That Which Has Happened: Summer 2014

So much has happened since I last updated my personal blog that I thought I'd scoop it all into one tidy post. Let's. Dive. In.

A cross-country move


From one port city to another.

On the last day of June, I packed up all my things and moved nearly 3,000 miles across the country from Charleston, SC to Seattle, WA. I've had one eyeball on the Emerald City for a few years, and it felt like a good time to start a new adventure. I feel quite lucky to continue to work for the amazing people at Fuzzco.

Though I miss the guys and gals from back East (and Two Boroughs Larder ramen with shishito peppers), it feels really good to be here. And for those considering cold-moving to a new city, I'm thinking about a blog post detailing everything I've learned in the process.

I'm excited to be a part of the creative community in Seattle, so if you'd like to grab coffee/beer/boba tea sometime, let's do it! Email: mr[at]melanie-richards.com.

Press for Badass Lady Creatives

Press for Badass Lady Creatives

A couple different bits of press for Badass Lady Creatives all happened to make landfall around the same time: I was interviewed for CHARLIE’s 50 Most Progressive, the July issue of HOW magazine, and the Dribbble Timeout series. Many thanks to the sweet people who gave me another forum in which to share BALC.

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest

Oh my, this was a special conference. WMC Fest is one of the most affordable conferences I've ever heard of, which may contribute to its refreshingly relaxed, friendly atmosphere (and Midwesterners really are that nice). I finally met some COMPLETELY RAD Twitter buds in person, and got to meet some great new people.

Margot Harrington, Stewart Scott-Curan, Jeff Finley, and the rest of the WMC Fest gang did a fantastic job putting this conference together. They prioritized a speaker lineup that better represents all the many perspectives our design community has to offer. Between a thoughtful speaker roster and the panels discussing race, gender, and the validity of “do what you love”, the tone of this conference was “let's look out for each other, let's be good to each other”.

Working, working, working

A screenshot of The Green Heart Project website

Branding, illustration, and web design for The Green Heart Project.

Of course, this whole time I've also been working. While I can't show a lot of Fuzzco projects yet, The Green Heart Project was one of my favorite clients to work with in 2014: Drew and Karalee are such enthusiastic, positive people. And designing for kids (and their parents) is such a fun challenge; I could spend days drawing wee veggies if no one stopped me. View the live site

Interview on the Metis Blog

Screenshot of Metis interview

Semi-recently, the lovely House interviewed me for the Metis blog. It was fun to share a little bit about how I got into web design and front-end development, which might be helpful to beginning web creatives taking Metis’s courses.

A new site, sort of.

Though I still consider it temporary*, I did a little fussing with the site. For this version, I strayed from Typekit offerings in favor of Brandon Text and Griffin Moore’s Range. This is also the first time I’m using Kirby, a flat-file CMS. I had previously used Wordpress to power my site, but I felt the simplicity of a designer’s portfolio/blog doesn’t warrant the bloat of WP, or the load time spent making database requests (particularly when my host’s MySQL server gets bogged down).

* Do as I say and not as I do, eh? Someday I will have a body of work up.


H’okay, that’s everything in life up to this point. Bring on the autumn!

Introducing the UFGD c/o 2014!

I’m a big believer in honoring where you came from, and the University of Florida Graphic Design program is like a second family to me. So from now on, I’ll share the portfolios from each new graduating class. Introducing c/o 2014! What a talented bunch:

Percy Batalier, Kelly Carpenter, Lauren Castro, Lindsey Marie Freeman, Clarke Harris, Kaitlyn Irvine, Julia Karraker, Devin Elida Kelly, Derrick Ligon, Allan Lopez, Kelli McAdams, Jason McDade, Will Joel Melendez, Crystal Nguyen, Nicole Ruggiero, Natalie Suarez, Janet Vargas

Congrats to you all, and best of luck in your new adventures! May you make all your upcoming decisions based on what’s right for you—not what you think is expected of you.

New Fuzzco Work: The Nickelodeon

The Nickelodeon screenshot

I’m so excited to finally share this project: a new identity and website for The Nickelodeon! The Nick is an alternative/indie theater in Columbia, South Carolina. For an organization that has a huge influence on local culture, it was important to us to make this rebrand feel intelligent, fun, and a bit off-beat.

