Design Style: Girl’s Girl

I picked up my cap and gown about a week ago. Graduation just became real. We’ve been having tons of conversations in class about branding, what kinds of work we want to do after graduation, who we want to work for, and who we want to ultimately be. These are huge life questions that don’t always have easy answers.

I am a girly girl and my design style usually sways on that side. I love a nice stationery set or pretty gift wrap (seriously, I buy gift bags with no intention to use them for gifts). I am aware that I tend to gravitate towards girly designs, but have never thought I could really make a career out of my love of all things pretty and girly. Until I realized that I would be happiest designing girly things, I sort of sequestered my girly nature. In the back of my mind, I would always think What if an employer thinks I can’t design for a male-oriented client? But would I be happy designing manly trucks and beer? Probably not.

There are plenty of designers who have embraced a feminine style of design (Jessica Hische and Joy Cho are a couple of my faves). Not only do these designers not shy away from feminine designs, they actually have made successful brands and identities embracing it. They also have translated their styles beyond products and brands driven towards women. These two designers offer daily inspiration for my design style and I hope to follow in their shoes.


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Yes, I’m still alive.

It’s been a long time blogosphere! I’m not one to make excuses; but, well, I’m making one now. When you have a baby two weeks into the fall semester, things like keeping up with blogging get put on the back burner. Maybe even more like wrapping it up and putting it in the freezer to keep for a much later time would be a better analogy. Either way, this blog post is long overdue!

I will admit that the fall semester was tougher mentally than I thought it would be. I expected to miss some class for the birth of my daughter and certainly anticipated getting a little behind. I hate to miss class or miss out on valuable discussions. I also feel terribly guilty if I feel like I’m not pulling my weight. This fall was a constant inner struggle about this very topic. I know it’s my own internal critic because my classmates and professors were nothing short of completely supportive. From recording class discussions for me to answering late-night questions via text, I couldn’t have completed the semester without them.

I know I’ve said it before, but my classmates have grown to be like family to me. With our upcoming graduation, it’s bittersweet to know that while some of my classmates will move away for amazing design opportunities, it also means I will not see them on a regular basis. In some ways I wish we could stay in school for a few more years, making art while supporting and encouraging each other. But I’m also very excited to see what the next few years holds for my talented class. Either way, I know the last semester of senior year can be stressful. We will get through it together with laughter, lots of coffee, and probably some cupcakes too.

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Confessions of a middle school idiot

It’s confession time. Confession #1: I love Bethenny Frankel. I admit I faithfully watched all the Real Housewives of New York and continue to watch every other show she is featured on the Bravo Network. So, when I found out she was speaking at a women’s expo in my town, I didn’t hesitate to purchase tickets. I love her frank nature and tell-it-like-it-is personality. After seeing her speak in person, I have even more respect for her than before. She spoke mostly from the point of view of her recent book “A Place of Yes.” In her talk, she mentioned how as women we hear the word “No” many times in business and in life. She talked about the recent sale of her alcohol line and how she heard “No” multiples times just getting the business started. Bethenny said women who want to be in business can’t take no for an answer and must keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

This brings me to my second confession: I was in a remedial English class in middle school. I was the only girl in a class full of  rowdy boys and thought I was an idiot because I wasn’t in a “normal” course with the rest of my friends. Fast forward many years later, I now have a degree in communications and even minored in journalism. I love writing and consider it one of my strong suits. Had I let other people tell me I couldn’t write or wasn’t good at writing, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Studying communications and media opened my interest in design and lead me to now studying graphic design.

After listening to Bethenny speak, I thought about all the times I’ve let the word no slip in my brain and let it effect my course of action. There have been times when I refused to let no direct my path, but there have also been times when the self-doubt heard “No” and I went running in the opposite direction. So, like Bethenny, from here I will be coming from a place of yes. Who would have thought one could learn life lessons from a reality television star?

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What the heck is Mokume-gane?

My jewelry class recently learned about and created pieces using a technique called mokume-gane. It is a fascinating process in which two contrasting metals are fused together to create a woodgrain-type pattern. Our class took a less than purist route by fusing together $3.00 in quarters. This is the cheaper, college route instead of using precious metals that are more costly. Once we had the mokume-gane formed, each person in my class treated the newly formed metal as if cost thousands of dollars. We knew the time and effort that was put in to make the new metal. Below are some photos taken during the process. Stay tuned for all my finished projects and pieces as we finish up our last week of class.

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When does marketable become cookie-cutter?

I’ve been busy making all sorts of earrings this summer. It is the first project for my summer metalsmith/jewelry making class. This first project was to create a series of seven pairs of earrings, each pair adding a different and more complex skill as we moved through the series.

A few examples from my first earring series. (In copper and brass.)

Today the final series was due and our class critiqued each other’s work and designs. Several times during the discuss, the class talked about marketable designs versus merely designing based on our (or the artists) own aesthetic. As our pieces were functional earrings, we talked about fashion and style and current trends. We talked about wearability and functionality. But the question that surfaced a few times was “What is more important: marketability or artist aesthetic?”

As a graphic design student, I can’t help but think there is not one easy answer to this question. I’m sure there are crops of artists, painters and sculptors who wouldn’t hesitate to say if the artist is true to his or her own aesthetic, then the buyers will come. That an artist shouldn’t be a slave to what sells. But if that were really true, the term starving artist wouldn’t exist, no? But does taking marketability and buying trends into account for design work automatically create cookie-cutter products? Does designing for a particular target audience negate true artistic aesthetic? Can these two concepts live together? Can an artist be profitable without selling his soul?

