Category Archives: How-To

Skate or Die DIY: Customize Your Own Skate Deck!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

When ScotchBlue Tape invited me to take part in their D.I.Y. creative challenge, I was both honored and flattered but I’ll be honest here: my mind when blank when it came to dreaming up a project. I’m used to spending my days designing behind the computer but feel like a fish out of water when it comes to handcrafting most things — luckily, this is Joey’s strong suit! He started his own line of skateboards last year and we’d often talked about collaborating on a design but it was one of those projects we never seemed to get around to. We quickly realized that this was our chance to finally make it a reality!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

To get started, I built out some inspiration boards to give Joey and idea of the direction I wanted my design to take. Pinterest is great but I thought it would be WAY more fun to curate my ideas on cork boards. I knew I wanted the design to be geometric, have at least one pop of color and include my old standbys, type and stripes.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

These are the supplies that are needed:

• Blank Skate Deck. Joey carved mine himself (see above) out of reclaimed wood from a furniture shop that was 9 ply but you can pick up a blank deck at most skate shops.

• Print-outs of Design. We printed out my design in three 11×17 inch sheets (black and white is fine on normal paper) that were then taped together as a stencil.

• ScotchBlue Tape. The thinner width was especially awesome for knocking out our stripes.

• Spray Adhesive: You’ll need this to affix the paper stencil to the tape. We used a 3M version.

• Spraypaint. We used Krylon brand with a gloss finish in black, white and yellow (see above) and finished with a clear coat to seal it.

• X-acto Knife. You’ll need to cut out the pattern so you can spray paint the design.

• Prep: Joey cut this deck out with a jigsaw himself, measured and drilled the holes for trucks and sanded it to a smooth finish. If you purchase one from a skate shop, the holes will already be drilled.

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1. Start with a base coat of spraypaint (we used white) and let it dry for a full day to make sure it isn’t tacky.

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2. Cover the entire bottom surface of the skate deck in ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape.

3. This is the surface that the stencil will be cut out of.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

4. Cover the entire taped surface of the skate deck in spray adhesive.

5. Next, affix the stencil to the tacky surface and cut off the excess.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

6. Cut out the black portions of the stencil using an X-acto knife. Remember to cut through both the stencil AND the painter’s tape. The stencil and tape are affixed together so peel both off to reveal the painted surface.

7. All black portions of the stencil should be removed EXCEPT for the A.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

8. The first coat of black spraypaint is applied. The A was masked over with ScotchBlue Tape because we were going to apply a different color to it later in the process.

9. Remove the rest of the stencil.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

10. This is the result.

11. Peel off the A section of the stencil and SAVE IT!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

12. Create a fresh, inverted circle stencil.

13. Use paper and ScotchBlue Tape to mask the entire skate deck with exception of the circle and a single stripe (these are the areas we want to make yellow).

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

14. Spraypaint the yellow sections. Let this dry for a few hours to ensure nice, crisp edges.

15. Remove all paper and tape to reveal the yellow. Then, replace with the A that was set aside earlier. Mask off everything that should NOT be black. Apply one final coat of black paint and let this dry for a few hours.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

16. Once surface is dry, remove all masking to reveal your final design!

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Joey wasn’t quite finished yet, though. Before I took my deck out for a spin, he applied grip tape to the surface and sliced out my trademark cross symbol. The perfect finishing touch! Get creative here — you can cut out anything in the grip tape you can dream up!

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I loved my finished design so much I put it on display in my office. Nothing beats a piece of functional art! If you have any questions at all about the process, please let me know in the comments and we’ll do our best to respond! And if you make your own skate deck design, let us know — we’d love to see it!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

This post is a collaboration with ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape. Visit Scotch Blue Tape on Facebook to learn how to win rad stuff and check out the other participants’ projects in the gallery. All concepts and designs within this post were created in partnership with Joey Maas.

Developing A Design Process: 01

ask nubby advice

ask nubby advice

Moodboard for Sasha Gulish Photography branding

One of the questions I get asked most often is about my design process. Most of us have a method for working through a project but once it’s done often enough, it begins to feel like second nature. I’ve continually held off writing this article until now because truthfully, my design process has become so routine that I don’t think of it as being significant. But, when I take the time to step back, I realize that we each have a different method for working through projects and can learn from one another. Today, I’m going to share an overview of the general design process I go through when working on a project. Please note that the process detailed below is focused solely on the creative side of a project and not on any of the administrative or strategic tasks that take place.

