Feel Better: A packaging project

13 Feb

My allergies keep me sick throughout the year. On average, I find myself in the cold medicine isle of the drug store three to four times a year, bleary-eyed and sniffly, trying to find the right medicine. I am immediately assaulted by harsh geometry and cold, unfeeling or just plain cluttered design like this.

I feel terrible, and all I want is to feel better. I want something that is going to feel like a warm bowl of soup, a cozy blanket and my mom stroking my hair. I want something comforting, and cold medicine packaging is anything but. This is the challenge I decided to take on: make cold medicine look as good as it’s going to make the user feel.

I wanted to create something novel and unexpected. Given the fast approaching deadline, I knew my limitations; I had to go with something I already knew how to do. Thankfully, I learned how to knit in high school, and what’s more comforting than a knit sweater? It was a solid concept; all I had to do was learn to knit pouches and I was set. After some internet research, I quickly learned and applied the technique.

Deciding on the typography was fairly easy, but typesetting the Drug Facts proved to be rather difficult. I wanted the look and feel to be simple, but there is a lot of information that is legally required to be on medicine packaging. But, this is why I love design: there are certain rules and challenges you have to figure out how to work around. All in all, I feel very proud of my work, even though these are all just mock-ups, and I hope to push the concept even further and really develop these into something fantastic.

I love the future!

2 Feb

Okay, if you love watching internet videos as much as I do, you’re going to love this post.

So lately I’ve been mildly obsessed with futurism. Not the Marinetti’s-crazy-manifesto-birthed Italian art movement from the early 20th century. I’m talking about the futurists of today..the scientists, engineers, designers and other brilliant people who imagine and innovate to envision the future of humanity, technology and everything:

Brian David Johnson on being an Intel futurist

The Morrow Project is this incredible book that I haven’t finished reading yet in which four different authors describe a typical day in the typical life of the typical person in the freaking future. Intel has provided the whole book as a free pdf download here. Brian David Johnson is the Head Futurist (I so love that that’s a job) at Intel, and he’s all about using science fiction narratives as a jumping off point to begin the discussion about the actual future.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what draws me to futurism today. I don’t care if you’re not a geek, everybody loves a good science fiction story. Everybody wants their own robot butler and flying car. I mean Threadless even sells a shirt about it:

When I was younger, I loved cartoons like every good kid is supposed to. Some of my favorites, though, were “home of tomorrow” themed. I loved them because they seemed at once ridiculous and attainable. Some of you may have seen the 1967 Wink Martindale film, “1999 AD,” as it’s made its rounds on the internet recently. I’ll post for you part two of three (all three parts can be found on YouTube):

1999 AD

This film, produced by Philco-Ford (company acquisitions and nonsense…look it up), is eerily close to predicting the modern conveniences of today. What I find fascinating about this film is that the concepts for these conveniences were there, but they were wrapped in the context of the technology that was available at the time. While seeing a fax machine hailed as the future brings us a laugh, it immediately raises the question: what do we think is awesome now that will look like a pile of dog poop in fifteen years? And what will be the technological advancement that makes it look so? The same questions are raised by this much more recent (1994) excerpt from the Today Show:

What is the internet, anyway?

Hilarious. Also, exciting. Exciting because technology is advancing at exponential speed. Exciting because the future is going to blow everyone’s minds. All your 2012 nonsense aside, imagine how awesome 2030’s going to be. YES, PLEASE.

I love watching people who are thinking about these kinds of things and sharing them with the world. Design thinking combined with technological advancements is going to make the future incredible. But you know, the future we live in now is already pretty incredible. I know a lot of you have seen what Louis C.K. had to say on Conan, but to remind you of how right he was:

Everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy

So very true. What we have now is indeed amazing. Which makes what the future holds downright mind-blowing. Here are some of my favorite projects I’ve found on the internets:

How can we make mobile communication more emotional?






Electrolux “Heart of the Home”






Microsoft Future Vision Montage






Philips “Daylight Window”






IDEO Future of the Book

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.





The William: The Stove Top of the Future

So there’s a quick glance at what I’ve been doing around the internet lately, and where some of my latest inspiration is coming from. I leave you now with a link to this article from Impact Lab on what the future may very well hold for us.

I wrote a manifesto

25 Jan

Last semester I was asked to write a manifesto. It was possibly my most difficult project to date, but also my most enlightening. By examining deeply and honestly the way I felt about my field, my work and myself, I discovered that I contradict myself over and over, and have trouble speaking in absolutes. I’m generally this way with my philosophy, though. I think the best outlook is a flexible one. That being said, it’s a difficult sensibility to bring into a manifesto. This was a challenge. I decided to play up my contradictions, and write the manifesto with a sense of flexibility and relativity. I am proud of what I came up with, and stand behind it.

