More Tips for Your Big Day!

design, freelance, weddings

If you’ve been following for any length of time, you know I love a good wedding. I love the details, the sparkles, the happiness, the fancy shoes. Though wedding season in New Orleans never really takes a break (some of the best weddings in our city are winter weddings!), wedding season is ramping up in the frostier parts of the country and I’m working with some amazing brides and grooms this spring who are throwing truly unique parties to celebrate their love! I can’t wait to see how they all turn out.

I wanted to share with you an updated list of things to think about to make your big day even more special and memorable for you and your guests. Last summer, I shared with you a few Tips for the Modern Wedding that I think are still super relevant. I wanted to expand on that list, so keep reading for my next few Tips for the Modern Wedding!

Minimize the number of vendors you pick out of thin air.

  • By this I mean, did you pick a vendor out of an internet search list? There’s nothing wrong with that, but once you find a vendor you love (say, a photographer) you might want to see if they can recommend a related vendor, like a videographer.
  • Your stationer might know an embroiderer and screen printer, your caterer may know a great florist, etc.
  • Vendors love giving their amazing vendor friends and colleagues referrals,which can drastically cut down the time you spend searching blindly on the internet and hoping for the best.
  • Your vendors are getting to know your taste and wedding style, so they will be able to help steer you toward appropriate and related services.

Boozing on a budget? Crowdsource your choices!

  • When my husband and I got married, we decided to leave liquor off the table, mainly for the sake of our booze budget. We had our wedding in the heart of Virginia wine country and had a hard time choosing wines for our 100+ guests to enjoy for an entire evening. Our solution was to hold a tasting at our home a few months before the wedding.
  • We bought a wide variety of single bottles from our favorite vineyards around the state and did a blind tasting and light snacks with some friends who had varying tastes in wine. We ended up with two reds and two whites that were overwhelming favorites, but not necessarily what we would have picked on our own.
  • These wines, along with a keg of local brew, were plenty to keep our guests dancing and happy all night! (And we had yummy leftovers for several months!)
  • Another option we considered was limiting to wine and beer and one signature cocktail. This is another way to skirt the big budget booze and still have all the options. Find a cocktail that represents something special to you as a couple, or splurge on both “his” and “hers” themed options.
  • Remember, pre-mixed cocktails in a carafe or pitcher is best if you are skipping the bartender altogether. Ask your caterer if they will do the mixing for a small fee!

Put those maids to work. Nicely, of course!

  • Host a wine and cheese party and have your bridesmaids help you with DIY decorations, pre-cutting ribbons for chairs, handmade signage, painted mason jars, and all kinds of other tasks. Remember not to overdo and scare your lovely maids off, but one or two Pinterest parties would be really fun!
  • This is also an easy way to include junior maids if you’ve gone that route. It can be challenging to find a way to make them feel included, without taming your bachelorette party or skimping on the fancy lingerie gifts.

Don’t be afraid to have your guests DIY.

  • Pour your own beer and wine is no longer tacky in this day and age! Add some ice buckets to your centerpiece and then no one has to get up during dinner.
  • Buffets are amazing for both budget and ease of use – and the bonus is that you can easily appeal to picky eaters and food allergies.
  • Photo booths are amazing for capturing your guests all night without having to pay a photographer and assistant for the whole event – the prints also make a great take-home gift.
  • I’ve loved the idea of having many small vases/jars of flowers as the guest seating cards. When all your guests grab them and sit, they form one big arrangement on the table! This would work well with potted plants too – which could double as a take-home!

My favorite part about modern weddings is the lack of rules. Everyone can ditch tradition, guilt-free, and have a totally unique wedding! Remember to enjoy the planning, it should be fun!


What is it About Eames Design Anyway?

design, exhibitions, inspirational people

Charles and Ray Eames seem to have come up in my posts a lot lately – about their documentaries and that time Ice Cube had something to say about them. What’s the big deal about them anyway? Weren’t they just some high-end, mid-century furniture designers? Isn’t this a graphic design blog? Who cares about furniture?

Photo from the Herman Miller website.

Well, lesser known today, but just as important in their body of work and contributions to American design, is the graphic design and exhibition work of the Eames. To familiarize yourself with the graphic and exhibit design work, I would start with Mathematica, the 1961 exhibition commissioned by IBM. Though the actual typography is now fairly dated, they managed to use text and flat image on varying levels to create 3D space and multiple-tiered informational systems. The wide use of floor, ceiling and wall space brought a depth of information that was sure to capture the attention of viewers of all interest levels.

This image and more information on Mathematica found in the Exhibit Files.

