Meet a Mintie: Ann Gardner

What a treat–literally, it has a very sweet ending–to have Mintie Ann Gardner with us today! Ann has such a wide range of styles and aesthetics in her design portfolio that you might not be able to pick out one of her pieces instantly, but you’ll certainly notice the excellent typography and her awesome use of color. Enjoy learning about living in Texas, her stint as a pastry chef, and the adorable theme Ann chose for her wedding.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
I think I knew from an early age that I wanted to do something where I could create all day and get paid for it. I LOVED colorforms, playdough, crayons, spirograph…

Do you have any formal design training?
I have a BFA in Communication Arts from Simmons College in Boston. I had taken a few community college courses while I was in high school and the credits transferred over. By my senior year, pretty much all I was taking was independent study classes in photography, silkscreen printing, and a few other art related classes. I was also a teacher’s assistant in photography, so I had access to the photography lab. Best school year ever!

How would you describe your style?
In my personal life I’m pretty conservative. My husband loves modern art (which I don’t get) and I think he’s loosened me up a bit in my design thinking. I used to say that I never wanted anyone to look at one of my design and know I did it. I hate being predicable! For marketing my designs and developing my freelance career, however, I realize that some kind of signature style needs to be present in all my designs. And I think I’m still working on finding that.

What is your normal workflow or process like?
I’m not sure I have a normal work flow or process. When I have an idea, I put it down on paper or on the computer and go where the path leads me. It may work out, I may find something I hadn’t thought about, or it may turn out pretty much the way I imagined it. It’s kind of an adventure. Hopefully both the journey and the destination is a good one! Truthfully, quite a few of my ideas have stalled and are waiting for me to revisit them. Sometimes you need to distance yourself from your work and come back to it with fresh eyes. If I have one process I guess that would be it…revisiting designs the next day, if time allows, to make sure I still like the concept and execution.

How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
It really depends on the concept. For the calling card challenge, I pretty much knew what I wanted to do with Virtuoso. I had played around with Buttermilk and the font reminded me of music notes. That design came pretty fast. On the other hand, Shining Light for the coming of age challenge took a lot longer. I knew I wanted to create something that looked like light streaming through a window, but had a hard time getting the art to look right. It was one of those designs that I revisited several times, and just about the time I was ready to give up on it I stumbled upon a solution.

What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
My camera. Looking through a lens is a great way to see things in a new way. On a more personal note, CHOCOLATE! It’s like crack to me (can I say that?)

What are the easiest and the most difficult aspects of the design process?
Enthusiasm is easy. Coming up with something new is hard! Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing new out there and that everything’s been done before.

Do you have a favorite font?
Not really. But right now I love working with all kinds of script fonts. They have so much personality! And Clarendon, Helvetica and Avenir have been go-to fonts for me.

Favorite design tool?
After many years I finally have a computer with a large screen. I love my 24″ iMac because now I can see whole pages AND have access to all my tools and windows!

What was your wedding invitation like?
Funny…I didn’t really design my wedding invitations. My parents were footing the bill and “suggested” that they be classic, traditional invitations. My husband and I modified a Crane Paper design to make it more personal. I came up with a tortoise and hare motif (I take my time and think things through, my husband rushes in and shoots from the hip.) We then used that motif throughout our wedding for our place cards, programs, and favors.

Oh my goodness–what an adorable theme. I love it! Did you send out a family Christmas card? If so, what was it like?
Sure did and of course it was from Minted! “We Believe” was perfect for us. We had been so busy with family obligations and workloads that it was great to have a card that we could order and be done.

Tell us about one of your favorite cards offered for sale on Minted and how you came up with the design.
I guess I’d have to say “Just My Type” from the recent wedding challenge. Typographic design is a challenge and I wanted to try something that was just type based. It was fun playing around with Adios and trying different glyph combinations. The real challenge was putting the type on an angle while having the ascenders and descenders appear somewhat straight up and down. I’m pretty much self-taught in Illustrator so I fear that my files were a bit of a mess. Or that there was an easier solution to how I ended up creating the type. Sorry, Andres!

What design trends do you think will emerge this spring?
Design that’s more personal and humanistic. I think people are moving away from slick and glossy. At least I hope. But what do I know…?

What is your least favorite recent design trend?
It’s not recent but I’m over the whole web 2.0 look. I was doing a lot of web site design during that period. Those glossy, gel-like buttons? Ugh!

What was your favorite Minted design challenge and why?
I had a lot of fun with the calling card challenge. We don’t always get a chance to come up with anything we want in terms of themes, so coming up with professions and the designs to go with them was great.

(Ann’s No Job Too Small won first prize in our business card challenge with a 3.97 score!)

How does living in Texas influence your design?
I think designing on my own has influenced me more than moving to Texas has. Before I moved, I worked with other people and was able to brainstorm and get feedback on my designs. Working as a freelancer now I’m a bit on my own. It’s made me learn to trust my instincts and be more sure of myself.

