Mileage Tracker Form

posted in: life | 0

Tax season is upon us, and I’m reminded of all the business-y chores I have to do – or should have done throughout the last year – to wrap up 2015 once and for all.

One thing I am terrible at is noting down my mileage. Fortunately, I don’t do a ton of driving for Second Block, but I do enough that I should be keeping track of it. And I recorded exactly none of those miles last year. I even downloaded an app! But alas, I never used it.

In an effort to improve this habit, I’ve created a mileage form that can live in my glove box and keep my pens and car manual company. Will I actually use it? WHO KNOWS! But please feel free to download and print the below PDF… here’s to immaculate record-keeping in 2016.


A Few Lessons Learned from #The100DaysProject

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The 100 Days Project was an initiative for people to do/make something each day for one hundred days and share it on Instagram.

In my case, I resolved to make one 5″x5″ piece of artwork every day. Medium didn’t matter, end results only sort of mattered; making the time to do them and experimentation (and potential failure upon execution) were the focus.

One of the biggest challenges was not adding commentary to each piece. I was rarely 100% satisfied with the end product, and the temptation to add a note like “that leaf should be about 1/2 inch longer, oh well,” or “don’t sneeze or this sculpture will fall apart!” was really tough! But letting the flaws through without explanation was important to me. So there are certainly rough parts, but I didn’t defend any of them. I sat down, I created it, and in the end it just was.

While there is obvious value in something turning out the way I want it to, there’s also value in happy mistakes – some pieces resonated with people, regardless of how I felt about them.

Some days it was hard to make the time to do the work. I wear many hats, and one of them is “mom” to an active toddler. Some days, it was 9pm, I’d had a glass of wine (aka “my creative process”) and I was tired… but I did the work any way. Other days, I was relieved to take out my supplies. In the end, creating something just for me in a quiet house became a calming, centering experience; even when I thought the piece didn’t “turn out” in the end.

My original intention was to mine the countless sketchbooks I’ve got laying around and do the projects I’ve jotted down or sketched on a whim. However, I found inspiration on walks with my dog or my daughter, the news, or in a song, subject, or sentiment I caught out in the wild. I found I felt more present throughout the day, since I was always looking for a prompt from my surroundings. That was an unexpected, but welcome side effect.

Watercolor, acrylic, ink, pencil, thread, sculpture (wool! paper!), and more – anything was up for grabs as far as medium goes. I’m not experienced at any of it, so just trying it out was a big part of the project. I discovered that I liked some tools, didn’t like others, and had a varying level of skill among them, some of which could be improved upon (and some of which could not).

In general, I’m a big fan of the slow burn for big projects. While this wasn’t the longest project like this I’d done, it was the most consistently productive, as well as the most visible.

You can see the product of the final 100-day-long project on Instagram. Or, if you’d like to see them in person, all 100 pieces created for this project will be up and available for purchase at Wildcard on July 30, from 6:00 – 9:00pm. We’ll have prints of some of the pieces, as well as drinks, cupcakes, and some good vibes.

The 100 Days Project was an incredible experience, and one that I will repeat again in the future.

Alphabet Dinosaur Poster

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ABC_headerI’ve been wanting to do an alphabet dinosaur poster for a long time. My friend Lincoln turned three this autumn and is starting to get into dinos; that’s about all the encouragement that I needed.

I started with research. Hours upon hours of learning about all sorts of dinosaurs? Gosh, twist my arm.

Choosing which dinosaurs* to include was somewhat harder than I anticipated. I wanted a good variety — carnivores and herbivores, big and little, dwellers of land and sea and air. There are also some popular dinosaurs you just can’t leave out; doubling up on a couple letters (necessary to complete a 5 x 6 grid) helped with that.

I wanted each one to be as pronounceable as possible for the sanity of parents and developing readers. I also wanted to add what each name meant — I always found that fascinating — but refrained: in part because it would have crowded the artwork, but also because we’re no longer naming new specimen exclusively in latin and I didn’t want to mix different languages.

