A Season of Exploration: Making Room in Life + Business
I’m not one of those people with post-it note mantras on my bathroom mirror to see and repeat each day (and I love you if you are!), but if I were, mine would say THIS IS A SEASON. I recognized it and found it as a new parent—the baby stage in particular with the seemingly endless nights contrasted by the days that pass in a blink—but I’ve since taken it beyond that realm and found it true for everything else. As humans, we are not in solid states; instead we are ever evolving, growing, learning. Learning for me is a state of being; I’m always drawn to new skills and techniques for creating, and am equally interested in learning facts in some other medium or discipline.
At the beginning of the summer, I decided to participate in the 100 Day Project. I had done it a couple years back, but lost momentum somewhere around days 60-70. The following year I created a challenge that required I be at the computer, and realized I wanted to be away from the screen for something daily like this, since so much of my work is already on the computer. So this year, I set just a couple parameters: I wanted to create a morning practice, and I wanted to create daily. I had recently started drawing in my sketchbook again, and was enjoying creating intricate designs with repetitive remarks. The act felt meditative and grounding. For many of my days, I started simply with a mark on a page, or with a wash of ink or watercolor I could respond to, almost in conversation.
While I had originally planned to wake early as part of the morning routine, I found just as much joy integrating this daily practice into my normal waking time, letting it coexist among breakfast and tea, my kids playing alongside and often joining in to draw with me.
I think the biggest takeaway early on was that this WAS something I could do amidst everything else, and that by doing it first, I felt so much more grounded for the rest of the day. Creating these drawings somehow quieted my thoughts. My first drawing was more based on the previous day’s reading, with a portrait and a quote. But the part of the drawing that entranced me most as I made it was the repetitive marks in the hair, and the way it stilled my mind. I realized I didn’t want my morning to process something intellectually, I just wanted to work from instinct and intuitive response.
What is something you can do daily to ground yourself?
Each day, my drawings evolved. Sometimes, I drew in reminders for myself. Sometimes, I draw in response to a photo, captured my surroundings, or let the material guide the mark. Each day, I followed whims and put no parameters on myself beyond those initial ones. While for much of the project, I intentionally left screens out of it, at some point I completed an entire sketchbook and didn’t respond as well to the new one I had chosen. At that point, I started working on the iPad Pro alongside paper, and loved the way I was able to play with color and layers. I started to explore isolating an observed inspiration—from a photo, something glimpsed in my yard, and sometimes an imaginative response to a writer’s words via client work. (And what a joy it’s been to see this process can be applied even to outside constraints like that!)
When you’re running a business conducted largely online, common advice is to niche down, to clearly define your process, to streamline. That is absolutely good business advice. But. This challenge has opened me in new ways, and I see my career shifting too. I’m realizing there is room. Room to create finely vectored and precise logos and icons alongside flowing and rhythmic patterns. Room to be more than one thing, to take on one role. Room to be a designer who is also an artist, not just a problem solver. (Thank you to Meg Lewis and her workshop and talk at Making Midwest for helping to solidify this for me! Watch a video on my takeaways from that weekend here). Room to let personal inspiration guide professional work and let it all flow and be messy and in transition, just like life is. Room to say yes on a whim even if a project might not look like it’s in my niche to the outside viewer.
What do you need to give more room to? What boundaries have you created for yourself or your business that need to be pushed?
I fell into my role as an graphic designer along a circuitous path. I was churning the crank of an etching press watching layers stack up, finding text alongside image creating hand-bound books, discovering that words could be materials just like ink or paint. All of these discoveries had in common a desire to communicate with whatever material was needed, and lead me to graphic design. But I don’t have to forget or forgo the path that got me here. I will always love the evidence of the hand even in a tightly crafted and vector-based design. And look to tangential inspiration to create strategy that has complexity and surprise. And now making is integrated into the fabric of my days, and while creating for clients is absolutely fulfilling, creating first for myself is energizing and ultimately benefits the work I do for my clients too, by adding range, and dexterity.
What lead you to where you are today? Is any of it still evident in your daily process?
I’m excited to apply this to what I do, to say yes to some surprises, and to add a bit more rhythm and intuition to my branding process, which will be enhanced now by a greater ability to add more graphic elements and patterns to round out logos, color, and type. I’ve also added an illustration and art section to my website and am open to licensing, commissions, and other opportunities that seem right.
This season of exploration has lead to a season of transformation, and most of all openness. I’ll continue to create a defined and orderly process for my clients, but within that I will leave room for all of us to be delighted and surprised.
Even if you are not an artist, I highly recommend the 100 day project. It can be any action you want to repeat daily. There is a lot of talk about self care, but I think one of the simplest ways we can do that is just by creating space for something meaningful to you. It doesn’t have to be much, and it only needs to take a few minutes if that’s all you can have. But if you’re open, it can change you in so many ways.
P.S. I love applying the creative process to beautiful and intentional design that communicates your core as a business or creative professional, and connects with your ideal audience. As of August 2018, I have 6 spots for business branding or writer web branding October - November.