Design School Skills I Still Use

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Sometimes I will be working on a project and the voice of a professor from the past will pop up in my head with their favorite piece of advice. I was thinking the other day about the little bits that I actually still remember and use often.

1. Measure twice, cut once. You will save so much money and heartache.

2. Adhere it twice. When sticking two things together, adhere them using two different methods. For example, pin it together AND glue it. This will guarantee a strong bond.

3. Take a picture. Before I glue something together, or move something to a different workspace, or disturb it in any way whatsoever, I take a picture of it. I've probably tried a bunch of different compositions already, and if I take a picture and then something gets messed up I don't have to sit there trying to remember how it all went together. Don't trust your brain to remember what it looked like. Just take a picture.

4. Change the blade. When using an X-acto knife, you cannot change the blade enough times. Seriously. Paper and foam board dull the blades SO quickly. I change 'em out often so I don't mess up my project.

5. If you don't know how to do something, learn it! I once told a professor about my concern that my Photoshop skills were not very developed yet. He brushed this off, and told me the ideas are the most important thing. "You can LEARN Photoshop, but you can't learn how to think." So true. He repeated this idea frequently to the designers throughout my college career.

6. Shiny black paint shows every flaw. As a freshman in Industrial Design, we had to make 5 perfectly shaped spheres out of 5 different materials, and then paint them black. The professor intentionally chose a shiny black paint because it will showcase every dimple, every crack, dent or rough spot. I don't use a lot of shiny black paint, but I always remember that. (The balls were never returned to us, for fear of passing them along to other students. When asked what they did with all those spheres after the project was graded, the professors told us that they stood at the end of the hallway and bowled them down the hall for fun. I don't think they were joking.)

Surviving As a Corporate Designer

I am almost a year out from my time as a corporate designer. Working in a large corporate setting was quite a learning experience--and I mean that in the best way possible. I am very, very happy to be working from home, but I could not be the designer I am without that training (boot camp). That being said, I've had some "survival tips" rolling around in my head that I've been wanting to share.

1. It's not your baby. Do not become attached to anything you design for a corporation, because it does not belong to you. It belongs to the company. You are simply there to help them realize their ideas and help them sell product in the way that works best for them. In a large company, chances are there are many links in the food chain that need to approve something before it moves forward. That means lots of revisions. You simply cannot have overwhelming feelings for a design under these circumstances.

2. Pick your battles. You have to be willing to compromise your designs most of the time, but occasionally there will be something you believe in with all of your heart and soul. Fight for that thing. Don't fight over simple things that don't make a huge impact to the idea (ie if they want it to be pink, just make the damn thing pink.)

3. Share your ideas...over and over and over again. I don't know what it is with people, but they need to hear something multiple times before they start to believe it. If they hear it enough times, eventually they will think it was their idea. Let them have it. You have done your job.

4. Learn from other designers. I have worked with so many amazingly talented people. Don't be intimidated. Learn from them. You will make yourself a better designer if you ask questions, watch, listen.

5. Take every opportunity. Volunteer to help with projects, extracurricular activities, etc. Leaders will take notice, and the opportunities will get better and better.

6. Connect with other designers in the local community. This is important for so many reasons. Networking, staying fresh, and basic social enjoyment. You want people to know who you are, so you can reach out to each other when you need an extra hand, or help finding the next job. And, designers are my people. It's always fun to be around your people. 

7. Work fast. Guys, you just have to.

8. Let it go. They can't all be masterpieces. Promise yourself you'll do better on the next one. Move on.

9. Go home and turn it off. Don't work extra hours unless you absolutely have to or else people will take advantage of your time, and your energy will be drained. You need that time to recharge. Spend time with your family, hang out with your friends, and work on personal projects that are creatively fulfilling to you.

10. Move on when it's time. Don't stick around so long that you get bored. Because you will be bored and then you will get bitter. This is not fair to yourself or to your company. Find a new challenge, and let your position be that same new challenge for another designer.

This Week.

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I am a dabbler. A Renaissance Lady, if you will. I like to acquire lots of different skills, just because I like to do lots of things. I like to try everything. Continuing with the hand lettering tool kit I am arming myself with, I started dabbling with calligraphy. Here are some things I wrote last night.

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34 Things To Do Before I Turn 33.

There are always so many things that I want to do. This year I have a lot of art-related tasks on my list. They're pretty vague (draw more)...which can be dangerous, but allows me a little room to breathe around the more specific ones (read 1 book per month).

You can go back and look at my list from last year. I reposted it a few weeks ago and let me tell you, nothing has changed. Nothing more has been crossed off. I think this was the least success I have had with crossing things off of my list, and I owe it all to a particularly hectic and disappointing year. Hopefully this year I will have a little bit more luck...and if not, maybe it will be because we have a particularly joyful year. One can hope.

