Archive | October, 2011

Happy Halloween!

31 Oct

It is cold and rainy here, which is really putting a damper on the evenings festivities, but after such a fun weekend, I can’t really complain. We had a Halloween party this weekend, which I will humbly submit was a huge success. I went a little nuts decorating – turns out I really like fake cobwebs.

Doesn’t it look spooky? I have come to realize that I really love throwing parties. I get a lot of enjoyment out of planning and preparing for them, and having a party is just as fun as going out with your friends – except you don’t have to pay for each drink and you don’t have to drive anywhere.

I was also really proud of my costume.

I look like a total goober here, but you get the idea.

I guess it would actually be pretty weather appropriate if I cared to wear it again tonight, but my legs would be cold… Because I’m the Morton Salt girl!

So we definitely celebrated Halloween in style, and now I am enjoying all of the leftover snacks and candy.

On Sunday, I went to my parent’s house and we carved pumpkins, which is a family tradition. We have a lot of family traditions, but  this one is really fun, and I think the pumpkin I carved with my mom turned out pretty great.


Happy Halloween!


Freaky Friday

28 Oct

I’m really excited for the weekend. For some reason, I have been super into Halloween this year, and the weekend is finally here! I have been decorating my apartment all spooky like and the components of my costume have been slowly arriving (it’s a really great costume, not gonna lie) and I’m planning all kinds of fun things. I actually managed to bust out of my Friday gloom by way of a marathon phone talk with my mom, where I whined a lot and then came up with a game plan.

As with any good plan, step one is extensive cleaning, so I have a really exciting Friday night ahead of me.

I wanted to show you my current google + profile pic. It was super fun to make, since they have a new photo editing thingie.  My favorite part is my zombie cousin charging up from the ocean. She’s gonna get ya!

I hope you all have a spooky weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday. I have to go check on my rummy bears now. Happy Halloween!


Outfit of the Day

26 Oct

No, I don't think I'm a model.. That was just the best way to get most of the outfit in the shot!

If you’ve never worked from home, you may not realize the lure of staying in your pajamas day after day. Let me tell you, my friend, it is there. In fact, I have a confession to make. It takes me at least an hour to really wake up, and usually I’ll sit on my couch with my laptop until I’m ready to be a functioning member of the world. Sometimes, I will just sit on the couch all day, in my jammies.

Unfortunately, spending the day in my pajamas on a regular basis isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I usually end up feeling kind of gross, and even if I am super productive, I don’t feel productive if I’m not dressed. So I’ve been on the lookout for clothes that are stylish but also feel as comfortable as pajamas, and I don’t need to worry about ruining by um, spilling food(this happens more than I’d care to admit) or maybe just having a dog slob all over them.

My mom got me this skirt for my birthday. I wasn’t sure about it at first, as it’s floor length and made of kind of like a heavy jersey knit material, but today I decided to be adventurous and put it on. I also put on a wifebeater from wal-mart, and I threw on the cardigan when I had to leave the house and realized you could see most of my bra through the arm holes. I am keeping it real over here, you guys.

It is now my new favorite outfit. I’m not sure if you can tell from the photo, but I look freaking awesome in it, even though I’m not wearing any makeup and I’m ready for a shower. It is super comfortable, I don’t feel like a style lacking freak when I step outside, and if I threw on some jewelry and makeup it would be totally appropriate to wear around friends! I guess you could say that this is my first ‘work outfit’ for my new job. I’m 99% sure it’s going to turn into my new uniform.

Design Sponge In Raleigh!

25 Oct

via apartment diet

Since I was little, I’ve always been into decorating my space. I remember being so excited when the latest issue of Martha Stewart reached our home – at age 10. I was always planning how I would decorate my apartment when I finally had one, and since that’s actually happened, I’ve almost always had some kind of home project in the works. It’s really important to me that our apartment is as homey as possible. I feel lucky that I live in a time where I have access to unlimited inspiration and do it yourself instructions, and no longer have to wait for Martha to show up in my mailbox. Although of course I still subscribe to MSL. Come on.

Anyway, this lead up is just to say that of course I have been reading Design*Sponge for years. I don’t check my feed every day, but any time I feel stuck in a rut, home wise, it’s the first place I turn. It’s just such a wonderful source of carefully curated interiors and I’m always inspired. When Domino folded, my Mom was heartbroken, so I sent her some online links that might ease the pain, and Design*Sponge was the top of the list. She loved it, of course, so when I learned of Design*Sponge At Home, it was a no brainer for her birthday present.

