Great things I read in 2015

I realized when putting this together that I haven’t read a book written by a cis man in over two years. Heh. I didn’t intentionally start this streak, but now I know it’s happening, I’m paying attention to see how long it lasts. I do have Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty on my nightstand though, because Steve Martin, but that’s the all in consideration at the moment. There’s definitely an affect that happens placing a priority on writers who are women, people of color, trans, or differently-abled. It fosters more empathy and now when I read these types of characters written by men, too many of them seem one-dimensional and trope-like.

With that, here’s selection of the best things I read this year, including things on the internet:

Everything is yours / Everything is Not Yours Essay by Clementine Wamariya
I was hooked by the third sentence. This split my brain open in about 47 different directions and is still highly relevant given the current chatter surrounding refugees.

Director Jill Solloway writes a call to arms for lady directors
Widely applicable to any creative field. So ready to get up and re-make the entire world now.

Calling In, by Ngọc Loan Trần.
What happens when someone you admire says something offensive? What happens when we ourselves, are that person?


The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
On being an artist with a non-traditional family and gender identity. Full of intellectual and rich insights on all of the above. Stunning.


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
Fantastic plot twist. I yelped when I discovered the character Red reading this in an scene in the most recent season of Orange is the New Black. At this point in the show, (very mild spoiler alert) the prison has burned all of their books due to a bed bug outbreak, so it’s interesting that she’s reading a brand new title from 2014.

Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon
So, so much respect for her as a musician and artist. I devoured this and consider her a role model for lyfe now.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein
I read this in three days. Glad to have her story in her own words.’Nuff said.


The First Bad Man, Miranda July
This one really rocked my view on what’s acceptable and palatable in a story. it’s equal parts bizarre, repulsive, moving and truly human, in that way that only Miranda July can write. I showed me how to get comfortable with oddity, investigate the absurd, and that I can love her characters even if they’re inappropriate, and frankly, gross at times. I didn’t see the end coming here either. The design of the book is noteworthy too, done by famed graphic designer Mike Mills

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
This underscores a lot of what I read in the Artist’s Way but with Lamott’s witty and self-deprecating voice. Seems like I need to read at least one book on the creative process every so often as a reminder to stay the course and that it’s difficult for any artist. Comforting and inspiring to keep in the game.


Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
You might know this voice more from her sample in Beyoncé’s song, Flawless, but Adichie didn’t arrive there without a glowing career in academia behind her. This book was one of the gems of 2014, with excellent stunning prose and a truly unique cross-cultural perspective. It’s a love story as well.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes / And other lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty
This book is a wonderful effort to change the way we handle death and dying in America. Calling us to see and feel it in candid new ways beyond the bloated, disconnected, corporatized offerings many death processes have become in this country. Surprisingly full of adept humor, it also discusses other culture’s death practices both ancient and modern. Highly recommended.

Introducing Debbie Labedz!

debbie labedz

Beyond excited to announce this lady who is helping me with design, development, and writing!

After reviewing close to 20 applications, Debbie stood out because of her existing experience with the trials of self-employment, but with a flexible enough schedule that it would be easy to find time to work together. I immediately felt comfortable around her, she has a trustworthy and calm demeanor, plus a can-do vibe. My badass 85-year-old aunt gave me some whip-smart advice at the start of this process: make sure who ever you hire, that they are better than you at whatever their role is. Amazing! In this case, Debbie possesses more writing experience, more investment in code, and better eagle eyes for those fine details that make or break a project. Especially under deadline! Already we are both benefiting from her fresh energy and support and can’t wait for more in 2016. Without further ado, here’s more about Debbie!

Let’s start with your background and where you’re from:
I’m a writer and web developer based in Chicago, and I build WordPress websites through my studio, Bibliofille Creative. I studied art history at Michigan State, and upon deciding the traditional PhD path wasn’t for me, slowly taught my self how to code until it became my job. I’ve lived in the Midwest for 12 years now, but I’m originally from Virginia Beach, VA.

