Typography Findings in Paris

A few weeks ago, I took a side trip to Paris to meet up with a couple of friends and enjoy some time touring the City of Light (or love, depending on who you ask). If you've seen some of my older posts, then you know how much I enjoy exploring typography when I visit a city. Street signs, restaurants, posters; I always keep my eyes open for anything unique and inspiring. Take a look!

Tuning it out: How to work from pretty much anywhere

In the last two months, I’ve worked in every place you could imagine; busses, airplanes, airports, the back seat of a car, coffee shops, pool decks, hostels, bars, ski lodges - you name it, I’ve probably been there with my laptop. Since I started working for myself, I’ve found that having the ability to work anywhere, no matter the environment, is an extremely useful skill to develop. I make my own schedule, so work days aren’t always 9-5. I work whenever and wherever I can in order to meet deadlines and maximize my creativity. Sometimes it’s catching up on emails for an hour while getting my tires rotated or sending off that last project at the airport before boarding a 10-hour flight. It can be extremely difficult to tune out the noise and excitement of what’s around me, so I’m sharing a few tips.

  • Noise Cancelling Headphones: This seems to be the universal symbol for “Please Do Not Disturb.” Listening to music helps me focus and tune out the noise around me, but it also lets people know that I’m hard at work and not looking to be active in a conversation. When working around groups of friends or fellow travelers, it can be difficult not to engage in what’s going on around me, but this is a passive way of excusing myself from conversation.
  • Politely Ask People Not to Disturb You: I’m not a confrontational person, so I’ve found some careful and polite ways to ask people to give me space to do my work. A lot of times, people ask what I’m working on, which often leads to a longer conversation about my work in general (which I love talking about). Other times, people simply don’t understand that I’m working and not just killing time online. In either situation, I explain that I’m working to meet a deadline and ask if we can catch up later when I can give them my full attention. I always keep it lighthearted and say it with a smile so that they know I really do want to speak with them, it’s just not a good time. 
  • Think of the world as your office: When you don’t have office walls, you have to change your mindset about your work habits. When I had a 9-5, I had the mentality that I could only be creative while I was “in the zone” at my desk in the office. I had to have my dual monitors, the perfect music, my favorite sketch pad and markers, a clear workspace. Now, I’ve learned to type on any surface I can find to set my laptop, to sketch or brainstorm on whatever notepad or scratch paper is at my fingertips and to be creative whether or not I had a mouse or extra monitors. It’s helped me immensely to become more flexible and knock down the roadblocks of workspace mentality.  
  • Knock out “Busy Work” in high distraction scenarios: If I’ve tried everything else and I still find myself feeling distracted, I try to cross off items on my list that require minimal focus. Thing such as production work, checking on invoices, sorting emails, etc. That way, I am at least taking care of business even if it’s not the heavy creative stuff.

    Does anyone else have any good tips on how to work from pretty much anywhere?

A Texture Hunt in Japan

I took a walk around the Nozawa Village on a hunt to find some new textures for some projects I've been working on. It's really fun to step back and look at everything you see as something that can be used in design. Brick walls, cracked concrete, rusty metal, weathered wood - take any of these things out of their original context and they can be used in design or become art all on their own. Take a look at some of my findings and feel free to click to download this free package of textures that can be used in Photoshop or whatever else you'd like to use them for. Enjoy!

Creative Collaboration at Lodge Nagano

One of my goals during my trip is to collaborate with people that I meet while traveling. Collaborating is a good way to build relationships, gain outside influence and to create something you never would have been able to create on your own. On the first leg of my trip in Nozawaonsen, Japan, I’m traveling with someone - who turns out - is an amazing illustrator. After seeing his work, the gears in my head started to turn. I knew I had a few projects coming up that could really be cool if we collaborated. This is “Saucy” from Belgium, he’s drawing up something special for a set of ski graphics that I will scan and incorporate into my design. I’ll update this post with the final artwork so you can see the outcome of the collaboration.


Consolidating my Studio to Fit into a Suitcase


When I decided to start traveling and working, one thing that I was sort of in denial about was that I couldn’t take all of my favorite art & design supplies along with me. At home, I have a bookcase full of beautiful design & typography books, drawers of art supplies and cases full of fun paper, Exacto knives, markers and tools. I really had to narrow my quiver for this trip; it was not an easy task and there is already a long list of things I wish I could have brought with me.

A small corner of my suitcase was dedicated to the following:

1 travel journal
1 mixed media pad
1 notepad
1 small pencil case filled with markers, a glue stick, a straightedge, pencils and erasers
1 set of highlighters
1 pair of scissors
Sticky notes
Stamp making supplies (rubber, woodcarving tool, ink pad)
1 box of business cards
Mouse & mousepad
MacBook Pro w/carrying case (& lock!)

I feel a little lost without my whole office, but it will teach me to use the tools that I have to create great things regardless of where I am or what I have. 

Jumping on the Band Wagon: Working Remotely

When I had a job, I had ten vacation days a year. I would spend $1500 on a plane ticket to fly to Europe and sit on a plane for two days to get there. Every time I came home from these trips, I knew it was never enough. I was already feeling pretty motivated to start working for myself and the idea of making my own schedule and living, working and traveling where I wanted, got me so excited. I started freelancing when I was 19, I knew I had the chops, but it was going to take some guts to pull the whole thing off.

