Design a Life You Love



Life update - I've graduated uni (hurrAHH!) and I started full-time work as a designer in September. It's funny because I didn't see myself ending up in this job, despite it having always being huge part of my life, who I am and how I do stuff.

I’ve always “had an eye” for design, I guess. Like most designers, and most millennials, my design career actually started back in 2001 on the best design software of all - Microsoft Paint. Just using the Paint Bucket to fill in a block of green grass against a block of blue sky started off my connection with colour and colour palettes. Adding a yellow circle for a sun introduced me to shapes. And picking out Comic Sans MS from a list of approximately 7 available fonts was my first experience of typography.

Then came the Winnie the Pooh “Print Studio” CD-Rom in a stocking on my sixth Christmas and opened up a whole new world to me. All these things I could design on my dad’s chunky, black, box-like Dell computer! Greeting cards, business cards (I pretended to know what these were), place names, invitations. My sister and I used to design and print place names for my grandparents when they came round for a Sunday roast. You know, just in case we couldn’t decide quick enough at the table where everyone should sit.

My first experience of web design was watching, ever-so-intently, my dad design and manage his Guernsey tourism website, ‘Island Life’. He’d show me the different web pages, images, even domain name websites (thrilling stuff). I can’t have been more than seven years old. I remember thinking how fun it looked (don’t judge me) and how much I wanted to have a go myself. Dad probably wasn’t too keen on letting me mess up his website (fair enough) so as a compromise, he’d put up mine and my sister’s latest Paint masterpieces on his “Kids Corner” page. Bless him.

A few years later, at the age of about 10, all of my website dreams came true. Piczo was made. For those of you not familiar, Piczo was a website where you could build your own websites. Create an account, choose a theme, build a website about anything you like. Now I’m not sure if Piczo was just insanely easy to use, or if it was because I was a 90s kid and was born using a computer, but it took me a maximum of 0.6 seconds to figure out how to use it and then between the ages of 10 and 12, building Piczo sites was what I did in my spare time. Forget dance class, sod the piano practice, all I wanted to do was sit at my computer and make a website about my dog. Or dolphins. Or Girls Aloud. I had a little pink notebook with all my usernames and passwords for all my Piczo websites. There must have been at least fifty of them. Piczo taught me the basics of website building. Colours, text, images, spacing, hyperlinks, layout.

As with all these things as technology advances, Piczo died out. (R.I.P. Piczo, you are sorely missed). The next thing to entertain me after school was Bebo. Bebo was in the pre-Facebook days. You could say it was MySpace for pre-teens. You friended people, they could write on your wall, and each day you could give someone ‘The Luv ❤️’ (only one person per day though - choose wisely kids). Bebo was my first social media platform but I didn’t just love it for that. Oh no. I loved it because you could have a theme for your Bebo profile. Your whole Bebo could be pink and sparkly, or rainbow, or blue and red polka dots (I remember being genuinely disappointed at how boring Facebook looked). OR it could be anything you wanted it to be, if you designed your own theme!

So OF COURSE, that’s what I did. But this was still only 2007. Photoshop was in its early days of life, and certainly not in my life at the age of 11. So I made my Bebo themes on none other than.... you guessed it - Paint.

Paint is honestly where it’s at peeps.

I didn’t just make themes for my own Bebo profile though. That wouldn’t fill my time! So I made Bebo themes for my friends too. Typed their names at the top. Personalised Bebo themes - what more would you want in your life?

My love for web/graphic design continued throughout my teenage years. The homework we got set in ICT classes in year 8 to make a website about anything we wanted was most definitely the highlight of my year. And any opportunity to design a poster or a front cover for my ring binders? Well, I took it.

At the age of 14, I got my first website client. I say that.... they weren’t paying me and they didn’t exactly *ask* me to make them a website, but that’s besides the point. I’m sure you’ll know them - do the names Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield ring any bells? It started off as a fan twitter account for them both - which they both followed and messaged me on - and I managed to get over 10,000 followers to follow it too. Then the lightbulb went off - I should make a website! This time? Wordpress.

