Category: Design Life

Anything and everything relating to design

Times are Changing

Times are Changing

Well, its been quite some time since I last wrote a post. My website used to be my passion project. It used to be my creative outlet. It used to be where I dropped some stellar words of wisdom. 

Ok, maybe not that last one but still, updating my site was a big part of my regular routine. 

Now, not so much. I would say I’m sorry but to be honest, I’m not. I loved my blog posts. I looked forward to writing them. It really helped me during a time in my life when I really needed it. I’m not sorry about that at all! I’m also not sorry that it helped me so much that I no longer need it.

Changing Focus

I have decided that my side-hustle/freelance/moonlight business will no longer be a main focus in my life. It was a hard decision to come to but I feel like it’s the right one. 

When I started my business, I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to make my own rules and work to be as creative as possible. I wanted to take on projects that I enjoyed doing and wanted to help people expand their own businesses or organizations. I wanted to do those things because I wasn’t finding that joy in my regular day-to-day. 

After MANY life changes, I can now say I have found my creative outlet and no longer need a side-hustle to fulfill my need. 

What does this mean for my design life?

I’m not quitting design.

I still love design and love helping people. By changing focus I am discovering that I have a passion for many other things…such as: my puppy, owning my first house and picking out paint colors, getting faster and more efficient on my paddle board, and drawing. Oh how I miss drawing! 

Being Ok Dropping a Passion Project

One of the best things I heard at a HOW Conference was that it was ok to drop a passion project. Passion projects are those things that you’re super into at the time and would rather skip eating and sleeping than put [insert your project name] down. 

k.ray design was my passion project – I put everything I had into it. I met some pretty amazing people. I drank a lot of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. I stayed up way too late. It was a huge part of my life. We laughed, we cried, we loved…it was a great chapter of my life. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

But now, I’m ok letting it go and turning the page. 

Next Steps

For those that I am currently working with, don’t worry! I’m not dropping you. The next step is no longer taking on new clients or large projects. My current clients will be my focus until they no longer need my services. I will take care of them as I always have and make sure to meet their needs. 

In the next few months I will be working on transitioning my website into just a portfolio and blog. I won’t have much of a presence online…I’m going analog! From a design side of things, I plan on drawing more. Who knows, maybe that will become my next side-hustle.

Thanks for all the great design time and helping me to reach my goals!

Making a Stellar Website

Making a Stellar Website

You want to make a website but not sure where to begin. Or maybe you already have one, but have no idea how to make it better. Well my friends, there are 3 key elements in a stellar website: the design, the images, and the copy. 

Let’s talk about the design.

My top recommendation: have it professionally done! I’m not just saying that because its my job, I say it because it makes sense.

Today one of my friends mentioned she received a piece of furniture that she ordered online. She could have paid a little extra to have someone assemble it, but she decided to try it herself. After a long night of reading instructions, the piece is still not put together and she has war wounds to prove it. Sure, she’ll get it assembled at some point in time and it will work great, but, wouldn’t it just have been easier paying a little extra to have it done and have it built right? 

See where I’m going with that story? Yes, you can create a website on your own and I’m sure it will look great. But, will it be like my friend’s furniture piece and be built properly? Will you have taken every piece into consideration? And how long will it last before you realize you expected something more? 

A professional designer will have it done faster and better. Why? Because they do this for a living. They know the benefits to having a great home page design. Or having your H1s worded a certain way for SEO reasons. They have built that piece of furniture over and over again and know the ins and outs. 

If you’re yelling at me right now because you don’t have the funds or you really would just rather make something on your own, its ok! You can. You can get a theme from WordPress or Squarespace or Wix or where ever, and make something splendid. If you do want to create a site on your own, be sure to have amazing images.

Let’s talk about photography.

A website is only as great as its photography. Go to your favorite website and imagine it without the images. No graphics. No photos. Nothing. Not so awesome, right? Images MAKE a website! Spend time taking great pictures. Think about composition. You don’t have to hire a professional (although, it is highly recommended), you can do this on your own. Have an understanding of what makes a great photograph. Stop being the overly excited BFF with the disposable wind up camera and clicking at whatever looks fun. 

Stock photography is a great option for those that cannot afford a photographer, do not have time, or do not feel comfortable taking their own pictures. Stock photography sometimes gets a bad rap but, a stock photo is going to be better than anything your 2012 camera phone will produce. 

Insider Tip: Many times, it won’t cost very much to have a designer create an ad or a slideshow image.

Another option is to create something and have a designer give their critique. Some will do this at no cost to you, others may charge their time. Either way, cheaper than a full web design or professional photographer. 

