This post is part of Flywheel’s “Designer Spotlight” series, which features an interview with a designer/coder/mover/shaker we think is really awesome.
Introducing Daina Reed
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I started as a web designer / front end developer (self-taught) in 1999, segued into branding, and now I’m gearing up to be a creative consultant for fashion and lifestyle brands! I am an American who has been living in Tel Aviv, Israel for over 10 years now. I grew up in Michigan, lived in Florida after high school, and skipped college for some world travel, which landed me here in Israel where I eventually met my husband.
I can be found roaming Tel Aviv shopping for anything army green, denim, or striped, trying all the new Mexican food establishments, lunching with entrepreneurial women, and applying rosy vintage filters to my Instagrams.
What’s an average day look like?
If it’s Summer, I get out and have breakfast in a cafe, walk the city a bit or go to the beach, and start work around 4pm at least twice a week. This gets my mind and body awake and energized, ready to sit down inside and work. The rest of the week there might be meetings in offices, deadlines to meet, important errands, or late night work sessions.
In the Winter, I take on a heavier workload and stay mostly at home. About once or twice a month I have an accounting day. And at least twice a week I MUST set aside time for a yoga class.
My days are completely random and varied – I both love and hate it because I spend a lot of time worrying about when I’ll get ‘x’ done. (Usually on one of those nights I stay up till 4am!)
What does your workspace look like?
I have a little nook in my urban apartment that has a lot of natural light. I often daydream about moving to the countryside with a big yard and having a ‘She Shed’ or caravan converted into an office so I could escape all the distractions. And if we are making a wish list here, I would love to be served food too 😉
But seriously the most important thing to me is posture, so after years of hunching over and using the wrong mouse, I ‘downgraded’ to an old fashion ‘Mighty Mouse.’ I don’t work in pain anymore; it’s seriously been a game changer. I then upgraded to a 27-inch Thunderbolt display which increased efficiency, and I invested in the Grovemade desk set to raise the level of the monitor and make typing more ergonomic.
Some awesome things you’ve worked on?
I worked especially hard this year and I’m really pleased with the accomplishments I’ve made.
- I launched a redesign for RankAbove, an SEO platform & service company
- I branded and designed ActivePath’s website, a revolutionary platform that delivers interactive statements
- My UI/UX colleague Keshet Journeys and I redesigned a tour company here in Israel
- Currently I’m rebranding / relaunching a family owned pearl and clasp supply website based in NYC’s diamond district
I did all of these with the same WordPress theme, which is a 360 for me because I used to preach to never to use a WordPress theme and instead, hire custom coders. In 2013, I was thrown off for about a year struggling to provide bespoke design and responsiveness under a drastically different design landscape.
The Divi wordpress theme (disclaimer: I’m a proud affiliate!) helped me catch up in the Tel Aviv startup economy where tight budgets and timelines rule. I pitched myself as a designer who can save my clients a lot of money on developers and produce an on-trend responsive website. With the ‘divi’ WordPress theme, though I was limited, I was able to highly tailor the look with my level of HTML and CSS enough for my client to overlook pricey modification / functionality.
Is there something specific that sparked your interest in your field?
In middle school on career day, we had to fill out worksheets, and I checked the box that said that “I think there will be jobs in the future that don’t exist today.” (In 1993 I hadn’t even dialed up yet and never thought web design would be a job.) I took photography and yearbook in high school where I learned about layouts, photography, and InDesign.
I wasn’t in a rush to go to college and fell into a job doing data entry where I quickly learned Photoshop and html. I began maintaining the company’s web pages and that was it!
Where do you find your best inspiration?
I tend to obsessively observe cultural trends – I take mental notes of trends, poster and flyer designs, fashion and retail design, and music. Travel is always inspiring! But it’s so important to hold back on every new trend and apply only when appropriate and in small doses.
What are three things you do to get the creative juices flowing when you hit a roadblock?
I read a lot about this topic from other designers. I know a lot of the best designers say to take a break, take a walk, or spend time with your family, but I have to honestly say surfing the web for hours on end, collecting examples, making mood boards, and trying to break it down into the main categories of color, imagery, iconography, and typography is still how I get shit done. After cramming your brain full of all those ideas, then take a break!
I don’t really strive to be the first to think of something radical; I believe everything’s already been done. Don’t push yourself too hard to be unique, just find what’s already working and make it your own.
What’s the best part of your day?
That I pretty much can decide when I work, how long I break, and when I take some time for myself.
What’s the hardest part of your day?
I’ll be very honest – when I get a client’s feedback and it’s not the response I was hoping for. Then it’s a game of knowing when to defend your choices or not, and knowing if you have the energy to go above and beyond and do what you feel is right, even though the client requested something else. Most of the time I end up liking the results better; it’s just the initial pain of letting go that’s hard. But for the most part I’m very empathetic with the client’s needs.
Have any favorites? (Websites, people you follow, random projects on the Internet, etc.)
7 notebooks for web designers
As a creative, you know how important a notebook can be. There’s just something about having a great place to collect your thoughts that makes you want to sit down, grab a pencil, and get start...
- Sketch: I especially use this when designing responsive sites or apps from scratch (not on Divi theme) and when collaborating with my UI/UX designer. He sends me the wireframes in Sketch and I just build on top of it – half the grunt work is already done and I don’t have to ‘slice’ and export every little png anymore!
- Ember: I use this to collect every little element I ever liked I have a collection of banner ads, call to actions, pop over designs, footers, email newsletters, etc.
- Illustrator: Ever since I learned this 2 years ago, I ditched Photoshop. It allows me to move so much faster so when I start a brand concept from scratch or brainstorm a design. It’s usually the first place I go.
- Slack: So much better than email or instant messaging. And if you keep your chats on topic, it’s easy to pull up a file or part of a discussion you forgot.
- InVision: I’ve been using this pretty much since it came out and it’s how I manage revisions to designs. The client has to see the site in a browser to get the full picture and because they can place a dot on an area they’re talking about, there is no more guessing about revisions or long email threads.
- Collageit: One day I realized I made a lot of collages, especially for mood boards to onboard clients, so I researched a bunch of collage makers and settled on this one.
Things you frequently hit up or subscribe to?
- HackingUI: This one keeps me up to date and since it’s locally made, I feel like I’m in the loop with the Tel Aviv scene – the newsletter is great too!
- Panda and Muzli Chrome extensions: Both inundate you with the most eye-catching Dribbble snapshots and design industry news every time you open a new tab. Both are similar and I switch around which one I use. Sometimes I have to disable them because they distract me from actually working!
- InVision’s newsletter: It’s of a very high quality!
- Unmatched Style: This is the gallery I seem to keep going back to.
Creatives that inspire you?
Aaron Draplin is my latest discovery. I love that he’s from Michigan (where I grew up), and love his retro style and just how cool he is.
Back in ‘08 when I was first starting freelance, I pretty much devoured all of Andy Rutledge’s ‘Design Practice’ articles– they really shaped me!
What’s one piece of advice you’d give others in your field?
Never stop learning. Keep up. Focus on what you do best. Don’t spread yourself too thin, and get comfortable saying no. Listen to your gut. Understand great copy and marketing, and make your client think of that and design as hand in hand. And don’t be hard on yourself! Stick to what you enjoy. Figure out how to manage projects and partner up with others where you lack. And last, always charge what you are worth and have a contract!