Balance, Design, Products, Technology
March 10, 2010
Designer, bookbinder, and paper lover Emily Hamma Martin has her hands full. Not only does she offer design services and handmade paper goods through her design business, Orange Beautiful, but she is also in the middle of renovating and opening a new store in Chicago (check out her shop’s progress here). Between lighting installations and the sanding and polishing the store’s wooden floors, she took a minute to tell us how music plays a part in her creative process. (P.S. We’re noticing that a lot of our music profiles mention Pandora. What are you listening to?)
What do you listen to while you work? That all depends. If I’m doing production or printing—where there’s a lot of repetitive steps— I tend to listen to more upbeat music. I’m a huge fan of Kenna, and the band Metric, so those two are my go-to groups when I need to get a lot of work done. But my upbeat list also includes a lot of 80s and 90s music: Madonna, The Cardigans, Garbage, Kylie Minogue, and, well, Ace of Base. If I’m doing more computer-based work, like designing or correspondence—things that require more of concentration—then I’ll listen to something just a tad bit more laid back: Jem, The Bird and The Bee, or Kings of Convenience.
How do you listen? In the studio, I listen to music on my computer through a set of external Logitech speakers with a sub-woofer (which sounds great, but my downstairs neighbors might not like it so much).
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? In the last few months, I’ve switched over to listening to music almost exclusively on Pandora. I was going with the free X-amount of hours at first, but those ads were just too annoying. Oh, and the fact that I’d have to stop working every five to six songs to tell it that I was “still listening.” Now, I’m a paid subscriber (it’s like $12/year), and I can have constant music with the only interruption being that I want to change the channel.
Does music influence your work? Do you have an example? My immediate response to this question was “No, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t”—but then I realized that it has actually DIRECTLY affected my work. One of the designs from my first card line has a floral motif with the phrase “Miss You Much” on the front. That is a definitely paying homage to the Janet Jackson song of the same name, which I listened to endlessly when I was eleven years old.
I also have a holiday card that simply says “holiday…celebrate” on the front. Yep, that’s from Madonna’s “Holiday,” which came out when I was five. So, I guess succinct-yet-poignant lyrics not only stand the test of time, they also translate well into greeting cards.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical
taste? When I was 20, I studied abroad in Scotland at the Glasgow School of Art. I really came into a much greater appreciation for more unique music while I was there—a lot of which I still listen to today. The groups that I’ve continued to follow from my time there include Stereophonics, Gomez, and Travis, just to name a few.
Nowadays, pretty much all of my music recommendations come from my boyfriend, who writes, plays, and records his own music. He plays in a Chicago band called Absinthe & the Dirty Floors and also runs his own independent record label, Sidedown Audio. It’s hard not to find out about new music with him around. Many of our days off are spent walking to the local record store and looking for old vinyl, or buying the newest CD release.
What song or artist best represents the work you create? Justin Timberlake. He’s had a long career, starting at a very young age; has reinvented himself several times, while still remaining true to his talent; and he used to like Britney Spears.
Beautiful Life, Ace of Base
Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears
Love At First Sight, Kylie Minogue
All Good Things (Come To End) (Kaskade Remix), Nelly Furtado
Help, I’m Alive, Metric
Love Fool, The Cardigans
Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
Your Love Is Black, Kaskade
Save Me, Jem
Images: Emily Martin
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
March 2, 2010
Caroline De Vita is a talented graphic designer, illustrator, painter and mother of two. She doesn’t have a lot of spare time. She does have an enviable home office custom built by her husband. We caught her during a rare break to talk about all the ins and outs of working from home.
How long have you worked from home…and where is ‘home’? I’ve worked from home for about 12 years. My home now is in a little house in Los Angeles’ Westside city of Mar Vista, and I’m working out of a 200 square foot office my husband built for me in our backyard when I was pregnant with our first child.
What does an average work day involve? After walking home from dropping off my son at preschool, I make coffee while my computer starts up, check emails, make phone calls and start whatever jobs I’m currently working on. I am usually starving my 12:00, so I take a quick lunch and get back to work until 4:30, when I pick the kids up. If I have a deadline, I work remotely from a computer in the house while fixing dinner and watching the kids, 3 and 5. I pop back into the office after the kids are in bed if I still have work to finish.
