My 15 Must-Have Items For Running A Graphic Design Studio

Nubby Twiglet | My 15 Must-Have Items For Running A Graphic Design Studio

I love what I do but without the right tools, it would be difficult to get my work done. Every day that I’m in my office, I reach for these tried and true items to keep my projects running smoothly. I’m always on the hunt for products and services that have the right mix of looks, value and functionality and these are what I’ve personally found to work best.

I hope this list saves you time on your search for the perfect mix of gear:

Nubby Twiglet | My 15 Must-Have Items For Running A Graphic Design Studio

1. Samsung Digital Camera:

I love this camera so much. After going through a total of six others over the last 15 years, this is hands-down the best one I’ve ever owned. While I loved my Sony, this is leaps and bounds above in picture quality, durability and looks. The best part is that it’s WIFI compatible so when you’re on the go, you can snap a photo, send it straight to your phone, edit and upload on the spot. The quality of this puts phone cameras to shame so for the last year, I’ve been exclusively using it to shoot photos for my Instagram stream, not to mention every single photo on my blog.

I could go on forever about this camera and its awesome features but the real proof is in how many people around me have the same exact model — Kat, Gala, Pam and even my mom swear by it!

2. Canon Scanner:

I used to have a big, clunky scanner until I was introduced to this model at one of my agency jobs. Besides being affordable, it’s super slim and the quality is fantastic. I’ve been using this for the last 5 years and it’s still going strong.

3. Samsung Color Laser Printer:

Years ago, I had an ink jet but once I started doing larger scale projects, the cartridges just got to be too expensive. I knew laser printers were the way to go but had always assumed that the color versions were out of my league. After some research, I came across this Samsung model and it can print hundreds of color copies on the same set of cartridges. Plus, it’s so small that it fits right next to my desk. The days of those massive copy machines in offices are over — the quality of this is on-par with them! While the printer comes boxed with a starter set of color cartridges to get you going, I’d recommend bundling it with the separate full set of cartridges as well so you never run out mid-project.

4. Aesop Body Balm:

When you’re designing for long stretches, it’s nice to have quality basics nearby. I picked up this Aesop lotion on a whim and love its non-greasy texture and super citrusy scent. I’m a minimalist at heart and it’s one of just a few things I constantly keep on my desk.

5. Pantone Coated and Uncoated Swatches:

I still send projects to print all the time and as you know, what you see on your monitor is not always accurate. It’s also nice to have these on hand so you can list the PMS swatch equivalents in a client’s brand guidelines. This is the set I have and it comes boxed with both the coated and uncoated books so you’ve got the basics covered.

6. Western Digital External Drive:

When I needed an external hard drive a few years back, I started my search on Amazon and kept coming across rave reviews for Western Digital drives. They’re solid, a great value and both Mac and PC compatible. I now have multiples and recommend them to all my friends and clients. I always keep two on hand to run backups — one is plugged into my computer at all times to run Time Machine and the other is a complete backup of my computer I do every few months and store in a separate, safe place.

As a sidenote, when I bought my first external hard drive, I threw it in my purse and was hard on it which led to the connecting cable going bad. Now, I’m much more careful and always carry it in a case. These cases are cheap, lightweight and fit the Western Digital drives perfectly.

7. Adobe Creative Cloud:

I renew my membership once a year and updates for the Adobe Suite download straight to my desktop. I use these products for a solid 10 hours a day and couldn’t do my job without them. If you’re curious about all the plan options, you can check them out here.

8. Apple 27” iMac:

My everyday workhorse, I’ve been on the same iMac for the last four years and it’s still going strong.

9. Dropbox:

When I finish a client’s suite of brand files, I send them a Dropbox download link to access them. It’s nice to have their assets stored in a place that they can grab as needed at any time. I have the Pro account and it’s more than paid for itself — I literally use it every day.

10. Fellowes Paper Shredder:

I’m super careful when it comes to printing out comps of my clients’ works in progress, dealing with junk mail and any other documents I don’t want end up in the wrong hands. This shredder takes care of business, handling up to six sheets at a time. Yes, there are cheaper shredders but they jam constantly and there’s nothing more annoying than that.