  1. Take walks in nature.
  2. Work in the studio every day.
  3. Establish a more rigid daily routine.
  4. Compost.
  5. Read 1 book per month.
  6. Get makeup done.
  7. Try Dry Bar.
  8. Watch Gone With the Wind.
  9. Eat at Lucia.
  10. Learn more about the artists that I admire.
  11. See more art.
  12. Eat at Dallas Grilled Cheese Co.
  13. Paint the studio.
  14. Host Craft Party: Brunch Edition.
  15. Plant something we can eat.
  16. Kombucha. Steady supply. Make it happen.
  17. House project of the year: nursery.
  18. Streamline and fine-tune my wardrobe.
  19. Work on my illustration techniques (for work).
  20. Draw more.
  21. Meatless Monday.
  22. Knit or crochet 1 square per month to make a 12-square blanket by the end of the year.
  23. High-quality goodies only.
  24. Go to a hockey game.
  25. Organize Kennedy's room.
  26. Become a "member" (ie the Perot Museum? Dallas Museum of Art? The Kimbell?)
  27. Go kayaking with Joy.
  28. Daily paintings.
  29. Visit David's college, finally, because he's been wanting to take me there for so long now.
  30. Shoot some hoops with David.
  31. Girls' weekend (Austin?)
  32. Meet/socialize with local artists.
  33. Take a class.
  34. Hang with my besties more often.

Favorite Music of 2014

Some unintended themes this year. Bands I Never Listened To Before This Year and Now I Love. Bands From Texas. Songs About Rattlesnakes. And so on. I had a lot more time to listen to music this year, and divided my time pretty evenly between new albums of 2014 and podcasts. Last year, I felt like there was a drought in good music and this year I was overwhelmed and didn't get to everything that I wanted to. A good problem to have! As such, a tough list to narrow down. These are the ones that got the most play on my headphones.

5. We're All Young Together - Walter Martin

This is a weird album to put on my list, because it is a children's album. It comes from one of the members of the Walkmen. I was so happy to hear an album that is as appealing to adults as kids. It is brilliant and sweet. Even though she is too old now for kids albums, even Kennedy got into this one. She really liked the song "Rattlesnakes," so here is a live version:

4. Adore Reissue - Smashing Pumpkins

I am such a sucker for these reissues. But this one is amazing! So much extra material. So great. I love to hear these demos. It's like looking at someone's sketchbook. Also, this is the album I have autographed by Billy Corgan and framed above my desk, and I pee myself every time I look at it.

3. Too Bright - Perfume Genius

We saw Perfume Genius and unfortunately fell into one of those annoying Dallas crowds. You know the type. I'm not even going to explain. Despite that, Perfume Genius has a great show, and a fine album.

2. And the War Came - Shakey Graves

I'm fond of Shakey Graves' first album, Roll the Bones, but I SUPER love his new album. It feels a little more confident. He is on my want list of people I need to see in concert. Here is one of my favorite songs:

1. St Vincent - St Vincent

Miss Annie Clark. I didn't really listen to her until the last couple years. I knew of her, of course; we just never crossed paths. Then came her collab with Mr Byrne, and then this album. Oh, I burned this album into my brain. So, so good. We saw her in concert early in the year and I was hooked. Oh, if I could be Miss Annie Clark with her frizzed out hair and weird choreography and mad guitar skillz. 

Honorable Mentions

Swimmin' Time - Shovels & Rope: I had a hard time not putting this on my Top 5 because I love this band so much. But I wanted to share other things. 

Half the City - St Paul and the Broken Bones: Just, yeah. Good stuff.

Don't Disconnect - Sarah Jaffe: Love this new sound. You go, lady.

Small Town Heroes - Hurray for the Riff Raff: Lots of praise this year, and well deserved. We saw them open for Shovels & Rope a couple years ago.

Fumes - Lily & Madeline: These girls are teenagers! Their voices are magic!

Sylvan Esso - Sylvan Esso: Jumped on this bandwagon too.

 

The Hard Stuff.

Last year around this time we were pregnant. Actually, I've been pregnant twice this year. It's been a difficult time. This is the stuff we don't write about in the family Christmas letter or on Facebook. But it's the stuff that you need people to know about...if you're me, anyway. I don't know why people--women--don't talk about miscarriage. It was helpful for me to talk about it with the small group of friends that I did tell. The support means a lot. And at the time, both times, I was scouring the internet for other women's stories, just to find some peace of mind and comfort in the commonness of it all. If it is something that happens so frequently, then I can have less to worry about. Many go on to have healthy babies after 1, 2, or more miscarriages.

But I didn't find many of those stories. Not because it doesn't happen, but people don't want to talk about it. But how can you heal yourself without the people around you knowing what is going on? I don't know.

The first time I miscarried, we were 8 weeks along. We both went in on a Friday for my first sonogram to hear the heartbeat. When the nurse pulled up the screen, I knew immediately something was wrong. The nurse wasn't saying anything. I could tell from the colors on the screen that something wasn't right. She went to get the doctor.

Heartbreaking, and such weird timing. We were a few days out from our road trip to Marfa, in the middle of buying a house, and I was 2 days away from interviewing for a promotion. I actually went to work on Monday, dressed for the interview. I couldn't do it. Luckily I had a very understanding employer. We did, however, continue onto Marfa for what was supposed to be an artistic retreat, but mostly turned out to be a therapeutic trip for me. We still had our artsy fun, but under a veil of sad disappointment.