Where do you go for design inspiration?
I love hanging out in book stores. Book cover design is an art in itself. You have to represent the idea of the book, capture people’s imagination and make it interesting enough for someone to pick up and hopefully buy. Whether you agree with the old adage or not, people tend to judge a book by it’s cover. That’s a lot of to ask from a 6 x 9 piece of art. And of course the books themselves have such wonderful stories to tell. Being curious, I think I ask too many questions, much to the chagrin of my husband and probably irritation of a few ex-bosses. Maybe that’s why I love to read. Anyway, the last few books I read were Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Lessons for Making it Work, Murder on the Orient Express, Pictures at an Exhibition, Murder at Mansfield Park, and We Two. I think that’s what’s called eclectic…

What are your favorite online design sites and blogs?
One of my routines is to start the day “surfing the web.” I give myself about half an hour or otherwise I’d never get any work done. There are a few sites and blogs I look into and then see where I go from there. It’s never the same route twice. I usually find something new or inspiring. Some of my “regular” visits are:

What designers do you really admire?
I admire anyone who can draw well. I can’t draw to save my life! It’s a real talent to be able to see things spatially and transfer that to paper. And if it can evoke an emotion, I think that’s genius!

Is their a celebrity or famous locale whose style or aesthetic you envy or want to mimic?
I can’t think of anybody, but I like what I know about Tim Gunn from Project Runway. (I LOVE that show by the way–design, drama, fashion!) He seems to really care about helping/mentoring people and he does it in a positive and constructive way. He doesn’t seem snarky or aloof. What I see most from him is class and respect, and I think those are traits that a lot of people have forgotten to cultivate.

What advice would you give a new designer?
Experiment and don’t be afraid of failure! Hopefully you can learn from the experience.

How does your training as a pastry chef influence your graphic design?
Actually, I think it was more the other way around. I had been working in graphic design for almost 12 years (please don’t do the math to figure out how old I am!) and was getting burned out at my job. It was one of those instances when all the planets were aligned just right and it was the perfect time to try something new. I’ve always like baking and my parents encouraged me to go to culinary school. So off to San Francisco I went for six months to get my Pastry Arts certificate from the California Culinary Academy. I had a great time, learned lots of neat things, but realized that I missed designing. I channeled design into several of my final projects like my plated desserts for my pastry service course. My theme was Valentine’s Day and I came up with cocoa powder stencils, sugar art pieces, and plated sauce designs. My cake course final was to make a wedding cake. Most everyone in my class used real or sugar flowers. I did something completely different and used edible gold leaf to decorate “rays” coming from a red marzipan heart.

Is there maybe a favorite recipe or trick or something you would want to share with the Minted community?!
Since you asked so nice…

Kahlua Brownies

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp Kahlua or other coffee flavored liqueur
  • 2 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a 9 inch square baking pan, knocking out excess flour. Melt butter and chocolate, stirring until smooth. Stir in sugar, mix in the eggs and then stir in Kahlua, vanilla and espresso powder. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt and stir until well mixed. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack before cutting into squares.

Wow! A recipe on the Minted blog — that’s a first. Thank you so much Ann. We’ll all enjoy trying this!!

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

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  2. Sandra Pons

    What a great interview and interesting background Ann. I’m a huge fan of your work. Nice to know you better!

  3. Carrie O

    What an awesome article Ann. You are such an amazing talent…and YES! you can draw!

  4. Jessica Y

    Great interview Ann – your success is well deserved! Love those desserts too!

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  6. Ana

    What a sweet interview. Ann, your designs are awesome, always. I love that you think things through and are really picky about what you submit. Keep up the good work.

  7. Meg G.

    I LOVED your submissions for the BC challenge! You are great with pairing great concepts with fantastic imagery and type. Wonderful interview! (p.s. your pastry creations are wonderful. love that cake!)

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  9. Brooke

    I love seeing how you work and inspires you, Ann.

  10. Karen Glenn

    Love your work, Ann! So nice to read more about you ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Paige

    You are incredibly talented! Always love seeing your creative submissions!

  12. Anng

    Thanks everyone!
    And try the brownies…haven’t had a single person tell me they didn’t like them! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Laura

    Such a great interview, and the brownies sound delish ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Megan (toast & laurel)

    What a wonderful interview! Your work is beautiful, Ann, and it is always so nice to learn more about the person behind the designs. I have been baking my way through Baking: From My Home to Yours and am going to try this recipe next!

  15. Congratulations on your feature. I love all your designs!

  16. Hailey Myziuk

    Ann!! It was so fun reading your interview! I love the wide range of influences you bring to your designs, you are so creative!! I can see how that would transfer well into the culinary world. Congrats on your recent wins!!!

  17. Christina

    Congrats on your success! I love your work…maybe we’ll bump into each other at the bookstore someday!

  18. Marie

    Ann…what a great article. I am new to the business and your article was inspiring. Thank you for sharing with everyone!

  19. Thank you for this info and for your site on the whole. Iโ€™ve just subscribed to your news feed.

  20. Yolanda

    Wonderful interview… great to meet you Ann. Your designs are so clever and creative… love your work.

  21. Cecile

    Nice to see/meet you Ann ! Great interview ! Thanks for the recipe

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