11. Kikki K Weekly Planner:

I’m super basic when it comes to tracking what needs to be done. There are a million apps and digital calendars out there but nothing has worked as well for me as good old fashioned pen and paper. I love these weekly planners because you can see exactly where you have gaps of time for meetings, projects and calls at a quick glance.

12. Spotify:

When I’m busy, I don’t have time to sift through a million new albums. I love the endless amount of playlists on here, especially those by Tim Schlesser, who does the Ace Hotel mixes. I turn one on and it lasts all day, allowing me to star the best of the best songs to revisit later.

13. Apple MacBook Air:

I used to have the regular MacBook but after a series of 10 flights in less than a month, I was left with an aching back and knew that the Air was a necessity. I travel with this 13” model everywhere and even though it’s super thin and lightweight, it’s solid. More importantly, the battery life lasts and lasts.

14. Wacom Tablet:

This medium size gives you room to sketch and explore and you can also pick up an optional mouse to use on the surface when you’re not drawing.

15. Poppin Ballpoint Pens:

I splurged when I moved into the new Branch studio last year and bought coordinating Poppin office supplies and not only are they fun but the quality is awesome. I reach for these ballpoint pens constantly.

Okay, now it’s your turn! What products and services do you swear by to keep your creative business running smoothly?

The Week In Pictures: 7.17.15 | Cannon Beach

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

On Monday night, I was sitting in my office chatting with a friend who’d had a hard day. An hour into catching up on life, I blurted out, “You know what I love most about you? How spontaneous you are. You’re always up for anything. Wouldn’t it be funny if we decided to get up tomorrow and drive to the beach?”

A moment of silence hit.

Then, she responded with, “This is really weird but I was just meeting with a mentor earlier today and she said that I should go to the beach or forest to clear my mind and take a long walk with someone I trust.” I took that as a sign and we wasted no time setting up an out-of-town adventure for the next day.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

Beach, pleeeeeease.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

I packed the bare basics and we were sitting in the sand by noon.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

We first visited Manzanita and then Cannon Beach, which was calm and serene mid-week. The most beautiful flowers lined the sides of the road.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

I love the weathered, quaint look of houses and businesses at the beach.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

After the long walk my friend’s mentor had recommended, we found a log along the edge of the beach and spent a few hours just chillin’. I still had some work to do via email but anyone that needed anything immediately was met with, “Sorry, I can’t work right now. My feet are in the sand.” Luckily, my clients are cool and laughed it off!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

No stop to the beach is complete without some sweet indulgences. This candy shop is always a favorite.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

The one and only Haystack Rock.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

Every time I visit Cannon Beach, it’s a personal tradition to snap a photo of this place. So unbelievably cool.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures: Cannon Beach

As we said goodbye, I was happy I made the time to get away, spend time with a good friend and ignore all the things that needed to get done, at least for a day. If you, a family member or friend is having a difficult time, I know how hard it can be to work through an issue when your mind is spinning and just a day out in the world exploring can provide you with some much needed clarity.

“Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit.” –Napoleon Hill

Have a great weekend, friends. xo

Link Love: 7.16.15

Nubby Twiglet | Link Love: Stella McCartney

• Kelsey shares how to schedule your time when you work full-time and freelance on the side.

• Workweeks should be limited to 32 hours and this is why.

• 6 natural ways to avoid the dreaded afternoon slump.

• Caitlyn Jenner has her own website and has started answering reader submitted questions. I’ve loved reading her responses so far.

• The 50 best book covers of 2014.

• I’m completely obsessed with the Oh Happy Day shop of party goodies. You can even sort by color!

• Jasmine Star explains why you should send your clients gifts.

• Here’s how to get people to trust your product.

• My dreams have come true: there’s a hotel in Japan where you can rent an alpaca to be at your wedding!

• My studio, Branch is undergoing a brand refresh.

• Behold tiny objects matched with Pantone swatches.

