About Me

designgirl2

Design girl v. me

Most professions have stereotypes about them. As for designers, we’re artsy and it can show up in a variety of categories. I like to think that I’m very much my own person, but I will say that my designer friends have a lot of the same tastes as I do. So today, I’m going to take a look at these stereotypes and find out how I actually stack up.

Clothing ⅖

designgirl1Stereotype design girl is wearing some trendy outfits. She’s got a lot of layering going on and a bunch of unique accessories. She also totally wears some cute glasses and is rocking chic booties. Her bun and her look can both be described as stylish mess.

I am wearing a tshirt dress because it is comfortable and easy. I have the same booties, but my only go-to accessory is my watch. My look is simple and put-together so as not to be an actual mess.

Music ⅘

designgirl2

Design girl likes cool music that does not get played on the radio. She goes to those bands’ secret shows. Truthfully she knows way too much music because she listens to music all day.

I have yet to go to any secret shows, but I do listen to music all day long and have found that my music taste is most similar to other creative people’s. You can check out my favorite summer playlist here.

House Decorating ⅘

designgirl3

Design girl’s house is chic but with an edge of boho. Basically, Anthropologie copies her looks. She totally has some cacti flowering on her window sill and has the coolest prints hanging on the wall. She has artfully mismatched furniture and yet it still looks modern.

Going into an Anthropologie makes my heart race a little with excitement. I do have cacti and succulents lining my window. My main decorations are books and maps, but I also have a happy desk wall to keep me inspired when I’m working. My furniture doesn’t match, but that’s mostly because I’m a broke college student.

Activities ⅗

designgirl4

Design girl is always doing cool things. Basically her Instagram looks like a Kinfolk magazine. She loves drinking craft beer at music festivals, traveling to places like Peru and Vietnam. On a slow weekend she hits up a yard sale after brunching at the hippest new restaurant in town.

With my busy schedule right now, I really enjoy a good book in my free time. Craft beer is great and I do love travelling more than just about anything else. I’m more a farmer’s market type of girl, but I am all about a new restaurant even if I won’t be up in time for brunch.

So, maybe the stereotypes aren’t totally wrong. I’m going to go put in my headphones and water my succulents now.


personalbranding

On personal branding

In the age of social media and the internet, it’s pretty easy to find anyone. Because of this, you might might as well take control of what the world knows about you.

A lot of people take the approach of making their accounts private. They use fake last names, hoping that employers don’t find their embarrassing photographs. Or they are careful to only post pictures of themselves with little kids or doing charity work, trying to look wholesome.

The age of personal branding is here. Instead of the tactics above, what if you made at least part of your profiles public. Make sure anyone can find you. Use the same username and profile pictures. Connect all your social media.

The other day, I friended a coworker on Facebook. Within a few minutes, a flood of notifications hit my phone. He had connected with me on Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, etc. When you’ve curated your social presence to tell the world about yourself, this is pretty great! It means that you can tell whoever you connect with exactly what you want them to know about you.

Obviously you can keep some parts of your life private on social media, but also take advantage of your public setting on social media. If you can, make yourself a content curator on whatever you want to be an expert on. Share articles you find interesting. Connect with other experts in the field.

For my Branding of Me class, I’ve done all this and then some. I blog about design, technology and development. I share these blogs on my public facing social media because these are the things I want to be known for.  In addition, because I am a designer, I needed a portfolio site. I took time to figure out my story as a designer and created a site around that. It matches my personality on social media and in real life. If someone wants to get a taste of who I am, they can come here or my social media and know pretty immediately what I care about. If you feel like you know me a little bit better after reading this, I’ve done my job.


Bologna

Blank Slate

Today, I bought my plane ticket to return to Italy for a post grad trip. I’m obviously pretty thrilled. I loved living there and can’t wait to go back. I studied there for a semester my junior year and have missed it ever since.

Now I know that everyone comes back from study abroad saying these things and I don’t want this to be cliche. This isn’t about seeing a new culture or having to figure out things on your own. Those are amazing parts of the experience, but this post is about something different that happened for me abroad.

