Link Love: 5.8.14

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Nubby Twiglet | San Francisco

Hello from San Francisco!

• Top designers share their 3 favorite typefaces at the moment.

• Want to be famous, successful and booked ’til forever? Alexandra Franzen tells you how.

• 271 years before Pantone, this artist created an 800 page book of swatches.

5 ways to nail your social media branding.

• This is amazing: an online gallery of 118 subways stations in Manhattan.

• Taking a closer look at images, what does it mean to be Pinterest perfect? How is this skewing our reality?

• As a designer, discovering your process is a huge part of your success.

• 4 ways to use Pinterest for your business.

• Learn all about prime lenses and focal lengths to take your digital photography to the next level.

• I always appreciate a good Courtney Love interview. Never a dull moment!

• Octopuses are smarter than you think.

Moulin Rouge for kids in 1950s Paris!

• 6 superpowers that actually exist!


Image: Airows.

Little Lessons #5: Launch And Learn

Nubby Twiglet | Launch And Learn

I’m a planner. While this is considered a positive trait in daily life, planning too much can be detrimental, especially when it comes to business.

Case in point: Since last year, I’ve been working out the details for a number of digital products for Branch and Blogcademy and in my mind, things needed to be perfect to launch. I felt that offering anything less than my best work was a bad idea. But I’ve since realized that it’s not an all or nothing mindset when launching products; there needs to be a middle ground.

While Star was visiting me a few weeks back, I was going through my list of digital product ideas with her. I was thinking of waiting so I could release some of them as a set. She shut the idea down immediately. In her world in San Francisco where she’s surrounded by start-ups and web developers, to make things happen, you have to be able to “pivot” fast. If you don’t move quickly enough, you’ll miss the boat on the next big thing. In my world, I call it “launch and learn.”

Star’s advice to me was clear and immediate: Instead of sitting on an idea, do the best you possibly can at the time, even if it’s not perfect. Launch. Learn from the launch and apply those improvements to the next round. The reason for this is because you can do never-ending market research, design the most beautiful product ever and come up with a brilliant plan to market it but that still doesn’t guarantee your offering will be successful.

It all made sense. I was sitting on great ideas because I wanted them to be perfect…and I was missing the boat.

Looking back, launching and learning is is exactly what we did with The Blogcademy. We had a content outline, we had a very simple WordPress website, we wrote the copy ourselves…and I had two days to design the branding. We had no idea if the business would be a success so we didn’t want to invest too much upfront. We launched, sold out our first-ever class in under a week…and then learned. A lot.

Our first class was full of bumps. I hopped an overnight flight to NY, we packed the goodie bags ourselves and showed up at our very tiny venue. The whole weekend was a little rough around the edges but we kept applying our learnings to each class following that. By the end of our first year, things ran really smoothly and our presentation had improved immensely. But if we’d sat on our idea, fine-tuning and perfecting the presentation, workbook, venue and our marketing copy, we would have lost our momentum, a year of income…and honestly, we wouldn’t have even been that much better off. Because the only way to really know what works and what doesn’t is to let it out into the world: launch and learn.

Stop sitting on that amazing idea. Get started, get it out into the world and if things don’t go as planned, that’s okay. That’s part of the learning process.

Tools Of The Trade #17: Death To The Stock Photo

Nubby Twiglet | Death To The Stock Photo

Why is it so difficult to find good quality stock photography at an affordable price?! So much of it is just downright cheesy. And, it can be very time consuming to dig up. That’s why I love Death To The Stock Photo so much.

Sign up and each month you will receive a link to download a bundle of free, high quality photos that you can use to illustrate blog posts, client projects, mockups and more. I’ve been a subscriber for a few months now and each pack is solid — no primary colored backdrops, creepy smiles or corporate handshakes in sight! You can get a good idea of the quality from the newest spring-themed pack above. Beautiful, right?

One of the most common questions we get from students at The Blogcademy is where they can find high quality images to illustrate their blog posts if they don’t have the means to take their own photos. Well, here’s your holy grail.

And, if you’re a designer mocking up projects and need some good general background images, they work great as well. I actually just used a few in the Chutzpah Creative post!

What are you waiting for? Sign up now and say goodbye to questionable stock photography forever.


All photos: Death To The Stock Photo
Check out even more Tools Of The Trade posts here.

Project Spotlight: Chutzpah Creative

Nubby Twiglet | Branch: Chutzpah Creative Branding

Over at Branch today, we’re sharing the outcome of one of my all-time favorite branding projects, Chutzpah Creative. Based in Perth, Australia, Chutzpah specializes in video — they’ve got you covered from “about me” films to weddings and do it all in style! I am obsessed with the super bright color palette Chutzpah’s founder FayAnn settled on and we’ve balanced it all out with a dose of black and white imagery. Check out the full outcome right here!

The Week In Pictures: 5.2.14

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

The week before I gear up for traveling with The Blogcademy always feels like that back to school rush — dusting off the backdrop, digging out the projector, printing off report cards, gathering up supplies, shipping off totes and workbooks…but in the best way possible. After our longest break ever (we’ve been working on some new offerings behind the scenes), I can’t wait to head off to San Francisco next week!

In an effort to not work through my free days in San Francisco, I’ve been delivering as many Branch client projects as possible and making sure everyone is taken care of. There have been so many cool projects going on that I can’t wait to share — everything from badges for a travel blog to brand guides for long-time clients to labeling for a skincare line. That mix definitely keeps things interesting and inspiring.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

With so much time spent at my desk lately, I try to make it at least feel pleasant to be at! It’s all about those little details.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Portland is too beautiful right now to stay indoors all the time! Every time I’m outside, I’m greeted with this kind of beauty.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Branch web developer Star was in town last week — we went over current clients, talked about how we could improve our forms and processes and…made more trips out to pizza and ice cream than I care to admit!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Our living room was so neglected for so long. It used to have dark gray walls and very little furniture but finally, after putting some effort into it, the room is coming together, piece by piece. It now feels comfortable and relaxing, just like a home should.

Have an inspiring, fun-filled weekend, everyone!

Link Love: 5.1.14

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Nubby Twiglet | Tim Walker

• Are you in a blogging slump? Here’s what to do.

• Hold yourself accountable by following the punk rock take on the four agreements.

• If you’re feeling jealous of an industry peer, this advice can help.

• Stop playing the numbers game when it comes to your website’s traffic and social media stats. It’s a vicious cycle.

• Since we still have another bathroom in our house to remodel (it never ends!), I like these alternate patterns for subway tile.

• A Beautiful Mess shares their take on sponsored posts.

• Sam Polk wrote a sobering account of his addiction to wealth. “In 2010, in a final paroxysm of my withering addiction, I demanded $8 million instead of $3.6 million. My bosses said they’d raise my bonus if I agreed to stay several more years. Instead, I walked away.”

• Planning a trip? Here’s an awesome list of tools and tips.

• Rejection letters sent to famous people.

• Behind the scenes of America’s textile industry.

• If your hair is bleach ravaged, here’s how to rescue it!


Image: Tim Walker.

Walking the Fine Line Between Inspiration and Imitation

Nubby Twiglet | Walking the Fine Line Between Inspiration and Imitation

There’s such a fine line between inspiration and imitation. It’s so fine that in retrospect, I’ve crossed it a few times myself.

What is the difference between inspiration and imitation, though?

To me, inspiration consists of gathering imagery you love and creating a mood board. Designers do this for most projects to inform a client of the look and feel they’re going for. Inspiration can set the stage for what’s to come and that’s a good thing. Inspiration can help get the creative juices flowing and makes sure everyone is on the same page. I gather inspiration for every project I do.

On the other hand, imitation is knowingly lifting someone else’s design and claiming credit. I say “knowingly” because most of us have had instances where our work turned out eerily similar to someone else’s but we weren’t aware of it until after the fact. This happens sometimes and it’s completely normal because there’s only so many ways you can do something. We all get on similar brain waves.