So I made a Wordpress account and built a website for Phil and Holls. All their latest TV work, updates, photos, it all went on there. The fansite phase lasted about two years, and I kept the website updated because clearly I didn’t have anything better to do with my life. Little did I know that 8 years later I would actually be making websites for paying clients. Unfortunately not A-list celebs though. How have I managed to go DOWN the ladder on that one?!

Design remained a big part of my creative outlet, along with music and making videos. Then two and a half years ago, my yoga teacher approached me. “Steph, do you happen to know anything about websites? I really need mine updating but I don’t know how and I don’t have the time...”. I felt my little soul light up.

So I re-designed the Beinspired Yoga website. And then I started designing their newsletters. And making their posters and flyers. And staying up all night just because I lost track of time in my little website making world. And I started getting paid for doing something I loved (which, let me tell you now, is life-changing magical stuff. I highly recommend it.)

I was at uni when I started doing the design work for Beinspired. Uni work was rare (but you know that whole story already) so I had loads of time to really get stuck into this kind of work. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left uni - there were so many forms of media production that I loved. But design was always in my mind as an option. When a job opportunity landed in my lap (well, in my WhatsApp Messages, thanks Megan) to do web + graphic design work, it felt SO right.

So here I am. Working as a full-time Designer at Donkeylogic. Spending my days putting together colour palettes, choosing fonts, playing with shapes, drawing illustrations, designing logos, dreaming up websites and designing them into reality. I even do it in my sleep, genuinely. In my half-asleep dreams I’m always putting shapes together and picking colours.

I didn’t always know I wanted to do this. At one point, when considering this line of work, I thought, ‘I can’t draw to save my life, how can I be a designer?’. I didn’t know until this job opportunity came along and it felt so right (even though I couldn’t understand why exactly). But actually, reflecting on this, perhaps it was the obvious path for me all along. Paint, Pooh Print Studio, Piczo, Bebo and Dad (I’m sure you’re the reason that I’m the design geek that I am today).

I love technology, I came out the womb knowing how to work a mouse and keyboard, and I grew up with the web + design software (you’ll be pleased to know that my design software of choice is now Adobe Illustrator, not Paint. I still love u Paint). My inner designer comes with me through everything in life - she even determines what photos I post on Instagram (if it doesn’t go with my grid, it doesn’t get posted) and how my books are arranged on my bookshelf (the yellow cover HAS to be next to the pink one, not the orange one and if it doesn’t have a bright and colourful cover, that book is going in a box, not on display).

Despite the fact I usually dress head to toe in black, I’ve always loved colour (my most favourite thing in the whole wide world as a kid was a rainbow), I’ve got a very visual brain (no maths, thank you very much) and I’ve always been obsessed with handwriting/lettering/fonts (at school, my friend Laurel and I used to practice our handwriting just for fun. Nothing has changed there actually). It makes sense that I’d end up in this field of work, even if I didn’t see it coming. Well, I say I didn’t see it coming, but I distinctly remember my dream job as a teenager being ‘designing magazine covers’ (now a part of my job description). Maybe I just got distracted by cameras in recent years?1

The moral of the story? Well there isn’t one really. But writing this out has helped me to see how I’ve ended up being a designer. And I suppose if you want a moral, here’s one (or three)...

Design a life you love.
Do what feels natural to you, seek what sets your soul on fire. 
Do a job you love and you’ll never have a problem with Mondays.

Fun fact: even now, going from a seven day weekend at uni to working 9-5 Monday-Friday in an office job, I still don’t have a problem with Mondays. Sunday blues? What Sunday blues?

3 comments

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  3. I really loved the photo you used as the heading. It's so cut, and bright and sweet. it's like full of air and sun. I really loved it. And the image in the laptop is also very cute. I love the colors: pink, violet and blue. I would use it as a screensaver too) I can bet it will increase my inspiration on writing reviews on Unemployedprofessors

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