When I moved to Bologna, I knew one person in my program and no one else. To understand why this mattered so much, you need to know that I went to school with more or less the same people from kindergarten until senior year. Then, I went to UNC. I met tons of new people, but there were still 20+ kids around campus who had known me for a good while. This meant that Bologna was the first time since I was 5 that I was starting from scratch with friends. They didn’t have any presuppositions about who I was supposed to be and knew nothing of my past.

The other important piece of this puzzle is that I had just changed my major to graphic design. In Chapel Hill, I felt awkward telling my old friends. I was always qualifying my decision. I found myself saying, “I know I’m not artsy, but..” and “I don’t know that I’ll end up doing this, but…” It wasn’t that I was unsure about the decision, I just thought it didn’t match the reputation that I had built up for myself in the past 20 years of my life. I wasn’t cool enough to do design. I wasn’t artistic enough to do design. I was book smart. Probably going to be a psychologist or a lawyer or something else reasonable sounding. I didn’t think my friends or old classmates would take me seriously as a designer.

So when I moved to Bologna, I made all new friends and got to tell them who I was and what I wanted from life, on my own terms. It was amazing, The more people I told I was a designer, the more I really believed it. Being there, building up my confidence for a semester, allowed me to return to Chapel Hill and tell people this was what I was going to do. I got home and really dove into what I was learning, knowing that it was okay for this to be what I wanted to do.

It’s important to note that I wasn’t misleading my new friends, creating a new self and abandoning an old identity. I was just changing and the new environment let me feel comfortable claiming these new parts of my identity.

The human brain doesn’t stop forming until you are 25. This means that I had time to change my plans, habits and myself to better match who I wanted to be. It means that I still have time to keep doing that as I find what I love.

The confidence I found in being able to start over and tell my own story allows me to try new things now and to continue to refine myself. For me, this is what Italy symbolizes. It’s a blank slate and my starting point for chasing what I want.


why

But, why?

Okay, but why? This is the first question that jumps to my mind. Knowing that something is true isn’t good enough, I have to know why.

The way I see it, there’s no way to win a game unless you understand the rules. For instance, when I first started looking into coding, my first questions were who creates coding languages and what makes them work? Technically, I don’t need to know the answers to these questions to write good, clean code, but I wanted to be able to understand the context my code exists in.

In high school history class I had a pretty solid go-to formula for a thesis statement. It went like this, “Although statement 1, statement 2 and statement 3 are true, because statement 4.” It’s the fourth statement, the why, that gets you the extra points. Being able to analyze a situation and pull out the underlying causes is one of the best skills I learned in high school.

From a marketing perspective, we all want to know why even if we don’t realize it. Simon Sinek’s Ted talk is about how the best leaders inspire people by telling them why first and then how and then what.

Taking the time to ask and explain why makes you think critically about the subject. If you can explain the underlying concept, you’ll be able to use your knowledge more widely and pull in other ideas, knowing how they connect.

So even if it means it will take a little bit longer, next time you learn a new skill or interesting fact, take time to ask “why?” It will serve you well in the long run.


break

It’s time to take a break

For a long time, I thought that creativity had to be something innate within you. I was fairly convinced that only special people had creativity and those lucky few didn’t have to worry about losing it.

But I have realized that creativity is absolutely something you have to cultivate in yourself. As Twyla Thorp, the world class choreographer points out in her book The Creative Habit, there are a lot of ways to help yourself remain creative. A lot of them are interestingly enough, inversely related.

Developing a routine can help, finding a consistent place for creative work, a time of day or type of music that can signal to your brain that it’s time to think creatively. On the flip side, trying something new can also spur new ways of thinking.

Other tips include getting inspiration from other pieces, idea dumping, idea mapping, journaling for moments of inspiration and more.

Today though, I want to talk about taking a break from design. Sometimes this can be the most powerful tool for creativity. From walking around the office for a few minutes in between assignments to a week of vacation, breaks can reinvigorate your work.

For me, I have been burning the candle at both ends a bit too frequently this semester. With a job, internship and three time consuming classes, finding time to do everything has been tricky. Sometimes it takes a toll on my creativity. So for spring break, I didn’t design a thing. I didn’t even open my laptop and it was GREAT.