Two years ago, when I quit my job and started researching remote working, I found a huge community of people who call themselves “Digital Nomads.” There are forums, blogs, Facebook support groups, tons and tons of resources, even companies like Remote Year and Hacker Paradise that organize trips for groups of remote workers that last for up to a year! It was so overwhelming to discover, but so cool to stumble upon such a solid community of people who were after the exact same thing that I was. It made me realize that I wasn’t alone…I could totally do this. 

So, starting tomorrow, I will be joining the revolution of remote working travel junkies. Packing for four months for two completely different climates has been extremely difficult. But, I think I’m ready.

Next stop: Tokyo! 


Happy 2017! I'm Going to Travel the World.

Two years ago, I quit my job in Lake Tahoe and moved back to my hometown in Michigan. The plan was to reset, recharge and start my graphic design business so that I could work when and where I wanted and travel the world. A lot of people didn’t understand my vision. A lot of people probably didn’t think I could do it. Most of all, a lot of people thought I would move back to the midwest, settle down and go on living a typical life. 

I had lived out west for over seven years. I left behind a life of adventure in the mountains with snowboarding, hiking, California sunshine and an amazing group of easy-going, like-minded friends. The first year was really hard. I was starting from ground zero with my social life, I was living (oh-so-humbly) with my parents, my paychecks went to paying off hospital bills and credit card balances. Business was going okay. My client base was slowly growing, some of the work was interesting, some of it just paid the bills. 2016 started rough; I was recovering from a breakup, I rehomed my dog, Sadie, I was feeling depressed and full of regret for leaving my life in the mountains. I still didn’t know what I was doing back in Michigan. 

A few weeks into the year, my mindset changed. I decided that I was going to stop hesitating about what I wanted and just make things happen. I traveled to Japan for the first time to snowboard. I took some friends up on an offer to housesit in Lake Tahoe for three weeks where I was able to snowboard and work remotely. I moved out of my parent's house. I stopped taking on work with life-draining, low-paying clients. I got advice and motivation from friends and colleagues who inspired me. This string of events seemed to be just the thing I needed to build my confidence to take the big plunge. The big plunge = buying the around-the-world plane ticket to live and work remotely for four months. And it’s just the beginning.

On January 10th, I leave for my “Snow World Tour.” It’s not a vacation, it’s not a work trip, it’s just me living my life…working, playing, exploring…somewhere else. Most of the trip is snow-focused, but I'll be visiting some sunny beaches, too.

I’ll be staying in hostels, hotels, Air BnBs, coliving spaces. Here's where I'll be:

January 12-14: Tokyo, Japan

January 15-February 15: Nozawa Onsen, Japan

February 15-February 17: Bangkok, Thailand

February 17-February 21: Chai Ming, Thailand

February 21-February 26: Krabi, Thailand

February 27-March 25: Morzine, France

March 25-April 7: Grimentz, Switzerland

April 8-April 21: Morzine, France

April 21-May 8: Javea, Spain

Follow along here to see my journey. I’m excited to share my adventures, creative findings and cultural experiences.

Happy 2017 everyone!

#MountainMonday Weekly Challenge

If there's one thing I struggle with, it's devoting time to my personal projects. My work always comes first, and sometimes it's easy to let play and self-growth fall by the wayside in order to feel like I'm doing a good job prioritizing. Balance is important to me, but I don't like long laundry lists of things I should do to appear balanced on paper. The motivation and drive has to be there for me. If I assign myself a task, my heart has to be in it. I had been wanting to do a "challenge." I see a lot of daily typography challenges, writing challenges, sketching challenges, etc. on Instagram and it inspired me to come up with a challenge that I was passionate and that made sense to me. My solution: #MountainMonday. Every Monday for the rest of the year, I will be posting original artwork or photos of mountains. 

Check out #MountainMonday by following me on Instagram. 

Fun in West Virginia

Over Labor Day weekend, 14 friends and I road tripped it to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for a weekend of camping, white water rafting and rock climbing. I had brought all of my drawing stuff on the trip thinking that I would have time to relax and work on some drawings. I suppose it’s bittersweet that I was so busy having fun outside that I didn’t get around to it. Here I am, on my way to Dallas for my next adventure at Circles Conference, finally making some time to do my West Virginia lettering tribute.

Does Typography Exist in Japan?

Every time I travel somewhere new, I start a photo collection of unique signs and letters. I have never traveled to an Asian country before. Last month, when I arrived in Tokyo, my mind was blown with the question of: does typography exist in Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana  the way it does with our letters? I felt dumbfounded, but I guess it didn't occur to me until I was surrounded by it. With latin letters, we have a choice of fonts; script, serif, sans serif. There's X-height (the height of the lower-case letters of a font), ascenders and descenders (the bottom of a y or the top of a t), shoulders (the thing hanging off the r). What is the Japanese equivalent?

As I started observing and taking photos, I found myself noticing characters that were neat and tidy while others showed variation in thickness. Narrow characters, fat, bulky ones. I found a few very stylized and artistic looking characters. This all sounds familiar, right? In a way, I (somewhat) answered my own question. Take a look at some of the examples in the image below and you'll be able to see for yourself.

I didn't find much out there when I was doing my post-trip research. I read this blog, which was very helpful in helping identify different font styles - explaining Mincho, Gothic, Maru and Kaku styles- but it left me wanting to know more. It's a whole new world of typography and design that is completely undiscovered for me.

Anyone know a Japanese graphic designer?

Typography of Japan
Typography of Japan

Hitting the Northern Michigan Backcountry and Ski Graphics Preview!

A couple of weekends ago, I had the opportunity to do some backcountry skiing/snowboarding in Boyne City in Northern Michigan. I have been working with Jeff and the guys at Shaggy's Copper Country Skis for quite some time and they are ALWAYS skiing in fun places up north. And it's rarely at a ski resort. Shaggy's Backcountry Adventure Club

Earlier last year, we came up with this idea for Jeff and the Shaggy's team to host a Backcountry Adventure Club so that other skiers could have new experiences outside of the resort and have the opportunity to meet other passionate skiers. On January 17, they held their first BAC at Avalanche Mountain in Boyne City, there were about 15 of us, it was a blast. People from all over west and northern Michigan. We had young guns tucking through tight tree lines and then the rest of us who were happy about the exercise, exploration and just being outside playing in the snow. We followed that up with a tour of the Shaggy's ski factory just down the road. Great day, awesome snow!

Thanks to Jeff for showing us his secret stashes! I won't tell.

And now, a preview of the new 2016 Ahmeeks!

Getting Involved: The Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce

Almost a year ago, I moved back to Michigan after being a nomadic ski bum for 7+ years. I was looking to grow my business and take a go at working for myself. In February, I got a call out of the blue from a woman named Paula Millis at the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce. She had found my Facebook page and called to invite me to join the Chamber. I had no idea really what a Chamber of Commerce was for. I assumed it was for banks and lawyers to get together and do important things that banks and lawyers do. I agreed to meet with Paula and Pam (the director) to hear about membership options. It was a surreal experience, they ate meatloaf and told jokes as we sat in an office full of windows (with a strange built-in bird feeder) in the historic-used-to-be-a-hospital Chamber of Commerce building.

I had a good feeling about these people. There were definitely banks and lawyers doing important things, but there were also other people - young people! - just like me who were trying to pave the way to something awesome. Joining gave me a lot of options to choose from for growing my business- referral networking, workshops, young professionals groups, entrepreneur resources, after-hours, mixers. In the last several months, I've met so many people with different goals and reasons for being a Chamber member. I've started to get to know people and make connections who have started to feel more like friends than just potential clients. I'm not quite to the point where I'm up to my eyeballs in new work, but I definitely feel like I'm getting there.

Here's the tie in. This week, I completed my first project partnering with the Professional Women's Club of Michigan through the Brighton Chamber. I'm a huge supporter of breast cancer awareness and prevention so I was happy to donate this poster design for the "Powered up in Pink" event. The event supports Susan G. Komen Michigan and highlights some great survivors in the community.

Powered up in Pink Fundraiser Poster for Susan G. Komen and Professional Women's Club of Michigan
Powered up in Pink Fundraiser Poster for Susan G. Komen and Professional Women's Club of Michigan

The Evolution of a Drawing

Shirt Graphic Design for Ozark Threads
Shirt Graphic Design for Ozark Threads

Lately, I've had a lot of clients hire me for illustration work.  This is awesome because it's a skill that I've been perfecting in my free time and am so excited to add to my professional portfolio in addition to graphic design. A couple of weeks back, a company called Ozark Threads based in Arkansas contacted me about doing a tree design to support their "Tee for a Tree" campaign. The project was right up my alley, because, as you may have noticed, I love to draw trees! I wanted to share my process for this design because from start to finish, it was a really fun assignment and I got to use multiple techniques and get really creative with the design.

Stay tuned to ozarkthreads.com/shop if you want to grab one of the final t-shirts or if you want to check out their cause (which is really great)!

My Graphic Design Portfolio on my Deck

My Graphic Design Portfolio on my Deck

Graphic Design portfolio on my deck near Brighton Michigan

When the weather is nice, I pretty much always find a way to be outside, especially in the spring after a record-breaking cold year in Michigan. I decided that in order to do something productive and work-related outdoors, I was going to do a semi-not-so-professional photo shoot of some of my design portfolio pieces on the deck to create some fun imagery for social media and...well, this blog. Over the years, I've done some cool work for Boarding for Breast Cancer, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Mt. Brighton, Shaggy's Copper Country Skis, Wyland Galleries and Oh My Godard Gallery.

It's really fun to go through some old pieces and remember all of the great working relationships I've had and unique projects I've had the privilege to work on over the years. From Michigan, to Colorado, to Lake Tahoe and back to Michigan, I've gotten to do some pretty cool stuff. Reflecting on my portfolio almost feels like looking at a road map of all of the places I've been, things I've seen and people I've met. It's been a great journey and it has made me the person and designer that I am today.