Close-up shot of a few of my favorite earring pairs. (In brass and copper)

This class provides a different perspective of design for me in a very functional sense. Throughout creating sketches and designs for each pair of earrings, I would ask myself if I would actually wear the earrings, would I give them as a gift, or can I imagine seeing them in a store. By using my own marketability as a gauge, am I still staying true to my aesthetic?

I think I’ve raised more questions in this post than answered. I would love to know your thoughts?

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The things you learn from 30+ sleepless hours

Thank you notes from Dalewood students on display. Credit: UTC Department of Art, CreateAthonCHA 2011

CreateAthon onCampus was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve been through in quite a while. The creative output was intended for Dalewood Middle School, but I think I might have gotten as much as Dalewood out of the whole experience…maybe more. After ruminating on the weekend for a day or two (and getting back on a regular sleep schedule) I’ve come to some fabulous realizations from the event:

Our city is full of extremely talented professionals
CreateAthon had over 40 mentors involved and many of them stayed the entire 24 hours. They were as committed to the cause as the students were. They gave sound advice, insight into the working world, leadership, and encouraging words to everyone. Meeting these mentors makes me even more excited to get out into the working world because I know Chattanooga has a great camp of professionals to work with.

The place you want to be isn’t always the place you need to be.
I was assigned to the documentation team, and I will admit, it wasn’t my first choice. I thought it would be sort of a bummer that I wouldn’t actually be designing anything (at least in the literal sense). I don’t have much film or video experience and wasn’t really sure what I could contribute to the team. But as the 24 hours unfolded, I began to realize the unique position of the documentation team: we had the fortunate position to see all the other teams to create and interact. It was fascinating to see the groups evolve over the 24 hours! I also had the great fortune of conducting some one-on-one interviews. All I can say is wow! I had goosebumps multiple times and I think an “Amen” or “Hallelujah” might have slipped in there once or twice. The nuggets of goodness they were offering and listening to how these people had been touched by the whole event was inspiring and heartwarming. I felt I was in the right place at the right time in my position on the doc team.

Being apart of the doc team also sparked a desire to learn more about film and cultivate my love of photography. I never thought I would be as interested as I am now about video production and editing, but the day after CreateAthon, I was online searching for editing software and new a camera to purchase. So while it might not have been my first choice, my position on the doc team was exactly where I needed to be.

Others successes can be as fulfilling as your own
There were so many proud “big sister” moments for me during CreateAthon. Watching a few classmates embrace and flourish in their leadership roles, seeing others display focus and drive to finish projects, and watching them learn new skills and interact like true professionals instead of merely students made me feel so proud to be in their company. Watching my classmates grow professionally and as individuals might be my favorite part of the whole event.

3:00 A.M. is when you really know a person
I had the pleasure of working with some teammates who I didn’t know as well, especially the seniors in my group. Getting to know them through this project was a crash course in classmate bonding. When you are on hour Number 19 without sleep, the conversations can get crazy good. When all is said and done and we can laugh about toothpaste conversations and throwing things at each other…well, that’s bonding. Every one of my teammates has a special place in my heart after CreateAthon, even if their dancing skills may not. (I kid, I kid)

Making change starts with a small step
There were a few naysayers we came in contact with, mostly questioning what can we really do in just 24 hours. Change has to start somewhere and why not start with a powerhouse 24-hour marathon? When you add the amount of people involved in CreateAthon times 24 hours each, that’s a lot of brainpower working for one cause. There is some sort of magic that happens when you’re working on no sleep and pure adrenaline.

I love Chattanooga more now than ever
When I moved from Indiana to Chattanooga about two and a half years ago, I immediately fell in love with the city. The beauty of the environment, the bustling and promising downtown, the people, the energy and the potential all make Chattanooga a great place to live. All of these elements were highlighted this weekend by the overwhelmingly positive response to the unique opportunity CreateAthon provided for our area. The people of this city have made Chattanooga what it is today and that makes it an even greater place to be.

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Where have I been?

If you are a regular follower of this blog (Hi, Mom and Dad!) then you may be wondering why I haven’t posted in a few weeks. That’s because I’ve been blogging on our class CreateAthon blog. What is CreateAthon you ask? Stop over to our blog and you can read all about what I’ve been up to the past couple of weeks and why I went about 30 hours without sleep.

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Recent Work

I recently entered my work in the scholarship competition at school. Here are a few shots of my installation.

Color Theory and Life

I am doing a few room updates in my home, which includes painting a couple of rooms. Choosing a paint color should be a relatively easy task, especially since I was merely choosing a color that coordinated with the room’s bedding. I decided a pale teal color would be best and all I needed to do was visit the local home supply store and pick up a few swatches. I even took a pillow with me for easy coordination and choice.

Yet, as I stood in front of the vase display of paint swatch cards, I found myself in an inner color theory dialogue. I was standing in the store with pillow in hand, but still left with about 10 different swatch cards. All the typical color theory terms were dancing in my head. This teal was too saturated, this one was too muted, this one too much tint. The balance between blue and green in any given teal choice could be the difference between right and wrong. Then there is the practical application of the room’s lighting and how different each chosen swatch will look under natural sunlight versus the florescent lighting in the store.

I began to question whether my knowledge of color theory was beneficial to the simple task of choosing paint for a room, or did it just make the choice more difficult? Was someone with no color theory knowledge, who picked a paint color because “It just looked right,” better off than my struggle to find a perfect teal? Maybe they have an easier decision, but I’m willing to bet my paint choice will look great on the walls.

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Designed Life

I often find myself fascinated by the crossroads of art school and “real life.” Design and art are found in so many everyday situations. The duality of what I learn in school and experiences in my personal life are constantly intertwining like a DNA strand. I love that I am studying something that is so relevant to life. The next month of blog posts will be exploring this idea…how design influences life and life influences design, an art school take on real life. Check back every week to see how my school studies are morphing with my personal life.