Running Lessons

Last week marked the unofficial start to the cross country season for the team I once helped coach. I have to admit I am more than a bit bummed out about missing out on another season. Every sweaty season offered an incredible roller coaster ride of laughs, tears, celebrations, challenges, and life lessons.

As I reminisced about all of the ups and downs of my 4 seasons as a coach, I started thinking about all the lessons these runners were going to experience. The list seemed endless, so I decided to write them out and see just how many I could come up with. In just over an hour, I was staring down at a list of over 170 lessons.

I won’t list them all right now, but I’ll share some of the bigger ones:

  1. Don’t look back.
  2. Your level of commitment determines your future opportunities.
  3. You control whether you meet your goals.
  4. You get what you work for, not what you wish for.
  5. Be intentional.
  6. Dress for the weather.
  7. Keep your head up.
  8. You won’t see any progress if you don’t record where you started or where you’re going.
  9. Hard work isn’t always about doing more, but being smarter about what you’re doing.
  10. Your thoughts become your reality.
  11. The amount of pain you can endure is determined by your mind, not your body.
  12. Your limiting beliefs are your biggest obstacles.
  13. Waiting for the perfect time is a waste of time.
  14. Do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it, not just when you feel like it.
  15. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
  16. Excuses or results: the choice is yours.
  17. Run through the finish line.
  18. Setbacks are only as powerful as you make them.
  19. Choose your running buddies wisely.
  20. Nothing goes as planned. Keep calm, adapt, focus on your goals, and keep going.
  21. You choose whether your PRs haunt you or inspire you.
  22. Run for your own reasons.
  23. Don’t miss out on the journey by focusing only on the destination.
  24. Hard work trumps talent.
  25. Pace yourself.
  26. Comparison crushes confidence.
  27. You’re stronger than you know.
  28. Breathe.
  29. Watch for opportunities.
  30. Believe in yourself.

It’s pretty amazing to think about all that running has to offer, both mentally and physically. I really hope this year’s runners will take full advantage of their season while they can.

Illustration Friday Tornado

I_Need_A_New_SpinSo I finally did it! I completed an Illustration Friday challenge. Since I’m on “vacation”, I thought I’d give this week’s challenge a go. The topic was tornado, and boy, didn’t it have my head spinning!

My initial thought was “What would Lucienne Day do?” I love her abstract, organic patterns (Calyx and Dandelion Clocks are two of my favorites). I sketched a few (atrocious) ideas with vines that formed the shape of a tornado and had some fun retro-y styled shapes on them. Nope. Not the right plan. I needed my own spin.

So, I sketched a few more options and finally created this fun little illustration.


Happy Owladays!


Five?!! Can you believe it?! Five years ago, I accepted a friend’s challenge to “do something” with my owl doodles. That “something” ended up being a 365-day challenge that resulted in 385 illustrations and over 400 owls (several posts had an extra or two as part of the story). I used that challenge to help me beat burnout and escape what had become a soul-crushing day job and to move on to my next big career adventure—what I thought was my dream job: working full-time for the nonprofit I had helped to found. That dream ended rather abruptly.

Short Story: I left graphic design for 3.5 years to run a nonprofit out of my home, only to be fired at a Panera without warning or cause, replaced by a friend of a board member within 2 days, and left with no chance of a full-time job (thank you “confidential conversations” among friends) and no unemployment (small nonprofits are not liable in Ohio). While I’m hurt by how this was handled, I’m not angry or looking to place blame. It’s simply time for me to learn and to move on.

It’s up to me to label this a “fail” or the start of a “bounce”. I choose bounce. I will always choose bounce. What I have to work with: loads of creative ideas, hundreds of owls, inspiring friends and family that I will always make time for FIRST, life lessons that I’ll never forget, and a few plans.

And so to celebrate the 5th anniversary of my escape from burnout and the start of my next experiment in creative freedom—a “bird-day”, if you will—I will be releasing my owls to you in the form of…

  • Art prints, pins, and magnets at my Etsy store (Coupon Code 5YEAROLDOWLS will save you 13% now through June 30th.)
  • More art prints, home decor, & cell phone cases through Society 6
  • T-shirts in my Threadless Artist Shop
  • Cell phone cases, posters, and paper products through Zazzle
  • Graphics available on the HungryJPEG (Everything is 20% off through the end of the month!)

I’ll be posting new items to each store throughout this month to celebrate this bird-day. I’ll share the new items here, along with any discount codes.

If there’s a specific owl you can’t wait to have released, leave a comment below, and I’ll add her (or him) to the next round of releases.

See the entire challenge at

100 Day Challenge: 100 Days of Creative Sparks Featuring Sealife

Since I was let go from my all-consuming nonprofit “day” job, I have been examining my decisions and my lifestyle. As one of the founders, I sacrificed quite a bit to ensure the success of this nonprofit—time with my family, my career as a designer, incredible design projects, a book project, friendships, my home (it was run out of my home until the day they “let me go”). Without warning or cause, I was told the board was moving on without me immediately* and did not need or want my guidance or input any longer.

*This was quite the shock, as the board and I had discussed my succession plan many times in the previous months. I had wanted to allow an easier transition for the nonprofit and also allow time to rebuild my design career, but the board decided to take a different direction.

I was devastated. Really devastated. This nonprofit had become my identity. Who would I be without it? Why didn’t I matter anymore? Would anyone care about me without my nonprofit connection? What would happen to the nonprofit?

As I sorted through the self-doubt, I realized that my life had been lacking inspiration. I had been battling a bit of burnout for a while (and attempting to recover from two concussions within just a few months of each other) and had sacrificed most of my typical creative exercises as I struggled to meet the nonprofit’s goals. While I had occasionally maintained my Saturday morning design inspiration hunts, I had stopped creating. Sure, I had some fun side-jobs once in a while, but I wasn’t doing enough to refuel my creativity.

I thought about bringing back my owl-a-day project, but that would be too easy…and the truth is, I don’t really like owls that much. I thought about joining a Creative Sprint, but I really wanted something illustration or drawing based. That’s when I learned about #The100DayProject and decided to join in. I wanted to do something with sea life and creativity—an odd combination, but that will make sense in June—and came up with my “Sea Different” project.

Follow along on Instagram!

Cadence Race Promotions

I lost a bet. While I cannot reveal the terms of the bet, I can tell you that in losing that bet, I was on the hook for creating a logo for an awesome friend’s new business…and I totally geeked out over losing. Sure, I could have sketched something out in crayon on a napkin and handed that over—I never said anything about the format or quality—but I just can’t do something half way.

Sketches of the letter A

So, I started sketching out the letters within the company name to find a style that connected with the what I believe the business’s characteristics are (reliable, creative, smart, fun, and modern). I worked out several pages of letters (including the full page of As at the left).

Once I worked my way through all of my lettering ideas, I took a look at other race management companies and considered the audience’s expectations.

Thumbnail sketches for Cadence Race Promotion Logos

I know CRP’s audience pretty well (runners!) and know that we see more than our fair share of logos—unless you’re leading all the races, you’re bound to have a few shirt-backs full of logos right in your face at every race. I wanted something that would immediately draw a runner’s attention and started on sketches that incorporated a runner with the company name. Many were absolutely hilarious, but I finally created one that I felt worked well, and sent it to Rooster & Stretch* for feedback.

First Accepted Cadence Race Promotions Logo

They were thrilled with one of the designs, so I built it out in Illustrator and sent them a workable logo. At first, I was pretty proud of this guy, but after another designer moved him to the other side of the logo, I was…not happy. I hated my creation and basically begged to create a new logo option.

So, I went back to my sketchbook and drew a bunch of runners. This was a fun challenge—there are so many runner icons running around out there, and I wanted something a little different. Once I found some workable options, I scanned my favorites using the Genius Scan app on my iPhone and worked up some rough comps (shown below) using the Concepts app on my iPad to speed up the process a bit. Then, sent them off to Rooster & Stretch for feedback.

I was surprised when they chose my funky wave dude (upper left). He was my last-ditch filler dude. I never thought he’d make the cut, but he was the one.

Cadence Race Promotions final logosSo, I reworked the lettering slightly to create some visual connections and worked out color options. They wanted orange and royal blue, but that color combination could be confused with the race timing company they work with. I brightened the orange and adjusted the blue to darker teal (to avoid any color vibration). I also created several iterations of the logo to allow for multiple uses.


They loved the final colors and logo and had me create course signs to use at their 5k and 10k races. Next up: converting all of the handlettering into custom typefaces, the full brand identity package, and website redesign.


This project didn’t quite follow a standard process, but the guys launched Cadence Race Promotions quite quickly, and at the time, I was still working a chaotic full-time job and designing in my free time. Now that I’m designing on a full-time basis, I’ll be able to give this project all of the creativity and energy that it deserves.



Design A Pin

I recently bought a button maker (the real deal, not the cheap kid’s version). It’s a Tecre Button Making Machine as shown here.

Making designs to fit the 1.25″ buttons is a bit of challenge, but a fun one. I’ve created designs for Girls on the Run of Stark County and Jackson Cross Country, so far.

Download this sketch sheet and give it a try yourself. Pick a theme, set a time limit, and see what you can come up with!


Abstract Sputnik Creative Challenge

I’ve developed a bit of a fascination with Mid Century Modern bookcases, especially the ones with the asymmetrical shelves. I’ve started to notice these frameworks in vintage fabric designs. Two of my favorite fabric designers, Lucienne Day & Marian Mahler used asymmetric frameworks as the base for several patterns during the sputnik era (mid-1950s through the 1960s). Of course, Lucienne’s frameworks were much more organic, while Marian’s tended to be more rigid.

For this morning’s creative caffeine, I sketched out a few frameworks of my own and adorned them with random shapes. No real goals here, just taking 15 minutes to work out my retro design skills before jumping into what is most likely going to be another chaotic day!

In case you want to play along, download my worksheet below. (Or just grab a sketch book, and make your own.)