I get quite a few emails from students, young designers, and curious creatives who want to know more about my story, my process, and my tools. Since I get a lot of the same questions, and there simply aren't enough hours in the day for me to respond to everyone individually, I decided to sit down and answer all of them in one place. So, here's a little peek at what goes on inside my head and inside my studio! Feel free to use this information for blog posts, essays, and articles with proper credit to my website. If you read through all of this and still have specific, burning questions, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
I grew up in a small beachy town in Southern California and lived there for 18 years before heading to the School of Visual Arts for college, where I majored in advertising. I always loved to draw and paint, but I was raised by very practical parents. Advertising seemed like the perfect intersection of creativity and job security. At the beginning of my senior year, I took an interest in hand lettering and started the blog Daily Dishonesty for fun. One year later, the blog had made its rounds through the internet, amassed a following of 50K and landed me a publishing deal with ABRAMS in May 2013. That same month, I graduated college and landed a job as an art director at BBDO New York. Over the next 9 months, I worked full-time during the day and did freelance illustration and lettering by night. Eventually, I built up enough freelance momentum to leave my office job and turn lettering into my full-time gig. I signed with &Reach (which is now Satellite Office) in April 2014.
I've been working as a full-time freelance illustrator ever since, working my way through editorial, advertising, and social media projects for clients. A bit of a passion project junkie, I've also launched plenty of weird personal projects along the way like:
I used to doodle song lyrics all over my middle school notebooks, so I guess you could say I've been lettering for longer than I've known. I started getting really into it after I took an Intro to Typography class in college. After that class, I didn't take any more courses but kept practicing on my own for fun. After I started Daily Dishonesty, the lettering world opened up and swallowed me whole.
Books! Pens! Paper! Tech! There are WAY too many to list right here in the middle of this page. For a full list of the tools I use to fuel my lettering, creativity, and business, check out this page.
For lettering: Honestly, my type inspiration is pretty basic (as in non-fat, sugar-free Pumpkin Spice Latte with extra whip lolz). I draw a lot of aesthetic inspiration from vintage things. I love browsing through flea markets to find old matchbooks, tins, signs, and labels. I travel a lot and definitely draw inspiration from hand-painted signage, colorful buildings, and local patterns and textures. Oh and nature. Flowers, water, and leaves captivate me. And hair.
For creative ideas: I tend to use my own life and experiences as the base for my creative projects. I think that inspiration is hidden right under our noses in the form of relationships, jokes, daily rituals, hobbies, habits, conversations and observations. We just need to learn how to pay attention. For more insights on my creative process, watch this talk.
Put that beer down. Just kidding, go ahead and drink your beer while your liver is still kind to you. My advice to students is this: BE SNEAKY AND WORK HARD WHILE EVERYONE ELSE IS OUT BOOZING IT UP. You should enjoy yourself in college, but think about your long-term goals often. Why are you going to school and what do you want to accomplish in your career? Never forget your intentions because they will be the driving force behind your work ethic. At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, I was working as a sales girl at a soap store, and one day I came home from work and was like, “Wait, I moved 3,000 miles away to go to art school. Shouldn’t everything I’m doing be artistic? I can draw and know some Photoshop. I’ll figure it out.” The next day, I quit my sales job and turned all of my focus to finding freelance design gigs.
We live in a fast-paced world filled with infinite distractions, and it’s easy to lose focus. Seriously, that instant-play-the-next-episode function they implemented on Netflix is my arch nemesis. Anyways, I think it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure you’re on the right track to accomplishing your dreams every now and then. I like to keep an on-going note in my iPhone of all the things I want to do. I look at it once a week to remind myself that all of my actions should be steps (even if they’re just baby steps) towards these things.
If you're looking to leave your office job, you'll need to find freelance work to support yourself. I always recommend starting some kind of personal/side project to help get your work out there and in front of people who could potentially hire you. Working at a job you don't love isn't fun, but not being able to pay your bills isn't fun either, so I'd recommend taking small steps to point yourself in your desired direction. Side projects have been instrumental to my career path (read my blog post about them here).
I would suggest transitioning slowly, since having the financial security of a full-time job allows you to work on your freelance passion (illustration, photography, and writing) with pure creativity. Since you don’t have the stress of having to support yourself completely with this work, you can be more selective about the projects you take on. Once you have a handful of extra special portfolio pieces, it’ll be much easier to transition into doing what you love full-time as a freelancer! Depending on your risk tolerance, you might need to be patient, and that's okay.
As soon as I put in my two weeks at the agency, I started reaching out to illustration agents. I wanted to jump headfirst into my lettering career, and I felt like having representation would make me feel more credible as an illustrator, since I had a bit of experience but not a ton doing work for large clients. So naturally, I looked to my design idols for guidance. What I did was look at all of my favorite illustrators’ websites, click on their contact links and see who was representing them. If they were representing my favorite artists, surely they were doing something right. I compiled a list and sent out emails with samples of my work and a blurb about myself to all of these agencies. I heard back from a handful of them, and eventually signed with &Reach (which now goes by Satellite Office).
I'm 5'3", so I look up to most everyone.
In no particular order: Jon Contino · Jessica Hische · Zipeng Zhu · Tina Roth Eisenberg · Dana Tanamachi · Gemma O’Brien · Molly Jacques · Kelly Shami · Louise Fili · Mary Kate McDevitt · Lauren Ronquillo · Gemma Correll · Olimpia Zagnoli · Anna Bond · Gail Anderson · Jeff Rogers · Kelly Thorn · Lotta Nieminen · Justin Gignac · Jill De Haan · Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn · Becca Clason · Jennifer and Amy Hood · Ping Zhu · Jessica Walsh · Tuesday Bassen · Jen Mussari · Charmaine Olivia · Carson Ellis · Teagan White · Adam JK