I am flattered when someone is inspired by the work Branch does and I always get a thrill when I spot it popping up on their client mood boards. It means that the work we’ve produced is resonating somehow, in some way. I love that. Feeling like you’ve somehow inspired someone else’s work is an honor.

The dark side though is discovering that your work has been taken as-is, perhaps badly modified and written off as someone else’s. This has only happened a handful of times that I know of but when it did, I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Back in 2009, when I was building up my freelance clientele, I released a PDF of my print portfolio on my blog, only to come across a version a few months later that had lifted my entire custom design including the cover, simply replacing a cropped close-up of my face with theirs. Everything else, from the fonts to page layouts to description lengths, was identical. If you’ve ever built a portfolio, you know how many months of hard work it can take to put together something even deceptively simple.

Another time, a well-known graffiti artist took my “mouth with pill” logo as-is. It was easy to spot because my original design had been illustrated from a photo of my mouth, mini fangs and all. The artist had printed my design on t-shirts and circulated it in a newsletter without my consent, claiming it as their own. I fired off a cease and desist which cleared up the issue by the next day day but it’s still not fun even thinking about going down that road.


5 Tips Before You Turn In Your Work

Even with endless amounts of research, there’s no surefire way to know if what you’ve created is too similar to someone else’s work. But, there are a few things you can do before you release it:

1. Do a gut check. Does it feel original to you? Have you truly created it from the heart? If you’ve knowingly pulled a little too much inspiration from a source, ask yourself what you can adjust.

2. Find little ways you can make your piece ownable. We all have access to the same programs, type families, shapes and stock images. Print out your piece, step back and figure out how you can further modify it. With Gala’s branding, it was a matter of adding small heart elements to her wordmark. With Olivine, it came down to adding a gold tip to the feather icon. For Blogcademy, it was about slicing and color blocking a basic B icon. Think of that one added twist that takes your design from expected to unique.

3. Ask a trusted source for feedback. A few weeks ago, I was working on branding for a client in an industry that was completely new to me. As the first round neared completion, my gut told me that while the branding looked solid, the icons were feeling a little too familiar. I couldn’t quite place why, though. I called Joey in and he confirmed my suspicion — the icons were too simplistic and probably wouldn’t be able to be trademarked. Because of that, I pushed hard for more unique concepts in the next round. An extra curve here, an extra flourish there. My client ended up picking a much more original option. In the end, we all felt better.

4. Sketch, sketch, sketch. I am not an illustrator by any means but I do make sure to do a ton of thumbnail sketches and map out concepts before I ever get started on designs. It forces me to get my ideas onto paper and figure out ways to customize branding elements without the allure of Pinterest and Dribbble (which I do love).

5. Do a Google image search. I very rarely do this myself but when I was working at larger agencies where an icon had to be trademarked worldwide for a client, we would give this a go if an element felt too familiar. To do this, go to Google, click the images tab and then click the camera icon in the search bar. From there, you can upload a screen shot of your branding and see what transpires.


Always Keep Moving Forward

As difficult as it may be, if someone lifts your work, you can’t let it take over your existence and eat you up inside. If you’re amazing at what you do, by the time you’ve discovered what they’ve taken, you’re already five steps ahead and onto bigger and better things. Always keep moving forward. Dan Phillips once said that “One can steal ideas but no one can steal execution or passion.” Use your talents and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Your uniqueness will shine.


There Are Honest People

As I was writing this post over the weekend, an email popped up from a travel writer who had googled the name for his project and I happened to have a blog column under the same name. I’d created a custom header for the column ages ago (now defunct) and he inquired whether he could buy it and use it for the branding. I packaged up the files, invoiced him and a few hours later, I passed on the rights and was a few hundred dollars richer. Because he was honest and bought it outright, he has a clear conscience and can use it however he pleases for his project. We both felt good about the transaction. There are always going to be bad seeds but you’ve got to focus on the good because things like this do happen.

Mistakes are inevitable but learn from them. Do your best to stay inspired. Do your best not to imitate. Do your best to create from your heart.


Your turn: With so much inspiration out there, how do you keep yourself from crossing over into imitation?