1. The Questionnaire

ask nubby advice Questionnaire

When I’m working with a new client, I begin my process by sending out a questionnaire. It’s comprised of a short, succinct set of questions meant to jog memories and provide the basic information clients might not otherwise think about. The last question encourages clients to gather their own visual inspiration and links to sites and content they like. After all, we know ourselves better than anyone else and the more we share about what we love & loathe, the easier the designer’s job becomes.

ask nubby advice Pinterest

2. Visual Research

While the client is doing their own visual research to show me what they like, I’m doing mine at the same time. Conducting visual research is important because it helps you become aware of current trends. This doesn’t mean that you should rip off every hot color, font and lockup you see. It’s meant to inform you of what’s happening in the world around you. Think about the flipside; you don’t want to end up with a logo that looks exactly like someone else’s because you didn’t do your homework! Clients tend to want a logo that’s on-trend while still remaining unique. But by on-trend, I mean current, not trendy. Nobody wants to go through the hassle of redesigning their logo every few years if they can help it!

My top places to search for visual inspiration are:

1. Designspiration

2. Pinterest (This is my personal account where I save some of my favorite images).


4. Flickr: I have a private folder that I upload everything I find into and have been actively adding to it since college. I do this mainly because I can be anywhere in the world, log in and have my full collection of inspiration at my fingertips.

ask nubby advice

Thumbnail sketches from a recent logo design

3. Thumbnail Sketches

Ah, yes. Our college professors made us do page after page of thumbnail sketches and they do have their benefits! My head is usually full of potential fonts and lockups the second I start working on a new project and getting them onto paper helps me define some of the options I really want to explore. Plus, being away from the computer helps me clear my mind and creatively focus in a fresh way. To be completely honest, I’m not a big sketcher. Often, my notebook pages will be composed mostly of lists, like “try this font” and “reference this image.” Sketch, make lists, do whatever suits your style best. Just try to do some part of your creative process away from the computer. Breaking up your routine often yields some of the best, most unexpected results.

ask nubby advice

Inspiration section from my presentation deck

4. Presentation with Visual Research

A moodboard (at the top of this post) is more of an arbitrary, outward-facing step I’ve included to show online folks what outside influences inspired me on a particular project. But usually, the visuals I’ve gathered are placed in a section within the first client presentation I deliver called, you guessed it, “Inspiration.” This is beneficial for the client because it can make them more feel more confident of the outcomes when they understand the general reference points. Also, something lurking in the visual inspiration may very well grab their attention. Perhaps they’ll say, “I love the layout of option #4 but the type feels off. Can you modify it to feel more like the type in XYZ?”

5. The Moodboard

I’ve noticed a huge trend lately of designers showing moodboards online of what inspired a particular project. I’ve never shared this part of my process with my readers but am considering making a change the next time I showcase a project. Of course, in my world the inspiration is just a folder of gathered imagery tucked inside the client’s job folder on my hard drive but in an effort to present a so-called organized, methodical look, an example of the visual research I gathered for photographer Sasha Gulish’s identity development is at the top of this post. Looking back, it really did help speed up the design process and aligned perfectly with the colors we’d already been considering.

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The final outcome of Sasha’s identity / business cards (note that only the blue version was printed).

6. Revise / Review / Redeliver

Once you’ve delivered that first round, it’s time to wait for client feedback, revise the options they liked, perhaps gather even more visual inspiration if they’re feeling a particular direction and send off the second round. Rinse and repeat until complete!

I’ve titled this article Developing a Design Process 01 because I figured that you might have more questions about specifics. If there’s something further you’d like to know about developing a process, please leave a question in the comments!

Organization Methods: Tips And Tricks From A Virgo

nubby twiglet organization

nubby twiglet organization

Over the years, so many of you have asked me about my methods for organization. You want specifics. You want photos. You want me to reveal the nitty-gritty. Well, I’ve finally sat down and transcribed some of my simple everyday strategies for keeping belongings easy to locate and visually pleasing in the process!

