Yes, it’s a shirt. And yes, this is a subject I’ve delved into a few times on the blog in the past in the context of my approach to home renovation and my own self-image (side note: I need to re-read that post today), but James Victore—designer, artist, teacher, truth-speaker, all-around hero—nails it on a regular basis:
“Designers are too concerned with the idea of ‘perfection.’
“Perfection is the death of creativity. Perfection lacks spontaneity and surprise, instead it assumes ‘knowing’ and certainty. Creativity is about being OPEN and curious but perfection is closed tight in its search for an answer. ONE ‘right’ answer—but creativity is not math. Perfection also assumes that you are smarter than your audience because you know the ‘right way’ and the ‘rules.’ But this attitude leaves no room for your audience to be involved in your process. Creativity, like a good joke, slowly pieces together in your audience’s brain until it explodes with ‘A-HA!.’
“Perfection stops you from starting projects or even relationships because you are not ready or perfect. And it stops you from finishing or shipping projects because they are not ready or perfect. The weather, the economy, the atmosphere will never be perfect, your timing will never be right, you will never be perfect. But you know what’s better than perfect? Done. Done is better than prefect.”
I’m currently taking James Victore’s Bold & Fearless Poster Design course at CreativeLive, and it’s FANTASTIC. I don’t care what you do for a living, what you wish you did for a living, or how much experience you have in whatever it is that you do: This course is for everyone. Highly, highly recommended!
UPDATE: I just got an email alert letting me know that Bold & Fearless Poster Design is now 25% off! Use the code Victore2015 before 2/1/16 to get the discount. Nice!!
I took his Radical Typography course on Skillshare last year, too—also incredible. Sometimes you just need that push toward fearless imperfuction!
Just a quick note to let you know that EVERYTHING (prints, shirts, iPhone cases, mugs, pillows…everything) in the K IS FOR BLACK shop is $5 OFF this weekend! There’s also FREE shipping (yes, worldwide!) on almost everything.
I’m SO happy and excited to announce the official launch of Schoon Soap! For the past few months, I’ve been working on designing the branding and packaging for an amazing new line of vegan soaps. (It’s been hard to keep my mouth shut about this project, believe me!)
Stephanie Klose has been making soap since 2005, but it wasn’t until this year that she decided to fully immerse herself (literally and figuratively) in the business of creating the perfect lather. After a lot of experimentation, she’s come up with a initial line of 12 varieties of soaps, including fragrance-free and fragrance-ful options. Schoon means “clean” in Dutch, and the name pays homage to the Dutch heritage of the New York regions both Stephanie and I have called home: Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, the latter of which was also my inspiration for the mountain-y logo.
One of the best things about working on the packaging for these soaps is that in order to fully appreciate their characteristics, I (naturally) had to use them. I’m usually a no-frills, unscented, liquid castile soap kind of gal when it comes to shower time, so making the switch to these truly luxurious bars was a pretty big upgrade for me. The first soap I tried was Bay Rum & Vetiver, which passed my smell test immediately: warm, earthy, spicy. The coconut oil and shea butter base felt so great on my usually dry skin, and I had no irritation at all from the essential oils used to give it its wonderful fragrance.
Most recently, I’ve been using the Pure/Unscented bar, which still feels fancy and luxurious even though it’s fragrance-free! Great news for anyone who can’t tolerate any kind of perfume. ALL of the varieties are free from any synthetic fragrances, parabens, or preservatives, and the entire line is totally vegan. (And they’re all made by hand right here in Brooklyn!)
I realize I’m totally biased in saying this, but they also look great in my bathroom—wrapped and unwrapped. Each soap wrapper has its own unique pattern and color, so they feel really special and personal. That was the most important thing to me in designing the packaging—I didn’t want the individual varieties to blend into one another visually (though they do also look nice together in a group!). The coolest part of the project? Seeing the logo I designed for Stephanie embossed into a finished bar. So satisfying.
To celebrate the launch of Schoon Soap, Stephanie and her husband, Rob (who handles the customer service side of things), are offering a 20% discount on all of their soaps until October 6th! Just use the code SCHOONTIME during checkout at Etsy.
And just for extra fun, let’s do a Schoon Soap giveaway! There will be THREE winners drawn at random, and each winner will receive any three bars of their choosing from Schoon Soap. Yay! International entries are welcome. Deadline for entries is 11PM EST on October 12th.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. I’ll announce the winners here and on Twitter tomorrow. The winners will also be notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered!
Here’s how to enter:
✚ Visit the Schoon Soap website.
✚ Check out the soaps!
✚ Leave a comment below letting us know which three varieties sound the most wonderful to you.
✚ That’s it! Thanks for entering. ♥
Congratulations on the launch of Schoon Soap, Stephanie and Rob! It was an honor to work with you.
Back when I started my little K IS FOR BLACK shop on Society6, I didn’t know if I’d stick with it. I was feeling very unsure about designing stuff without a client (other than myself!) in mind, and it was really a personal challenge more than anything.
Happily, I did stick with it, and I’ve added lots of new designs to the shop since that initial launch. It’s been SO fun.
That said, I think it’s a little boring to have the same things in the shop forever, and it’s time for me to do a big overhaul. On the first day of fall, September 23rd, I’ll be discontinuing ALL of the current designs so I can start introducing new work. Between now and then, all of the prints in the shop are discounted 20% (the discount is reflected in the listed prices). Society6 doesn’t allow members to set pricing for anything other than prints, otherwise I’d make the discount shop-wide.
ALSO: Between now and September 14th, Society6 is offering FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING on most items (framed prints, stretched canvases and rugs are excluded), and all phone cases (including ones for the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus) are $5 off.
That’s a lot of discounts, so if there is anything at all that you’ve had your eye on in the K IS FOR BLACK shop, now is the time to get it. After September 23rd, none of the current designs will be available. (You must use this link to get the free shipping and phone case discounts.)
Considering how much of my life is spent at work, it’s kind of funny that I’ve never done a post about what my office looks like. Whenever I’m invited by other sites to share my workspace, I feel a little bit disingenuous sending in pictures of my desks at the house and (former) apartment. I mean, truthfully: The “office” at the house has become Evan’s music studio, and we don’t even pretend to call anything at the current apartment an office, unless you’re counting the sofa, which is where I do all of my blogging. No, my work happens in an office-office, one with bad industrial carpeting and a dropped acoustic ceiling and fluorescent lights and all of the other stuff nobody is particular interested in looking at pictures of.
Last summer, after 15 years spent working in the same spot in the same building (with most of the same awesome people), the entire art department was moved up one floor. Same building, same corner, but 20 feet higher. Aside from the joy that came from sifting through 15 years of accumulated junk and throwing away 75% of it, I decided to commit myself to turning my new workspace into a place I like to walk into every day.
I don’t have an office with walls. All of the designers in my department sit in a big, open room—that was our choice. We like to be able to talk, and we like to have tons of light. The light, of course, is the best thing about this office—it’s a landmarked building (one of the original art deco Rockefeller Center structures, completed in 1939), and that includes the enormous, steel-framed windows. Windows that open, mind you, though I don’t necessary recommend doing that on a windy day when you’re 14 flights up!
Anyway, because I work in an open room with other people (and other people’s stuff), It’s a little tricky to take pictures that show all of my space. I promise I do actually have a computer and a chair and a phone…and a very full inbox.
I don’t think there’s any way to fight generic office blah other than with bright colors and things that make you happy every time you look at them. “Elegance” is tough to pull off in this kind of environment, and I don’t even bother trying.
Over in this corner, I have an Alexander Girard PLYprint (these were issued by Columbia Forest Products in 2009, and sadly discontinued very sooner after), a bent-plywood “Clouds” clock from my own K IS FOR BLACK shop, a bootleg Andy Warhol poster (more on that in a minute), a letter A print from Ferm Living, and a vintage bus roll that I found at Three Potato Four.
So yeah, the Andy Warhol poster! Hah. If you read Scandinavian design blogs and frequent Swedish real estate websites, then you know that these Warhol posters—part of a series of reprints from a 1968 exhibit at Moderna Museet—are apparently issued to all Swedes along with their birth certificates. In the US, however, it’s next to impossible to get your mitts on one! I had dreams of buying one when I was in Stockholm, but the closest I was able to get to Moderna Museet was taking a longing photo from a window in a building next door.
So I decided to be a loser jerk and make my own. The real thing wouldn’t have fit in this spot anyway, and since the sentiment is pretty much the most perfect thing to be on a book cover designer’s wall, it had to happen. I knew what font they used for the poster, so…OK I’M ASHAMED. A little. But it’s not like I’m going to sell them (and no, I won’t send you the digital file), and if I ever do have the opportunity to buy a real, full-size one from Moderna Museet, I definitely will. Then I’ll hang that one in in my house, and keep the bootleg miniature at work.
This part of my desk is usually completely covered with book cover comps, but I had to move them all out of frame since they’re for titles that haven’t been approved yet. The work you see there is what became the hand-lettering for this book (just approved yesterday, yay!). My vintage Snoopy came from Three Potato Four, and the snake mug…
I LOVE MY SNAKE MUG!!! If you’re a fan of Craig Ferguson (and you should be), then you know Craigy is never without his trusty rattlesnake mug. I bought mine on eBay, and it’s identical to Craig’s—with the exception of the gold tooth, of course, which is a Late Late Show props department customization. (Weirdly enough, the snake mug sold by the CBS store is clearly not the same one Craig uses, which confuses me—but I’ll drop this subject now since I suspect it’s not very interesting to anyone but me…)
In case you ever wondered if 30 Rock was filmed on location, the answer is…actually, I have no idea (Update: It’s not—thanks, Bethany!), but if it’s shot on a sound stage, someone did an amazing job with it. Every time they showed Liz Lemon’s office, I had to smile at the 1930s radiator covers—the same ones are in every office throughout all of the old Rockefeller Center buildings. Same old windows, too.
I put those raindrops on my filing cabinet a few years ago, and they still make me happy. They’re just cut out of white paper with adhesive on the back, nothing fancy. The chair is an Arne Jacobsen Series 7 in a discontinued, terrifying shade of acid green that I love. I found it in the hallway in a storage pile during a company-wide office cleanout years ago, and I grabbed it. It still belongs to the company, of course, but I like having it in my area. The cute raindrop pillow and the triangle wall stickers are from Ferm Living.
I suspect I may be the only person working here with their own rug. It’s the same Nate Burkus Arrowhead rug (discontinued, alas) that I have in my dressing room, but in a smaller size. I would’ve gone bigger, but then my rolling chair would be getting caught on it. Office carpet is almost always a depressing thing, so it’s nice to have a tiny corner of happy floor covering to take the edge off. The bird hanging in the window is an Icelandic Krummi (raven) coat hanger designed by Ingibjörg Hanna Bjarnadóttir.
If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ve probably seen a lot of pictures of this view! My window overlooks 6th Avenue, and I’ve been documenting what I see out there during every season for the past 16 years. Here’s a compilation of some from 2013…
BOOKS! I can’t keep every book I’ve designed, obviously, but I hang on to the ones that are in series—multiple titles by the same author—since I often need to refer back to them later. (If you’re interested in seeing some of the covers I’ve worked on, I have a portfolio site.) Speaking of which, I have strict rules about books at this point. I don’t take ANYTHING home with me from work unless I really, really want to read it. I’ve already read most of what I worked on when it was in the manuscript stage, and if I start taking home every book that catches my eye (and there really are books EVERYWHERE when you work at a publishing company—it’s amazing), there will be no more room for people or dogs in my house. I cracked down about 10 years ago, and I’m glad. I love love love books, and (contrary to the Warhol quote) I really do love to read a whole lot, but there are limits.
And on that note, it’s FRIDAY, and I’m outta here! Have a great weekend!
Generally speaking, the time span between when I decide I might want to do something and the time when I actually do something is pretty long. I first started thinking about listing some designs on Society6 a couple of years ago, but after a disappointing experience with one of their iPhone cases, I shelved the thought for a while. I took my time buying numerous prints from other artists, checking out the textiles, and even ordering a new (and greatly improved) iPhone case back in July. I’ve been really impressed by the quality of everything I’ve seen, so after a lot of hesitation, I finally gave myself permission to go ahead and list a few things.
I am very pleased to announce my new little shop, K is for Black!
There are a number of Giclée prints for sale (which, according to Society6’s specs, are printed on natural white, matte, ultra smooth, 100% cotton rag, acid and lignin free archival paper using Epson K3 archival inks), as well as stretched canvases, iPhone cases, tote bags (!!!) and throw pillows. Woo hoo! Not every design is available in every format, because some stuff just doesn’t lend itself to certain applications. Eventually I’ll add some mugs and hoodies, too.
