In The Beginning: My First Design Project

In The Beginning


In The Beginning

Last night I dug deep into the design catacombs — I actually dug so deep that the work I was looking for wasn’t even archived on a hard drive. Going back in time a full decade meant that I was sitting on my office floor, digging through a pile of hand-labeled CDs. Finally, one spool in, I got lucky.

There are many posts I’m working on that flow easier, that look much prettier and that focus on my life in the present. Honestly, I’d rather be working on those. But I do see the value in looking back sometimes. When we look back, we have those moments where those murky times in our lives finally make sense and by sharing these experiences, we can help others in similar situations.

Today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to my first ever design project. Trust me, I’d much rather keep my overzealous use of Photoshop brushes during 2003 locked in the vault but we all have to start somewhere! This is where my path into design first began (though I didn’t know it at the time).

In The Beginning

In The Beginning

Ten years ago, I was in school for business. My courses were dry and I struggled (hard) through subjects like pre-calculus and biology. A few days a week, I worked in a shoe store at the mall. And sometimes on the weekends, I took accelerated marketing courses. As you can imagine, I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun!

I’d always wanted to be an artist but my style was more collage-based and I didn’t see a clear path to making a living so I went the so-called practical route. Though looking back, I’m so thankful I did business courses before design, it wasn’t where I wanted to be. It didn’t feel like the right fit but at that point, there was nobody around to convince me to follow a more creative route — I didn’t know any designers in real life (and just a handful online) and I’d never set foot in an ad agency. My only exposure had been an old George Lois book in my high school library and witnessing some crudely made business cards and CD artwork (with one too many Photoshop effects) in high school.

In The Beginning

In The Beginning

In my free time, I worked on a self-initiated project on my laptop. I admittedly knew nothing about design. I had a dream to design an autobiographical magazine (the powerful blogging software and beautiful, editorial-inspired themes I completely take for granted now were a ways off) and I had so much fun putting these pages together. Even though I had no clue what I was doing, I just went for it. Using a 2 megapixel digital camera and a bootleg version of Photoshop, I stayed up late piecing together images and stories. Looking back, a lot of it is cringe-worthy but what I realize now is that doing these layouts along with other projects outside of professional confines helped me find my style and explore ideas freely.

I finally had the chance to go back to school and major in design in 2006 and never looked back. Now as a full-time designer my focus now is 95% on client work but I still think back fondly on those days in 2003 where I tested out new sets of Photoshop brushes because I was curious. There was nobody to tell me otherwise and I just did what I wanted when I wanted, for better or worse!

In The Beginning

In The Beginning

I’m sharing this today in an effort to encourage you to just go for what you want. There are always going to be roadblocks in your life. Even if you’re in school for something else, even if you have very little time, even if you have very little money, never let that hold you back. Explore the path you’re interested right now, even if it’s 10 minutes a day. Dream up self-initiated projects and learn all you can — relish your freedom and soak up the inspiration around you. You’ll be that much more prepared when it’s finally time to make your move.

I wasn’t able to make my move until three years after I started this project but it was worth the wait. And this time, I’d already done enough exploration to know that it was the right fit.

Tools of the Trade #1: Designers Toolbox

Tools of the Trade


Tools of the Trade


Welcome to Tools of the Trade, a column where I’ll be dropping in to share some of my favorite go-to design resources!

Over the weekend, while putting together a custom envelope design for a client, I needed a dieline for a very particular set of dimensions. I was instantly reminded of a great resource I’ve been using for years, Designers Toolbox.

Designers Toolbox is a comprehensive collection of design resources including envelope, business card and postcard sizes and most sections have accompanying dimensions along with downloadable dielines! This is especially helpful if you’re producing items for a client in another country since these measurements aren’t standardized worldwide.

The web resources are fantastic as well. A web banner chart with dimensions, a compilation of basic HTML characters and visuals of web safe areas are just some of the free resources you’ll find.

I hope you’ll enjoy this fantastic resource as much as I do!


Check out more Tools of the Trade posts here.

Orange Obsessed

Orange Obsessed

I’m on a big ol’ citrus kick. For the last few months, I’ve been consuming mandarins nonstop (my favorites are from Trader Joe’s and still have the stems). Beyond that, I have a new appreciation for all shades of orange — in a lot of ways, to me it feels a lot more modern and inviting than red.

When I spotted this orange-covered shirt at J. Crew while in LA, images of sunny orange groves and flashbacks of Tragic Kingdom danced through my head. The button-up shirt is a departure from my normal style but this was just so much fun and I love the airy silk blend. Every time I wear it, it’s a great conversation starter; the orange one-liners never stop (orange you glad…).


Orange Obsessed

Here’s some of my favorite citrusy-hued items at the moment:

1. Nars Polish, 2. Givenchy Medium Pandora, 3. Kate Spade Gingham Phone Case, 4. Stella McCartney Slingback Wedge and 5. J. Crew Perfect Shirt in Citrus.

P.S. After some digging around, it appears that both the orange shirt and matching phone case have nearly sold out from J. Crew online but I bet they still have some in-store!

