I Want To Be… A Graphic Designer!

Nubby Twiglet

Who is Nubby Twiglet? …What, are you kidding?! Have you been hiding under a rock for the last 2 years? GEEZ!

As well as being a fabulous Virgo, Nubby has one of the strongest senses of personal style of anyone I know. She works full-time as an artist & graphic designer, & also runs a super-popular blog. Her work ethic is incredible & her dedication to what she does is nothing short of inspiring. I think she is an absolutely brilliant person, & as I’ve just spent a little over week in her constant company, it seemed like the perfect time to share this interview with you!

Tell us about what you do.
I work full time as a graphic designer and do PR and marketing tasks as well at Nemo Design in Portland, Oregon. Besides that, I do freelance design (mostly logos and branding) and mixed media collage for art shows around the world. Somewhere in between, I run a blog.

How long ago did you start on this path?
When I was in high school, I would dig up old advertising books in the library and cut out images from dusty design annuals, but I didn’t realize that graphic design was a viable profession. Instead, being the good, practical Virgo that I am, I went to school for business first. It was incredibly hard, but it taught me how to market myself and made me more well rounded.

I still knew that art was my true passion, but I wanted to make money doing it so graphic design made sense. I met my boyfriend in 2004 and he’d been a graphic designer for 10 years and told me that if I was really serious about it, I should go to school. I started a two year program in 2006 (and just finished!)

How long were you doing it before you made it into your career or primary form of income?
I landed my first big freelance gig for Virgin Records during my second semester of school. In a matter of weeks, I’d made the equivalent of seven months of working at my retail job! After that, the steady work kept rolling in and I never looked back.

Do you think official qualifications are important for someone entering your industry?
It depends. There are a handful of designers that I know of that are self-taught and do amazing work. On the other hand, school really does put you through the paces and by being pushed to do projects you don’t necessarily like, it prepares you for the real world of clients and deadlines. In the end, it all comes down to how good your portfolio is!

What do you think is the best thing about working for yourself?
Doing freelance design can be hugely rewarding. People choose you because they like your style. You can also decide on the clients that you want to work with and set your own rates!

What’s the worst thing?
It’s easy to lose track of hours and to get caught up in a project. There are no set work hours, no set lunch time or breaks. It’s up to you to say no if you think something isn’t going to work which can be incredibly hard.

Rate how happy you are with what you do out of 100 (100 being the best, 0 being devastatingly awful) on an average day.
I’s say 90. The people I work with at my day job are awesome. I’m the only girl designer on staff and the guys I work with are hilarious. They’re always skateboarding past my desk! The work I do is fun, too. I do a fair amount of logo development and write for the company blogs. It’s a nice mix of design and marketing tasks.

Would you call yourself a workaholic, & if so, are you alright with that? Do you think that’s normal for your industry?
Hell yes! I was raised to work hard and I’m proud of making my own money. There are so many talented designers and if I want to eventually be at their level, I know that it’s going to take years of hard work. It is pretty normal as a designer to be a workaholic because there’s always something new to obsess over and new ideas are always transpiring.

What would your suggestions be for someone who wants to do what you do?
Don’t worry about trying to get into the fanciest school. Subscribe to tons of design blogs and start an inspiration folder on your computer. Start a collection of well-designed brochures, business cards and magazines that you come across. Find a mentor that can encourage you to keep pushing forward and help you find an internship. Don’t be afraid of starting a blog to publish your work and get feedback. Join online portfolio sites (some of my biggest jobs have been through Flickr) and start networking. Get a membership to AIGA and attend local networking events. Never give up; the more challenging a job is, the more you’ll realize you learned from it when you look back.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out?
That it’s okay to not know everything and it’s also okay to ask questions; most designers are incredibly forgiving and are willing to help you because they were probably in your shoes once.

Are there any major misconceptions about your job or industry?
From the outside, people might expect designers at an ad agency to be really slick and whip a project out really fast. In reality, it can take weeks or months of working with a client to get a job done.

What motivates you to keep doing what you’re doing?
The endless amount knowledge that it’s possible to acquire can be overwhelming but I’m naturally a competitive person and I am always striving to get better at what I do. I was given a huge opportunity; within a week of graduating, I was offered a full-time position at one of the coolest, most progressive companies around and I never want to lose sight of that. The design world can be really intense and there’s always going to be someone that’s better than you. The point is to never give up and to move forward in some way every single day.

Who do you look up to within your industry & why?
I love seeing seeing the work of other girl graphic designers like Antigirl, design that kills, Abby Clawson Low and Oh Joy! Studio. I also like the styles of NEUARMY and Scott Hansen and too many more people to list. People with strong aesthetics win me over every time!