And then there are the patterns. Oh the patterns. If you’ve ever stepped into an Ikea, you have seen knock offs and ideas inspired by the Eames patterns in many of their textiles.

This image is not from Ikea, but is from Blik Wall Decals.
Beautifully organic yet graphically simple shapes. Easily translated and understood on any scale. We can learn a lot about scale and line weight restrictions from these versatile shapes for use in our age of technology dictating graphically usable space.

And the furniture has inspired graphic designers from all walks of life.


A quick Etsy search of “Eames chair” turns up only 74 furniture options, but 200 art options, including the one by Jan Skacelik above. The simple yet bold colors, textures and lines attract artists and viewers from both ends of the spectrum. The one above is labeled for a baby room – startin’ ’em early! I think it’s the versatility of the Eames work and the simple resourcefulness that continues to inspire people.

Lastly, I have to mention the films of Charles and Ray Eames. Some are childlike in tone and content, but I believe this was just another experimental method they tested to explain their philosophy and ideas to the masses. They’re fun. You definitely finish the films feeling the love and inspiration they had for design, not to mention for each other. I especially love the film for Eero Saarinen about Dulles Airport expansion. Order the films at Eames Office or catch them on Netflix. Dated, sure, but cutting edge for their time and still unique and thought provoking today.

PBS Eames Documentary to Air

design, inspirational people

I just found out that a PBS documentary about Charles and Ray Eames will premiere on December 19 at 10p. If you are a fan, this is supposed to discuss their melding art and life. If you are not yet a fan, you will learn a bit about what Charles and Ray have done for the design world. Also, if you haven’t already watched the original film series by the Eames (Eameses?), this would be a good time to do so. They are available on Netflix, but only the in-home DVD option. They are priceless.

Vintage Car Advertisements

advertising, business, design

Hello friends and sorry for the absence for the last few days. This week was the Governor’s Transportation Conference here in the Commonwealth, which I attended with my day job. A lot of talk about roads and bridges got me thinking about cars, needless to say, so I wanted to post about a few of my favorite classic car ads.

My husband Scott is a long time Chevy fan, and I myself am a Camaro driver and Chevy convert. Don’t tell my dad! We picked up these little beauties at an antiques store in Berkeley Springs, WV last fall – cute decorations fulfilling both my design nerd appreciation of kitschy typography and Scott’s interest in American car heritage. I will say, however, that he is not necessarily a Vega fan.

So what’s so great about these early 1970’s ads anyway? My personal interest is in the typesetting, specifically the sort of over-kerned look that reflects the compact Vega. A subtle nod at the movement away from the over-sized family cars of the ’50s and ’60s and interest in affordable vehicles for people of all economic and social backgrounds – not to mention rising gas prices. Check out the cars featured in Mad Men if you don’t know what I mean. Or if you just want to see some cool vehicles. But I do have to say I love the simplicity and straight-forwardness of the ads, but I cannot get on board with the weird indentations. Must have been some sort of design trend.
I also love that Chevy was loyal to their advertising company, Campbell Ewald, for more than 90 years. CE had time to learn about and grow with GM, becoming part of the company culture and turning out some great, feel-good American advertising, evolving with the needs of the country through the Depression, several wars, civil rights and so much more. I can only imagine that GM learned a few things about what Americans wanted in a car from CE as well. I think this symbiotic relationship is key in any designer-client relationship.


Branding Your Big Day

branding, business, design, freelance, music, printing, Uncategorized, weddings

Today’s post is of particular interest to me because 1.) I got married two months ago and 2.) I would love to start heavily marketing this portion of my design repertoire. I love a good wedding and I really love it when the couple goes the extra mile to make the day as unique as possible. So many weddings are cookie cutter, with wedding planners cutting time and expense by using the same motifs over and over, but what I think we’re seeing more of these days is the DIY Bride. And in some cases, even a DIY Groom.

DIY is great for the couple on a budget. There are one million blogs out there (message me if you want a list!) from which to extract little bits of creative goodness for table settings, guest gifts, decor and lighting and endless other details. One place I hate to see couples skimp is in the paper products department – but I don’t mean toilet paper. Save-the-date cards and invitations are the first glimpse guests get of the type of wedding you’re going to have and the overall vibe they will be expecting when they arrive. Custom invitations that go beyond the standard “our colors are purple and pink and the script-y font means formal” can really make your invitation stand out among the hoards of other wedding invitations the average 25 year old former sorority girl receives in a wedding season.

I really love the idea of “branding” your wedding, which can be done on a tighter budget than you might imagine. We branded the living hell out of our wedding since I am a designer/marketer by trade and nature. But it wasn’t tacky and we received a lot of compliments on the little extra effort in making it very personalized to us as a pair.


