Tag Archives: creative chronicles

Creative Chronicles: Being Boss Podcast Feature

Nubby Twiglet | Being Boss

Podcasts can be a valuable tool for entrepreneurs because through listening to other people’s stories, you can get an inside view of how they run their businesses, form lasting relationships and keep the creativity flowing along the way.

I link to Being Boss often in my Week + Links roundups because they always seem to cover the topics that are on my mind. If you’re new to Being Boss, it was founded by Emily Thompson & Kathleen Shannon and as they so eloquently say, “Being Boss in work and life, is being in it. It’s being who we are, doing the work, breaking some rules, and even though we each have to do it on our own – knowing we’re in it together.” Amen.

Nubby Twiglet | Being Boss

People look for that business partner relationship, but really you should just look for friends. —Gala

Basically, Being Boss rules at keeping it real. Emily and Kathleen aren’t afraid to dig in, ask the hard questions and get the real story behind the story which is why we’re all listening — we want the inside scoop. At the same time, there’s a robust community of support to back you up in the Being Boss Clubhouse.

And that’s why I find this podcast so valuable and unique — when you’re done listening, you’re not on your own. I believe that having a community to support you is one of the most important parts of growing and evolving a business.

Nubby Twiglet | Being Boss

A lot of businesses form from friendships, but you can’t force it. —Shauna

I’ve been a fan of this podcast for ages so when they asked me, along with my BFF Gala Darling to join them for an episode, I sad YES! This interview is unique because it covers how Gala and I have managed both a friendship and business relationship at the same time and kept the “friends first” mentality along the way.

I hope you’ll check out all the Being Boss episodes here. I know you’ll love them.

And, you can listen to my joint interview with Gala right here. Enjoy!


Photos: Made U Look Photography

Creative Chronicles: Being Different Is Good

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Being Different Is Good

I have a simple message for you today: being different is good. Read on to see how it can actually be your biggest asset.

“A” wrote:

I’m a web developer and graphic designer living in a small town and I’m having a hard time creating much buzz here.

I have some long term clients that usually come by referral from people I know, but as the black sheep of my family, I have been unable to get an “in” with local business or make many connections in my area. I just don’t connect with the scene.

After 8 years on this path, I’m wondering if it is worth it because I feel like I don’t have much of an audience for my work, though my actual clients (all remote) love me.

I love art, design and fashion. My personal style is more edgy/creative than what I show on my site because I have worked with mostly older, less style-brave clients until now. I want to change that but I’m not sure where to begin.


My Advice:

First off, I feel you. I think we can all remember a time in our lives when we didn’t fit in. I find it fascinating when I read interviews from famous people I admire because for the most part, they didn’t fit in, either. I know it can seem difficult in the moment but trust me, it builds character and empathy.

The sooner you own exactly who you are and play up your interests, the sooner your like-minded tribe can find you. “Just be yourself” sounds cliche but it’s the best gift you can give to yourself. I distinctly remember the stigma of being a goth in high school. The payoff was worth it, though because I was able to discover a whole new social circle that was just as weird as I was. Being yourself and knowing that there’s no pressure to impress anyone else in an effort to be cool is so freeing.

I know it can get lonely if you’re different but remember, there’s a whole world outside of your small town. If you can’t move due to various circumstances, make the best of it. I was born and raised in Portland and even though I love living here, I don’t really fit in. I’m not into anything remotely rustic, I hate hiking, don’t drink beer and all black is my uniform of choice. My design aesthetic also doesn’t fit the local mold and because of that, I have very few local clients.

Instead, I choose to focus on a worldwide audience. Most of my clients at Branch are based in New York, Los Angeles and London. It’s worked out well being “different” because I’ve gained an entirely new audience and group of clients I click with in the process.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Being Different Is Good

Rapid-fire advice to use being different to your advantage

1. Embrace your personal style fully. If knee-high black boots, eccentric jewelry and purple lipstick are your thing, rock it. If you already feel like you don’t fit in, you really have nothing to lose. I remember my neighbor’s bewildered looks at my goth get-ups and it still cracks me up. Have a good time being you — maybe your small town needs a shake-up!

2. Reach out to clients who embody your ideal design aesthetic. If you don’t have a lot of work examples to show them, you may have to work for discounted rates or trade in the beginning but just a handful of the right kinds of projects can transform your portfolio and in turn, your business. Years ago, I halved my rates for a lipstick brand but showing that one project in my portfolio has brought me in a half dozen more beauty-related projects.