This article is meant to touch on a variety of areas in my life and how I keep them organized. This is what works for me and hopefully it can be a starting point to help you to discover some methods that work for you. Perhaps it’s second nature for Virgos to be supremely organized. Orderly surroundings give me a sense of calmness and as laughable as this might sound, my surroundings are a reflection of how I feel on the inside. Yep, a cluttered space to me equals a cluttered mind! You’ll notice that overall, I try to keep it simple — depending on what I’m doing, I sort belongings by color (clothing, shoes and books), title and date (magazines), and subject (client files and digital inspiration). I’ve found that the more difficult you make the solution, the harder it becomes to keep it up.

nubby twiglet organization

Hand-me-down bookshelf I use for shoe storage

01. Shoes

I like the look of organizing shoes by color because what’s more cheery than having a mini rainbow nearby?! If organizing a collection by looks makes you happy, then so be it.

nubby twiglet organization

02. Clothing

I have a fair amount of clothing but I do my best to clean out my closets regularly and to keep the selection as edited as possible. For bizarre finds, items I might just use for a themed shoot or clothing that has sentimental meaning that I just can’t part with, I use the small extra closet in my office for storage which I’ve dubbed my ‘Costume Closet.’ This keeps my regular closet much easier to navigate and appropriate for everyday wear.

nubby twiglet organization

Our house was built in 1928 and like most older houses, closet space is very minimal. For this reason, I have two large IKEA PAX Wardrobes that are set up in our oversized upstairs bathroom (it could easily fit 15 people; there’s just a toilet and sink). These closets allow for plenty of room for everything and a huge selection of customizable fixtures can be added.

nubby twiglet organization

My left closet is comprised of jackets, skirts and dresses (hanging) and pants, shorts and basic t-shirts (stacked on the lower shelves). The right closet is mostly made up of shirts, blouses, sweaters, cardigans and generally casual layers. Everything is arranged by color.

nubby twiglet organization

Below the hanging items, I have a color-coded drawer for socks and below that is an identical drawer for tights (also by color). The clear plastic organizers are from Target. The bottom of the closet contains a shoe rack which has a few odds and ends that I wouldn’t want to display — athletic shoes, flats, etc. And finally, the top of the closet contains a row of IKEA KASSETT Storage Boxes which house everything from extra shoe bags and scarves to childhood costumes and keepsakes. My system isn’t perfect but it makes sense to me and allows me to quickly find whatever I need.

nubby twiglet organization

03. Books

I jumped on the bandwagon a few years back when this style of organization for books became trendy and couldn’t be happier with the outcome. The bookshelf is from West Elm and conveniently enough, it’s on wheels which makes cleaning super easy.

nubby twiglet organization

04. Magazines

I’ve invested in quite a few packs of IKEA FLYT Magazine Files and choose to group my magazines by title and then date. I also have separate ones for reference materials and catalogs that I’ve saved for inspiration. These magazine files are great because they’re cardboard — when you’re finished with them, simply break them down and recycle!

nubby twiglet organization

The Container Store has a great selection of makeup storage solutions

05. Makeup

A small cabinet in my office holds all of my makeup but I tend to keep the items I use on a daily basis all in one area. The Container Store has some fantastic makeup storage organizers and I found this acrylic option among their selection.

nubby twiglet organization

Folders of image-related inspiration stored on my computer

06. Digital Files

This is the most important area of my life to stay organized in (and I’m not exaggerating). When clients hire me for a design job, it’s important to keep their assets organized and if they need a file a few years down the line, it’s my job to locate it. For this reason, I apply a job number to each new project that comes into my studio. For instance, #NT151 would be for job 151 (NT = Nubby Twiglet). This job number also directly correlates to the invoice number when I’m billing a client. Once a job is complete and final files have been sent, I move it to an Archives folder so that my Clients folder doesn’t get overly cluttered with closed jobs.

For digital inspiration, my system is much more easy-going. I have a folder on my desktop titled 2011 Pix and drop everything I’ve gathered online into it. Every week or so, I drop all the strays into labeled folders that make sense to me. They can be as open-ended as food, cars, cameras, fashion and so on. Any way you can think of to break up a few thousand inspirational images should work just fine!

