Category Archives: Designed Life

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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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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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.