The Best Design Advice I Can Give. See the Whole Forest.

See The Whole Forest: Design Principle to Live By

See the whole forest.

When you are in the midst of a creative process, it can be easy to focus strenuously on a single design element.

I realized this in a college studio class when I had my eyes inches from the computer screen. A professor saw me obsessing over details. She intervened, sharing a design principle to live by,

“Don’t focus so intently on one little tree, a seedling. Step back. See the whole forest.

In order to gain a sense of clarity and make pivotal design decisions, you need to do more than move your text to the left 5 pixels or change a tone of gray to a fraction of a shade darker. To grasp ideas for critical changes, you need a new vantage point.

Try this:

▸ Take a real step back. Or 5. Try taking 5 paces back from your canvas and then review.

▸ Look from different angles and depths.

You’ll most likely see major shifts and edits that will fundamentally improve your design.

Beating Procrastination. Just Start.

Beat Procrastination. Just Start. Advice that Works.
Procrastination can be the root of emotional distress. Fear of performance or avoidance of a making a decision is often the reason for putting a task off until later, or more simply the reason of, “I just don’t feel like it.”Recently, I was given the best advice from my dear friend Hannah Davis Warner, celebrity personal trainer and fitness expert on the advisory board of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Her words,

“You know the best way to get over not feeling like it? Just start. Just start. If you tell yourself I’ll do it for 5 minutes and if I really can’t stand any longer, I’ll allow myself to stop. But more often than not, that 5 minutes is just what you need to keep going.”

Try it. 5 minutes at the gym. 5 minutes reading emails. 5 minutes spent doing the task that keeps getting rolled over on your to-do list. The best way to get something done is to begin.

“The shortest answer is doing the thing.” -Ernest Hemingway


What Design Styles Do you Detest?

Mona Lisa with Moustache, by French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

Mona Lisa with Moustache, by French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887 – 1968)

When working with a new client, I always ask what design styles they dislike. My clients’ responses on this subject never fail to make me laugh.I feel this information is imperative for me to do my job well. What if I don’t know a client abhors purple and it’s the very tone I choose?From the mouths of my clients, here are some recent favorite responses, anonymously:

▸ Anything with HEARTS, BALLOONS, AIRPLANES.▸ Orange drives me mad. It instantly agitates me.▸ Ugly things… fatty logos.

▸ I HATE cartoons! And I don’t like “ugly” art where the characters have gross features like overly large noses with weird heads. Not sure what that’s called but it’s awful.

▸ I really hate bubble letters.

▸ Comic Sans.

▸ The Coke Logo is annoying.

▸ I find the Red Sox lettering impossible to read unless it says anything but Red Sox.

▸ Country-cute… is that a style?  Anything that looks like a cartoon.

▸ Longaberger Baskets. Thomas Kincade.

▸ Precious moments. Plaid curtains. Cluttered.

▸ Microsoft, Samsung.

▸ I don’t like too grandma.

▸ Cartoony, too baby-ish… Nothing Disney-esque, please.

▸ Totally not stoked on tribal art.

▸ I don’t like cute. Cute names, cute websites.

▸ Corporate logos with globes.

▸ Nothing too prissy.

▸ My local newspaper.

▸ I don’t like things that look lazy, like Bevis and Butthead, or “cute” like Dora the Explorer.

Design choices can be a matter of personal taste or even arbitrary. These responses exemplify how very different people are in terms of likes and dislikes.

Certainly don’t let this deter you from bubble letters or grandma-style; if that is what tickles your fancy, go forward with confidence! Art is often the exact opposite of conformance.

From an artist that was often misunderstood and disliked,

“I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”
-Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp

How to Build a Successful Etsy Store

How to Build a Successful Etsy Store

I began my Etsy e-commerce store in 2008 when Etsy was fairly young. Quite a lot has changed since it was founded in 2005 and will continue to change as Etsy’s growth persists.For those of you unfamiliar with Etsy, it’s a global marketplace where you can buy and sell things handmade. If you are looking for a unique gift for a person that is hard to buy for or if you’ve thought of starting an online business to sell things you’ve made, this is the spot!

