Branded Designers Round 3

Liz Andrade -

My seahorse is in the center of my upper back. I had always been fascinated with seahorses since I was a small child and I first read about them in this book I had about sea life. At the time that I got this it represented my openness to find a partner in life that could be my equal. I am now a decade older than I was at the time of getting this seahorse and have since found that partner, in a way the tattoo has become about him (and us) and in a way it is also about all of my life's great romances.

The heart on my left arm, I got 3 years ago for one of the great loves in my life — my cat, Cthulhu. He taught me so much about myself, about my capacity to love and about what it means to be selfless. Cthulhu died in June of 2009 after a 2 year battle with Chronic Renal Failure, and I am so glad that I will forever have a piece of him with me wherever life takes me!

I really see my tattoos as an outward representation to something within me.

Aaron Irizarry -

Hold Fast is an old sailor term, that was used to remind the crew to buckle down and hold on when they were coming against rough waters and storms. This piece has a ton of meaning to me. This last year or so has been quite a ride, amazing ups and some pretty rough times as well. I had to remind myself to hold fast to the things that make me who I am. My faith in God, and my family.

John O'Nolan -

Ever since I can remember I've been obsessed with tattoos, and from the age of about 10 I knew I wanted one. My parents will tell you just how much I wanted one, because for the next 6 years I asked for permission to get one just about every single day.

When I turned 16 I decided I couldn't wait any longer, and despite not having my parents' permission I went ahead and got my first one - which was a very large custom tribal piece between my shoulders. If I wasn't already sure that I loved tattoos before then, I was now.

Nowadays I have tattoos covering my entire left arm, my back, my hips, both legs, my feet, my ankles, and I've got lots more planned.

Tattoos for me are just as much about the process as they are about the end result, sometimes even more so. There's something very therapeutic about the burning sensation that comes with being tattooed, it's almost like a physical outlet for any emotion that you have inside. Regardless of what ends up on your skin, it's also a time-stamp in your life; the days, weeks, and years of day-to-day life may eventually blend together - but you never forget what was happening in your life when you got a tattoo. I look back at each and every one of my tattoos and remember that period of my life, and how I felt at the time. That's probably the most meaningful part of the process for me - the memories that are held in my skin forever.

The tattoo pictured here is my full sleeve, which was a collaborative design between myself and my tattoo artist (Barb, Inka Tattoo, Brighton, England). The subject is a combination of styles that I've been obsessed with for many years; BioMechanical art inspired by H.R. Giger, organic art, and snakes. The whole piece is basically a Garden of Eden meets 21st century technological doomsday, combining vines with pipes, leaves with cogs, and of course several serpents and the legendary apple.

Full sleeve tattoos take many, many hours to complete - which is why it was pretty handy that I spent several years working as a tattoo artist so I had a great group of friends at Inka Tattoo in Brighton who I spent a lot of time with. The pictures here show the progression of the sleeve from 2007 through to 2010, including my favourite ever session where Barb's old mentor came into town to visit for a few weeks, and I had both of them tattoo me at the same time for 6 hours. It was kind of cool having 3 generation of master/apprentice all being a part of one piece at the same time - but I can't lie, after 6 hours I was pretty much knocked out. After that long, your body has gone through so much that your nerves become totally overloaded - as a result your brain starts releasing huge quantities of endorphins. It's basically like being very, very drunk - but thankfully it wore off again fairly quickly afterwards.

Cerven Cotter -

I've been into the idea of tattoos from a fairly young age. I can remember decorating, er defacing, desks at school, always drawing in my books instead of taking notes and drawing on my hands. Perhaps it was the diet of punkrock and Slayer along with spending every waking moment in the water surfing or finding places to skate that has influenced me to go down the road of ink. I've always enjoyed being a little different, coloured hair, odd illustrations on my boards, was never content with being normal, and deciding to get tattooed up always appealed to me. Granted having lots of tattoo's these days doesn't make me that different, I'm happy with the fact that I've got an ever growing illustrated history of my life that I wear with pride everyday. A big thank you to Tyler Murhpy (Cape Town, South Africa) and Nick Reid (London, UK) for the inkage over the years. I thought I'd share a little bit of info on some of my ink.