On the same lines, if you have a slideshow or need an advertisement created or want to highlight an event or section on your website, spend time thinking about the design.

When a slide pops up on a website with neon letters in 5 different fonts, you’ve lost me as a user. Not only have you lost credibility, but you appear to have just discovered fonts in MS Word. Nothing against that program, but put a little thought in how you present yourself online. Would you wear rainbow socks, oversized 1980s graphic tee with a fancy suit to your high paying job? Having ridiculous graphics on your website gives off the same vibe. 

Let’s talk about copy.

People do not read everything that is posted on a website. They want important information in digestible chunks. This doesn’t mean you only need 1 sentence on every page, but more so that you need to organize it in a way that is quick and easy to read. You’re not writing a novel or a 5 page report.

  • Use Headings, Subheadings, bullet points, lists, etc. to organize your content.
  • Highlight the sections you really want people to read. 

Hit a return when you have a paragraph that might be too large. 

Users like reading simple copy. Get to the point. Think Twitter-style but do not use “tween speak.” Still present yourself the want you want to be seen. Maybe you’re edgy and like to use humor. Maybe you’re very professional and proper. Whatever your style, be sure to carry it through with the design, images and copy. 

Bottomline

If you want to make a website really awesome, make sure you have a decent design, great photographs, and informative copy. Everything needs to match your brand and how you want to be seen online. Its ok to use a template from WordPress or Squarespace, but put some thought into it. Learn about how to make a great layout. Learn how to write great web copy. And learn how to optimize for the web. If this is something you want to do on your own, spend some time learning about how web design works and why there are people that get paid to do it for a living.

Have other ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comment section!

The Non-HOW Design, HOW Design Conference Recap

The Non-HOW Design, HOW Design Conference Recap

Every year I count down the days until I am reunited with my crew. My people. My homeslice designers. Or more commonly known, my count down to the HOW Design Live Conference. But this year, I was watching from afar. I decided to take the year off due to the fact that I switched jobs and moved to a new city.

Remember what momma said, play nice

Its been a month since day 1 of the conference and I was able to soak up all the knowledge possible via Twitter. The main thing I took away from the stellar tweets: be nice to one another. Its amazing how many businesses have employees that feel like they need to throw their co-workers under the bus just to stay ahead. Or, employers that treat their employees as if they are only there to make sure the line on the profit chart continues to point north. When did the world get this way? Has it always been and we’re just now realizing how awful it really is? Yikes, guys. 

After being a HOW Live attendee for 6 conferences, and experiencing the genuineness of everyone, it makes me wonder…if everyone there is so awesome, where are all the people they complain about? Why are they not there learning? Why are there so many designers that struggle at their jobs? I realize not every attendee hates their job or has beef with their boss, but there are some that do. Anyone that has gone, knows that there are countless sessions that advise you to leave your job if you’re unhappy. Or change the environment. Of course, not everyone has such courage. There are those that have bills…families…mortgages…loans…etc, and paychecks make that part of life easier. But, as they say, life is short. Enjoy it.

When I quit my job and moved to a city that I visited once, maybe twice, it was scary. I had to change everything. Where was my local grocery store? Or coffee shop? Who should I see if I’m sick? Will they have the same things that Ames had that I really enjoyed? No idea. Just go and see what happens. Leap blindly. It might just be exhilarating!

If you wait for the right time, you’ll never stop waiting

In Boston after HOW 2014, as I was waiting for my flight home, I took a moment and wrote a note to myself in the same notebook as my HOW Live notes. I told myself that in one year, something needed to change. I wanted a bigger city. I wanted more freedom at work. I wanted the option to be creative. And I wanted to try building my own business. I only looked at that note once since I returned from HOW, but it was always in the back of my mind. Happy to say, mission accomplished…and I survived. 

My current job is no longer a job, because I love coming into work and creating. The people are incredibly talented and want each other to succeed. They are personable and helpful and I couldn’t ask for a more engaging environment. They have fun and work hard. And the company is successful. This job is everything HOW talks about in the sessions. (They aren’t lying…utopia does exist!) I’m still trying to figure out why its not a normal working environment for so many creatives. Maybe I don’t have a head for business, but being nice and pushing each other seems like a pretty common sense way to achieve success. 

Twitter Gold

Usually I would go down the list of sessions I attended and recap each one with little design nuggets of inspiration and feel-goodness. But, since I wasn’t actually in any sessions, I will instead share some favorite tweets:

The reason I do what I do:

I agree! This is so perfect: