Lessons & Insights

Getting Comfortable With The Uncomfortable
At my core, I am a builder. I love building and shipping things to the masses. Sometimes these are small things like a new blog post or a small piece of communication in Slack; other times, they come in the form of an extensive program or product that will be sent to a whole company. There's always a bit of anxiousness whenever I ship something, and depending on the risk tied to that project, the feelings grow. I can't change that, but what I can do is prepare.
The profile of all profiles
Over the years, I’ve had my hands in many things. I’ve worked as an independent designer running my own company. I’ve worked as a consultant for other companies. I’ve worked as an employee at startups. I’ve managed my personal brand online, built side projects like HappyPatron, and a few other business-related endeavors that I’ve since sold. None of this includes my personal life as a husband, father, life-long Learner, etc. Learn more.
Here’s to brand love
This may be somewhat random, but I wanted to share with you all a new project that I soft-launched a few nights ago. It's called HappyPatron.
Be Curious
It's hard to imagine that it's been five years since I first started writing to you all. I've learned a lot in five years, and my life has changed a good bit since then as well. Thank you for the support, and I hope you've had a chance to reflect on your past year — cheers to a great 2020 and a new decade. Perhaps the number one reason that I started this blog was out of curiosity. I wondered, would anyone care to listen to what I had to say? Would anyone read it? Would anyone ever sign up for more content? I was just curious. Curious if I build a little corner on the internet where I could speak to other designers and share my journey with them, would anyone come? Well, you did, and thank you!
Takeoff and Landing
Recently I flew to Canada and got delayed on my way back home. It inspired me to write the below piece. Enjoy. In my experience, most projects don't fail in the middle; they fail at the beginning or near the end—during takeoff or landing.
What are you reading?
When I brought minimalism into my life, I decided to unload most of my books, and have become pretty intentional about what books I bring back into my life. Any book that sits on my shelf today is likely a book that I reference on a pretty regular basis and have genuinely read. Even though I appreciate a nice full bookshelf, I've tried really hard this year to declutter mine. Why? Simple. It gives me intense anxiety knowing that I have books on my shelf that I've bought and have not finished. These feelings can distract me from the things that matter most. Please don't read this thinking that I'm reading less these days. In fact, I'm reading the same if not more than I have in well over a year. I just have changed my approach.
Hidden Costs
The total cost of ownership or TCO refers to the total cost of owning something. This takes into consideration both the purchase price and hidden costs over the length of you owning this item.
I recently closed myself in a tank full of Epsom salt and floated in complete darkness for an hour. I loved every minute of it.
Everyone’s Learning
Maybe you know this, Maybe you don’t. You’re still learning, I’m still learning, your boss is still learning, Educators are still learning - heck your parents and friends are still learning. Everyone's still learning, and that’s okay. Today is today, tomorrow is tomorrow.
Every industry has award competitions that businesses and practitioners want to win. Design is no different. Award opportunities are everywhere. At one point in my life, I felt strongly about the need to win at least one award. In fact, I succeed a few times. However, nowadays I pay little attention to awards.
I’m stressed. Are you?
At the moment I’m juggling a healthy list of projects both at InVision and at home. The result is that I’m stressed. It’s also the new year, and that brings stress with new expectations and goals.
Benefits of Minimalism
As a designer, I’ve always appreciated the power simplicity and minimalism has on my designs. However, it wasn’t until recently that I began to realize how I can use minimalism to strengthen my life.
The Importance of Financial Planning As A Designer
Financial planning is an area that many freelancers and designers simply ignore. I'm not sure why, but that’s simply the way it is when they start their careers. I hear tons of stories of young designers who spend money like crazy in their first year or two. I actually know of someone who purchased a brand new, fully loaded Porsche Cayenne right out of school. Maybe it's the false sense of security that comes with a paycheck? Maybe it's because they have a sense of freedom? Maybe we feel like with this new experience need to come drastic lifestyle changes? Whatever the reason is, I can honestly say I was no different. Now I didn't go out and buy a Porsche, but I did fall in the same trap of not really planning and managing my finances very well early on in my career. Here's my story.
10 Attributes of a Successful Designer
The other day, I started thinking about the designers that I’ve encountered throughout my career. Some of them have impacted me in ways they probably don’t realize. These people inspire(d) me with not just their work, but also by being great people and life mentors. They’re always on top of their game, they balance their lives, and they “own” their careers. More importantly, they are the type of designers that have depth to them. They are built on more than just having great design chops and striving to have great designs that inspire. I started thinking deeper about these industry-leading designers to determine what qualities and attributes they consist of and what qualities I find have worked well in my career.