Manifesto for the Young Designer in the Real World

Take yourself seriously

Don’t sell yourself short because no one knows or cares who you are. Being a famous designer is like being a famous dentist. No one outside of your field cares. Fame is fleeting anyway, and should never be your goal. If you gain recognition, it will be because you’re talented, work hard, and are a pleasant human being, not because you strived for fame.

Don’t take yourself so seriously

Not every piece of work you create has to be some great commentary on the human condition or ask the viewer to question his reality. Some things are just pretty, and that’s okay. You’re a creative person, and you like seeing pretty things. This doesn’t mean you’re shallow or incapable of deep contemplation about the world around you, it just means you’re human.

Create what makes you happy, not just what’s work

Not all of your work needs to go into your portfolio. Create something small every day that means nothing. Sometimes you will find greatness buried in your scribbles and doodles. Do silly, funny, or just plain awesome projects that bring a smile to your face, and make you remember why you got into this in the first place. Working yourself to death is a great way to lose your passion, and your soul.

Create what’s work, not just what makes you happy

You are trying to make a living out of this, so do work that brings in money, and is portfolio- worthy. It is nice to think that as often as possible, we should do work that accomplishes a goal of social good. However, the world is full of rent checks and electric bills. Occasionally you will find yourself needing to do commercial work to survive. Do not let this make you feel like a sell-out, it is simply the way of the world. Be sure the work you do is never in promotion of harm, and you can always be proud of yourself and your work.

Don’t work for free

Charge for your work. It’s a little scary to ask for money the first few times, but remember: this is your job. If you treat yourself like you don’t deserve the money, no one’s going to give it to you. When you’re young, people think they can take advantage of you, promising that you will get noticed through the work you do for them for free. These “exposure” jobs are crap. No one will ever care who made the logo for their crappy band or small business or whatever. They are taking advantage of you, and you’re better than that.

Work for free

The only jobs worth doing for free are for charity or other non-profit orginazations. They need good design, and you need karma. Just as people donate money, so you can donate your skills and talents in promotion of good. Plus, these pieces make great portfolio/ resume work.

The world is harsh

You will need a thick skin to live here. People will hate both you and your work. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it, you may start to believe them. People will try to scam you out of money. Get everything in writing. Find a professional designer or better yet a lawyer you trust and work out a basic contract. Have everyone you do work for sign it. Hope you rarely have to resort to threatening breach of contract.

The world is beautiful

Life requires a certain amount of cynicism to survive. Do not let yourself become jaded. The world is harsh, but it is also beautiful. Never lose your sense of wonder, for there are still things to discover and explore. Enjoy what you do, and never forget that there are good people in the world, and sometimes they make mistakes. So will you. Be forgiving.

You need people

Nobody can sustain their passion without a community surrounding them, Get involved with the design community, and at the same time make sure you do not wrap yourself in a bubble; make meaningful connections with those outside your field as well. Inspiration can be found everywhere, and you will always learn something new. Allow yourself an active social life. Your work is not the definition of you, but merely an aspect. Having a rich, full life outside of design will aid you in not only in the work you make, but in your own sanity. Do not try to live despite your work; let your life inspire you to work.

You need yourself

You are your most important commodity. Set a daily deadline for yourself. If something doesn’t get done by the end of the day, don’t touch it until tomorrow. Force yourself to find balance. Eat vegetables, drink water, and get plenty of sleep. Stop wearing your 3 hours of sleep as a badge of honor. It doesn’t mean you work hard, it means you don’t know how to manage your time well. Take care of yourself.

How Thick Cards made our city stand out

10 Aug

Part of the collateral we had to provide for the 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat was a guide to the city so that visitors wouldn’t be at a complete loss for something to do when the meetings, seminars, etc. were over. We wanted to create something that would express the quirky, fun spirit of Chattanooga. We knew our city deserved something more exciting than the typical fold-out paper guide. We decided that we would make a pack of cards; much like trading cards. Each card would be designed by a different member of the Engage team, and feature a local “hot spot” in Chattanooga. We proposed this idea to the class and to our printer, Cy Devilbiss of WonderPress, who both loved it and jumped on board immediately. Cy was a fantastic, enthusiastic source of encouragement and truly worked along side us to help us create something unforgettable.

While the class started designing, my team met with Cy to discuss logistics. He used his awesome Thick Cards method to give each of our cards a unique feel. Cy creates his Thick Cards by adhering two pieces of cardstock paper together, creating cards that are twice as thick as normal business cards. By using this method, we could have a different paper for the front and back of each card.