In the past 7 years, between curating an Etsy store and helping hundreds of other Etsy businesses, I’ve learned some Helpful Hints to Success:

High Quality Photos of Products.

▸ Show as many views/angles as possible. Your buyer wants to feel like they’ve seen an item in person.▸ Take photos in natural light for maximum brightness and accurate color reflection.

▸ Avoid using a flash which often causes over and under exposed areas of an image.

▸ Show product scale.

▸ Use as much white space as possible. Note that clean photos with white or neutral backgrounds most often show up on the Etsy homepage and treasuries.

▸ Develop a consistent photography style.

Give your buyers an “ah-ha” moment.

▸ Be clear in who you are and what you sell. Buyers want to feel like they “get it.”▸ Don’t curate too many various goods. A store without clear direction yields a high bounce rate.

▸ Use your friends and family as test subjects. They may point out issues you’ve missed.

Develop branding to be used throughout.

▸ The easiest way to do this is through a shop banner utilizing clean, clear text or a logo. Develop this thoughtfully as it’s the first image seen on your page.▸ Continue your branding through packaging.

Descriptive Text.

▸ Write keyword-rich item titles and descriptions. This will help potential buyers find your products.▸ If you aren’t grammatically-inclined, have someone who is proof your writing. Errors will disprove your credibility.

▸ Write text you’d like to read as a buyer. Make it an interesting read.

▸ Develop a thorough “about” page for buyers to get a further sense of what your store is all about.


▸ Renew Items every few days if possible.▸ Place your favorite items on your homepage.

▸ Share your items on social media platforms set up solely for your business i.e. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+.

The Most Important Advice.

▸ Make changes one at a time to control the environment. Monitor your stats pages for web traffic to gauge what viewers are clicking and favoriting. When web traffic and purchases go up, success can be measurable.

Etsy is an ever-changing marketplace, and is no longer solely hand-made goods. In late 2013, Etsy opened their doors to manufactured products. Make sure you keep up with new posts and announcements via the community page so you are in the know on changes.

Through Etsy, I’ve found a network of incredible artists, makers, entrepreneurs and more. I’ve developed friendships and partnerships with many from around the world and can say it’s truly a community worth exploring. And if you can quit your day job and make money doing what you love, why wouldn’t you?!

The Best Design Advice I Can Give. Design elements can be analyzed individually by how you think they feel.

AIGA Graphic Design Portfolio Review

Design elements can be analyzed individually by how you think they feel.

When I was a senior in college, I went to an AIGA design portfolio review where some of the top local designers were there to critique student members’ work.

I stayed up until 3 am making sure everything was just right and that I could explain each design piece well.

Once there (whoaaa was I nervous), I had a one-on-one sit down chat with a well-known woman in design, dressed to the 9’s with super trendy eyeglass frames on the tip of her nose.

She gave one of my poster design a thorough inspection and sat back, pointed to the title on the poster and said in the most open and neutral fashion, “How do you think this piece of type feels?” (strong emphasis on feels)

Before I responded, she interpreted the confused looked on my face. She said something in this essence (I’m paraphrasing as this was about 10 years ago!),

Feeels. How do you think this type feels? Would it like being so close to the edge? Would it like kerning that is so tight? Would it like this drab gray?

Design elements can be analyzed individually by how you think they feel. Would they like more room? More white space? A brighter color?

Adjust your work accordingly.

I took in all that she was saying… this was sort of life-changing advice to a new designer. How does each design element feel…

It’s true. This is advice I’ve used from that day forward. Each design element in a composition must feel cohesive. They must agree with one another and feel like a “family”. The eye must move naturally from one part to the next in a natural progression.

How do they feel? Try it!