The Week In Pictures: 4.19.13

Nubby Twiglet The Week In Pictures

How’s your week been? Since returning from two weeks of vacation (with two action-packed Blogcademy dates in the mix) I’ve been having a serious bout of the post-vacation blues. Though I travel a lot, this time it’s hit like a ton of bricks. I think it comes down to the realization that it’s always easy to have a great time when reality is suspended and put on hold. Since returning, I’ve been trying to dig in and be professional, pay bills, answer emails in a semi-timely manner, put together new blog posts and run errands but coming down off that vacation high is harder than I thought.

I’m trying to fight the feeling of feeling completely disheveled and out of sorts in little ways. Over the weekend, I stopped in Trader Joe’s and picked up two big bouquets of flowers that, while frivolous, immediately made me feel better. On a whim, I grabbed a bundle of gladiolas, knowing we didn’t have anything at home that could hold them. Joey likes a good challenge and by the afternoon, he’d found a massive square vase for only ten dollars!

Nubby Twiglet The Week In Pictures

Two things that help me alleviate the blues: big, inviting lattes from Cellar Door sipped while wearing this Springy dress and taping up all my favorite Instax rainbow snapshots.

Nubby Twiglet The Week In Pictures

I always say that vintage and thrift shopping is the best in Portland, hands down. I took Kat and Gala on a tour of my favorite places and neither cold get over the abundance of well-priced treasures! This teapot is my new favorite find.

Nubby Twiglet The Week In Pictures

After so much time away from home, I’m feeling the need to stay in, make our house a home and striving feel comfortable with where I’m at. I made a huge to-do list and spent the entire weekend in my office and to be frank, it sucked. I was checking into everyone elses’ instragrams and seeing all the fun things they were out doing — never a good idea! Do you do that, too? I’ll stop if you stop. ;)

Nubby Twiglet The Week In Pictures

Samples just arrived from Paper Chase for a client project and I love their bold labeling. I’ve also been taking some time out to pick up some magazines for inspiration since most of my summer is going to be dedicated to two big editorial projects. They’re by far the most time consuming of the projects I do but also a little way of living out my teenage dream of doing editorial design. It’s important to find small ways to stay connected to those dreams — as an adult, not everything has to be about efficiency or moneymaking. Make sure you have those interests and hobbies you stay connected to out of love.

Nubby Twiglet The Week In Pictures

This pitcher makes me smile. When we were at Kennedy School a few weeks ago dining and drinking with my family, Kat and Gala convinced me that this was a must-have. So weird and charming!

While I’m making progress, I’ve been putting off so many little things with all this traveling. I need a haircut (like six months ago!) and to get to work fleshing out a new column for the blog. I’m also itching to pick up building supplies to turn the half-finished gazebo in our back yard into a bar (and then have a party)! Have a great weekend, friends. And my heart goes out to you, Boston. Big hugs.

Link Love: 4.18.13

link love


Source: Nicole Miyuki


• If you read only one thing this week, check out Victoria’s very poignant post on the pressures of social media. It’s by far the best post on the subject I’ve read because it’s so relatable.

• 10 things they didn’t teach you in design school.

• The Design Guide series is back up and running over at Emma Dime and the topic this week is all about embossers! I want one now.

• I couldn’t stop laughing at this fictional businesses list! Ain’t No Tang: Space-themed hip-hop club and Grate Expectations: All-shredded cheese shop are just a taste. Haha!

• The 30 most beautiful abandoned places in the world.

• If you’re installing a ton of framed art all on one wall, read Elsie’s how-to guide first!

• The Everygirl has a helpful list of everything you need to know when you’re apartment hunting.

• I absolutely love this D.I.Y. project that solves the age old issue of ugly power cords!

• Muz is a free app that shares a daily quote from a visionary to keep you inspired.

• Movies In Color breaks down the color palettes from famous films.

• If you’re feeling stuck, your first thought may be to stop what you’re doing but in reality, it’s better to push through and do.

• James Gulliver Hancock is an illustrator on a mission to draw all the buildings of New York.

• Damn You Art School is full of apps, tools and resources for creative professionals.

• If you’re looking for advice on how to score your dream internship, this is a fantastic post.


View more Link Love columns right here.

Blog Log #8: Are Comparisons The Root Of All Evil?

Blog Log

Blog Log Comparisons


Source: You Can’t Be Serious Blog by Natala


Whether you already have a blog or you’re just thinking about starting one, do you look at the top bloggers in your niche and wonder, “How will I ever get there?” Because I still occasionally have those days, 11 years into blogging.

Oscar Wilde famously proclaimed, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” And when I find myself getting caught up in self-imposed comparisons, I try to take solace in that. While comparisons can be a helpful benchmark to see if I’m on track (and I do follow a lot of blogs to keep up on market research and trends) if I check in too often, I start feeling low instead of inspired. How about you?

