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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
What designers do you really admire?
I’m a big fan of Michael Bierut of Pentagram in NY. The new identity he and his group designed for Saks Fifth Avenue is so brilliant and exquisitely executed, ugh, I love it! Also his posters for Yale School of Architecture, using black and white and type are really inspiring as well. I heard him speak at the HOW conference in Boston in 2008 and was hooked. I’m also a huge fan of Paula Scher, of Pentagram as well—her typography is just amazing, in fact her whole body of work is pretty awe inspiring.
Finally, did you have a New Year’s resolution?
I have two this year actually—donate blood on a regular basis, and become a big sister.
And we’ll send you on your way to a lovely weekend with one of Emily’s favorite quotes: