Overcoming [Design] Challenges

WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, DOES MAKES YOU STRONGER.
 
As in life, being a creative person or graphic designer does have it’s fair share of challenges.
 
In life, the challenges are vast and many—and every day we mere humans have to face them, large and small. Some push us beyond our limits, and when the small ones pile up, they become a mountain.
 
In the design industry, our challenges can be equally as daunting, and on a daily basis as well. We come across difficult clients and/or creative partners, design projects that test our skills and knowledge, and even financial or legal woes that turn our hair gray.
 
So what do you do when you face a challenge or difficult task? How do you view it, or react to it? Then how do you deal with it?
 
QUOTE33_scares-580
 
One of the common challenges as a solo creative I encounter is juggling multiple projects that are equally demanding of my time. While that might not sound daunting to you, it can be insane for me—there’s just not enough of dezinegirl to go around. And then there are unique instances where I hit a creative stumbling block, or receive a project that is way over my head in subject matter, but still within my wheelhouse for the task.
 
Do I panic, freeze up or stress out? Yes. All the above. That’s my immediate response. I’m a reactive and emotional person – it’s in my DNA.
 
However, wisdom kicks in and shuts out all those fears, and shuts down any potential anxiety attacks. Over the years, I’ve learned to change the way I think about challenges or difficult situations. I don’t like to give up, I put up a good fight, and I figure out how to work through it no matter how big that mountain may seem, or how hard the climb is. 
 
First, I remind myself to pause… to breathe in peace, and exhale out anxiety. Then I take each moment at a time—I also like to make lists, lots of lists! I digest and tackle each challenge into bits and pieces. When you don’t look at the big picture, it’s not such a big mountain after all, but rather several small bunny hills. And guess what, sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you tackle what you thought was a weakness. 
 
Other times I just have to step away from the desk, I’ll go take a walk or do some yoga. When I come back, it’s with an open and calm mind. 
 
For example, I have a technology client [think IoT, virtual architecture systems, big data and nanowires] that I create many infographics for. When each creative brief comes through, my brain literally hurts and shuts down after reading through it. Fear sets in and I think there is no way I can create graphics for what is given that is so beyond what my little noggin can handle. 
 
However, I manage to pull it off, and beautifully I might add [so says the client, too]. I amaze myself! It’s because I took the time to break the project down into bite-sized pieces, research the heck out of it so I fully understand what I am working with, sketch and re-sketch the design until I’m ready to take it digitally. And then the infographic just transforms as I go along.
 
There’s something to be said about pausing, shifting your stinking thinking, and living in each moment with a clear and calm mind. It can take you far. We grow when we face challenges head on—not when things are easy. Challenges help discover who you are.
 

I’m Still Here – It’s My Anniversary

HAPPY 14 YEARS TO DEZINEGIRL CREATIVE STUDIO

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I didn’t even realize it’s been 14 years since I moved to San Diego and started my freelancing debut, until I got messages from my contacts on LinkedIn wishing me a Happy Anniversary today. I guess you get to a point where you stop counting? Or maybe I’ve just been too busy to notice?

Either way, I’m noticing now and sharing the celebration… quietly. And I say quietly because it’s a quiet rainy work day. A nice, gentle rain is falling, the cat is asleep, I have a small lull in projects and emails are only trickling in today. It’s a sweet change from the busyness of the past 2 months. 

I’ve written about my journey of my career before, so I won’t bore you with that again. But I do want to say that a lot has changed over 14 years. Even in the last 2 years. I have focus, direction, goals, and really know what I want when it comes to clients, projects, and yes, money! My keyword for 2015 was ABUNDANCE… mostly of income, but in general, the abundance of what was missing in my life before.

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However, I didn’t really start “feeling” blessed with abundance until late Summer when I changed my thinking about money, the ebb and flow of being a solo creative, and the unknown. I’ve been reading Regina Brett’s books for the last 2 years, and they are chockfull of her wisdom from her life experience as a journalist and being a breast cancer survivor. She inspired me with each chapter.

