Planner perfection, at least I hope so

2016 calendar / planner season is nearly here and The Annual will only go into production with your support.

The Annual Lifebook

I was designing early editions of The Annual years ago. At first, I was simply trying to find a better structured, more beautiful solution than I could in stores. As a designer working at Better Homes and Gardens magazine, it was my job to source products for photo shoots and what I wanted simply wasn’t for sale, so I made my own. I spent many a night printing pages and cutting them to size with an Exacto knife and then assembling them into a 3-ring-binder. Not long after, everything went digital.

As I left the magazine to help found a global design firm, my new role required I embrace digital calendar management and I packed my planner away.

It wasn’t long before I realized I’d lost track of my center. I was working long hours, constantly reactive to the needs of my colleagues, and by all accounts doing well—but I could no longer hear the intuitive sense that helped me get that far. I had to get back to basics.

This need for clarity, to pause each morning and set my own direction for the day, encouraged me to pull my early versions of The Annual back out. After a few weeks of putting my pen to paper I was reclaiming my creative energy and focus, and my colleagues were happier with me as well.

I thought to myself, “I can’t be the only one feeling like this”
So I refreshed The Annual’s typography and layouts, ensured as much unlabeled clear space as possible, and then called my friends in a Portland, Oregon print shop to produce the prototype you see here.

If you’re struggling to find your center amidst the din of distractions—there is another way. We can reclaim our calm, together.

Styling to surface a sentiment



Open surfaces tend to collect the trappings of the day.

As we were getting settled in our new home I noticed that my library cabinet, that was previously my father’s, was collecting mostly not-so-precious things such as bills, catalogs and contractor receipts. I knew there was no point in simply moving these piles of papers around or griping at my lovely husband for dropping things there.

What could I do instead that would make me pleased every time I looked at this special piece of furniture? Style it!

So I pulled together a few of our favorite books, a framed art piece that was my grandmother’s, our travel journals and a few cute containers. I played for a bit and walked away. It’s not meant to be perfect. I still move things at least weekly but now instead of a clutter catcher this surface as become a point of joy with reminders of people I’ve loved, lost and still think of daily. Personal styling makes your house feel like home.

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Cute Tues // Get those pics off your phone

I love photos
I love thick paper
I love small things

Enter, the Print Studio app.
(& their website version)

This was one of those “must download” apps that lingered in my phone for months before I got around to ever opening it. I can’t believe I waited so long! I ordered 40-some photos, literally, from my bed one morning and three days later FedEx dropped off a sweet little package and the fun of all the things to do with these little prints multiplied from there.

I tried the tiny pics:
– in sets within a larger frame
– as gift tags
– as a fun surprise in my husband’s wallet
– as KOLO box labels

What will I try next? A 2014 pic-a-day calendar

After all, they are small.

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Carry On // the perfect bag for every ALT SLC moment


There are a lot of great lists on what to wear to ALTsummit, how to stay warm in the expansive ballrooms and ideas to make the most of those business cards you stressed over. Now that all of that is sorted, oh wait, what oh-so-styling accompaniment will you use to carry all your brilliance around? Here are some suggestions of the perfect bag for each major moment.

1) At sponsor dinners
Something small is all you’ll need. A punch of color + fun tassel? What’s not to love! Perfect size for biz card swapping and stashing, smartphone and a bit o’ cash.

2) In sessions, for the lug-it-all lady
Enough room for everything and everything else you’ll pick up along the way. A memorable shape and details will help others recognize you day-to-day.

3) In sessions, for the minimalist chick
When something digital and a few cards is enough, go with a pretty sleeve in a fabric that says something about your style. For me, being in Portland it’s all about wool and leather.

4) For the green party
No green dress? (insert Barenaked Ladies song reference here) No worries! Bring a green accessory instead of killing yourself in some vintage shop the day before your flight leaves.

5) All around the mini parties
This might sound counter-intuitive, but a thin and lightweight leather tote will be hands-free and perfect for all the swag that you’re likely to find yourself lining up early to snag.

New bags or vintage, one bag or five, your accessories say a lot about your personal style. And, at a place like ALT, can help others remember who you are and recognize you from across the room. See you there!

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Not just a designer

With ALTsummit coming up next week I felt compelled to look back at what I’ve learned about design in the past two years since my 2012 ALT attendance. I actually wrote this post a year ago and didn’t have the guts to post it. This year, I do. (still scary)

2012    I design. I make things pretty.
2014    I design. I make things pretty AND work better, more valuable, change the world…

My fellow designers:  I love making things pretty and I can’t WAIT to celebrate a million pretty things with you in SLC.

While many bookshelves need styled, while many logos can be improved, while creating the perfectly intriguing tablescape does bring me an incredible sense of achievement, solving design problems that redefine an industry, or help solve a global crisis, or make a message reach the ears or eyes it was meant for move me in an equally powerful and unexpected ways.

I didn’t know I was a strategist.
I didn’t know I was a marketer.
I didn’t know I was an innovator.
But I am. I’m all of these things, because I’m a designer.

Designers, stylists, UX geeks: don’t shy away from bigger, hairier projects. Don’t settle for day-rate work and pretty typography. (Also, don’t walk away from that stuff because it too, is bliss.) But don’t limit yourself to schlepping rugs to a shoot, only to spend the next three days returning them. Have the confidence to walk into the CEO’s office of a brand like Nike, Coca-Cola or the White House and say “I’m a designer and I think I can help you solve this problem you’re having.” Because your unique set of trainings, of problem-solving experiences, they apply to the entire sphere of challenges the world faces. You can stand in a room full of PhDs and help them to think of solutions in new ways, clarify their goals, get their message out, spread their vision beyond their peers. You can do this because you know how to design. Your brain works with constraints in different ways, solves solutions in a different order, adapts easily from unexpected sources.

So consider ditching that client who can’t choose between two shades of orange for their logo and spend your time and talent getting to know people who value your unique point of view on the challenges they are facing.

Pretty IS enough, just don’t let me hear you say you’re “just a designer.”

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