounts and get familiar with some of their notable projects and accolades. What are they most proud of? If they list employees on their website, get a feel for the kinds of work they personally produce. Look at as many portfolios as possible to find ways you can improve — because I have news for you — your portfolio is never really done! Preparation is key for any interview and the more you know, the better chance you have for sealing the deal.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

7. Mock it up

One thing I’ve learned from redoing my own portfolio dozens of times is that the work you show can always be presented better. There’s always room for improvement and a lot of that has to do with mockups. I am a big fan of mockups because I don’t always have hard copies of printed materials from projects (90% of Branch clients are remote) and also, I don’t have pro-level photo equipment to consistently capture the work I do have on-hand. Mocking up your work allows you to present your ideal scenario of the outcome of a project and create a level of consistency with backgrounds and lighting.

If you need some fantastic, free mockups to get started, I highly recommend Graphic Burger. And, if you have a bit more of a budget and need very specific items, give Pixeden a try.

8. Simple is best

I know it’s hard to avoid because as designers, we’re naturally overachievers, obsessing over the tiniest details to built the best portfolio ever but perfectionism can also paralyze you. When in doubt, keep things simple. White space speaks volumes about your confidence as a designer. Allowing your work to breathe instead of overwhelm is key. Let your crisp, concise visuals and short and sweet descriptions placed on white backgrounds do the talking.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

9. Always send a thank you

If you truly want the job, always follow up the same day with a short but specific thank you message. While actual thank you cards are nice, it’s important to be immediate with this step so I’d recommend an email. Reiterate that you appreciate the interviewer taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with you, include one specific fact about the company that stood out in the interview (it shows that you care AND that you were paying attention!) and finally, let them know you think you’re the ideal fit and are ready for the next steps. You can definitely be forward and confident without coming across as pushy.

10. In the meantime, gain experience

If your dream job doesn’t pan out right away, that’s okay. I know it’s easy to say that but I speak from experience. In 2009, I interviewed at a studio I’d always wanted to work at. While the interview went well, they didn’t feel that I had enough experience. I’d only been out of school for a year and while I showed potential, they needed a more senior-level designer. Instead of getting upset, I threw myself into freelancing at every studio I possibly could.

In 2012, an unexpected email landed in my inbox from that same company. What I thought was a quick informational interview morphed into a meeting with the owner and by that night, I had an offer letter in-hand. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. I was able to jump in with both feet and all that additional experience I’d gained was priceless.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Use Your Portfolio to Land Your Ideal Job

Playing the waiting game is hard and building out a portfolio is a monumental task but all that preparation eventually pays off. You’ve got this — sometimes it just takes awhile to get what you want.

If hunting for a design job is something that interests you but you need a boost, I’m working with career strategist Ellen Fondiler and digital product mastermind Paul Jarvis to create Future So Bright, a new course dedicated to helping designers find their dream jobs. The best part is, this course will have a digital portfolio and resume template included. We’re launching later this Summer and I can’t wait to share more!

In the meantime, let me know if you have any portfolio questions in the comments. Always happy to help!


Featured work: We Are Branch.

Currently 01: A Peek Into The Graphic Design Side Of Life

Currently 01: A Peek Into The Graphic Design Side Of Life

Hi, I’ve missed you guys a ton! It’s been a very, very full month around here with family, work, travel and everything in-between.

When I’ve had some time to reflect, I start realizing how much I haven’t shared with you about what types of creative projects I’m working on on a daily basis, even though that’s what I spend the majority of my time doing.

The last year in particular has been pretty much nonstop at Branch and I’m embarrassed to admit that some of the projects we finished last year (or even before that!) are still waiting to be shared.

At this point, as soon as a project wraps, I deliver the assets, close it out and drop it into the Archive folder…only to discover I never shared it a few months down the road. Rinse and repeat…like 20 times.

There’s a lot to catch up on and I know it’s now or never — but in the meantime, I wanted to give you a peek at some of them. I’m lucky to spend my days working with an amazing roster of clients who let me have a ton of freedom to create cool stuff for them. Instead of keeping everything hidden away, it’s time to share and give a bunch of them a shout-out!