And, of course: FEATHERS. It’s generally accepted that many of the dinosaurs shown here probably had feathers. I indicated feathers when most of the examples of that species showed plumage. If only a suggestion of feathers was present, I chose to leave them off or keep them small and subtle. I’m an enthusiast, not a scientist, so I defer to the experts.

I started with some generic sketches on paper, but I already threw them out (sorry). They would have been a great example that things aren’t pretty from the get-go. They were REALLY rough, but helped me determine what I wanted the final piece to look like.

Next I moved to the computer. I started in grayscale to get a nice consistency in style, arrangement and pose.


I like when a subject has a strong silhouette — I think it helps to make a stronger, more dynamic drawing. I’ve done JUST silhouettes before, but rarely as a precursor to a more dimensional subject… I think the piece really benefited from this exercise, and I will for sure repeat this process in the future.

Then it was on to the color. I wanted simple, vivid, and non-gender specific. Dimension was shown by a gradation of that creature’s selected tone.


The final step was adding texture. We’ve got stripes, spots, scales, and of course feathers.  Once I was done with the dinosaurs, I felt they were a little lonely on the page, so I added a planet in the background for them all to live on. I hope they all get along on there.


I love dinosaurs. I mean, I REALLY love dinosaurs. My brain reverts back to that gleeful state of when you’re seven or eight and just OBSESSED with whatever it was that you were obsessed with. I’ve sold a few of these on Etsy (thank you!), and I hope people enjoy having it in their home as much as I enjoyed making it.


I love my client work, but I also really love personal work. I’m glad I have room for both.


*After so much research, I now know a Pterodactyl isn’t actually considered a dinosaur. But that was one of Lincoln’s favorites, so I couldn’t leave it out. The Rugops probably wasn’t pink, either — cut me some scientific slack.


A Look Back at 2014

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2014 was a pretty bodacious year!

Leaving a full-time gig in 2013 was scary, and keeping a helpless human alive while making an unpredictable income was even scarier. But we’ve all survived (so far), and here are a few things I’ve observed since taking the freelance plunge.

In my #agencylife, we had a couple clients that I LOVED because they did good, important work. Or they were interested in doing things the right way, with authenticity and/or quality. Others… not so much. Now I have some say in who I do work for, and that feels good.

The flip-side of that is sometimes a job comes along that you’d really like to take for the money, but you have to reconsider; sometimes it’s the overall business, sometimes it’s who you’d be working with there… sometimes it’s not a realm you’d like to do much work in anymore. I don’t usually get much satisfaction from those kinds of jobs once they are completed anyway, so I’ve learned to listen to my gut and just pass.

Most people need one project, and then you rarely hear from them again. That’s a tough adjustment to make, when you’re used to a steady stream of hours worth of work. I was lucky enough to find a client that was willing to throw as much work at me as I could handle for a good six months — that is the kind of work I will definitely try to find again.

But the one-off jobs are also pretty great. Since I do a lot of different kinds of design — logo / identity, plus print, emails, websites, you name it — each offers a variety of requirements, constraints, budgets, etc. Not to mention getting deeper into the particulars of each of these media are allowing me to really learn more about my craft.

Sometimes I miss The List that I got handed every morning at work: it can be awesome to have someone just make the choices for you. But now I determine what, when, and how to do each of the tasks required of me. This flexibility is priceless — I often schedule work-time during Baby Sager’s naps, after bedtime or when she’s at a friend’s house.

“Finding your tribe” can sound like an overused trope, but I am surrounded by (and meeting more) great, hard-working people every day. It doesn’t really matter what they do — designers, developers, printers, makers, wood-workers, animators, whatever — talent and industriousness rub off. Plus, being able to ask for someone’s input on a project, or provide your own expertise to someone else, is an amazing feeling and makes for better work.

This was the first year I’ve put in as a freelancer, and I couldn’t have asked for a better start. I got some great work, interacted with some really wonderful people, and learned a bunch — about myself and about my industry. What more can a designer want?

Here’s to 2015!

Life Lessons I Learned from Level 1

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The show for my Level 1 Improv class was last weekend! It was an absolute blast. I was really pleased with my performance, Josh had a good time,  there was a cast party and we had a babysitter. It was a magical evening indeed.

Now that the class is over, behold: some Life Lessons I Learned from Level 1.

100% Support is Incredible
I have honestly never been around a group of people that were so supportive of one another. We played ridiculous games together and generally made fools of ourselves in front of each other before we even got into doing actual improv scenes. Your classmates are generous with their laughter and praise. You learn several rules — “yes, and…”, supporting your scene partner, no apologies, — but the support really allows you to explore an idea, a comfort level, sense of humor, etc. You can take risks, and there’s little consequence. I told a very unfunny story about an undead dog and no one called me out for being the monster that I am — that’s support.

Good Golly, Just LET IT GO
I spend a good deal of time rehashing how the events of the day went wrong, how they could have gone better, and how to prepare better for the next time; it’s why it takes me so long to fall asleep at night.* But with improv, there’s not much use in rehashing a scene or exercise too much in your head. You can think about what went right or wrong from an educational standpoint, but there’s no value in beating yourself up about it. I did a couple scenes that I still look back on and think “I should have said ______”, but coming up with a funnier punchline after the fact isn’t really improv. So learn what you can from it, and then forget about it.

You Can’t Always Prepare
Improv, by it’s definition, is supposed to be pulled out of the air. Duh. So in the same spirit as above, you can’t go into it with a list of brainstormed ideas. I mean, you could, but that sort of defeats the point. The main reason I wanted to take the class in the first place was that I get really, really nervous if I’m put on the spot without any sort of prep and don’t feel 110% confident in whatever’s expected of me. My contributions to a scene might not have always been particularly funny (just kidding! I’m hilarious!**), but I was able to perform in a generally non-plussed manner. Mission accomplished.

Stretching that Friend Pool
I met some really great people, in a range of ages and professions. It can be tough to meet new people when you’re an adult, and when you do it’s usually through a friend; which is just fine, but sometimes it’s cool to broaden your human horizons. Making brand new connections also allows you to learn things about the world outside your bubble… and about yourself. Also, I meet a lot of people that already know (or know of) my husband. This is awesome. I usually benefit from this (because he is pretty rad). But it was nice to drop into an entirely new group that didn’t know either of us and do something that was entirely my own thing.

Overcoming Anxiety
I’m a generally laid back human, but like many people I have bouts of anxiety when I’m entering unexplored territory. I got more and more nervous heading to class as the weeks passed; then, on the night of the show there was a chance I was going to be late and unable to go on — this all meant nerves, sweating, and in the case of performance night, almost throwing up in the car. However, I was able to get to the theater, help build up my teammates, shake off the nervousness, and confidently perform during the show. Surviving those kinds of experiences allows you to more easily overcome hard(er) things in the future.

If you’ve ever considered taking improv, I really can’t recommend it enough. I haven’t signed up for Level 2 yet, but I will; the lessons were too valuable (and addictive) to stop!


*I do not recommend this as a sleeping device. Counting sheep is less stressful.

**Improv also gives you confidence.

Heart/Letter Project

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I’ve been working on my letterforms.

At first, I was interested in calligraphy and scripts. Scrolling, embellishments… mmmm. I’ve enrolled in a couple classes on Skillshare, which have been really educational (and cost-effective), but to make good script work, you really need a deep form foundation and a light touch that only comes with practice. My abilities are short of my taste at the moment, so everything I make is still squarely in that ugly ducking learning stage. I’m still working on it, though.

That said, I also really like looser, less-confined letters — letterforms that aren’t perfect, words that are expressive and rough in their execution but solid in their construction. Plus, my letter vocabulary is shallow at the moment (you wouldn’t believe how many ways there are to make an “E”) and a more casual style allows a wider exploration on my part. And that feeds into a project I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

If you’ve ever had to name a child — or heck, a pet — you understand the pressures involved. We’re really happy with Ellie’s name, and I wanted to a) celebrate it and b) have it hanging around to help her learn how to spell it and write it some day.