3. Build a new portfolio site. Whether it’s a custom WordPress site or a Squarespace template doesn’t matter. The sooner you can show people who you truly are and what you excel at, the sooner your business can thrive. Don’t worry about what the locals think — this is your vision. People around the world are looking for talented designers daily — I just got off a call with a client in London this morning who embodies my ideal principles and aesthetics. I wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for the internet.

4. Share your work often. If you have limited time, I’d recommend three platforms to share your design work: Instagram, Dribbble and Pinterest. Each post and pin is an opportunity to make friends, meet clients and practice crafting your aesthetic and voice. You are full of personality and you got this.

5. Get out of the house. I know your town is small but there may be a good friend lurking around that you haven’t discovered yet. Everything is more fun when you have a partner in crime and someone to bounce creative ideas off of. You never know where you’ll meet someone! I met my friend Sarah at a Steampunk convention and all it took was complementing her outfit to strike up a conversation. Most people feel like they’re out of place, too — you just have to make the first move.


“Honestly, if you don’t fit in then you’re probably doing the right thing.” ― Lights Poxleitner

Stepping out from behind a toned-down image you’ve created can be scary…but it’s the only way to be truly happy. When you’re happy and comfortable in your own skin, people will be naturally drawn to that. Doors will begin to open. And pretty soon, you’ve managed to step into the life you always wanted: a life that allows you to live authentically, make a good living and surround yourself with friends who like you for exactly who you are.

Good luck!

Photos: Made U Look and Afsoon Zizia.

Creative Chronicles: When Your Job Is Uninspiring, How Do You Stay Motivated?

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: When Your Job Is Uninspiring, How Do You Stay Motivated?

An email from a long-time reader just landed in my inbox and I think it’s something we can all relate to. What happens when you feel like your creative spark has dried up and you’re just going through the paces, trying to do your job but nothing feels inspiring?

Her Question

I graduated high school in 2010 and during those years I felt so inspired by every project and was given 100% creative freedom. When I enrolled in college, I learned more structured things about design, how I couldn’t just paste pretty pictures wherever and that it had to have meaning.

Now I’m into my first real job with a real paycheck in marketing. I’ve been here about a year and a half and somehow I feel like all my ambition I once had is gone. I’ve become so used to doing everything how the client wants that most times I no longer feel like a designer but a middle man clicking and dragging things in InDesign.

How can I get that passion back for design I used to have in a job where everything is based on templates or dictated? What are some things I could do outside of work to help? I no longer create much of anything and don’t even draw anymore. How do I overcome the fear of failure when I try to create and it isn’t as good as when I was practicing/using my skills weekly?


My Answer

Let me start off first by saying that this isn’t a permanent feeling. It’s not the end of the world. With a little effort, it can get better.

Secondly, we’ve all been there. Remember, what you see online is only part of someone’s story. Most designers only show the hyper-creative, stylized work they want more of because that’s what makes sense to build their business.

The truth is, most designers have other gigs, some on the side a few hours a week and some full-time that pay the bills. These other gigs allow them the wiggle room to take on the fun, creative jobs that are often lacking the big, juicy budgets while giving them the opportunity to build out their portfolio and attract more of the right kinds of clients.

Quite a few years ago, when the economy was dismal, I took a long-term freelance gig that was mostly production work for sports brands. I loved the people I worked with but the work I produced wasn’t exactly what I was passionate about. Still, I stayed for over a year because that steady paycheck allowed me the freedom to take on freelance jobs I was excited about on the nights and weekends.

Thanks to that job, I was able to set aside extra money to travel and stay inspired. I was able to splurge on beautiful letterpress business cards for my freelance business. I was able to design the branding for a makeup company that had a smaller budget. I was able to pay all my bills on time. So, while the job wasn’t the perfect position I’d dreamed about, it covered my basic needs so I had the luxury to explore the creative side of things on my own time.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: When Your Job Is Uninspiring, How Do You Stay Motivated?

A job is only as uninspiring as you let it be

Yes, you have to listen to your boss and the clients you’re responsible for but you can find ways to still have fun.

At my past jobs, I would often do a version of the design I was told to do but also include a second version of what I thought it could be.

You might not always have the time to do this on quick turns but when you do, flex your creative muscles.

Between projects, I would scroll through Pinterest and look at design and style blogs to get a creative jolt.