I also keep a folder on my desktop labeled Blog 2011. Every time I make a post, I drop all the final web-ready JPEGS in there so that I have a clean backup of every image I’ve posted for that year.

07. Digital Storage

I cannot stress this enough — keep your really important files backed up on TWO separate drives! I’ve heard horror stories of friends losing years’ worth of work when their external drive failed. I have two LaCie drives, (my favorite being the LaCie Starck 1 TB Drive) and I diligently back up my client files, photos and music from my main computer every few weeks.

nubby twiglet organization

Design Inspiration folder on Flickr

08. Online Digital Inspiration

Ever since I was in college, I’ve gathered up design-related inspirational images and uploaded them to a private Flickr folder. Now bursting at over 5,000 images, it’s a digital library at my fingertips that I use to gather research from for every new job that I start. The importance of having this inspiration saved online is that I can access it from anywhere — whether I’m freelancing, on vacation or in a meeting.

nubby twiglet organization

09. Loose Inspiration and Reference Materials

I have a set of IKEA flat files in the corner of my office that house all my clippings, notebooks and printed inspiration. The drawers hold everything from silkscreened posters to old journals. Having all these items clearly separated yet all housed together has been a lifesaver!

nubby twiglet organization

Fashion Notebook

10. Collage Notebooks

I’ve been clipping visual inspiration from magazines since I was a teenager and those clippings can really pile up after awhile! I keep everything tidy by keeping notebooks for three specific categories: fashion, typography and interior design & home. As the clippings pile up, I collage them in, often categorized my theme and color. To see my collages, which I often scan for the blog, check out the Fashion Notebook, Decor Notebook and Typofiles sets on Flickr.

In Closing: Being Organized Makes Life Feel Less Chaotic

I hope that these examples will inspire you to get your life organized in your own, unique way. Because I have a lot going on, having some basic organizational systems in place means that I’m rarely wasting time digging for items that I think I may have lost. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to organize your belongings; your system just has to make sense to YOU. If you have questions or want me to cover another area of organization in a follow-up article, let me know in the comments. Happy organizing!

nubby twiglet signature

Typography Notebook

As creatives, something we all struggle with at times is staying organized. Let’s face it: there’s so much stuff out there. Magazines, books, blogs, catalogs, fonts and images galore. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

There’s always the thrill of finding an image that strikes your imagination. For me, it’s been much easier to keep my digital content organized — I keep neatly labeled folders tucked away in a designated area on my desktop and sort through these files about once a month.

But, what about real life? I read a lot of magazines and find amazing type everywhere I look. Instead of keeping these images loose (and just waiting to get lost), I began gluing them into an inexpensive Muji notebook that I deemed my ‘Typography Notebook’ about two years ago. Now, when I need to locate an image, I can quickly flip through instead of digging through piles of clippings.

My overall objective is to group similar colors, patterns or other visual cues so that an image can be found with little effort. I find that this same method has worked well for other themed notebooks to keep my various interests nice and neat including interior design and architecture ( Decor Notebook) and fashion-related imagery (Fashion Notebook).

Readers: How do you choose to keep your ‘real life’ imagery organized? Any tips or secrets that you can share with the rest of us?

Shoe Care Secrets

Over the years, I’ve gotten many emails like this one from readers that want to know the secrets of my shoe care:

I just got hold of a very special pair of shoes. They are very limited and beautiful. I know you have a fantastic shoe collection that you get a lot of wear out of, but is there ever a case to be made for not wearing a special pair of shoes? And, how do you take care of a very precious pair while still getting a good amount of wear out of them?

I’m a total shoe fanatic though I am fairly picky about what I buy. When I do add a pair of shoes to my collection, I take steps to make sure that they will last for as long as possible. Though some of the pairs I own are more fragile than others, I’m not a fan of collecting items only to leave them on a shelf to collect dust. Over time, I’ve discovered a few products and modifications that you can do to make your shoes last much longer.

My favorite brand of polish is Collonil Waterstop. The benefit of Waterstop over other polishes is that it has Goretex waterproofer mixed into the formula and a soft sponge applicator. Simply apply it straight from the tube, let it dry and then buff it out to a high shine with an old rag or even better, a horsehair brush.

