Where do you find inspiration? May 12, 2016 08:00

Not sure if any of you guys read the "Real Talk With Mary Beth Russo and Becky Brady" on Earn Spend Live. If not, we completely understand, the word count was pretty high. But if you're wanting to learn more about us and what UPstudio is all about, we recommend it, won't take you but maybe 5 minutes. Quick excerpt:

Who/what inspires you in work and in life? Are there any books, movies, or a specific person?
MB: I’m so bad at these kinds of questions. I feel like I can never pinpoint one person, book, movie, or idea when it comes to inspiration. I find inspiration everywhere. So many people in my life inspire me daily. I see their strength in areas where I am weak often, and it impresses me and makes me want to be better; more gracious, more patient, more faithful.

B: No one specific thing wins over another, but I am most inspired by others who are in the same position – young entrepreneurs juggling life and not giving up on their dreams, particularly women. I love to look at the work of other designers and pull inspiration from them – both current and in the past. I’m a big fan of Charles and Ray Eames, and especially Ray, who was less vocal, but just as important as her husband. Since I’m the introvert of our team, I appreciate seeing other introverts making a quiet difference.

This question isn't 100% about what I want to chat about today, but it is a good starting point. What I hope you pulled from our answers is that neither of us can hang our hat on just one thing that inspires us. It all boils down to the fact that we find inspiration everywhere. I feel like we are constantly on the hunt for what is next, so our eyes are always open, absorbing everything. 

We've been asked by many of you how we came up with some of our ideas, and how we determined what we were going to run with. So, we thought we'd share a bit. 

Well, everything starts with a list, right? We both have running lists where we jot down ideas constantly. When we are ready to decide on the products for the next quarter we set a meeting time. We both bring our idea lists, and any mock-ups we've pulled together to help the other visualize. At our meeting we narrow down our list to actual products (example: journal). And then we both spend a week or more (really until we can fit in the next meeting around family and work schedules) really focusing on generating ideas for those specific products (example continued: cover ideas, interior pages, size of journal, etc.) At our next meeting we brain dump once more to pull all of our ideas together to figure out the best option for the products. Typically at this point (or earlier) we meet with our supplier or printer to determine what is most economical, what restrictions we have, etc. (example: can we do a mostly black cover, what size of journal is most economical for printing, what will the price to print the journal be, etc.). We then make some semi-final decisions so that Becky can work her magic to bring our idea to fruition (example continued: drafting our cover). We then have another meeting where we go through many different options and play with our design until we get it exactly how we want it. So in summary: lots of meetings. But one great thing about a partner is that you can help each other generate some great ideas. They can help you find that one piece of the puzzle you are missing.

So, lets see one of our ideas in action:

Everyday Cards - North Carolina Toast

Last year we went to a show in Charlotte, North Carolina. We realized then that if we were going to branch out of Raleigh for shows we should have a card that connects with all of North Carolina. We made a mental note to do just that when we were brainstorming new cards for 2016.

Some of our reject ideas at our brainstorming meeting:

  • something with a pine cone
  • something with a long leaf pine, maybe lots of trees that make up something, similar to this
  • something that looked like the Verizon coverage map but was about a cool North Carolina fact, like BBQ restaurant locations or population
  • something with the state motto ("To be, rather than to seem", "Esse quam videri" - in case you were wondering)

The inspiration for the final choice:

  • On my honeymoon (March 2014) I took a couple Our State magazine's to read on the plane. In the January 2014 issue I learned that North Carolina is the only state to have an official toast. The article, "Where the Strong Grow Great: North Carolina State Toast" by Scott Huler, included only the first stanza (or whatever it is called in a toast) which meant once I was within internet service I googled the rest. 
  • There are tons of prints and products you can buy out there that have text in the shape of something. Prime example: this guy by Molly Mattin.

So, I brought those two ideas to our first brainstorming meeting, along with a very basic mock-up to help Becky visualize my idea... 

North Carolina Toast Brainstorming Ideas

Once we decided we'd run with this idea it was up to Becky to work her magic. She managed to get all 4 stanzas to fit and be readable. We edited the shape and re-sized text a couple times and finally ended up with this (she did a great job, right?):

Everyday Cards - UPstudio - North Carolina Toast

You can purchase this beauty in a pack of six or as a single card.

I'm a sucker for a great background story, so we'll try to share more behind the scenes info on some of our other products soon.

Happy Thursday! 

(I just experienced a quick mind-blown so I thought I'd share: I have a torn out copy of the toast article. This torn out copy does not have a picture of the author. The online article I referenced above however does. I looked at the picture and knew I recognized Scott Huler and then it clicked. He was recently invited to do a presentation for an organization I'm part of on his book, On the Grid. In preparation I read it. If you are a nerd that wants to understand more about your city and all of the behind the scenes stuff that goes on, it is a great read. So, I met Scott, over a lunch presentation about a month ago. I didn't realize he was the author of this article I read 2 years ago that really stuck with me. I doubt this blew your mind, but #cray.)