There’s a world of inspiration out there and it is also a great reminder that your current position is temporary if you want it to be.

When I felt really uninspired, I would walk to the nearest coffee shop.

A few minutes away from what’s dragging you down can provide much needed clarity.

On really bad days when I felt like I needed to quit immediately, I called my agent, Dan and he gave me pep talks.

Find that one person who can help you keep things in check. Your situation isn’t that bad.

No Job Is Perfect

I’ve gotten hired at places I thought were perfect from the outside and they weren’t. Branch isn’t perfect, either. It’s always easier to think the grass is greener on the other side.

Think of every job you have as a stepping stone. Each place you end up teaches you something new. The jobs you struggle the most at will also teach you the most.

The times where I felt uninspired, exhausted or was driven to the point of tears felt completely unbearable in the moment but I learned a lot about myself, what I was good at and where I fell short. Those moments taught me what I wanted more of in my career and what I should steer away from all costs.

The only way to learn these things is through life experience. It’s not fun…but it makes you stronger and it makes you a better designer.

Your Job Is Not Your Life

Outside of your job, do whatever it takes to get inspired and bring that energy with you to work.

Make friends with other creatives who are driven and motivated. Invite them to classes, events and parties.

Commit to creating a self-initiated project that will keep your skills fresh.

Make time to visit bookstores, museums and coffee shops.

Always carry a camera, even if it’s your iPhone. Pay attention to what you’re drawn to.

Remind yourself that creative slumps are normal. Nobody is “on” all the time.

Being a designer isn’t easy and you’re going to have plenty more ups and downs. But, I think the ups far outweigh anything and you’ve got this under control. Good luck!

Creative Chronicles: Pay It Forward

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Pay It Forward

Pay it forward is defined as responding to a person’s kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else.

There are points in our creative careers when we need a helping hand — someone who is willing to reach out and make a connection that gives us a chance to take a much needed leap.

When I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer in my mid 20s, it was a bit overwhelming. Learning the skills needed to find a job in the industry was hard enough but perhaps more challenging was the fact that I didn’t have a single connection to make it happen. A decade later, I’m happily running my own studio but it was a battle to get here. Luckily, a few kind souls along the way believed in me and gave me a chance.

So that’s the topic of today: paying it forward and being genuinely helpful without expecting anything in return.

I’ve been thinking about this topic because I get emails from fresh design graduates all the time wanting to meet for coffee or do portfolio reviews. Though I can’t say yes to everything and am often traveling, I always try to respond and make the time whenever possible.

A few weeks back, I met a wonderful girl named Rose and as we were reviewing her portfolio, I mentioned that it was really important for me to get out and meet with new graduates because it was my small way of giving back.

The reason for this is because if it wasn’t for the four people below believing in me, I don’t know where my career would have ended up.

Here’s the backstory: when I decided to go back to school for the third time at 25 (yes, it took me awhile to figure out I should be a designer AND that it was a viable career), I knew that I wanted to work at a studio or agency within 2 years…but knew no one.

I got to work on making that happen but with rent to pay and full-time hours at a shoe store, I never had time to go out and make many connections. The one time I did was to a party at Nemo Design. I walked in and thought, “I want to work here.” Little did I know that a few years later, it would be my first design job.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Pay It Forward

ENCOUNTER #1: CHRIS

Chris ran my design program at Mt. Hood Community College and as our first year of classes came to an end, I told Chris I wanted to have an internship during my second year. “Where at?,” she asked, without missing a beat. “My dream would be Nemo Design.” She fired off an email to a former student who worked there a minute later and that eventually opened the door to my first interview.

ENCOUNTER #2: PADDY

I spent the summer of 2007 sending emails and walked into Nemo a few months later for an informational interview, my cheap plastic portfolio with just a year’s worth of projects pieced together. All the designers and art directors were busy so Paddy met with me instead. We hit it off because she liked that I enjoyed blogging and working in a variety of design styles. Thanks to her kindness, I started my first ever internship a few weeks later.

ENCOUNTER #3: DAN

When the economy tanked, design work was hard to come by but a chance meeting with Dan changed everything. He became my biggest cheerleader, sharing my work with studios around town and eventually got me a gig at Nike. One placement at a studio was supposed to last 3 days and ended up stretching on for over a year, giving me much needed stability. To this day, Dan and I still grab lunch and keep in touch — I know I can trust him, no matter what happens in my career.