Superfeet Dressfit insoles won’t make your shoes last longer, but they will add some much needed arch support. I love the Dressfit insoles because they never lose their shape and can be rinsed off when needed. Also, they are three-quarter length so that they don’t take up any precious toe room in dressier shoes. Pinched toes are never in style!

Modified Acne Atacoma platforms with Vibram soles

I always take my favorite shoes to the cobbler and have Vibram soles put on the bottoms. A lot of more expensive shoes have leather soles. Leather doesn’t hold up particularly well, especially in the rainy climate where I live. Having a layer of Vibram added not only provides extra traction but also makes the sole last about three times longer in my opinion. I have been doing this for years and on average, you should expect to pay about $40.00 US for this service.

If you own many pairs of shoes that are made of a smooth leather and need a quick fix, nothing works better than Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam. Made of natural oils and waxes, it features a sponge applicator. Simply rub on over scuffs and scratches, let it soak in momentarily and your shoes will be moisturized and gleaming. It goes on clear and works on any color of leather. Genius!

Lastly, if you need your shoes repaired, finding a good cobbler can be a real challenge. Before dropping off your most prized pair of Louboutins, it’s always worth the time to do a little bit of research. A good place to start is by reading reviews on Yelp or Citysearch. In Portland, I absolutely swear by Nob Hill Shoe Repair. They just put the Vibram soles on my Acne Atacoma wedges (above) and have always done impeccable work. In New York, my favorite shoe repair is Alex Shoe Repair, especially for crazy modifications. They’ve put some intense treads on my pointy boots and added eyelets and laces to my Chloe wedges. Best of all, they work super fast.

Readers: Do you have any secret shoe tips and tricks that you swear by?

7 Tips For Creating a Print-Based Design Portfolio

This is a bold statement, but building a portfolio is quite tricky because everyone seems to have a differing opinion on how it should be done. Building a portfolio is about showcasing your work and therefore, it should be an expression of your personality and design style.

Most online articles tend to offer advice on just web-based portfolios. I’ve found that information addressing print portfolios is sorely lacking even though many design programs still require them to graduate.

Though PDF and web-based portfolios are becoming more acceptable, I still believe that nothing takes the place of a well-executed print portfolio that a potential client or employer can physically hold and flip through during a meeting.

What steps can you take to make your print portfolio your absolute best?

Get as much professional work in your portfolio as soon as possible. It’s never too early to start seeking freelance clients. As soon as you feel comfortable with your skill level, hit the pavement. I did a massive magazine project a year before I went to school for design and landed a freelance job from Virgin Records in my second semester. The work gained from these two clients helped me get my first internship.

I’ve now been out of school for about a year and in that time, I have replaced nearly every class-initiated project with client work. Showcasing client work in your portfolio projects a level of expertise and professionalism. It demonstrates that you are able to work in the real world with companies who have actual deadlines and budgets. Client work implies that you can handle feedback on your work while delivering solid results.

Invest in a format that you’re passionate about. Most designers stick with a standard portfolio cover and fill their ‘book’ with printed pages of work but I’ve heard of others who create a set of cards (with their work mounted on heavyweight paper) and some even take it a step further, designing handmade books. Custom-made cases and personalized portfolio covers are also legitimate options. The sky’s the limit.

For the last year, I’ve been using a white glossy acrylic 11 x 17 portfolio cover from Office and I absolutely love it. The simplicity, durability and expandability all played prominently into my decision to go with this format.

No matter your concept, keep in mind that your interviewer usually has a limited amount of time. Don’t make your portfolio so complicated that it becomes a nuissance. Remember that the overall goal is to keep the focus firmly on your work.

Limit the number of projects that you choose to showcase. There is varying feedback on the maximum number of pieces that should be included in a print portfolio and many designers are encouraged show no more than 6 to 10 of their best projects. I usually try to keep the number as close to 10 as possible but I am not afraid to go over this amount if I feel that a project is a must-see (though, it should be noted that most of my projects take up only one page).

