My passion is using visual storytelling to connect with people. Which means, whenever possible, getting them right where it matters – in the gut.
More specifically, that means I have to go deeper, to the essence of a message. Once I find it, I know what the words and visuals sound like from the back of the room. A great design is a lot like music. It washes over you, pulls you along, compels you to dance.
I’m a drummer in a band. I know the essential value of a steady beat. I’m the backbone. I’m the structure everything else hangs on. If I fall apart, so does the song. Get cute and you miss the backbeat.
Design is no different.
How did I get here?
I didn’t begin my career as a designer. I wanted to be a sports writer. I was pretty good at it too. Won awards and everything. When I left my first newspaper job, my boss – a crusty old guy who once worked for the Orange County Register – wrote a column for the next edition calling me the “best writer I ever worked with.” My mom had it framed. It hangs in my office to this day.
But as I progressed in newspapers I discovered I was a better designer. I have a natural flair for simply and powerfully projecting a message. I go for the gut. I design for engagement. I think that comes from my experience as a writer. I know the heart of a story.
I use my reporting skills to take a deeper approach to design. I break down messages to their essence, finding out as much as I can before even starting. I go piece by piece, throwing away what doesn’t work, improving what does. Editing the writing to fit the visuals, or redesigning the visuals because they don’t properly amplify the writing. Always with an eye on the bigger picture.
Transitioning from newspapers
And learning, always learning.
I taught myself Photoshop and Illustrator when they first hit the scene, which vastly expanded my ability to make the story I saw in my head appear in print. Over the years I taught myself almost every other program in the Adobe suite. If there’s a new way to tell a story, to make a connection, then I feel compelled to learn how to do it.
Which led me away from newspapers – my first love. They were slow to adapt. I wanted to learn new ways to tell stories. So after working my shift at the Seattle Times, I came home and took classes on Flash design, ActionScript and HTML. That led to a few websites for friends and relatives, and then to the job at Safeco, where I started as the UX designer for the internal communications team.
Going deep with a brand
My main responsibility as the Sr. Graphic Designer on the Brand and Advertising team at Safeco Insurance was to extend our brand with my designs and creative direction. I was a creative director in all but title, guiding business partners to solutions that supported the brand and promoted their products, using all the mediums available.
Working on the social media team for five years also gave me great, real-time perspective on communication in a world bombarded with messages. I sum it up in three Ms:
- Make it simple
- Make it pop
- Make it useful
One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. – Bob Marley
Making music is easy. Making great music isn’t. It’s not natural or intuitive. It takes practice. It takes iteration. It requires an understanding of the world and your place in it. It demands a burning desire to express exactly what you mean to, and to have people hear it.
Design is no different.