Is there any form of technology that really inspires you and helps you in your work? I love my Wacom writing tablet. I illustrate as well as design, so it’s very useful for line drawings. It has a pressure sensitive pad, so I can manipulate the line weights to look like I’m using a japanese brush. My scanner is useful and inspiring because I scan just about anything I find, paper, leaves–anything, manipulate it and use it as a texture in my illustrations or as a graphic in my design work, and sometimes I just prefer to write or draw with a japanese pen or calligraphy pen on paper so I need to scan those into Photoshop.
As a graphic designer you’ve got multiple clients – large and small. How do you organize your space? I’m thinking here of your physical space but also your virtual space? This is probably not the best solution, but for virtual organization, I use Entourage Calendar to remind myself through pop up ‘reminders’ of due dates, etc. For physical organizing, I have a small rolling file next to my desk with files for each client. Anything that has to do with a particular job I’m working on goes into that client’s folder, no matter what it is. Every month I go through the rolling file and take out whatever jobs are finished and put into my ‘deep file’ cabinet on the other side of the office, to make room for upcoming jobs.
What item from your desktop can you not do without? Besides my computer, I can’t do without my drawing pad, brush pens and Uniball micro roller pen. Drawing and doodling helps free my mind of clutter and can sometimes inspire me.
What piece of office furniture do you love? Which would you like to replace? I love my old metal office desk and my Aeron Chair. The desk is the right size for me and I like how solid it is, the little bit of history behind it, and that I got my hands dirty taking care of refinishing it myself. I like the way my chair looks and how incredibly comfortable it is.
I don’t think there’s anything I’d like to replace, but I’d like to put up shelves on the wall to my right so I can easily see items that inspire me. Right now I have to turn around to look at my books and things I bought while traveling. I like warm things, like wood and clay.
What inspires you? Old, worn books, looking out my office window at our tall Australian paper bark trees, books I’m reading ….It really depends on where my head is at the time. Right now, I’m inspired by Shakespeare, Johnny Cash, Van Gogh, watching my 5-year old daughter draw her detailed, imaginative scenes, the intensity of playing in my Sunday soccer games!
Balance, Design, Products
February 18, 2010
Graphic designer Jennifer Ramos just renovated her home office. It took two weekends to get up some new wallpaper and move around furniture, purchase a new desk and declutter. In fact, you can see the renovation in progress on her blog Made By Girl.
You just renovated your home office. How long have you been working in that space and what do you do there? I’ve worked in this space for over 2 years and I love it. It has 2 really large windows that let in lots of sunlight for those days when you don’t get to go out much because you’re stuck working! I also have a production studio in my home….but it’s not as pretty, so I don’t show that to the world. I like pretty.
Why did you choose a cool color palette? I figured that a cooler palette would make things brighter & look more crisp! It’s not the largest space in the world so it made more sense to brighten things up to give it an appearance of a larger looking space.
Where did you source the office furniture? Both desks are from West Elm, they’re called Parsons. The curtains are a velvety light blue & are also from West elm. And the white storage unit is also from West Elm.
How do you keep clutter under control? Oh, I hate clutter…it feels chaotic to me. Even when I’m a friends place….I feel the need to organize & de-clutter if it’s a mess. The best thing I’ve learned on how to keep clutter under control is always put things away immediately after you use them…you’ll avoid the clutter later. I also throw out everything I haven’t used in 3 months or more.
The wallpaper is called ‘Mackintosh Rose’ and you can get it a Graham & Brown.
What is your favorite desk accessory? My pencil holder…..I use it everyday and it was very inexpensive!
What inspires you? Pops of color, paint swatches, design books, magazines, furniture, art…..so many things inspire me.
Do you listen to music while you work? Absolutely, it relaxes me. I usually turn on my iTunes on my Mac and let it play….I love Kings of Leon, Amy Winehouse, Chris Cornell…etc.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
February 9, 2010
Timothy Dahl has been blogging every day since 2005 “which in relative terms isn’t very long but sometimes seems like forever.” His home improvement blog Charles & Hudson offers great practical advice on everything from insulation to updating a kitchen with wall tattoos.
