Archive for the ‘ADVICE’ Category



today’s question: “what do you do to keep from getting trapped in the rabbit hole of inspiration?”

i don’t know about you but i find the best stuff when i’m so deep in the black hole of , magazines, books, etc. i like the adventure of going from one thing to another. when an artist’s name takes me to a gallery site which takes me to more artists and more artists. or when i read a blog and they mention a new brand, or fresh talent. click click click. it can be overwhelming and i always feel like i need to see everything but i’ve learned to let go. sometimes if there is a site i don’t have time to explore but i want to check out later i’ll pin one image. if i bookmark it the normal way i’ll never look at it again.

to avoid getting totally stuck i’ll usually jump in the hole with a project in mind. i always find inspiration for future projects but i try to pull what will currently help me. i’ll give myself an hour or two and then go through the inspiration and organize it by purpose, color, type, style. i will make boards (usually in indesign) that show my ideas with a page representing each thought. after I’ve dropped and edited everything in the document i can see where i need more and ill go back just looking for that extra piece in mind.

while i am a total sucker for and browsing around the internet for inspiration, i can definitely say i do FAR less of it these days. i feel like the blog world is completely full of repurposed content and similarities and i think this has a lot to do with everyone looking to other bloggers or pinboards for ideas instead of looking for NEW sources of inspiration. and this means pushing yourself out of your house, out of your state and even out of your country! i have found the most inspiration sitting on a train in a random city or on an airplane when i have time to really sit with my ideas.

the distraction of the internet can almost clutter my mind too much these days. i think always looking online can often breed unhealthy competition as well. it shouldn’t feel like “oh geez, look what she’s doing on her blog…how am i ever going to top that!?” no no no. it should just be about making your ideas come alive and feeling fulfilled while doing so. once you take a step back, let yourself be inspired and create something that you love, i think people pick up on the passion and are drawn to it (at least i hope so!)

i create this document every year called the “designlovefest mind map”…i write down everything i want to focus on that year, whether it’s partnering with brands, or doing more videos, or focusing more on entertaining. i write it ALL down. even if i think i will never be able to achieve them. and then i write next to those goals WHO can help me get there. do i need a photographer? or a stylist? this exercise will just get your mind SPINNING. thinking of ideas that are new and exciting for you.

don’t get me wrong, reading blogs is great (ahem, i would be sad if you stopped reading this one!) but find a good balance of pen to paper, going on walks or outings and of course traveling! and if you do want to do some internet browsing i usually look at who the people i respect are following. a lot of the times you will find a different style or aesthetic that will give you a fresh perspective.

(illustration by . read more freelance advice posts are over here!)



today’s question: “how do you keep your interns and designers inspired and happy?”

i’m gonna take over this week because bri is sick in bed with the flu, but she’ll be back next week! i interned at kate spade the summer before my senior year of college. i loved being included in the creative brainstorms, getting to watch an ad campaign come together with sharpie sketches and actually going to the shoot to watch it comes to life. as a student i was clueless how the real world worked. i was learning about jobs that i never knew existed and getting to watch it with my own eyes. on the job training and observing is the best way to learn something (besides actually doing it). i was invited on set for the holiday 2008 ad campaign, but i was an intern so i was there to watch. i did get to assist the prop stylist with some simple projects and was asked to be a hand model last minute. i modeled a glove! when i happily pointed out my hand holding the snowball to all my friends. that internship was creatively fulfilling but it also included the not-so-exciting types of jobs like scanning from books, resizing images and making templates for store windows. i didn’t get discouraged or mad because i was there to learn! i absorbed anything and everything. if i didn’t have anything to do i didn’t sit around waiting and twiddling my thumbs. i went to every designer’s desk and asked if i could help them with something. the jobs that i helped them with were usually ones i wouldn’t have been able to work on if i hadn’t asked! i was so happy to help because i felt like i was doing something that mattered. i felt like i was really contributing to the greatness of that brand.

