To celebrate the weekend ahead we’ve decided to try to make our designer Q&A’s a Friday tradition, so be sure to check back every Friday for more interviews with our insanely talented designers. This week, we’re lucky enough to have Minted designer Emily Potts of Potts Design on hand to get us through the afternoon slump. Emily has been a part of our community for exactly a year and has consistently submitted extremely strong designs. She is known for her idea driven designs and for her delicate illustrations. I just loved seeing how the drawings that Emily emailed over turn into her lovely cards. Enjoy!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
It’s kind of funny, I’ve always loved the arts—drawing and painting especially, but I never worked on a computer growing up, so I didn’t think graphic design was for me. I went to college my freshman year thinking I would either be a veterinarian or do something with art. It didn’t take me long to realize that I should go with what comes easiest to me, and that’s not chemistry, it’s drawing. So, I fell into design because I wanted to do something creative but with the potential of earning a living.
Do you have any formal design training?
I have a BFA in graphic design from UMass Dartmouth. Great school and great teachers—I’m forever indebted.
How would you describe your style?
I would say that I’m a pretty clean, type-driven designer. I love a project that uses nothing more than type, color and composition.
Desk Calendar Save the Date by Pottsdesign
Your illustrations are so delicate and lovely—how do you go about creating them?
Thanks! 🙂 I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a little kid, and somewhere, maybe around middle school I learned about pen and ink illustration. I’ve been hooked ever since. Pretty much everything I do starts with putting pencil to paper. I start with a quick initial sketch for composition mainly, then I develop a full scale drawing in pencil including shading, tone and detail. From there, I trace the outline of the drawing and transfer it onto bristol board. I use a crow quill pen with india ink to produce the final illustration, referring to the pencil drawing for guidance.
What is your normal workflow or process like?
One idea always flows into another on the page, and it’s so much faster than trying things on the computer. Once I’ve exhausted my brain of all the concepts, which typically includes some absolutely ridiculous ideas, (but hey, design should always be fun), I take the two or three I like best and translate them on the computer, making any necessary modifications along the way. I work alone from my home, so another thing I like to do is get an honest critique from another designer, or a friend. Their feedback is always super helpful and typically improves the piece I’m working on.
Gift Wrapped by Pottsdesign
Polka Dot Bridal Shower Invitations by Pottsdesign
How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
I tend to stick pretty close to my initial concepts, and not fuss too much. If I spend too long on something, it tends to get over-designed, then it needs to be pulled back. I pretty much always give things a “one nighter”, meaning, when I look at the design the next day, first thing in the morning after my coffee—I can usually see things that needs tweaking, then it’s christened as done, or ready for the client to review.
What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
For me, staying visually inspired is key. That can be tough—you get into a grind because you are so busy, and you start producing new versions of the same thing, and it becomes boring. One trip to the city, a museum, or a great coffee shop can really get you thinking creatively again. And again, sketching and drawing—essential.
Falling Leaves Save the Date by Pottsdesign
Although your effortless designs make it look easy, what’s the most difficult aspect of the design process?
For me, it’s the “great concept”. The concept that’s more than just making something look “pretty or cool.” Having a concept with significant meaning can be hard to come up with, but reaps the most reward. It doesn’t always happen though- I wish it did!
What advice would you give a new designer?
Be true to your aesthetic and sense of style—and pay attention to your typography, it can make or break a great design. Also, always be able to have an explainable reason for designing something the way you have—never make a stylistic decision without purpose. I learned that in school, and it’s never let me down. Being able to explain why you decided to do something, whether the client agrees or not shows that you are not “just making things look nice”.
Do you have a favorite font?
Ugh—that’s too tough. Like asking to name your favorite child, it can’t be done!
I go through sketchbooks pretty quickly, and I’m not picky on those. Whatever I can get my hands on!
What about a favorite pen—is that a little easier question!?
Absolutely, Pigma Micron pens: .05, .03, and .01. Pretty much all my sketching is done with one of these pens.
Cupcake Baby Shower Invitation by Pottsdesign
What is one of your favorite Minted cards for sale?
That’s tough, because designers tend to be a little critical of themselves! But, if I had to pick one, I would say I like the penguins save the date. I’m a romantic, and I love the fact that penguins keep their partners for life, so I thought they would make a great symbol for a couple about to get married. The illustration is simple and sweet, and the typography is clean and classic.
Penguins Save the Date Card by Pottsdesign
What was your favorite Minted design challenge?
I loved the holiday card challenge!
