The Uninspired Designer

I just got back from a graphic design conference. The conference was titled, “Revival.” That is exactly how I feel after four days of rousing talks, spirited roundtable discussions, and a lack of immediate client demands: refreshed, renewed, revived.

While at the conference, a client inadvertently sent me a long email thread in which she said I was “uninspired.” While those words describing me as a passionless graphic designer stung, it was totally true. I had been “phoning it in” with some of my work. The client is partially responsible: one-liner emails asking for something asap with little or no description of the project, background or direction. But I have to take responsibility for not asking more questions and simply creating Reactive instead of Proactive design. The email was in response to a save the date they had asked me to design. The specific design directive was the following:

“I need something else urgently from you that we can email to our clients. We are hosting a dinner on December 4th and need to send an e-save the date ASAP. Can you please make something simple and elegant for us? Preferably using metallics, (gold and silver) and a delicate frame?”

Apart from the fundamental problem that metallics cannot be reproduced on screen, this is a thin thread of information to work with. Hoping for more direction if I showed the client something to react to, I sent this (decidedly uninspired) layout to the client:

Save the Date

This design is what garnered the “uninspired” comment (that I deserved). What I realized is that I should have asked more initial Why questions in the beginning instead of hoping that, if I sent them something boring and lame, they would give me more information to work with. Instead, they just thought I was lame.

Here is the final outcome:

Save the Date

It’s really nice to look at something I designed an think, I like that. My goal moving forward is to create proactive, thoughtful, successful work. And to ask questions that get me to an inspiring outcome (even if I have to nag the client for information). I’m a designer, after all, not a magician.

My ten conference take-aways:

1. Don’t let fear hold you back.
2. Be proactive.
3. Re-evaluate; look with fresh eyes.
4. Ask more Why questions in addition to How questions.
5. Be humble.
6. Give credit to others (where credit it due).
7. Take more time to get it right / charge more money.
8. Think Glamour! Does the viewer see their future ideal in your work?
9. Write more.
10. Make stuff that is unrelated to paying work.

While I might not achieve all of these goals, I am inspired to try.

egg shell herb starts

While it has been a warm winter and early spring out west, in the northeast we’ve suffered a cold, long winter. But the sun is finally shining and the birds are singing their sweet songs. Hello, Spring! Now that temps are consistently above 40 degrees and the fear of frost is over, it’s time to {READ MORE}

easter egg tree

Happy Easter! I made glitter eggs in anticipation of the Easter holiday. I considered the best way to display these sparkly puppies… a cylindrical glass vase or a low-rimmed bowl would work. But I was inspired by a friend’s “egg tree” and decided that was definitely the way to go. If you’re hanging around feeling jittery after eating your kid’s {READ MORE}

glitter easter eggs

Our Easter tradition is to visit my family in California. Northern California is spectacular in the spring. The verdant hills glow with new growth and smell like luscious damp dew in the mornings. The temperature (low 70s) feels perfect. And I don’t have to cook anything while there except egg salad for Easter lunch. Yum! My girls and I haven’t {READ MORE}

wreath evolution

Growing up, my mom had a little cave-like space off the garage that she used to create wreaths and sprays (non-circular wreaths, basically). She spent hours at a time messing around with dried plants, her clippers, metal wire and a hot glue gun. My mom and a couple of lady friends would put on an annual holiday “boutique” {READ MORE}

spoon butter

I got a fancy new Montana-shaped cutting board from my man for Xmas. I love it, but the wood seemed a bit dry and vulnerable to the kitchen elements. So I did a little research and found a recipe for spoon oil. Spoon oil (or spoon butter) is a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil used to treat and {READ MORE}


My New Year’s resolution is to wash my face every night. Just kidding. My New Year’s resolution is to be brave. I don’t mean cliff diving/rock climbing/swimming with sharks brave; I mean internally brave. Vulnerable. Living in NYC has made my outer shell even more thick and crusty than before. This place hardens you to the {READ MORE}


“They want to eat pizza,” my man calls after a session at the batting cage with the girls. “They are begging me.” “Go ahead.” I tell him. “I’m totally nesting and shit.” What is it, this nesting? For me, it’s finding, collecting, creating and adding shiny and lovely things to my nest. Rearranging, and making everything neat and {READ MORE}

1970s Counter Stools

I am super excited to have these vintage stools at my kitchen counter. A friend gave me a pair of old 1970s stools during an ambitious house clean-out. I’m normally not a ’70s person, veering toward the more minimalist aesthetic of the 1960s. But I really like the design of these stools; they are comfortable while not {READ MORE}

Best Antiques in Missoula

Small towns in the United States tend to have great vintage goods for reasonable prices. And Missoula, Montana is no exception. A visit to Missoula is not complete until the local antiques stores have been thoroughly perused and the best treasures have been snatched up. One of the reasons I like to buy antiques is that older things are generally made out {READ MORE}