We decided that the back of each card should be the same, and feature the retreat logo when all the cards were placed face down and put together like a puzzle. That way, when the cards were flipped over, face up, each card would feature a different place, different paper, and different designer. Each card also had a number that corresponded to the area map we included in the badge kit.

As we worked on our designs, we worked closely with Cy, as he helped us learn how to design for the paper; keeping in mind how the texture and color of the papers we had chosen would affect the designs we had created. His printing expertise coupled with our design know-how made for an epic conglomeration of awesomeness. Cy was great to work with. His enthusiasm for the project inspired us. He believed in our work so much that he began bragging about it to others and even made mention of entering the piece in some contests. The fact that he took such pride in his own work made us take even more pride in ours, resulting in a great final piece.

We were told again and again by attendees of the conference how visually striking and refreshingly different the guide was. It really made Chattanooga look great, which is exactly what this city deserves. I had the opportunity to hand out the guides on the first day of the conference, and never got tired of people’s surprised and delighted reactions. It was truly impressive, and we couldn’t have made this stellar piece without the help of Cy and his Thick Cards method.

Engage: 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat

10 Aug

I spent the better part of this year working on the branding for the 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat. We began in January and worked every day until the actual retreat ended on June 5th. It was an awesome experience, complete with exhilarating triumphs, crushing defeats, valleys of calm, and moments of complete panic.

This was a project that my classmates and I worked on collaboratively. We began as one entity, developing the brand from the ground up. We needed something that would bespeak Chattanooga’s fun nature while allowing itself to be taken seriously as a brand. Our theme was “Engage,” so we needed to create something that would represent interconnectedness without feeling like a corporate-synergy-team-building-exercise kind of thing. Through weeks of trial and error, we eventually landed on a brand based off the awesome work of our own Lillie Somerfield.

Inspired by color blindness tests, a logo comprised of thousands of dots of various sizes all coming together to create something while still retaining their individuality perfectly captured what we were going for. We created a color palette that we felt represented Chattanooga well, complimenting the city’s harmony with its natural beauty.

Once we established the brand as a class, we split into three teams and began cranking out some collateral. Our three task forces were Printed Materials, Web/Social Media and Environmental Graphics. I was the leader of the Print Team, and as such assumed a great deal of responsibility that kept my hands tied most of the time.

My team was in charge of designing table top signs, a guide to city of Chattanooga, the name badge kit and tshirts. I also created and revised again and again the brand guide to the brand we created, as well as daily sessions signs to go outside each room used throughout the conference.

The name badge kit involved eight different pieces:

  • The name badge itself
  • A schedule of the retreat’s events
  • A map of the retreat site
  • An area map and food guide
  • A card about transportation around the city
  • A card for questions to be left at the front desk
  • A thank you card for the sponsor
  • And a card corresponding to the attendee’s assigned table in the main ballroom.

It was a lot of collateral, and the team definitely pulled their weight! Everything came out looking great. More on the breathtaking Guide to Chattanooga in a little bit…

It was a completely new experience for me to be a leader for this project. It was awkward at times as the dynamics of interaction between myself and my team (who were at once my peers, classmates and equals as well as members of the team answering to me) became difficult to balance. It’s odd and unsettling to have to reprimand and respectfully demand things of people who are on the same level as you in a lot of ways, and in some cases are your friends in your personal life.

That was really where the awkward place was, in that overlap between personal and professional relationships. I very quickly learned how to manage this ground, which has proved invaluable in other aspects of my life as well. It was a great lesson to learn: how to stay friends with those you work with/for/above.

I also came a long, long way in my client relation skills. Before this project, I was used to designing in a bubble, so to speak. I was designing things that would only be shown to other designers that I already knew. There was no expectation other than the high standards of design quality that my professors expected of me.

It was daunting at first, the idea of designing for AIGA. However, the wonderful people at the national office (namely Katie Baker, with whom I had the most interaction), quickly proved themselves to be approachable and reasonable. While at first I was intimidated by the scope and nature of the AIGA audience, I became quite comfortable with the national representatives by the time the retreat came around.

Visiting the national office in New York helped tremendously. That “field trip” was simply incredible. The vaults of AIGA member work made me fall in love with design all over again, and the building itself was gorgeous and inspiring.

From right: Jessica McGhee, Lillie Somerfield, Katie Baker, myself

As the Print Team leader, I also learned how to preflight files for our WONDERFUL printer, Cy DeVilbiss with lightning speed. Cy and all the guys at Blair did such amazing work for us, and graciously donated all of it. Our best designs would have been useless if our printer hadn’t been as amazing as he was.


Among the amazing printed materials he provided for us was the outstanding Guide to Chattanooga. You can read all about that process here.

