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Beyond the digital toolkit: Emilee Rudd inspires us to go analog

Designers, get inspired to whip out those analog tools! In a new video feature, we sit down with freelance designer Emilee Rudd to hear how leaving traces of analog process in her work adds major impact.

Learn more about the Sacramento-based designer and what advice she has to lend other creatives navigating the digital space.

My name is Emilee. I’m a freelance graphic designer, lettering artist, and illustrator based out of Sacramento, California.

How did you get started in lettering and design?

What happened was I was working in a coffee shop when I started working on the specials board. I started just hand lettering and I finally made that connection of… illustration and design can be one thing, understanding typography through illustrating the letterforms having that connection with them. As soon as I had that moment, I was like, “Wow I really relate to lettering or really understand kind of the handcrafted look to graphic design.”

I realized you don’t always have to do stuff digitally.

I came from a background of fine art. I did a lot of fine art through high school. When I got to college I did graphic design because I thought it was more of a business-oriented design field. What I found myself doing is — as soon as I started incorporating lettering, I could then access that illustration side of me and do things by hand, and I realized you don’t always have to do stuff digitally.

Why handcrafted lettering?

People really relate to things that are done by hand. You kind of open up this whole realm of textures and intent and personality and different techniques. I think because they have a story behind them or someone, an artist communicated with the consumer or the customer and talked to them about their story. Then, the artist interpreted that through visual design. Having a handcrafted aesthetic to it lets you show off the little mistakes so there are unique characteristics of a design, that some kind of, can reflect directly back on the company itself.

Favorite tools…

My favorite tools are truthfully the good old analog pen, paper, and pencil. Just because I feel myself able to create more with that. I get to play with colors, I get to play with textures, and find a lot of nuances in my design style that I pull into the digital realm. So for me, my creative process is spending a lot of time working with tools like, you know, protractors, rulers, pencil — all of that old school stuff just because I’m able to connect better and I feel like creatively I flow a lot better starting in materials that are kind of messy and kind of unusual and unique.

How do you create when uninspired?

A lot of times for me nature is really inspirational. I was born by the river. That’s always a place where I can find original inspiration. That spirit of creativity lives out there for me. So, a lot of times just putting down my paper, going back out into the wild, and just finding inspiration back where it started with me in the beginning is the best way I can keep off that creative block.

What helps you do your best work?

I’m down for anything honestly. But a lot of times, I find a really great creative process when I get to work with a team. So that could mean a creative director in an established company which are always incredible experiences because I feel like you get to learn but also talk about your expertise. But even collaborating with a mom and pop when you’re doing branding for a local community, getting to work with them, and understand their goals, and their story and pulling inspiration from those interactions. It doesn’t have to be someone who knows design, but they still have input to give them the visual process.

I think working together always creates a better product.

So, I think whenever I look for a project or projects I’d like to take on and see are commonly successful, are ones where there is a lot of collaboration. Whether it be design-based, story-based or just in general. I think working together always creates a better product.

Your experience with Dribbble…

Dribbble is really cool because I feel like I come to it a bit more new. As I’ve gotten more confidence, I’ve been posting on Dribbble. I’ve found that being able to connect and get critical feedback from designers, and having a very design-centric community — there’s not a pressure to post but there’s more creative feedback, more critique, and more interesting comments that come out of these dialogues. I feel as a creative, that’s really refreshing because I can almost get a classroom experience in a way from Dribbble.

Where do you think design is heading?

There’s more emphasis placed on visual currency. So having social media, brands get to have an appearance now. There’s much more value placed in that. So, I think with that, becoming a wider horizon there’s going to be more interesting styles and ways people are standing out from the crowd and pouring more interest into design, which I think is good for design and I’m excited to see where it goes.

The value of authenticity on social media…

It’s a dangerous realm because it’s like a bit of an echo chamber sometimes. People lose themselves in it. You have to be careful as a designer, especially a younger designer who’s trying to develop themselves and understand their style better. You have to put some sort of barrier between yourself and this false digital realm.

As designers, you always have an impact or some sort of meaning behind it. So when you’re just spam posting sometimes, it’s maybe not the most genuine self. But when you really present your genuine self and the times I have on social media, the more intentional I’ve been, and not focused on numbers or likes or followers — if you’re really true to yourself, you’ll find the right people to follow along and it becomes more of a family journey rather than this whole social media construct of who’s the best and who’s the worst based on numbers and figures.


I think a good piece of advice I give people whether it be for design or life in general, is to do everything intentionally. I think people take for granted how long we have on this earth and I think no matter what you’re doing — if you’re doing design, do your best design every time and put a story behind it, put emotions behind it, put yourself into it.

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

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