Category Archives: Graphic Design

5 Resources For Continuing Your Graphic Design Education

Nubby Twiglet | 5 Resources For Continuing Your Graphic Design Education

One of the things I was most afraid of when I left my last agency job was losing my skillset and falling behind my peers. I now realize that it was just fear getting in the way. If anything, I now spend more time behind my computer doing actual design work than I did before! But it does raise a good point since graphic design is such a competitive industry.

Here are some ways you can keep your skills fresh whether you’re a recent graduate or long out of school:

1. Pick Up New Talents Through Skillshare

Skillshare’s about page begins with the bold statement of “Education is what someone tells you to do. Learning is what you do for yourself.” I couldn’t agree more. The ease of learning a new skill is great but equally wonderful are the affordable price points of their classes. So far I’ve taken Beyond the Logo: Crafting a Brand Identity and absolutely loved it.

Some other classes I’m interested in trying include Logo Design: Creating Custom Typography For Your Brand, Lettering For Designers: One Drop Cap Letterform at a Time and Get Stuff Done Like A Boss.

Skillshare goes on to say that “Your statement of accomplishment no longer needs to be a degree, certificate, or stamp of approval. Instead, frame the pictures you’ve taken, bake a cake, and wireframe your future website.” I’m onboard the Skillshare train…are you?

2. Subscribe to Lynda

If you’re new to the Adobe Creative Suite or want to pick up another program and dive really deep into the features, sign up immediately. Lynda has the most informative, step-by-step tutorials I’ve ever come across. When I was in school, we used Lynda in place of textbooks in my design classes and watching videos to learn Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign made a huge difference with comprehension. It’s affordable and will get you up to speed in a snap. A subscription gets you unlimited access to 2,385 video courses. Need I say more?!

3. Visit Creative Bloq

I subscribe to dozens of design blogs but for for articles with tons of on-trend design resources, I always visit Creative Bloq. It’s updated constantly with everything from the best places to find free vector art to tips to improve your portfolio.

4. Follow Smashing Magazine

When I want to learn more about design industry trends, especially on the interactive side of things, I stop by Smashing Magazine. Over my many years of reading, I’ve noticed that they’re always on the cutting edge of trends before they hit the mainstream. Their articles are really meaty — there’s never any filler or fluff, just extremely well researched content. A few of my recent favorites when it comes to articles include How To Create A Self-Paced Email Course, Selling Responsive Website Design to Clients and Mistakes I’ve Made.

5. Upgrade Your Adobe Software Suite

Until this year, I’d been running Adobe CS4 across all my machines. It worked just fine but I knew that I was missing out on a lot of the newer features. It’s part of my job to stay current with the programs and things had changed just enough that I felt myself slipping behind. A few weeks ago, I bit the bullet and signed up for the full year subscription which provides access to ALL of the CC programs at a hugely discounted rate. The advantage of a subscription is that you always have the most current versions at your fingertips and a device manager lets you know as soon as any upgrades are ready. And remember, if you’re running a business, it’s a tax write-off.

When it comes to design, the learning never stops. Since I began working in the industry seven years ago, I’ve watched trends come and go, cheered peers on while they rose through the ranks and held on for one wild ride as I dove into learning new skills.

In industries that are evolving at such a rapid pace, it’s important to not get too complacent. At the same time, working on the same types of projects day in and day out can lead to major burnout. By varying our resources and methods of learning, it’s easier to stay inspired. And these days, there are more opportunities than ever before to learn new skills without going into major debt.


What other methods and resources do you use when it comes to brushing up on your design skills? I’d love to know!

Land Your Dream Clients: Prove You’re Capable Of Greatness Through Self-Initiated Projects

Nubby Twiglet | Land Your Dream Clients: Prove You're Capable Of Greatness Through Self-Initiated Projects

When you look around at other designers who are working on high-caliber projects for their dream clients, do you wonder how you can step up your game and land a few of your own?

When we’re starting out as creatives, it’s usually a constant case of feast or famine. In our eyes, every small lead that comes through the door has the potential for greatness and income generation. But in those early days, a lot of that work might not be the perfect fit. No matter, doing real work for real world clients post-graduation is not only a great feeling but necessary to drum up more work. After all, if you do a fantastic job for one client, chances are that they’ll tell all their friends — even in the digital age, word of mouth can grow your business by leaps and bounds.