How long have you worked from home…and where is ‘home’? I’ve always had a home office but I’ve only been working full-time from home this past year. Laura (my wife) and I moved from NYC last year and our home office there consisted of a 5-ft tall loft area in our 1-bedroom apartment. We called it our “John Malkovich Loft”. You couldn’t stand up (unless you were short) but we managed to wrestle a desk and chair up there and when seated it was a workable space although a bit claustrophobic.
We now rent a small bungalow in West Los Angeles that’s about 900 sqft and since we both work from home it was imperative we had a bit more space. Fortunately this property has a separate building in the back which serves as Laura’s fashion design studio and I use the second bedroom as my main office. I’ve also carved out a couple spots in our back yard that work great and given the incredible weather in Southern California we can use almost year-round.
Utilizing our indoor outdoor space breaks up the workday and nothing beats fetch with the dog or 5 minute breaks on a speed bag to get you revved up again.
What does an average work day involve? I’ve been running the home improvement blog Charles & Hudson for about 5 years now and early on my work consisted of simply writing and publishing posts every day of the week (tougher than it sounds). As C&H has grown into a larger network that now totals 6 websites, my work day encompasses not only writing/publishing but everything else that comes with building a business. I typically start the day with reading and answering email. I write and publish content for the next day in the afternoon/evening and set a good portion of the posts to publish at 8am EST the following day time which alleviates me from waking up at 5am or earlier to catch the East coast readers. Posts are still published throughout the day by myself or team of contributors.
Lately I’ve made more of an effort to network with fellow bloggers and industry folks by attending home related events such as the International Builders’ Show and Kitchen and Bath show. Working from home is great but it’s just as important to shake some hands and connect with people in-person.
Is there any form of technology that really helps you with your work? Although it’s been around for awhile, wireless internet access really changed everything. Working remotely from a library or cafe was always possible but you couldn’t publish or read real-time content.
What I can’t do without is GPS and the flow of innovative applications that have taken advantage of this technology that now fits in the palm of your hand. Google’s streetview and Yelp’s monocle (on their iPhone app) still blow my mind.
How do you organize your space? I’m thinking here of your physical space but also your virtual space (any particular software or program that helps keep things under control?) I keep a strong division between personal and business finances and use separate filing cabinets for each so there is absolutely no cross over. I also value proper lighting and keeping my office on dimmers but my desk illuminated by a lamp keeps me focused.
I straddle the PC/Mac world and find benefits for using both. It has come to my attention that I use about 10 different Google products which at times is comforting and convenient but also extremely scary.
The following programs are almost always open on my computer desktop: Thunderbird, Tweetdeck, Photoshop, Firefox, Notepad or Textedit and Trillian.
What item from your desktop/office can you not do without? A good chair. I could work from a slab of plywood as a desk but an uncomfortable chair impacts all of my work. A neighbor in New York was selling a set of Knoll Pollock chairs and we couldn’t resist. I’ve struggled with one too many crappy desk chairs from Staples that fall apart after 6-months.
What inspires you? People and places. Observing people working towards a goal whether it be an entrepreneur bringing a product to market or one of the kids I coach in lacrosse working on throwing with their off-hand. People focused on their goals and their journeys inspire me.
I recently spent some time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and our job site manager and my fellow volunteers were a great source of inspiration. It felt great knowing we were all working together for a common goal that wasn’t about succeeding in our careers or making money but leaving a lasting impression on a family for years to come.
Travel is also huge source of inspiration and I’ve been fortunate to spend time in areas around the world. I also realize there is still so much to discover, not only abroad but across our own country. If travel can be wrapped into outdoor pursuits such as hiking or snowboarding, even better.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
February 3, 2010
Amy Feezor is the copy director at Real Simple magazine, she is also a freelance writer and blogs at M-Dashing about home design and decor and her obsessions with photography, artisan foods, travel, art, local restaurants, etsy.com, and organizing. This freelance life happens from her Brooklyn headquarters – a corner of her studio apartment. I thought this was a particularly appropriate ‘Inspriation’ after the last post about small spaces.