Here we go!

Currently 01: A Peek Into The Graphic Design Side Of Life

0. Luke Copping Newsprint Promo (top): We took Luke’s super polished images and applied them to newsprint for a really cool, analog feel. I have a copy sitting in my office that I still need to share but you can check it out here.

1. Radical Self Love Coven Branding: This is the first (and only!) time I’ve gotten to create a logo with a witch hat. Thank Gala Darling for that one! The logo is for a course all about living a more magical life that you can check out here.

2. Places Soap Branding and Packaging: This has been a massive undertaking over the last 6 months as I created a new brand and packaging system for a travel-inspired soap brand. The packaging has gold foil accents and we just approved the print files yesterday — can’t wait to show you the full line as it rolls out to stores!

Currently 01: A Peek Into The Graphic Design Side Of Life

3. Future So Bright Course: I’ve been working with Ellen Fondiler and another partner to create a course that helps graphic designers land their dream job. I so wish this had existed when I was graduating college and unsure of what my career options were. Hope it instead helps you!

4. Luke Copping Guide: I’ve been working with photographer Luke Copping since 2009 and we’ve created some great stuff together. We just finished this digital Getting Started Guide which is a cross between a portfolio and media kit.

Currently 01: A Peek Into The Graphic Design Side Of Life

5. Kate Eckman Branding and Website: I met Kate last year at our final Blogcademy class and we had an immediate connection — she’s a well-known model and QVC beauty host but literally one of the most down-to-earth ladies I’ve ever met. Her new site and brand is launching next week!

6. SCSD Branding: I can’t say much about this brand yet because it’s still in-progress but it’s super fun with a female focus and a bold color scheme with tropical-inspired accents.

7. Project Prescription: You’ve probably heard me mention this business that I founded with Paul Jarvis and we’ve got some exciting things coming up! We’re relaunching next month with a revamped document bundle including A4 sizing and Google Docs. Sign up to our list for free document samples!

8. TBW Beauty Packaging: I can’t share much about this new line of products yet because it’s in-progress but it will feature perfume sprays made of natural floral essences. So pretty!

9. DQ Branding: This is one of my favorite branding outcomes of all-time but it’s still very much in progress so I can’t share much yet. All I can say is that it involves an eye and rose gold. Yippee!

10. Rock n Roll Bride Magazine: We’ve been designing this alternative wedding magazine for a year now and the content just keeps getting better. The new issue just went on sale and features an epic David Bowie bridal-inspired tribute and lots helpful of advice. Take a look!

Currently 01: A Peek Into The Graphic Design Side Of Life

11. Art Of V Course: This is a side project I’m working on with Erika Lyremark with the goal of teaching women how to be more creative and leverage more of who they are in their brands. It’s something I’ve always wanted to teach because at its core, branding should be relatable and understandable.

12. B Branding and Website: This is still in-progress and is a brand for a new Australian stationery company. We’ve wrapped the branding and print materials and are now hard at work on the website. More soon!

13. Mick Hayes Collateral: I’ve been working with musician Mick Hayes since last year and we’ve been building his brand out to create custom posters, business cards and now, his latest album packaging. It’s so fun to see a brand come together, piece by piece.

14. Bad Witch Workout Branding: This is another brand we recently created for Gala Darling. I’m obsessed!

15. Chutzpah Creative Website: This website has been a huge labor of love based on the branding we did for Chutzpah last year. It just launched last night. Check it out!

Currently 01: A Peek Into The Graphic Design Side Of Life

16. Rock n Roll Bride Magazine: With the redesign of the inside spreads, we also revamped the outside, matching the logo gradient to the bride’s dress and switching up the headline fonts. Grab a copy here!

17. Artifact Creative Recycle Branding and Website: Over the last year, we worked with Portland boutique Artifact to update their branding, signage, print materials and website. Loving the simplicity of this outcome!

18. Gathered Home Branding: This soon-to-be interior design store will blow your mind. They have such a bold, beautiful aesthetic. There are two variations of this branding and a lot of colorful assets I’ll share soon.

