"Waitress" Poster Series

2017 has been a year of personal growth. And when this journey started, I was in search of a musical companion that could offer me strength, humor, and vulnerability in the times I needed it most. And in walked Waitress.

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Waitress is a musical currently running on Broadway. Go see it. The music was written by Sara Bareilles, and the entire team of show creators is female. Go see it. It's the story of Jenna, a young waitress who makes "Biblically good" pies for a small town diner. And when she finds out she's pregnant with her abusive husband's baby, she has no other option but to find within herself the inner strength to carry on and find freedom. The rest of the show is her journey to self-discovery, where the audience gets to cry, laugh, and sing along through her stumbles and triumphs to becoming the best version of herself. So without all the carbohydrates and circumstance, she's all of us. She's me. (Bring back in all the carbohydrates and she's definitely me.)

From the first moment I listened to the opening song, I could not get enough of this soundtrack. First and foremost, it starred Jessie Mueller, who I absolutely love, adore and respect. She's incredibly talented, the forerunner in her field, and incredibly humble despite her unbelievable talents. She's a Tony winner, her voice is perfect, she's so beautiful, and I've never met a kinder pair of eyes in my life. (More on that later.) So she's a huge part of my love for the show. But then, mix in incredibly catchy music, deeply moving lyrics, a strong story of overcoming tragedy, and have it all performed by a stellar cast? I'm so in.

Oh, and they bake a pie in the lobby of every show, so the whole time you're watching, you're smelling (and eating if you order it from concessions) freshly baked pie. Go. See. It.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, I've always wanted to use my design skills in some sort of conjunction with Waitress, and I've finally put pencil to paper to make it happen. Why the sudden spark of inspiration? Funny you should ask.

I GOT TO MEET JESSIE MUELLER THIS WEEK. And here's how it all went down.

Long story short, I bought tickets for a charity concert that she would be performing in, and I upgraded my tickets to include a meet-and-greet. I wasn't sure how it would go, as I tend to get a little tongue-tied when I'm around people I revere as much as her, but I didn't say anything stupid, and I actually got to tell her how much I appreciate all she does for theatre. She looked into my eyes as I told her how her voice, above anyone else's on the planet, has pulled me out of more dark days than anyone else. It was amazing. She was moved. I was moved. And we hugged. And got this picture that I and my mascara somehow held it together for.

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So, we met. And then I had a meltdown. But after that, I woke up inspired to create something to say thank you, for the millionth time, to Jessie, Sara, and the entire cast and crew of Waitress. This show changed my life for the better in a time when I wasn't really sure what to do. I found, in Jenna, the strength to move through my own struggles and into something more beautiful — and sweet — than I could have ever imagined.

Sugar, butter, thank you!

Monthly Makeover: WWE Network Interface (Inaugural Post!)

Welcome to Monthly Makeover, a new content series for the blog. Once a month, I'll reveal a design I've been working on behind the scenes. I'll be picking print, digital, and interactive designs to completely re-design for usability, aesthetics, or both — designs and experiences I interact with frequently and think could use a push in one direction or another. Thanks for joining me on this journey, and I'm excited to unveil my inaugural Monthly Makeover design: The Interface for the WWE Network.

$9.99 a month, y'all. First month is free. I am not a paid spokesperson. I'm just a wrestling nerd. Oh, and this is my homepage design. To see the current state of things, keep scrolling.

$9.99 a month, y'all. First month is free. I am not a paid spokesperson. I'm just a wrestling nerd. Oh, and this is my homepage design. To see the current state of things, keep scrolling.

If you know me, you know how much I love professional wrestling. (And if you don't know me, try out my handy new contact page and let's become friends.)

WWE is a brand always on the forefront of everything (not just pro wrestling), and 2014's launch of the WWE Network cemented their status as an innovative yet accessible worldwide media brand. I am a subscriber to the network and have been since its launch. It has thousands of hours of current and vintage content, and at least two nights a week, it's all we watch.

This is the current design for the WWE Network. Any idea where you are on this page? Yeah. Me neither.

This is the current design for the WWE Network. Any idea where you are on this page? Yeah. Me neither.

Using the app is always a bit of a rocky user experience for me. Even after almost three years, I have trouble finding my active place within the app due to the UX of multiple navigation bars and a confusing hierarchy between current, rollover, and visited states. This is the main issue I set out to solve with my makeover, and I made some aesthetic updates, as well.

