Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got your start as a designer.
As I child, I always loved art projects and color. I did weird things like collect paint swatches and kept them in a box. They look alot like Pantone chips (even though I had no idea what that was back then). In high school I thought I wanted to be an architect, and that was my initial major at Auburn University. By the end of my freshman year I realized that it was way too structured for me. I briefly thought about interior design, which I do really love, but decided graphic design was the right fit for me.
After I graduated, I worked as a designer for an environmental software firm in Auburn, Alabama. The job was not inspiring or exciting, to say the least; but it is where I met I my husband, who was a programmer. We ended up moving back to Birmingham, Alabama to be closer to my family, and I got a job with Parisian (a former Southeastern department store – small division of SAKS). I worked there until Parisian was bought out and dissolved, which was actually perfect timing. I was pregnant with my first son when Parisian was sold, and I really wanted to stay home with him. Freelance was the best solution. I have been so happy being able to stay home with my little boys, Carter (4) and Ross (19-months), and still be able to work doing what I love.
Did you go to school for design or are you self-taught?
I have a BFA of Graphic Design from Auburn University (War Eagle). In design school, I had amazing professors who really taught me the importance of fundamental, basic design guidelines. In my level 1 courses, they had us do projects such as cutting out geometric shapes, coloring/painting them and gluing them onto large matte boards. I remember thinking things like “this project seems so elementary” or “this project definitely is not a piece of art I can hang on my wall”. Looking back on these projects, they were instilling core rules for things like composition, shape, scale, color balance, etc. It all makes sense now, and those rules have definitely stuck with me.
Who has been your most influential mentor?
While I was as an Art Director for Parisian, I worked very closely with our Creative Director, Bryan Dow, who really helped me develop my aesthetic and taught me how to photo art direct. I travelled with him for fashion shoots and was shown the importance of proper lighting, dynamic angles and how to make photos work together on a spread with contrast of scale and composition. Once those skills were learned I was able to chose amazing photographers, models and stylists to fit each of my own projects. Coming up with the creative concepts for each shoot was so fun, and seeing them executed on set or location was my favorite part of the job. Bryan is extremely creative and gifted. I learned so much from him during my time at Parisian, and I felt lucky to have someone so encouraging and inspiring as my boss.
Your design aesthetic has really evolved since your first challenge – how would you describe your evolution as a designer and what you think defines your work today?
Well, I definitely know why you asked that question. Looking back at my first few challenges, yikes! I was designing all over the place and not sticking with any one style. Okay….so I am not going to completely blame it on this, but I was pregnant with my second son during the first few challenges I entered. “Pregnant brain” really sucks the creativity out of me – or at least that’s what I am going to use as my excuse. But the main reason for my noncommittal design aesthetic at that time was that I was freelancing for a large variety of companies (everything from the trucking industry to a beauty magazine) and having to please all of them with drastically different styles from one another.
I know that is normal for anyone working in advertising, but I just had not devoted the time to figuring out what style I want to represent “me”. I ultimately went back to my fashion/editorial roots; and most of the time when I am working on something, I now think about how I would have designed it if I was doing a fashion spread or magazine ad. That probably sounds strange, but it has really helped me when working on photo card designs. If you look at most of my Minted designs, there is definitely a similarity in that style with the style I used when I was an Art Director for Parisian.
Although, I really have to say that my style will probably be ever-changing. I am constantly looking at my designs and striving to improve them. In fact, it still surprises me each time a design of mine scores well or receives an editors’ pick. When I was chosen alongside Karly Depew, Annie Clark and Andrea Tahlier (some of the Minted powerhouses) for the Breakout Wedding Challenge to launch a wedding collection, I was literally in shock for days. So, while I would like to be recognizable for my own style, I hope to always be evolving and never become complacent with my designs.
Select two of your minted designs and take us through the creation of each – What was your thought process in designing these cards? What did you want to express in these designs?
As you will see from my sketches….I am not much of a sketcher. They are really more like thumbnails just so I don’t forget whatever pops in my head. I will even grab a crayon from my 4-year-old and draw on a post-it note if those are the closest supplies.
With any design, I normally execute the initial idea fairly quickly. I have bunches of unfinished files saved on my computer because not all the ideas come out as I hope. Most of my time is then spent refining – moving around elements, playing with scale of objects, trying different typefaces, selecting the right colors, etc. I will sometimes come back to a design and tweak things over several days before I commit to it.