and now i’m on the other side of things having interns of my own. i keep my internship experiences in mind when i’m working them. i give them projects that i need help on and try to leave some creativity up to them. sometimes it is helping with little things like scanning images and filing them appropriately or helping pull inspiration for a story i’m working on. they want to feel like they’re contributing and being able to own projects to help build their portfolios. they are there to learn and help, but they also want to take something back with them. i also ask them what their goals are and where they want to take their career. if it’s illustrating, i’ll try to have them help me with that as much as possible. or if they’re more interested in photoshoots, i’ll invite them into the meetings and have them listen on the phone calls so they understand the ins and outs. in the past i’ve also had an intern project. it was something that they owned and usually lasted their entire internship. the most recent one was having them design the email and blog series based off the big marketing campaign. the concept and elements were already in play, but they had to translate and design it for another platform.

they just want to feel included, respected and creative! don’t make them get your coffee. have them help out with something you’re doing so you can take the 10 minutes to go get it. you’ll enjoy the fresh air.

(illustration by . read more freelance advice posts are over here!)



today we tackle the topic of style shoots in our “how to run a blog outta your car” series. i started blogging about things i liked to wear casually, and it went from the simplest snapshots of me in outfits taken by friends (here’s my very first one!) to fully planned, styled and executed shoots. it’s been really fun getting to be more creative with it. i’ve done everything from creepy (this stanley kubrick inspired post) to ethereal (remember the underwater one?) and i’ve recently started to work with brands on some concepts as well (like jumping with lucky magazine or dream jobs with benefit!)

here are a few important things i’ve learned about shooting style posts:

• lighting is everything. this is true for every kind of post, like i mentioned last week. this is especially important when shooting people. i’m a big fan of the magic hour, just before sunset. you are going to get some nice flare action! see…

you don’t want the sun to be too hot – the subject would just be squinting the whole time. so i just avoid mid-day. for this shoot we woke up at 4 something in the morning to drive to the beach for the soft light. i like to shoot on days that are a little overcast. these two were both shot by a giant window in my loft on a rainy day…(this is also the best light for your skin!) , my friend and blogshop partner has shot countless style posts for me, and she gives the following advice: “finding a white wall that can be behind the photographer as they’re shooting creates a natural bounce from the sun that will often add light to the eyes and help clean up and perfect the face. you can also use a piece of white foam core to catch a bounce of fill-light. they make pieces with black on one side and white on the other. play with using light on the subject and see the difference it can make.”

• bring a lotta options. different color tights, different shoes, backups and extras. take a couple test shots to see what translates well on camera and what doesn’t. adjust accordingly. you don’t want to rely on post editing, especially if photoshop isn’t your forte. (let help you there) you want the shots to be as close to postable as they can be to save yourself work.

• practice different poses, but try not to go too posey-posey with it. by this i just mean learn what feels natural and comfortable to you, and what is the most flattering to your outfit. i’ve also learned to loosen up and embrace movement in my posts the most. cartwheels, handstands and jumping on trampolines have all happened in my posts. you might feel silly doing it, but a lot of the times those make the most memorable shots. i like to make it easy on the photographer and just move around a lot, give them a ton of options.

i find it easier to try to interact with my environment as much as possible. for instance, above…i could have just sat and posed on the diving board (awkward), but i thought it would be interesting to interact with the pool. again, seems silly…but it works.

• make a pinboard (you can make it private and share it with your photographer) i definitely do this if i am putting a lot of time or $ into a shoot. pin the hair and makeup looks you are going for. pin poses that inspire you. pin the photography style you are envisioning (is it a dark, grainy film look or bright and colorful?) help your team know what’s inside your brain. stretch your art director muscles! it’s good for ya.

• scout locations! this is something i should do more often. last year i drove around my town with a notebook and wrote down a bunch of streets that had colorful walls, interesting architecture…anything i thought would look great in a style shoot. sometimes all you need is a blank room though! so don’t think it always needs to be a big ordeal…to find great locations you just have to open your eyes and look around your neighborhood. go on a walk and snap iphone photos of possible places.

• a word on photographers and equipment too. these days you really can get away with a lot on your iphone, but there is something to be said about a great photographer. if you have any friends who are into photography, just plan a day to play around and get some great shots for both of your portfolios.

