Design Is What I Do

I live in a 650 square foot apartment. I share the cozy space with my boyfriend who also works from home. We have very different standards for cleanliness, so sometimes things get tense. Mostly we look for comic relief in the polarity of our habits. He teases me about my need to put things back in their places. To him, this is a sign of being uptight and inflexible. To me, this is a commitment to crafting a space that is uncluttered, comfortable and balanced. I understand that to an outsider, arranging the objects on the kitchen counter just so can seem obsessive. But paying attention to the “right” placement of a particular thing is what I do.

Design is more than just my work. It’s a natural extension of who I am.

I was a designer long before I even knew what graphic design was. In college, I thought I wanted to be a fine artist. I was enamored with drawing, painting, photography and video. I was filled with ideas, and art seemed like the only way to apply this creative energy. I left school imagining that I could teach or work a side job while I built my career as an artist.

It wasn’t until I had been out of school for a few years struggling to find meaningful work that I identified design as a possible career. Even in my first year of design school, I held onto the idea that graphic design would be something I’d do on the side while I invested real energy in self-initiated art projects. This was finally supplanted by the realization that I was actually better at design. Like art, it involved the articulation of complex ideas, but unlike art, each project began with a brief. Having just a few constants, or a clear, definable goal at the outset of every task freed me to delight in the pure joy of making.

I also started to see how design was a perfect confluence of all the things I loved. It required spatial thinking and rhythm, simplicity and order, beauty and craft. I had been honing those skills for years in my art, my living space and in my personal style, but it never occurred to me how seamlessly those skills could translate into work.

One of the most valuable skills that’s emerging in my work has been present in my life for years. I’ve always been passionate about clear communication, and it turns out this is one of the most important and most hard-won skill any designer can have. I think back to difficult conversations that I’ve had with friends or stubborn fights I’ve had with my dad, and I realize how, despite being a relatively introverted person, I don’t shy away from addressing tension. I believe that my natural inclination towards respectful but firm dialogue is the reason I’ve been able to grow my business.

I’m fine tuning my instinctual and learned skills everyday. The more entrenched in design I become, the more correlations I see between my work life and my life in general. At a certain point, I’ll probably stop calling myself a designer. I will just be me, and that will be clear enough.