• Hossein Derakhshan makes his case for saving the open web.

• What’s the longest possible NYC subway ride?

• Not sure what to bring to a Summer party? How about a monochromatic fruit salad?

• If your website is flash-based, now is the time to make the switch.

Image: Stella McCartney via Modelmoiselle.
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10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Biggest Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Big Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

Ten years ago, in 2005, I took on my first freelance project. Though the project was very small, it was a start.

I put aside my fear of not being good enough and just got going and as you know, getting started is sometimes the biggest hurdle. Once you believe in yourself enough to try something new, doors will slowly but surely begin to open.

In the time since, I’ve been fortunate to work at ad agencies on projects for Fortune 500 companies and now, I spend my days running a design studio, collaborating with dozens of small businesses to make their brand visions a reality. While that’s a short and sweet overview, the learning curve has been ridiculously steep. With the good comes the bad and with the career highs come plenty of lows. Having a creative career is a nonstop roller coaster and through it all, subjectivity plays a big part in what we do.

I’ve always felt that we can learn from one another’s experiences, both in an effort to improve ourselves and also to avoid the same pitfalls.

So without ado, these are 10 lessons I’ve learned during my first 10 years as a graphic designer:

1. Trust your gut.

That old adage trust your gut gets thrown around a lot. I used to get annoyed when I heard it, partly because I didn’t fully understand what it meant. Later on, I found myself in plenty of positions when I just knew. That general uneasiness? That feeling of being pushed into a corner? That knot in your stomach that just won’t go away? Simply put, your body is telling you to trust your gut.

It doesn’t matter how badly you want to work with a company, it’s important to pay attention to the signs. If they have issues communicating during basic email introductions, balk at your contract, flake out on calls or contact you only to disappear for weeks on end, it never ends well.

An email recently popped into my inbox from a massive toy manufacturer whose products line the shelves of every big box store in the U.S. After some quick back and forth, the contact blew off our call, then rescheduled and missed a second one on the same day. They then promptly disappeared, only to pop up two weeks later with an unplanned phone call, asking if we could push aside my studio process to start the project right away. The warning bells went off and after I politely declined, they promptly hung up on me. Crisis averted!

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Big Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

2. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Start where you are, right now. No excuses. With consistency and drive, you can build an amazing company, brick by brick. The reality is that when you’re starting out, you probably won’t have a fat bank account to keep you afloat for months on end while you design a custom website with finely tuned copy, create letterpress business cards and decorate a big, modern, all-white office. And, that’s okay. Don’t let a lack of anything hold you up, ever.

I started experimenting with graphic design from my childhood bedroom and when I couldn’t afford art school, I enrolled in a community college program. My business really took off in the spare bedroom of a house I bought with my brother and it wasn’t until I’d been freelancing for nine years that I finally signed the lease on a dedicated studio space.

Even though my first real portfolio was a basic template hosted on Cargo, that was good enough to bring in steady clients until it was time to take the leap to launching Branch. Oh, and that website has never been perfect because it was literally designed and developed in 10 days flat. Only now am I going back and refining my brand with a completely new site that’s launching later this summer. Wherever you’re at right now, good enough is good enough.

3. Being “the best” is a losing battle.

Instead, strive to be original. While it’s inspiring to look at the work of creatives you admire and use that as fuel to improve your craft, I’ve learned that being the best at what you do is completely subjective. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Not everyone is going to love what you do so trying to please a massive audience is a sure-fire road to mediocrity.

If you’re struggling to find the originality in what you do, start small. Before you share a piece of work, step back and ask yourself if there’s a final, unique touch you can add to the mix. Those small details are what make your work stand apart from the rest. If you’re having trouble finding your voice, start by writing more personal Instagram captions and tweets. Eventually, those snappy one-liners will grow into stories. Your voice and visual style are already in there but you have to flex your creative muscles every day to make them stronger.