I’m not gonna lie, the book was kind of a present for me, too, because I also got to read it, and I loved it. It’s an enjoyable read, and I especially loved the sneak peeks of different homes around the world. It’s a book that I’m definitely going to come back to (read: borrow from my mom again) whenever my next decorating hurdle pops up.

I was excited to see that Grace was coming to North Carolina for a book signing, and last night Mom and I made our way to Anthropologie to get her book signed. We were bummed that we missed out on the craft event, because there wasn’t a reading or anything afterward, but the upside was we were almost the first in line to get signed. Grace is really nice in person, and she was kind enough to pose for a photo.

Not sure where the sorority girl squat came from..

I actually didn’t know until recently that Grace started on her own pretty young, and she started her blog when she was my age! I keep sort of a running list in my head of people who did their own thing successfully early on in life, so I can remind myself that it can be done when I’m feeling down, and she definitely made the cut.

Sometimes I feel down because I feel like I should be further along in my career at this point in my life, even though I only started on this particular phase 3 and a half months ago. I was feeling that way last night, until I left the book signing, and realized that that could be me in 7 years! Hopefully at some point I will look back on this time and be like “oh man! Those were good times! Time to go hang out in my mansion, and think about how successful I am.”

Do you guys have any sources of inspiration that you look to when you’re feeling down? Any heroes? When you’re making a tough decision, do you ever ask yourself “What would so and so do?”


24 Oct

This weekend I went to the State Fair. The fair gets a lot of reactions around here – people either seem to love it or hate. There are plenty of reasons to hate it – it’s overwhelming and filled with gross foods, parts of Raleigh are basically inaccessible while it’s going on, my friends used to not be able to come to my birthday parties because that was the day their family went to the fair – but I still love it.

I’m not sure why, I don’t really eat the food, and I don’t go on any rides (they are held together with duct tape and a prayer – I would rather not take my chances). It just feels like fall. I love the people watching (and believe me, there is quite a lot to watch), and the giant prize winning vegetables. It’s so fun to see the animals. One year, we found a barn filled with giant rabbits. We have never been able to find it again, but we always look. I love how the whole thing is so disorienting that I can never find my way around, even though I’ve been attending most of my life. It’s amazing how it can move in and transform what is essentially a glorified parking lot into something completely unfamiliar.

Most of all, I love the lights. Some may think they are gaudy, but I think there’s something beautiful about them.

Freaking Friday

21 Oct

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on here before, but I am almost always in a bad mood on Friday evenings. Something about the culmination of the work week leaves me grumpy and tired. I’ve been trying to overcome this strange habit, but some days it just doesn’t work out, and I have to vent.

So today I’m going to talk about something that REALLY bugs me: spec work.

Both Moleskine and Obama are hosting ‘contests’ for a new logo and new poster respectively. The thing I hate most about spec work is that it’s disguised as this amazing opportunity for up and coming designers. I almost always skim the article, get excited, and then come back to Earth with a thud, realizing what’s really going on.

This type of behavior is so damaging to the design industry as a whole. It trains people to think that what I do is worthless, and that they can ask me to do it for free. It is not a great opportunity to ‘get my work out there’, it is a great opportunity for the company to see hundreds of different options and choose their favorite – without having to compensate everyone for their time.

The worst part is that they act as though they are doing you a favor. It’s like, oh, design something for me, it’s fun for you, right? If I choose you, you get money and fame! Except that if I operated my business this way, I would be living under a bridge.

If Moleskine really wanted to help an up and coming designer, they could have had a call for portfolios, and chosen a designer that way, based on work the designers have already done (and been fairly compensated for).

You don’t go to a restaurant and only pay if the food is to your liking. You don’t have 3 lawyers represent you, and only pay the one whose work you liked the best. Moleskine isn’t going to send me every single one of their notebooks for free in hopes that I will pick one to use as a sketchbook (but I get to keep the rest).

I would jump at the chance to design a logo for Moleskine. If they had asked for applications/pitches to be their designer, I so would have taken the time to apply. But I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to work for free, when no other industry operates on that principle.

Okay, rant over. Design = good, spec work = bad.

Have a great weekend!

Do You Ever..

