One Minute With…
Hi Allison, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
As the daughter of a programmer and graphic designer, I’ve had an innate interest in web design from a young age (and a convenient copy of Photoshop on the computer since I could remember). After years of late nights procrastinating schoolwork by designing and coding diary layouts, (remember Xanga? Live Journal? Haha) I eventually realized web design was what I should pursue as my career. I enrolled at the Art Institute of Tampa for Web Design & Interactive Media, graduated and haven’t looked back since.
Fast forward to today, and I’m currently residing in Orlando, FL, where I work as a designer/teacher with Carsonified’s Treehouse team.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Allison Grayce.
Monday through Thursday I generally wake up around 7am and check my email, texts & social networks while still laying in bed of course. I get ready for work while drinking several cups of orange juice (I could live off OJ alone, seriously), take my Australian Shepherd, Proximo for a stroll and then walk to either the office, a coffee shop or back to my apartment to work for the day. Wherever I end up, I’ll drink a couple cups of coffee and dive into the day’s work by mid-morning.
At Treehouse the teachers have set days for when we record our classes, so on off-days I’ll be writing content, researching, or designing.
Somewhere around 6pm (depending on the workload) I’ll head home and work on either freelance or my own projects, while watching episode after episode of some sort of show (Mad Men, The Office, Fringe, and The Tudors to name a few). If I’m not in front of the computer I’ll be cooking, doing something crafty, hitting up happy hour in downtown Orlando, or driving back and forth to Tampa to visit family and plan for my wedding in November.
How did you get your first design client?
In the beginning, most of my paid freelance clients were friends, family, coworkers or friends of friends. (I quickly learned these were some of the most difficult clients to work with!) My first design job was at a print shop, where I designed car wraps, signs, billboards, etc. During my sophomore year of college, my professor hired me on as a designer for his agency, where I would work for the next few years. The rest is history!
How do you approach a new project? What’s your design process like?
Like most designers, my process is always ever-changing and maturing, but with every project I try to always follow the same general approach. I’ll spend more time on different stages in the process depending on the budget and timeline, etc.
First I enter what I refer to as the “Discovery” phase. During this time I perform research, create moodboards, and sketch based on a creative brief. You’ll likely find tons of papers from UI Stencil’s Browser Pad, Sharpies, and design books scattered around my desk during this time.
Once I’ve defined a direction for the project, I’ll enter the “Design” phase where I’ll refine the wireframes I sketched out in Photoshop. I’ll literally create boxes and work in black and white. I get all the required content on the page from the navigation all the way to the footer. This way, I’m aware of any layout problems early on before spending too much time on little details like texture or color.
After getting client sign off, I’ll move into the “Design Refine” phase, where I’ll start applying color, texture, and other design elements (the fun part!). This phase usually lasts the longest, with the most time consuming, detail oriented work.
From there I’ll enter the “Develop” phase, which is pretty straightforward. It’s the most rewarding stage for me personally, where you see your vision and creativity come to life. Also by then I’m ready to switch on my left brain and take a break from design.
You have a fun, colourful style with a lot of character. Where do you get inspiration?
I’d like to say my design work is inspired by an era in time, by nature or something cool like that but honestly, my inspiration happens naturally from project to project. I try not to over design things or overwhelm myself seeking for inspiration, but to create an online environment for the brand to naturally exist. If the copywriting is strong, and the brand evokes emotion, a clear direction for design most always follows suit.
A lot of people first discovered you through your stunning wedding invitations that you designed for your own wedding. How different is it to design with yourself as the client?
I was my worst client ever! Thank god you only get married once. There’s a lot of pressure designing for yourself because there are no limitations, no constraints and high expectations. I must have changed my mind a hundred times before committing to just about anything. Even now, I look back and see little things I would have done differently, but I’m happy with how they turned out.
Ultimately, my fiancé had to remind me that Grandpa Joe won’t care if the invites were letterpressed or not, or if the font was serif or script. But trust me, it didn’t stop there. Everything from flower arrangements to linen choices have been tough to commit to as a designer.
My advice – hire someone else to do them! Haha.
You recently joined the Carsonified team. What exactly are you working on, and how does it differ to client work?
Treehouse is the major re-imagining for Carsonified’s Think Vitamin Membership. Official launch is on November 7th, so I definitely joined at a very exciting time when they’re experiencing a lot of growth. My new position is different from anything I’ve ever done, which is both exciting and challenging at the same time. Whereas before I spent my entire day behind the computer screen dedicating my time to clients, I’ll be instead in front of a camera teaching my peers about design.
Without clients to design another banner ad for or another landing page for like at a typical agency, I’ll be able to dedicate more of my time toward valuable research, design exploration and copywriting (which has always been an interest of mine!) to further educate myself and others. How awesome and rewarding is that?
What design tools could you not live without?
Without my Moleskine I think I’d forget everything. I’d obviously be lost without Adobe Creative Suite (at least Photoshop & Illustrator) and some sort of font management software (I’m anal about organizing my fonts by style). As far as websites, Twitter has proven to be the most valuable communication tool, while Dribbble and Pinterest are constantly inspiring me.
I could live without my iPhone, in fact I might be happier without it. It’s navigation system is going to be the death of me.
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?
Network, network, network! Even the most talented of designers won’t meet their ultimate potential if they’re hiding behind a computer. Attend local design conferences and meetups, and introduce yourself to everyone, and treat everyone at these events as if they were potential clients or employers.
Sites like Twitter and Dribbble have made it possible to reach out to top notch designers, agency founders, creative directors, etc. Take advantage of opportunity and reach out to them. Ask them questions and advice.
Don’t constrain yourself to only one area of expertise. For example, If you’re a designer and don’t want to learn how to code, at least be aware of how you can design more efficiently for the development process (and vice versa!). Even basic knowledge and appreciation for something outside of your expertise will set you apart.
Many thanks to Allison for taking some time to talk to One Minute With. I loved talking to her, and hopefully you enjoyed her insight!
Why not check out Allison’s site, and follow her on Dribbble and Twitter?