4. Word of mouth is stronger than Google.

Some of the project inquiries I get are directly from Google or Pinterest but believe it or not, the majority these days are from good ol’ word of mouth. I recently did a spider diagram and was shocked at how many of my clients crossed over — most of them knew one another. Good, reliable help is harder to find than you might think so if you do a fantastic job for a handful of people, they’ll be more than happy to recommend you to their friends. Take good care of your core group of clients and in return, they’ll take good care of you.

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Big Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

5. Middle-of-the-road is career suicide.

I’ve always been an all-or-nothing type of person which can be intense and draining but it does have its benefits. Coasting along in a creative field just won’t cut it. Whether you have a full-time position or work for yourself, you have to be willing to hustle big time. Your ideal projects won’t just get handed to you out of thin air — competition is stiff and there’s some truly amazing talent out there. If your burning desire to create has softened, it may be time for a reboot. Read Damn Good Advice by George Lois (one of the original Mad Men) whose drive and chutzpah can inspire just about anyone.

6. Define your voice and style.

Focus on developing your personal style along with the way you package and sell your services. That packaging coupled with your unique voice is what’s really going to make you stand out from the 1,000 other choices your customer has at their fingertips. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re really no different from everyone else but the fastest way to climb out of that hole is to refine your voice and vision.

Not sure what your style is or where to start? Spend the weekend looking through the websites of your all-time favorite designers. Take screen shots and pin the best snippets of visuals and copy to a private Pinterest board. What is it about their style that feels cohesive? Do they gravitate towards hand-lettering, botanical prints, punchy colors, a lot of negative space or something else?

Even more importantly, subscribe to the blogs and Instagram accounts of the folks you admire. Now, comb though each and compare how they share their portfolios and their services. What feels the most natural and non-sleazy to you? I call this exercise market research — and remember, everything you need to know is out there!

7. Only share what you want more of.

The beauty of being online is that people only see what you choose to show them. This might sound deceiving but I assure you, it’s not. If you work a day job doing graphics for big box sports stores (I’ve been there!) but don’t want more of this type of work in the future, don’t show it. I used to show everything I worked on — the good, the bad and the questionable were all fair game. At the time, I needed the work and the work came flowing in by the bucketload. The only problem? It was a strange brew that I didn’t necessarily love.

Once I started Branch, I tightened my focus towards small businesses with an emphasis on fashion, beauty, food and do-gooders (those who are dedicated to making a difference in the world). All the stuff that equaled a good paycheck but left me unfulfilled got axed. By only sharing the projects I feel most passionate about, there’s been a huge domino effect of like-minded folks reaching out.

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Lessons in 10 Years: My Big Takeaways During a Decade of Graphic Design

8. Bigger isn’t always better.

When I began freelancing, I knew I eventually wanted to run my own studio but beyond a few sets of helping hands, I never aspired to have a massive company. Why? Because I once worked at those big agencies and the people around me were never content. There was a feeling of more, more, more with no end in sight. More clients meant that there needed to be more employees to do the work. And naturally, more employees equaled more overhead. It was a never-ending cycle and I always felt a bit lost in the mix. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to grow your business — in fact, I encourage you to because you’ll never know if it’s a good fit if you don’t try. But, the key is to figure out what your goal for earning more money truly is. Not sure? Read Sian’s post.

9. Pitch, even if you’re scared shitless.

It doesn’t matter how popular someone is — they’re still a human sitting on the other side of the screen. Reach out and make a good pitch but always remember the golden rule of letting them know what the’ll get in return. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no and a no at least means that you stepped outside of your comfort zone and tried.

At the beginning of this year, I taped a list of goals to my wall. Six months later, two of the goals felt completely insurmountable on my own — I couldn’t seem to find the time or gather the resources so I regrouped and came up with another angle. I knew the ideas were too good to throw away so I gathered a list of creatives I could pitch my ideas to. Now, I’m working on two courses with businesswomen I admire and the ideas will be so much stronger thanks to their knowledge. If I’d never pitched, the ideas would still be there, gathering dust. Go forth and send at least one scary email today — it could change your life.

