Make What Ya Wanna Make
This week on Overtime, designers use their skills to help those affected by COVID-19, while certain corporations attempt to promote social distancing through new branding efforts. Plus, tactile illustrator Alicja Colon joins Meg to talk about taking control of your creative destiny and making the dang thing already!
Thanks to Patreon for sponsoring this episode! Visit CreativityOverEverything.com to see how Patreon can help you do your best creative work with the direct support of your fans.
Links mentioned in this episode
Meg: Hey, all you cool cats and kittens, it’s your host, Meg “Hug Me” Lewis, and welcome back to Overtime, where I’ll deliver the design news from the past week and give you the tips you need to create your best work. How are you doing? Does it feel good to hear your good buddy Meg’s voice? You know, I am so thankful for this podcast because when I first started, I thought, “Once a week, what a commitment!” But now I’m just so grateful to have something to do with my time. Because I’ll tell you, work has gotten canceled and postponed. And you know, I luckily have something to do. It’s this. I’ve been scrambling to also get my “find your personal style” content that I’ve been wanting to put into the world forever, into the world, which has been great. I think this is a great time to focus on those things that you’ve been meaning to get around to but you haven’t quite found the time because, I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of free time now. But yes, it does feel weird and bad to be selling myself and selling content right now. So, hi. I feel it. I’m sure you feel it too. But I’m happy to be here because this podcast is my special little comfort zone.
In this episode, designers use their skillset and abilities to launch a project that helps you donate money directly to the Venmo accounts of people in need. And Audi and Volkswagen do their part to quote unquote “help” by redesigning their logos. And Alicja Colon stops by to talk about taking your destiny into your own dang hands and just starting something on your own already.
The system for creative people is broken. It puts algorithms over ideas, quantity over quality, what’s easy to sell over what’s good, you know, money brands and just about everything else over the people who actually make the things. And people just say that’s the way it is. Well, Patreon says screw that. And here’s a wild idea. Let’s put creativity over everything because they’re your ideas. It’s your work that captivates audiences, inspires conversation, and builds community. So, it’s time to ditch the old ways and let your fans give you the freedom and stability you need to do your best creative work. It’s not rocket science, it’s just way better. Visit CreativityOverEverything.com and see how Patreon can help you do your best creative work with the direct support of your fans.
Did you see Fork Over yet? If you did, it’s probably because of me because I’ve been posting about it because I’m obsessed with it. But designer illustrator Justin Pervorse and designer Kyle Turman and friends launched a project called Fork Over, which is a website that connects folks looking to fork over some funds to service industry workers that are currently impacted by Covid-19. So if you are a service industry worker, you know, whether you work in a bar or a restaurant, if you’re in the education space, you do events, hospitality or retail, you can log in and submit your Venmo account information. And then people who do not work in the service industry that have some extra cash to give, can, you know, choose a random person, like it’ll show you a random user that has submitted their information, you get their Venmo handle, and then you get a little blurb that they’ve submitted about why they’re struggling. And so, they serve one to you at random, and then you can just grab your phone and send that person, whatever amount of money you can.
And it’s so great because I had just a little bit of money in my Venmo account that was sitting there that I didn’t know about. And so, I just took that money I had no idea that I had, and I gave it to somebody. And you know, they responded pretty much instantly, and they left a comment on my Venmo money that I had sent them. And they said that that money paid for their groceries for that week. And I felt incredible about it and it made me feel a little bit better for just a little bit of time, which is helpful.
But obviously, these people must have a phone, they must have service internet, you know, they’ve got to have a bank account, they have to have Venmo. So, you’re helping somebody who has the privilege of having those things already. And so, if you’re looking to help people that have even less than that, who don’t even have a smartphone or bank account, then of course, there are other nonprofits that you can donate to that will help other people as well. But I think that this is a great example of designers, developers, illustrators, using their skill set to facilitate making the world a better place. And especially if you’re in this situation where your work has not been affected right now and you can afford to give a little bit of something to someone else, it’s amazing to do so.
And I think this has been a really great way for me to do it without, you know, taking a ton of my time or having to do a bunch of labor or, you know, design tasks. I feel like a lot of designers right now are doing design work to help, which is wonderful and helpful if you have a lot of free time. But sometimes we don’t. And especially if you’re somebody who has a lot of money coming in, and you don’t have free time right now, then use Fork Over or use your app to Venmo people. And it makes the world a better place helping people out right now, which is a good thing to cling on to.
And since, you know, the past couple of episodes, I have been doing a lot of automobile logo redesigns. And it seems like everybody’s doing a refresh right now and that does not exclude Audi and Volkswagen who did their part to help by redesigning their own logos for a fun gimmicky social media campaign to promote staying at home and social distancing. So, for example, Audi has a logo with a bunch of rings. They had an animation that showed the rings coming apart and not touching anymore. And then it said, stay at home, something like that. And uh, thanks Audi? You know, my first reaction was like, “Come on, you didn’t need to say anything, like that seems pointless. Like you’re just trying to have a voice right now and say something that seems topical.”
But then I thought, you know, it’s helpful that the message is getting spread around because the more times we hear stay at home, maybe the more times we’ll take it seriously. And perhaps there’s Audi guy, you know, this guy that doesn’t listen to anybody but loves his Audi. And he’s like, “Nobody tells me what to do. I’m not staying at home. You can’t take away my freedom.” But then once Audi posts his message, maybe he’s like, “Oh, my favorite brand wants to stay at home. I better do it. I care about their voice.” Okay, that seems very unlikely, but maybe it’s true. And maybe the more people we have telling us to stay at home, the better, because then people will start taking it more seriously and listening to it. I don’t know. I don’t know at all.
So, I feel conflicted about these messages. But I think the biggest part I feel most conflicted about is the fact that Audi, Volkswagen, maybe use your own resources in more helpful ways, like using your factories for good, or perhaps using the extra resources you have, or maybe even money that you have to make the world a better place and help people that don’t have as much as you have right now. I don’t know. We’re all figuring this out together.
And I think brands, much like, you know, Pride Month or Black History Month or Women’s Month, I can’t remember. Women’s International Women’s Month? I don’t remember what it’s called. I’m sorry, I’m a bad woman. I feel like brands, anytime anything happens, they’re all just scrambling to feel relevant and to have something to say. And there’s not really a rule book on this. If there is, let me know because there should be. That would be helpful for people to read. I don’t think anybody knows what to do, and so they feel like they have to say something and something is better than nothing in their minds, because then they don’t want to seem tone deaf, like they’re not addressing the issue, I get it. But as creatives and designers, I think it’s important to think about what we can do that’s actually helpful. And I think a lot of it has to do with utilizing your skill set. Any available resources or free time, time is a resource, anything that you have that’s available to you right now that other people may not have, utilizing those things to help people and to give those things to other people that don’t have them is helpful.
And for me, what I like to do anytime I’m trying to be relevant and help people is I always zoom out and look back and think, is this benefiting me more? Or is it benefiting other people more? And, you know, I think the best projects have a little bit of a balance of both. It’s helpful if you can raise awareness for yourself as well as help other people, yes. But I think if it’s benefiting you more than it is them, but the message looks like it’s for them, then we’ve got a problem. So that’s what I always try to keep in mind there. Who benefits more? But also, I know If you feel anything like I do, and you’re just full of anxiety and you feel like design is pointless right now, and why even bother because the world is falling apart, I think it’s important that you first put on your own oxygen mask before helping other people with theirs. And that just means get yourself in check. Do what you can, listen internally to give yourself what you need to get back on your feet and to feel better. As soon as you’re in a clear headspace and a better, more fulfilled place mentally, then you can start working to help other people. And if all of this chaos in the world is making your brain feel jumbled and cloudy, I get it. It’s doing that to everyone. So, fix yourself first. Relax, take a deep breath, stay off social media and the internet, news for just a little bit. Get yourself back up and running and then use your resources and extra time to do some good and help.
Now you know I’m a huge fan of taking your career into your own hands and not waiting on anyone else’s approval or permission to just make the dang thing you want to make. And you know, when I think of all the amazing creators in the world, my friend Alicja Colon comes to mind first because Alicja recently founded Thrice Studio, which is a tactile illustration studio. And you know, she created the studio from scratch and it 100% offers such a totally unique service that’s so specific to Alicja’s skillset and personality. And guess what, Alicia is here with me today.
Meg: Hi, Alicja!
Alicja: Hey, so glad to be here with you, Meg.
Meg: Yay, me too! It’s good to see your smiling face, even though no one else can right now.
Alicja: That’s good because my hair is only half curled so you don’t need to view this mess.
Meg: So, can you tell us quickly about what Thrice Studio does and what tactile illustration looks like?
Alicja: Right, right. So, tactile illustration is actually making pictures with tactile things, tangible things that we can hold. And then I photograph them or animate them or whatever. But we take these analog things, we form them in a way, then we take a digital image of that thing, and then we animate it or we just, whatever, but we give it to our client and off to print land it goes, it’s amazing.
Meg: It is amazing. It’s really fun. I’m such a digital designer that anytime somebody does anything physically and tangibly, it blows my mind because it’s such a skill that I don’t have. And so, I get really excited when I see that other people can do something that I can’t do. So, I know all about your history and where you’ve been throughout your career, but kind of take us through your career up until now and how you got to the point where you said like, “Screw it. I’m starting a tactile illustration studio.”
Alicja: Okay, awesome. So, I will try to make this as fast as possible and put a 15-year career into a bucket. Let’s see. So, I started as a print graphic designer. I did a lot of work and a lot of print, and then from there, I went into photography because, as you guys know, it’s easier sometimes to make the photos than find the photos. I realized I love photography, but doing private commission photography and weddings, it means that I was gone nights and weekends, which was the time that my growing family was available to hang out. So then at that juncture, I decided, you know what, when I was a graphic designer, I was also really good at managing projects and stuff. So, I decided to become a digital project manager for a creative agency out in Savannah, Georgia. And then from there, they tapped me on the shoulder, and they were like, “Hey, would you think about maybe doing commercial photography?” And I was like, that would be cool. And so, then I got into that.
But while I was doing that, and I was traveling a bit more now, granted, for the most part weekdays, I was at home. The pressure of trying to do a shoot on the West Coast when I’m on the East Coast, trying to find locations and models and props and styling, all that, it just became too intense and it wasn’t fun anymore. But I still loved photography, and I loved the strategic side of it. So, I was thinking, “How can I still make a statement, still use photography?” And then at that point, that’s when set designs came into play. And that’s when Super Team Deluxe, I know you guys already had Raji on here and so Raji tapped me and he said, “Hey, would you like to do some really fun lapel pin photography?” And I’m like, “Well, that seems like a dumb question. Yes, please!” And so, then I got to explore fake blood and glitter and water and just random things that all took come together to communicate a certain thing and be super fun.
Meg: That is amazing. And I love that so much because you’ve taken all these parts of your career that have brought you to where you are, and you’ve made one thing out of all of it. I think that that’s what makes your work so special is the fact that you’re just very good at the craft of creating these pieces with the photography aspect. And you are so good at taking people through your process and showing behind the scenes. And the part that I find the most interesting is how you do the lighting. And then once the photos happen, then you go in and you edit the photos and you make the paper and all the shapes that you’re making look even better through photo editing. And that’s not something that almost anybody can do. It’s something that you can do because it’s such a reflection of all these skills that you have that you’ve collected throughout your career. And I love that. So, was it, would you say that it was a breeze getting started creating this business or did you hit some rough spots? I want to make sure we’re not just doing a highlight reel here.
Alicja: Right, no, no. I would say that there’s definite rough spots. I mean, I’m a year into it now already and I would definitely say that I’m still in some rough spots every once in a while, kind of wondering like, “Can I make this happen?” But then I realized just the sheer fact of how much I’ve already done, thinking that if that’s just the trajectory of year one, all I need to do is continue to push myself. And the way that I see it is, I need to be more stubborn than my obstacles. So, if there’s something that I’m pushing up against like, perhaps it’s maybe I need to learn animation, change what I’m doing with my paper stuff, but expand that service somehow, then it makes it more marketable. Like, do I need to go into children’s stuff because paper really seems to connect well with, you know, the younger ages? Or do I need to do more complex scenes, or do I need to be more minimal? I don’t know. But I’m iterating, and I’m trying and exploring because I’m stubborn, really.
Meg: It’s been really fun to watch you experiment with your work over the past year. I think it’s been so fascinating, and I particularly love the pieces where you’re playing with texture, and you’re bringing in additional elements because I think a lot of people would center your work around paper because you use paper a lot. But I love the pieces, especially where you started with Super Team Deluxe, where you are using like, I can’t remember now, I wish had the shoot in front of me but I feel like there was like, was there fog? I feel like you use fog sometimes.
