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A day in the life of Graphic Designer Francine Thompson

Meet Francine Thompson, a Minneapolis-based Graphic Design student and intern completing her senior year in school. Read about what life is like as a design student getting real-life work experience in the industry, and check out Francine’s lovely home office that she’s curated to reflect her work and enhance her productivity.

Where do you work? Tell us about your space(s).

I work in quite a few spaces! I’m currently a senior studying Graphic Design in Minneapolis, furiously working on my senior thesis so sometimes my workspace is on campus. I’ve camped out in classrooms, printing labs, and laser cutting studios over the last four years. Anywhere with a desk and an outlet is a workspace for me. Along with going to school, I also work at Zeus Jones as a Design Intern. The office is open with a bunch of different places to work but you can usually find me at my desk.

I’ve camped out in classrooms, printing labs, and laser cutting studios over the last four years.

I trade my work desk for my home desk at night. Everything in the area is mainly white—I find that having less bright colors and clutter around allow me to focus on my work. I keep only a few things on top of my desk: a few pens and pencils, some reading materials, and a couple of fun bits and bobs. I found this “Bullshit” stamp at a vintage shop that reminds me to get rid of the BS. Having greenery around, dried and fresh, keeps me happy. I also have a cart and bookshelf near my desk that house books, magazines, and art supplies.

What hardware and software do you use to create your designs?

Like most designers, I mainly use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign on my desktop. I’ve been using Procreate and Adobe Sketch more and more on my iPad Pro. They’re good for when I want a design with more texture and hand-drawn characteristics. As far as hardware goes, I use a MacBook Pro tethered to an Apple Thunderbolt monitor. I also exclusively use a wireless trackpad; I have never gotten used to designing with a mouse! And although this isn’t exactly a software, Spotify is always open when I’m designing. The Rap Caviar
 and Hot Rhythmic
 playlists are my go-to’s when I need to get shit done. X-Acto knives, rulers, adhesives, printers, scanners, and cutting mats are also essentials for school projects. I’ve started to do some more hands-on work too, so I use paint, ink, papers, and magazines as a break from the computer.

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Tell us about your routine (or lack of one.) How do you structure your days to get things done?

The structure of my days varies a bit day to day because of class. Two days a week, I have class in the mornings and then go to work. The other three days of the work week, I’m at work all day. I definitely produce better work on those three days. Each day starts with me trying my best to eat something filling for breakfast so I can push through the day. I’ve found that I do my best creative work between 8:00 am and 1:00 pm. If I can hold off lunch and meetings until after those hours, that’s ideal. I’ll then eat lunch and use the rest of the day to collect inspiration, make some art off-screen, and do school work late into the night. To stay organized, I use both a physical paper planner and sticky notes. Writing down and crossing things off on paper is the only way I can keep track of it all.

How do your space, tools, and habits benefit you? What about those things do you think needs improvement?

I mentioned before that I work in several different places. That can get a little chaotic for me because I need some time to settle in. To offset that, I try to keep the layout of everywhere I work very consistent. I use multiple desktops on my laptop that are always in the same order. I always keep sketches and notes on my right side. Small things like this allow me to work on autopilot so I don’t waste time trying to get organized each time. I’ve also started doing more art and design off the computer to relax. I work with a limited color palette to reduce choice anxiety and don’t expect anything I make to be any good. This nighttime routine is a sort of cleanse from both school and client work.

I think I could improve my to-do list system. The combination of sticky notes and a paper planner mean that sometimes I lose the sticky notes or that they pile up instead of being transferred to the planner. Using just my planner would help immensely, but sticky notes are more fast and flexible. Maybe one day, the system will be simplified!

Want to keep up with Francine? Find her on Dribbble, Instagram, and at

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