A Freelance Poem

I got I got I got
too many projects in my 5 to 9
I got I got I got
side gig numbers like D20 dies
We got we got we got
cashflow in pennies, nickels, quarters, dimes
We plot we plot we plot
streams of income we diversified

Jerry Reed

It’s taken me 20+ years of guitar playing to realize I just want to be like 51% as laid back cool as Jerry Reed. Here’s a new-to-me clip of Jerry accompanying B.B. King. Pure class.

On Why Words Matter in Interfaces

Visual design is powerful, but the words are what people quote to one another. They are the only part of the design that survives across time and media types. They can be held intact in a human mind.

Frank Chimero’s New Website

“Art is anything that’s better than it needs to be.” Frank Chimero has an updated website, and I sure do love it when he writes things.

A Note from the Management

Human nature is a fickle thing — we often want what we can’t have, and the gravitational pull toward exclusivity, luxury, limited editions, etc. is so strong it bypasses logic. Sales works in a similar fashion. We want the thing that’s in demand, often simply because it’s in demand. And if the thing isn’t in demand, well, why? What’s wrong with it? Why is no one choosing it? Social proof helps us filter the good from the bad, and (hopefully) make better choices.

Is that a little too macro for a normal Tuesday? Ok, here’s a micro outworking: I’m looking for work. Paid design work. People tell me designers are in demand. That sounds great. Sign me up.

The Long, Long, Long Night

To be honest, I haven’t had much work lately. And I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating, wink wink sort of way — I mean 2019 has been utterly, completely flat. You’re not supposed to say that, at least not outloud. But here we are. You know the hockey stick bar graphs startups want to see? Imagine that in reverse.

I think I’m 0-5 on bids this year. It feels like I can’t give design work away. (When I started feeling that, I just started doing it. I’ve stayed busy with pro bono design work for some amazing local organizations, which has been very fun and fulfilling, but very… for the good, not for the green.) Apart from some small initial success with LogoLand, the bank account is a rocky place where my cashflow can find no purchase.

It’s not a power move to admit that you need clients. But I’m not particularly interested in projecting an image of a successful, in-demand designer. I’m interested in paying the bills by being a good designer.

One of my favorite design contemporaries is Bethany Heck, and this tweet resonated with me when she left her last full-time gig:

I know it’s always encouraged to present yourself as untouchable when looking for work, but that feels like a disservice to others who might find themselves in this spot: I expected to be at my last job for as long as the company existed. Needing to move on has been devastating.

“Encouraged to present yourself as untouchable…” If that’s not the best description of the pressures independent designers feel (real or imagined) I don’t know what is. When we sell our services — our “brand” — to the outside world, we aim to present an image of total competence, unique talent, and near-superhuman abilities to pull great creative endeavors out of chaos and nothingness. We’re “supposed” to express success, even if we haven’t been very successful lately.

At the end of the day, design is a trade. I think I’m pretty good at it, even if the market hasn’t shared that opinion with me this year. It happens. I’m trying not to take it personally.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

We have a very bad collective habit of comparing ourselves and our successes to other people. Social media hasn’t done us any favors. It’s a non-stop curated highlight reel beamed directly into our heads. But what other people are doing doesn’t matter apart from what we can learn from them. Other designers are having success, and that is awesome. I want to push them forward, help where I can, use whatever meager platform I have to amplify their voices and work.

It’s just been a meh first quarter for me.

So… a couple of things:

Kyle Jones’ Portfolio

Super-fun new design and illustration portfolio from Kyle Jones. Tons of personality and depth in his work.

On Fixing Your Shortcomings

Hire somebody. That is fundamentally the answer to everything you’re not good at in business.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Braille LEGO Bricks

LEGO is making Braille Bricks to help blind and visually impaired children learn Braille. This seems logical and awesome.

Cycling Builder from the PCPartPicker Crew

If you’re about that cycling life, check out the recently-launched Cycling Builder. This is from the same team who has been quietly making PCPartPicker an incredible resource and community for building your own personal computer.

Trusting Your Audience with Abstract Logos

Logos don’t always have to be literal — even monograms!

A monogram is a visual motif made by combining (or overlapping) letters to form a symbol. Think about brands like Louis Vuitton, the New York Yankees, or Volkswagon.

Each of their logos is a monogram, easily read as an LV, NY, and VW. But what if I told you readability isn’t the only thing that matters?

LogoLand just completed a new logo for Midwest A/V/L company LE Productions. It’s not the most straightforward logo…


In its construction, it’s a monogram — there’s an L, E, and P. But if the viewer doesn’t see the letterforms, that’s ok because the logo still reads as a pleasing abstract collection of proportional geometric shapes. 

If you trust your audience, and reward their curiosity, you might find that you can “get away” with way more visual identity risks than you think.