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?




14 Oct

This week, I wasn’t feeling so hot, but I inched closer to finishing up some projects, and I am really excited for the weekend. So this post is going to be kind of brief, but be sure to go check out the wedding announcements I designed over at Oh So Beautiful Paper!



Michelle and Rob are seriously great people, so I was absolutely delighted to be able to help them share their wonderful news! This was also an exceptionally fun piece to design. Michelle must be extra good at telling people what she wants, because as she was telling me she wanted orange flowers, the whole design just popped into my head. Anyway, go check out the whole post, and have a great weekend!

Birthday Week

13 Oct

I still get pretty excited about my birthday. I like to have a party, and I have a personal tradition called ‘Birthday Week’, where in the week leading up to my birthday I feel more positive, cut myself more slack, and eat more cake than usual because it’s my birthday week!

I was a little bummed this year, because my BFF Liz was going to be out of town on my birthday weekend (this weekend) for her sister’s wedding. I mean, I know she has a good excuse and everything but COME ON. It is just not a party without her. I was also a little worried, because despite the fact that I had asked David to be in charge of my birthday party dropped some hints about a birthday party, no plans seemed to be progressing.

ANYWAY, this lead up is just to let you know my state of mind on Friday. Liz and I, and another friend went to a First Friday event earlier in the evening, and then we were going to meet up with David and hang out. When I talked to David, he said he wanted to go to another friend’s Tim’s house. I had been thinking we’d hang out at our place, so of course I took this in stride and was a huge whiny baby.

“Noooo..” I whined, like a child might. “I want to stay heeeereee…” This was totally unreasonable, because Tim has a sick house and he and his girlfriend are really fun to hang out with, but I can be a pretty unreasonable person. Everyone ignored me, and we went separately to Tim’s.



You guys, I was so totally blown away. I actually screamed a little, because it’s really shocking to walk through a door and have a bunch of people yell ‘surprise!’/shoot silly string and poppers at you, but it was so awesome. Almost all of my friends were there, and there was amazing food and drink, and we played games and wore party hats, and I was just so, so happy. That party was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me,  and it made me feel so lucky to have all these people in my life that I just genuinely really like. I’m also quite impressed, and a little scared, that David and Liz made it happen and actually surprised me. I mean, not to brag but I am very observant and also kind of nosy, so the fact that they were able to get me is brilliant. AND  they remembered that I really like surprise parties.

So, this party basically made my month, and I have been in the best mood all week because of it. It is right up there with my 21st birthday party (aka my birthday I was the most excited for) and my 6th birthday party (we lived in Florida, and it was a pool party, and I had a Snow White cake for like the 3rd year in a row. It was the best.) I’m not really sure how to end this post, and I’m ready to eat a piece of cake now, so I think I will just end it by saying again how thankful I am for such wonderful friends. I can’t wait until it’s your birthdays, guys. I am so ready to scare the crap out of you and then give you some cake.

Freelance: Month 3

12 Oct

Well, gosh. The months are just flying by, aren’t they? Freelancing is definitely the most intense thing I have ever done. I feel simultaneously exhilarated and overwhelmed, and a lot of what I said last month is still true, but I’m finally starting to feel like I am beginning to get a handle on things. (Although obviously not as much as I hoped, as I was relaxing on the couch when I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t posted to my blog today..) I’m finally getting a project management system in place, which, to repeat myself, is INTENSE. Mostly because freelancing is like this mixture of having to be super rigid in my schedule, or else I won’t get anything done, and also having to be flexible for when a client calls with a last-minute whatever, and I need to be available.

Overall, I feel like I’m on the right trajectory. I’m building relationships, I am learning how to deal with the more frustrating aspects of my job, and I am even beginning to plan ahead, and think about the future. I admit, my version of the future at this point is next week, but I’m baby stepping my way into it, okay?


My Goals for Month 3

+ Finish website redesign.  I did that! I’m so proud of me! Now I just have to finish uploading all of my content, and get my blog redesign up. But for now, let’s just bask in the fact that I did in fact finish my website redesign.

+ Talk to an accountant? :/ NOPE! I can keep putting this one off forever, right?

+ Document and showcase some of the projects that I have completed recently.  I so did this! Some of these projects are in fact going to be featured on other blogs. Stay tuned.

+  Get dressed in the mornings. I’m crossing this off the list because I do get dressed almost every day. And on the days that I don’t, it’s because I really don’t want to, and isn’t that what freelancing is all about anyway? Doin what you please? (hahahahano)


My Goals for Month 4

+ Better separate work life from home life. Poor David usually has to come home and listen to this giant speech about how my day went. Sometimes I can discuss my work life from the moment I see him until the moment he goes to sleep, just about. While some venting and sharing is good, I really don’t think that this stuff should be on my mind from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. I should, you know, develop other interests and not be in a work mindset when I’m not actually working.

+ Create my marketing ‘team’. This maybe sounds crazy, but I wrote up job descriptions for the people I would hire if I actually had money to hire people…? Since I am trying to do all the jobs, I wanted to define them a little better, so I can structure my day around the things I need to do. So like, for 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 minutes in the evening, I put on my ‘office manager’ hat, and work on invoicing, and responding/sorting emails, and organizing my life, and that sort of thing. I also created a marketing person position, and then promptly blow that position off every time my little calendar alarm alerts that it’s marketing time. It’s really important that I stop doing that, and it won’t take that much time once I get the ball rolling, so.. Here is my official call to stop procrastinating on this.

+ Start working on personal projects that help me develop skills. I always admire people who do something every day, like the daily drop cap, or the branding 10,00 lakes project. I think it’s an awesome way to build a skill, and sharpen your creativity. I think doing something like that could be a great creative habit to establish, and also help me work on areas where I think I could be better. Of course, it would be fun to share my progress with everyone as well.

Keeping the goals simple worked last month, so I’m going to go with that. Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I explain my concept of Birthday Week!


My Freelance Life:

Day 1

Month 1

Month 2

I was going to post today..

11 Oct

But I got beat down by this weird illness instead. I have a lot to say on here, but unfortunately I’m not good for much but laying on the couch and weakly requesting water. I have to get better, guys, it’s birthday week!