How did you get into self-employment?
I’d never even thought about self-employment until it stared me right in the face! After college, I bounced around in several jobs that I enjoyed, but that were never quite the right fit. Finally, it dawned on me that I would never be happy in a traditional 9-5 job, and that I’d have to create this “dream job” that didn’t exist.

Without too much pre-planning (whoops), I made the leap in June 2014 as an independent web designer/developer and never looked back. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road since then, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been!

What’s your home office set up like? What sorts of tools do you use?
I work primarily from my home office, a sunny den right off the living room that’s painted a fresh mint. I’ve got the usual Ikea desk and mid-century Steelcase chair setup, floating shelves, and LOTS of books. My hardware setup is fairly simple: MacBook Pro, wireless keyboard, laptop stand for ergo purposes, nothing too fancy. For web development, I’m a huge fan of Sublime Text, CodeKit, MAMP (for local development). For general life organization, Evernote, Google Calendar, and Wunderlist keep me sane. I also read a lot of blogs/websites, and Feedly is my new favorite RSS reader (RIP, Google Reader).

What’s something unique or specific about you that we should know about?
That I’m half Filipino! My mom is from the Philippines and I was actually born there, and we moved to the US when I was three (Navy brat!). Sadly, I don’t speak much Tagalog, but I’d like to work on that. There’s a pretty robust Filipino community in Chicago and I’ve definitely got my favorite places like Isla Pilipina and Unimart when I’ve got a food craving!

Like many people who work independently, you have a dog. Can you introduce her and talk about how she affects your day and helps you stay focused?

SadieThis is Sadie, my four year old Wheaten Terrier. She’s teddy bear soft and has quite the spunky personality! Since I work from home a lot of the time, having her around forces me to get out of the house and get some fresh air several times a day, which is awesome. Some of my best ideas appear during her bathroom breaks!

Sweet or salty snacks?
Both! I’m a huge fan of the salty/sweet combo, like chocolate covered pretzels, sea salt caramels, etc.

What did you want to be when you when you grew up?
A paleontologist! I was obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid. I was, and still am, a nerd at heart.

What are some of your favorite self-care practices?
I’m an introvert, so self-care is a huge priority for me. I’m a huge fan of bubble baths with all the fixin’s (scented candles, oils, soft music, glass o’ wine). Massages are great too. I also exercise as well, usually hot yoga, kickboxing, or spinning. That’s my 100% me time. My work is so mentally focused, that I try and treat my body really well to counteract that.

What made you want to work with me?
I could tell right away that, on top of being an awesome designer, you were a straight forward and kind hearted person, which I appreciate so much!

What are a couple of your favorite podcasts, newsletters?
Podcasts: “This American Life”; The New Yorker Fiction podcast; “Longform”; “Death, Sex, and Money”; “Being Boss”.

Newsletters: Quartz Daily Brief is great for keeping up with current events; The Report from Jen Myers is great for tech ladies and general internet awesomeness;  Ann Friedman’s newsletter makes me laugh AND think on a weekly basis.

Thanks, Debbie!!

On Logo Pricing


Style guide for whimsical and fanciful illustrated stationers, Serious Creatures. Brand refresh and website design through my friends at Aeolidia.

Here’s an area where graphic designers vary widely, so today I’m taking a few minutes to explain how I price out logos and branding projects. Because in the last 10 days or so I’ve seen several requests for an upfront reveal for a logo price, without much else to go on. Here’s why this is problematic, and why I choose to work differently.

A logo is never really just a logo, it has to go on something, live somewhere, there’s a context behind it and this all must make sense in order for the system to work the best. It’s not just a single .jpg that I send for you to tack onto a flyer (if that’s what you want, there’s always Often when interviewing potential clients, it comes up that they actually need more than just the mark, or there’s something else I notice and suggest including in the process that they might not have considered yet.