The new scrubbing navigation I've designed allows you to jump from match to match within a feature. This helps when you want to scrub through a promotional message without dipping too far into the main event. (Yay for skipping ads AND reducing spoilers!)

The new scrubbing navigation I've designed allows you to jump from match to match within a feature. This helps when you want to scrub through a promotional message without dipping too far into the main event. (Yay for skipping ads AND reducing spoilers!)

The platform can be accessed through streaming devices like Amazon FireTV Stick, Apple TV, or PlayStation, which is the user interface I chose for these designs. I created a more uniform navigation system that uses color changes and simple graphic treatments like underlines to allow the user to not only clearly see where their active "cursor" is, but also to easily be able to re-trace their steps through the platform.

This solves the problem I've had with the current layout, which uses red as both the "active" and the "visited" state treatment.  I find that the use of red in the original design promotes these visited states upwards, rather than downwards in the UX hierarchy, often making me lose my place and wonder where I am on the page. In the makeover, red is solely reserved for showing where the user currently is on the page, with visited states now treated with a simple, white underline.

I've also updated the universal backgrounds and navigation to be monochromatic, which is a two-fold decision — 1) Reserving full-color imagery and text solely for the elements the user is currently interacting with limits the confusion of "Where am I?" and draws the eye to the active state. 2) WWE is a brand all about legacy and history, and the brand uses this platform as its vault of treasures. (The brand's current bumper slogan is "Then. Now. Forever.") Using this black and white imagery inspires this feeling of nostalgia, even when used with present-day images.

Most elements within the new interface design are dark with bursts of bright color, reminiscent of a WWE live event. When the lights go down in the arena, it's electric. And within moments, you're met with a fully lit jumbotron introducing one of your favorite Superstars or with a July-4th-worthy spectacle of bright, booming pyrotechnics. (Need proof? Scroll back up to that SummerSlam '16 thumbnail. Wowzers.)

All in all, the current state of the platform doesn't have a huge usability curve.  I'm a frequent user and a huge fan of it, so this re-design is just as much an ode to its successful features as it is an attempt to improve its UX. (And any chance I can get to dip my design toes into the waters of my favorite brand, I'll take it. So I did!)

Thanks for joining me for this month's Makeover. I'll see you next month.

Solstice Sunglasses Photoshoots (January-May 2017)

Photoshoots are fun! Stressful, but fun. And here's some samples of a few shots I've directed so far this year for Solstice Sunglasses. Huge kudos to my amazing team that helps make these shoots come to life!

Models: @kellymariehays and @elizabethbeals
Photographers: @benbrinker and @cellacinema
Editors: @aimeebrinker, @intinylines and @cellacinema

All photos are property of Solstice Sunglasses, as created by @daggeragency.

Welcome, 2017.

2016 was a gigantic year, in all ways — good and bad. And rather than revel in its ending (which I am afraid I've done too much already), I humbly, excitedly, and wholeheartedly welcome and wish only the best for 2017.

An image retrospective of 2016 — a year of changes, travel, and unwavering love and support from the best inner circle a girl could ever ask for.

An image retrospective of 2016 — a year of changes, travel, and unwavering love and support from the best inner circle a girl could ever ask for.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Everything

Happy holidays, y'all. Here's a little ditty I made for the season. It may or may not also function as a self portrait.

Trying my hardest, despite 2016's best attempts, to be less of a black banana with a (bomp bomp) greasy black peel.

Trying my hardest, despite 2016's best attempts, to be less of a black banana with a (bomp bomp) greasy black peel.

Spill Canvas Merchandise Designs

The always-lovely Spill Canvas and I worked together this year on some super cool merch designs. Huge thank you to Nick and the boys for letting me be a part of their music-making magic. Some of these designs are still available for purchase here, so swing by and grab some!

Side Project: Animated .gifs

Here are some fun ditties I made in the great (pfft) year of 2016. Some are featured on dagger's Instagram, so go give us a follow for more 30 second fun.

Side Project: Wrestling Posters (Part 1)

In agency/startup/freelance life, there's not a whole lot of extra time or excess energy to devote to many things outside the business. However, for the last eight years, and most passionately in the last five, I have followed, supported, and wholeheartedly loved professional wrestling.