10. Stay humble.

Have you ever worked with someone who made everyone’s life around them a complete, living hell? Yes? It sucks, doesn’t it? Please don’t be that person. No matter how talented you are, nobody wants to deal with an asshole.

Kindness goes a long way and can shape a designer’s future. I still remember how unsure I was of myself during my first internship but through it all, the designers around me were so patient and helpful. We all have to start somewhere and it’s so much easier to grow into your full potential when you’re placed in a nurturing, nonjudgemental environment. Now that I have my own interns, I’m always thinking of new ways to show I care and checking in regularly to see if they have any questions. It’s cool to be kind.

There you go! 10 lessons in 10 years. The best learning happens on the job so here’s to 10 more! Thanks for reading!

Your turn: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your creative career?

Photos: Afsoon Zizia and Shauna Haider.

The Week In Pictures: 7.10.15

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Happy Friday! How was your week? It’s been full-on over here as we crack into the design of Rock n Roll Bride Magazine. If you’ve been around these parts for awhile, you’ll remember that I designed the original three issues and at that time, it was a yearly self-published publication. Then, it went big-time and a full team at a publishing company took the reigns. Just last month, Kat realigned, starting her own publishing company and brought the magazine back in-house. With that shift, Branch picked back up the design and it’s been a massive yet awesome undertaking as we freshen up the look, redesigning much of the 160 page magazine from scratch.

The studio walls are getting more covered by the day. My design assistant, Samantha has been camped out with me as we output each finished spread on the new laser printer (highly recommend it!) and watch it come to life. It’s been really exciting to do a project on this scale — I always dreamed of working at a magazine and it’s a welcome surprise to find myself on the other side, managing the design.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

After long days at the office, I’ve been coming home to chill out in my room which you may remember from the tour earlier this year. I took this photo yesterday and it’s held up pretty well — with new spaces, sometimes you except a lot more shifting but I’m still pretty happy with how it came together.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Here are some coffee table details — I have the sister pair of these shoes in my office colors below. Hey, who says shoes can’t double as art?!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Thoughtful clients make my life! It’s those thank you cards, sweet emails and Instagram comments that can really turn a bad day around. This week, I came home to a large box and thought to myself, “I haven’t been shopping. AT ALL. Really. REALLY!” Ripping it open, I found the most amazing vase from Celeste over at The Devil Wears Flip Flops (and I promise, I’ll spill the beans on this project soon. One of my most favorites, ever.) A white vase just screams for bright flowers, right?


On a more personal note, the last two weeks post-vacation have been challenging but I know that with challenges also comes growth and breakthroughs. With so many large projects hitting at once, my energy has been focused 90% on client work and 10% on revamping Branch — I just handed off our new site for development and the fresh (square!) business cards arrived yesterday! With all this going on, it’s made fitting in blogging harder and honestly, I miss having a more regular routine. Fourteen years in (and nearly eight years here), I still love it. It’s a part of who I am and I’m working on trying to carve out more time. It’s important to make time for those personal projects you love — life isn’t all about money and accolades. Your personal creative pursuits are what will feed everything else so give them the love they deserve.

“Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts.” -Rita Mae Brown

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Link Love: 07.09.15

Nubby Twiglet | Essingtonbee Designs

• 200 essential resources for entrepreneurs building a business! Damn, son!

• Bre just shared a really insightful post on the importance of brand strategy.

• Austin Kleon has gathered a multitude of ways you can graciously say no to anyone.

• If your oldest friend has stopped evolving, should you move on?

• How can you take the shame out of self promotion?

• RuPaul is a master at building brand loyalty. What can you learn?

• Expensive wine is for suckers.

• Alex shares how to get back on track with a goal when you’re backsliding.

• Would you ever consider revamping your Instagram profile and making it more themed?

• Ariana Grande wants to remind you that she does not belong to anyone. Preach!

• My cosmetics brand of choice MAC is opening its first makeup studio!

• 25 powerful commencement speeches by women.

• A great reminder: 15 golden principles of visual hierarchy.

• Why is America obsessed with perfect teeth?

Image: Essingtonbee Designs.
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