Alicja: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Any time I can add in an atmospheric something or other, it just makes it so much more, just adds a lot of depth. So, with the project that you and I did together, I used fur, and it was crazy because it got everywhere, and I mean glue and fur generally becomes really sticky. So anyway, so that was really fun. And then, Jell-o. Just making forms out of Jell-o and suspending it.
Meg: Would you say that you are – do you enjoy solving problems? Like if you’re dealing with an “a lot of sticky fur” situation, are you like, “God, I gotta keep going or else you know, I have to keep going until I make this work?”
Alicja: I do. I like that a lot. But I think that sometimes, I’ll forget to iterate, meaning go and like, “I’m just going to stick with this thing and it’s really difficult,” when it’s like, “No, Alicja, if you just sat there for like, five minutes, and thought like, okay, how can I not get glue all over my body while I’m doing this?” There’s a solution out there. And that’s what I think I’ve learned over the past three years of doing paper illustration as a whole, right, because two of those years was with Focus Lab, is really it takes about seven times, like three to seven times for me to really figure out how to do it. And so right now I’ve launched a stationery, which is a paper craft kit business and every template goes through at least seven to nine iterations because at this point, I’m not looking at how do I make it perfectly. Like if Meg picked this up, how could Meg put this together?
Meg: Oh, I love that you’re thinking of me specifically. You know, I think you should use me as a use case because I am so impatient. I don’t love solving problems. And so, whenever I have anything that’s physical in my hands like a craft, I’m the worst because I’m just like, “I just want it to be perfect immediately.” And I get frustrated I can’t undo everything. And so, you really should be probably thinking of me.
Alicja: I’ll have a picture of you cut out and be like this is my use case right here.
Meg: But I think it’s really wonderful, and that’s why I’ve really enjoyed working with you on a couple of projects. Because I think it’s so easy for creatives to say, somebody like me, who’s a digital designer, to look at your work and be so jealous of the fact that you can do all these things that I just can’t do and don’t enjoy doing. And for a long time in my career, I would fall into those slumps where I would see somebody that was so talented in an area that I was just so naturally bad at. And I would get jealous, and it would make me feel bad because I tried to do paper illustration, and it wouldn’t go well, and it’d be so frustrating. And now that I’ve become a little bit more confident about what makes me unique and the skills that I have as a designer and I found my own niche for myself, it allows me to then celebrate other people like you who are doing things that are different from me and then that way, we can work together. And I feel like the stuff that we have done together; it’s been so much more amazing than stuff that I could ever make on my own. So, I think it’s been really fun to think of you, and I hope other designers do, as an extension to the services that I can provide. Because, heck, I cannot provide these three-dimensional services for anybody. So, it’s been really fun to bring your work into the digital world that I’m working in. Because I think it just has made it a lot richer.
Alicja: Yeah, I completely agree. My best work is always in collaboration.
Meg: Yeah, it’s so good. And so I think like, over the last couple years, some of the more interesting conversations that we’ve had, and I don’t want to make this one of those things where I feel like a lot of times women get asked about being parents more often than men do. I like talking to you about it, because in the past we’ve had some conversations where I do not have kids, I don’t know if I want kids. I’m such a career-minded person that I’m always like, I don’t know, I think designing a human would be fun. But also like, I’m just so career focused that I don’t know how I would be able to make it work. And I’ve loved our conversations in the past because I feel like I look to you as a really great example of how I would like to make it work because you have kids, you work from home a lot of the time, you have to work around their schedules, but you’re still executing amazing work. And I know that that’s been really a structured process for you. So, can you walk the audience through a little bit of how you deal with having kids and working around their schedule and making your own schedule around that.
Alicja: Yes. So, I’m very much a big believer in like, redeem the time. So just trying to figure out the pockets of time that I have and making them as productive as possible. But that starts with the big chunk of school days. So, I’ve decided not to homeschool my kids. Anybody who does is heroine or hero in my eyes. I decided not to do that. So, I only work when the kids are at school. So, my day starts when I drop them off at the bus stop and then pick them up. So, I only work between five and five and a half hours a day. And so, in order to do that, I obviously have to have some very awesome focus and time blocking, and some management skills. And then after that, like once they get home, I get them off the school bus, we do all of our regular chores and whatnot, and then we have tech time from like, 5:30 to seven o’clock every single day. And I know that that is a time that I can do work if there’s extra work that I need to do.
But what I’ll often do is that for me, I have to craft things by hand. So that means that I don’t have to be in my studio, which is my garage, I converted my garage into a studio, so I’m working from home, but what I can do is I can make those things on the dining room table while the kids are just doing their thing. So, I’m still there. I’m still a presence. But one of the things that I learned no matter what, because, you know, during the summer, they’re here, and we have a nanny that comes and helps us during the summer, but if they come in here, I stop them and I ask them what they want. And I just try to make sure that they understand that I am working, why that’s important, but b) they’re important enough to be able to stop what I need to do. But we have to set parameters around what’s worth stopping for. And that’s just a conversation and for them to learn priority, and for them as children to understand sometimes, I’m not the priority. I’m not number one, there are other things that are more important than me.
Meg: Wow. Yes, I love how methodical and smart you are about all of this. And I’m sure that having a family to financially support has given you a lot of pressure to keep your own business financially viable. And I hear that a lot from other parents where they’re like, “Well, I had to, when I went out on my own, I had the pressure of I had to figure out how to make this make money quickly because I had people that I had to pay for. It’s not just myself.” And so, has that informed the structure of your business at all?
Alicja: Oh, absolutely. So, a lot of that has informed how I deal with the inflow of cash. And so I read this amazing book, it’s called “Profit First.” Actually, when I left Focus Lab, my boss at the time told me that, “Hey, if you’re going to start a business, this is a book that you need to read.” And the thing that I loved about the book is that it kind of taught me how to manage my money in a way that there’s not these huge, like, crests of waves, and then you know, goes down and then up, you know, kind of like mountains and valleys. But instead, what ended up happening is that I was able to manage the money and not just look and go, “Oh, man, I have all this money.” Instead say, “Oh, no, I’m going to put that aside, I’m only going to pay myself a little bit.” And so, then at that point, I can see a runway that I have. So, it has really influenced the way that I pay myself and how I manage the money.
Meg: That’s so thoughtful and so incredible. I think I’m hoping that all of the listeners have learned so much because we’ve covered a lot of topics here from, you know, pivoting in the work that you’re doing as a creative into the space in offering a service that only you can offer. We’ve covered hitting rough spots and creating your business and how to work around that and how to deal with keeping your family alive, how to make your business financially viable. So, thank you so much, Alicja, for being here. Is there anything specific that you’d like to promote?
Alicja: Oh man, I would really love to share Unstationary.Store. It’s a paper craft kit but there’s also life lessons because we think paper craft is therapy for us and so we just wanted to share that with the world.
Meg: And they’re beautiful kits, so thank you for making them. And where can everybody find you on the internet?
Alicja: Oh, you guys can find me @AlicjaColon. That’s with a “J” and Colon is like “colon.” So anyway, I’m sure it’s going to be typed out for you. So, don’t worry about it.
Meg: It will be. Alright, thank you so much, Alicja.
Alicja: Alright, thank you!
Meg: And I think that’s it. Did you know that we have a Dribbble hotline going on? A place for you to call in and share whatever the heck is on your mind throughout all of the chaos that’s happening in the world. So, you know, call this number, it’s 1-833-DEZIGNZ spelled weird with “Z’s,” 1-833-DEZIGNZ. And leave us a voicemail sharing your thoughts whether you’re feeling great, goofy, sad, or bloated. You know, call 1-833-DEZIGNZ and leave an audio message and you’re recording plus my response, if I have one, might be featured on this podcast.
And that’s it for this week’s episode of overtime. Please stay healthy, wash your hands, take care of your mind and body, and do whatever you can to keep those around you safe and healthy too. And let’s keep lifting up the community, especially as creatives. Let’s use our skill set and our ability to make the world a happier, healthier place and give whatever extra resources we can to others whenever we can. Let’s band together and lift each other up. And if you want to continue the conversation on the internet, if you have Internet, you might if you’re listening to this podcast, use #DribbbleOvertime. And if you want to contact me, my handle is @DarnGooood. That’s darn good with four “O’s.” And that’s it. Bye- bye, hear me next week!