• it pays to study photography you like, too. what is it about the photo that draws you in? the lighting? the angles? one thing that makes the entire post more interesting is capturing different parts of the same look. details, details details. it’s important to get close ups of the accessories and interesting seams, patterns and buttons. try shooting from above, behind or below to get different effects. shoot through something. just experiment. says angela, “when shooting full-length shots, having the photographer shoot from waist-level will make the subject appear taller in the clothes.”

• and lastly, is there a concept? my style shoots went from “street style” to more conceptual over the past year. my goal was to make them more on the editorial side. throughout the process i have found that my main passion is art direction. i love seeing an idea come to life. yes, these take a lot more work. you have to find the perfect outfit – sometimes i rent them. like this dress for the shining i knew i was only going to wear that one time. figure out if there is going to be props – this one needed cocktail glasses, jewelry, and tulle. but i am telling you, these are very rewarding, so give them a try!

actually you should watch this video if you wanna see behind the scenes on our shoots!

do you have any tips on how you make your style shoots run smoothly? i’m sure you’ve got a couple up your sleeve…and hopefully you find these tips helpful!

(shoes & bracelet photo by: , all the others are from the style column! also, see the last post from “how to run a blog outta your car” right over here.)



today’s question: “how do you say “no” to friends asking you to work for free?”

so your friend is starting a new company and needs help with all her branding, website, blog, etc. she knows you’re a kick ass designer and comes to you first because she trusts you… and also has no budget. we’ve all been there. it’s awkward. you’d love to help your friend out but your time is worth something too.

we’ve talked before about trading or giving a friend discount. you could find something between those two, but that doesn’t always work. both sides have to really stick to their side of the deal. if you make a trade be sure to put a time limit on that trade (something i recently learned). a friend of mine wanted to claim their side of the trade before my wedding. in hindsight i should’ve said no because i was in the thick of designing for myself and i was already overwhelmed. i said “sure!” because it was my turn to deliver. i didn’t give it my all like i should’ve and it was so stressful on top of my crazy work load.

if you end up saying yes and doing it for free (you’re a really good friend) still write a contract! tell your friend that you will treat her like any other client when you’re working together. be up front about what you will be giving her, how many rounds of revisions and when everything is due. also ask her to be professional with you.  if she doesn’t take you seriously and wastes your time it could be a disaster. be honest and up front the entire time. if you feel like she is asking for too many revisions or not giving feedback in a timely manner SPEAK UP! you don’t want to let that because you will start to resent taking on the project and possibly your friend. bad combination.

i’ve helped out some friends for free but i made it very clear how much time i could spend with them on their project. so far, we’re all still friends.

this one is hard because i have had some really amazing experiences working for friends at no charge. i considered them fun, creative, easy projects and a lot of them turned out that way. but i will also tell you that some of my least favorite projects have been for friends because it is hard to put boundaries on a project. one of my worst experinces was for a mutual friend that i did a favor for (because i thought “if my friends love this person, so will i!”) WRONG. i wasn’t professional enough from the start, i didn’t have a proper contract, and things turned really sour. endless revisions, she had a really bad attitude and was very needy. but you know what, it was my fault for assuming that things would be just fine. lesson learned.

i have also had friends come out of the woodwork needing free design work (you know, the ones you haven’t talked to in years and then all of a sudden need a favor?) and that’s when i had to put my foot down. it will never be easy to say no to a real friend that needs help. i can sit here and tell you to just give them a discounted rate instead…but i am guilty of doing a lot of free work for friends because i just really like the person. or the project. but when someone you haven’t talked to all year needs you to design their business cards? that i can’t stand behind. people are entitled and i’m not cool with that.

katie’s right. trades should have a deadline. make a contract. be upfront about revisions. and do your best to talk to them like you would any other client. if you’re too busy, just say it! because you really aren’t doing them a favor if you are going to give them half-ass work. refer them to someone that you know will do a good job and let them know you would love to give your opinion about it. it’s really a case by case scenario. i’m still going to help my little sister with her resume design and my best friend with her company if she really needs it. it’s only when you feel like someone is taking advantage of you that the situation is bound to get ugly.

have you had any terrible experiences with doing free work for friends? it’s hard, right?