Because there are a million holiday cards out there, and coming up with something new original is so challenging! Not only that, the idea of designing something that someone would use to send love and warm wishes to their loved ones it pretty awesome. An honor almost—so, that was my favorite.
What are the places in Rhode Island that you would recommend a visitor check out?
Anyone visiting should go and see Newport. They should spend a day at the beach, get lunch at Flo’s Clam Shack, walk the Cliff Walk, eat dinner at Mama Luisa’s and watch the sunset behind the Newport Bridge. Then, they should go to Providence and spend some time walking around the East Side, seeing amazing old houses that have been restored. Also stop on Hope Street at Seven Stars Bakery, and order a ginger biscuit and a latte. You won’t regret it.
Where do you go for design inspiration?
A trip to Boston or New York always seems to get my creativity flowing again. Seeing things outside your normal surroundings is great. I also love bookstores, there is so much design (good and bad!) packed into such a small place, plus you can enjoy a latte while being inspired!
While I was out at Sundance last week, I attend the Altitude Design Summit to meet bloggers and spread the word about Minted. Here are some pics of the fabulous conference–by far and away the best conference I have ever attended. Everything ran like clockwork, the speakers were all top-notch, and everything was so pretty!
The cocktail hour had an old Hollywood glam theme, complete with a red carpet entrance.
Kelly Beall of Design Crush is on the right. She mentioned during the panel discussion on Design Theory that to keep a good work/life balance she chooses not to have internet at home, so she does all her blogging when she gets to work early. Given how incredible her blog is, perhaps not having the internet 24/7 can actually help you be more creative.
The adorable Gabrielle of DesignMom, who put on the conference is on the right. Maternity wear doesn’t get much more adorable than hers, does it?
I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Minted designer Brandy Brown and her adorable family over the holidays while visiting my family in Seattle. We met for coffee. Brandy has just recently starting drinking coffee and so she got a hazelnut, vanilla, mocha, which she could barely finish. (I, of course, had no trouble with my extra large latte.) It’s clear from just one meeting that this girl has no shortage of energy! We went on a power walk through Lincoln Park down to the gorgeous water, where we met up with her husband and daughter.
Brandy's husband and daughter at the beach
Have you always lived in Washington? Yes. I attended a small high school in a even smaller town.
Did you go to art school? After high school I studied a little graphic design and art history at the Art Institute of Seattle. I dropped out after a year and a half to enjoy some traveling in Europe. After returning home I landed a great job in downtown Seattle at a modeling agency.
Not surprisingly, Brandy is a former model
How did you get started in graphic design?
One night I came across a Minted ad and it mentioned something about a design challenge. I was immediately curious and thus entered my first competition. This month marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of my dream career. I have Minted to thank forcreating such an amazing platform for independent designers.
How did you pick the name Marabou?
The Marabou Stork is a large wading bird in the stork family. I chose it as homage to my daughter, Ava. She is a never ending source of inspiration. Since becoming a mother my philosophy has been that… clean design & little people go hand & hand. Ava loves all things girly–like mother, like daughter! When I am designing for the opposite sex, I tap into my husband’s aesthetic, which is very minimal, modern, and crisp.
Brandy's daughter Ava at 12 months
Marabou's girly Brolly Valentine's Day Card
You are obviously a very passionate person… what are you in love with right now?
I love raw oysters. I’ve had the Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix CD on replay since June.
I love cats, but own two fish. I’m very particular about wrapping paper & have a soft spot for doilies.
A close-up of a very cool chair print
Where the magic happens
One of the things that makes Minted great is that our community of designers live all over the world and so many of our designers are really inspired by the communities and geography in which they live. Consistent with the sweeping national locavore movement, we’re seeing some of our customers trying to support their communities by choosing cards designed by local designers. Brandy says she loves living in Seattle where “you’re constantly surrounded by beauty. I find lots of inspiration in nature. I’m privileged to live in the Pacific Northwest, where we enjoy all the seasons–from the cold, dark days of winter to the vibrant colors of Fall.”
I asked Brandy to share with us her top five things to do in Seattle just in case any of you are headed Northwest in the New Year.
1. Ferry ride to Orcas Island
A view from the Orcas Ferry
2. Walks along Lincoln Park
3. Shopping at Moxie Papergoods & Gifts
4. Amtrak Train ride to Portland, OR (weekend getaway)
5. Dining at Barolo
Barolo in Seattle
Since Brandy had such fun Seattle recommendations and because she has an adorable little girl, I thought I’d also ask her for her favorite, well-designed baby products.