5 ways to start building a successful brand today
I’ve been designing logos and creating brands for companies for nearly a decade. In fact, much of the early work we did at Greenline Creative was focussed primarily on brand development and website creation for companies who were just breaking ground. This was the most rewarding work I’ve ever done, so I’m extremely happy to share with you some of the principles that we followed to create engaging brands.
Let it go… Let it go…
I’m a new dad. 9 months ago, my daughter was introduced to Frozen, and she’s now officially hooked. For all the parents who are reading this, you know what that means. All kidding aside, I’m pretty amazed that at just 14 months old, she managed to catch the Frozen bug so fast. I suppose that's the magic of Disney. Ironically though, when reflecting on the last few months, I couldn’t help but notice that designers and the industry could learn a thing or two from this movie. I'll point out a couple of them here.
Recap: Filming the InVision Course With Lynda
I was recently invited to film an introductory course on InVision at Lynda. Since this was a brand new experience for me, I figured I'd snap some photos and document my journey. I hope this serves as a handy guide to anyone who wants to (or is prepping to) film a course with Lynda.
Scaling Design
One of the hardest things that you have to do as a designer is scale yourself – whether you bring on other designers as contractors to help you with your client work, or work as a design leader who's looking to scale the team. I've been in a number of environments over my career. Some were super established and already had a "system" in place, but I've also been in small startups (and ran my own studio) where we had to take the first step towards scaling. It's not an easy task by any means, and it can be a bit scary, but through these experiences I've noticed a few things. Hopefully, they'll help you if you're struggling with or thinking about scale.
What Is Design?
What is design? Have you given any thought to it? Believe it or not, design is not just about the fonts, colors, images, or layout a designer chooses. Yes, we call it designing and the result is often called a design, but really design is about problem-solving. Great design solves real business challenges.
How We Work: The Influence of Technology on Design. A Recap of the Kansas City Design Week Panel
Last year I was asked to sit on a design panel for the KC Design Week. The topic of the discussion was how technology impacts design. The panel consisted of myself, Daniel Seagraves, Mark Logan, Chrys Sullivan, Michael Gekas (as moderator) and JC Hendricks. All of us came from various design disciplines and experiences; we ranged from architects to UX specialists.
It’s Great To Be A Designer
Have you sat back this week and thought about how great it is to be a designer? Take a second and think about it quick. It’s pretty awesome right? Yes, you get to wear hoodies and graphic tees, and play with typography, color etc., but that’s really not what makes being a designer so awesome.
Building a George & Willy-inspired Studio Paper Roller for Sketching
About three years ago, while on a trip to San Francisco, I was eating at a restaurant that showcased its daily specials in a really innovative way. They would handwrite them on a roll of butcher block paper that was mounted to the wall, and each day they'd tear yesterday's specials off and write down the new ones for the day. I just loved the functionality of this idea and took a few pictures of it for inspiration. After leaving the restaurant, I began to think more about how this endless roll of paper would apply to different fields in my life. I immediately determined that this would be a great replacement for the whiteboard in my home office. I love using whiteboards to take notes while on the phone, plan sprints, and brainstorm and sketch on, but I hate the appearance of most of them.
What Does The Future Look Like for Designers?
About a month ago, I was honored to be 1 of 5 product designers to sit on the Future of Work panel, part of AIGA’s San Francisco Design Week. The panel focused on the ever-evolving role of the designer, our conversation covered everything from whether designers need coding skills in the future, to the impact of current trends on the industry, to the skillsets companies look for when hiring a product designer.
Managing Your Health As A Designer
I am about three weeks into my latest move towards helping myself become a better designer. I suppose you can say it’s been about four years in the making, but who’s counting? It definitely has been a journey, but I know that becoming a better designer doesn’t mean that I always have to focus on getting better at Sketch, Photoshop, hand lettering or keeping educated. Sure, these are all important skills and maybe you need to improve on those skills but oftentimes as we race to stay relevant and compete we neglect our health and get burnt out in the process.
My Most Popular Lessons From 2014
With 2014 coming to a close, it’s time to start thinking about your goals for 2015. My biggest goal is to finish The Designer’s Handbook.
It’s All About The Bounce Back
I didn’t have a post for you last week because I was busy working on launching The Portfolio Workshop. Thanks to everyone who helped me pull this together.
The Most Common Mistake You’re Probably Making as a Freelancer
This week I want to share with you the biggest mistake I think I made starting out as a freelance designer. I didn’t correctly position myself in the market. Based on the inquiries that I get every week, I’m going to bet that you too are making the same mistake. It’s okay. I’m excited to help. Here’s my story.
Finding Your Happy Place
Last week I shared how to overcome the creative block. This week I want to talk with you about finding your happy place as a designer.
Overcoming the Creative Block
I want to talk to you about getting down to the basics of creativity whenever you find yourself struggling with an idea or solution.
Saying No Is Easier than You Think
I hope your week has been good to you and you’re moving along nicely with the goals you’ve set for yourself. This week I want to take some time to remind you that saying no is okay, and often saying no is the secret to success. Over the years, I’ve learned that saying no is in fact much easier than you may think if you follow a few tips.
What Are You Setting Out To Create?
Whether you're working for an agency or managing your own freelance clients I think this post is really worth reading. When I started out in the industry (and even as freelancer), I really wish someone would have made me answer one simple question. That question is: What are you setting out to create? By answering this one simple question, I think I could've reached my goals much quicker by avoiding some setbacks. This week I'm excited to talk to you about defining your goals and the benefits of defining what you are setting out to create.
Are You Hunting Elephants?
Another week is in the books. This week, I want to talk to you about sales. Specifically about the notion of the bigger the budget the better the project's outcome.
The Money Lies In The Solutions
This week I want to talk to you about an important and key change in mindset that will help you make more money as a designer and freelancer. It’s the mindset that real money is found in the solutions, not in the act of creation. Let me explain.
When Things Get Slow
Fall has always been the busiest time of year for me and Greenline Creative. I attribute this bump in activity due to the fact that summer vacations are over and businesses begin to focus on the goal of finishing out the year strong. It can also be attributed to clients and businesses wanting to get as many tax deductions completed as they can before the end of the year. It’s a busy time, but a great time for cash-flow. However, what do we do about the other remaining months in the year?
A Lesson on Dependability and Accountability
There’s no shortage of examples when it comes to a lack of accountability and dependability within the industry. I decided to just pick one that I feel many of you may already be facing (or soon will face) as you begin to work with your own clients or on your own projects. The example I want to share with you is about holding your client accountable on a project. From billing to completion. I also want to touch on dependability as a designer and what it means for your business.
Are You Ready to Begin Reaching Your Goals as a Designer?
I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to reach many of my biggest goals before turning thirty. I’ve worked for small boutique design agencies, large global design firms and I’ve even ran my own successful web consulting studio with my wife full time for nearly a decade prior to focusing my attention on educating other designers through workshops, books and this weekly blog.
Minimize Your Weaknesses and Leverage Your Strengths
Limitations can come in many forms. Maybe you’re a designer who doesn’t know how to code. Maybe you’re using a design program that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that another program has to offer. Perhaps you’re building an MVP that doesn’t have all of it’s features in place yet so your story isn’t entirely being told to the end users. Perhaps you feel limited by your experiences so you feel like you’re not able to offer as much value to your clients or team members. Whatever your limitations are, you can learn to leverage them. I hope this lesson and my experience below helps you understand how to do that.
How Overcomplicating My Solutions Cost Me
This week, I want to talk with you about simplicity and what I’ve learned about simplicity in my career. Many see simplicity as just a way to design, I’ve learned to view it more as a philosophy or way of managing my career.
Why I’m No Longer Motivated By Money
This week I’m back and want to share with you what I’ve learned about staying motivated while trying to reach your design and career goals. I’m positive that at whatever level you are at, you’ll find value in this week’s lesson. Let’s get started!
What Bob Ross And Painting Taught Me About Tools
This week I want to keep things simple and share with you the tools I use on a regular basis to complete my projects and manage my business.
What Blanketing Myself Across the Entire Internet Taught Me about Marketing Online
This week, I want to talk with you about your online web presence. Specifically, I want to share my experience as well as discuss where you should be focusing your attention online. Let’s get started.
How A Last-Second Portfolio Decision Impacted My Career Forever
In recent weeks I’ve been getting a number of emails around the subject of portfolios so I figured I’d take some time to share with you my experience when it came to creating my first portfolio and some of the most common mistakes I see in portfolios on a regular basis.
The Importance Of Design Etiquette
This week I’m excited to share with you some of the things that I’ve learned regarding etiquette for designers. This list could become long, so I decided to narrow it down to a select handful of things that you can start taking action on immediately.
How I Improved My Confidence With Public Speaking.