It’s about understanding the future goals of the organization and how the brand and eventual logo fits into that. It takes a bit of time and thoughtful handling to do well. Even brand-new baby businesses who might not be able to afford a website, or anything more intricate beyond a business card, need to tackle this question at some point. Though ideally, a client is able to afford at least one piece of communication to go along with the logo though because it’s more cost effective for us both if there’s more for me to work on. You get a better end result for your money that way. But, since every business will vary in what they physically need for their brand, often quite literally by dozens and dozens of files, there’s no way to predict ahead of time how to price this out.

In terms of process, some people are able to give the reigns over to me entirely, allowing my experience and vision to steer the process, and some people want or need to be highly involved, and those come with different price points. The more people involved in the process affects the price as well, because the more feedback there is to parse, the more and longer the revisions take. It takes a few minutes of discussion to suss this out, and a good client knows what sort of involvement they require. Most of my clients are too busy focusing on the daily grind of what they do though, and their lives, to center that entirely on what I’m doing, and I like it that way. Clients hire me for a reason, to lighten their load. I don’t expect them to get as granular on my work because that’s why I’m doing it, not them.

Timeline also affect price too. I avoid working with rush fees if possible, because I believe it often sets a bad tone for the project and that’s complicating. Often I will pass on a project if I deem it too much to work into my schedule, but on the rare occasion the opportunity is too good to pass up. Even then it has to be a particularly good profit margin and with flexible enough timing that it’s not going to add unnecessary stress and pressure. And, everyone’s interpretation of a reasonable timeline will fluctuate too which also takes another question to discuss before developing the price.

I completely understand why other pursuits come with flat fess, photographers often work this way for example. Say under a day rate, or charging a flat fee for an event like a wedding. I’ve tried to develop packages similar to this, but have never found it successful. Either I’ve wondered about money left on the table which I should’ve negotiated for, or a new factor comes up after the fact that complicates things and cuts into my profit margin unexpectedly.

There are graphic designers out there who do offer flat rates though, and graphic designers who’re also just happy to have the project for any budget at all. But in my view, these often comes from a place of insecurity or inexperience, or an unwillingness to look more critically at what the business’ additional needs might be. And as a client, you won’t have any way of distinguishing this, so that’s why this post will be helpful in clarifying the thought that goes into planning a project before it even starts. And knowing this can help you make more informed decisions about your business and who is the right person for you to work with to create your logo.

Hopefully, it’s me! 😀 If so, you can reach me here to set up a chat.

Call for Applicants!


And here goes my first post in a long time, let’s get this show on the road. Friend, I’m hiring. I’m doing it. The position will be a part-time paid Production Designer position for someone in Chicago. More on that in a minute, because first I want to explain why. In my unannounced but definitely intentional break from publishing much on the internet this year, I’ve been digging real deep trying to figure out what to do with this business of mine. After 7 years I was burnt out, overwhelmed, tired of the internet, and feeling like I’d hit a plateau. I couldn’t figure out what to do to get excited about any of it anymore. I considered quitting the whole field, several times. I read many blog posts and articles on business, dutifully filled my Morning Pages almost every day, made time to explore my own creative interests, and consulted my coven of biz lady advisors until my head swam with advice and ideas yet still nothing felt right. Eventually I had to let it go, let the chatter die down, and resign myself to the fact I might feel stagnant for awhile. Or that once I stopped looking, the solution it would make itself known.

That’s pretty much what happened. One idea that came up early on and continued to resurface was the idea of someone to manage the small tasks that pop up during the week. Initially this was a terrifying idea, such responsibility and pressure! But gradually, as I continued to explore it, while I slowly set aside small sums for funding growth, it became the thing that allowed me to breath for a minute. Right now 2-3 days of my week are absorbed with file work, small revisions, and various implementation tasks. It adds up to quite an expanse of time. And, with help there, I can do more for this little business. Things like write more, keep on building a body of personal work. Pitch more projects instead of only responding to referrals, and do some more of things that never seem get done. All I need is some fresh energy and I can keep going. As long as that happens, the rest will take care of itself from there.

As far as the type of working culture I strive for, I pledge to bring my best self everyday. I operate under this assumption, but am also understanding when the occasional off day happens. Because humanity. Together we will work out a system for feedback so you can speak freely without fear of reproach. I also won’t expect you to work with me every day IRL, or even hang out with me outside of work. Unless you want to. You need your own life and I want to facilitate that as well. I like to celebrate accomplishments, but because I’m more introverted, not with drinking or partying hard. I like to be home at a reasonable hour and can’t afford to feel hungover. When it’s time for Treat Yo Self, it’ll be through a financial bonus, a nice meal, visiting a cultural event, or a spa day. That kind of thing. I’m interested in your ideas for ways to add expand on all of this too!

You can learn more about the specifics of the job, time & schedule guidelines, pay scale, inclusionary statement, as well as submit yourself here.

Please share, I would love for you to spread the word or invite anyone who yourself or whomever you think would be good for this. I’ll be reviewing applications over the next 10 days and will be scheduling interviews the week of September 21st. I hope to complete the process by the end of the month.

Thank you for reading, I know this long dormant blog doesn’t have the traffic it once did, but maybe one day we’ll get back there. In the meantime, know I’m grateful for any and all eyeballs taking a few minutes with me here today. <3

Artist's Way Update

Y’all. I’ve been putting off writing this update for weeks. WEEKS. Initially, going through the Artist’s Way process and writing morning pages every day was such a shock to my system, it usurped writing for any other reason that wasn’t email or for my own personal and creative growth. I was worried about squeezing MORE writing into the day without compromising life and client work and even if I did, it would read as embarrassing and vulnerable. That and it was so early in the process that I didn’t know if anything was even happening yet. I was blown away that I could make my own creative time *every day* but wasn’t sure I would be able to keep it up either. So, a fair amount of mental gymnastics as you can see.

But 8 weeks into this 12 week program it’s safe to say this has helped be feel more clear on what I’m doing, given me a greater appreciation in doing work for myself, and helped me sort out some creative demons that have been holding me back. I’ve been able to follow through on the main themes and write every single day (with a few exceptions) which is a huge surprise to me. I was really nervous at the beginning that it would be something I dread or that it would totally implode my life. But it’s easily one of my favorite parts of the day and nothing’s caved in. Only small gradual positive changes.

Aside from filling up a notebook and a half and counting of writing – the most I’ve ever written in my life – I’ve done some sketching and taken myself out for “artist dates” as they’re called in the Artist’s Way. So far this is only just scratching the surface though, 8 weeks is enough to start a habit, and I’m cautious to declare any of this a done deal at right now. I’ve still got ideas I want to work out and I’ve given myself until the end of the month to design and print a small piece to commemorate this time. Hopefully it further continues to inspire in the months ahead!

In the meantime, here’s some bits I have gotten to do/see so far this year and I’ve got some more exciting news planned for April but you’ll need to sign up for my newsletter for that reveal (oooh, I know what I did there, ha.)

Andy Warhol’s Shadows at LA Moca:

andy warhol

I’m not the world’s biggest Andy Warhol fan, but this grouping of work is different than anything he’s done and it’s breathtaking. To be in a room surrounded by nearly a hundred of these works was a highlight I’ll remember for some time to come.

poolside draws

winter walks

billie holiday

kaizen circles

Poolside draws and winter walks at dusk. Special edition Billie Holiday record shop score, with metallic printed sleeve and re-issued on luscious white vinyl. And then neon red circle painting meditation, highly relaxing. (I almost typed medication instead of meditation, but well, sometimes they work similarly.)

And finally, last week I was on the’s Dispatch talking about design, commerce, and culture which you can stream here or through iTunes here (no embeddable feed).

That’s all for now folks, newsletter update coming in the next couple days with updates on what I’ve been reading recently too.