Without giving you a full case study on how WWE is one of the greatest examples of an international brand creating long-lasting, engaging multimedia content for over half a decade, know I am a devout fan of WWE wrestling, and find within its stable of Superstars many characters, athletes, and heroes worth celebrating.

And that's what this ongoing side project is about: celebrating the storytellers and characters that, many times, get me from day to day and week to week. Judge not, lest ye have been to a Pay-Per-View. I say, "life changing" with a non-ironic grin.

Oh and by the way, expect a full case study on WWE soon enough. It's that good. Don't believe me? Then tune in for @StephMcMahon's Cannes talk this year.

And check out these posters I've created. More on the way, just couldn't wait to share.

Inspiration

I get asked a lot in introductions and interviews, "What inspires you?" I tend to start off with answers to what they're really asking, "How do you stay relevant?" and I name off design blogs, Twitter handles, and local gallery-bars that I infrequently frequent. However, I find I most often get my visual inspiration from music.

As a teenager, my first life aspiration was to be (stay) in the theater. Through high school and college, I starred in musicals like Once Upon a MattressLittle Shop of HorrorsGrease, and Into the Woods. Musical theater creates the raw emotion of face-to-face performance and amps up the volume with a fully orchestrated (sometimes omnipresent) soundtrack. Shows like The Last Five YearsFun House, Les Miserables, Company, The Book of Mormon, and Sunday in the Park with George have been go-to's in this first decade of design. I find the music of these shows creates a safety net for me, opening up my brain to receive new ideas, no matter how foreign they may seem to me. Safety is a large part of my emotional requirement foundation. Designing something new usually doesn't mix well with watching a new movie or tv show, or listening to something I don't already know the lyrics to. It's limiting, but it works.

I am inspired by emotional moments, and rarely a medium expresses true emotion to me better than musical theater.

Finishing the Hat — Sunday in the Park with George

The dichotomy between what must be done and what else is being ignored in that time? The dichotomy of thinking, speaking, and living in design and the sudden drop off when transitioning to living back in the real world? Whew.

On days I need to heads-down focus, there's really only one album that gets me there. It's NSFW, but in the world of headphones, no problem. A long, immaculate mashup that pairs Black Sabbath with Ludacris, Simon and Garfunkle with Lil Jon, Eric Clapton with B.O.B., Wiz Khalifa with John Lennon, and more? Yeah. It's intense. And perfect. Here's the whole album. Girl Talk's All Day. (All day, indeed.)

I made an observation this year that the art that most profoundly affects me all has one thing in common — its subject, creator, or message seems to feel the pain I have once felt before. Returning to the idea of musicals (which I am prone to do incessantly) The Origin of Love from Hedwig and the Angry Inch observes:


I could tell by your expression
that the pain down in your soul
was the same as the one down in mine.
That's the pain
that cuts a straight line
down through the heart.

And we call it love.

In my teens, I obsessively clung to singer-songwriters. With longstanding love affairs with Jim Croce, James Taylor, Don McLean, Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard, in 2005, I found a contemporary obsession in the South Dakota based "desert rock" band The Spill Canvas. After (finally) finding their debut album Sunsets and Car Crashes in the Haight Asbury Tower Records in 2005, my true connection with writing poetry began. One of my earliest journals is full of Spill creator Nick's words, and I spent a lot of time crafting my emotional responses to life's occurrences in a similar fashion to the way he did. And I think the reason is because he, more than any artist, seemed to have this Hedwig-esque understanding of what was happening, despite our ages, geography, and circumstances being much, much different. Many years, miles, and albums later, I am so proud and honored to call Nick my friend. And I hope our short, disparate conversations have adequately let him know that his years of distant support through just creating his art have offered me more comfort, inspiration, and perseverance than any other artist, visual or otherwise. In essence, I have never found an artist to impact me more profoundly than he, and I continue to find a safe, profound, and deeply moving message in his music.

This song resonates with a time in my life I had to make a difficult decision about myself. When taken literally, the song is quite sad. But I find strength in remembering this specific moment and deciding to become something greater than the circumstances that were attempting to narrate my life for me. Thank you, Nick. For this and everything else.

The Spill Canvas — Bound to Happen

Other albums and artists I use for inspiration are below. My music tends to change with my moods, and I like to cater my input to my output sometimes. I would apologize for the absolute absurdity of this collection, but honestly, I'm not at all sorry. 

I leave you with these. Choose wisely, enjoy, and come back for more.