Updated: Jan 23, 2021
What a production 2020 was, right? I think a lot of us are still processing what happened, and the fact that all of "that" happened at all. (Shit's still happening though, *cue nervous laughter*)
Many of us refer to it as a dumpster fire, 7th circle of Hell, complete chaos, or just outright strange.
Or, honestly, all of the above.
There's absolutely no doubt this last year was one hell of a struggle in so many ways, some coming out of it with more luck than others. We cannot go without giving a special moment of love for all of those who've lost lives, loved ones, went through unfortunate and dramatic life changes, those who strove for social change, those who worked countless hours to keep us healthy & safe, local businesses that didn't get to buy extra time, and so many others that are the glue of who we are.
There's so much I could say on this emotional and eventful topic, but, as we do – we look to the future.
When it came time for me to sit down and think through all that I did in the weirdest Twilight Zone episode that was 2020, I was honestly pretty shocked... and pretty goshdang proud.
I really don't say that very often.
Month by month I recalled what I was doing and how my year landed.
And, spoiler alert: it was hella productive.
1. Officially made an LLC for my design business
It was kind of a no-brainer. At the time, I knew that this was the year for finally taking "the leap" into the unknown and pursue full-time freelance. What better way to cover up some of that fear and unknowingness with an "LLC" tag at the end of my name? Lol.
2. Was going to go full-time freelance in April – but didn't.
Everything was getting more in place. My bosses knew two months ahead of time when I was leaving the company and supported me the whole way through. I was beyond nervous, but even more excited – and little did I know that leaving for a family vacation in Hawaii – we left on March 13... the weekend that things were taking a turn in the country – that I wouldn't be coming back to be fully independent like I thought I would.
We barely made it back to the US homeland – we had to change our flight back to a day earlier because the airlines were shutting down. Such a bizarre thing to witness. When I came back to work (virtually,) my boss left the offer standing to stay in my current position due to how sudden and unexpected the working world became, and who knew if freelancing was even going to be a thing in 2020?
I was so angry, confused, and felt like the only bit of power I felt I had at that time was just taken away from me, and didn't know when the next "light at the end of the tunnel" was going to come back. It was so discouraging, and made me believe for a while that I was a coward and that maybe I didn't have what it took to "take the leap" after all.
But, I knew that my time would come back when it felt right.
3. Took the proper time to learn things I didn't have the time for
After getting used to the new "pseudo-normal," I began to use the extra focused time and less obligations to do all the things I haven't had the energy or time for. Myself, among I'm sure millions of other people did the same.
I listened to the podcasts I've been meaning to but never had the time for, watched tutorials and made notes for later ideas, enjoyed the world of gaming a little more now that I could put a streamer on in the background like they were in the room with me, and dove into my other design interests like 3D and motion with my new PC.
It's an amazing feeling to learn things you didn't even know you wanted to learn. The more time quarantining went on, the more I learned, experimented, questioned, understood, and felt more excited about to put it all to use. Every day I listened/watched at least a half dozen podcast episodes or YouTube videos about entrepreneurship, business, details about freelancing (that I definitely should've known back in April,) among design things that I love and want to stay updated on.
And, it's no question that last year was the year for online communities and engagement. I was baffled at how cool it was to be a part of a couple new Slack communities that I could nerd out about the latest design porn and what's yet to come, and how much more accessible my design heroes/heroines became. It was so encouraging to see what community felt like when literally everyone in the world is dealing with a similar problem (the pandemic,) and how we're dealing with it together.
4. Started a gaming and entertainment organization with Justin
Some of you may or may not have heard about this ^. I haven't been posting a lot on social media the last half-year, solely because it was just distracting me. When I'm not showing others what I made, you can be assured that I'm always working on something in the background.
My boyfriend and creative counterpart Justin and I have noodled around with an idea since the late spring, early summer of 2020 – what if there was a gaming organization that housed, in a sense, the "misfits" of gamers and creators that didn't quite fit the status quo to be considered an all-acclaimed gaming celebrity? That's never what gaming has been about. It was always about community, creating camaraderie, distractions from the troubles of life (and what a trouble this pandemic is, right?) But gaming has evolved so incredibly much from that, and we're planning to make a real disruption in the scene.