Before I set out to create these materials, I thought long and hard about what it was that brought us together. Among the many qualities I thought of that link us, I found that the root of our relationship was music. We met through music and stayed in touch with one another over the years through live music and we eventually bonded for good at a music event. Scott plays the trumpet, so I went very literal with the music theme. The quote on the save-the-dates was personal for me and people that know me well, thus a mix of our two lives was right there in graphic form. I decided that I could never narrow down a color palette, so we went with many colors which later translated into a beautiful display of seasonal, fresh picked wild flowers for bouquets and tables.

The invitations were next. I decided to make a mini music poster that was revealed when the subdued outside of the invitation was opened. I used actual photos of us doin’ what we do (anyone who knows us knows how I dance and has seen Scott play) and from the photos I drew the silhouettes. We also wanted to cut down on the number of questions about what to wear and would there be dinner and should I bring my dancing shoes, so we put in a lot more text than many people do. This touch isn’t for everyone, but we felt it was necessary for our wide variety of guests.


Beyond the save-the-dates and invitations, I created labels for our guest gifts (soaps handmade in New Orleans by the fabulous Emily owner of Sweet Olive Soap Works!), return address labels, and “mad libs” with a wedding theme for guests to fill out at the tables.

With the outrageous price of cookie cutter invitations, I would recommend to any couple that they should spend the money on good design and personal touches over too many inserts and crazy heavy weight paper any day. We cut costs by using a local printer that gave me a great deal – Wythken Printing here in Richmond. If you cant work out a deal for your items, you can see if your printer will cut the price if you have all the components printed at once. Or you can order nice paper online and take it to your local Kinkos-type print shop and print it yourself.

I designed and then ordered the return address labels at Vistaprint and bought blank envelopes to stick them on. For the send-to addresses, I used my same wedding fonts from everything else and printed them on white labels on my printer at home.

I’m in the process of putting together a customizable invitation package for couples tying the knot – incorporating the individual silhouettes idea, among other ideas. If you’re interested, I’d love to talk!

Martha Stewart Design Model – Evil Genius?

business, design, inspirational people, magazine

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of the holiday I, naturally, thought of Martha Stewart. The eternal design question is: Martha Stewart, evil streamlined genius or offeror of accessible design solutions?


In my past, I have been obsessed with the super clean use of white space, well-leaded text and beautiful color photography. In fact, I was so obsessed that I had a big part in designing my junior high school yearbook as a piece inspired by the lack of clutter in Martha’s magazines and as an alternative to the over-crowded yearbooks of the past. Luckily I was surrounded by like-minded editors who didn’t think it was weird to love Martha (or page layouts) at age 16.


I have to be fair and acknowledge the work of Gael Towey, Art Director at the inception of “Living” in 1990 and overseer of all the Martha magazines. Towey is the real mastermind behind the Martha print look. She has won several awards for her design work and AIGA has featured her a few times, in addition to featuring her husband Stephen Doyle of Doyle Partners.

Info on Towey:

Video about Towey and Doyle: Article

Brief history lesson over. What does all of this mean? Well, the Martha model has spawned countless other enterprises in a similar DIY, make-the-most-of-yourself genre aimed at a very specific and monetarily lucrative demographic of modern woman. This woman wants to do it all – she wants a fancy job, well-behaved children, handy husband, organized drawers, toned arms and a killer stash of recipes under her belt just waiting for an impromptu dinner party. This woman is me. Except the kids, but I’d settle for a well-behaved dog and cat.

According to this article, Martha’s company made $230.8 million in 2010. And here, I read that $29.1 million of the revenue was magazine sales.

What’s so great about Martha’s magazines anyway? They all kind of look the same, and they all kind of look like Real Simple, Yoga Journal, Organic Gardening and many others inspired by her success.* But I think that’s part of the draw – women know they can open the magazine and find beautiful photographs, endless inspiration for home life (that may or may not be attainable, not that that’s of any concern) and short and easy to understand snippets of DIY tutorials. The design is nothing but comfort for the busy working girl. The pictures are big, beautiful and easy to understand. It oozes clean vibes, room to breathe and the vibrant covers certainly look nice next to the mid-century inspired chair in the living room. You can skip the big paragraphs and save them for weekend catch up reading. The most important information is either bulleted, pulled-quote or in the captions. I, personally, am equal parts thankful for this simplicity and insulted by it.

So the question still stands: is this Martha concept of print-science horrible? Is it horrible that so many others are following suit, or is it genius?

*Caveat: I am a lover of magazines and have read or am currently read all of the mags listed in this post. Having seen some older variations of Yoga Journal and Organic Gardening, I think the jump to what I’ve referred to as the Martha model was a huge step in mainstreaming these magazines. And in the case of those two, bringing healthy living and environmental issues into the mainstream is ultimately a good thing. But is there another way to design successful magazines for the demographic they’re trying to reach?