What I learned is that for me to be at my best, I have to take some time to rest. Right now that means being sure to take hours away from my computer and do things like taking a bike ride as a break during a long day.

As backwards as it may seem, when there’s too much to do, taking a strategic break can be the best thing to do.


katherine_boliek_1

So, my new site is up

Today, my new site is up! I’m pretty pumped about it and you should totally check it out. Some of you may have some questions. I will answer them here.

Q: So, you just created your site a year ago, why are you already changing it?

A: It’s not because I’m indecisive or have too much free time (I promise, I don’t.) I changed my portfolio site primarily because the previous site was built entirely on a WordPress theme. When I created it, using a WordPress theme made sense for simplicity and was appropriate for my coding skill level.

Now however, I know more things and want my portfolio to demonstrate that. It seemed silly to have links to sites and web apps I coded from scratch while having my own portfolio be coded and designed by someone else.

 

Q: So, what did you do with this new site?

A: That’s a fair question. This time around, I hard-coded the home page, about page, and work pages. The blog is still a WordPress blog, but now I am using the blank theme _tk. I chose this theme because my PHP knowledge is limited, but this way I am completely in charge of the design.

The entire site uses Bootstrap to simplify the responsive grid. I also used a jquery plugin to make the nifty functionality on the work page. But everything else is all me.

 

Q: So, how did you do this?

A: My process for this has been much the same as with any other project I create. First, I looked high and low for inspiration. My google search history is full of the “best design portfolio sites” variations.

After letting these ideas sit for awhile, I jumped into wireframing. Some people use cool sites or programs, but I stuck with pencil and paper. This helped keep my process agile so I could make quick changes without feeling too stuck in any one idea.

Next, I made design comps in Illustrator. Oops. Then, my boss kindly reminded me that the industry standard is Photoshop. I transitioned my designs into Photoshop which ended up being a great opportunity for me to think more critically about my design. This, in turn, made my design more grid-based and just generally better.

Finally, I started coding. As I coded, I adjusted some parts of my design to be more practical for implementation, but overall it stayed true to my comps and original design intentions.

 

Q: So, you’re finally done now?

A: Ha. Never. What you’re seeing now is my MVP, minimum viable product. Instead of waiting to post the new site when it’s been perfected like my type-A nature wanted me too, I only waited until it was something I was proud of and suited my needs. Over the next month or so, I’ll be adding a lot of different features like animations, transitions, more styling and any other cool functions I think would add value to the site.
So, please look around. It’s got new content and a whole new look. I’m excited for the progress and hope you enjoy it too!


Why living in a city is better

For the past 3 ½ years, I’ve been living in Chapel Hill, NC. I love Chapel Hill and wouldn’t have wanted my college years to be spent anywhere else.

However, I am graduating and my tiny millennial attention span needs a real city. There are a lot of things that can only be found in a city. These are my top reasons everyone should move to a city:

  1. The diversity of the people living in the city with you. Everyone in the city has different backgrounds, jobs, passions and paths. Getting to know these people make you a better person.
  2. The ability to get anywhere fast. I know public transportation has a bad rap, but I love the accessibility of it. It makes the process of getting from one place to another much less complicated as long as you know the system.
  3. Or better yet, you can WALK lots of places. I love my car, but I would gladly trade it for being able to walk to work. Also, not having to drive means not having to park. Such a win.
  4. The culture in city. If you want to go to an art museum, you can. If you want to try a hip new restaurant, you can. There are few cultural experiences that cannot be found in a city.
  5. The energy in the workforce. Because there are so many unique, intelligent, creative people in a city, inspiration and collaboration are much more possible.
  6. Also with that energy comes progress. Cities get to have the new technologies before they’re sent out to the rest of the world. If you always wanted to play with the new toys first, the city is for you.
  7. Lastly, and very importantly, is the ability to get anything you want at any hour. Need a cup of coffee or a crepe at 4 in the morning? There’s a place for that AND they probably deliver.

BRB, packing up to move to the nearest city right now. 


February Book List

Even though my schedule is hectic, I try to make time for reading because it’s peaceful for me and I find it gives me a good perspective on the busy to-do list I have on any given day.

