inspiration

My Past Life in Design

high-school-newspaper.jpg

The Beginning

Sometimes new clients ask about my design background, whether I have a specialty, or how I came to do what I do. I think of myself as a Jane of all trades (I won’t even delve into all the jobs and industries I’ve worked in that weren’t design-related), but I’ve been a graphic designer since working on my high school newspaper.

In ‘97-’98 we were still using the paste-up method for sending our school newspaper to press. Our layout software didn’t allow us to insert a photo on the page, so we’d just include a big open box that fit within the article. Then, on the printout of the final page, we’d use a wax pencil to label each box A, B, C, etc. and we’d paperclip ACTUAL PHOTOS to the page with corresponding labels of A, B, C, etc. written on the back, along with the percentage the photo should be sized within the box (there was a special tool to help us do the math). If the photo had to be cropped, we used another tool and made those corner crop marks on the front in wax pencil. We had a makeshift lightbox (pictured above with yours truly) and the photography/photojournalism room was right next door, which conveniently included a huge darkroom.

High-school-newspaper2.jpg

My sophomore year in high school, while attending a conference-style event at the University of Texas at Austin where newspaper and yearbook staff from high schools all over Texas came together, I decided that was where I would go to school and journalism/design was what I wanted to do forever.

Laura at the first-ever ACL fest in Austin, 2002.

Laura at the first-ever ACL fest in Austin, 2002.

AUSTIN

I did indeed go on to attend UT Austin for four and a half years, and during that time, I secured my first internship at Celebrate Austin magazine, which was an annual visitor’s guide placed in hotel rooms all over Central Texas (actually, it still is!). Since we had a small staff, I got to wear a lot of hats: writer, designer, photographer, copyeditor, and more. I remember when we had to design an ad for an advertiser, I would be the one to physically drive to the advertiser, pick up their zip disk (!!) or CD of logo files and photos to be used (or worse, pick up an actual business card or large professional photograph of their product so we could SCAN them… and then I’d have to personally return it all, too). I got paid in reimbursed mileage, advertising trade, and fancy lunches where I learned how to order and eat sushi after proclaiming “Sure, I love sushi!” The trade gift certificates ensured my roommate and I actually got to have a social life since we had zero dollars, no furniture in our living or dining room, and ate things like spinach sandwiches and Tuna Helper on the regular. In future years at Celebrate Austin, I did get paid a nominal hourly rate. Another benefit (if you are 19, which I was) was that I was able to secure press passes to any concert I wanted (including the inaugural Austin City Limits Music Festival), provided I brought back a roll of film from the show. Since it was an annual publication, however, production staff was only needed half the year, so every other semester I would try and find different internship opportunities which included working at the short-lived dot-com Citysearch, and the famed Texas Monthly magazine as an assistant to the assistant of the publisher.

I thought I would be heading straight to NYC after college, but even after a successful recruiting trip with Texas Advertising Group (some of us shown here at an NYC reception) all the companies we met with were on a hiring freeze in 2002, the city still reeling from 9/11. So I headed west instead.

I thought I would be heading straight to NYC after college, but even after a successful recruiting trip with Texas Advertising Group (some of us shown here at an NYC reception) all the companies we met with were on a hiring freeze in 2002, the city still reeling from 9/11. So I headed west instead.

Vegas

My Celebrate Austin publisher’s best friend was a department head at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and though I’d never been to Vegas before, I accepted her offer after a phone interview, and packed my bags in 2003. After a 10-month stint (and a lot of fun) at Caesars, I felt settled and comfortable in Las Vegas, and wanted to get back to design. I found a job as a graphic designer at Recharger magazine, a publication serving the worldwide toner and inkjet cartridge remanufacturing industry. It’s not glamorous, but it is/was a huge industry, as we were able to fill hundreds of pages on a monthly basis, plus a quarterly bonus publication, and host a massive annual trade show at Mandalay Bay. We even began reproducing each monthly magazine into digital editions in Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese as well. Adding trade show materials to my resume, using stock art for the first time, working with layouts in foreign languages, and transitioning from Quark to InDesign were all skills I developed here, for which I am grateful.

Freelance

In between things over the years, I freelanced a bit. I laid out newsletters for personal stylists, created postcards for artists to promote their work, and designed magazine ads as a contractor for various publications.

Dallas

After getting married and moving back to Texas, I found a new job working at Club Marketing Services. We worked directly with brands large and small to merchandise and promote their products in retail environments. We also worked on developing private label product packaging and created buyer presentations to get new products picked up by large retailers. We worked with professional food stylists to shoot products in-house and I added package design and project management to my repertoire.

When CMS announced their intention to shutter their Dallas location and focus all efforts on growing their Bentonville, AR office, I knew I didn’t want to relocate again. I thought it was the perfect time to jump ship and go into business for myself, and I started a monthly magazine for tween & teen girls in the DFW area. It was short-lived because, you know, the whole impending doom of the economy circa 2007-2008, so that was fun.

After Metro Girl, I landed in the role of Art Director at Texas Lawyer, a weekly regional newspaper (plus quarterly magazine inserts, 14 legal books a year, production of the Dallas Bar Association newsletter, and more). I learned so much from this position and stayed here for three and a half years. Over that time, my family continued to grow, life became more chaotic, and I needed to be closer to home and more available than the position could allow.