I could go deeper into the topic of gaming & entertainment, but that's for a later post ;)
With Justin's brainchild becoming more real with our research and deeper understanding of what our org can provide, I used it as an opportunity to challenge my design skills and creative thinking that I truthfully don't get to exercise in my full-time job. From the brand strategy, to logo designs, countless style frame designing, and even some motion tests – I've never been more proud to be a designer, and ultimately... dare I say, an art director.
I think a lot about the "what if's," in life, and especially last year and this endeavor, being "What if the pandemic never happened? Would this have happened? Would it have looked the way it does now?"
I'm blessed and thankful to be a part of a huge endeavor like this, and especially to be trusted with forming the design language and tone. I'm so proud of how we started. And the best part: it's only just begun.
We're prospected to be launching the organization within the next month. Keep your eye out. ;)
5. Moved into a new apartment and fostered a dog
So, a little bizarre fun fact: I was living in a total of 3 different apartments in 2020.
I was living in my second tiny little studio apartment, moving out in beginning of March... (and this is going to make Justin cringe and laugh,) but once I was pretty much living at his apartment during all of that, AND the beginning of the pandemic. What a ride (and fun times of moving my furniture across Columbus.) Lol.
In the summer, we decided to formally get our own apartment with space for our own offices; especially since working from home wasn't going anywhere. We found a diamond-in-the-rough place on the edge of downtown, painted a couple walls, and not even two weeks into our new place, someone's Instagram story mentioned a young doggo by the name of Rocky Balboa who was a day away from being euthanized in Springfield, Ohio.
This was on a Friday... Juneteenth actually, when I saw this post about Rocky and two other dogs that were being sent to death row. Justin was working in his office when I presented this idea to quickly snag him up and foster him through Cause for Canines, eager to find a worthy and loving home for him. It certainly wasn't expected to have a 3rd roommate in our brand new place when we arrived, but I'm so lucky we found him, and I'm sure if Rocky could talk, he would say the same :)
He's still with us, being the same energetic goofball he was when we brought him home. We've been getting a lot of leads on adopters for him lately, and are going to be very selective with who we hand the leash and ball over to since we've grown so attached to this big-little guy.
6. Started blogging
(Hello from the future, muahaha.) It's something that took me good long while to realize how much value there is in blogs in the design industry. Myself, along with many others I'm sure, initially think of blogs as "look at this salad I had – also, my dog loves his new sweater and here's why" or those annoying recipe blogs that have a whole excerpt on the story behind this recipe when, frankly, I just want to make sure I'm putting the right amount of flour in my dang banana bread.
Baking is hard...
When I started paying more attention to the kind of blogs I looked at daily, it finally clicked that I, too, could have an outlet to express a lot of design thinking I do on the daily. And there's TOO much to cover! And with more experience and time under my belt, hopefully I can help other designers and creators with creative thinking, process, and execution.
That goes with saying: if there are ever any post ideas you think I should cover in the future or how I can make these better, please reach out through email, Instagram, or Twitter. Feedback makes the world go 'round.
7. Made my first font
I think its many designers' goal to make a typeface sometime in their career. With more time, experience, evolution of taste, and technical expertise under one's belt, it's almost dumb not to. Plus, if it fits your audience well and word gets around enough, you could make some solid passive income on something like that.
Arches was developed and solely inspired by Arches National Park in Utah when Justin and I took our amazing southwestern trip in October 2020. Among all of the trails, photos, video, breathing in that super fresh desert-ey air, it's hard not to be inspired and make something from it all.
Check out the project page, and I hope to be making another font soon!
8. Launched my own personal store
Another thing to cross off the "I'll get to that one of these days" checklist – it was so exciting to finally pull out the prints and merchandise I had made what felt like forever ago and finally get it on the internet and available to take off my hands. I think a valid goal for this year is to circulate out the old, and bring in some fresh designs and options.
Thank you so much to those who checked out the store and supported it!
9. (Won 3 awards for our gaming brand... that hasn't even launched yet!)
