OWNER/CREATIVE DIRECTOR at LITTLE BIRD COMMUNICATIONS,
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR at UNIV. OF SOUTH ALABAMA,
HOST OF THE DESIGN RECHARGE SHOW
BFA in Graphic Design, 1996
What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work? I love learning about what makes people tick and what has helped people to grow their businesses. I am reading Jonah Berger's book "Invisible Influence" right now and really liked his last book "Contagious.” I read a lot. I use the audible app on my phone and listen to books and podcasts as I commute and do chores around the house like mowing. I also really value my friends that I can talk to about business and these are people who will encourage me but at the same time tell me the truth and hold my feet to the fire. A few of them also have podcasts Dustin Lee of Retro Supply Company has a course for designers called Passive Income for Designers and a podcast of the same name and a friend in town Johnny Gwin of Hummingbird Ideas and Deep Fried Studios a podcast network. Johnny is a podcast consumer and creator with three podcasts he currently is hosting and producing at once.
“I love learning about what makes people tick and what has helped people to grow their businesses.”
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking about design? The biggest influence on my design thinking has been exploring and deciding after much analyzing what works for me may not work for everyone. I am of the mindset that there is not one design style that is better than others and can be used exclusively. We all need to find the best visual voice for each project for each client. Design is supposed to be clear and is memorable when it is clever. Know the why behind your designs.
You are a practicing designer and an educator, bringing business perspectives into the classroom. What advice do you give your students interested in starting their own business? I tell them to work for someone else first, ask questions, see where some of the pitfalls are then go out on their own. But put a time frame on yourself for this first job. I also encourage them to start when they are in school and have a team of advisors and colleagues to bounce ideas off of. Also they have to know how to talk about what they can do for a company. They have to know how to sell their services without being salesy. I think this is an issue when people first get out of school. I know there is so much we don’t have time to teach them and they need to continue learning. Sometimes their egos get in the way but more often than not it is a lack of confidence. That is what the first job does, it provides confidence and knowledge.
You are very involved in Creative South. You hosted a workshop focused on recharging which helped designers talk about issues of procrastination, feelings of fear, feeling like a fraud, etc. What advice might you give to a student designer battling these issues? If a designer is growing (which I hope we all are doing continuously) we will always feel like a fraud. It is normal. Own it don’t hide it. Don’t pretend, ask questions to the right people. Read this book, “Rookie Smarts” by Liz Wiseman it will help you understand how to use this feeling to ask the right questions and harness your curiosity and lack of knowledge to be a stronger, motivated asset to a team/business.
You are the Creator and Host of The Design Recharge, a weekly web show designed to inspire designers. How has this show challenged you and helped you grow as a designer? Design Recharge has changed my life. It was actually started after I did not get an interview for a position at Auburn. I thought I need to be more marketable and I really enjoy talking to people about design. I needed to ignite a spark in my own work, so I jumped into reading more books but I thought how awesome it would be to be able to ask these designers questions about their process and marketing techniques among other things. It revolutionized my life. I was more productive, more inspired, and more exploratory. I was filling my brain weekly with new, current information about the field.
The other way Design Recharge changed my life was that I found my place. I am a connector of people and I would hear where people were struggling and I knew someone else who had already overcome this struggle or who could help them out with advice or a potential collaboration and I connect them. I regularly do this for my guests, students, and other designers I know.
The show has also brought more ideas into my life in terms of passion projects, client projects, entrepreneurial projects, as well as it has taught me many different types of processes which I have implemented in my own designs work and brought into the classroom.
You are clearly a successful designer and educator. In your opinion is it more difficult for women to become “successful” in the design field? Honestly I don’t know if it is harder for women. I was raised that there was no difference in our potential or the abilities of girls or boys. I have faced very few times where I have thought, “I bet they would have treated me differently if I were a man.” I have been told I have a big personality and maybe that has helped me not feel swept under a rug. But honestly it is an advantage to being a woman in design.
Designers solve problems that involve emotions, getting people to act and respond, as well as asking hard questions from our clients. I listen and empathize with my clients and am possibly less threatening because I am a woman. People tend to open up to me, but I don’t think this is because I am a woman, I think it is just part of what makes me who I am. I know plenty of men who make clients at ease and are empathetic.
Women are for the most part paid less and when we are tough we are tagged as a “bitch.” Men however are praised and called assertive. I think this is changing and I definitely owe a lot to the women who came before me, who paved the path.
Do you think there is a difference between working in design with women or with men? Have you ever been treated differently because you are a woman? I don’t think I have been treated differently for being a woman. The only times I have been discriminated for being a woman were when I started teaching and another colleague HAD to walk in front of me, not WITH me. But he was from another country so I chalked it up to cultural differences.
There are three design professors at my school, I have been here the longest amongst the three of us. The colleague next in line is a man and came a year after me. Because he is a man many students thought he was in charge but again I think that is a cultural thing with being in the deep south.
“It (The Design Recharge Show) revolutionized my life. I was more productive, more inspired, and more exploratory. I was filling my brain weekly with new, current information about the field.”
While you were in school at Auburn, do you remember a specific design project that challenged you the most? I remember quite a few critiques, where I learned a TON. Using typography and the importance of your imagery and what it says about the voice of the design. I did a senior project that was all motion graphics and at the time there was not a professor or anyone else that was doing this type of work. I remember Professor Heck telling me that I could do it, but I would have to do all the trouble shooting. Honestly this was the best advice and so similar to the real world of design.
Would you recommend some resources that young designers might find useful (books, websites, podcasts, etc.)? There are so many books I read, I am creating a page of resources on my website https://rechargingyou.com/resources/.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were in school? I wish I knew that there was no way they could teach me everything I needed to know. Also that it is going to take hard work to land a job and you need to be able to say what you are good at and admit where you are not as strong. People hiring want to know you can handle certain things not be told what they want to hear. There were a lot of people skills (soft skills) that I had to learn on my own. I guess I also wished we worked more in teams because that is what happens in the field.
Honestly I really value my education and am so proud to be a graduate of the program. It was one of the best times in my life because I found what I love to do and enjoyed learning about how design worked.
Add any additional thoughts if you feel they need to be shared: Professor Heck really helped me as I was searching for grad schools to attend and that was well after I graduated. I appreciated that he remembered me and that he answered the email and gave me his advice. I got to see him back in April as his daughter Bethany was a speaker at Creative South. It was not for long but it was so nice to see him. Bethany is amazing by the way.
God led me to Auburn, Auburn and the graphic design program nurtured, challenged, and prepared me for the industry. God’s hand was there all along. I am thankful for the professors that I had that started in me a desire and passion for design. God used them and because of what they taught me and prepared me for I am now able to be used by God with my own students and to reach designers all over the world.
Designer responded to questions in 2016 via email.