(illustration by . read more freelance advice posts are over here!)



today’s question: what makes a great portfolio site?

every artist should have one! i think it’s important to have something to represent you when someone googles your name or company. it should be easy to navigate and give the user a clear idea of who you are and what you do. even if you’re just starting out and you’re not sure where you’re going. it could just be a site. something. anything.

i think the best portfolio sites are the basic ones with no frills. nothing too precious or complicated. i just want to see your best projects and find your info. a potential client or employer just wants to click through quickly and be impressed. bri and i wrote about presenting your best projects in job interviews and to clients and the same advice goes for your site too. only show what you’re most proud of. show the projects that you want to keep doing. do you love doing illustrations? keep those on your site (and keep updating it)! when potential clients check it out, they will see illustrations and think that is what you like to do and want to keep doing. if you like doing multiple things, then include pages with individual projects within them.

i also think it’s important to keep a couple of your best projects limited to your actual portfolio for interviewing. they will be refreshing when you’re meeting with someone who has already clicked through most of your work online. you could consider your online portfolio a summary of your physical one.

don’t forget your page! i’ve been to many portfolio sites where i couldn’t figure out how to email the artist. then the moment passes and i forget about them. it’s a bummer. you don’t need to include your phone number or address; an email is totally fine. if you have a blog that involves what you do professionally, include it under there. it will be another avenue for someone to explore who you are even more. if it’s about your personal life…maybe save that for your family and friends.

when i first started working on my portfolio site in college i thought it was really important that i build it from scratch. looking back i want to smack my 21 year old self and tell her not to waste all that time. i didn’t want to be a web designer or developer, so why drag myself through all that coding? i am now hosting  with . it’s $60 a year and comes with great templates. what i love the most about them is that i can update my site from anywhere and on any device. the interface for uploading work and editing copy is so freakin easy. updating your portfolio can be a daunting task, but they make it quick. i like it and would highly recommend them.

(hides under the table) well, this is embarrassing. i haven’t updated my graphic design portfolio in ages…but sometimes you can give better advice that you can take yourself, right? i truly belive that whatever you choose to focus on, with your whole heart, will be successful. if i was in a place where i wanted to do graphic design projects more often, i would be updating my site constantly. perfecting it. adding personal projects. things have shifted around a bit for me and i think of my blog as a portfolio for the types of projects i am working on now. clients can take a look at the partnerships i have done in the past and get a feeling for my brand.

BUT! there are so many people out there doing it right! i have had bookmarked for over a year and it still stands the test of time. i love the sideways scrolling and the separated projects. and how powerful ? you’re hired. i also like the simplicity of  see how ALL the info you need to reach the artist is in the footer? very smart. (social media too! – i hate searching around for this…i usually give up.)

something that stands out the most to me on a portfolio site is the photography. if i am looking around for a florals designer to collaborate with for blogshop, they could have the most beautiful arrangements on their site but if the photos are bad there is a good chance i might skip right over them on accident. i know certain event planners that will only work with photographers that they know and trust…because they want to be able to share the photos after on their portfolio (i guess they learned this lesson the hard way after weeks of preparation and nothing to really show for it.) i admit to being lazy on this one and not setting aside a weekend to photograph my recent work the correct way. they always say it can be the hardest to work on your own brand!

so i’d say you should hire a photographer to shoot your projects (have your clients send you samples of your work in action!) did you design a logo that was used in a restaurant? send someone over there to shoot it properly. did you style an event that you are really proud of? make sure to get the picture proof. did you design some amazing invitations? style them up nice. i love how does that!

are you on behance? i’ve heard a lot of people get jobs from posting their work on there! i stumbled upon tonight and was impressed.

so what do you say? are you inspired to go work on your portfolio now? have you been dragging your feet like i have? or have you come out with a portfolio you are super proud of lately?

(illustration by . read more freelance advice posts are over here!)

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