If you remember, last week I didn’t have a lesson for you all because I was prepping for my talk about “burnout” for the Columbus Web Group. It was a great talk, and I’m excited to be back this week sharing a new lesson with everyone
How I Once Commuted Six Hours to Work on a Saturday and Loved It
Throughout my career, I’ve found that when I have the right environment around me, putting that extra 10 percent into my projects is much easier. So for this weeks lesson I thought I would share with you what creates the ideal environment for designers to strive in. If you’re reading this as a project manager, creative director, freelancer or student I hope you are able to pull something out of it that will benefit you or your team.
How Striving to Be Normal in High School Taught Me the Power of an Extra 10 Percent
Today I’m excited to share with you how I learned the true power of just an extra 10 percent, and how that translates to success.
Why You Should Be Moonlighting If You’re Not Already
This week I’m going to share with you the benefits of moonlighting on your own projects outside of work, and how that can translate to big things down the road for you, as well as what you can expect from the experience.
Why I Make Education The First Thing I Focus on Every Day
When it comes to the topic of education, I feel really passionate about it. Now, it’s not just the benefits of staying educated that I find so critical to the success of being a designer, but more importantly I find it’s critical for you to also teach and share your knowledge with other designers as often as you can. Why do I feel this way?
How Letting Go Helped Me Make More Money As A Designer
You probably noticed that the email you received for this week’s lesson looked a bit different. Not only did I remove the design, I also changed how I formatted the email. You may be asking, why would a designer strip the design out of his emails and change what’s been working for the past ten weeks? Well, the answer is pretty simple. Since the very beginning, my whole purpose for this blog has been to connect with designers and help them reach their goals through my own experiences. By making this change, I’m now forcing myself to create conversation with you all from the very beginning, rather than feeling like I’m sending you another “marketing” email every week.
How Budgeting Money Taught Me Time Management
Life, clients, side projects and all the other tasks we have to do (let alone want to do) fill up our week pretty quickly. So how have I learned to balance my career with life? Well, it took me years to really figure out a system that worked for me, but my trick is treating my time like I would my money. Just like I budget my money for the month, I need to do the same thing for my time so I don’t accidentally give it away carelessly and lose it all.
How I Learned to Network Effectively
Now to be completely honest, I’m not as great of a networker as I wish I was. In fact, I left that conference (like I do many events) wishing I had networked more. I’m great in small crowds, but by nature I’m a tad introverted. However, even though I have room to grow, I do feel like I have learned a few things so far in my career about networking that I would like to share with you all.
Understanding The Network
Nobody ever gets to where they want to be on their own. Everyone has had some help along the way. If there is one thing that I find that levels the playing field for designers, it is the network. You can be the best designer in the entire world, but if you don’t have a network, nobody will ever know you exist. The opposite is true as well. If you are a young designer still perfecting your craft, having a network allows you to find opportunities as well as offers support as you grow.
How I Gained Respect as a Designer
With each week that goes by I’m always excited about sharing my experiences with you and this week’s lesson is no different. Gaining respect as a designer is very important when it comes to reaching your goals as a designer. Without the respect and support from others, you not only run the risk of simply falling through the cracks, but it can leave you feeling like you’re on the outside looking in.
How I Fight Burnout as a Designer
Burnout doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care about your level of experience, what role you play in the design ecosystem or what design title you hold. Burnout is just simply another part of the challenge that we face as designers. If not dealt with correctly, burnout can have a drastic effect on your creativity and growth as a designer. I hope that after you read this lesson you will have a better understanding of burnout and how you can overcome it.
How I Evaluate A New Prospect For Client Fit
Wouldn’t it be great if you could worry less about feedback and focus on creating great solutions with clients who trust you? This week I’m excited to share with you some red flags that I watch out for as well as a few tips that I’ve used to evaluate if a new prospect will make a great client.
How I Manage the Feedback Process
As a designer, feedback can come in many forms. It can come after you present a concept to your client, after you have presented your portfolio to a potential employer, and even from a project manager working alongside you.
How I Minimized My Fear of Launching
All designers experience it. If you haven’t yet, soon you will. You’ll spend months, weeks and maybe even years working towards this moment. This important moment is called the launch. It’s that very moment when you get to prove to the world that all of your struggle, commitment, sacrifice and hard work has been well worth it. You finally get to show them what you’ve created.
An Open Letter: Become The Designer That You Want To Be
Every week I get emails from other designers and students asking me for some design and career advice. I really enjoy doing it, but often times the conversations have a tone of hopelessness. It’s clear. Many designers feel like they may never become the designer they want to be. Worse yet, some feel like they will never be able to attract the right companies or clients. As a result, the fear of not utilizing their talents to their fullest potential becomes real to them.
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