What I consider to be my worst design job ended up having a happy ending years later. I moved out of state to be near my fiancé for her last year of school in Santa Barbara and started at an agency working remotely. It was six months until our wedding day – living in a new city and working at a new job. I didn’t have much in savings but was making quite a bit more than my previous job and the workload was steady. For all of about two months. Our big client pulled the plug and we were all out of jobs instantly. I’ll never forget that phone call with him and just feeling like I had made a huge mistake starting over on the west coast. Santa Barbara doesn’t have many design jobs and with only a few months until the wedding at that point, I went into survival mode. One of the immediate lessons I learned coming out of that was how to market myself and develop the business side of being a designer. I didn’t even have a portfolio online so I remember a lot of late nights putting together whatever I could from my previous experience and jumping at every opportunity to do creative things with people nearby. I traded design with a local CSA for a box of vegetables, might have broken-even making business cards for a market/restaurant, and a few other small projects around town. I tried to stay positive, made myself available, and stayed in communication with the principal at the agency I briefly worked at. It would have been really easy to point fingers and be angry at the situation – I just don’t think that’s the way to live life and it definitely would have been the end of my career as a designer. I had to learn to not let my circumstances define my worth and just keep raising my hand. Turns out he’s a pretty cool dude and one of the most loyal people I know. We’ve been working together coming up on 8 years now and just launched our biggest project together yet – Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard’s new family brand, Hello Bello, where I was the lead designer for the project.
Daren Thomas Magee (of Real Fun, Wow!) from Ojai, California - I literally (today) just discovered this guy and man, I have never felt so drawn to someones work. He makes me want all the things: tattoos of his designs on my body, his art on my walls and lock screens. The simple mono line-work mixed with the vintage colors is just the greatest thing to me!
Tom Froese from Vancouver, British Columbia - I’m a sucker for hand-drawn illustration and nice texture. Maybe it’s because this is the area I’m worst at as a designer (and I’m super jealous) or maybe it’s because there’s so much personality in every piece he puts out.
Jay Fletcher from Charleston, South Carolina - Who doesn’t love Jay? And when does he have time to sleep? I love him for his intricate patterns and illustrations, dreamy color palettes, and his never-ending supply of fantastic work.
Scott Erickson from Vancouver, Washington - More affectionately known as “scotthepainter” on Instagram. His pieces are deeply moving and have caused a lot of internal dialogue within myself about what’s most important to me and how I understand what I believe in. He’s a poet, a painter, and a traveling one-man show.
Ashley Hohnstein (Target) from Minneapolis, Minnesota - So, I have this thing for designers at Target and this spot is reserved for lead creatives there. I’m delighted every time I see a new brand or batch of products. Their design is just so happy, colorful, and really freaking good. Ashley is one of the newcomers on my list. Her work has a bright colorful style that is cheery and simple. I don’t care what the product is, I would buy anything Hearth & Hand just because of the hangtags and packaging.
I’ve been a foster parent for a while now and am currently dreaming about what a community of foster dads could look like. A place where we can find resources and be open and honest about the rollercoaster of emotions that being a foster parent puts you through. I think it’s crucial to have that community and to feel like you’re not alone. It can help you get through the toughest days and persevere when it feels like you have nothing else to give. This is where I’d like to spend a big chunk of my free time this year and I think no matter what the idea is behind it, we can all benefit from more community.
This has really been on my heart the last couple of years. We all spend an insane amount of our lives at work. We interact with these people more than anyone else and I think it’s so important that we find people that we truly want to do life with. The people in this circle should push us to places we couldn’t go ourselves and be invested in our lives outside of work. I’ve been insanely lucky and found my people relatively quickly in my career but I want that for everyone no matter if you’re just out of school or you’ve been doing this for a long time. Life’s just not about money or how great you are at branding or illustration - it should be about the people you do it with, the stories you help tell, and the good that happens because of it. Find people who will cheer your successes and weep over the hard stuff with you. I know that I couldn’t live out some of my passions in life if I wasn’t connected to these exact, particular people in my life right now and I’m thankful every day for the parts they all play in that.
We’re all trying so hard to make it to the next level where we feel like we’re finally secure and sustainable. There are so many great causes and movements in our current climate that deserve attention - with just a little bit of good design and clever copy, the momentum could shift and we’d see some real change and progress on the things we care about. Find something you’re passionate about and figure out a way to make it better with the gifts you’ve been given. We all have a little extra in the tank and it would make a huge difference for everyone.
We’re halfway through 2019 and I’ve helped launch a giant new brand Hello Bello, seen my first physical products in stores, started working toward a new design discipline in UX, and said yes to quite a few things that scare the bejesus out of me.