This made me realize that perhaps the images and products I’d been filing away for personal inspiration resonated with a larger audience than just one, so I decided to try my hand at blogging. Thanks so much for stopping by!
With that idea in mind, I sold almost everything I owned and moved from my home by the beach in Southern California, to Chinatown, New York.
I am grateful for my bravery then, only I wouldn’t realize it until years later.
I get a lot of e-mails from aspiring creatives, telling me one of two things: they want to be a designer, but don’t know if they’re good enough, or they want to be a designer but feel like it’s “too late” for them.
These e-mails break my heart. And for that reason, I decided to share the less-polished version of how I got to where I am today.
I remember holding back tears and asking, “Is there anything I can do to get better?” I’ll never forget the disgust on his face when he said, “Some people aren’t meant to be designers,” and shooed me out of the classroom.
I had been a design student for exactly one month.
The depression and devastation that followed are hard to describe. Besides the obvious emotions, I was afraid and lost. I had put all my eggs in one idealistic basket. I’d risked everything to come to New York to be a creative. And this city is not a forgiving town when you’re starting out. You either make it or you don’t.
That first summer, I spent my mornings moored to a Soho cafe. It felt so glamorous and otherworldly. Really, I went for the free wifi; even the internet was too expensive back then.
But it was worth it if only to watch the people. Everyone felt slightly artistic; they had a glamorous ease I envied. Life seemed good. For them. I’d hear about photoshoots, exotic vacations and last night’s parties. And I wondered if any of these people had ever been like me, or if they were simply born alluring and successful. Those moments reinforced my determination to become one of those people too… someday.
I had a two-and-a-half year timeline in which to become a designer. So that summer I decided to take as many classes as possible. Since I felt so dejected about my Master’s program, I took the minimum graduation requirements and spent the rest of my time and money on other classes around the city. My favorites were at the School of the Visual Arts. I started with Gourmet Typography, taught by type luminary Ed Benguiat. He talked in stories, dirty jokes, and jazz. He said good typography was like jazz, boy did it ever sing when it all came together.
I took: Beginning and Intermediate Typogrpahy, Graphic Design and Photography, Intro to Graphic Design, Intermediate Graphic Design, Editorial Design, Poster Design, Typeface Design, Advanced Photoshop Techniques, Beauty Retouching… the list goes on and on (and I STILL love taking classes). It took about a year and a half to produce something that even I had to admit was “pretty good”.
The job market was miserable that year, so I freelanced and did odd jobs, but soon learned that freelancing is tough when you have no idea what you’re doing! I yearned for a mentor, but I didn’t know where to find one.
I never succeeded in finding one, but I eventually landed my first salaried job as a designer in Ralph Lauren’s global marketing department, designing brochures, books, and posters. I continued freelancing on the side for the money and experience, slowly learning as I went.
Then one day, Pinterest launched. I wasn’t big into social media, but the platform complimented my inclination to create mood boards, research design trends, visually brainstorm, digitally curate, find swipe, and collect design inspiration. And I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but it felt like one day I suddenly had a million followers. Literally a million. Then almost two.
Suddenly, major brands I loved like J. Crew started reaching out to me, wanting to “work” and collaborate with me. As a designer, I didn’t understand what it meant to do a project or “collaboration” that didn’t involve designing anything. But I learned it was more about aligning on the aesthetics that reinforced a brand’s underlying ideals – the soul that lies just within every brand. I was honestly just so flattered and surprised, I didn’t completely understand what was happening. Nevertheless, I had the wits about me to start a blog too.
I never felt ready for it all, mostly because I never imagined it could happen to me. But it’s given me the opportunity to attend the International Auto Show on behalf of Nissan USA, and digitally curate and tell stories on Ebay, among other fun projects.
At some point, I stumbled upon the word “quixotic” in a novel. I loved the way it looked; Q is my absolute favorite letter form. I felt compelled to look up this strange-sounding word, and I found this:
: hopeful or romantic in a way that is not practical
: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action
That one word summed up my journey to becoming a designer. To design a life quixotic… full of hopeful and romantic ideals and desires. What a life that would be.
Because I never received much encouragement or positive reinforcement in the industry, I gravitated towards finding inspiration for myself and others.
An on-going Instagram project of mine is called “everyday typography.” It’s the idea that the simple, unglamorous words we encounter everyday have a beauty to them… if we look for it. You can check out this project on Instagram with the hashtag #everydaytypography.
For the past four years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with fantastic brands brands on partnerships and collaborations that I can only describe as pure fun! I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve loved looking behind the scenes of some of my most beloved brands.
I’ve also had the fortune to receive messages from designers, illustrators, and aspiring creatives from around the globe. This has truly meant the world to me, and it’s the most meaningful part of becoming internet known.
And you know what? My career worked out too. We all happen upon struggles as we go in the direction of our dreams. The key is to just keep going.