If you keep your descriptions short and concise when showing your book and flip through at a consistent pace, a potential employer usually won’t mind a few extra projects (as long as they’re good). Test yourself: can you flip through your book and describe each project in a total of 10 to 15 minutes? If not, revise.

As you gain more clients and a wider variety of work, it becomes harder to narrow down the amount of pieces that you feel are worthy of inclusion. Just use common sense and don’t go overboard; I’ve seen student portfolios that had upwards of 40 pages!

If you haven’t had many actual clients yet, it’s okay to take on low paying or even unpaid projects in areas that you need work in to fill out your portfolio.

Simple Layouts are Good. When you’re building your first portfolio, it’s understandable that you’ll want to show off how awesome your work is. But, I suggest that you keep the focus on the actual work, not on the portfolio.

These pages are from my 11 x 17 print portfolio. An emphasis is placed on typography in the opening pages since this is one of my main interests but the page layouts of work are always white with descriptions limited to a few sentences at the bottom.

The pieces that you’ve chosen to showcase should speak for themselves; keep flourishes, gradients, drop shadows, patterned backgrounds and textures to a minimum.

Create an order that works for you. This is another area where everyone has a differing opinion but you really have to weigh what’s right for your needs; go with your gut instinct. Creating an order usually begins with selecting two of your strongest pieces to begin and end with. The middle should be ordered in a way that creates an interesting mix through varying color schemes, styles and formats.

Though, when building a portfolio, don’t be afraid to break the rules. A few months back, I had a meeting with a designer that I really admire. She had some interesting advice about how a portfolio should create a vision. Her idea revolved around beginning with flat, 2-D based work (such as print design and logos) building to interactive, web-based work and ending with 3-D based work (packaging design, retail displays, etc.) Though this advice won’t necessarily work for everyone, it’s always interesting to hear a new perspective.

Get feedback. Before taking your portfolio out into the world for interviews and client meetings, have a handful of people that you trust flip through it and ask for honest (yet constructive) feedback. Though, this is where your gut feeling comes into play once again.

I’ve had reviews on the same day where one professional offered me work on the spot while another had a laundry list of changes that I should make. You know your work better than anyone else so it’s up to you to decide which feedback you should take (and leave).

Accept that your portfolio is never really finished. Think of your portfolio as a constant work in progress. There is always something that can be improved upon, even if it’s freshly printed. In the last three months alone, I’ve made three rounds of revisions.

Once you have a solid layout and order of work that you’re proud of, the updates come much more easily. Consistently add in new client work, self-initiated projects that show off a new skill set, projects that you’ve reworked, updated (improved) product photos and refined descriptions.

In Closing. Everyone will have an opinion about your portfolio but it’s up to you to filter this information and then do what suits your work best. When you walk into a room for an interview, your confidence about what you’ve created has to shine through. A portfolio is about your vision as a designer, not anyone else’s.

We can be our own worst critics and feel that our portfolios are never good enough. But in truth, as a designer, your job is never finished. Even when you hand a final project over to a client for approval, you’re probably still making changes in your mind, questioning what you could have improved upon. A portfolio can be the same way but at some point, you have to learn to let go.

You have to accept your portfolio for what it is while having a vision of what it will (eventually) be. Take a deep breath and let it venture out into the world, for better or worse. As you grow, it has the potential to grow with you. Each project, each internship, each job should be viewed as a stepping stone to an even better portfolio.

Portfolio Resources.

Office has an amazingly comprehensive website of portfolio options. My personal favorites are by Pina Zangaro. They even have portfolio covers in bamboo!

• Bryony and Armin of Under Consideration are working on a book all about portfolios!!!

They recently announced that “For our next big project we have decided to focus on a subject that is the cause of both stress and excitement for want-to-be-employees and employers: Portfolios. The book will explore best practices in putting the physical portfolio together — not the work itself — and achieving the best presentation possible. The book will feature case studies of portfolios as well as insight from people that review portfolios about what they expect as well as insight from those presenting.”

• Mark Bowley has penned an excellent article on preparing and talking about your design portfolio.

• I never get tired of reading Michael Beirut’s May I Show You My Portfolio? in which he gives us a peek at the actual contents of his portfolio, circa 1979. Good stuff.

Your Turn: If you’re a designer, do you have a print portfolio? What format do you use? How many pieces have you included?

