I’m so excited to unveil the branding my studio Branch did for photographer Kristin Cofer. A dear friend of mine, Kristin was one of my very first clients back in the day and it’s been inspiring to watch her body of work grow. This branding system was especially fun because we created a lot of variations that can be switched up as she continues to evolve (she’s now doing film, too!). Click through to see the full project!
Category Archives: Graphic Design
I normally don’t dedicate posts to interviews I’ve done but I wanted to give the FIDM crew a shout-out for reaching out and interviewing me. They’ve been a gracious bunch and writer Sara Berkes really went out of her way to ask me an interesting mix of questions.
The interview covers my early days of design, my best client moments and much more. My week in LA has been charmed so far and this is the ultimate cherry on top. Thanks again, FIDM!
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!
I own a handful of books on typography and while they’re educational and inspiring, the overall design isn’t all that beautiful. They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but for a designer, that’s easier said than done.
While the titles on my bookshelf covered the history of typography, there weren’t many images. I wanted to see more visuals of type specimens and the effects history and design trends had on typography as a whole. I knew that there had to be some meatier books out there that covered what I was looking for.
Then, I discovered Type. A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles (try saying that 10 times fast!) and it was perfect. Comprised of two volumes, this book is a visual masterpiece. The first book covers pre-20th century type specimens while the second covers 1900 through the mid 20th century.
Weighing in at 720 pages, this book expertly traces the history of the printed letterform and has snippets from signs, books, catalogs and more. In my opinion, it’s a total must-have.
Featured title: Type. A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles
Photos and scans: Shauna Haider
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.
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?
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!
My design studio Branch just wrapped up a big project for beauty line Olivine Atelier and we’ve partnered up to do a year-end giveaway! One winner will receive their choice of a full-size Eau de Parfum from their collection and two runners-up will take home their sample pack. The giveaway is open until December 31st. Sorry, U.S. residents only. Learn more and enter here!