20 Oct

Just look at everything that needs to be done and feel overwhelmed? I do. This has been kind of a weird week for me. I didn’t have as much work that I HAD to do as I anticipated, and that free time, coupled with me still not feeling 100% meant that I spent a lot of time not doing anything useful. There’s a lot that I need to do – but the problem is that I only have a vague idea of what needs to be done. I need to sit down and get it organized, but it feels overwhelming, and lately I haven’t felt up to the challenge.

Usually I feel so bad when this happens. I force myself to sit in front of the computer and feel horrible when the day is mostly gone, and I still haven’t accomplished anything. I think about every person I admire, and how much they’ve accomplished, and then I give myself a lecture about how they didn’t get where they are today by sitting on their couch and being sucked into the social media vortex, MISSY. I tell myself that I need to get moving, PRONTO, and that tomorrow better be super productive, and then…. Nothing happens.

Obviously, that wasn’t doing me any good, so I decided to break the cycle today. I went on a midday walk with Liz, and now I’m at a coffee shop. I decided that being creative is similar to being a teenage girl. The ups are really high, and the downs are really low. You sleep either a lot, or not much at all.

I have two modes – super productive crazy lady, or off. I will do the time every day, but when I’m not feeling it, things don’t get done. That’s stupid. I waste so much time sitting in front of the computer, when, if I’m not feeling creative or inspired, sometimes I can benefit from just walking away. My new plan is to uh, put a plan in place – figure out low level tasks that I can complete when I’m not feeling it, a timeline for the things I NEED to accomplish so I have a good grasp on where I am. And if I’m just really not getting anything done, I’m going to try closing the computer and walking away. An hour in a museum, or a library will ultimately be so much more productive than 3 days spent looking like I’m working, but actually doing very little.

I found this list on Design Crush, which is an awesome blog.

via Design Crush, via Shiny Squirrel



I think the list is very helpful, especially 6, 7, and 16. It’s a good reminder that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and instead of beating myself up I should relax, and let the creativity flow.

My Life As An Invitation Designer

19 Oct

I have just begun working on some custom invitation suites, and I have been scouring the internet for some good inspiration. At the beginning of a project, I usually get a little overwhelmed and the creative side of my brain will shut down, leaving me feeling like I will never design anything good ever again. It’s not too dramatic, don’t worry about it. One way I try to combat that is to gather inspiring images and let it all simmer for a while. Usually something good will float to the surface. It only takes one idea to be off and running.

Anyway, beyond scouring my usual stationery blogs, I turned to Etsy to see what else was out there in terms of wedding stationery. Of course, I was not disappointed.

Peter and Reid's Invitations, Invitation Crush


I’ve been really into hand lettering lately, and this is a stunning example. I also love the painted edges – such a simple step but it really elevates the design.

Addison Wedding Sample, Sweet Azalea Boutique

I have been having a major watercolor moment, and this sweet, simple invitation uses the watercolor texture in an unexpected way. The best part is, the monogram could be used on all the paper goods, not just the invitations.

Modern Black + White Wedding Invitations, Invitation Crush

I am totally in love with these. They are so simple and modern, but they don’t look budget. The theme is expanded upon throughout the paper goods, but it looks consistent, not repetitive.

Custom Chalkboard Card, ellothere

I’m a sucker for some beautiful black + white script. What makes these so cool is that parts of the invitation are actually chalkboard, and guests can indicate their reply by circling yes or no with a piece of chalk. How cool is that?

Where do you turn for inspiration? I always have an eye out for new design blogs!

Client Relations

18 Oct

Working with clients can be the best part of my job, or the worst part of my job. It all depends on who the client is. I think that college definitely left me  unprepared for the total mind game that working with non-designers on a design project can be. Often, I find myself torn. I want to make my client happy, but I also feel unsure. When is it appropriate to try to step in and work with their decisions to make stay true to my vision, versus just doing what they want and not being ‘difficult’?

I feel so passionately about design that sometimes I may come off as snobby and uncompromising (thanks for pointing that out to me, Mom…) Really, I just see all the possibilities out there. I feel frustrated when people hire me, and then don’t seem to want my opinion. It’s also frustrating when they settle for the first thing they see. Sometimes I take it personally when a client doesn’t immediately jump on board the design boat. I want them to be as excited as I am about all possibilities.

So, I would say a huge (HUGE!) part of my learning curve has been learning what constitutes a ‘bad’ client. Most of the people I have ever worked with have been just delightful. However, sometimes I falter when I lack the confidence to stick to my guns, and end up with a finished product I don’t feel is my best work.