The Nickelodeon

Check back on this page during the Indie Grits festival!

The Nickelodeon screenshot

The “About” page is actually enormous, and it’s one of my favorites, including the “spine” of staff bios. I’ll spare you, though, and just link to the full thing.

The Nickelodeon screenshot

The full site is live at nickelodeon.org. To see more applications of the identity, check out the full project case study on the Fuzzco site.

Badass Lady Creatives on the Dribbble Blog

Dribbble screenshot

Starting this week, Weekly Replay (a recap feature on the Dribbble blog) will include Dribbble users featured on Badass Lady Creatives. I’m so excited that these talented designers and illustrators will gain exposure on another outlet! Many thanks to Susanna Baird and the rest of the Dribbble team.

Sedimentary is Responsive

Sedimentary screenshot

My poetry and prose blog, Sedimentary, is now responsive! It’s actually the most basic layout ever—just post stacked on top of post—but the CSS hasn’t seen any love since four-ish years ago. I’d like to start writing more fiction, so I thought it might help with motivation to do some spring cleaning: changing to wide posts from columns to support longer-format writing, Freight Text’ing it up, and actually buying a domain name.

If you’d like to follow my writing blog in all its melodramatic glory, it’s hosted on Tumblr and is connected to a Twitter account (@readsedimentary).

Be Cool, Big Blogs

Giant blog machines have come up with some rock-solid ways to increase page views, thereby increasing ad revenue. Occasionally these methods are obnoxious: slideshow posts where each bullet point is a new page, and my least favorite, RSS feeds that only show excerpts (requiring you to read on the site instead of in your preferred reader). But I get it. Gotta make the big bucks.

All understanding aside, I want to point out that it is objectively nasty to post about a person’s work and never link to their site. After seeing something awesome on a wildly-popular blog today, I clicked on the designer’s name, expecting to be taken to her portfolio. Instead, the link routed to an internal page containing all posts written about said designer (in this case, just the one). There was no designer-specific data—including portfolio URL—on that page. Out of curiosity, I clicked back to the article, hunted around for a link, and found nothing.

So, Big Blog has thousands of followers. The post has been shared (at time of writing) 1,200 times from the post’s share buttons alone. They will surely profit from reader traffic on the blog post, but they couldn’t link directly to the creator? They just had to crank the number of impressions?

Obviously, I ended up Googling the designer’s name and found her portfolio. Pretty quick task, sure. But to consciously exclude a link to the original source of the work in favor of an internal link is bad journalism, bad UX, and just plain rude.

Big Blogs, you need to find a balance between profitability and respecting the people who essentially create your content. This stuff just feels sleazy and it is not helping your brand.

January Refresh CHS: Stitch Design Co.

Spoleto office

Above: The Murray Center in Charleston, aka Spoleto USA’s main office.

Charleston is one of several cities with a local chapter of Refresh, a group which seeks to inspire and maintain local creative communities. In Charleston, this looks like a somewhat-quarterly event with presentations, munchies, and mingling—lead by the ever-energetic Karl Hudson Phillips.

Yesterday’s RefreshCHS event was held at the beautiful (seriously) Spoleto Festival office, where Tami Boyce’s artwork hung on the walls and the founders of Stitch Design Co. gave a great presentation on their client-driven process.

Stitch's presentation

Above: Amy (left) and Courtney (right) talk about how Stitch got started.

Stitch was founded by Amy Pastre and Courtney Rowson, who bought a letterpress together and started a side business: Sideshow Press. After much positive feedback on their letterpress work, they decided to pursue design full-time. Thus, Stitch was born five years ago.

Throughout their presentation, Amy and Courtney stressed the importance of involving the client in the design process. Their MO is to meet people face to face, ask insightful (and many) questions early, and show a bit more process work than might be the norm.