Step One was some really loose sketching, working out where each letter would fall, as well as how to work with the too-empty and too-full space that inevitably occurs when forcing words close together. Plus, I didn’t want one name to get more emphasis than another.

I used simple tracing paper and a pencil. I can’t stress how helpful the tracing paper was — it is my new favorite tool, and I’ll be utilizing it more from now on.

Step Two was refinement. One area was a big trouble spot: the “b” and “e” in Elizabeth. Their forms are heavy on the bottom with little on top, which was a challenge when you’re trying to fill the upper bubble of a heart, and I kept running out of room trying to make them fit. Dropping the bowl of the “b” below the (loose) baseline allowed some flexibility and filled some space above “mes”. Some of the dozen sketches I did, as well as the final sketch.



Step Three was painting. I had a pretty refined sketch that I basically traced on a light table. I got a hoity-toity brush from the art store a couple weeks ago and it is NICE. It’s thin lines aren’t quite as thin as I was hoping, but I can admit that might be user-error as I learn how to use the thing. I hope it lasts me a long time.


Finished piece.


This was a fun exercise and one I’d like to do again. I really enjoyed working with these letterforms and learned a lot about how the shapes can work together to fill a space.




A word on fashion

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Since I worked in a fancy-schmancy ad agency for all of my twenties and then some, a lot of my time, effort, and money went into the wardrobe required for that job. Ladies were not permitted to wear slacks (I know, I know), and when I finally left I had accrued no less than 42 dresses and/or skirts over the years. A ton of my “wardrobe” head-space went into dressing myself for that job.

Fast-forward to me freelancing. While I actually miss my spiffy 4-inch heels (don’t fault me for liking some height!), they aren’t exactly a logical choice when you spend half your time sitting behind a computer and the other half chasing an increasingly mobile baby. And having spent my weekdays wearing dresses for over a decade, I’m enjoying pants.


All that investment that went into my work wardrobe is noticeably missing from my non-work clothes. I like to think I’ve got some modicum of style, but every time I open my dresser or closet I can’t help but feel I’m in a desert. Those items I do like I am wearing to death — my most beloved jeans are a couple threads from revealing underwear secrets, my favorite tanks and tees are starting to unravel at edges.

It’s hard to carve out time for something as silly as clothes shopping right now. But if I’m going to be spending so much time in non-work clothes now, it’s time to be a big girl put the time into a new wardrobe. Which, now that I type that out, doesn’t really sound all that bad.

I bought bright red capris and a dress covered in tiny dinosaurs. That’s a start.


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In the spirit of adventure, I have been trying some new things!

We went to a drive-in for the first time, making Guardians of the Galaxy the first movie we’ve seen since Ellie was born. I enjoyed it (even if Josh didn’t), and although the drive-in wasn’t what I was expecting, it wasn’t too bad. Next time we’ll definitely do the hatch-up-with-lawn-chairs set up instead of sitting in the front seats. Ellie slept through the whole thing, which was awesome.

We took Ellie swimming. I won’t call it a disaster, but she was not a happy camper. Josh and I aren’t big swimmers, but I don’t want my disinterest in water to taint her possible enthusiasm for it. Plus, I loved the pool as a kid, and I want her to have that opportunity. That said… maybe she’ll be more into it next summer.

I enrolled in improv classes. They started last week. I’m not great on the fly, so having to think in front of an audience on my feet is educationally horrifying. However, the class is full of talented, supportive people, so that’s making it more and more fun. Yes, and…

We went to Waffallonia in Squirrel Hill after a great Thai birthday dinner with friends. Gosh, it was hard to eat the best waffle I’ve ever had covered in Speculous ice cream and chocolate sauce…proof that every new venture can have serious(ly delicious) consequences.


2014(ish) Goals

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Propelle Pittsburgh hosts a monthly(ish) happy hour at places around the city of Pittsburgh. July’s get-together was at Pittsburgh Winery in the Strip.