I recently worked with someone who ended up being something of a textbook ‘bad client’. She required a LOT of meetings and hand-holding, and our conversations about the design were not so much conversations as they were her not being willing to listen to my advice, and also not being willing to communicate with me in a way that was helpful. What ended up happening was I created a product that was not as functional as I would have liked. Since I had known her personally, I didn’t make her sign a contract. When the project was basically finished, she changed her mind and decided not to pay me.

Even though the whole process was drawn out and obviously did not end in my favor, I still think I learned some valuable lessons from the experience.

1) Listen to your gut. I just had a feeling going into this that it could potentially end badly. Unfortunately for me, I can be blindly optimistic sometimes, and didn’t take any measures to protect myself. While it may have been awkward asking her to sign a contract and make a deposit, I can tell you it would have been a lot less awkward than hearing she didn’t intend to compensate me for my time.

2) Communication is key. I need to be proactive and stay in touch with my clients. They shouldn’t be afraid to tell me what they are honestly thinking about the work I am doing for them. In my ideal scenario coming up with a design is an ongoing conversation, a give and take of identifying problems, coming up with solutions, and re-examining the areas that don’t feel quite right. I should also be able to communicate how the whole process will work, and what I will be able to do, so I don’t end up wasting time in a string of meetings or redesigns that accomplish nothing.

3) Have some confidence. In school, when I worked on a project, I was the student asking the experts for advice. In my internships, I was the intern who needed guidance. Now, I am the one making the decisions, and while I can’t just build confidence overnight, I need to trust my instincts and be accountable for my decisions. I know the components for a successful working relationship, and when I am working with clients who have never worked with a designer before, I should take charge and lead the way.

This article by the AIGA is a pretty valuable overview of some good client relations strategies. Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them. It is extremely important to me to cultivate relationships with ‘good’ clients. The three questions I ask myself during projects are:

I need to answer yes to two of those questions to consider a ‘good’ project.

Working with other people is always tricky, but it is my hope as I go down this path that I can continue to build strong relationships with my clients, and work on projects that are both challenging and satisfying for everyone involved.

Looking Forward

17 Oct

Relaxin' like a boss on my birthday


My birthday was this weekend. This probably does not come as a surprise to you, since I’ve been talking about it a lot. I had a really fantastic weekend. My aunt and cousins came down to visit, the weather was lovely so we spent a lot of time outside, and I think going paddle boating has officially become my birthday tradition, which makes me happy. As we were paddling around, I kept compulsively saying ‘This is so fun! This is so great! I love this!” until my brother started making fun of me.

Not to be materialistic or anything, but I also got some really great gifts, like new clothes that are casual enough for me to wear around the house, but nice enough that I’m not ashamed to be seen in public. David got me a salad spinner, which might not be what most girls dream of getting from their boyfriends, but was actually the perfect gift.

I have wanted a salad spinner since I was 10, and my job at home was to dry the lettuce off using not-very-absorbent towels. It was stupid and time consuming, since there was a machine out there that could do it for you. I begged my mom to get one for years, but she always laughed at me, because I was her salad spinner. She finally got one in the past year, and has seen the light, so I got to hear those magic words: you were right, Alison.

I have been way too cheap to buy my own spinner, so it’s been something I dreamed about as I ate my very damp salads. I don’t recall telling this story to David, and I don’t think I whined that much about not having a salad spinner, but I guess at some point he heard the story. And that’s why I currently sleep with a salad spinner next to my bed. Where I can see it if I wake up in the night.

I usually like to use my birthday as an opportunity to reflect and make some sort of resolution for the upcoming year of my life. Lately, I have been doing a lot of reflecting, so I wasn’t as into it as I normally am. However, an idea hit me last night as I was getting ready for bed. It means so much to me when people remember my birthday, or other significant anniversaries in my life. Hearing from my friends and family is really what makes the day special for me, and I am so lucky to have people in my life who always remember to do that. Even though it’s so important to me, and even though I’m a big fan of helping other people celebrate birthdays, I’m usually pretty bad at remembering to do the same for others. I can usually remember to send a text, but ideally I’d like to send out a card, and maybe a gift, since I’m constantly seeing things that make me think ‘so and so would love this’ and then never following through. This is also a great way to stay connected with people, and it will probably make me happier as well, since I always feel vaguely guilty when someone’s birthday or anniversary goes by and I either forget to contact them or send a text at like 11:59 that night.

It will also be a great opportunity to make some bangin’ new cards! I mean, that’s basically my one special talent, so I may as well capitalize, amiright?