A day in the life of a brand & web designer
Woohoo, it's time for another Day in the Life feature and I'm absolutely delighted to be sharing a look see into the world of an incredible brand and web designer. I am currently working with this amazing girl boss on a whole new re-brand for Adventures & Tea Parties and my first ever website (woohoo!), so I have first hand experience of just how flippin' hard working and talented she is, like mega mega hard working and talented! So, if, like me, you'd like to know just how she manages to run her full time business alongside her full time job (seriously!) and discover what her working week is like, read on...
Hi there, I’m Cat, the creative force and face behind Twin Pines Creative, a design studio that provides contemporary design for both small creative businesses as well as your home. I launched Twin Pines in May 2015 as a design studio offering branding, but have since expanded to also design and build custom web sites using Squarespace and launched my own paper goods collection in December 2016. You’ll probably think I’m crazy but I do this all alongside my day job as a senior web designer at a clothing retailer. As you can probably tell already, I’m a bit of a workaholic, but I promise I do know how to switch off every now and then!
I studied advertising at university where I learnt a lot about people, how they tick and how to inspire them, as well as learning about idea generation and the theory behind graphic design. After a year or so in the advertising industry I knew my heart wasn’t truly in it and knew I needed to make some career changes. I then started paving my way in the design world and started a job working at Boots as a web designer where I was introduced into the world of user experience design and I found my calling. It’s been 7 years since then and although I’ve moved companies and had various different roles since then, I still keep the customer at the heart of everything I do and always aim to not only make sites look beautiful but also so simple and straight forward to use. It was in 2015 after doing a couple of branding jobs for friends and family I decided to actually turn this into a business and use the skills I’d learnt from the day job as well as everything I had taught myself in my quest to help small business owners and live my dream of being truly creative and leading concepts, rather than just following a brand template.
I truly love what I do and love spending every day creating and designing and although weekdays are spent mostly at the day job, I usually work on Twin Pines in the evenings and at least one day over the weekend. Every now and then I also take time off in the week from the day job to work on Twin Pines to keep on top of everything.
I’m incredibly lucky to have a dedicated office space in the home I share with my husband, Darren, and 2 year old black Labrador, Ellie. If I’m working in the evening you can more often than not find me curled up on the sofa with both of them, laptop in hand.
During the week I’m a pretty early riser after years of commuting over an hour to work so am usually up by 5.30/6am everyday but now I only live down the road from the day job I use this time to either have a slow morning, chat to the husband, have a decent breakfast or take the dog for a walk. If I’m at the day job I’ll usually be there around 8.30 but if I’m working on Twin Pines I’ll be in the office around 8am after the husband heads to work. My favourite weekday breakfast is scrambled egg on toast and usually involves fresh eggs from a local farm (mmm, now I’m feeling hungry again) with orange juice. I’m not really a fan of hot drinks so tend to stick with water or squash throughout the day and then treat myself at lunch with some cola to give me an energy boost when I’m usually at my most productive (creatively speaking that is).
I tend to start my day with some of the less creative work, planning and scheduling social posts, catching up on emails, going through my accounts and confirming my tasks for the day using my project management tool, Asana, as I’m usually pretty productive at this time of day but my creative juices just don’t flow until later in the day. I not only use Asana to manage specific projects with clients, I also use it to track a snapshot of everything Twin Pines related, whether that be enquiries from potential new clients, updating my Etsy site, ordering supplies or designing new products.
I like to have a late-ish lunch around 1pm and if I’m in the zone, I’ll usually sort something quick so I don’t loose the momentum but if I’m struggling I’ll take a bit of time out to cook something like a jacket potato or pasta and have a play with the dog and recharge.
The afternoon, as I like to think of it, is when then magic happens. I’m always my most productive in the afternoon and early evening so always leave my design projects and client work until then. It really is my favourite time of the day. Most of the time I have films on in the background while I work and more often than not, watch at least 4 or 5 a day! If I find myself being distracted because the movie is just too good I then open up Spotify and listen to music. My current favourite right now has got to be The Smashing Pumpkins, Belle and Sebastian and Radiohead. I’m having a bit of an Alternative 90s phase right now! If I’m not working on client work, I can usually be found photographing my products or imagery for my site/social media as the light in my kitchen is best in the afternoon.
I try to stop working or at least take a break around 6 as that’s not only when the husband gets home from work but is also dinner time for the littlest member of the Ings household and we can’t have her waiting for her dinner, otherwise there’s hell to pay (I’m talking about the dog by the way, not me!).
Because I have a day job and quite a heavy workload with Twin Pines I usually find I need to continue working in the evenings but always make sure I take time out to chat with the husband, play with the dog and have a decent meal.
Work wise I tend to continue working on what I’ve been working on during the afternoon which can be anything from finishing off wireframes for a site, building a website itself or finalising branding concepts. I then finish off the day with an email session, catching up with any new emails from the afternoon as well as sending out work to clients to review or giving them an update on their project. I’ll also spend a little bit of time in the evening packing the days online orders ready for the husband to take to the post office in the morning. Last but not least I then review my to do list and workflow, which is all tracked in Asana, so then at any point I can take a look at all my projects and know exactly what I need to do the next time I’m working on Twin Pines. I literally couldn’t function without Asana as it’s well known amongst my nearest and dearest that I have a memory like a sieve!
As I’ve already mentioned I tend to spend at least one full day each weekend working on Twin Pines but always try to take a day off (or at least most of the day anyway) to spend time with my husband, the dog, friends and family, or continue working on the renovations of our home. It’s actually one of my aims this year to go on some more day trips and adventures so I can truly switch off from work. Next up is a day trip to London to see the Hockney exhibition. I’m also obsessed with movies, which if you’re a die hard fan of Back to the Future you’ll already know that by my business name. So, I can often be found at home on the sofa or in the cinema watching, lots and lots of movies.
Running your own business is incredibly hard work, which most people who do a 9-5 job just don’t understand. As I mention to most of my design clients, when you run a small business, you have to don so many hats. You have to not only do the part you love and why you started your business in the first place, but you’re also a social media manager, production manager, merchandiser, postman, accountant, amongst many, many other things. All while doing this largely on your own with no one else to chat to or bounce ideas off.
My biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with lots of like minded people, as when I met the Hustle group last year organised by Rox Webster at StudioNL I truly learnt how valuable it can be to have a support network who can not only help you on a practical level but also on an emotional level. These guys keep me sane and always give me the reality check I need when I’m such a workaholic and perfectionist. All that being said it’s one of the most amazing opportunities I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love working with small creative businesses and helping them on their journey by giving them a brand or website that they love and are proud of. I’m looking forward to growing Twin Pines and helping even more creative business both with design work but also in workshops and 1-2-1 sessions and a blog series.
Thank you so much, Cat, it's been truly wonderful hearing about your branding and web designing world. Keep up the incredible work!
I hope you've all enjoyed finding out what a day in the life of brand and web designer is like and don't forget to check out Cat's website, shop and social media links below. And you can catch up on more 'Day in the life' features here. Thanks for reading folks!