MG.jpg
TX-lawyer.jpg

Building a Custom Life

Finally, my second foray into solopreneurship and my last stop before Green Apple Lane was owning and operating a design brand offering completely custom wedding stationery. For over nine years, we produced extremely high-end, award-winning work that was featured in many publications. I developed watercolor and calligraphy skills (and even taught lettering classes for a while), and I enjoyed working with some of the finest specialty printers in the area for foil, letterpress, and embossing. I dusted off my rusty etiquette knowledge, and addressed and stuffed more envelopes than a person normally sends in a lifetime. While working on these fancy invitation suites, I was also working with businesses on their websites, logos, and promotional materials, building up a B2B client roster and eventually creating Green Apple Lane as a separate design brand/company. Once I felt like I had enough business from business, I quietly ducked out of wedding-land, but I’ll always be proud of this gorgeous work.

 
GreenAppleLane_SocialMediaLogo2.png
 

Green Apple Lane

I remember, as a teenager, perusing the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble and buying not only an Entrepreneurship start-up book endorsed by Forbes, but also 1001 Home-Based Business Ideas or something like that, zeroing in on the whole “Desktop Publishing” (what graphic design used to be called) career section… I’m not sure those are normal choices for a teen, but then again, it’s not like we had Twilight or Harry Potter in the 90s. And now for all that dreaming, learning, and growing, I am doing what I always wanted since I was 15, and I am happier than I have ever been.

Project Spotlight: Website Redesign for Inspirations Catering

inspirations-catering-gather.png

Business owners are used to wearing a lot of hats and handling everything from the accounting to the janitorial duties around the office. There are tons of companies out there trying to capitalize on this fabulous trait shared by so many entrepreneurs. Business owners are increasingly being told they can quickly, easily, and beautifully build their own websites. And while it’s not exactly untrue, it’s untrue for many. Don’t forget from our Conference Recap: 94% of first impressions are based entirely on design, and 90% of the information people retain is visual in nature.

So how do you want to introduce yourself to your customers?

What information are potential clients going to infer and retain about your business, based on the functionality, professionalism, and the overall look of your website?

These are important questions to ask before you set out to save a few bucks and settle on a DIY website. There is no way to know how much money you might be leaving on the table from customers migrating away from your website because it didn’t feel like an extension of your business. We work with a lot of folks who have started out on their own, and whether we redesign the site from scratch or even spend just a few hours organizing and rearranging things, the site feels completely new.

Working with a professional designer should not be seen as an expense to your business, but an investment in your business.

Here’s a quick case study in the website of Inspirations Catering & Events. We’re not here to call them out, in fact, we love these folks and love their shop even more, but their previous website is a perfect example of a small business owner feeling like they MUST handle everything themselves and doing the best they could. The previous site didn’t include their logo, didn’t make use of their color palette, and some of the pages weren’t very easy to read due to dark type on a dark background or wonky spacing.

Click any photo below to enlarge it.

New Homepage (left) vs. Old Homepage (right):

We were able to take all their existing content and put it into a format that is SO much more user friendly, clean, open, organized, and professional. They are masters at what they do with food, and we’re happy their new website better represents that expertise to their customers. We still have a few new photos to swap in but it’s a huge step up!

New website:

Previous website:

The previous website simply didn’t represent the upscale look and feel of this business. Check out the gorgeous interior of their shop and some of their beautiful charcuterie boards from their grand opening:

*And please note those super-cute cheese-board cookies from Sugar Bee Sweets, too!

So whether you’re …

  • starting a completely new endeavor and need an online presence

  • you designed a website on your own but it doesn’t feel like the best representation of your business

  • you worked with another designer previously and need some help with website updates (due to lack of time or skill - makes no difference to us)

  • you want to switch web platforms (leave Blogger or Wix, for instance)

… we can help! We work on all kinds of websites - Wordpress, Squarespace, you name it. You keep being an expert at what you do, and WE will help you showcase it.

2018 Museum Recap

So much happened in 2018, we committed the cardinal sin of blogging and let it go dormant. Returning with a vengeance in 2019 — we have lots to share!

It doesn’t appear we made it outside of Texas all year, which is uncharacteristic, but we certainly made our way around the huge state and saw a lot of amazing art museums, galleries, and installations in 2018:

Amon Carter Museum (Gabriel Dawe’s Plexus no. 34 & permanent collection) — Fort Worth, TX
Blanton Museum of Art (Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin & permanent collection) — Austin, TX
Dallas Museum of Art (Laura Owens exhibit & permanent collection) — Dallas, TX
Downtown Murals — Brenham, TX
The Flower Vault — San Antonio, TX
From the HeART Gallery — Galveston, TX
The Museum of Fine Arts — Houston, TX
The Modern (Takashi Murakami exhibit & permanent collection) — Fort Worth, TX
Sweet Tooth Hotel — Dallas, TX
Webb Gallery (Camp Bosworth exhibit & Bruce Lee Webb) — Waxahachie, TX
Wells Studio & Gallery — Salado, TX

Art highlights from Austin/SXSW 2018:

Top row, center
Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin

Top row, right
Vivir: A los saltos [To Live: By Leaps and Bounds], 1964, Romulo Maccio, Argentina, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin

2nd row, center
Ai Weiwei's Forever Bicycles, Austin, TX

2nd row, right
FEAST, Caitlin Pickall, on exhibit at SXSW 2018

Additional images (top row, left & 2nd row, left) are common areas at the Blanton Museum of Art.

From everywhere else:

Laura Owens exhibit, DMA; Downtown mural in Brenham; selfies from Flower Vault San Antonio; James Turrell’s "The Light Inside,” MFA Houston; Gabriel Dawe’s “Plexus No. 34,” Amon Carter, Fort Worth; Takashi Murakami exhibit, The Modern Fort Worth; Sweet Tooth Hotel (Various Artists), Dallas; Camp Bosworth exhibit “Thank You, Please Drive-Thru,” & Various Artists, Webb Gallery, Waxahachie

Here’s to hoping 2019 is filled with even more art and plenty of inspiration!