When I started falling in love with the unknown, embracing the ebb of work knowing that the flow will be back, changing my thoughts to “I’m ok, God always provides”, and trusting Him 100%, things shifted. Life shifted from darkness to light. And that’s when the abundance started flowing in. It’s amazing what your mind, your thoughts are capable of. The power of thought.

I digress.

14 years later, after bouncing around from freelancing, gigs, and part time jobs, with the last 2 years of truly focusing on dezinegirl creative studio—being a solo creative—I’m still here. 

This year’s keyword is FAITH & TRUST. Okay that ‘s two words, but they go together just like peanut butter and jelly. 

New Year, New Inspirations

INFOGRAMS GET A FACELIFT

It’s been a year since I launched my infograms—mini infographics for instagram—that included weekly business tips or inspirational quotes. This is something that was inspired by a friend at a conference and encouraged by my creative business coach to use for self-promotion aka marketing.

More viewers responded to the quotes than the tips, and frankly, I’m not a business expert so I’m limited to what I can share in that aspect. But inspiration is found everywhere! And this world needs some positive vibes in a bad way. I may be just one person, but if I can make just one other person feel good, then I have accomplished my goal.

So, I’ve decided to just create inspirational infograms and designed a consistent, simplified style similar to how I created my website and promotional materials. Beautiful imagery and beautiful words can make the world a happier place, one infogram at a time. Here are the first few I’ve created for the new year [some have not been released yet]:

QUOTE13_purpose-01 QUOTE12_follow hopes-01 QUOTE11_smile gratefully-01

Follow me on instagram to see them all.

Fall in Love with the Unknown

QUOTE10_unknown

These words have been stuck in my head since Anton & Irene gave their fascinating and creative presentation this past summer for AIGA San Diego. Their journey from being creative directors at a well-known Manhattan agency to starting their own studio in Brooklyn is an incredible one.

Their desire to be more hands-on kind of designers is what motivated them to go out on their own, into unknown territory. They’ve made mistakes and they’ve made it big time. And they’re not afraid to spend months on their own projects when the inspiration hits.

Anton and Irene have accepted that when the famine comes, it’s only temporary until the feasting comes. They have learned to go with the flow, because life does ebb and flow—that is guaranteed.

Falling in love with the unknown is not easy. It is something I strive for, but requires ultimate surrender every day. The unknown is scary for me and for most anyone. I’m a planner, so I like to know what’s ahead so I can be prepared.

But that’s just not the way life works.

I find that when I let go of the fear of the unknown…really let go…I have more peace. Letting go and accepting the unknown doesn’t mean that things won’t fall apart, because they will. But they will also get put back together again.

The unknown can be exciting if you put the right perspective on it. It keeps life interesting, that is for sure.

It can also be a time of lessons learned, faith strengthened, developing character through perseverance and patience.

Whatever comes your way, it’s meant to be part of your journey.

So, falling in love with the unknown doesn’t have to be scary.

 

Late Bloomers

 
Blooming Later in Life Has it’s Advantages
 
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I always thought that being a late bloomer was a negative thing, like you missed out on so much because you achieved success later in life. I didn’t give it much thought. I floated along in life for a long time, oblivious to what career success truly meant.
 
I was one of the lucky artist-designers to get an early start on my career – I had no clue what it was going to be. During the winter break of my sophomore year in college, the father of my high school BFF asked me if I was interested in being a summer intern at his advertising agency. Hello job-handed-on-a-silver-platter. 
 
That summer I learned how to key-line and paste-up an agricultural quarterly magazine, spec type for the typographer, operate the stat machine and lucigraph, prepare boards for the printer, and also get insights into the world of advertising. It went so well that I returned the following two summers interning until I graduated and became a full-fledged production/layout artist.
 
After 3 years, I discovered that while I loved laying out publications, I was bored of agriculture, and decided to move onward.
 
I bounced around from one small design studio to the next in Milwaukee—creating more publications! At 31 years old, I was restless once again and the winter weather finally wore me down, so I made the brave move to Tampa, Fl. I was quickly hired at a large ad/design agency because of my love for publications and my mad skills creating them.
 
This time I was designing and producing an annual 90-page catalog/brochure done in 20 different languages for Royal Caribbean Cruises Int’l first, then for Celebrity Cruises Int’l.
 