While generating a lot of leads and building your portfolio is great, a few years in, the time comes to hit the brakes and ask yourself what you really want to be doing. Who are your dream clients? What types of work do you want more of? What would you rather do without, whether or not the pay is good? At this point, once you have some answers you’ll need to refresh and refine your portfolio to gear it towards what you want more of.

The thing is, maybe you haven’t actually worked with any of your so-called dream clients yet. Or, maybe they got in touch but only had the budget for one small piece of collateral. Don’t let that stop you from showing what you’re made of! For my first five years of freelancing, this was almost always the case and I built my relationships with the clients I loved very slowly, one tiny project at a time.

When it comes to design, the competition is fierce and the only way to truly get what you want is to take the initiative. Don’t get deterred by a lack of dream clients — instead, create your own self-initiated projects. Go all out. A lot of designers shy away from this because they’re afraid that if the brief isn’t real, it doesn’t count. But, as long as you clearly state that a project is self-initiated in your portfolio the sky’s the limit as to what you can do.

I’ve seen this work with beautiful results. A few years out of college, my brother wanted to get his foot in the door at Nike but didn’t have a lot of professional design experience. He spent the week before his interview building out a shoe design he’d dreamt up from scratch. He designed the shoe style, the pattern and the tagging and ended his portfolio with that piece. It worked and he got a contract.

For many of my early clients, the only thing they could afford was a logo, even with my very low prices back then. Often, I’d email them when we were finished and ask if I could build out a full suite of assets free of charge. Nobody in their right mind would turn down an awesome deal like that and by showing the application of their branding across a variety of mediums in my portfolio, I gained tons of new clients. I put in the extra time and effort, shared that extra work on my blog and the inquiries rolled in.


Nubby Twiglet | Land Your Dream Clients: Prove You're Capable Of Greatness Through Self-Initiated Projects

Above is an example of how I took a project to the next level. In 2010, Semiospectacle booked me for an identity and flyer design for their performance art event in New York City. Once that was finished, I knew the work would have more impact if I created more assets — these not only gave them ideas for how they could play up their event but they also helped me fill out my portfolio.

Just showing a logo and flyer felt a little dry so I thought of ways they could promote their event and in an ideal situation, use banners and second-surface graphics on the windows of their space. These graphics took me a few extra hours to create but shortly after that, I noticed them getting shared on inspiration sites (this was before Pinterest came along). Just taking that extra time really helped me get the word out to a whole new audience and in turn, bring in more work.


If you’re stuck on self-initiated project ideas, here are some ways you can get started:

1. Rebrand yourself / your business. When it comes to design, everyone loves a great before and after. Do it all and show your breadth as a designer — mock up print collateral, build your website (if you’re not code savvy, check out Squarespace or Cargo) and customize your social media profiles. A lot of potential clients will hire you because they love your personal style and want in on that magic. As a designer, your personal brand is your biggest calling card. If you need some good blank assets to show off the finished designs, Creative Market is a fantastic resource.

2. Offer to help out a family friend. There are so many small businesses that need a helping hand but just don’t have the resources to spruce up their collateral. Whether it’s a hair salon, an accountant or a tire shop, use the opportunity to shine. As a side note, treat them as you would treat a regular client — set up a contract outlining the parameters and deadlines. If you don’t set professional boundaries, these relationships can go south rather quickly!

3. Create a seasonal campaign for your dream client. While a lot of large companies have a set style guide and their branding rarely changes, the door for creativity opens up for seasonal campaigns (Anthropologie and Kate Spade do a great job of this). Get inspired by their current assets and create a campaign with a great story line. And when you’re finished, if you’re feeling gutsy, share it with them!


I’d love to hear from you — have you ever done self-initiated projects?
Did they help you land even more of the kinds of clients you were seeking?

Project Spotlight and Giveaway: Olivine You Are Beautiful Lotions

2014_olivine_you_are_beautiful

Over on Branch, I’m sharing our first project of the new year, a line of scented lotions called You Are Beautiful. Over the last year, we’ve been taking on more lifestyle and beauty clients and this one was especially fun to be a part of. The packaging is very sleek with black type printed directly onto glass bottles which is contrasted with a more tactile element of etched wooden hangtags affixed with gold-laced twine.