This was my very first tattoo. It took me a few months of visiting various tattooists before I found an artist that really understood me and didn't just view me as yet another pay cheque. I like to do things properly and decided starting out on my stomach would be a good test to see if tattoos were really for me... I'd say it worked out quite well. Out of all my tattoo's this is the one I get asked about the most, "Why 'truth'?". Simple really. No matter what happens in our lives, doesn't matter what is said or done, we know what the truth is in our own hearts.

The Green Mask

Perhaps the most vividly coloured piece I have so far, and still one that makes me smile every time I catch a glimpse of it. People often say or claim that they wear their hearts on their sleeves, I like to wear my mask on mine.

Good Evil vs. Evil Good

Nothing is black and white these days, we live in a constant state of grey. Sometimes doing the wrong thing is the right thing to do, know what I mean? This whole piece is my take on the way the world works. The artwork depicts angels doing bad things while the demons are being good. I think that me not being religious and using this type of imagery also shows you that not everything is as it seems.

An Apology

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to finalize this post, but life doesn't seem to slow down. I won't list all my excuses here, but please know that I'm thankful for everyone who contributed to this series and continues to show their support. I hope you all out there are living each day to the fullest. I hope you're chasing after your dreams and not settling for 2nd best. I'm right here beside you in this race called life.

What I'm Not

mouth illustration by Kyle Steed I feel there's a lot of discussion, not just in the design community, about how we label/market/brand ourselves. I'm no brand expert, but let me tell you what I do know... me. I know who I am and more importantly I know who I'm not. That's what I want to tell you today.


I read a great article last week, Death to Creatives!!!, explaining the way we misuse the word "creative". It's not a noun, it doesn't describe a person, place or thing. Rather it's used to describe the person, place or thing in context. So me telling you I'm creative really makes no sense, albeit sounds good. But me telling you the way I design a website or illustrate a graphic is creative does make sense.

But there are other ways we can be "creative" outside of our careers, take cooking for example. I love to cook and enjoy tweaking the recipe to see how it turns out. Sometimes it fails, but every once in a while I get it just right and the food is delicious. Try it for yourself once in a while, shake things up, and most importantly have fun.


This title should only be given to people like Iggy Pop, Steven Tyler or Rick Astley (just kidding). I also hear it makes for an incredible energy drink. But the one thing "rockstar" shouldn't describe is a designer. Whoever coined this phrase for the design community should be ashamed. The lifestyle of a true "rockstar" in no way reflects the lifestyle of a designer. Unless you know designers out there that are on world tour, being followed by hardcore fans and more women than you can shake a stick at AND the millions of dollars flowing in, I think it's a little absurd to label yourself as such. (Please excuse the run on sentence.)

Plus, no client deserves to have their house trashed, liquor cabinet emptied and women stolen (a.k.a the "Rockstar" treatment). So it's time we put aside childish things and take a good look at who we really are. Hopefully we'll see that we're not some jackass "rockstar" but more of a confident designer.

Know It All

I don't know everything. Please don't assume I do. There is only one person who ever will. But I am always learning and improving, from past mistakes mostly. And when I approach a new client, or a new project, I focus on keeping an open mind. Listening to the goals of the client/project instead of hammering them with my own ideas will lead to a better working relationship. Sometimes though you don't always get to work with the optimal client, so knowing when to input your "2 cents" is a fine art you learn by experience.