19. Ellen Fondiler Branding and Website: Since Ellen’s brand, collateral and website launched, it’s been amazing to watch her grow as a career strategist. I love her no-nonsense advice so much that we’ve partnered up on Future so Bright (above).

Currently 01: A Peek Into The Graphic Design Side Of Life

20. Radical Self Love Coven Workbook: Gala’s first module is going live soon so we just created this 40 page workbook to accompany it. I love the idea of making magic more modern and accessible and this is reflected in the design.

21. B Media Kit: This is a snippet from the media kit of the Australian stationery brand I mentioned above. As soon as the site launches, I’ll share everything! The color combo of green and peach paired with a concrete texture makes me excited!

22. P2 Photography branding: I fell in love with Jenna and Jon of P2 as soon as I connected with them last year — this photography duo is incredibly talented and down to earth. We kept their brand very crisp and cool since they work with a lot of industrial clients.


So there you have it! This is a super condensed version of what I’ve been up to on the creative work front and I hope to share more soon on many of these…and the dozen more I probably forgot. Ha!

Now, it’s your turn.

What are you excited to be working on these days?
A personal project? Freelance work?
Something else?

Creative Chronicles: If You Build It, They Will Come

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There are easily thousands of articles scattered across the internet that dish out the advice that your portfolio should be specialized. The thought process is that if you focus in on promoting the projects you want more of, more of the same will flow in.

Specialization and zeroing in on what you’re passionate about is great and I never disagreed with that advice because it makes complete sense. The tricky part for some of us is when exactly we should start specializing. After all, if you focus in too narrowly before building your clientele and audience, it may be harder to make a living.

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When I started freelancing 10 years ago, I cast my net really wide for a few reasons:

1. I was still building my client base and audience.
2. I was hungry for experience in a variety of areas. The best way to learn is on the job.
3. I needed the extra income since I was still in school / working retail.

Over time, I did start to specialize and drop projects from my portfolio that I didn’t want more of but really drilling down was hard because I still wasn’t sure who my audience really was.

When I started Branch, I’d just ended a stint working on a branding team at a large agency so I was still trying to find my design style away from heavy art direction. I admired the work they did and their clean, crisp style felt familiar so I used that as inspiration when I built out my own brand.

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That was fine because in the first year of business, it’s best to not overthink things. Just go with what you know and start moving forward. Everyone says you should just launch and learn and I agree because you may think you know who your audience is — but it could be completely different than you expect.

Over time, your audience will subtly let you know what it wants. Certain projects will bring in tons of new inquiries while others fall flat. It’s hard to say what that mix is and the only true way to figure it out is through trial and error. Also, your aesthetic and interests will change and that style tends to be present in the work you produce. The more work you do, the more your style comes through.

Going into my third year of business, I finally feel like it’s time to fine-tune the look of my design studio and be more picky about the projects I choose to share. I’m now asking myself what I love and focusing in on that mix — creative businesses with a heavy focus on lifestyle and beauty brands. It’s good to get specific about what you want.

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As a creative, what kinds of brands, services and products are you naturally drawn to? What brands share your aesthetics? Once you figure that out, your brand will naturally start to evolve. Once I’d decided what niches were my focus going forward, I felt comfortable softening up our overall look because I now had a customer in mind. The orange went from 100% opacity to 80%. Blacks and dark grays were replaced with creamy carrara marble. Hard geometric patterns were replaced with a halftone image of an orange tree I’d photographed over the summer.

The truth is, things are still a work in progress. Business has literally doubled over the last year and it’s been harder to get all our content switched out. If you’re struggling with the same thing, I feel ya. Treat your own brand as you would a client. Make changes in manageable phases.

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After I started implementing changes in the brand and what we shared earlier this year, the impact was near-immediate. The kinds of brands that I’d coveted for a long time started reaching out. As this has been happening, it reminded me of some simple truths:

Your brand is up to you to define.

It’s your job to decide exactly what you stand for.

Ask yourself, “What do I want more of?”

Ask yourself, “What do I want less of?”