To celebrate this launch, Branch has partnered up with Olivine to give away a lotion to 3 winners. The contest is open to residents worldwide. Click through to enter now!

Tools of the Trade #14: Dribbble

Nubby Twiglet | Dribbble

Designers have been using Dribbble for a few years now to share snippets of their works in progress. Even though I’ve been a big fan of the platform for quite some time, I only joined very recently because like many of you, I didn’t think I could possibly take on another social media platform — managing another account on top of everything else stressed me out. But every time I clicked through and checked out the amazing work others were sharing, I felt the pull of wanting to be a part of the community and finally joined in the fun.

For creatives, one of the highlights of Dribbble is that it provides an environment to get constructive feedback on your in-progress projects — it reminds me of the absolute best parts of design school. Engaging in an immediate critique with your design peers is so valuable.

There are a few other benefits of Dribbble as well:

• They have a job board that employers have to pay to post on so the offerings are really high quality.

• It’s a great place to make connections. I’ve already engaged with so many designers I never knew existed before I joined. The community is a friendly, welcoming bunch.

• If you upgrade to a pro account, you can have an icon next to your name that shows you’re available for hire.

• Businesses looking for a reputable designer can search and see who’s active and shares a style that meshes with theirs.

• A lot of work that gets shared on Dribbble inevitably makes its way to Pinterest and opens up a much larger audience for the designer.

Are any of you on Dribbble? Let us know in the comments so we can check out your work!


Credits: 1. Branch, 2. J Fletcher Design, 3. Anthony Lane, 4. Emma Robertson, 5. Hendrick Rolandez, 6. Branch and 7. Mary Frances Foster.

A Call To Creatives: Follow Your Unique Path

2013_followyouruniquepath

Over the weekend, I met up with a long-time friend who just landed a way awesome job and is leaving Portland soon. We both started our careers with the same exact internship and I was so excited to hear the news. His climb up the ladder in the design world over the last few years has been nothing short of impressive. I thought about our conversation afterwards and asked myself why I didn’t want the same thing. After all, a well-paying in-house design job at a cool company is the dream, right?

For six years, I freelanced and worked full-time at a lot of design studios and agencies. And I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. It was necessary for me to witness the inner-workings of how successful design businesses run on a daily basis in order to fully understand what it takes to keep things going.

But now, being on my own, I’m the most content I’ve ever been. I’m excited to get out of bed every morning to work with clients I love and feel a personal connection with. I’m excited to share new snippets of work on dribbble. I’m excited to have people on my team I admire like Star and Cathy, even though we’re not physically in the same city. I’m excited to manage things and create a vision that feels authentic, evolving and modern. It’s what I’ve wanted for a long time.

And that’s what I realized: we each have to block out the outside noise and follow our own path. It took me until the age of 32 until I felt comfortable enough to launch Branch. I needed that time to grow into myself and gain the confidence that somehow, some way, everything would be okay. This path feels right for me for right now and if it doesn’t in the future, I have the power to change it.

I know a lot of other designers that don’t want the headaches of running their own businesses. They are happy working at a job that treats them well, pays them well and provides them with great benefits. I completely respect that because I wanted that same thing a few years ago. It’s nice to not have any cares about work when you leave the office for the night. It’s a very zen feeling to lock the door and leave your work behind. When you work for yourself, that work and to-do list is always chasing you.

Working for yourself is definitely an uphill battle. But it’s a battle I’m more than willing to take on.

When it comes to your career, it’s easy to look around and obsess about people that seemingly have something more than you. There’s that someone that is younger, more talented and further along. But remind yourself that there’s always going to be that someone.

As hard as it is to not get hung up on what the rest of the world is doing, you have to remember that you’re on your own path. It really doesn’t matter all that much what everyone else is up to. I didn’t even finish my design degree until I was 27 and it made me feel like such a late bloomer compared with my peers — but I didn’t let that stop me. I just worked harder because I wanted to be a graphic designer more than anything. I put in the time to get what I wanted. I worked a lot of jobs, some of which I loved, some of which I hated. But I learned something unique from each experience and it was worth it.

This post is a reminder to block out what everyone else is doing. If you want to work in-house or at an ad agency or for a small, family-owned business, cool. If you want to work for yourself, cool. It’s all up to you. There’s no right or wrong way to build your career in design.