I have a habit of reading several books at a time. This month’s list of books I’m working my way through paint a pretty good picture of what I’m interested in right now:

tiffanys

Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote: I am trying to read more books by famous writers. Capote is known for In Cold Blood. Truthfully Breakfast At Tiffany’s drew my attention because of the movie. Like many pieces of 1950s literature, the story is about a woman the narrator meets and spends the rest of the book half idolizing, half trying to figure out. If you liked The Great Gatsby, you should check it out!  3/5

confidence

The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman: As I am in the process of entering the workforce, I have realized that a large part of being good at your job requires skills other than what we have learned in school. There are lots of articles discussing the idea that women are on average much less confident than men and that it is impacting them negatively at work. This book addresses the reasons confidence matters both professionally and personally, how much men and women differ in their confidence and how to create more confidence. The book is a bit academic at points, but I would definitely recommend it.  4/5

36-hours

The New York Times: 36 Hours 125 Weekends in EuropeI am pretty much always reading this book bit by bit. Recently, I created a project where I presented what I would recommend in each European country and used this book for inspiration and information. My favorite part of the book is the description of each city; they paint a picture of the culture of the city. The to-do list, while nearly always out of my price range, captures the spirit of the city excellently. This is one of those books that increases my wanderlust I mentioned before.  4/5

in-progress

Jessica Hische’s In ProgressI saw this book at work and knew I had to have it. As one of the most well known letterers around, Hische is pretty much a rockstar in the design world. Her book starts with her story, details her process and gives advice for lettering. If that’s not enough to make you want it, it’s filled with her amazing designs.  5/5


dear books

A Love Letter to Books

In college I have jumped back into reading for pleasure with the same excitement as when I was 5, carrying my book with me everywhere I went. Even though I’m no longer reading the Magic Tree House, I love the discovery of reading, learning about a subject I know next to nothing about, gaining an appreciation for another point of view.

I love books about people whose position in life seems so different from mine. Every time I read a book like that, I find unexpected similarities that remind me how similar we all are at our core. My favorite recently has been I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son.

I love books about people who have succeeded in their chosen path, particularly in the face of difficulties or when they have been told their dream is impossible. These books give me courage when I’m doubting myself. Recent favorite: #GIRLBOSS.

I love funny books. They point out the humor in everyday situations and remind me not to take myself too seriously. Recent favorite: Bossypants.

I love books about theories and ideas. Thinking about emotional intelligence or what makes an idea memorable makes me think critically about myself and what abilities I can take advantage of. Recent favorites: Emotional Intelligence and Made to Stick.

I love books about adventure. They always make my wanderlust worse, but they convince me to live more dangerously, to take more risks for the life I really want to live. Recent favorite: Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults.

I love books about anything and anyone creative. I find a lot of validation in hearing the biggest names in any given industry have struggled and doubted and had to work hard for everything they got. Recent favorite: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.

I love the passing of wisdom and the depictions of humanity in these books. Books make me feel more a part of the human race. Learning about new people and places always enriches who I am and how I see the world. Reading makes me more empathetic and more empowered.

Next blog post I will be posting a book review of the books I’ve been reading lately. So check back on Thursday for more!


julia-child

I want to be Julia Child

   A lot of my favorite books and movies are about chefs. Julia Child’s memoir My Life In France is possibly my favorite book I’ve ever read because it is about how she found something she loved and did not stop until she mastered it. Jon Favreau’s Chef made me want to quit everything and work at a food truck.

   What attracts me to chefs is how passionate they are about their work. Being a chef is not easy and requires a lot of practice. Yet, these famous chefs found something they wanted to do and worked to get there.

   Design and development are the same way for me. With so many different skills to master, it can be exhausting. You can ask my roommates, I spend a lot of time on my computer learning and practicing these skills.

   But this brings me to the question, what do I want to do? I want to be Julia Child, to find my passion and never quit on it. I want to work with design and development. I want to work with new technologies. I want to make things beautiful and simple to use. I want a lot of things.

   Like every other university senior, the answer to this question holds the key to my future.  Right now, I have a vague answer. But one of things that I know I want is to have a job doing something I believe in.

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”

― Julia Child