We were deeply honored to have Real Simple’s design department, headed by Janet Froelich, their esteemed Creative Director, serve as the guest judge for this challenge. Janet is pretty much as big as it gets in the design world. (Before Real Simple, she was the longtime Creative Director of the The New York Times Magazine.) Janet and her team chose Uplifting Achievement by Lauren-Dawn McBurney for their Judge’s Prize.
uplifting achievement by Laurel-Dawn McBurney
What Real Simple loved about it: We chose the Uplifting Achievement Party entry because it communicates a clever, unexpected concept in a clean and clear way. The invitation could be used for business-related milestones, for sure, but it could also be used for more personal milestones—for example, a 10th anniversary party for that couple who is not all about hearts and flowers.
One of Real Simple’s runner-ups was also an Editor’s Pick:
forever by Oscar+Emma
What Real Simple loved about it: It’s clean and simple, yet still visually interesting. The numbers themselves are the art.
First prize (as voted by our wonderful community):
sweet success by sweet street gals
What Minted loved about it: Typography has certainly never looked so tasty! In fact, it looks so delicious it made our design associate Kim want to eat it. (Not surprisingly, it was her favorite design. ) It could easily be used as baby shower invitations or girls birthday party invitations… actually, come to think of it, we know a lot of grown women who adore cupcakes more than any child ever could!
standout party by R Studio
What Minted loved about it: Numbers on their own are just so beautiful and here their perfect placement creates a work of art. Renee of R Studio‘s work never looks overworked or forced.
Tied for third:
typography cake by Karen Glenn
What Minted loved about it: It’s so cool how the text combines to form a cake illustration. And we love the lines on the bias through the candle.
Tied for third:
Savvy Celebration by Jessica Johnson
What Minted loved about it: This is just classic design perfectly executed and could be used for anything and everything!
A favorite in the Top Ten:
stargazing by Frooted Design
What Minted Loved About It: Natasha thinks this is so sweet and romantic. She thinks the text is laid out masterfully and likes how it references the stars. It’s not easy to combine that many types of font in such a small area.
A favorite Editor’s Pick:
exceptional celebration by sweet street gals
What Minted loved about it: Annie Clark, whose love for hand lettering is no secret, was instantly smitten by this entry. She’s personally begging these ladies to create a whole alphabet. Katherine Cheng loved how unexpectedly delicate and modern this design feels. The aluminum background is very elegant, while the touches of bright tangerine give the design a hip, energizing touch.
A favorite Editor’s Pick:
thoughts on birthday by Moglea
What Minted loved about it: Such a fresh, fun and modern design! Annie loves that each speech bubble can be customizable – just imagine how much fun our creative customers will having thinking of ways to fill them.
A favorite Editor’s Pick:
modern swash by koshi
What Minted loved about it: Jody can’t stop staring at the “10” . The illustration would look great used as a recurring motif for all sorts of party decorations, and maybe even a screen-printed over-sized poster!
We know lots of you lovebirds made plans to tie the knot over this past holiday season, as one in five engagements happens between Christmas and New Year’s. And why not? It is such a festive and cozy time of year!
And so the excitement begins… date setting, dress shopping, and our personal favorite: invites!!! A few of our new wedding invitations are already generating quite a buzz, including a full page of editorial in InStyle Weddings:
We rang up Karly Depew of Oscar+Emma to ask her about her great success in the Minted community during 2009. She has racked up award after award and currently has a whopping 82 designs for sale on the site. We eagerly await all that she will come up with in 2010!
How did you get your start?
I loved drawing and coloring when I was little. I loved Martha Stewart magazine when I was way too young to even understand them – my mom was a huge magazine person. I think a lot of my bringing up was just very visual.
Did you study graphic design in school?
I took art classes my whole life, but for some reason when I went to college (Ohio Wesleyan University) I decided that art was not the way I was going to go. I picked zoology, but half-way through college I realized I didn’t enjoy chemistry, so I started studying photography and ended up majoring in fine arts with a concentration in photography.
Is your photography background helpful in graphic design?
It helps most with composition and in knowing how to move things around to balance out the design.
When did you start designing stationery?
As soon as I was getting married, which is a common story, I know. I was living in Boston at the time and I wanted letter pressed invites, but I didn’t know how to go about getting it done. I went into Paper Source and talked with a designer to see if I could really do all of the design work and have them just print them for me. They agreed and when I showed them the work I had done, they basically said this new position was opening up they wanted me to interview for it. At the time I did everything in Microsoft Word and had no idea how to work in InDesign. I had a few interviews, put a portfolio together overnight, and ended up getting the job.
That’s one way to interview for a job!
The only issue was this was two weeks before our wedding. I went to meet my husband for lunch to tell him I got the job and he had this weird look on his face—it turns out he was getting transferred to Ohio, near where I grew up, the day I had accepted a job in Boston. So, we lived apart for the first 10 months of our marriage and tried to see each other whenever we could, but eventually the monetary cost of traveling back and forth added up and I decided it was time for me to move back to be with my husband. I didn’t want to work for anyone else and I felt I had learned enough at Paper Source to start my own business so I decided to launch Oscar & Emma.
What did your wedding invitation end up looking like?
I wanted it to be something that I had never seen before and like everything I design I wanted it to be whimsical. I did a wood veneer backing on all of the invitations and rsvp cards and then to personalize it as much as possible we got rid of the inner envelope concept and instead did a linen wrap around the entire thing. I printed each person’s name on a tag which we tied around the linen. It was pretty complex with lots of textural elements. I didn’t want the invite to look exactly like the rsvp so we carried different graphic elements throughout the piece.
How did you come up with the name Oscar + Emma?
I usually try to avoid this question because I’m scared people are going to think I’m obsessed with my cats… but I obviously love my cats, so I decided their names were a good combination of elegant and sweet together. I didn’t want it to be obvious and I wanted it to be unique enough that it would come up right away if someone Googled it.
What designers do you look up to?
I look at Eric Kass all the time. His stuff is awesome—a great modern/vintage combination.
What blogs do you read regularly? 100 layer cake, design sponge, oh joy, Lab Partners–I like their illustrations. I’m a very eclectic person, so I’m all over the place!
What’s your workspace like?
I have a very open space that is kind of my office / living room, that moves into my dining room, where I often hold meetings with clients. I have all these windows around me and I have the windows or shutters open so I can be outside but be working inside at the same time.
Karly's dining room
Do you have a favorite pen?
I have a pen that I absolutely love – it’s an A G Spalding and Brothers with a walnut wood barrel. It’s my favorite pen ever.
I use moleskin notebooks a lot.
Are you noticing any font trends right now?
Burgess is still the script of choice, but another script I’m seeing a lot more of is Compendium. It’s really on the rise.
What colors can we expect to see more of in 2010?
Locally I have had a lot of requests for green and florals always have a lot of green in them. Gold is making a comeback. Warm colors, like plums, are definitely popular right now. Speaking of purple, I’m also seeing lots of lavender.
How has living in Ohio influenced your work?
The Farmer’s Daughter from the most recent wedding challenge is the design that has probably most stemmed from Ohio. It actually came from the idea that had my husband and I not gotten married in South Carolina, we would have gotten married here on my parent’s farm – or if I ever renewed my vows it would be there. I wanted to come up with a sophisticated take on my childhood growing up on a farm.
The Farmer's Daughter
Winter Berries was also very regionally inspired because in winter here the only color you see are either berries or birds.
Finally, what advice would you give a new designer?
One of the most important things is to really understand printing methods because how you design is a lot about how you’re printing. It’s important to be open to inspiration from anything and everything. I would advise trying to stay away from the trends. And learn how to really work with typography – I think it is always the single factor that makes or breaks a design.
Any suggestions on where to look for typography help?
I always look through Communication Arts books and a lot of vintage stuff to see how things work together. The labels on old bottles, for example, can really teach you a lot about typography.
Karly, thank you so much for your time and great contributions to Minted this year! And a very happy New Year to everyone in the Minted community! xoxoxo
If you’re like most of us and haven’t had a chance to come up for air amidst the craziness of the holiday season then you might not have gotten to checking Christmas cards off your to-do list. Not to worry: New Year photo cards are the perfect way around rapidly approaching Christmas and Hanukkah deadlines. And this way you can take your time addressing them and even writing personal notes. Here are a few of our favorites:
I like how this one really emphasizes the new year: 2010!
Elegant New Year by Annie Clarke
This is one of our most popular cards reworked with a New Year message.
Float + Peace New Year Photo Card
You can even do a New Year’s Minibook card with photos from your holiday.
Annie Clark's Hip New Year Holiday Minibook
Or how about a Happy Winter card… you can send this one through February even!
Winter Berries by Oscar+Emma Holiday Minibook
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