How long I’ve worked from home…and where is “home”? I have two offices: one at work-work, and one nestled in a nook within my small studio apartment. This is where I blog and work on freelance projects. I’ve been writing professionally for about ten years now, and my home office expands well beyond my desk and my Mac. It’s by my bedside within notebooks I keep handy in case I think of something while I am falling asleep (a common occurrence). It’s on my couch and my coffee table [an Eames molded plywood coffee table that was a recent purchase]. It’s in my kitchen. It’s even on the subway—I find that I do a lot of writing there (it feels strangely private…I even wrote much of this stuff on the F-train). I grew up all over the South, and don’t have an official hometown, per se. So that means that home is wherever I am at the time. Home as has been Birmingham, Nashville, London, Charlotte, Austin, and now home is Brooklyn. But it’s probably not my last home; we’ll see where the next few years take me.
What an average workday involves: Thinking quickly, writing quickly, eating quickly. Quick check-ins on email, Twitter, and my daily blog. Eating quickly again. Taking three to four meetings, in person or on conference call. Trying to find quiet moments to actually think a concept through. And reminders to myself to get up and stretch every once in a while.
Technology that inspires me? My new SLR digital camera. I can’t stop taking pictures right now, and I am really interested in how photography tells a story. As a writer, it’s a new way to adjust my eyes—to challenge myself to look beyond words and learn to rely more on the visual. It’s definitely starting to influence my work. I learned film photography back in college and have a cool metal-bodied Minolta that used to be my dad’s, but this is a whole new ballgame. I am learning more about how to control it and how it controls me. And for the record, I love my little machine so much that I’d probably make out with it if I could.
How I organize my space: My physical space is pretty organized and painfully neat. There’s not much clutter (what a disappointment; aren’t creative types supposed to be messy?). But I just can’t deal. Everything has its place with me, mostly because I’m very forgetful. Being organized helps me be less so. Also, there are folders. Many, many folders. And sometimes, they’re color-coded. My digital space largely mirrors my physical space (read: lots of colorful folders). I have a big to-do list I’ve created in Excel. I deal with bills in Quicken. And I also tend to have a bit of post-it note/Internet bookmarking problem, so I’ve been trying out Evernote.
Item on my desktop that I cannot do without: My red pen. It’s my magic editing wand. My notebook (can’t go anywhere without it). And the calendar…I’m always juggling deadlines and timelines, and need to constantly reference it. I’m still a bit old-fashioned about it, though—I like to have a paper one within reach by the desk.
What inspires me: Great storytelling, whether it’s from a book, a film, a TV series, a song, or a spot-on comedy routine. How my words look in different fonts. The designers I work with. Graffiti. Independent artists and people who post their art anonymously on the street just so it will be seen. Powerful small businesses. My camera in my hands. A big blank wall. Beautiful everyday objects. The Pacific Ocean. Other writers. Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Hampstead Heath in London. People who do things instead of just talk about them. Olive oil. Anything with butter in or on it.
Most important piece of furniture in my workspace? And what I would change about my office if I could? My desk in my workspace and my coffee table in my living space—they’ve become interchangeable, in a way. Since my studio is small, I move back and forth between the two areas to brainstorm, write, and think. They work together as my writing table, my computer holder, my place-to-find-a-pen, my library, and my dinner table. If I could change something it would be more space! A place to have a printer (mine currently lives under the bed). And a cute assistant who smells nice and has large bicep muscles (does that count?).
February 2, 2010
Deb McLean is an Australian stylist with a talent for making minimal look warm and inviting. She also takes really interesting moody iPhone photos. All the images in this post are shot on her phone and her blog has a section devoted to them.
Can you tell us a bit about your work? What does a ‘normal’ day involve for you? Well, actually, as a stylist a lot of my work happens outside the home. But I do have a large office and props room set up in my house. I style for both interiors and food accounts. They are quite different from one another so it’s a nice balance. I arrange all interior propping plus if needed I paint and set construct in the studio. I’m very hands on. In a food shoot I am cooking and plating food stylishly of course, plus responsible for all the dinnerware props and surfaces etc.