Because we had the lower level all to ourselves, and because it was a smaller than usual group, Emily and Kate resurrected an exercise they hadn’t done for a while: they had all the ladies form a circle and we introduced ourselves, what we did, and answered a question – in this case, “What is your goal for the second half of 2014?”

That was an easy one for me: regaining focus.

I love me some goals. And before Ellie, if I made a goal in most any area of my life, I would meet it. I would set them up and knock them down like dominos. Write a novel? Done. Write another one? Done! Do an illustration a week for a year? No problem. Publish a book? BOOM.

However, having another human to care for does quite a job on your concentration. I set three personal goals for July 1, 2014… and I blew all of them. As someone that’s been so goal-focused in the past, this is a huge bummer.

Keeping Ellie alive, happy, and on track took up most of my brainpower this year – which is fine, because motherhood is a pretty rad thing and I don’t care how much your prepare for it there’s a good amount of winging it in the beginning (especially when you don’t have any family around to show you the ropes). But she’s almost a year old and it’s not like she’s going to stop needing me to care for her, so I need to buckle down and commit to my goals again.

Fortunately, I won’t have totally botched all my July 1st goals. I should have two of them completed by the end of August. And if I don’t, I’ll definitely have them done by September.

Better late than never.


posted in: design, life | 1

Function, THEN form. That’s the way one should approach so much of design, and designing a nursery is no different.

I’m no interior designer, but as Josh and I slowly update our home room by room, I do relish in the process of not only improving the materials and craftsmanship, but also making it ours. Josh nobly gave up his studio for Ellie’s room since it was the largest between us.

It was due for a facelift anyway, since it was the first room we did anything to when we first bought the house more than ten years ago (a somewhat calculated move to get Josh on board with home improvement projects, ie “well, let’s do your space first!”). This redo went beyond painting the walls and adding some chair rail, however.

We went from this (mostly empty, with chair rail removed):

Josh's Studio

To this:







Initially I wanted to go for a “vintage space” theme, but honestly the room has kind of come together on it’s own, so a theme was unnecessary. The basic work involved was:

  • pulling up the carpet and refinishing the hardwood, which involved patching a big hole in the floor the previous owners had cut to put in a ceiling fan in the room below (dummies)
  • painting the walls and replacing the trim
  • converting a shallow unusable closet into a built-in bookcase
  • adding a bench to create a window seat
  • installing a ceiling fan

Friends and family have been so generous with clothes, decor, and inspiration. Josh’s dad made a wood carving of her name, her great-grandpa Sager made her a 3D rabbit puzzle out wood, and the sweet mountain scene over the changing table is from our friends at strawberryluna. The bizarre turtle footrest is a lovable nod to one my Granny Papaw had through my childhood before they passed away. The key hanging in between the mirrors says “SAGER” on it.

We’re hanging some beautiful pieces from Jessica Hische, Highfive, Matt Braun, Nathan Mazur and United Pixelworkers. Those will get rotated out, because we’ve got a whole drawer of artwork — it’s really hard not to buy adorable artwork for a kid’s room!

It took months to find a rug with wide yellow stripes, so I’m super happy with that. The “reading corner” is one of my favorite places in the house. She LOVES looking in the mirrors, and they help brighten the room. We’ve got wall space for new artwork as we find it. And there’s so much storage, which was a definite priority; for such a small human, they sure come with a lot of stuff. And now that she’s starting to really play with toys… I predict an influx of those thanks to grandparents.

She is just starting to move around a little bit — in a “I could have sworn I set you down a couple feet from where you are” kind of way — so we’ve still got some baby-proofing to do. And as with every home improvement project we’ve done, we both learned a lot. For instance, I would change the way we did the built-in, but the current version is a vast improvement over what was there prior, so mission accomplished. Other lessons learned were that table saws are AWESOME, and I still hate installing baseboards.

Next up: bathroom, outdoor space, or kitchen. Hmmm….

A Good Groove

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I’ve got a consistent client that I’ve been working on week to week, and that feels pretty good. It’s not flashy work, but there’s plenty of it and the templates they provided were created by someone that knows what they’re doing (glory be). The content also has a meticulous quality to it that I genuinely enjoy… parts numbers? Disclaimers? Trademarked properties out the wazoo? No problem, I’m a glutton for punishment.

I’m also chipping away at some art projects.

When I jumped into freelance back in March, I set several goals, the deadline of which is July 1st. I think I’ll hit two of out three — and I’ll only narrowly miss the third — but only if I can buckle down a little bit here in the final stretch. I can do it, I know I can!

And hey, this baby we’re raising is alive and happy. Okay, summer: bring it on.


Startup Weekend Pittsburgh – Team Tagalong

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I had my doubts about Startup Weekend Pittsburgh. Sometimes it can be hard enough to get paying clients for design and illustration work; and after reading the description of the event on the site it seriously sounded like an introvert’s worst nightmare. But Josh swore I would enjoy the experience, create some good work, and make some connections. He also agreed to take Baby Sager all weekend. AND he bought my ticket. I’ve been trying to reach beyond my comfort zone, so… off I went.

Man, I hate it when he’s SO right.

March 28 saw 30+ pitches for potential startups, the attendees voted on the top 12, and everyone chose their teams. I went with a startup idea called Tagalong, an app featuring user-created tours of various cities. It was one of two that I had voted for that made the final round; they didn’t have a designer and everybody seemed nice right off the bat. Having only 10 minutes to choose the people you’ll be working with for a long intense weekend can be intimidating. So imagine my delight when I realize I kind of won the lottery.

The team headed to Union Pig & Chicken to brainstorm and get to know each other after Friday’s activities concluded, and at 9am on Saturday we got started. The launch of an app involved a lot of moving parts: marketing, securing advertising, market research, development, and I’m sure other aspects that I can’t think of because I had my head buried in illustrator designing a logo, graphics and an interface (with lots of help!) for our app.

It was seriously one of the most satisfying working situations I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone was a self-starter and seemed to know their strengths and what they could offer the team. No one needed to be babysat. Ideas were presented, discussed, critiqued in a positive constructive manner, and acted on.

By Sunday’s 5pm presentations we had a full social media presence, a working app with real user-created tours, and even paying advertisers. We gave iPhones to each of the judges for them to move through the app as we presented and…

…wait for it…

…we WON.

First place came with some sweet prizes, but honestly the best part about the weekend for me was working on a smoothly functioning team. Plus, being valued for what you bring to the table is a great feeling, and provided a great boost to my confidence. Who knows what the next few months — for me or for tagalong — will hold, but I feel even more excited about whatever comes my way.



Better Than a B-

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One of the many areas I’m trying to develop right now is my willingness to fail.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more reticent to try anything that I might fail at. My general thought for years has been that if I can’t grade myself with at least a B-, it’s not worth doing.

But let’s be entirely honest here. “Not worth doing” really translates to “my ego can’t handle it”. So in order to get over that, I need to get over the shock of possibly REALLY SUCKING at something so I can really reach beyond my current limitations.

“Not worth doing” really translates to “my ego can’t handle it”.

I’m putting together a list of things I’d like to do that I know I will probably be horrible at but I want to try anyway… but it’s actually kind of hard because I’ve apparently trained my interests to align with what I’d be decent at! The best I can think of right now is a hip hop dance class (I wanted to be an MC Hammer back-up dancer when I was a kid, no lie).

I’d also like to try an improv class. I think being able to better think on my feet would be really valuable, because right now I am pretty terrible at it.

Got a suggestion? I’d love to hear it…

Survival Mode

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We’re finally getting over the shock that a) someone let us have a baby and b) we have not only kept her alive but she is just generally delighted at everything in the universe. Drool is no big deal, dirty diapers are hilarious, and she’s eating cereal like it’s old hat already and just give me the spoon already, mom, geeze.

Baby Sager’s recently gotten a bedtime, and miraculously sleeps through the night maybe ⅓ of the time. I still have to get up regardless, but not having to get her back to sleep (which can be a bear) is really nice. And if it’s dad’s night he can sleep on until the morning.

The best thing about the new bedtime is that she usually goes down without much of a fuss and then? Then we’ve got Time. Beautiful, wonderful Time. If we can stay awake past 9pm — a feat, these days — that gives us almost two hours to relax, work, or drink a big ol’ glass of wine. It is a magical part of the day and we’re trying to take every advantage of it.

Josh called the first few months of parenting Survival Mode, and it’s a nice luxury to be able to leave that attitude behind. Come on back, Life; things are different now, but not impossible.

Class Project: Drop Cap

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Jessica Hische’s Skillshare class “Lettering for Designers: One Drop Cap Letterform at a Time” was a great exercise.

Watching Hische’s process videos was worth the price of the class ($25!), and I found real value in sitting down and going through the same steps she did. The class assignment was to mimic the project she’s been doing with Penguin Books: create a relevant drop cap design for your favorite book’s front cover.

JP-DropCapMine is Jurassic Park (DINOSAURS YAY), and I have to admit it was a pretty tough project for me! Chip Kidd has made TWO different covers for this book and of course they are both amazing. Plus, making a simple sans-serif “J” was much harder than I anticipated it would be! I’m happy with the overall cover, though. Because Velociraptor.

My one critique of the experience (ironically) was that I received very little feedback from my fellow classmates (according to the class, there were 684 of them), but I did sit on the assignment for a couple months after enrolling. I regret not being able to get into it earlier, but, you know: BABY. I did offer some feedback on several other late bloomers… hopefully some of them will respond eventually and I’ll get some commentary.

Do you have any comments/suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

Impostor Syndrome

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So I worked in print production for over a decade, but if I ever met another production artist, I would assume that they know more than me about the job. Why is that?

I think many people suffer from impostor syndrome, but there’s a big difference between simply feeling like “I’m not good enough/prepared” and “I don’t actually know how to do that job”. As a freelancer, it’s been an interesting challenge deciding what projects are possible but simply out of my comfort zone, and which are actually beyond my capabilities. Part of growing and gaining experience is pushing your boundaries.

My first instinct is often to say “I haven’t done that exact thing before” and pass, but I’m learning to better examine the possibilites of a project before letting it go. If I feel I can do better than 90% of it and am confident I can learn the other 10%, I will think hard on passing it up. Others might give themselves more or less leeway on the unknown part, but that’s what I feel comfortable with right now.

I’m also getting used to the idea that you can simply connect with someone you trust to complete the portion you don’t have the skills in. I’ve designed a number of web sites, but I’ve never built any of them. And that’s okay. Learning some code and UI/UX is helping me be a better interactive designer, but it’s possible to design while someone else builds. There are people out there that just want to code someone else’s design.

Everybody’s ego fluctuates from time to time, but don’t get hung up on not being “ready” to do something you’re interested in. Look at a prospect objectively and be ready to reach beyond your comfort zone.

rasager’s Hey-Bot

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Rachel Arnold Sager_Resume-2Rachel Arnold Sager_Resume-1Resumes are stressful, right?

You have to prove to someone (or somewhere) that you’re competent and awesome and worth hiring and working alongside.

In the hopes of alleviating a little of that anxiety, here’s a little robot dude intent on taking over the workpla — er, I mean, showing off my sweet skills.





The Start of 2014

posted in: life | 0

So the transition from agency drone to mom/freelancer has been more challenging than I anticipated (and I forecasted a doozy, I really did). It’s also been more satisfying.

Having a kid does things to your brain. Nature doesn’t want you accidentally leaving them in the woods somewhere, so it programs your brain to think about them 24/7. Where is baby? Is baby happy? What does that sound mean? Are they too large/small/fat/skinny?

Babies don’t actually require much in the beginning, which is good because as a lady you’re recovering from labor (however they got here). They need food, sleep, and diaper changes and they need them frequently. It’s kind of hard to do anything else. Even when they’re sleeping it is a mystery how long they will be in dreamland — and it’s almost guaranteed that as soon as you start something they will wake up.

Now, at four months old, Baby Sager is forming a pretty solid routine. I’ve gotten good at listening to what she’s try to tell me and she’s a happy girl*. Josh and I have only recently begun to let the rest of life creep back in. I did yoga this week. I attended a networking happy hour. Baby’s now going to a sitter twice a week and that’s allowing me to focus on freelance and personal projects.

This makes me realize that I am so glad I left my previous job. I don’t know what the heck I was so worried about. I’m now a brand new human. There are bumps, don’t get me wrong (I miss that paycheck), but I’m happier and more positive, grateful, and confident than I have been for years.

I’ve recognized that success is partly perception, and priorities have become easier to identify.

Is Baby Sager happy and healthy? Are her mom and dad retaining their sanity? Yes? Then we’re good.

I’ve set some project-based and monetary milestones for 2014. I’ve always been goal-oriented and I can feel myself locking down to get back to business.

I look forward to expanding the skillsets I’ve come to depend on, pushing my boundaries, and embarking on new experiences. Here’s to 2014.


*I know she’s happy because she’s smiling and laughing now. It takes soooo long to get that first real smile, but when it comes you are pretty much willing to bend over backwards to get the next one. IT’S AWESOME.


posted in: design, life | 0

Things I have previously been afraid of:

  • Lack of stability

  • Not knowing the answer

  • Not knowing how to do something

  • Disappointing people I respect

  • Disappointing strangers

  • Looking stupid

  • Failing


Things that are actually worth being afraid of:

  • Mountain Lions

  • Cancer

  • Being in a boat that’s sinking anywhere in the Arctic Circle

  • …a plethora of other, legitimately life-threatening circumstances


Working on letting the little things go.

Background / Revelations

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I was hired right out of school at age 20, and working for a full service agency was a great opportunity. For a while, I learned something new every single day and it was amazing. The job had some silly quirks — ladies weren’t allowed to wear pants, an impenetrable wall existed between client and designer, etc. But I really liked what I did day-to-day. It wasn’t difficult work, my manager was a dream to work with, my coworkers were great, and the building had a gym.

In the 12 years I worked there, my title changed twice, but my job description didn’t.

And that was totally okay for a time. I spent most of the evenings (and some very late nights) of my twenties locked in invigorating brainstorming sessions with friends. I also: completed a young adult trilogy and have nearly finished a second; embarked on a yearlong illustration project and self-published a book; experimented in a variety of different artistic mediums — watercolor, knitting, felt; became a part of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators; joined a writer’s group and helped self-pub another book.

My boyfriend became my husband. We bought a house. We got a dog.

All these ventures were financed by the day job. But as my twenties wound down, I realized I was unfulfilled at work and needed to expand my skill sets. Like a lot of print designers, I struggled to learn code — didn’t care much for it. I tried to initiate some growth in my position at work, was met with nods and yes’s that did not actually materialize into any real development. I recommitted myself to my role there, thinking I was the problem, but found myself more caged than ever.

It was time to go. But to where?

Unfortunately, a print designer with no web experience was a hard sell. I applied, sent out resumes. A year passed.

I gave myself a hard date to leave no matter what.

A week prior to me delivering my resignation, we found out we were expecting.

A baby. A human baby.

I have always loved stability, predictability. It’s the main reason I stayed at the same job for over a decade. But after longing for a new situation for so long, I was gunning for some serious change.

Welp, a kid certainly fills that order!

Impending parenthood does funny things to the human brain, and one thing it did for me was reposition my priorities. It refocused them, and turned the volume up on a lot of different aspects of my life so far. At a time when I should have been clinging to my beloved stability, I found that I was more than ready than ever to toss it out the window.

I’m confident in my abilities as an artist and designer and writer. There are amazing people out there that I’d love to collaborate with, sketchbooks full of half-thought-out ideas that want to be made into Real Things. And hey, we’ll just throw the madness of keeping a baby alive and thriving into that mix because why not?

Baby Sager deserves a mom that is living. A caregiver that dyes her hair pink if she wants to, embraces the time she’s got left with her geriatric dog, becomes the artist/designer/storyteller she’s always wanted to be.