I have to admit that this is all very self-serving: I’m really just making the things that I want to own. You just get to the point where you accept that if you want a throw pillow that says “vile” on it, you’re going to have to take matters into your own hands. I wanted one, so I made one. Done! It’s fun being your own client sometimes.
I suffer from what I like to call “LOOK AT ME, DON’T LOOK AT ME” syndrome. I want attention (hello, internet), but once I get it I want everyone to stop looking at me. Or at least only look at me in really good lighting. Now, thanks to the magic of on-demand printing, I can let a tote bag tell the world to simultaneously leave me alone but stop ignoring me. How fun!!!
Victoria said she wanted a print with the word “focus” on it, so I designed one for her. (Yes, I’ll consider requests!) I have an annoying habit of putting the suffix “-ish” on everything I’m unsure about (6:00-ish, casual-ish, cold-ish, Jewish…you get the idea), so that got the poster treatment, too. That one is going up in the stairwell of my apartment.
Oh, and you can have stuff framed! I haven’t seen the frames in person, but after reading a few reviews (like this very thorough one), I’m going to go ahead and give them a shot. I’ll let you know how it goes.
There is always going to be some concern on my part about having another company handle virtually every aspect of the production and shipping of my designs, but if I’m being honest with myself, I know I can’t handle that side of things. As much as I want to be the person who screen prints, sews and ships my own pillows, I am not that person. Maybe someday I will be, but for now I’m really excited and happy to be putting some stuff out there and making it possible to share it with other people.
I hope you see something you like! New designs will be added frequently, so please do check back. Yay!
When I was out in San Francisco over the summer, I went to visit Makeshift Society, the clubhouse/coworking space for creative people that Rena (who I totally want to be when I grow up), Victoria and Suzanne opened up last year. It’s a really, really cool space, and it immediately made me feel envious of the people who get to hang out (and, you know, work) there. A large part of the reason why I prefer working in an office environment over being at home on my sofa is that for all my anti-social tendencies, I really do thrive in the company of other likeminded people.
At Makeshift Society SF, a really nice little coworking community has come together. Aside from desk space, there’s a kitchen, a private conference room, a book lending library, bikes…even a loft space for napping if the need arises, something I often wish for at my own job. They offer classes of all kinds, too! (Seriously, look at that schedule — I want to take them ALL.)
See what a nice place this is to sit and work? So nice. But also really, really far from Brooklyn. But guess what? MAKESHIFT SOCIETY IS COMING TO BROOKLYN! The Makeshift team has joined up with Bryan Boyer (who wears really nice shirts), and they’ve rented an amazing (and HUGE!) space in Williamsburg to call home. In addition to all of the great stuff that’s going on in San Francisco, the Brooklyn location will be expanded to include a lending library of all kinds of tools, from cameras to sewing machines to editing software.
And yes, there will be CLASSES! And a maker-in-residence program! It’s going to be great. Even though I work in an office, I’m really looking forward to becoming a part of Makeshift’s classes and events, and maybe even sneaking some evening freelance hours in there as well.
In order to get the whole operation up and running by early 2014, Makeshift is running a Kickstarter campaign to get things off the ground successfully. These folks know what they’re doing and how to make shi(f)t happen, but they need a helping hand. The AMAZING news is that they just crossed their funding goal (!!!), but you can absolutely still donate some bucks for the next 24 hours…even if you don’t live in Brooklyn.
Check out the plans for the space below, take a look at the details on the Kickstarter page, and watch the video at the top of this post. Then maybe go fork over a few clams! We’re down to the very last day of funding, so get in there while you can.
p.s. There are great incentive rewards being offered when you donate, like punchcards for classes or a really nice tote bag designed by Lisa Congdon. (Yeah, that’s what I chose — you know I’m all about tote bags.)
I didn’t really feel like blogging last week, in part because it was a week of several very sad events around the world, but also because I’ve been filled with an enormous amount of self-doubt after posting photos of my backsplash makeover. That might sound ridiculous, but the closing sentences from that post are really what set me off:
An unexpected side effect of working on this project is that I really feel like painting. Not painting houses, but painting stuff. I feel like designing wallpaper, too. And pillows. And blankets. And everything, really.
Right. So I established the fact that I want to do things, but I am still not doing those things. Last weekend I even went to buy some supplies — paints, brushes, canvases, etc. Until yesterday, they were sitting untouched in my living room. I finally got sick of seeing them out of the corner of my eye, though, so I moved them to the kitchen. Where they are sitting. Untouched.