Advice #18: Choosing a Career in Graphic Design

I am 17 years old and I am a high school student. I just recently settled on what I would like to go to college for, and what I want to do with my life. I’ve always found graphic design [to be] fun and interesting. I am an avid user of Adobe Photoshop, and I love looking at work from various graphic designers. I would love any advice you have to give as far as school or career paths to choose, since this field is already very confusing to me. I’m dead set on being the best I can be, so any advice would be helpful.

Getting a degree in design is just the beginning; it can open the door to an endless stream of opportunities. If you want to go to school for graphic design, this doesn’t mean that you have to limit yourself to being just a designer. Think of it as a starting point to breaking into the general field.

There are a huge variety of interrelated jobs in the design industry that you can look into including those of a creative director, art director, production artist, illustrator, web designer and more. You may also specialize in niches including logo design, product design, brand identity and editorial design, among many others.

Needless to say, every graphic designer has a unique story to tell. I know people who have graphic design degrees but are now employed as photographers, stylists, art directors and even CEOs of their own studios. The sky’s the limit!

Choosing a school may be the hardest part of your design journey. There are so many schools with design programs and the cost for each can vary quite dramatically. My only advice would be to not focus on a specific school because of its name alone but to instead determine what your needs are. A few of the questions you may ask yourself are:

What piece of the design puzzle interests me the most (typography, packaging design, logo design, etc.)? Does the program offer classes that teach me these skills? What can I afford? How long can I afford to be in school (design programs can vary from 2 to 6 years)? Will I need to work while I’m in school and does the class schedule allow me to do so? Do I feel comfortable with the campus and faculty? Am I ready to design to meet the needs of others (instead of just myself)?

Keep your options open. After looking at four year private art schools and universities, I chose a two year program at a community college. My reasons for doing this were numerous. I didn’t care if my degree had a fancy name at the top and I wanted to gain experience and technical skills quickly. Additionally, I already had a four year degree and didn’t feel that I needed two of them to enter the design field. I was lucky that in my situation, everything worked out as I’d planned. I got the training I needed, landed my top internship choice and a job in the design industry that combined both of my passions, graphic design and blogging. If you’re focused and have set goals, it will definitely be easier to ease into a career once you’ve graduated.

These articles can also help you with choosing a school: A Brief Guide to Design Education, Finding and Choosing the Right Graphic Design School, and The Top 5 Things to Look For in Design School.

Some of the friendships and connections that you forge in school will stick with you for the rest of your career. It’s amazing how many opportunities will fall into your lap when you least expect it. These sources will help you identify opportunities in the design industry:

1. Join a Design Group or Organization: AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) is the oldest and largest professional graphic design organization in the U.S. As a student, you’ll receive a special price break on an annual membership. AIGA regularly conducts tours through local businesses and lets you get a sneak peak inside some pretty amazing places. This is a perfect opportunity to see how different departments work together, to ask questions and to network with design professionals.

2. Sit Down with Your Teachers or Department Head: Go straight to the source. Your teachers have a knack for noticing what you’re excelling at and can provide you with both internship and career advice.

3. Reach Out to Designers You Admire: Spend some surfing through online portfolios, blogs and sites. Figure out what you like. And, never be afraid to contact the people that you admire most for advice. Chances are that they were in your position at one point. If you don’t believe me, here’s proof!

4. Set Up Internships: An internship is a low-risk way to gain experience and to see what different people’s jobs entail. Internships allow you to work on a huge variety of projects (during my first year, I worked on catalogs, spray painted shoes, conducted research and blogged) and you can usually figure out what you like & don’t like pretty fast!

1. The Business Week Design Directory will be your new best friend. It allows you to search by design discipline and country, providing you with the names and addresses of design companies the world over!

2. Do art schools care about your GPA?

3. Grad School: Beast, Burden or Blessing? is an excellent read.

4. Starting Out in an Art Career is packed with straight up, honest advice written by one of my favorite creatives, Star.

5. In The Life of a Graphic Designer In Training, I detail what my path to becoming a designer was really like.

What are you waiting for? Pull out your most mind-blowing concepts, do some research, make a commitment to be the best that you can be and start designing!