Design + Life

Keila White
Keila White in Design

Design thinking has proven to make business more innovative. This means asking the right questions, testing solutions, then refining those findings. The design process can be applied to living to create a more fulfilling life. Like design, you are never 100% sure of the outcome when you begin. Solutions start out as a hunch and are found through continuous modification and refinement.

People get into a dangerous mindset of limiting themselves to a title or degree. In reality, about 75% of people work outside of what they studied in college. People change careers about four times in their professional lives. When I sit down to make something new, it turns out different than I expected. While I have an idea of how I want the end product to be, most of the time it’s better than I expected. It’s okay to not have all the answers when you begin.

Looking for the right solution involves modifying what works and what does not. Our lives are one big creative puzzle to solve. Here are a few ways to apply design principles to figure out how to move forward in your life.


Define + Collect
The design process begins with asking the right questions. How do we measure success? What are some goals to reach success? What objectives are we looking to achieve? What is the tone or image you want to convey? These are questions designers ask clients in a project brief. A project brief defines objectives before the design starts. A “life brief” figures out what you want in life.



“In reality, about 75% of people work outside of what they studied in college.”


This requires deep honesty and acceptance within yourself to admit areas of improvement. Defining problems and setting parameters for success are the foundations of the design process.

Designs start with collecting extensive research. We collect information on how our designs interact with the real world. We study what makes designs successful and collect inspiration. Collect research on the life you want to live. Look for success stories in your field. Find people doing what you want to do. Reach out to people about their journey and shadow them when possible. Read about them.

Create a life mood board by collecting visuals from the life you want to live. This may sound hokey but being able to visualize your life in a tangible way gives you the means to set goals. Mood boards guide designers when things get off track.


Brainstorm + Develop
Organize the information you gathered about aspects of your ideal life. The design process requires forming hypothesis then testing and finding out what is right. It is an iterative process that requires being wrong so you can learn to be right.



“Narrow down your best solutions and develop tangible steps to achieve your goals.”


Brainstorm ways to build your life. I like to create a list or mind map to dissect information. This is a space where solutions can flow, no matter how disconnected they may seem. While designing, we get or first ideas out as soon as possible to move on to less obvious solutions. This is where the gold is.
Narrow down your best solutions and develop tangible steps to achieve your goals. Start with a few small accomplishments. Try ideas on without too much commitment. Think small then big.

Designers create low fidelity prototypes early in the process. This allows low commitment to solutions and keeps solutions flexible.


Feedback + Improve
Get yourself in front of people to see what works and what does not. Do this early and often. Designers do this by talking about their work with their team and sharing work before it is 100% done. That way we get feedback early on in the process. I’d much rather fix a glaring mistake early on in the process versus after I have worked countless hours on it.

You also get feedback from yourself by trying new things and doing what feels right for you. Also, get a small support group for your accomplishments. People who want to see you succeed and give honest feedback. People you can bounce ideas off of. Design is based on building connections with others.



“Like life, design requires continuous improvement.”


Like life, design requires continuous improvement. Develop and improve solutions based on what works. Get rid of things that do not work. You may need to take some solutions back through the design process to develop them.

I am still designing my life. I always will be. Celebrate the process of getting where you need to be. The key is to know there is always room for improvement and always time to improve.

7 Marketing Agency Scumbags

Thomas Umstattd
Thomas Umstattd in Marketing

Some marketing agencies are run by scumbags. Here’s how to identify and avoid the agencies that plan to treat you poorly. Scumbags are more interested in getting your money than they are in providing a valuable service.


Demystifying Creativity

Keila White
Keila White in Design

Generating creative ideas can be daunting. The white page looms and anxiety sets in. I’ve been there and know it is frustrating. But before you panic, remember that all projects start with a foundation. Even the most innovative design comes from studying similar problems then adopting aspects for a unique solution.


There is a myth that creative work comes from purely talented people. Consequently, designers are hesitant about sharing the influences that spark their ideas. I propose we stop hiding inspiration like a shameful secret and celebrate excellent solutions. Keep in mind,  inspirational work was inspired by other work, which was inspired by another work. So the cycle goes.  



“Think of creativity as building blocks.”



Don’t get me wrong, blatant plagiarism exists. People copy works in entirety and claim them as their own. Despite this, think of creativity as building blocks.


To put it frankly, originality is a myth. This means that starting a project from scratch is a myth as well. Knowing your field and studying other ideas provides the building blocks for problem solving. You may be asking yourself “How do I make innovative work if it has all been done before?” Innovative Creatives collect good solutions (while recognizing bad ones), combine ideas to make new ideas, and look for solutions in obscure places.


Become a Collector of Good Ideas


We are a collection of all we have ever seen, every conversation we have ever had, and every place we have ever been. Through experiences, we collect aspects that make up our personality.


Your creative product is a collection of information you liked or disliked. Your creative style is defined by information that you’ve compiled in your head and then externalized.




“Your creative product is a collection of information you liked or disliked.”


I cannot stress enough the importance of surrounding yourself with outstanding work. You will always have something to learn, regardless of the field you are in. Never let your ego dismiss a good idea. Adapt that idea into the fiber of your being. Get to the core of what makes the idea exceptional. Study the work religiously. Take it out to dinner. Continuously think about it.  Once you have gotten to the bottom of this idea, use these findings to make yourself great.


Have a critical eye and think of alternate scenarios. “What if this website had a secondary navigation to better organize the information?”. “What if this business highlighted its customer service?”. Recognize what is not working to make a better solution.  


Combine Ideas to Make New Ideas


Problem solving requires flexibility. When doing research on problem solving, a one size fits all piece of inspiration does not exist. Find two or more solutions then combine them to make a unique solution. While designing for the web, I often take aspects of several different inspirations and adapt them to solve problems.


Design is like cooking. You take  the excellent navigation from one site, add the color scheme from a photograph, and combine that with the type from a book you loved. Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes, and viola! You now have an original design.




“Design is like cooking. You take  the excellent navigation from one site, add the color scheme from a photograph, and combine that with the type from a book you loved.”


Remarkable designers adapt their ingredients to get a desired outcome. They know what is cooking before the ingredients are thrown in the pan. When something delicious is made, the recipe is used to recreate the dish. Clients pay you for your specific combination of ingredients. Be on the lookout for new ideas to add to your recipes.


Draw inspiration from Obscure Places


Once you train your eyes in collecting inspiration, begin looking in unconventional places. Sound waves can inspire a new line work. A pattern found in nature can be utilized in a web design. A conversation can inspire you to write something new. Everything is fair game, as long as it relates to the core concept. The more obscure your connection is the more original the idea.


Building connections within your work becomes a lifestyle. You are a hunter of elegant solutions.  Skim the world you encounter on a day to day basis. If something works make a mental note. The solution to a problem may be right outside of your window or found in an unrelated discipline. Creative ideas bloom when you are open enough to search for them.  


The act of creating can seem magical. It’s hard to imagine how a finished product came to be. Ingenious ideas are a puzzle. The puzzle pieces must be collected, combined and searched for over time. The process of making ideas is not out of reach. Each project builds off another. Creativity never falls from the sky, it is continuous work and refinement.

Branding through Color

Valerie Costilla
Valerie Costilla in Design

Picking and using your brand colors shouldn’t be a game of “what’s my favorite color?” Instead, it should involve a little brand soul searching. Matching your brand mission, goals, and values to color choice and usage are essential to effective brand communication. The use of color in branding helps convey emotions and creates visual consistency and hierarchy which, in turn, builds brand recognition.


Pokemon: Green Means Go

Nicholas Sirris in Marketing

You are a CEO at a tech company in San Francisco and have to choose which product team to promote to senior level roles. Which would you choose?

Product Team A:

  • $20k in daily revenue
  • $1.1M total net revenue

Product Team B:

  • $10M in daily revenue
  • $160M in net revenue