When I was a kid (and by “kid” I mean birth through age 20), all I did was paint and draw and make stuff with my hands. Both of my parents are artists. I grew up in an environment where expressing myself visually wasn’t just encouraged, it was the norm. That was just what you did. When it came time to go to college, I thought I was rebelling when I became an English Lit major — a terrible mistake, of course, and eventually I transferred to the Fine Arts program. I took lots of drawing and printmaking classes, but my concentration was in Graphic Design/Book Arts…and that’s where I wound up putting in the majority of my focus. By the time I was a senior, I was pretty much holed up in front of a computer all the time. I started my job as a book cover designer within weeks of graduating, and I’m still at that same job now.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a graphic designer. I love what I do for a living, and I really do believe it’s exactly what I should be doing, but I always thought I’d eventually make room in my life for stuff that isn’t specifically for a client or a product. I don’t even necessarily mean stepping away from the computer entirely, I just mean working on things where I am the “client.”
You know what? IT’S REALLY HARD. Not having a specific purpose or goal in mind creatively is like paddling in the middle of an ocean with no land in sight. Where do you start? Who is going to give you approval? What is the product you’re trying to sell? And wouldn’t it have been easier to have just stayed on the boat?
On the other hand, I guess all of the work I’ve been doing on my house for the past 7 years is client-free creative work, right? Not really, though — at the end of the day, I guess the house is the client. There’s still a goal.
It comes down to this: I need to be pushing myself more creatively, and not because someone is telling me to. My fear of making ugly things and failing miserably is pretty intense, but what’s the worst that can happen? There is no worst. Best case scenario? I actually wind up liking my work without anyone’s approval, and maybe there will be a few other people out there who like it, too. What more can you ask for?
p.s. I need to go back and re-read this post I wrote last year about advice from Chuck Close. And then I need to actually listen to him.
I realized last night (upon receiving lease renewal forms) that it’s already been 10 months since we rented “the new apartment” in Brooklyn. Whaaaat?! I don’t really understand how it’s been almost a year already, but geez—I guess I should take some more pictures of it. A little while back I showed you one side of the main room, now here’s another side. This room contains the kitchen, dining room, living room and office, all compressed into a surprisingly spacious-feeling 220 square feet.
When I was planning out this room, one thing I knew I wanted was a nice work surface. I don’t like compact desks. I considered a few possibilities, and eventually arrived at a combination of two VIKA LERBERG trestles ($10 each) and a VIKA FURUSKOG table top (regularly $60, but I found it for 50% off), both from IKEA. That’s a 60×30″ work surface for $50—not bad! The table is actually deep enough that Evan and I can both sit and work opposite each other at the same time if we need to.* Plus, if we slide the iMac to the end of the desk (or put it on the floor), the table is big enough to seat 4 people—really nice if we have friends over for dinner.**
*This has never happened. But it could!
**This has also never happened. I blame the lure of the roof deck.
The IKEA PS cabinet holds everything…and then some. I was sad to have to give up the awesome fauxdenza from our old apartment (it’s since been relocated to a closet at the house—more about that in another post!) because of space, but this guy really does an amazing job of storing way more stuff than it seems like it would be able to. All of our office supplies, tools, dog stuff, papers, and other things are in there, with room to spare. Our PS cabinet has been with us since 2003—almost a decade now. It’s an IKEA classic at this point, and I really think it’s one of their all-time best products.
Funny how much the (not) “new” apartment is starting to look like the old one, isn’t it? I even hung all of the artwork in the exact same arrangement. I still don’t think this place has the same kind of friendliness the old apartment did, but I am warming up to it! We definitely have a lot more visitors in DUMBO than we did in Washington Heights, that’s for sure, and I do love being able to open my home to people from out of town. It’s not big enough for overnight guests, but for hanging out for hours on end petting dogs and drinking coffee, it’s perfect! Every time friends or family come over, it really does start to feel a little more like it’s ours.
If you’d like to see a few more photos of this side of the apartment (as well as some new pictures of the office at the house!) and read a little interview with me about work spaces, head over to the Herman Miller blog. I’m so honored to have been asked to contribute to their Lifework blog! I think it’s obvious to anyone who’s seen any part of my house or apartment that I have a considerable number of Herman Miller products in my life, so this was a lot of fun to do. (Thanks for inviting me, Amy!)