I knew I wanted it to be whimsical with a traditional message but still be clean and contemporary. I originally planned on making the tree from tons of tiny balls of texture. When I started playing around with it, the plethora of balls made the design too busy. So, I went in the direction of a more angular tree to coordinate with the straight photos. I then did some Photoshop work “painting” some swishy stokes for the texture for the tree.
With this design I wanted to do something that was a little bit rustic with a modern twist. I scanned some kraftboard and some little flower doodles. I reversed out my doodles and kept the design warm and monochromatic. I knew I wanted the type to be slightly formal but added lines above and below the names to tie back to the doodles.
What inspires you?
I would have to say I am most inspired by my other passions – my babies, art and interior design. Believe it or not, a few (very few) children’s cartoons can be inspiring. When Carter first began watching cartoons, I would only let him watch the ones I thought were interesting or pretty. Charlie and Lola is my favorite! The illustrations are so artsy….not to mention I just love British accents.
Then, in my youngest son’s room I have some prints by artist Rex Ray. His work is amazing. I love his whole collage technique using wonderful colors and textures.
Also, I would say I am influenced by interior design trends. Kelly Wearstler literally blows my mind with her use of color and unexpected, quirky elements combined in the most intriguing ways. Anything designed by Kelly Wearstler is memorable and totally unique.
You have been very successful at getting distribution to a wide audience of stationery lovers, and you also do custom work still. Can you tell us about how you balance the various parts of your business?
When I first began freelancing, I was mostly working with ad agencies and small businesses. I have been a designer for over 10 years, and I knew that I wanted to focus on stationery – but never really knew how to “get there”. I give Minted all the credit for this new career path. It’s really pretty cool that I am actually being recognized in the stationery world now just because people have seen me on Minted.
Although, balance is something I have had a hard time achieving. I still can’t seem to turn down other freelance projects. And I also find myself working A LOT longer hours than I would like. My babies are my number 1 priority, and they sometimes watch more TV than I care to admit. I literally have seen/heard “Toy Story 3” about 12 times in the past couple of weeks. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love that movie (probably more than any adult should), but that is an awful lot of Woody and Buzz. But I try to justify that by the fact that at least I get to be home with them, even if it’s not always “quality time”.
So, pros of my own business would be that I set my own hours (very late nights mostly), I get to stay home with my boys and I get to design how I want instead of answering to someone else. Cons would be that I can’t ever seem to tear myself away from my computer (I think it has become another arm by now) and that the final outcome of projects lies solely on me. So if something goes wrong, it’s completely my responsibility. That brings me to the biggest pro of working with Minted – I don’t fulfill the orders myself (yay!).
Mentors are so important, and you mention working with a Creative Director who taught you a lot and helped you develop your aesthetic. Is there anyone in your life right now who you mentor or provide design coaching too?
Well, working from home…..I don’t have much interaction with the outside world sometimes as far as design is concerned. I would say probably the only thing I miss about working in an office is having the ability to bounce designs off other creative people. But that is what I love so much about Minted. We all get to mentor each other – with critiques on designs or by being active in the forum.
Who do you admire in the minted community?
Wow, really there are just so many! Sarah Lenger is a great friend of mine. We are both really sarcastic, have the same taste in pretty much everything and have decided that we lead parallel lives – not to mention how much I like her as a designer. I love the fact that Minted has built such an awesome community atmosphere where you can get to know each other. I chat/email pretty often with Amy Ehmann and Amanda Larsen, who are both such sweet and talented women.
Also, I am totally in awe of Emily Potts. At NSS last year, we all picked her brain about her illustrations. She told me exactly which tools she uses to “ink” her drawings. So, I went and bought all the same supplies. It turns out though, if your illustration skills look like a 9-year-old did them to start….”inking” them is not going to magically make them look better (oh well, I tried – haha).
What tips or advice do you have for designers who are just starting to enter challenges?
Pay attention to your typography. It is the most important element in any design, in my opinion. You can have a wonderful concept; but if you use the wrong typefaces, sizes or placement of type, it can ruin your design. Stay abreast of color trends. Pantone puts together a great forecast each season of what’s hot according to fashion. Finally, don’t be afraid to do something different from the crowd. You will create the most impact if your designs are unique.
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