Once you know where you stand, you can make changes. As I’ve gotten more focused on what I want and have seen the positive shifts happening in my own business, it’s been a great reminder that anything is possible; you just have to be willing to step up and be clear about who you are and what you want.


Check out even more Creative Chronicles posts here.

Get Your Small Business Questions Answered LIVE with Project Prescription!

2016_NUBBYTWIGLET_PP_1

Processes, processes, processes. Who needs them?

Creative small businesses, that’s who.

When I started freelancing a decade ago, I was full of creativity but came up short on knowing how to manage client expectations and deliverables. Everything looked good from the outside but on the inside, my business was a mess. The turning point was when I launched Branch. I took the time to build out process documents that took potential clients from interested to signed with very little effort and since then, my business has grown massively.

Nothing changed about the work I produced but everything changed about the processes I used. It worked so well that I partnered with Paul Jarvis to create Project Prescription.

When it comes to running design studios, we’d like to share what we do, how we do it, and most importantly, why — as well as answer any questions you’ve got TODAY at 1pm PST.

You can watch us LIVE and ask us questions right here.

See you soon!

Creative Chronicles: The 3 Best Places To Find Stock Photos

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: The 3 Best Places To Find Stock Photos

Sometimes, stock photos are an absolute necessity. Whether you’re a blogger who needs a very specific image for a post or a designer who needs to make an impact with a client presentation, they can set the exact mood you’re tying to convey.

The problem is, there are more bad stock photos out there than good: think of the typically cheesy, overdone 90s-era variety of people in ill-fitting business suits shaking hands or awkwardly composed family photos with fake smiles.

I’m always looking for great stock photos and in an effort to help you find what you need quickly, here are my top 3 picks (two of which offer free downloads):

1. Death To The Stock Photo

I’ve been subscribing since the very beginning because this site offers a free download pack of 10 high quality photos from a guest photographer every month when you join their list. The variety is truly awesome — everything from creative work-related setups to flowers to beautiful landscapes round out the mix. If you want instant access to older photo sets, there’s also plans for that.

2. Stocksy

Hands-down, for creative photos, this is the best paid stock photo site out there. The pricing is very straightforward (no confusing credit plans needed) and allows you to buy small, medium or large sizes for set rates. One feature I love is that when you click on an image, it shows you the exact gallery it’s from directly below so you can find similar styles from the same photographer. One thing that’s also worth mentioning is that if you buy a smaller image size but need to upgrade later, just log into your account, click on your purchase history and pay the difference. No starting over! Genius.

3. Unsplash

This site offers gorgeous, high resolution photos that are completely free and you can do whatever you want with them. Simply click the download button underneath each photo and you’re set! Plus, you can subscribe and get 10 new photos delivered directly to your inbox each week. Unsplash has a variety of photos but the standouts are the natural scenery and modern architecture. The mix is truly eclectic because the number of pro photographers submitting their work is massive.

I hope these three recommendations help you find some beautiful stock photography for your next project!


Photo: Death To The Stock Photo.
Check out even more Creative Chronicles posts here.

Where Do You Work? Here’s Where My Creativity Happens.

Nubby Twiglet | We Are Branch Studio

I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s creative workspaces. When I get really into what they do, whether it’s design, photography, painting or another creative endeavor, the next thing I wonder about is where the magic happens. I love the behind-the-scenes shots and also, learning more about their processes.

In a world that feels increasingly digital and disconnected, seeing where someone works feels grounding. It reminds us that what they did didn’t just magically appear online — it was crafted by a fellow human through a process of trial and error.

Nubby Twiglet | We Are Branch Studio

I’ve been in my current studio space for nearly a year and a half now and it still makes coming to work feel exciting. To this day, it’s not perfect and I’m okay with that. I shot these photos yesterday without any staging or rearranging to show you what it’s like in its current state.

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Nubby Twiglet | We Are Branch Studio

The prep-time before I moved into this space was nearly non-existent so you can see that there’s no finishing trim along the bottom of the walls. The plywood floors show grime quickly. The mostly brick structure and old windows make for some very cold winters which means that Samantha (my design assistant) and I are usually sitting next to a space heater. But I love it. I love the feeling of turning a key every morning and opening the doors to a space I can call my own.