I was created for dependence upon others. I thrive off the relationships in my life. From my personal relationship with Jesus, to my marriage, to the great group of friends I connect with face-to-face, to the larger creative community I interact with online. I can honestly say that I have a need for you all in my life. It's only when I think I can hold the world on my shoulders that my feet fail me and I crumble under the weight, tired and beat down. And the same thing happens in design. When we try and handle a project all on our own it wears us out. Without those wiser and more experienced watching over us we wouldn't be able to better ourselves. We need to bring back the master/apprentice model of working.

world on shoulders illustrations by Kyle Steed

Final Thoughts

I hope you learned more about who I am than what I'm not. My goal here is to help you think before you speak when describing yourself and what you do. I know words have a lot of power and when we use them loosely we usually end up putting our foot in our mouths. So that's why I think it's important to be as transparent as possible, and be the first to admit our mistakes. We can all learn from each other, but only if we're willing to open up and share.

Branded Designers Round 2

Finally after months of delay, I am happy to bring you the second round of the popular "Branded Designers" series. If this is your first time here, please go check out the first round, and for those of you already familiar, welcome back. You may notice things this time are a little different, for example I tried to put more emphasis on the photos of the tattoos. And I really tried to encourage people to go in depth with the descriptions of their tattoos. So please sit back, relax and enjoy getting to know these "branded" designers.

Joel Beukelman -

joel beukelman

The Wave:

The main inspiration behind my tattoos was art and design. After spending hours upon hours in art history class, certain artists and eras started standing out to me. I'll never forget the day when I opened my book up to the page of "The Great Wave off Kanagawa." This is one of my favorite pieces, done by was Katsushika Hokusai, and figured what better place to have it than on my arm. This is obviously a popular piece of art work, but the process behind Japanese art was the tattoo deal breaker. Japanese wood block and print work is one of the contributing forces to the development to graphic deign, therefore adding personal significance to this piece.

joel beukelman wave tattoo

The Flower:

In the traditional Japanese tradition, I choose to incorporate a flower into my sleeve. My tattoos were my wedding present and I let me wife pick the flower. Her favorite flower was the dahlia, so thats how that came about.

joel beukelman flower tattoo

The Scroll:

Scroll on the back of my arm says "speak words of life" in Japanese. In Japanese art, the scroll was the location where the artist would sign his name and I wanted to use that scroll for this message. My father is a pastor and I had the privilege of having my wedding done by my father. After the ceremony, he had some words of wisdom, and thats where the "speak words of life" came from. It's main theme is to be positive, set your mind on godly things, and build (not destroy) our marriage and in life.

joel beukelman scroll tattoo

In short, my sleeve is design, art, and my commitment to my wife. Its only 1/3 done and will be completed with another on of my favorite pieces from Hokusai.

Josh Cagwin -

josh cagwin

Growing up I was always fascinated with body art. I love my tattoos, they have a lot of meaning to me, and are something that can never be taken away from me.

Right Arm:

My right arm is mostly family oriented, my mom’s name and my sister’s first initials ”R & L” are each surrounded by a flower on the front and back of my arm. My daughter’s name Makenna is on my lower forearm and the words “White Dog,” (what my last name means in Scottish) is written within a crown covering my shoulder. The praying hands represent my faith and are there to remind me of the power of prayer, along with a couple other things mixed within the sleeve.

josh cagwin right arm tattoo

Left Arm:

My left arm consists of a one eyed creature with tentacles wrapping around a skull and skeleton with an angel standing in the green moat. The creature represents evil and how it can take you down if you let it. The angel standing strong and the small banner that says “faith,” remind me to stay strong with my Faith or evil will get the best of me.

josh cagwin left arm tattoo

I also have a tattoo across my chest that says, “1 Corinthians 13”. I share that with my wife who has it tattooed on her forearm. It is the love chapter in the Bible and if you have not read it I recommend it.