I fell in love with the lifestyle niche there and then, and thought my career path was solid. It was the best place I had ever worked. Not going anywhere. Where’s the party?
 
Looking back, I never seriously thought about my future or had any real goals I wanted to reach, except just becoming a lead designer there, and partying with my friends. The only true growth I experienced at the agency was learning how to handle the high stress, manage the designers who assisted me, and juggle 20 publications at one time.
 
By the time I turned 35, I was the master of producing publications, but my design skills were just ok. I was never pushed to do great design, the work was more about information architecture design and how to fit a whole lotta content in 90 pages, and make it look good. After 6 years of that, I got burnt out.
 
Luckily an opportunity arose in Los Angeles and I quickly made a decision to leave Florida behind—California was always my dream anyway.
 
10 months later, my life became uncertain when 9-11 hit and I was left without a job. I worked on a United Airlines account and well, you know the story.
 
This is where the real story begins, about finding my true self and blooming later in life at the age of 50.
 
I moved to San Diego after visiting a friend there [here]. While it felt like home to me, I also felt lost and like I didn’t fit into the design community. I couldn’t land a full time position at any design studio or agency to save my soul. I knew I was good, but I wasn’t THAT good. And I was either too experienced or under-experienced.
 
So, I freelanced in order to get work and pay the sunshine taxes. I wandered for years and years—working part-time onsite and offsite. I did whatever I could to get by. And my design skills suffered. Once in awhile I got a great project, but even then, it was not my best work.
 
I don’t know what changed within me, but I do know my transformation from being an ok designer to doing my best work ever, was due to working with my creative business coach [RaShelle Roberts], and also from where I was at the time in my life when I was introduced to her. I had hit rock bottom—I was raw and broken, I was lost…so lost. How could I have ended up like this midlife? How did I let time slip by? I was too old to be hired, and worried what would become of me.
 
I won’t go into the details of the process we went through, but I can tell you she made me dig deep—to find out who I was as a person, as a designer, what I truly wanted in life, and in my career. Lots of soul searching, reading, writing and amazing a-ha sessions with RaShelle over the course of 5 months.
 
I had come back to dezinegirl creative studio 100%. I had stopped the vicious circle of getting part time work when my business got slow, which would cause me to lose my focus on dezinegirl and have to start all over again when the gigs ended.
 
During the process [it’s still a process] with RaShelle I discovered the niches that I loved to do and did so well at. My passion for design was reignited when I started designing infographics on a regular basis, and I also had the amazing opportunity to brand a new restaurant in Canada. I was on a roll.
 
Something shifted, something changed within me. I started to SHINE. I started to BLOOM. At 50 years old, I finally had confidence in my design abilities. I knew what I wanted, who I was, what I was willing to let go of, and what my focus was. Three years later, my design skills are top-notch—good, no, great design just flows out of me naturally, like a God-given talent. I can’t say the work has flowed in as easily—I’m still trying to even out the feast and famine cycles…but that’s normal.
 
But what I can say is that I am where I ought to be. That whole journey of my career path led me to where I am today: A LATE BLOOMER. And there is nothing wrong with that. I am a successful, gifted and sought-after designer…happy to be a solopreneur working from home on a variety of amazing lifestyle brand design projects.
 
To top that all off, I have hit the highlight of my career path [so far]. I was awarded [and I didn’t even have to compete] the redesign of all the menus for the Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage/Palm Springs [there’s another story there]. They are a wonderful team there, and the hotel and desert are so lovely.
 
It blows my mind… but at the same time, it just seems right.
 
Worth waiting for.
 
 

Quotes & Tips

 
 BUSINESS TIPS AND INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES
 
About 16 weeks ago, taking direction from my creative business coach {RaShelle Roberts} I started designing and producing weekly business tips and inspirational quotes to send out to the masses via social media. She said it was a good way to ‘market’ myself online and shine.
 
We both know it’s not the most aggressive marketing technique to get work. But she knows how much I dislike {I would use the word ‘hate’ but it’s such a strong word} the sales & marketing aspect for my freelance business. I’m a designer at heart, introverted a bit when it comes to networking and talking to strangers, and would be happy if I could just design all day long.
 
The reason for the biz tips and quotes is to show the world that I am an expert in my field by providing inspiration and insight for others. That I care enough to send the very best out in the wide world of web.
 
And then some client would hire me because I know and care so much.
 
In a perfect world.
 
It hasn’t happened.
 
But what has happened is that I am actually inspiring myself! I’ve done a lot of research to gather up the biz tips and quotes. I pull out the ones that I think people will need to see and design accordingly. And I have received some nice responses, or ‘likes’. So, I am reaching people and making a difference. To me, that is success. Getting a client on top of that would be icing on the red velvet cake!
 
However, in the end, they are actually helping ME. I laugh. I must be subconsciously picking the tips and quotes that I myself need to read, to remind myself of what RaShelle has taught me, or what I have read and learned in the past few years.
 
Life as a freelancer is challenging, especially when you have no one else to depend on for extra income when the work ebbs out to sea. You doubt yourself or the direction you are heading. You are always on the hunt for work. Always. You think about your business 24/7. There is always something to do for it. Always. And you fail, or fall down A LOT.
 
This Chinese proverb is one of my favorites that I try to remember when I do fall down: Fall down 7 times, get back up 8.
Each quote or tip I design picks me up one more time.
 
Here are a few of them.
BIZTIP5_goals

Write Out Your Business Goals

BIZTIP6_stepbystep

Take Baby Steps

Check Yourself

Check Yourself

See the Opportunities in Life

See the Opportunities in Life

 
You can see all of them, to-date, on my Behance portfolio >
 
Or follow me on

The Freelance Designer Life

Most freelance or solo graphic designers that I know purposely set out to become one. I did not.
 
They didn’t want to work for “the man”, they wanted to make more money, or they just wanted a more flexible work schedule due to having children. Some just didn’t like working with others. It’s probably a good idea for those folks to work solo. 🙂
 
Moving from out of state into a small design market like San Diego, and not knowing a soul, freelance was the only way for me to get work. Six months later I found a steady “freelance” gig for 4 years – not my ideal kind of work, but I struggled to find my niche here and it was a reliable income.
 
In San Diego, I am too senior level for most designer positions, and have earned higher salaries in past jobs that employers here can not match; nor I do I have enough staff management experience to become a creative director or similar…well, I am really not interested in managing other designers anyway, but the pay is higher…I just never fit in…
 
…until the company I was working for got bought out and the office closed down. I was one of the lucky ones to be kept on for freelance work. And I was able to work from home. This gave me the sweet taste of the freelance designer life.
 
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13 years later, I’m still at it. And I love it!
 
Many emerging students I have met in the recent past have visions of rainbows, unicorns and sugar plum fairies in their head about what freelancing is like. They only see freedom in their schedule, how much more money they could make than a full time job would pay, and without having to work as much. I have to let them down slowly and then give them a reality slap in the face…
 
Yes, there is freedom in having a flexible schedule. However, most clients want you available during their working hours, which is between 8am – 6pm. Some even want you available on weekends when necessary. They do understand you are not chained to your computer and that you will have times of unavailability—so there is that.
 
The rude awakening is that somehow your work days get longer than you thought they would!
 
A typical day, on average, is about only 4-6 hours of billable work. More if you have mastered the ebb and flow of projects/clients {I still have not – it’s hard to control the world}. There’s the unknown future of income to worry about if you don’t have retainers or steady client work. The rest of your day is all non-billable.
 
Because you are a solo designer, you are also a small business owner. You have to wear all the hats if you want to be successful: accounts receivable and payable, IT person, marketing, sales, social media, replying to emails, and everything in between.
 
It’s all up to you to keep up with technology, learn new software and programs, the latest marketing trends, and stay on top of your industry. We also must remain sociable and schedule 1-3 nights a month for networking events, seminars, workshops, or happy-hours with peers. And…I haven’t even talked about getting in workouts, meal times, family time, and sleep! Oh, and then there is the non-paid vacation and sick time to boot.
 
When I tell them all this, their eyes glaze over and their smile goes upside down.
 