How big is your work space? It is around 5 meters square [about 53 square feet]. I share it with my partner Colin who is a graphic designer. We have a media room attached to our lovely white space with big white desks and lots of color-coded designer books. We love our music so when I do sit at my desk to blog [Deb’s blog is Busy Being Fabulous] it is a lovely relaxing space to be in. Each night I spend some hours compiling my next blog entry. I love it, especially when I get such great feed back. It puts a smile on my face!
Is there any form of technology that really inspires you? It has got to be my iPhone! I’m in love with what I can achieve and I am forever shooting fully styled little still life stories for my blog. It’s where my creativity can let loose.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? My Mac computer and Bose speakers. Without them I would be lost.
Do you have any tips for organizing a home work space? Box it. Neat is the word of the day. A work space has to have order so it functions effectively. But, a work space should also feel like home. Books, magazines, fun collections of stuff that inspire you give it a lovely mood. It should have your personality. Clients love to see snippets of your personality in an office space. I love picture mood boards that you can alter depending on you design addictions.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
February 1, 2010
Morgan Satterfield is many things – a teacher, artist, gallery manager, blogger, thrifty shopper and the owner of a house – she is also very funny. Her blog The Brick House chronicles the renovation of the Hemet, CA home she and her husband share with their dog Iggy. (Hemet is near Palm Springs…as Morgan says, Google it).
What sort of work do you do and how does that impact the space you work in? My day job is teaching fine art and managing a gallery at a private high school for the arts. I’ve been working in contemporary art galleries for the last five years and those big white walls have rubbed their magic into my design sensibilities, especially when it comes to my work space. I’ve got to have my obligatory iMac, white walls, sculptural objects, art (of course) and clean open white space. When I’m not at school or painting I also run a blog called The Brick House that’s all about buying our first home and it’s slow and budget friendly renovation in a sleepy retirement community in Southern California. Most of my blogging for The Brick House is done at home in our office. I don’t need much equipment to run the blog, just a home, a camera and a computer. Also, the balls to put it all on the internet.
How long have you been in your current work space and what size is it? I’ve been in this space for about two years. The desk is an original built-in constructed in the 1950′s and is almost twelve feet long when you add together the two sections of the L-shape. It has tons of storage and is a spacial beast that takes up about half of the room.
Do you have any tips on how to organize a work space? Oh no, I just stick everything in drawers and hope nobody opens them. I like everything in view to be beautiful or functional while all the other crap needs to be hidden away. Built-in storage is great for this, if you opened the doors you’d be horrified at the mess but a casual glance gives the impression that I’m super clean and very organized. It’s all an illusion.
What are some of the pitfalls of blogging from home? It sucks up a lot of time. Time I could be using to organizing my drawers.
What do you most enjoy about working from home? All my content and material are right here. All I have to do is look around and go “hey that’s ugly, lets fix it” and bam – blog content. Plus my dog [that's Iggy below] and the fridge are here, so that makes it awesome. Oh, and I can wear my pajamas. I’m doing it right now.
Do you have a desk accessory you can’t work without? My iMac. It’s amazing.
How big a role does technology play in your work? Huge. HUGE. Super huge. Without technology there would be no blog. The Brick House wouldn’t have every frivilous detail documented and posted on the internet for international perusal and judgement without my digital camera, computer and Photoshop. I use technology for my classes and in the gallery constantly. Computers, cameras, projectors and the internet are indespensible when it comes to almost everything we do. Super dependancy, even in something as analog as a painting class. Digital technology is a tool that is increasingly embedded in the structure of working and education.
I just got a new Mac mouse and it’s incredible – is there anything you’re loving right now? I want a new Mac mouse desperately, the scrolling ball on my old Mac mouse sucks. Just so awful. I recently got my first iPhone and I think we are in a romantic relationship. Now I finally know what all the fuss was about.
February 1, 2010
The editors over at Etsy liked Dee Adams’ Oakland home and studio so much they’ve included it in their Get The Look: Decor section. Christine, a writer and editor at Etsy, took the studio as a starting point and put together an amazing list of furniture and objects all from Etsy sellers. She’s done a great job. Here’s just a few of the cool things she found.