Now... submitting for awards as early as I did was a Hail Mary, a shot in the dark, whatever you want to call it. While Justin and I were working on the brand strategy, vision, mission, the "why," etc., I was able to take lot away from our working sessions, and filter that into the design.
I remember when the catalyst struck for the design to officially happen. We were still toying around with logo designs we had drawn up and I had vectorized them in Illustrator, but haven't had anything "click" yet.
It was a normal working day in August, a Wednesday afternoon I believe. Usually during lunch, we watch an episode of Cheers, Office or Frasier. But that afternoon I said, "instead of us trying to do a logo working session after dinner tonight, let's just do it right now and work on this, no tv."
And so, with our leftover takeout chicken tikki masala, we looked at my Illustrator files, experimented with various color swatches, moved some logos over side by side colors, tried some typography, all the messings-around. It wasn't until we glanced at a mark that we didn't really consider beforehand – we both had the same thought: "Let's try that, just to see."
And, sure enough – it clicked. That was, without a doubt, the official logo.
I could bore you with more details, (which, don't worry – I totally will once the organization launches,) but from there, I cranked on more designs, talked about them with Justin and our small team, and I (secretly) submitted us into the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts' Creative Best award competition. Not a single word about it was mentioned to Justin or the team (which, I know, probably not the best thing to do,) but hey. I'm one for surprises and theatrics ;).
2 months later, Justin and I roll up to a fantastic and fun virtual awards show, to hear our project's name announced three times for the branding, campaign, and logo work of our soon-to-be-announced organization.
Still can't believe it. It's only just beginning, but that's one hell of a beginning so far!
10. Bought streaming production gear!
Look out! I don't know when exactly, but in the near future I'm going to be putting my design-money where my mouth is, my skills to the test, and hopefully give some value to other designers out there.
I'm most likely going to be starting on Twitch and working my way into YouTube.
I've got initial ideas about what I want to get out there into the world, but it's really going to be a lot of trial and error. And I love that. I'll be pegging all of you viewers out there for more ideas too!
Also, a special "thank you" to Justin. I wouldn't know all that I know without his first-hand insight, especially into the equipment side. Honestly, he's been my producer for my streaming/video content, and I haven't even freaking started haha. This is something I've thought about off and on, but never really knew where to start, and if the internet needed more from a designer like me. After seeing more missing of what I was trying to find through streams and content, the more it made sense for me to hopefully be that outlet, and keep learning from others over time.
Keep an eye out! ;)
11. Produced our gaming org's launch video (coming soon) under crazy circumstances
There's not much I can say about this... other than:
We managed to storyboard, cast, coordinate with locations and gear rental, in about 2 months.
Only 8–10 hours of total shooting time (in the live-action world – not a lot of time at all.)
Alongside of that ^ – we did it during freaking COVID
There was 6 of us (safely) on set
It's going to be chilling, unexpected, and freaking awesome.
12. Continuing to pursue side freelance gigs
Among all of these above things, I managed to continue to maintain and pursue new clients, make new connections, and learn more about what kind of work I want to be doing. There were many late nights here and there, juggling a full time job, Justin and I's gaming org, and taking on new work. All completely worth it. It really reminds me of my late nights in the Crane Design building of CCAD working on projects until I had to be kicked out, but now, I can stay in my office as long as I please. Lol.
While I could've easily turned down some of these opportunities, if not all of them, I said "yes" because it is exposure, experience, practice, and further building my freelancing foundation.
Which leads me to my last mark made on 2020...
13. I put in my official notice to leave a company after 1.5 years.
There's nothing like telling your boss a few days before Christmas that your time has come to "leave the nest" and do things a little more like the Wild West – unexpected, adventurous, and exciting.
As you read above, this was something I thought I had in my cards for a long time. It's so liberating to finally have that light at the end of the tunnel again, and an official page turn to the next chapter. I'm very thankful for the experiences I had, all of the insight I gained, and I ultimately learned so more about myself. Which, if you can gain any kind of takeaway from an experience, it's that.
COVID or not, here I come.
That's a wrap, everyone. Stay safe, make moves, take your life by the reins.
It's gonna be a busy year. ⚡️🤟🏼🔥