However, the pros outweigh the cons. It’s all what matters to you most, what you’re willing to put up with and what makes you the happiest.
 
For me, what makes me happy is being able to work directly with my clients [one on one], design in my style [that fits their needs], work in my ideal environment [at home in my pjs, on my souped-up mac, with my favorite tunes playing] and basically have the flexibility to go to yoga or pilates class at 11am, sleep in when I can, and not have to drive in traffic every day.
 
I’ve learned to love the business side of being a solo creative person. It took many years of workshops, books, tutorials and being involved with AIGA and other nonprofit organizations to get there.
 
Now, if I can just control the world to keep a steady stream of projects and stay in the flow! 🙂
 
There are many articles written about the freelance life that can give more insight or other perspective, that are all true > from Design Professionalism, The Graphic Quarter and Rasmussen Edu.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Justin's red sneakers match the Y20 theme

Justin’s red sneakers match the Y20 theme

In my most recent post about gratitude, I briefly mentioned Justin Skeesuck and his presentation at the AIGA San Diego Y20 Design Conference. You need to read about this amazing man—and his amazing friend and family—especially if you are a creative person.
 
The AIGA San Diego Y20 Design Conference, or as we fondly call it The Y, is a 2-day conference for everyone in the creative industry: graphic designers, typographers, illustrators, installation artists, digital media folks, architects, etc. We focus on the WHY we design or create, inspiring others, sharing our passion and developing a tight-knit community of amazing people—not just in San Diego but all around the world!
 
This year’s conference stood out from the last 6 ones I attended — maybe it’s because of where I was at in my life at that time, or maybe it was the quality and kind of speakers we had—all the above, I think. The first day felt more personal and the second day was more professionally inspirational. Justin spoke on the first day in the morning after a hilarious, creative duo from Mexico: Jorge Gutierrez and his wife, Sandra Equihua. I was only able to scribble down a few notes while Justin spoke, but the feeling he left us all with was emotional and inspiring.
 
Justin is known as The Disabled Traveler who inspires and instructs People with Disabilities on how to successfully navigate and overcome the many challenges they face in their lives, and when traveling. If you didn’t know who Justin was {like me}, you would wonder why he was speaking at a conference with a room full of graphic designers and other creatives.
 
Well, Justin was once a graphic designer himself here in San Diego, and is well-loved by many locals. Now, he’s also a motivational speaker, trainer and accessibility consultant. When he was 16, a car accident triggered a dormant autoimmune/neuromuscular disease in his body that eventually took the use of his arms, hands and legs from him.
 
Being a creative person, your hands are your tools, it’s your lifeblood. I cannot imagine losing the use of my hands and not be able to be creative. What else would I do? I was born creative out of my mother’s womb. Even though Justin was always a positive, happy and driven person, he had to fight hard from going into the deep, dark hole of self-pity, fear, depression and despair as his condition worsened to the point of being 100% dependent on others to feed him, shower him, dress him and more.
 
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
 
Justin eventually came to realize that life was too short, and decided that he didn’t want to go to the deep dark hole. He has a family he loves, and wanted to experience life outside his wheelchair. He said that you can either go that dark place–stay there and dwell in negativity—or figure out how to make your situation work, using creativity in a different way, wherever, however you can. Turn it around. We {me included} tend to focus on our limitations instead of the possibilities. What if we opened ourselves up to explore those possibilities? Instead of living out of fear and anxiety, why not live out of curiosity?
 
Then…what Justin spoke about to us next was mind-blowing. Along with his lifelong friend Patrick, they trekked the Camino del Santiago trail of 500 miles across Northern Spain, with Patrick pushing Justin in his wheelchair. What?! Now that is living without limitations! The trek was filled with a host of challenges, but also amazing miracles, and new friendships developed from people around the world who were also walking the trail. Justin was the first man in a wheelchair to accomplish this incredible journey. You need to see the video and hear the whole story {HERE}.
 
Basically, it’s all about adapting… leading life with love… and even opening yourself up to let others help you because that’s what most people want to do. When you deny the opportunity for others to help you, you deny their joy in life—they want you to succeed. We all carry burdens, for others, for ourselves, even for the world sometimes… it can get heavy and weigh you down. But when you release the burden you are carrying, it opens up the flood gates to receive. To receive what is divinely yours.
 
In Justin’s words, a life is not defined by its limitations, but rather by what is accomplished in spite of those limitations….what you do in life, the life you are given.
 
 

An Attitude of Gratitude

GRATITUDE: We all know what that is: feeling appreciation or thankfulness for blessings or benefits we’ve received. But how often are we really grateful? I mean, grateful in the truest sense—from deep within our soul. Probably, not enough. And is it possible to be grateful even during difficult times, during the dark stormy periods in our life? Why, yes…but you have to dig deep.
 
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I’ve been wanting to write about the subject of gratitude, especially after attending the AIGA San Diego Y20 Design Conference this past March. I was so inspired and moved by some of the speakers, especially Justin Skeesuck {more on him in another blog post}. However, right before the conference, I was delivered some devastating news of having to move from my lovely abode where I finally felt at home for the last 2 years {my landlord wanted to sell}. If you knew me, you would know of my constant unwanted moving, and understand how I can get emotionally tied to my home. The news turned my life upside down, and even added salt to some other ongoing wounds in my life at that time.
 
But I just didn’t have it in me to write. I couldn’t see past the crushing of my heart and wondering why?!? I thought THIS was the place I could stay for a long time, it’s perfect for all my needs and desires.
 
I try to practice gratitude every day in my morning journal writings. I find one or more things I am thankful for – from something as big as where I live, to something as small as a cup of bulletproof coffee. Some days it’s a struggle and I cannot even try, I admit. And since this bad news had happened, most days all I could do was whine and pray [beg] to God for a miracle. I did NOT want to move! Again. And the inventory was dry and expensive to boot.
 
This went on for four weeks until one morning when I forced my thoughts to change from the downward spiral to being grateful, humbly grateful…I thanked God, from down in my heart, for this journey—for whatever lesson I had to learn. I surrendered my life to His timing, His ways, remembering His promises. It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well, but it’s another thing to be grateful during the storm.
 
Two hours later, I get a call from the property management company saying that the landlord has decided NOT to sell {for various reasons}, and they extended my lease for another year!!! I couldn’t believe it. I fell down on my knees and thanked God.
 
The power of practicing deep-felt, humble and honest gratitude no matter what the current circumstances are. Some might think it’s coincidence, but I believe it was God’s hand — he is in the details, even property litigation.
 
You don’t have to be a Christian to practice gratitude—it’s not a spiritual thing, but it does make a difference in your life. Daily gratitude can improve your health: better sleep, more energy, less stress and lowered blood pressure—even extend your lifespan. It also makes us nicer, more social, more appreciative; it can even help us make more friends, deepen existing relationships, and improve marriages. *source*
 
All it takes is 5 minutes a day to rewire your brain, and only 3 weeks to develop it as a lifetime habit. By practicing being aware of the good things in our life, we train our brain to keep the negative thoughts away, becoming more positive and happier in our life—which takes less energy than being negative and miserable. Plus, being grateful just feels good—all sunshiney, warm and fuzzy.
 
And would you believe, during this time, I got an infographic project from Visual.ly {for Huffington Post/American Greetings} about the affects of gratitude on our body?! God has a funny sense of humor.
 
The Effects of Gratitude by dezinegirl creative studio for Visual.ly

The Effects of Gratitude by dezinegirl creative studio for Visual.ly

 
 
 

pinspiration #13

It’s been awhile since I’ve designed a pinspiration. I guess nothing has moved me enough to create anything, until I came across this quote, “Be the living expression of God’s kindness,” while doing a bible study reading. Unfortunately I don’t know who it’s from because I just wrote it out on a piece of paper quickly, and it has been sitting on my desk for weeks now. I came across a beautiful stock illustration and it struck me to be perfect for this quote. Basically, it means that we need to live our lives as Christ did – to be salt and light of the world – to be kind and loving towards everyone and anyone as Jesus was. It’s a reflection of who God is and we are children of God.

be the living expression of god's kindess – dezinegirl creative studio

be the living expression of god’s kindness – dezinegirl creative studio