Nubby Twiglet | We Are Branch Studio

You might remember this post from early last year, right after I moved in. The space looked pretty good but has shifted quite a bit since then. The desk got switched out to a large kitchen table with space for two iMacs. My flat files moved in to house print samples and office supplies. A ton of succulents were added. Small switches in furniture and objects has meant that everything feels more organized and purposeful now.

Nubby Twiglet | We Are Branch Studio

Nubby Twiglet | We Are Branch Studio

While I adore this current studio, it’s number 5 as far as creative spaces go. One thing that can be deceiving with having a blog (and being online in general) is to just show where you are now — because that never tells the full story. I’m one of those people who LOVES the story behind the story. With this space being a personal blog and a way to connect with you, things will never be picture perfect. That’s real life. Are you ready to take a little trip down memory lane with me?

My Past Creative Spaces

I pulled out a hard drive last night that was so old it needed to plug into a wall on one end and a USB on the other! It’s the size of a stack of journals and makes a loud, whizzing sound. I started digging for photos of my previous creative spaces — and wow, were they loud and messy! I could only find photos of the last two but I’ll tell you about all of them.

Nubby Twiglet | We Are Branch Studio

Space #1: The first was in my childhood room at my dad’s house — it’s where I started blogging on Live Journal and where my business ideas began! My dad helped me pick out bright red paint for the walls when I was a teenager, even though it made him cringe. Haha.

Space #2: My next space was in a house I shared with four guy roommates from 2005 to 2007. It was my first time living away from home so I had a lot of fun experimenting with decor. Thinking back now, it was a cluttered mess! This was my space all through design school.

Space #3: In 2007, I moved into a rental that had more room and privacy. It’s where my blog really grew and I built my freelance business while working my first full-time design job. There are some photos of it mixed into these collages.

Space #4: In 2009, my brother and I bought our house and it had enough room for me to set up a dedicated office space across the hall from my room. Over the course of two years, I went from a barren room to a well-designed space. This is the room where I launched Branch in 2013. Most of the photos in these collages were taken here. It’s since been redone and looks like this!

Nubby Twiglet | We Are Branch Studio

Space #5: After a year of running Branch from the spare room at home, I signed a lease for a studio in my neighborhood filled with other creatives and this is where I’m at currently. I love it but it’s good to remember that it wasn’t an overnight transition — in fact, it took nine years to get from my room at my dad’s house to here!

If you’re dreaming of having your own dedicated space, I want to remind you that it’s not out of reach. One of my favorite mottos is, “Do what you can with what you’ve got.” It’s definitely kept me going when things were less than ideal and makes me appreciate what I have now even more.


Your turn: I’d love to hear about your creative space! Do you work from home, in a co-working space or a favorite coffee shop? What do you love about it? What would your dream space be like?

Say Yes To Those Creative Challenges

Nubby Twiglet | Olivine Atelier Daily Love Cards

What happens when a project lands in your lap that you’re equal parts excited and terrified over?

The short answer: Say yes, dive in and stretch the boundaries that you’ve inadvertently set for yourself.

I talked about the Daily Love Cards project by Olivine Atelier quite often here as it progressed because it really challenged me, in the best way possible.

When you’re running a business, the last thing you want to do is to play it too safe. I’d already done that for years in corporate jobs and it crushed my creative soul, little by little. I longed for more challenges, more creative projects and more weirdness. When they now appear, I say YES.

Creativity should be free to morph and take us on paths less frequented. That’s exactly what this project did with 34 different designs, all loosely tied together with a few basic themes. A list of inspirational words, three months of scanning, photographing and experimenting…and here we are. It’s hard to believe that it’s finally done and out in the world.

Nubby Twiglet | Olivine Atelier Daily Love Cards

Here’s to pushing your personal style, trying new things and stepping into the unknown. Instead of boxing yourself into what you’ve always known, ask yourself what would happen if you just said yes to something today that scares you. The outcome is usually worth it.

Surround yourself with friends and clients that push you to explore, experiment and encourage you to try new styles. It’s what keeps life interesting.

Check out more of the process and project here.