Aaron Irizarry -

aaron irizarry

The Chest:

My chest Tattoo is a reminder of who I am and where I have come from. The two birds one with devil horns and the one with the halo are on each side of the heart representing the constant struggle between making the right choices (more times than not I end up as the bird with horns) In the banner above them it says “By Grace Alone”. It is the only way I make it day by day is through God’s grace. Most of my life I was not what you would consider a “Model Citizen” and I am thankful for God’s grace in my life to help me be the person I was created to be (as opposed to being the mess I made of myself). It is never easy, but it is always worth it in the end.

The years in the banner on the bottom are the year I was born (1974), and the year that God changed my life by rescuing me from myself (1995). It is a great reminder of who I used to be, and who I have become, a change that didn’t happen as a result of religion, but by relationship.

aaron irizarry chest tattoo

Kathryn Proulx -

kathryn proulx

The Anchor:

My tattoo is of an anchor, flower, diamond, and rope on my left foot. I grew up by the water, born to two parents who loved sailing (in fact, they decided where I would live growing up while at a sailboat race in my hometown.) Both of my parent's fathers were in the navy, too. It just seemed natural to get an anchor. The flower is for my mother and the diamond is for my best friend (who has a diamond in the frosting of a cupcake tattooed on her wrist for the same significance).

kathryn proulx anchor tattoo

Simon Robertson -

simon robertson

I can't imagine not having tattoos. It feels like they were always supposed to be there. I've gone for a traditional style so far, there's just something special about it that appeals and connects with me. the clipper ship represents my life, where like the ship, i have some control over where i go (sail and rudder) there are also outside forces (wind and currents) that will push and pull me in certain directions. i also like the idea that i'm on a journey.

faith hope love

The words Faith Hope and Love are found in 1 Corinthians 13:13 (New Living Translation) ‘Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.’ I see these as being things i always need more of in my life and hope that one day i’ll be known by. As love is the greatest I have a few roses winding their way around my arm, they also serve to represent the fact that I connect most with God in creation, seeing this wonderful world always inspires me.

simon robertson tattoos


I also have an anchor with 'family' wrapped around it, this simply states that it's my family who ground me and support me and i love them.

simon robertson family tattoo

A huge thanks to everyone who contributed and supported this effort. If you are a "branded" designer and would like to be featured in the next round please contact me for more details. Also, I'm thinking of starting a list of some of the best tattoo shops, worldwide. So if you want to share with me your favorites, or maybe you work in one yourself, please leave a comment below. It would benefit the whole creative community. Thanks.

sharing with you

Last week I posted a few lessons I've learned along the way that I wanted to share with you. And in return I asked for you to respond with your own lessons in life, design or faith that you've learned to share with all of us. Now I know this isn't the "end-all-be-all" list of lessons to share with each other, but I'm reminded by what someone smarter than me once said; "you have to start somewhere."

My hopes are that you find something today that will inspire you and help you push past whatever problem you're facing. To encourage you to open up your life and let others help you out. And in the end to help others out the same way.

Aaron Irizarry

- @aaroni268

  1. Slow Down - Life can get pretty hectic pretty quick, especially as a designer with deadlines and fast paced work environments. We have to slow down take a deep breath and regain our focus. Creativity or anything for that matter can really suffer if we don't take the time re-group. Ferris Bueller said it best "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
  2. No matter how frustrating/end of the world/impossible it gets… stay cool.. It will probably be just fine. Many times I have looked back on frustrating situations, and bad days at work where I lost it.... or thought the apocalypse was happening, only to realize that everything cleared up, all the work got done, no zombies came and ravaged the office. In these times it is good to note that keeping a cool head can save a lot of frustration, or embarrassment as well as keep from putting strain on professional relationships.
  3. Don't worry about what others do… get it done and do it right, don't allow others to help you fail. A lot of times when part of a project doesn't get done , or "the powers that be" are laying into the dev team it is easy to point the finger at others for things not getting done. This doesn't bode well in management's eyes. Take responsibility, Don't let others lead you to fail.

Darcy Murphy

- @mrDarcyMurphy

  1. Be happy. Seek out happiness before anything else.
  2. Be afraid, and face life anyways. You’ll enjoy it more.
  3. Listen. Be quiet, don’t judge, simply absorb.
  4. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  5. Spend all day thinking about things you need to share.

Kenroy George

- @kengeo

  1. Never underestimate people.
  2. Always speak up.
  3. Do good and it will return to you.
  4. Live your own life and not the one other would like you to.

Khayyam Wakil

- @iamkhayyam

  1. Accountability. There's no one to blame and when it comes down to it, you're the only one that is responsible. Don't point fingers, if you have to, point it at yourself.
  2. Wisdom is what happens when you don't get what you want.
  3. Clients usually pick the worst designs, make sure that one is still pretty
  4. Know what you're worth and charge accordingly.
  5. Learn to say "no". A very empowering word with clients
  6. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Find the best and let them do the rest.
  7. Keep track of all your working hours as a freelancer. The hours you put in aren't all billable hours, so use your data to help estimate jobs, projects etc. Invaluable need for any designer really.
  8. Lists:
    • get that crap out of your head
    • visually see what's required to be done
    • it's nice to check things off, feels good
    • make room for the creativity to flow
  9. Speaking of flow... just roll with it. Everything unfolds exactly the way it's supposed to. Program crashed and you lost the file?! There was a reason. Look beyond what you can control and just accept it was randomly on purpose. You might not know why in the moment, but you will... eventually
  10. Every problem is just a solution waiting to be found. Perspective makes all the difference.

Lauren Krause

- @creativecurio

  1. Have to give a big speech or design the hugest project you’ve ever faced? Remember that people want you to succeed. Sometimes that realization is the confidence boost you need to get through it.
  2. If you’re going through a seemingly impossible time, think back to another time that also seemed impossible. How does it look now? That’s how this situation will be, given some time.
  3. Life, including design, is an art. Science is an art, too. In other words, no one has all the answers; we’re all just making the decisions that seem best to us with the information and experience we have at the moment.
  4. Learn what your strengths are and grow them. The Strengths Finder test is a great resource for this if you’re a little lost.
  5. Be aware of yourself—your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, abilities, passions, strengths.
  6. But remember, most of the time, it’s not about you.
  7. Understanding where someone is coming from (especially when they don’t make sense) is the first step in removing him/her as a threat. We are almost always afraid of what we don’t understand.
  8. At the heart of anger is fear.
  9. Life is so much more enjoyable when you’re driven by love rather than fear.
  10. Being constantly busy—particularly with meaningless "stuff"—is often a cover-up for fear and a lack of direction and passion.

Mirko Humbert

- @mirkohumbert

  1. Failure can be funny if you got a sense of humour, don't be afraid.
  2. Being stressed on things you have no control on is just stupid, relax.
  3. People don't give a shit about you, they're too busy with themselves. Try to find a common ground if you want to communicate with people or they won't pay attention to you.
  4. Don't give up, you may not get what you want but at least you'll get something.
  5. Your friends are not perfect, you aren't either. Be cool to them.
  6. Don't watch tv, it sucks. Go out and meet people.
  7. Your parents washed your ass for years, it's not a big deal to visit them and be nice to them sometimes.
  8. Do stupid things, you'll have something to talk about later.
  9. Everything will be fine, don't worry.

R.A. Porter

- @coyotesqrl

  1. No matter how much they cost, if you wear polished shoes to an interview it reflects well on you.
  2. When in doubt, the answer is always 7. Unless it's a multiple choice exam. Then it's 'D'.
  3. Aloe goes on the *outside*.

