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Our Super Cool Design Blog

A collection of thoughts and ideas on making the world a more well-designed place.

FREEBIE DOWNLOAD! Thanksgiving Menu Art

Here’s a free menu design to frame for Thanksgiving! Set it up on your countertop and use a dry erase marker or a chalkboard marker to write in the list of yummy foods your family can expect this turkey day. Click the link below, then right click on the menu select “Save As”. Then, save the menu to a location on your computer that you can easily find. Print it out and enjoy!

Click here to download the Thanksgiving Menu Download

Why going through your mid-twenties is worse than puberty.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been having a quarter-life crisis for the past 3 years.

I know that this seems like an extraordinarily long amount of time to be in turmoil, but I can pinpoint almost the exact moment this happened. It was October 2010. I had graduated summa cum laude from Loyola in May of that year and started my first full-time job two weeks after graduation. I just hopped right into the working world because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. It was also my first time living alone. I went from living with my family until I was 18 and then with 4 other women for the last three years of college, to living by myself in a house too big for just one person. It was also 35 minutes away from Uptown, where all my friends still rented apartments and still hung out with each other. The transition was abrupt, and at 21, I was not prepared to handle a major life shift like that on my own like I thought I was.

Instead, when the whole thing came to a head five months later, I found myself melodramatically crying in the parking lot of an Arby’s simply because I was eating a terrible roast beef sandwich alone in a parking lot on a Friday night. My type-A, linear-plan self was completely unable to sort out my feelings of uncertainty, loneliness, and the lack of direction in my life.

In high school and college, I excelled. I had goals with definite timelines and deadlines. There was constant encouragement and feedback from my teachers and peers. I tackled challenges in a semi-controlled environment. But now, I existed in a universe with no bookends telling me where to start and stop. For the first time, I was out in the world with no map, and it freaked me out.

I couldn’t handle the feeling of not having it all “figured out.”

But lately, I’ve come to realize that it’s ok to not have it all figured out.
I’m not saying this in a kumbaya, embrace your 20s kind of way. This is this not some Eat, Pray, Love adventure. This shit is hard. Living paycheck to paycheck is not easy or fun. Working long hours and being unsure of your path in life is not glamorous and most days, it’s downright uncomfortable. It’s like walking around in shoes two sizes too big, all day, without a break.

I also don’t mean this to be an excuse to act in a “THIS IS MY LIFE AND I DO WHAT I WANT,” Maury Povich teen pregnancy special kind of way. That kind of reckless immaturity is exhausting, counterproductive, and provides no resistance to help you grow into the person you’re aspiring to be. Acting that way is a defense to shield you from the scary possibility of failure instead of facing the challenge of being great.

THIS is what I mean: at 24, if you’re not exactly where you want to be, you’re exactly where you need to be.
Accomplishing all your life goals by your mid-twenties would be really, really sad. That’s not to say that if most of your goals are accomplished, you can’t make new ones, or that goals don’t change over time. But the apex of your life shouldn’t be happening at 24. So it’s OK that it’s not. Discomfort is what keeps the world moving. Unrest creates revolutions. Nothing makes people get shit done like being unsatisfied with their current situation.

So this is my hope for my friends: I hope you have always have all the things you need, but never all the things you want. I hope you never stop moving. Go and do. Be adventurous, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. Create your own challenges and goals and hold yourself accountable. Make friends with people who want the same thing for themselves, too. Stay young and restless because these are the days of our lives, and we only have one life to live. Ok, enough of the soap opera references. You get what I’m saying.

Be brave. Don’t stop.

Cultivating creativity in a vanilla world.

To me, being called creative is one of the highest compliments I can receive. Creativity takes intelligence, awareness and humor – three traits that are excellent qualities in their own right. But put them together, and it creates a perfect storm. Creativity isn’t a physical product: a story, a painting, a wreath. Acquiring the skill to make items takes practice. Creativity, on the other hand, takes a commitment to a certain lifestyle. Creativity is the intangible quality of being able intelligently synthesize concepts in a fresh way. But how can anyone stay fresh in a humdrum world? Here are some tips that help me out when things seem stagnant.

Be playful.
That’s the first rule.
Humor and creativity don’t flow freely from an uptight, unwilling source. Don’t be afraid to be irreverent or silly. Watch smart, funny television. Read smart, funny articles. Get inspired, and don’t be bound by the constraints of proper society. Satire will start to sneak up on you when you become aware of your current social/political climate and aren’t afraid to be sassy. So be sassy and relevant.

Embrace the inevitable failures.
You’re going to have ideas that flat out will not work. But that doesn’t mean that parts of your ideas aren’t useful or can’t be recycled for later projects. Don’t give up after just one draft of an idea, but whatever you do, don’t force bad ideas to happen. Instead, retire them and reinvent them later. Which leads me to my next point…

Keep a record.
Write it. Draw it. Record it. Whatever you do, make sure you take note of the things you’ve done and keep these notes in a central location. It helps you gain creative momentum. Once you see the great ideas you’ve come up with, it gives you the confidence to keep pushing them further. Keeping a creative journal can help you draw from past, unused ideas and watch yourself progress. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even intelligible by other people. As long as you know what your shorthand means, your notes are golden.

Try other things.
Strive to do what interests you, and then try something else. Attempting new things may shed new light on the things you’re interested in. For example: I’ve always wanted to sew. I never really learned how to do it, and I had no idea where to start. I did, however, have a few years worth of package design experience. So I let that experience guide me in making patterns. Learning how to sew and make patterns based on the experience I had in package design actually made me a better package designer. The more versatile you become, the more experience you’re able to use to leverage your creativity.

Because I’m so cultured and shit, I took this cue from Kelly Cutrone and Lauren Conrad on The Hills. Basically, LC is talking with Kelly (her boss) about how she doesn’t know what’s coming after she leaves her job at People’s Revolution. LC is completely stressed at the prospect of not having her life planned out beyond the moment she’s in. In an effort to console her, Kelly tells LC “Je voudrais flâner avec toi” which she explains (very, very loosely) to mean “To walk around aimlessly without a plan.” (It actually means something closer to I would like to meet/stroll around with you). The phrase has roots in the actions of 19th century writers, who would would leisurely loaf around Paris seemingly without purpose. However, this downtime has two purposes: you can draw inspiration from taking in the world around you, and you can let the ideas in your head marinate and mature. Take a break from your hard work and nap. Drink a cup of tea and watch a thunderstorm. Travel the world. Loaf around and be with your thoughts. Some of the most creative ideas come when you focus on yourself, or even when you focus on nothing at all.

So make an effort to cultivate a creative mind. Challenge yourself. The world needs more innovative thinkers.

Ali Becnel Solino

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