Empathy through Collaboration

I’m reading a pretty interesting book right now, and would recommend it to anyone. It’s not just for “designers,” it’s applicable to anyone wanting to live a fulfilling career life, etc. I really like this quote, because it’s so true for our design team, but across various teams in our company.

“Many people think that designers are lone geniuses, working in solitude and waiting for a flash of inspiration to show them the solution to their design problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. There may be some problems, such as the design of a stool or a new set of children’s blocks, that are simple enough to be tackled by an individual, but in today’s highly technical world, almost every problem requires a design team. Design thinking takes this idea even further and suggests that the best results come from radical collaboration. Radical collaboration works on the principle that people with very different backgrounds will bring their idiosyncratic technical and human experiences to the team. This increases the chance that the team will have empathy for those who will use what they are designing, and that the collision of different backgrounds will generate truly unique solutions.”
—Excerpt from Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

International Women’s Day



Wanting to quickly turn out a poster that reflects a current event, I made this poster to commemorate International Women’s Day, March 8, 2017. Initially, I posted just the red watercolor swatch on Instagram with the quote written for the description in the post.

I have always been an advocate of women’s rights, especially equality in education, the workplace, and personal relationships. There is way more to this topic than I will talk about here today, but I think the simple design is powerful.

I mixed a fuschia dark pink with a red (close to CMYK red). I used bold and confident brush strokes to outline the shape. I wanted it to have a natural merging/blending of the shades of red to indicate that all women are unique and that we come together with many different backgrounds. Our diversity brings intelligence, joy, beauty, hard work, and ingenuity to this world (and way more!). The loose ends of the open strokes towards the top, as well as the splatters of red remind me that no human is perfect. In our march towards equality, we have to remember that about ourselves, as well as those around us and in our community.

One of my most favorite things for this project was using typefaces that were created by women. I found this curation of typefaces designed by women, and navigated to the option “Text Font.” → typequality.com

I already had a few of these typefaces, and was excited to learn this new fact about them. The typefaces I ended up going with were both created by the same designers, Veronica Burian and José Scallion.

My aside on this is that even without knowing the typographers sex, these typefaces are dynamic and damn solid. Being a creator is just that. It is having the gift and doing it. The problem lies in where women creators are not spoken of (even mentioned, or given credit) as men creators are, historically and today. Although we are making huge strides! I notice this in fine art, architecture, music, typography, etc. Hopefully that makes sense, but for now, I digress.


Abril (found on Type-Together)

Adelle Sans (found on Typekit)

Download a free, full-size poster PDF → womens-day-poster-2017

Forced, a political poster.



As promised, here is the finished version of the political poster I’ve been working on. I was happy with it, but also frustrated. The real inspiration ended up coming after I finished this up, to keep up with doing more posters, to be more bold in my approach to design and life in general. Although in this particular poster, I don’t feel like the design is completely resolved, in that I would want it to draw more of an emotional reaction than it does. Again, it will be something to keep working on, to refine my voice, and be more comfortable with addressing the uncomfortable (especially as one who wants to see change).

I chose the main typeface Greycliff because I wanted something that had many weights, and could communicate a message clearly in a modern way, while still having roots in editorial type. Some of the history of it was that it was designed to imitate typefaces from the 40s, like for newspaper headlines. For this project, I was initially very inspired by old newspapers, especially those about the Japanese relocation after Pearl Harbor. I was able to find some cool inspiration for typefaces through fontsinuse.com.

For the research of this project I sourced many, many first-person interviews, as well as newspapers. If you would like to dive into more of these very thought-provoking and challenging interviews, please do → tellingstories.org.

The links I include in the poster are very educational, and helpful for those who may be struggling with discrimination. If you are not personally facing these issues, but still want to help, I also included a link to take action.  → Know your rights  → Take action

Download a free, full-size poster PDF → forced-political-poster-2017


Greycliff CF (found on CreativeMarket)

Arnhem (found on OurType)




Research and Art Direction

I am learning the process of art direction, which has turned out to include a ton of research. I was given the task to create a poster for an event, one that includes information, and not just purely an artistic or illustrative depiction.

Beginning with what inspires me, I jotted down a few basic concepts. Beginning with Japanese related things, such as Japanese festivals, Japanese in Arizona … I realized I was focusing on a bigger political issue at hand. I hadn’t made the connection yet to the political and social climate we’re experiencing today, but I was developing a stronger and stronger distaste for something we had done as a nation some 75 years ago.

After talking through the concept with my design team, my design lead mentioned that I should try connecting the event of those many years ago with something we’re experiencing today in the U.S. I decided to create a human rights poster.

Realizing what I wanted to do was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I pushed for it anyways. I wanted to challenge myself as a person and as a designer. So here we go.

Through this process, I’ve realized how cowardly I am as a person (and citizen), as well as realizing the pain in design, saying what you want to say but knowing it may not be the best design solution.

Painful struggle.

Through the struggle, I want to push on in hopes my knowledge of the world will turn to action, and my skills as a designer will be sharpened—even if a little at a time.

My basic process:

  • Research topics of interest
  • Brainstorm
  • Hone in on topic and gather supporting evidence, quotes, resources, talk to people who have a deeper understanding of the topic or similar topics
  • Brainstorm again, draw up many sketches and layouts
  • Typography research (I used fontsinuse.com)
  • Pick best quotes and most powerful facts
  • Start designing
  • Critique from team, help from copy writer
  • Keep designing and refining
  • Critique from team and copy refinement
  • Final design (or repeat last couple of steps until ready)

Brainstorming sketches:


Layouts and revisions:

poster-versions-previewOnce I get to that “Final Design” step in my process, I’ll make sure to share with you here. Thanks for reading. –R

Be Good


I just pulled this from Jason Santa Maria’s design blog. It is definitely important to understand this and take it to heart. Especially at the beginning of projects, I find myself wrestling with the concept of making “the best thing ever,” when the focus ought to be shifted over to “its real purpose.”

Source → http://v4.jasonsantamaria.com/articles/on-good/

The In-between


“…If you stop to think about it, most of life is ‘in between.’ When goal orientation comes to dominate our thoughts, little that seems to really count is left. Could all of us reclaim the lost hours of our lives by making everything—the commonplace along with the extraordinary—a part of our practice?

Life is filled with opportunities for practicing the inexorable, unhurried rhythm of mastery, which focuses on process rather than product, yet which, paradoxically, often ends up creating more and better products in a shorter time than does hurried, excessively goal-oriented rhythm that has become standard in our society.”

—George Leonard, Mastery