Weddings and design

For the last seventeen months I’ve been planning my wedding. Oh a girls dream! Well… Not exactly. I never really thought about my wedding until the engagement day arrived, not even as a kid. (Unless of course you include those days when I swore the only way I was even going to have a wedding was if I got to wear a black wedding dress.)

So needless to say I really had to plan my wedding “design” from scratch. After surfing the web, sifting through hundreds of really terrible wedding magazines (as well as a select few that were amazing), and watching some really addicting, yet terrible, wedding shows, I realized I was looking in the wrong place.

Yes, some of the things I found were definitely helpful, but where I really needed to do my research was with myself.

After brainstorming and just listing terms I wanted to describe the wedding of my dreams, there were a few that kept popping up. Classic, traditional, extravagant and semi-formal. I wanted something indoors because bugs and rain aren’t my thing. And basically, I really just wanted something that people would enjoy and remember.

From there, it really wasn’t too difficult to find beautiful things that suited the feeling I wanted to emit. The real difficulty of the whole planning process was choosing locations (let’s face it, Knoxville offers very little in the terms of weddings and receptions if you’re not wanting an outdoor wedding) and trying to find time during my incredibly busy school schedule to set up meetings with all these vendors as well as my wedding coordinator.

Sorry there is no real “meat” in this post (links, pictures.. Etc.), but I like to keep everything a big secret until the main event. You won’t have to wait long though, because, deep breath, the wedding is in 28 days! Pictures and links to the fabulous people who have helped me make the most beautiful wedding together will come very soon after that. I’ll even post some wonderful reviews of all the super-awesome thing I’ll see and eat in ITALY on our honeymoon! *insert uber excited scream here*



Yesterday started out like any other day. I woke up, had a bowl of cereal and my morning shower. The rest of the day’s events would certainly not be like any other day.

Sarah and Sara picked me up in my driveway around 8:50, then we headed over to Emily’s house to snag her as well. We then began our journey to Dalewood Middle School. It wasn’t a very long car ride, but it was filled will loud music and complaining about how early and hungry we were (regardless of previously stated cereal).


Patiently awaiting entrance to the gym at Dalewood Middle School

When we arrived at Dalewood, we were met with other half-asleep but still energetic faces which made us feel better. After a brief wait we all headed into the gym and disbursed ourselves throughout the bleachers, and eventually throughout the students.

I guess you could say this was the real beginning of the day. The sheer electric energy of the student and staff was enough to jazz up the entire CreateAthon group to maximum capacity. (And we would definitely need it as the 24 hours of designing, thinking, planning, eating, planning, and designing went on).

Following the pep rally (which included soloists -both vocal and instrumental- and some super inspirational words) we split off into our separate sections to get to work. I was personally involved with the “pedestal team” as we would call ourselves for the rest of the evening/morning. Basically, if it was int he main entrance to the middle school, we we’re going to give it some TLC.

After measuring, talking, and lunch, the groups headed back to the UTC Art Department to really get started on what we came together to do.

entrance team

Think about all the things we could possibly do

We worked continuously through the night and into the early morning hours, but not without some serious doubt that we would never make it the full 24 hours.

sleeping sara


sugar coma

Too much red bulll?

But aside from the brief moments of napping, there was some serious work that was accomplished for the good of Dalewood. Team meetings/ big group meetings that were held sporadically through the night were always filled with excitement and the sense that something bigger than we could ever imagine was happening.


To find out more about our crazy 24 hour endeavor with CreateAthon on Campus 2011 check out the twitter, flickr, or blog! (Just to warn you.. our doc team was %$#&^% awesome… so you’ll get more details from that than I could ever give you myself.)

And now, after a very long and creative journey, not to mention my own wedding shower, I’m going to get some much deserved recovery sleep.


getting motivated

Motivation is something that was brought up yesterday in my workshop class when Nick Turner and Michael Mahaffey spoke with us.

It became even more of an “issue” for me after class. I kept motivation in my thoughts and it became abundantly clear that I needed to find the answer to this question:

Where do I find the motivation to handle so many design and life projects and keep my head above the rising water?

The answer I came up with: Deep, deep, within.

I love what I do and who I am. So as long as I can remember both of those things (concurrently…), I don’t really have to worry about whether or not I’ll make it through all my tasks without slipping under.

I don’t force myself to work because I know there’s a carrot at the end of the stick, but rather because the work I do is the carrot. Everything I do makes up who I am, so maybe… maybe I’m the carrot.

When I lose my way and can’t remember why I’m doing something, I like to step away from the situation and reflect. If then I decide that the project isn’t where it should be, I can adjust my path accordingly.

Of course, I can’t (nor should you) be afraid to fail, because it’s bound to happen (a lot).
That brings me to something that was posted on twitter an hour or so ago. At An Event Apart in Seattle, WA Scott Berkun presented Why Designers Fail and What to Do About It, and here are some notes that were taken by Luke Wroblewski:


  • To be better at any craft –do it a lot or study a lot of what other people did. There is lots to be learned from failures. When things go well, everyone is happy and things get forgotten. When we fail there is an opportunity to learn.
  • Why does design matter? Victor Papenek said “design is the underlying matrix of life.” In his book Design for the Real World. Any attempt to separate design from life is futile.
  • There are some things that are universal to all types of design. We can learn about design and problem solving by looking at design in other domains.

Take Responsibility

  • All designers fail 95% of the time. This is true for all creative work. And it is unusual in the professional world. The process by which we create is failure centric.
  • There are only two reasons why things fail. Wrong goals or goals were right but we failed to live up to them.
  • What to do about it? Own your mistakes, study failure and common situations, study how to avoid and mitigate failures.
  • Designers are apt to blame other people. Need to take more responsibility. You need to own the totality of what we’re creating.
  • Design has no failure analysis –we don’t have a lot of affinity for this or good methods for it either. Whenever someone dies, doctors have to do M&M –mortality and morbidity. It’s required for learning. Other professions: mission debrief, failure analysis, postmortem.
  • Design and architecture don’t have a history of analyzing failures. Architects don’t even come back to their structures after the unveiling of the building. There is no failure protocol.
  • There is a huge amount of data that shows we learn more during failure. Engineers learned more in the 5 years of study about bridges after a bridge collapsed than in the 20 years before the failure.
  • If you take the weak, insecure way out and don’t look back at what caused the failure, you are squandering an opportunity to learn.

Types of Failure

  • There are two kinds of failures: fundamental & artial/subjective
  • Fundamental: system collapse, people die, rare and dramatic
  • Partial/subjective areas: mixed results, failures of a different degree.
  • We must experiment to create knowledge so we have to fail.
  • The iPhone owns a huge debt to the Newton team. It was a failure but it paved the way for the Palm Pilot. The Xerox Parc was a commercial failure but it paved the way fro the future of computing.
  • Design thinking traps: category (obsessive taxonomy), puzzle (problem solving for its own sake), numbers (believing what’s measured is all there is), drawing trap (love the sketch more than what it represents). There is a vocabulary around these traps. We need to get better at using it.
  • Things that cause designers to fail: lack of conviction, take limited responsibility, etc. You can sum this by looking at the decisions from beginning to end of the project. What set of all decisions do designers take responsibility for?
  • The one skill that prevents most designers from moving forward is pitching ideas. But it’s hard to learn. All designers are ambassadors for good ideas. Some are perhaps just ambassadors of their own ideas. Good ambassadors are good to get along with.
  • Reframing problems is an accepted part of the process. Changing a variable or an assumption gives you a new way look at a problem. We often blame our organizations, clients, or team for being themselves.

The simple things.

As a designer, and as a human in general, it’s rare for me to take a look at the simple things that I enjoy about living and designing. A class discussion brought this topic up and I think it was a good way to start out the day. What do I love about design? What are the little things that keep me coming back for more? At first, I was … “uhm.. uhhh” But that’s silly. If there isn’t anything I like about it then why would I do it?

I love web. I remember getting my first computer and internet service when I was 10. AOL was the most amazing thing to ever happen to my life. I loved creating my own expage and angelfire webpages. (I actually just looked up my old expage domain… of course, it isn’t there anymore and now links to some porn searches… awesome.) I loved making text scroll across the page, changing the color pallets, adding animated gifs, etc. It was new and exciting. I had no idea then that it’s what I would want to do for the rest of my working life. Okay, I don’t want to make text scroll for the rest of my life, but surely you get where this is going. (Think coding and html.)

I wanted to be a dentist. Not because I wanted to, but because I was told I should. They make a decent amount of money, so why not? During my first semester of college I realized that in order to graduate Pre-Dental with a concentration in biology, I would actually have to pass biology. That didn’t work out so well. I did some soul searching as the semester dwindled down and decided to try my hand in the art world. Although I hadn’t had an art class in nearly 6 years, I knew it was always something I admired and felt passionate about. I couldn’t have made a better decision for myself.

Now here I am, at UT Chattanooga, a junior in the graphic design program, and I’m back to loving the web. Not loving it because I’m supposed to, but because I want to; because it makes me happy. Many of my classmates singled out things like kerning, but I’ve come to realize that the simple things I love are loving what I do and the road that brought me here.

Web Banners

Sitting down and searching the interwebs solely to find decent web banners is a daunting task. After being given this task I started racking my brain to see if I could ever remember seeing a fantastic banner. I couldn’t.
Apparently, I didn’t know where to look or just didn’t consciously care about the advertisements being displayed around me constantly. After hitting the usual (facebook, linkedin, theknot, etc.) I started going through some of the designer friendly sites… I started with Jeremy Cowart’s Help Portrait and ended with Beautiful/ Decay Magazine. I can’t imagine why I didn’t start here in the first place. The website for this magazine is loaded with decent banners that lead to other sites with decent banners.

I found myself drawn to very simple designs that got the information across quickly.

This banner is very clean and it has a good use of a diagonal to break up the design. I think it could be more effective if I know what FNPlatform was. At first glance I think it’s a shoe store, but the dates tell me it’s some sort of show or convention. So maybe it isn’t what I think it is, and I need to click on it to find out more. In my mind this is what a web banner should do. It should give you just enough information to make you want to find out more.

The puppy/ kitten tactic works for some people and for others s a waste of space. I’m definitely a person it works on. This banner gets the point across quickly. I’m drawn to the bright color and logo immediately, but the typeface seems a bit out of place. I think there are better choices out there that can convey the same message without being to ornate. Also, I would have considered making the ’25th Anniversary’ larger since that’s what the banner is actually promoting for the company.

After all this banner searching I feel like I’ve obtained the necessary information to create my own web banner. Of course the only way to be sure of that is to hop to it. Look out for my creation soon!