Written by Jenny Griffin
Minted artist Christine Taylor grew up in small town Indiana surrounded by artistic people. “As a kid, I remember my mom was always doing something creative,” says Christine. Her mother delighted in arts and crafts and calligraphy, always ready to help Christine and her younger sister Jessie make homemade Valentine cards, personalized greeting cards, and clever Halloween costumes. That early exposure to the pleasures of design stuck. Both Christine and her sister would grow up to become graphic designers.
The creative impulse spilled down and across generations with an array of artists on both sides of Christine’s family. A maternal great grandmother and great aunt shared their love of painting and the arts with Christine’s mother and her sisters. Various family members are engaged in music, writing, architecture, photography, and filmmaking. Art and creativity flow freely through this big family.
As a child, Christine loved holding and thumbing through the pages of picture books, novels, and magazines. She still does. “I loved to touch the pages, and to admire the colors, typography and layouts.” She relished the comforting smell of the paper, the residual scent of the ink, and the tangible sense of promise contained within. In high school, Christine scored a job working at her local public library. “I loved dealing with all the books, especially when new shipments would come in and I could flip through the books and delight in the cover designs and illustrations before they hit the shelves.”
Those early influences fueled a slowly developing desire to learn her craft. Years spent paging through publications (always wondering why things were placed where they were), admiring book and album covers, and scanning store aisles for just the right greeting card made her recognize design could be something even more. “I realized I wanted to create and package things that would communicate to other people,” Christine explains.
School provided a learning link. “I was introduced to desktop publishing in high school and ended up placing in a contest where we had to design an invitation of sorts and accompanying materials. I enjoyed the experience of creating and realized I just might be able to pursue something art-related even though I couldn’t (still can’t!) draw to save my life.”
After high school, Christine headed to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, to study Journalism Graphics. “I was introduced to the Creative Suite and was assigned projects that forced me to quickly become familiar with the software,” she explains. She helped design newspapers, websites, and magazines. She had always shown a strong attention to detail and was now realizing that she loved experimenting with letterforms, color combinations, and the way elements can work together. Internships followed, allowing her more opportunities to exercise her skills and to build her portfolio. The second internship grew into a full-time gig at the branding and design agency IronGate Creative. Six years later, she’s still there and still living in Hagerstown, freshly moved into a gorgeous new home.
Christine discovered Minted online in 2015. The design challenges were a surprise. “I had no idea they existed or how frequently they happen,” she says. On a whim, she decided to enter a Save the Date Wedding cards challenge and was thrilled at her first placement and with the creative balance the work provided. She still is. Every time is exciting. “Designing for Minted gives me a nice break from the corporate design I’m often dealing with at my day job,” she says.
We asked Christine some questions about her thoughts on design, her creative process, books, and what might surprise people about her.
Minted: Where do you see the opportunities for creative expression within graphic design? And how would you describe the options and intricacies to someone who might not be fully familiar with the field?
Christine Taylor: Design is complex. It’s so subjective. There is no right or wrong. It’s all influenced by our personal style and tastes. As a graphic designer, being able to express your thoughts and bring your own tastes into the mix makes for a fun experience and a unique creation. Whether that work of art is good or bad is beside the point. What really matters is whether you’re happy with the product, or in some cases, whether your client is pleased with the final product.
While there is no right or wrong, there definitely is good and bad. Many people often aren’t able to explain why they think one design is better than another. I think it’s important to understand that a graphic designer doesn’t just make things look pretty, and they don’t just slap text onto a photo using a charming font and call it a day. Design involves skill and a good eye, yes, but also a lot of problem solving and decision making.
One of the things you get to play around with as a graphic designer is typography. When you’re trying to capture a specific mood or emotion through typography, what’s your process or approach? Typography definitely conveys a certain mood or emotion, so it’s important that I try to use it effectively. It’s not always so simple. Sometimes I want to design something with a specific vibe, but the font throws it off for whatever reason. If I want to create a fun, modern, yet still romantic Save the Date, for example, I try to sift through all the fonts that fit the bill. They have to have good energy, can’t look kitschy or be overused, and they need to work with the rest of the overall design. I look at all the pieces working together, and if the piece isn’t jiving for me and isn’t conveying the mood I want, I go back to refine the typography I’m using. That may mean choosing a different font or playing with the hierarchy, shape, spacing, etc.
Do you have certain fonts you find yourself gravitating to again and again? What do you like about them?
I’m constantly on the hunt for new fonts because I find myself overusing some. I definitely have go-tos, but love combining different styles and creating new combinations. The fonts I use most often are able to achieve the style I’m going for, which is always clean and simple.
One cool thing about design and tastes are that they’re constantly changing. And technology is changing too. How do you keep learning and adapting?
I’m constantly learning on the job—how to solve problems, how to deal with different kinds of clients—and I’m always honing my skills. I would love to learn how to become better at drawing and calligraphy so that I could incorporate some literal handwork into my designs. I try to stay up to date with the latest trends and technology. I follow designers on Dribbble, social media and Pinterest. I’m not sure what I’d do without Pinterest!
My sister is also a graphic designer, and she’s someone I love to talk to about exciting projects or work woes. She totally gets it. It’s fun to be able to share ideas with each other and to hear what’s happening on her end of the design world.
And the Minted community has been amazing to be a part of. The opportunities of the challenges, voting, and critiques give you a chance to improve as a designer, help others advance, and ultimately, to be able to do what you love.
How do you like to work on your Minted designs? What’s the scene?
Normally I like to work during the day while the natural light is pouring in. But since I work during the day at my full-time job and now have a nearly two-year-old, I do most of my Minted work at night once my daughter’s in bed. At home, I work on a desktop computer in my small office away from the rest of the living area.
I prefer to be alone while I’m working and creating. I can listen to my music, focus on my project and feel like I’m getting somewhere. Though I often wish I was snuggled up with the rest of the family, I know I need to take advantage of the quiet time.
Before I begin designing, my desk has to be tidy. I can’t focus when there’s clutter. It makes me anxious! Once my desk is clear, I’m ready to get down to business. I always turn on music and have several playlists on hand. Right now I’m listening to a lot of folk and Americana (classic and current).
Books matter to you, a lot. Do you find design opportunities in book publishing?
I’ve designed a couple book covers for my cousin’s self-published books Nowhere Girl and Cheers Beers. Designing book covers is such a fun project. You’re trying to make something appealing enough that might grab readers’ attention, but that should also connect to the story. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but I constantly find myself doing just that. I’ve also been able to design a couple library websites and logos with the agency I work for so that has been cool, combining an interest and a passion.
Christine Taylor’s Top 5 Design Work Habits
- Never forget who you’re designing for.
- Create playlists with your favorite music to help get you in the zone.
- Keep chocolate handy.
- Try not to lose yourself in Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Get inspired, appreciate what you see, move on and get back to work.
- Don’t get discouraged or down on yourself or your work. Instead, get motivated to create something for others to appreciate and admire.
Jenny Griffin is a freelance print and broadcast journalist and the founder of Silverplume Press. An avid art lover, she’s also a museum educator at SFMOMA in San Francisco. She lives with her husband, three kids, and two cats in San Francisco. She’s hoping a dog joins the mix soon.
Published August 2, 2018