As the semester came to an end (but our Engage work just began to kick into high gear), I made Engage themed cupcakes for everyone to enjoy! I carved the “e” out of a sheet cake, and used three different sized cupcake/muffin tins to create the dots. I handmade and colored the icing to match the brand we had built. The cake was confetti cake, too; even MORE dots!


Cute, you guys.

When it came time for the actual retreat, we were stoked to have the chance to volunteer. Not only would we get to see all of our hard work come to fruition, but we would get to rub elbows with AIGA board members from all over the country and make some great networking connections. During the opening address, we were brought on stage with the one and only Debbie Millman, President of AIGA. She personally thanked us for our work and presented us to the attendees of the conference. That was incredible. The whole experience was so, so much fun. I made some great new friends and it was wonderful to be appreciated for all the work we did. It was so rewarding to watch people use our materials. Driving home one night, I passed a number of groups on the street, holding up our area maps and using them with confidence. That was really heartwarming, to say the least. I had to miss the last day of the conference for my cousin’s wedding, but the time I was able to spend there was unforgettable. Here are some pictures of our final conference pieces:

cleaning the windows in preparation for the vinyl dot decals


Austin Reed, leader of the Environmental graphics team, in front of the dot window graphics his team created


retreat attendees Engaging with the Engage brand


a daily sessions sign about to be installed


a daily sessions sign in its environment


some of the directional signage the Environmental team came up with


installing room numbers and daily sessions signs


helping attendees register


the assembled badge kits waiting to be picked up at registration


waiting to be installed


column banners going up, more environmental team magic


we're volunteers! engaging with the attendees!


Jessica's name tag


around 300 chapter board members came to Chattanooga!


hanging out with Katie Baker

You can call it a comeback

9 Aug

WOW it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I apologize for my neglect. My time and attention have been eaten away by several big, exciting projects that I fully intend to share with you over the next few days. For now, I will give you a summation of my time away from WordPress and a preview of the blogs you can expect to see very, very soon:

I spent the spring semester engrossed in creating the branding for the 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat that was held here in Chattanooga in June. This was a project that my classmates and I worked on collaboratively, having been split into three task forces (Printed Materials, Web/Social Media and Environmental Graphics). I was the leader of the Print Team, and as such assumed a great deal of responsibility that kept my hands tied most of the time. More about this awesome and hectic experience later.

Once the retreat was over, I took a few days to recuperate with an awesome friend and a lot of laughter. This amazing friend happens to brew his own fine alcoholic beverages, which I felt needed some humorous branding. I quickly obliged. A post on this later.

I then came back to Widgets & Stone, the lovely studio who hired me as a Designer after having me as an intern for only 5 months. It has been nothing short of an amazing experience to be a part of the Widgets team. We’ve done some awesome things since I last blogged. I was even allowed to take lead on a couple of projects. Again, more on these later.

Early in the summer, the extraordinarily talented and quirky Terry Chouinard came to the studio to host a letterpress lecture and workshop, which was so, so much fun. I learned so much from him and his humor kept everyone in the workshop in high spirits. It was a really enjoyable experience that gave me the confidence and knowledge to attempt a letterpress project of my own. Again, a later post (we’re up to what, at least 4 now? Good grief…)

So, a lot has happened. A lot will continue to happen. And I will blog about it. Be prepared.

K2S logo

15 Feb

I did a freelance job recently for a woman in town who runs a company called “Keys 2 Success,” (please note the new branding may not be featured yet on the site) which offers business consulting through personal growth. I knew that developing a logo with a key graphic would be boring and expected. I felt that what would really represent her and her company well would be a strong yet approachable typographic logo. I began working in sans-serif typefaces, but they all felt far too blunt and harsh. I experimented with a few options before turning to one of my favorite typefaces, Hoefler Frere-Jones’ © Archer. I chose to shorten the name into the initials “K2S,” and focus on a sense of an enveloping and supportive community through connected type forms.

Here’s the coolest part about this logo, though. As some of you may know, the ever-amazing Dan Cederholm has created a community for designers to upload, share and comment on each other’s work in the form of cropped screenshots — a sneak peak of what they’re currently working on. It’s called Dribbble, and no, that extra “b” is not a typo. It’s a pretty fantastic thing to be a part of; getting to watch the processes of some of the world’s design superheroes doing what they do best. Really exciting stuff to watch. I miraculously scored an invite to the site (still in beta) a few months ago, and have been really enjoying the experience. I uploaded the K2S logo, and check out the comment I got:

HOLY COW. Jonathan Hoefler. I cried a little and called my mom. I was so humbled by his comment. For sure a HUGE highlight of my design career.