Sometimes inspiration strikes at the weirdest time. For example, I always think up my favorite blog topics while I’m in the shower. Most recently, I realized that some of you may not know my full career path and how I got to where I am today. This got me thinking that the bigger topic I want to discuss is way broader and more about what it’s like to be a blogger, how to get into the world of designing products, even how to navigate the legal world of contracts, NDAs, etc. I realized that I’ve been so strategic in my career and choices that I’ve made, no matter how big or small, that I wanted to share it with you! Meet my new series called The Business of Being Creative… and to kick it off I’m sharing my journey to where I am today in my career.
I suppose I should start with my formal education because I think that really helped to inspire where I am today. I went to the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon and majored in Industrial Design. While I was there, I worked on all kinds of projects: flashlights inspired by the form language of a car brand, bathroom faucet knobs, even a backpack. But my most favorite subject by far was furniture design, which I focused on during my senior year. I even designed and built the coffee table featured here. I would say that the core of my education was all about problem solving and how I could apply that skill to anything. I recall a teacher saying that 90% of my class wouldn’t go on to be traditional industrial designers… and now I can see why!
Upon graduating in 2007, I got a job at a small bedding company in Maryland called Blissliving Home. The team was tiny, only 5 people, so I really got to get my hands dirty. As the assistant designer, I helped develop color palettes and trend reports, designed the product, helped plan and style photoshoots, even worked on the email newsletters and website. The pro and con of working for a small company is that you truly do it all. I worked here for a couple of years, but then the recession happened… and I got laid off. People just weren’t being designer bedding anymore.
I was out of work for about 6 months before I got my next gig, Print Designer at Nordstrom. This meant moving to Seattle, which was AWESOME. The job involved drawing artwork for sleepwear, underwear, bedding, and active wear. It was pretty fun getting to draw a lot, but it also mean a lot of technical work like checking that swatches from factories matched the Pantone color standards I sent them, coordinating with buyers, merchandisers, and the apparel designers… it was a lot of coordinating, to be honest. And while I learned that I’m a pretty damn good communicator, I quickly realized that my true passion was to be creative instead. I felt bogged down by chasing different team members for answers and not being able to make the call myself. I enjoyed the product I worked on, but at times felt that the aesthetic wasn’t totally my own.
From Nordstrom, I pursued an Assistant Designer position at Anthropologie — my dream job! I moved to Philly, which was a huge personal risk for me and ended up being too big of a burden for me to bear. While at Anthropologie I worked on soooo many different types of product: from furniture to tabletop to bedding to rugs… even Christmas ornaments. You can see my portfolio here. The team was set up so that designers were given the space to truly design and not get bogged down in the day-to-day communication with factories. Instead, I would partner with a Design Coordinator to help hash out the details of my design, but for the most part my days were spent drawing, painting, and creating. It was really the most creative in-house work environment in which I’ve ever been. I still struggled with feeling totally fulfilled though because I so badly wanted to be back in Seattle, but during this time I created pieces of which I am still so very, very proud.
All of this has been about my product design background, so you’re probably wondering how I got started blogging. Well, in the background of all of this full-time work is when! In 2008 when I got laid off, I reached out to Joy Cho from Oh Joy! on a whim. I think I literally emailed her saying, “I love what you’re doing and I want to be a part of it.” It took us about 6 months to figure out what I could contribute, but from there I wrote a biweekly round up for Dining Style. I worked for Joy for 3 years and learned the business of blogging from a true master. She taught me soooo much and is someone whom I credit for giving me the knowledge and foundation for where I’m at today. I don’t think this blog would have launched 3 years ago in quite the same way if I hadn’t learned so much from her.
While I was at Nordstrom and Anthropologie, I worked for Joy, staying up late and working on weekends to meet deadlines. Then she re-launched her site in a way that was more centered around her and her lifestyle, such a smart business decision and truly indicative of the way the world of blogging was going. She no longer needed contributors, but I started thinking that it was time to branch out and launch my own. So 4 years ago, I launched Jojotastic. Within the first 3 months, I had my first brand partnership, something that I again attribute to what I learned from Joy. She was one of the first people on Pinterest and quickly invited me. We used it as a forum to share post ideas, but I rapidly started using it to catalog my inspiration for my day job. I was featured as a Tastemaker on the site and quickly grew a massive following (3.8 million today). So, when I launched my blog, I already had an audience with whom I could share my posts. After launching, I went on to contribute to Anthology Magazine, Design for Mankind, and other publications.
I guess you could say the rest is history… I left Anthropologie and had a brief stint designing and coordinating at Serena & Lily, but I was just way better suited to working for myself and sharing my vision with the world. I’ve been on my own now for 2 years and couldn’t be happier. There are certainly hard days (I will definitely be talking about that as this series continues), but for the most part I’m just really grateful to wake up everything and be able to do what I love to do.
It’s been a funny, weird, meandering trajectory, but I wanted to share this story with you guys to show that traditional career paths don’t always pan out. I totally graduated and thought I’d be a product designer my entire life… but now look at me. I do hope to get back into product design and development at some point, especially if it’s a Jojotastic line of products! That would be fun…
This series is going to be really loose and fun, with interviews and experts weighing in. I’d also love if you guys asked me questions! Feel free to email me or leave a comment with topics you’d like for me to cover.
photography by Meghan Klein.