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Three Sources You Can Use To Grow As A Designer

I’ve always said that my personality is a strong reflection of everything I create. As a designer, I find it to be an important growing opportunity to explore who I am in order to feed the passion behind the style that I love. When I was in college, I constantly looked for new learning experiences. I wanted to know as much as possible, so I looked for resources to help me grow until it became a habit. This fed my talent and design style extensively. I enjoy teaching myself new things, and it has never stopped.

When you get into a rhythm of self-educating yourself, you search for outside resources to help you continue developing your skills. Many of those resources came from my professors and fellow classmates when I was in college. They helped me to understand myself as a person before myself as a designer, so I was able to see my personality as a design rather than a concept. All of my interests, hobbies and traits were characterized to fit into one design style. Soon after I let my personality branch out into my designs; I would challenge myself to continue my education. Some of the best resources I use include:


There are so many tutorials out there that it’s virtually impossible not to learn how to do something. Tutorials are step-by-step processes. These can be for simple tasks, such as how to re-create a Photoshop action, or more extensive instruction on understanding and using halftones in a vector you just created in Illustrator. For visual learners like me, tutorials help tremendously. Some of my favorite tutorials include Photoshop & Photography Tutorials and Redbubble, but there are tons more out there, especially on Youtube!

Designer Articles/Blogs

Three Sources You Can Use To Grow as a Designer

Photo Credit: Kaylee Brickey

Surely you have a favorite blog that you follow (hint hint)! So much information can be found just by reading a personal review on certain topics. When you read what others are passionate about, you want to feel the same way about something you love, too. Articles aren’t just good for the casual read, they show you the bigger picture. Articles challenge designers to look closer at a project or software program. Articles and blogs provide an exploratory tour of a writer’s thought process. Some cool blogs that I follow are The Design Blog, Millo and Good Design Makes Me Happy.


logo sketching

Photo Credit: Kaylee Brickey, logo sketching

Have you ever been to the design section in your local bookstore? It’s amazing! There are many different types of books to read, but don’t get overwhelmed. Know that they are there to share examples and spark ideas on how to do design. For instance, one design book on logos can open your eyes to new concepts you’ve never thought of before. When I bought my first logo book it was so inspiring to read. Understanding how designers sketch rough ideas really helped me to grow a better friendship with a pencil and paper. Books give another perspective on how to design or creatively think and approach ideas. For a list of books I’ve invested in, visit my Pinterest board. This list is also a good starting point as well.

Self-education adds depth to your design skills so you don’t fixate on one style. There are infinite possibilities to expand your talents and creativity. Don’t let a challenge to grow stop you from becoming an expert in your field. The design world is competitive, challenging and crazy, but it can also be rewarding and fun!

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5 Common Design Mistakes

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you’ve ever been in a room of design decision makers, you know how true that is. There are, however, some guidelines that designers must adhere to in order to create an effective piece of work. Listed below are a few of these guidelines, and like most things in life, they have exceptions to them. It all depends on what your end goal is as well as the message you’re trying to convey.

1) Double spacing after periods

Many were taught to put two spaces before starting a new sentence back in grade school. Unless you had majored in a field like journalism or design that taught you otherwise, that lesson probably stuck. Unfortunately, adding two spaces creates ugly white space that compromises the look of the paragraph. The origin of double spacing goes back to the creation of the typewriter and how it laid type, but the exact explanation is a bit unclear with all the misinformation out there. Just use a single space. It looks better.

2) Objects/Logos too close to the edge

Putting something too close to the edge doesn’t allow the eye to move freely. It creates tension and unease, which draws your eye to it. That’s a problem if you’re designing with a different focal point in mind. If you are placing an element in the corner, like in the examples below, leave equal space on both sides to keep things balanced.