1. A red in/out tray from Found Vintage Style.
2. Orange desk lamp from Vintage on the Make.
3. Laser cut bamboo calendar and clock from Decoy Lab.
January 29, 2010
Rob Hopkins is a a young designer and blogger living in San Diego. What inspires him? You’ll need to read all the way to the bottom of the interview to find out.
How long have you worked from home…and where is ‘home’? I started working right out of college which was 3 years ago, so I’m still relatively new to the experience. I live in San Diego, but home will always be Buffalo, NY. I’m extremely proud of where I’m from, which is the inspiration behind The Queen City Studio, right now it’s just my blog, but someday it will be a legit design studio! My apartment now is two blocks from San Diego’s Mission Bay which sports a great view of downtown, and it’s about a mile from the Pacific Ocean. Being in a place with almost perfect weather year round definitely has its perks.
What does an average work day involve? I’ve actually been working full time at an interactive agency for the past year. But, I work from home every Friday and I do all of my freelance work at night or on the weekends, so I’m still working from home quite a bit. My typical work-at-home day is wake up mid-morning, eat some breakfast and go through all of my favorite design related blogs to get my mind going. After a couple of hours of work, I’d head out to my patio to read and/or take a nap in the sun. Wake up, do some more work, hit the gym, eat dinner, and then get the bulk of my work done in the evening/night. I’m definitely a night person. There’s something extremely calming about working at night with the windows open and some music playing. It allows me to get into my own little world and whatever I’m working on becomes a part of that world and doesn’t feel like work.
Is there any form of technology that really inspires you, helps you work more efficiently? I would have to say the iPhone is pretty inspiring. At work we’re in the final stages of development of an iPhone app for a big action sports brand, which I designed, and the experience has been really rewarding. In terms of design, it’s still a very new medium and so much can be done in what seems to be such a small space. The same thing happened with web design. In the beginning, developers (or “web designers”) were the only people designing websites – which made for some pretty visually painful websites. But once graphic designers learned the medium, websites became a lot more sophisticated. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of bad sites out there, but there are also tons of beautiful ones. Anyways, the same thing is happening with the iPhone. A lot of apps are still very shiny and tacky; they use tons of gradients and big rounded corners, bulky bevels—because most are done by the developers that work on them. But that’s changing. I’d bet that most designers own iPhones by now, and we can’t help but look at these apps and want to clean them up. It’s just how we think, and we’re learning the medium to try and establish better aesthetic standards.
How do you organize your space? As far as physical space goes, I tend to like ‘organized clutter’ meaning I like having a lot of ‘stuff’ but I keep it all pretty organized. Whether it’s something large or a tiny knick-knack everything is neatly placed, so I can still easily function. I’m also the exact opposite of a pack-rat—if something isn’t needed or wanted, it’s in the trash. To some, the wall above my desk or the stickers on my MacBook might seem random, but there’s a very meticulous and planned approach when anything is added. In terms of software and programs, I tend to just use my own system. I keep things separated by project, a place for active and inactive projects, source files, copy, etc. I’m the same with files as I am with physical stuff—if I don’t need it, I trash it. We use Basecamp at work, and it’s a really great tool for organizing projects, corresponding with other team members, keeping track of deadlines, and documenting conversations.
What item from your desktop can you not do without? My MacBook Pro. I think it may be the best purchase I’ve ever made. If there’s a fire, there’s no way it’s not coming with me. Oh, this isn’t a tangible item, but my music – I’d be useless with out my music. [Below is a piece from Rob's personal portfolio]
What inspires you? It might be cliché, but honestly, everything around me can be inspiring. It seems like I notice things that most people might not, whether I like them or not I think I take something away from everything I see. More specifically, I think it’s the work of my peers that inspires me the most. There are so many talented people out there doing great work, and at the end of the day I want to be right there with them. Not because I want to “be a famous designer” or anything, but because, simply put, design is one of the most powerful tools in the world—who wouldn’t want to contribute to that? [Below is another piece from his personal portfolio]