What led you into design?
It wasn’t really one specific thing that led me into design.
For my entire life, I wanted to write in journalism. And I had pursued that as aggressively as I could in college. But part of that career trajectory for me meant becoming an Editor, and part of that meant learning how to properly plan a print section out using the story and art. I didn’t really know how to do that unless I knew how to design.
So I started designing as a way to become better at the job I always wanted. Eventually, I fell in love. It was a different way of telling a story. From there, I did everything I could to just get better at design.
About a year and a half ago, I decided I wanted to enroll in an online bootcamp (Bloc.io) to learn UI/UX design, as well as some coding. Part of that decision came from wanting to continue learning anything I could about design.
What does a typical day look like?
My mornings change based on the days. Some mornings I get up around 4 a.m. and I take a 5:15 a.m. Orangetheory class. I usually get home by 6:45 a.m., where I spend the next hour or so drinking coffee and catching up on some grading work I do for Thinkful.
I get to work between 9 and 10. I drive into work now, so it can always be a real gamble as to what time I actually land in the office. But the digital team is really flexible in terms of start and end time.
We have a few scrum meetings in the morning. We figure out what’s on tap for the day and what has priority, and then I hunker down for the day.
There are curveballs, and you need to adjust. But we have a solid digital team and for the most part, things run smoothly.
And of course, there are coffee breaks. Food breaks. Small talk in the kitchen. I sometimes feel as if I take all those small, mundane things for granted, but they keep my mind fresh when I feel creatively blocked.
Post-work can really be a gamble. I try to avoid making plans so I don’t feel bad when I have to cancel them. Some nights I just feel like bed!
What’s your workstation setup?
Where do you go to get inspired?
Those are probably my two favorites. They were just two websites I leaned a ton on during my program for inspiration.
When I started learning how to illustrate, I would love browsing Dribbble for long periods of time. I do that much less frequently now, but I still find it really interesting to browse sometimes.
But if I’m being really honest, a lot of time, I am most inspired when I take a mental break from something I feel stuck on. I go for a run or I turn to a different project. Anything to really clear my head from the problem. Often times I think inspiration comes when you aren’t really looking for it.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
I don’t know if this counts, but I’m going to mention it anyway. The office recently got the Oculus Quest. It’s pretty fantastic.
VR is insanely cool. And the product itself is so well designed. VR terrifies me, but hey, anything with cool design will get me hooked.
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
There is one non-digital design I was art director for that I am the most proud of.
We had a story coming down the pike for RedEye Chicago about what alcohol does to the body. We had no art for the story and no ideas. I was still fairly new at illustrating or coming up with conceptual concepts. I jumped at the idea of painting a “stained” body with wine.
Turns out painting with wine is incredibly hard. More so too when you have absolutely no painting skills.
When I realized I would not be able to do that, I spent several hours every day trying to get the desired effect into photoshop. I busted my hump. At the time, Photoshop was a program I felt like I would never master.
The design ended up winning a design award, which was my first one ever, and it pushed me to keep with design and keep learning. It also opened my career up creatively.
What design challenges do you face at your company?
We value news presentation, but we also have to acknowledge that our website needs to make money. A lot of what we’re trying to do as we move forward in the digital landscape is making sure we are designing elements and components on our site in a way that is more native and less jarring for the reader. Some things that have been used in the past come off like advertisements when they should look more editorial. It’s definitely a challenge, especially when you have as many stakeholders as we do. But we’re getting there.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Oh, god. My musical choices are all over the place. For whatever it’s worth, my music changes quite frequently, but these are heavy in the most recent rotation.
Any advice for ambitious designers?
It’s really important for ambitious designers to do as much as they can so they learn and grow in the role they’re in. You will grow so much as a designer if you listen, take notes and seek out team work. I worked on a small team in my first role out of the bootcamp I was in, and each member of the team was experienced in different areas. I sought each of them out for help and guidance and now I find myself helping others in the same way they helped me. Plus I learned more than I would have if I just relied on one person or if I was just leaning on the program work.
Lastly, I want every designer to know that decisions aren’t personal. If your design isn’t liked or the stakeholders push back, it’s not personal. There’s also a fine line between going back to the drawing board and really fighting for what you think is the best solution. Always back up your designs with reasoning and logic.
Anything you want to promote or plug?