ENCOUNTER #4: JULIE

Cinco Design was somewhere I’d always dreamed of working but it felt completely out of reach. Their work is so smart, sleek and polished. A day before I was supposed to sign a contract with another studio, Julie emailed me out of the blue. We’d met during an interview at another company years before and she asked if I wanted to stop by. At the end of that meeting, I had a job offer. Soon after, I started working on their branding team. I only had the chance to stay for a year and a half (Blogcademy took off and traveling kept me on the road) but I’ll never forget everything I learned during that time with Julie as my Creative Director.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: Pay It Forward

A lot happened in between each encounter but these 4 meetings stand out as being the catalyst that helped me build a career. We’ve all had moments where someone believed in us when things felt impossible and their acts of kindness helped us reach our goals. The great thing is, as we reach new levels, we can each do the same.

How can you pay it forward?

• The next time you have an overflow of client inquiries, recommend a friend who needs some extra work for the job.

• The next time you hear of an opening where you work, think of the people you know who may be looking for a new job.

• The next time someone asks you to introduce them to someone you know, take the time to make it happen, right then and there.

• The next time you spot an opportunity on Twitter, Instagram or a blog, forward it to to the first person who comes to mind.

Acts of kindness don’t have to be massively time consuming — setting aside 10 minutes can literally change someone’s life.

Pay it forward.


Photos: Made U Look

Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips to Update Your Design Portfolio

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips to Update Your Design Portfolio

Every year around this time, Designer Vaca opens up for registration and since this is usually the only design-related event I attend all year, I want my portfolio to be updated and looking as polished as possible. I registered last week and it’s always a good kick in the ass to get things in shape!

Portfolios are a popular search term and I can see why — as creative business owners, we need them to get more work! I made some updates to the Branch portfolio over the weekend and hope these quick and easy tips get you inspired as you’re working on yours.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips to Update Your Design Portfolio

1. Larger Images

Three years ago when I launched my portfolio, the sizing of images was a lot smaller. My early projects were sized at 1000 pixels wide but with retina displays becoming more common, I noticed my images weren’t as crisp as they could be. I just resized every project in my portfolio up to 1800 pixels wide in the hopes that even though they may take a touch longer to upload, I won’t have to redo any projects for the foreseeable future. Save yourself time by going bigger now!

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips to Update Your Design Portfolio

2. Introduction Graphics

One thing my portfolio was lacking was a sense of cohesion from project to project since the work spanned over such a long period of time. I just made an additional graphic for the beginning of each project with an intro that briefly sums up the brand. Whether you’re doing a digital or print portfolio, an introduction is a simple way to add whitespace and let the design work breathe.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips to Update Your Design Portfolio

3. New Color Swatches

In the past, I used various charts to show a brand’s colors within a project but once again, these were all over the place style-wise. After doing some research, I really liked the way Brand Minute showed colors with Pantone-inspired swatches so I’ve switched over to this style. Whichever way works for you, make it a consistent, signature element from project to project.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips to Update Your Design Portfolio

4. Better Mockups

Over the last year, mockups have gotten much better. The detail these days is incredibly realistic, whether you’re showing a new line of t-shirts, beauty products or stationery. I use mockups to showcase finished projects because they help me stay consistent, repeating certain visual elements, colors and lighting styles throughout the graphics. I am a fan of Pixeden but also buy a lot of pieces off Creative Market, like this set I used to create visuals for Kate’s new essential oils.

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles: 5 Tips to Update Your Design Portfolio

5. More Flat Lays

Showing a logo only gives the viewer so much information about a project — seeing the pieces in use and how the varying elements work together really helps them understand the breadth of your work. These can be time consuming but well worth it to break up the simpler images and increase visual interest. I like pulling elements in from various mockup sets and arranging them in new configurations so nothing feels too canned. The key is to make these scenes your own.


As creatives, it’s our jobs to show and explain to potential clients what we can do — and our portfolios are a look into not just what we’ve done but what we want more of in the future.

Sometimes, I feel that putting together a portfolio is the hardest project I’ve ever done. Do you, as well? Doing work for yourself always somehow feels more monumental and stressful, doesn’t it?

Making the time is hard — it means stepping away from something you enjoy and investing it towards your business, with no guarantee of a return. But, as more of the right clients begin to roll in, it is always worth it when you’re able to take on more of the work you enjoy.

Your turn: Do you have any portfolio questions? Let me know in the comments!
Featured project: Kate Eckman by We Are Branch.