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like comparisons are harder to shake off now and it’s a sign of the times. I’ve been blogging since 2001 and I sometimes still get caught up in asking myself if my blog and work measure up. Part of this comes from a distorted reality a lot of blogs present (mine included sometimes), especially now. Back when blogging was a great big unknown and I was on Live Journal, we all did it for fun. Sure, there were really popular people but the overall playing field was much more balanced. Digital cameras weren’t that sophisticated yet and I don’t think any of us ever posted a photo larger than 500 pixels wide. I didn’t even know what an action was in Photoshop! We documented everything in a more “This is what I did today” way. There was less of a format or a formula. Our journals were often little more than personal diaries that happened to be outward-facing.


The Proof Is In The Picture

In the last few years (and especially now with Instagram), I feel like the proof is in the picture. Before, people were trying to explain how great their lives were and it was easy for us to write it off as being boastful or insecure. But now that we have visual proof, it really hits home. I’m a designer and by nature, I’m always rearranging my belongings and surroundings. Part of that no doubt comes from being in the advertising industry where the aim is to curate the best image possible on a client’s behalf. Companies pay big for that polish and it’s understandable because competition is stiff.

But what happens when that seeps into our daily lives? The lines between online and real life have been so blurred that it’s hard to separate fantasy from reality. If we see imagery in an ad campaign, it’s obvious that there’s a team behind it. But when we see it on blogs, it’s harder to tell.

When we’re comparing our blogs to everyone elses’ we only know part of the story. Contrary to what anyone says, none of us should be expected to share every little piece of our lives online. We all have different comfort zones. And we should respect that when it comes to everyone else, too. When we only see bits of a story (usually the best parts) it’s natural to fill in the blanks. I’ve met a lot of bloggers I admire (after following some for years before ever having that real life interaction) and I can tell you that I’m always blown away by how approachable, vulnerable and normal they actually seem. It’s a good reminder that we all have struggles.


Standing Out Is More Obvious Than You Think

When it comes to blogging, if you’re wondering why what you’re doing even matters, the answer is simpler than you think: We each have something within us that makes us unique. You have a distinct voice and perspective from everyone else in the world. Only you have the ability share, define and curate your experiences. Instead of comparing yourself to everyone else, you will actually stand out more by just being yourself.

If you’re familiar with differentiation when it comes to marketing, standing apart from the competition is a usually viewed as a major competitive advantage (and we go into a lot more detail on the subject at The Blogcademy). Your differences from every other blogger are what will actually make you the most memorable. If someone visits a dozen blogs in your niche, chances are that they’ll remember the one that is the most unique.


In Closing

At the end of the day, I try to remember that blog posts are just a snapshot into someone’s life. They don’t necessarily reflect a current moment. A blog post is a recollection of a point someone’s life that was memorable to them. It’s a learning experience. Instead of focusing on everyone else, focus on what you do best. The rest will come naturally. If the pieces haven’t fallen into place yet, it’s okay. It takes time. Just don’t lose sight of what makes you unique.


Do you fight self-imposed comparisons when it comes to blogging?
Any tips on how to stay focused?

View more of the Blog Log series here.

Domino Magazine Special Edition: Small Spaces!

Domino Magazine Small Spaces

Since Domino Magazine shuttered in 2009, there’s been a gaping hole in stylish, accessible decor magazines. I subscribed from the very first issue and though the overall aesthetic didn’t exactly mesh with that of my own, I appreciated the consistently seamless mix of high and low — it was so much more relatable than the other interior magazines I came across that only featured spreads of massive glass houses alongside modern furniture with minimum price tags of a few thousand dollars.

Domino Magazine Small Spaces

During the years it was around, I read every issue from cover to cover but admittedly, the relevance didn’t quite sink in at the time. Since I hadn’t yet bought a house (and didn’t have a decorating budget for that matter!) it was a fun read but I sadly recycled all of my issues after I read them.

Thankfully, there’s now occasional special editions of Domino centered around specific themes. I shared outtakes from the Quick Fixes issue here and just picked up the newest release, Small Spaces which I find to be even better curated than the last.

Domino Magazine Small Spaces

I like the overall premise behind the Small Spaces issue — making best of the limited space you currently have instead of seeking out a bigger place. After all, any space, no matter how small can be spruced up with fresh paint, a dash of patterns and a little organization.

Loaded with tons of applicable tips and tricks and organized by room, the photos are gorgeous and yes, the sources of the items are clearly listed. My favorite section in the issue by far is Organize Absolutely Everything (because I am obsessive about everything having its place) and the suggestions are super basic and applicable.

Domino Magazine Small Spaces

I know there are those Domino diehards out there that lament that these limited issues “just aren’t the same” but I have a different mentality. Times change, I love the overall design aesthetic these issues have and I’m just glad to have a home decor “magazine” to pore over that’s not full of only outrageously expensive, unattainable things. Because while aspirational, what’s the point?

Domino Magazine Small Spaces


Besides Domino, two of my other go-to home decor / lifestyle magazines have long been shuttered as well. Remember NEST and Blueprint? Sigh. Do you have any other suggestions for other home decor and lifestyle mags out there that are hip yet relatable?

P.S. I picked up my issue at Barnes & Noble but you can also grab digital editions here.