Rhonda Michelle Steward

- @rhondamichelle

  1. Angry people need more love than happy people
  2. Being the first to set the tone goes a long way
  3. When your dogs want to go outside go with them
  4. Your kids choose you
  5. Relocating spiders can change your entire relationship with them
  6. Knowing where the main water valve in your home is helpful, no...make that essential
  7. The real reason{s} for knowing someone may not be known for many, many years
  8. Cell phones can still work after a dunk {or 2} if you dry them out on your car dashboard
  9. Hot cocoa will always rock
  10. So do grown up versions of mac & cheese
  11. No matter what goes wrong at a wedding you’re still married at the end of the day
  12. There will always be someone who thinks you’re a design wizard and someone who thinks you’re “on your way” - at the same time, of course
  13. The mantra “profit over preference” can focus a design decision with a commercial client

Thanks again to everyone who participated.

one year blogiversary

In light of my upcoming one-year anniversary for my blog, October 13, I am offering up the chance to win the wonderful FIELD NOTES THREE-PACK for free to one lucky person. No shipping and handling, no call now and get two for the price of one gimmicks. Just a simple, straight-talkin' free gift to give back to this community that I've been a part of for the past year.

Why, you may ask, am I offering just three plain notebooks? That's a valid question. And to answer your question, upon verification from a google search about "one-year anniversaries" I found that the traditional gift has something to do with paper. Whether that be in the form of a notebook, a love letter, stationary, you get the idea. So I thought, perfect, since I'm a designer and most people who visit my site would be more apt to be a designer, or at least interested in design. This would be the perfect gift to keep your ideas close at hand in a stylish way.

The contest will run until next Friday, October 17. All you need to do to be eligible to win is leave a comment below with the best reason you can muster on why you'd like these notebooks. Note: spam and ad links do not count. Also, don’t forget to provide a valid email address in the input field, otherwise I won’t be able to notify you.

Thanks and good luck.

web vs print

There seems to be much debate these days between web and print designers. Not that this is anything new to anyone working in the field, but an important topic nonetheless. As someone who works hand-in-hand with both print and web I've had a small glimpse in to both worlds. But why should I choose sides? If you lay aside the degrees, the associations, the requirements, aren't we all the same underneath? Creative people all looking to make the future a more aesthetically pleasing and usable place to live?

One of the biggest divisions I think between the two is experience. Traditionally, if you wanted to receive recognition as a designer you earned your degree and worked your way up from intern to director. Building a strong portfolio of work along the way. But now with the web it's possible for anyone to make a name for themselves. Notice I said it's possible, not guaranteed, because more often than not the average Joe who makes a website will very rarely receive any type of recognition. And this goes without saying of course that for all the millions of blogs available today, maybe 5% of those are worth reading. Yes the rules of time still apply to the web.

In his article "Dear AIGA, where are the web designers?" Jeffrey Zeldman addresses the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) with an important question in regards to their upcoming Business and Design Conference.

... I can’t help noticing that for all the brand directors, creative directors, Jungian analysts, and print designers, one rather significant specimen of the profession is missing. Where are the web (or if you insist, the interaction) designers? I am probably missing someone, but I count two people with web experience, and neither gets more than 60 seconds of stage time.

For "the oldest and largest membership association for professionals engaged in the discipline, practice and culture of designing" this is a sore mistake. It doesn't make sense to me that an organization like AIGA still refers to web designers as "interaction designers". And why the delay with welcoming in the new breed of designers who are blending, cutting, pasting and pushing the limits of design? The web should not be thought of as a passing fad but embraced for what it is, the new printing press.

Now more than ever are we able to produce information at an amazing rate of speed. But even more than that we are able to present that information multiple ways on a single page. But you could say the same about print. And of course you would be correct. However I've never had the ability to look at a piece of printed material and been able to change the layout of it on the fly. But then again, there is something beautiful and delicate about a printed piece of work.

So why all the fuss? Why all the title divisions and disputes over what medium is best? It's like fighting a reflection, you can't win when the other person follows your every move. We must become willing to accept what the other does if we want to be respected in our own field. Or as Mr. Zeldman put it:

"If you exclude us from the conversation, the conversation may end up excluding you."