It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a creative interview and I’m so excited about this one! Jamie is the talent behind Spruce Rd. a design studio and blogger who shares a plethora of knowledge on her blog about running a business and designer resources. Definitely check it out if you get a chance. Plus, I feel like she’s got such a great aesthetic, I can’t wait to see more of her work. Learn more about her below:
Tell us a little about yourself:
Hi! I am Jamie, a graphic designer + blogger from Texas. I run a design studio, Spruce Rd., and get to work with passionate creative entrepreneurs through building their brand identities + websites. I love going on hikes, photography and date nights with my husband. Nice to meet you!
Describe your path to becoming an graphic designer:
Initially, I studied architecture + computer animation for two years. I knew early on in the program that I did not want to pursue either of those careers, and fell in love with graphic design through an elective class. My university did not have an art program, and only offered two classes in graphic design, so I knew I needed to transfer if I was serious about this field. It was a tough decision leaving a university and friends that I adored, but I ended up transferring to a small university to pursue a BFA in graphic design + photography. I haven’t looked back since!
Looking back, it all makes sense. I used to love making posters for impromptu dance recitals in my living room when I was little, I spent WAY too much time designing my own slides in powerpoint for group projects, and KidPix won my heart. Graphic design just fits.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
Because I work from home, and for myself, I fully embrace the freedom that comes with the job! I don’t follow a strict schedule, though I do like to set aside a few blocks of time each day for certain tasks. I typically wake up in the morning and head to the gym. Following that, I respond to any emails or comments on my blog. A few days a week I like to get out of the house and work from a coffee shop or Panera (not as loud as a coffee shop!). I juggle client projects, day-to-day administration, personal side projects and creating new blog posts. I love the diversity and mix of designing, production, and writing! This helps me stay creative and avoid burnout.
Having worked as an in-house designer, how did you prepare yourself for taking the leap into working for yourself full-time?
Prior to opening up Spruce Rd. full time, I worked as a designer for other companies for 4 years, including: in-house designer at a church, a university, and at a local design studio. All of these experiences shaped my perspective as a designer, as well as allowed me to hone in on my craft. Through in-house design, I learned SO much about the fullness of branding, and how the visual aspect that the designer provides, plays a role in communicating the vision behind the brand. I also gained great skills in working with clients, and defining what processes worked, and which were ineffective.
I feel like the design industry often overlooks in-house designers, and I am not sure why. If you work in-house, you get the opportunity to be a part of the core of a brand. If you believe in that brand, than it can be such an exciting place to be! You also get to work on a lot of fun projects from books, magazines, direct mail and large campaigns. This appreciation has prepared me to have a unique perspective with my clients. I love to dig deep and really understand their vision, so that I can come on board alongside them.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced working for yourself?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced so far is to be patient! I recently opened up my design studio in January of 2015, so I realize that it takes time to attract my ideal clients + feel a part of the freelancing community. I have learned to be patient in the types of clients + projects I take on. I have had to say “no” to a few potential clients, as I knew they weren’t in line the vision behind my studio. This was not an easy decision… especially when I JUST started my business! I think it is important to have a clear vision + intention behind your business, so you can dictate the direction you go, rather than allow others to passively influence you. It has definitely been a challenge to stick to these principles and be patient.
Are there any favorite tools you’ve been using ( aside from Adobe ) that you can’t live without?
Basecamp is hands down the best project management system out there. I have tried several free + simplified sites that are similar, but they just feel incomplete. I also use Evernote like nobody’s business! It is great for brainstorming ideas, writing blog posts, and saving your favorite articles. Can’t recommend these products enough!
For sketching, I like to use layout bond paper, because it is semi-transparent and great for thumbnail sketches. I have several nicer notebooks, but I struggle with feeling self-conscious about my loose sketches (silly I know)! The translucent paper helps me get in the mindset that my sketches are quick + loose studies, and improves my productivity. It is also great for tracing over parts of a sketch that needs refining, or even type that I have printed from the computer.
Any advice you’d give to someone wanting to be a designer and run their own business?
Yes I do! In fact I just posted an in-depth blog post about this topic not too long ago. I would recommend to focus on concept + typography first and foremost. These are the two critical elements across every design discipline: web, print, branding, stationery, etc. A good sense of typography sets you apart from designers without as much experience. I would also suggest researching a ton, and find out what you are drawn to in particular.
Also, understand that it takes time to get to really hone in on your graphic design skills. While in school, and the first few years working professionally as a designer, you will most likely not be where you want to be visually. You just have to be persistent, and you will get there! Humility will take you a long way, so embrace this struggle and learn from other designers, co-workers and mentors to help push you further. Invest in your education through college classes, e-courses and books about graphic design.
Who is inspiring you at the moment?
The designers behind Kate Spade! I recently bought their book, which is full of design inspiration. I go back and forth on my preferred design aesthetic: minimal, or whimsical + colorful? Kate Spade is definitely the latter, yet their branding is refined and consistent. I love their feminine aesthetic, beautiful patterns, sophisticated typography and bold colors. I mean, they are doing something right if I kept a perfume paper sample of theirs, and pinned it to my inspiration wall. Beautiful embossed paper with gold foil stamp… gorgeous details!