I didn't know what to expect when I finally miscarried. I went in blindly. It was physically painful...I expected cramps that I could handle (I get bad cramps during my period) but it was worse. It's just a weird experience all around. Our bodies are so strangely (thankfully) adept at taking care of us. That little being was not going to make it in the world, and my body took care of it and me.

The second time I miscarried, we were on our Texas road trip (we've had some unfortunate road trips this year, obviously). This time I didn't need the doctor to tell me what was happening; it was happening. I was barely pregnant. I had only known for about a week before we lost it.

Twice is not enough times to be tested for fertility issues. So, hopefully the third time's a charm, as they say. Luckily, we get pregnant really easily. (TMI? Sorry mom.) I go back and forth between wanting to push for answers and solutions, and then quietly accepting whatever life has in store for us, kids or not. I am very lucky and grateful to have a stepdaughter, since she was 3, with a mother who is willing to share her with me and let me feel like I can be a big part of her life too.

I don't know why I chose now to share all of this. I guess I have just been thinking about it a lot lately. I don't mind people knowing about it. I like the support. I need it. Also, Kennedy does not know about the pregnancies. Some discretion is appreciated.

33 Things To Do Before I Turn 32

If you've followed my old blog in the past, before I got hooked up with this swanky site, you may remember my yearly to-do lists. Well, I didn't want to abandon that pitiful list, so I brought it over here. I thought it might be nice to have a little update with my progress so you guys can, you know, keep me accountable.

To refresh your (my) memory:

This year I want to live more fully, wholly, simply. I went back through my past lists and I found some things that I didn't do that I still want to do, so I added a few of those to the pile. Is that cheating? Heck no! It's my blog and I do what I want!

  1. Plant something. Make it survive.
  2. Less Facebook, more face time.
  3. Yoga.
  4. Compost.
  5. Master the hula hoop.
  6. Go to the drive-in.
  7. Learn to two-step.
  8. Fiddle more.
  9. Read some of the books I have acquired but not read.
  10. Volunteer for something.
  11. Make an apple pie.
  12. Finish my website.
  13. Get a new tattoo.
  14. Take a ride in the karaoke cab.
  15. Acquire rainboots.
  16. Smoke a cigar.
  17. Visit at least 1 art exhibit/gallery per quarter.
  18. Fill up the empty sketchbooks in my box of sketchbooks (there are a lot!)
  19. Figure drawing : specifically hands and feet. (Things most artists need to work on.)
  20. Visit the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
  21. Go camping.
  22. Attend a coffee cupping class.
  23. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store.
  24. Bring lunch to work more often.
  25. Be in nature more.
  26. Dance more.
  27. Find a hobby or past time to share with Kennedy.
  28. Acquire some more vinyl for my new record player.
  29. Try more of my collected recipes.
  30. Get Kennedy and David to drink more water.
  31. Befriend more people in Arlington.
  32. Set up my studio space.
  33. Work on making our new house lovely and a true expression of us.

Paint.

I've been wanting to get back into oil painting. I used to really love it. I was a student of "plein air painting," or "open-air painting," which is basically when one paints on location, outside. I took a few workshops with a plein air painter a million years ago and really enjoyed it. We would go to Amish farms, beautiful private gardens, and other typical Wisconsin-y places and paint what was around us. We'd start early in the morning, lugging our crap around until we found the perfect view and paint through the day, warming in the sun. It was so lovely.

Another reason I enjoyed plein air painting is because it employs a technique called "alla prima," which means "wet-on-wet," which means I don't have to wait DAYS for the paint to dry in order to build up the layers. You just PAINT that shit. It involves strategies different from other types of oil painting, and I like the instant gratification of having a piece completed in one day.

So anyway. It's been so long. I picked up a book by Richard Schmid called Alla Prima II, which is a fantastic guide to painting and the dude is a total sass-a-frass and I love it. In one chapter, he talks about the importance of making these painting charts, and though it might seem elementary, I effin' did it. It took me forever, but I had to. You just have to do stuff like this sometimes, you guys. ("Beginner's mind" and all that.) It helped get me back into the routine and process.

There are. Twelve. Of these. 

Now that these are FINALLY! complete, I have moved onto other things, which maybe I will write about another time when I feel like it.

Molly Crabapple's Rules for Creative Success.

If you haven't seen it, this article by Molly Crabapple about creative success is worth a read. She makes a lot of good points about not accepting anything less than what you are worth. I have done this to myself at times, offering "friend discounts" and lowering my rates. I realize now that this not only hurts myself, but the creative industry at large. Companies will almost always choose the lowest rate, so if you are not offering a comparable and fair rate for your work, you hurt everybody. The reason some companies don't value design is because there are people offering it at a rate that does not demand the respect deserved for the amount of work put in. So, you know....respect yo bad self. This is your job.

A New Home.

This is my new blog, guys.

Generally, I hope to show you what I'm working on, and what inspires me. I love, love, love to peek in on the creative processes of my favorite designers, so I want to share that part of me with you. I will also throw in a few posts about what is going on in my life with me and my family. Check back soon for more updates to the blog, my website, and all that good stuff.