Art of Poster Design

design, inspirational people, music, poster, weddings

I love posters. I’m pretty sure I’ll never grow out of decorating my house with thoughtfully designed posters. From nerdy to beautiful and everything in between, I love to hang them in my house, send them to my friends and family and I love to make them too. I even created our wedding invitations to fold out into a mini music-style poster to reflect my husband’s musician background and how we came to be together. More on alternative wedding invitations in a post very soon.


Music posters are a unique genre of design, known for being both extremely artistic and often avant-garde as well as informative, legible and concise. I have always loved the psychedelic and wildly original works of Peter Max, but he has also done an array of beautiful festival posters with a more handmade feel. I have a really big soft spot for the simplicity and the message of equality and peace in the Woodstock Music Festival poster. (Image below found here.)

A few of my favorite poster dudes at the moment are:

Dan Stiles, who has done a little of everything – Death Cab for Cutie, Atmosphere, Feist, Jack Johnson, seriously, tons of bands. I think what I like best about him is that he carries a very distinct style across all work, but there’s not an overlap between projects, as far as content, color and form. Nothing feels cookie cutter.

I really enjoy the super simple and almost bastardized typography on the beautifully silkscreened posters of Paul Gardner for bands like Modest Mouse.

And one of my favorite poster ladies at the moment is Nikki McClure with her beautiful paper cut prints. We have one in our bathroom and I’ve been known to give her work as gifts.

And my last poster of the moment is the work of Ork Posters who design typographic poster “maps” of cities. These are pretty trendy, but I think they have a bit of a timeless feel as well. They’ve been featured as decor on tv shows recently.

I’m sure I’ll be blogging on posters many times in the future. I would also love to explore the poster format for corporate use in the very near future. Long live the poster!

Zine Love!

design, freelance, non-profit

I think the title of this post totally warranted an exclamation point for a change. What’s not to love about zines? Concise little gems of information about a super specific topic or rant, often handmade or hand pressed, full of love and devotion. The only pure form of design? The verdict is still out on that one.

I had the super amazing opportunity to take part in a zine-making project in college and have never really gotten over it (in a good way). Pics below, as I’m having a bit of a time inserting pics mid-post on this WordPress App. For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept of a zine, it’s basically a tiny magazine (often 5.5×4.25in or an 8.5×11 page folded twice) that keeps a very clear focus on a topic. Sometimes the topic is politically and/or socially charged, sometimes a showcase of the author’s art, writing or an agenda. A lot more specific info on the history and purpose of zines can be found here and here.

Zines are traditionally handmade and circulated by sort of guerilla means, often left behind in locations where they might be “needed.” Old school zinesters would have used typewriters, Sharpies, paint pens, collage, cut outs and photocopying for primary techniques. More recently, zinesters have been busy hacking away at their Macs to produce beautiful zine works of art and many are now available on individual websites and group sales sites like Etsy. Zines that used to be issued once a month or here and there can now be treated much like a tangible blog, with home download options or online subscriptions.

Now that I’m theoretically a grown-up with a regular people day job, I don’t frequent the same places I used to and thus don’t have a chance to grab a stray zine very often anymore. But grown-up me loves Kittee Barnes’ Vegan Cook-Zines. As a sometimes-vegan, I find these super easy to digest (pun intended) and kitschy and humorous.

Over the years, I’ve often wondered if there’s a way to make a particular genre of zine more accessible to and useful for “regular folks” like me. I think the zine gets a bit of an elitist-hipster bad rap and it makes me sad for the little guy. Sure, I bet it is wonderful being held in such high esteem among such a small population, but don’t some zines want to branch out and see if they can make it in the big bad world? What if there were mom-zines and a little book of baby stories was available at your local mommy and me yoga every week? Or a monthly business etiquette zine for the busy girl in her first corporate gig? Or a zine for a new puppy owner, seasonal zine for an amateur gardener, cooking zine for the single man? I think a lot of this can be found on the ole interwebs, but sometimes isn’t it nice to have a hard copy reference manual on the shelf?

Maybe I’ll start a new zine. My last zine was a collaboration with a girlfriend of mine from way back who also happens to be a fabulous architect, and we blogged and made a zine about the struggles of women in the design world – the balance between being a hard-ass worker and a really great well-rounded girly girl. We want our friggin’ cake, man. Zine shots below. Cover art by yours truly, interior collages courtesy of the fabulous Shelby Doyle and text from various cited sources.



A collection of classmates’ zines from my college project: