Category Archive for A Visit With

Happy Monday! I’m so excited to kick off this week with the incredible duo from the Variety Show. Amber and Michael are definitely a pair to keep an eye on, their work is so good. Based out of southern California they also have an incredible online shop filled with tons of great designed prints(I’ve been eyeing these two). Check out their shop here and read more about the talented duo below:

Tell us a little about yourself:
Hello everyone! My name is Amber and I started a little online shop called Variety Show with my husband. This little double act combines my graphic design with his illustration to create quality printed goods for the home. We met in college back in 2010 and have dreamt of collaborating on a business since then. We finally made it happen about a year ago in June 2014 and we’re exciting to keep building it up!

Describe your path to becoming a designer:
I was always interested in communicating visually. In high school it came to life even more as I would create mixed media collages with pictures and typography. From there I studied graphic design and soaked up as much as I could in college. I owe a lot to my professors who saw potential in me and pushed me to a point that I could never have done on my own.

What’s a typical workday like for you?
We both have full-time jobs and work on our shop on the side. It’s definitely a struggle to find time for it and that usually happens on the weekends. Throughout the week we’ll think up ideas and when anything comes to us we usually write it down or send each other a sample shot of our idea. Then when the weekend comes along, we’ll get to work and try to hash out as much as we can. And then, of course all correspondence and fulfillment happens throughout the week as well.

How did you prepare yourself to jump in and start your own business?
It started with a lot of googling at first (don’t judge), and then I eventually took an online course on atly.com to figure out wholesale, because no matter how much I googled that topic, it was so scarce. There was a lot of prep work that went into the website, product making/printing, and photographing, so that took about 3 months before we could even open our shop.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When we see pictures of our prints in other homes. That part is a fulfilling end to the hard work we put into the quality of our products. We try our best to curate our work as much as possible and when we finally find the right design and see that in a beautiful space, it all comes together for us.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced working for yourself?
I always have to remind myself that nobody is going to do it for me. In an agency world you only have to worry about one part of the process, but when you have to do everything yourself, it’s a lot to learn. Another struggle with that is how long it takes to get things done. I’m learning the hard way that you can’t just design and quickly turn around a product. It takes a lot of push and pull with printers to get it right and at a price that’s affordable for our audience.

Who is inspiring you at the moment?
From the very start of this business my main source of inspiration has been Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co. I had the rare opportunity to work with her on a side project and it opened my eyes to the amazing business she has going. It was then that I realized I wanted her job. I wanted to create thoughtful paper goods to sell to others and someday I hope to be able to do it full-time.

Any advice you would give to someone wanting to be a designer?
Study the history of design. That alone will set you apart from hundreds of designers today who only duplicate what’s current. When you know the foundation of where it all came from, your explorations can go beyond what we see today.

Find them here:
WORK | INSTAGRAM | BLOG

Happy Monday friends!! I’m so excited to kick-off this week with my designer pal, Bre. Bre has been such an amazing friend and mentor during my journey as a designer and has been SO supportive. Plus she’s a kickass designer and I feel like we could literally talk about food all day long which makes anyone great in my book. We’ve been friends for many years now and witnessing her grow as both a designer and business owner has been nothing short of inspirational. She has been one person I constantly look up to in my field and I’m so happy to call her a friend! Read more about Bre below:

Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Bre and I am the founder + designer behind Rowan Made, a small (AKA solo) design studio that focuses on branding, build-out, and website design for small businesses that are typically related to art, food, or fashion in some way. On the side, I also run an online workshop for freelance designers alongside my friend Jen Serafini. Work stuff aside, I also love eating (pizza!), practicing yoga, adventuring around Minneapolis, and traveling! I’m actually gearing up for a road trip in Iceland as well as a quick visit to Copenhagen this summer with my husband, so we’re getting pretty pumped about that.

Describe your path to becoming a designer:
I started dabbling around with Photoshop while I was still in Middle School, which continued on to be a hobby through high school. I’m pretty sure I just made random collages and graphics for MySpace (ha!). Everyone kept suggesting that I pursue a path in design, but I was really stubborn (at first) and didn’t want to listen, thinking that I’d give music management or nursing a shot. Then, about two weeks before college started, I completely panicked, wondering why I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do. So I switched schools, roommates, majors, and packed up to leave all in under a few weeks. It was absolutely CRAZY, but I’m so happy that I followed my gut in the end.

What’s a typical workday like for you?
I’ve found that I’m most motivated and focused in the mornings, so I try to check off my “big” tasks for the day before lunch. That doesn’t always happen, but I try! Afternoons are reserved for emails, meetings, presentations, or other small tasks that don’t require as much focus. I’m also big on boundaries between my work and personal life, so I always try my best to be done by 3 or 4pm!

How did you prepare yourself to jump in and start your own business?
I’m not sure that I prepared myself at all if I’m being completely honest. When I graduated from design school, I started applying around to jobs just like everyone else was. But after submitting a handful of applications, I found myself NOT wanting to hear hear back at all, even though I was “supposed” to be excited and diving head first into the world of design. Being my own boss seemed much more appealing at the time, so I just went for it. It was definitely a crazy decision, but I was living at my parent’s house at the time, which helped immensely. I was able to make connections and put myself out there without paying rent, which was a major blessing. I wouldn’t have survived otherwise! Thanks mom, thanks dad. ;)

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I always try my best to really dive in and understand my clients (and their business), so it’s really rewarding to receive positive emails that reinforce I’m on the right track. You know, stuff like “YES THIS!!!!” Those are my favorite moments, hands down. Well that, and seeing a brand I helped create in real life situations (signs, menus, etc.).

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced working for yourself?
It’s funny because you’d think that as my own boss, I’d make up my own rules. But for awhile, I kept trying to follow the path of a “traditional” designer instead of forging my own and simply doing what felt right. So up until now, that’s been my biggest challenge. But I’m working on it! My whole process as a designer is a big experimental mess right now and I absolutely love it! I’m learning to just be myself instead of shape my business into something it’s not. And it feels SO good!

Who is inspiring you at the moment?
I’m currently inspired by so many people! My friend Athena Pelton is a beautiful writer and inspires me through her transparency, to just be me. I love that Meg Lewis of Ghostly Ferns does these random dances on instagram that remind us all the importance of having FUN. And Amy Poehler has this mantra that I absolutely love and live by: “Good for you, not for me.”

Any advice you would give to someone wanting to be a graphic designer?
Yes! Do your own thing, dig in, experiment, and always keep going. Also understand that it takes time to develop your craft and produce consistently great work. Ira Glass sums this up really well right here!

Find Bre here:
WORK | INSTAGRAM | BLOG

A Visit With Spruce Rd

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a creative interview and I’m so excited about this one! Jamie is the talent behind Spruce Rd. a design studio and blogger who shares a plethora of knowledge on her blog about running a business and designer resources. Definitely check it out if you get a chance. Plus, I feel like she’s got such a great aesthetic, I can’t wait to see more of her work. Learn more about her below:
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Tell us a little about yourself:
Hi! I am Jamie, a graphic designer + blogger from Texas. I run a design studio, Spruce Rd., and get to work with passionate creative entrepreneurs through building their brand identities + websites. I love going on hikes, photography and date nights with my husband. Nice to meet you!

A Visit With Spruce Rd

Describe your path to becoming an graphic designer:
Initially, I studied architecture + computer animation for two years. I knew early on in the program that I did not want to pursue either of those careers, and fell in love with graphic design through an elective class. My university did not have an art program, and only offered two classes in graphic design, so I knew I needed to transfer if I was serious about this field. It was a tough decision leaving a university and friends that I adored, but I ended up transferring to a small university to pursue a BFA in graphic design + photography. I haven’t looked back since!

Looking back, it all makes sense. I used to love making posters for impromptu dance recitals in my living room when I was little, I spent WAY too much time designing my own slides in powerpoint for group projects, and KidPix won my heart. Graphic design just fits.

What’s a typical workday like for you?
Because I work from home, and for myself, I fully embrace the freedom that comes with the job! I don’t follow a strict schedule, though I do like to set aside a few blocks of time each day for certain tasks. I typically wake up in the morning and head to the gym. Following that, I respond to any emails or comments on my blog. A few days a week I like to get out of the house and work from a coffee shop or Panera (not as loud as a coffee shop!). I juggle client projects, day-to-day administration, personal side projects and creating new blog posts. I love the diversity and mix of designing, production, and writing! This helps me stay creative and avoid burnout.

A Visit With Spruce Rd

Having worked as an in-house designer, how did you prepare yourself for taking the leap into working for yourself full-time?
Prior to opening up Spruce Rd. full time, I worked as a designer for other companies for 4 years, including: in-house designer at a church, a university, and at a local design studio. All of these experiences shaped my perspective as a designer, as well as allowed me to hone in on my craft. Through in-house design, I learned SO much about the fullness of branding, and how the visual aspect that the designer provides, plays a role in communicating the vision behind the brand. I also gained great skills in working with clients, and defining what processes worked, and which were ineffective.

I feel like the design industry often overlooks in-house designers, and I am not sure why. If you work in-house, you get the opportunity to be a part of the core of a brand. If you believe in that brand, than it can be such an exciting place to be! You also get to work on a lot of fun projects from books, magazines, direct mail and large campaigns. This appreciation has prepared me to have a unique perspective with my clients. I love to dig deep and really understand their vision, so that I can come on board alongside them.

A Visit With Spruce Rd

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced working for yourself?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced so far is to be patient! I recently opened up my design studio in January of 2015, so I realize that it takes time to attract my ideal clients + feel a part of the freelancing community. I have learned to be patient in the types of clients + projects I take on. I have had to say “no” to a few potential clients, as I knew they weren’t in line the vision behind my studio. This was not an easy decision… especially when I JUST started my business! I think it is important to have a clear vision + intention behind your business, so you can dictate the direction you go, rather than allow others to passively influence you. It has definitely been a challenge to stick to these principles and be patient.

A Visit With Spruce Rd

Are there any favorite tools you’ve been using ( aside from Adobe ) that you can’t live without?
Basecamp is hands down the best project management system out there. I have tried several free + simplified sites that are similar, but they just feel incomplete. I also use Evernote like nobody’s business! It is great for brainstorming ideas, writing blog posts, and saving your favorite articles. Can’t recommend these products enough!

For sketching, I like to use layout bond paper, because it is semi-transparent and great for thumbnail sketches. I have several nicer notebooks, but I struggle with feeling self-conscious about my loose sketches (silly I know)! The translucent paper helps me get in the mindset that my sketches are quick + loose studies, and improves my productivity. It is also great for tracing over parts of a sketch that needs refining, or even type that I have printed from the computer.

A Visit With Spruce Rd

Any advice you’d give to someone wanting to be a designer and run their own business?
Yes I do! In fact I just posted an in-depth blog post about this topic not too long ago. I would recommend to focus on concept + typography first and foremost. These are the two critical elements across every design discipline: web, print, branding, stationery, etc. A good sense of typography sets you apart from designers without as much experience. I would also suggest researching a ton, and find out what you are drawn to in particular.

Also, understand that it takes time to get to really hone in on your graphic design skills. While in school, and the first few years working professionally as a designer, you will most likely not be where you want to be visually. You just have to be persistent, and you will get there! Humility will take you a long way, so embrace this struggle and learn from other designers, co-workers and mentors to help push you further. Invest in your education through college classes, e-courses and books about graphic design.

A Visit With Spruce Rd

Who is inspiring you at the moment?
The designers behind Kate Spade! I recently bought their book, which is full of design inspiration. I go back and forth on my preferred design aesthetic: minimal, or whimsical + colorful? Kate Spade is definitely the latter, yet their branding is refined and consistent. I love their feminine aesthetic, beautiful patterns, sophisticated typography and bold colors. I mean, they are doing something right if I kept a perfume paper sample of theirs, and pinned it to my inspiration wall. Beautiful embossed paper with gold foil stamp… gorgeous details!

Find Jamie here:
WORK | INSTAGRAM | BLOG

I’ve been a long time admirer of Alex’s design work and love that her incredible taste shows through everything she creates on her blog and instagram. If you’ve ever shopped at Madewell chances are you’ve seen her work and I’m so excited Alex was on board to share a little insight into her path and day-to-day. Read more about her below!

Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m Alex, a graphic designer and art director living in New York. I work as a designer for Madewell and on the side I do some freelance work and write a lifestyle blog called Dreams + Jeans.

Describe your path to becoming a graphic designer.
From a very young age I was interested in arts and design. I learned early on that fine art was not my forte, and it wasn’t until I was a bit older that I became interested in interior design. During high school, I did an architecture summer program at Carnegie Mellon thinking that maybe I would go into architecture. When that didn’t seem to fit, I remember going on the College Board website and looking up different careers and the majors you should study if you were interested in them. That’s when I came across graphic design. When I read about what graphic designers did, I recalled my scrapbooking interest from growing up and the fact that I obsessively knew all of the fonts on my computer. I never realized that could be a profession and from that moment it just sort of clicked.

I had applied to Syracuse University and when I went to visit, I sat in on a Communications Design class and fell in love with it immediately. I knew it was where I needed to go and that graphic design was what I wanted to study – I never wavered with that. I started my blog before my senior year at college and it was through that that I realized I could combine my love of fashion and design and do graphic design for a fashion company. So I spent the last semester networking like crazy to find someone who would take a chance on me at a brand I loved. And that ultimately ended up being Madewell!


What led you to working for a company versus jumping into freelancing full-time?
You know, it never really crossed my mind to freelance full-time! School was incredibly challenging and it was really drilled into us that you graduate, move to New York and work at a design firm. It’s nice to know that I could always try the freelance route if I really wanted to, but for now I really love getting to collaborate with others and work for such an amazing company.

Working for Madewell sounds like a dream job! How is that going and what’s a typical work day like for you?
Working at Madewell was a dream job out of school and still is. I’ve been there a little over 3 years and it’s just as great as it was when I first started. When I first started I worked on our website and emails, and about 2 years ago I switched to working on more print/store materials, in addition to continuing to work on emails. So whenever you receive a Madewell email, I designed it!

There really is no typical work day, as I’m usually juggling a lot of different projects at once. But it’s usually a combination of meetings, designing, planning for projects, looking for inspiration, at a store visit, art directing still photo shoots, etc!

What is your favorite part about working for Madewell?
The company I work for and the people I work with! J.Crew and Madewell are full of creative, passionate people who help make for a really great work environment. I’m constantly inspired and pushed creatively by everyone around me!

How has living in New York influenced your creativity?
New York has had a tremendous influence on my creativity and aesthetic. It’s really opened my eyes to all sorts of new things, whether it be a museum or a restaurant – inspiration is everywhere! My style and aesthetic has changed so much since moving to New York and it’s exciting to see it come out in other ways than just my design work. I’m currently really into what my apartment looks like and honing in on my personal style. For instance, I used to wear a lot more color, and now I wear mostly neutrals. I’ve started to really learn what I like and what I’m most comfortable in. It takes time to figure it all out, but I’ve enjoyed seeing my evolution on my blog.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a creative?
I’d say the biggest challenge I’ve faced was moving to New York and trying to land a job at a company I was passionate about. I can’t say I’ve had a challenge larger than that recently, but I am challenged on a daily basis with smaller things such as staying inspired and figuring out the best ways for me to move forward in my career.

Who is inspiring you at the moment?
Such a tough question! I’m inspired by so many different people all the time. If I have to choose, I’d say that right now I am inspired by Maryanne Moodie’s weavings, Julia Kostreva’s product line, and Kristine Arellano’s letterpress business, Presshaus LA. I’m really inspired by female (and male!) creatives who start businesses based around their passion.

Any advice you would give to someone wanting to be a graphic designer?
I would definitely recommend studying graphic design (or branding) if you are interested in being a graphic designer. Take classes, intern, really see what the field is like. Every career looks great on the outside but when you’re really in it you learn the behind-the-scenes hard work that comes along with them. You have to really love what you’re doing to get through the mundane parts. (And there will be a lot of mundane parts!)

I cannot emphasize the importance of networking enough! The Internet makes it so easy to connect with people and I’ve found that most people are willing to answer any questions you might have, especially if you are a student. Take advantage of that while in school and meet with as many people as you can and simply ask for advice. Your network will carry you far in life.

And for fun, what do you love to do when you’re not working?
I looove to travel! I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like to, but I really love getting to see new places and learn about new things. Outside of work, I like to just hang out, wander around the city, popping into new restaurants and shops. I really want to get into making more things in my spare time. I took a weaving class in college and want to take that up again and I’m dying to learn calligraphy. And I also enjoy a good dose of reality tv when I really need to check out!

Find Alex here:
WORK | INSTAGRAM | BLOG