Logo Placement 1     logo placement 2

3) Body type too largegood body type sizeAnother common mistake is setting the type too large for comfortable reading. Above is an example of a paragraph with the font size set at 10pt. It has a good size contrast between the headline and the body copy.bad body type sizeThe second example has the font size of the body copy set at 15pt. Type this size creates a “corny”, amateur quality that is more difficult to read. It also negatively affects the contrast from the original example. The closer they are in size, the more difficult it is to distinguish a visual hierarchy which works as a natural indicator of where to begin reading. I typically like to keep type between nine and 12pt, but it depends on the font you choose. I’ll go smaller for disclaimers and fine print. 7pt font is generally the lowest size you can go for optimal reading. Keep in mind your audience; older audiences may struggle seeing type too small.

4) Inadequate line length

The line length you use depends on how many columns there are and the font you use. A general rule of thumb is somewhere around 50-90 characters per line depending on who you talk to. Too long of a line is tiring for the reader, while too short of a line doesn’t allow them to get into a good rhythm while reading. In the example below, the body text is far too wide. It could easily be broken into two columns.inadequate line length

5) Failing to critique yourself

The first step is admitting you have a problem. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Well it applies

to design as well. Knowing what your weaknesses are is arguably more important than knowing your strengths. Working on styles or programs that you struggle with makes you a more well-rounded designer. You’ll have an easier time adapting to requests from clients that you may not have an immediate strategy for with the current techniques you excel at.

While it may not be a good idea to take a job that is too far outside your area of expertise, do yourself a favor and research as much as possible to make sure you are a versatile designer that won’t be typecast for having one style. Take critiques from those around you. Fresh eyes may see something you have been missing.

Having a recognizable motif is fine for your own personal work, but clients come with all types of desires. Challenge yourself to be able to suit them all!

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How To Become A Boss In The Public Relations Industry

Shannelle Armstrong-FowlerIn April I interviewed Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler who is a lifestyle blogger, lecturer at Columbia University Chicago, communications consultant, founder of a bridal boutique (Haute & Co., where she oversees all public relations, external communication and client communication), ex Manager of Communications for McDonald’s and ex PR Director at Sears Holdings Corporation. She has been interviewed by Oprah. Yes, Oprah Winfrey. To put it simply, this woman is a badass. She is humble, kindhearted and demands respect. What advice would someone so successful give to someone just getting their foot in the door?

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat: Never stop learning. If you wish to advance in the industry, you must constantly adapt to the ever-evolving technologies being used. Wanting to be better at your craft is one thing, but wanting to be better and putting forth the necessary effort is another.

People watch: Part of being in public relations is understanding people; how they think and act. Pay attention to how others communicate: verbally and nonverbally. Are people reacting because of what you said or the way it was said? The more you understand people, the better off you’ll be. Plus, the more you converse with people, the more stories you will have to tell (trust me; I’m the office storyteller).

No multitasking: Surrender to the fact that you can’t do it all so prioritization is a must. Don’t let the inevitable stress get to you because it can literally kill you. Make time for your personal life. At work try and focus solely on the task at hand. If you’re working on multiple projects at the same time, you’ll never be able to give 100 percent of your attention to anything.

Philosophies:Be authentic. Shoot straight with others and try not to sugar coat anything,” Armstrong-Fowler said. “Honesty is always the best policy. Be confident, stay in your lane and be the best you can be every single day. Value clients and work hard to better them as best you can. Give more to the world than you take from it.”

Bonus: Lightning round with Shannelle

  • Favorite TV show? Real Housewives of Atlanta
  • Favorite pizza topping? pepperoni
  • Celebrity crush? Ryan Gosling (shocker)
  • Favorite social media platform? Facebook
  • Coffee person? Yes
  • Makeup of coffee cup?: 90 percent coffee, 10 percent creamer
  • If you could live in any decade, which would you live in? 80s
  • What song would be playing when you walk into a room? “I just want to celebrate” by Rare Earth

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Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Community Management

the online community manager

Source: Boston Media Domain

Most business owners have broken down and created social media pages as a marketing tool for their company. In today’s digital world, it is incredibly unwise NOT to have one.

While having a Facebook and Twitter for your business is wise, most companies don’t understand how to properly use them from a business/marketing standpoint. Just a few of the powerful impacts social media offers to a business include the ability to promote/boost certain posts to specific groups of people; posting daily specials, products and/or services and, most importantly, community management.

Community management is when an individual, typically referred to as a community manager, keeps watch over social media pages and responds to customers’ questions, concerns, reviews, comments, etc. They are responsible for building, growing and managing a particular business brand.

Check out a few key roles community managers should perform every day:

  • Answer customers questions or concerns
  • Share resources a customer requests
  • Help customers feel special and part of the brand community
  • Respond professionally to customer feedback (both negative and positive)
  • Properly execute the voice, manner, tone and customer service of the brand
hubspot community management statistic

Source: HubSpot

Community managers have the ability to turn a negative situation into a positive with a timely, professional and caring response to a frustrated customer. These quick, kind responses can persuade any customer to learn to trust a brand again.

Writing simple apologies and promising to correct an error to offer a better experience in the future can change a customer’s mind almost immediately. I know that it works because it has been my personal experience, too, when I write a negative review or comment on a business’ Facebook page. Just recognizing that I exist and that I am being taken seriously is all most customers need to feel better about a brand.

Community managers are the company glue, keeping a business and their customers on the same page and ensuring that customers know they are a top priority whether they’ve visited a business’ location once, several times or never at all.

Remember, social media is NOT just a tool to share contact information and specials or discounts. Social media, along with proper community management, can be used as a very powerful tool to reel in a new customer, sustain an existing customer or damper a negative situation and turn it into a positive.

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Why Working Out Makes Me A Better Worker

be happy

Being Happy

According to WebMD, when we exercise our brains release endorphins which reduce our perception of pain and make us feel good. Exercising regularly allows us to feel these endorphins more often and, over time, gives us a more positive outlook on life. Exercise can help relieve anxiety and symptoms of depression. It is also a great way to blow off steam after a rough day at work. After working out I find that I’m considerably happier, and it shows at the workplace. When I’m happy, my coworkers are happy; and when a business is happy, their customers are happy.


joggingI function best when I have a regular routine. I prefer going to the gym right after work. I’ve noticed that if I just go home after work, I veg out and watch Netflix and before I know it,  it’s bed time. Working out helps me to prioritize my time instead of wasting it. It forces me to plan my personal errands ahead of time instead of telling myself “I can just take care of it tomorrow.” This schedule leaves me more productive and helps me worry less. Whether you are a morning work-out person or an evening work-out person, I assure you that habitual working out will get the rest of your schedule in line as well.


There’s nothing like trying to be a leader and simultaneously feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. When it’s hard to button your pants in the morning, it puts you in a bad place for the rest of the day. Working out not only helps me maintain my weight, but it also makes me feel better in general. When I’m comfortable in my body I become more positive, self aware and confident.

Restful Sleep

When I’m stressed, the first thing to suffer is my sleep. When I work out I find that I fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night. Since I spend the majority of my day sitting at a desk, I tend to get tired easily, especially after lunch. And when I’m not tired, I am antsy and struggling to sit still. Working out gives my body an opportunity to release bottled up energy so that when I get home I can truly relax, sleep well and be alert the next day.

english bulldog sleep

Now I know what you’re thinking: “But Leah … I don’t want to, I don’t have time, I don’t like exercising.” Well, you’ve read this far so I’ll give you some advice:

  1. Get workout clothes
    Go ahead and splurge a little. Invest in decent tennis shoes, sports bras and outfits. Workout clothes seem like a small part of the puzzle, but I guarantee it will make the experience better.
  1. Listen to music
    Music pumps me up and distracts me from the effort I’m exerting. If you’re looking for some new workout tunes, follow my workout playlist on Spotify.
  1. Give it time
    You won’t reap all the benefits of working out right away, especially not if you give up! Start with something realistic, maybe a 20-minute walk or bike ride three times a week. Intensify the activity over time. After a couple of months, you’ll be a happy, organized, confident and well-rested employee. Now just keep doing it!

leah's workout playlist


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