Highlights from the presentation

  • It is not uncommon for Stitch to show 10–15 logos in one presentation. The number is pretty high, but the concepts are thoughtfully picked, and the intent is to involve the client.
  • Stitch helps clients see past the bare-minimum deliverable; for Mixson Racquet Club (at the time a brand new destination sort of in the middle of nowhere), they printed invitations on tennis towels.
  • Taking business risks helps you empathize with clients, who are investing real money into design work.
  • When clients have a hard time articulating their feedback, the designers gently ask questions to guide the conversation to a more specific, meaningful place. They also remind the client that they don’t necessarily have to pick what has already been presented.
  • When convincing clients to go with a larger print budget, usually “the idea sells it”, but a good logical case to make is: “why bother spending the money if you’re not going to do it right?” [paraphrased]
  • As for red flags, the founders are wary of clients who aren’t willing to sit down and talk at the beginning of a project. They seek out partners who would enjoy their design process, rather than be at odds with it.

My favorite moment in the presentation was when Amy and Courtney were describing how they got their hands on their first letterpress. They ordered the machine from Briar Press, a woman who was getting rid of all her things in order to serve as an overseas missionary. Amy and Courtney were expecting a table-top press, and were shocked when the Chandler & Price machine came in on a flatbed truck. The designers said that they blocked Meeting St. (a busy downtown street) for an hour, and ended up having to borrow a forklift from a company across the way. Both said they were glad they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into—they wouldn’t have dared to go for it if they knew the press would be so huge.

See more of Stitch’s work on their website, and if you’re in Charleston, check out Refresh on Twitter and Facebook.

Resources for Friends of Design

A couple of days ago I had the honor and pleasure to Skype with this year’s senior class in the University of Florida Graphic Design program. Next month, these smart and talented students will present Ligature 23, this year’s installment of the student-run design symposium. If you find yourself in Gainesville, FL on February 7, you can see Frank Chimero and Kate Bingaman-Burt speak for free. Plus a gallery of hand-selected student work!

Anyway, the seniors asked me which blogs I read and which development resources I’d recommend. I’m actually working on a longer blog post series for the dev stuff, but here’s a few links to get everyone started:

A sampling of the blogs I follow:

Those are the more general blogs; if I’m into someone’s work or the stuff they say on Twitter, I’ll follow their personal blog as well.

For learning web development:

Two related tips: always check the date on blog posts with code examples in them. There may be more up-to-date information. And if you’re the book-learning type, I’d recommend eBooks over print books. Development changes so quickly, so it doesn’t make sense to invest more money into something that will at some point be outdated and taking up physical space.

There’s also a fledgling resources page on my Badass Lady Creatives project. It’s a bit sparse right now, but I’m hoping to update that continually—including a new category soon. One of the best links on there is Jessica Hische’s resources list. Also check out Jessica's personal projects and blog posts, because she is so incredibly generous with her knowledge. Even with pricing.

Thanks again, guys! See you at Ligature.

Contributor on DWL / Photography by Melissa Toms

Design Work Life

Happy to announce that starting next Wednesday, I’ll be posting weekly on Design Work Life. My series is essentially an extension of Badass Lady Creatives (not-so-coincidentally, that site also launched yesterday), a project that I run which celebrates professional women in the creative industries. On DWL, I’ll be posting interviews, round-ups, badass women in history, and other lady creative news. It’s been interesting working from a social-media-first approach, but I’m so happy to have a permanent home for more robust posting.

I needed a landscape portrait for my posts on DWL, but having zilch—I tend to run away from the camera and/or make bizarre faces—Melissa Toms and I held a quick portraiture sesh. She did such a great job and has such a warm personality that it was easy to relax.

Photo by Melissa Toms
Photo by Melissa Toms

Melissa is really great at event and food photography, often shooting with our mutual friend Olivia Rae James.

Photo by Melissa Toms

Need to eat this, stat (shot at Monza in Charleston, SC).

Photo by Melissa Toms

Melissa also shoots some really beautiful, moody photos:

Photo by Melissa Toms
Photo by Melissa Toms

Seriously, that looks like a painting.

Melissa’s site is in the works, but you can follow her on Flickr or Instagram.

Advice to Stick to One's Forehead

It’s nice to troll through old computer files. Found a (questionably type-set) image of this A++ advice from Ira Glass:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Which Jonathan Safran Foer summarizes in three words (from Everything is Illuminated):

Jonathan Safran Foer