Inspiration: Everyday Cards - BBQ Free Download May 18, 2017 05:00

Memorial Day is coming up which will officially start BBQ season!  Did you know that you can download a free BBQ Everyday Card to use as an invitation for any of your upcoming summer barbecues?  Regardless of whether a barbecue means pork, brisket, or hot dogs and hamburgers, we've got you covered.  

Before we settled on the final design for the free download, we went through several options of what the card should look like.  I (Becky) take the lead on designs and after I get to a starting point with one or more options, MB and I will discuss, make corrections, then I'll make changes, we talk again, lather rinse repeat until we're both happy with where we land.  For this card, I started by thinking of all the things that could possibly mean BBQ, then finding images of each of the items for inspiration.  From those images, I created digital drawings of individual items.  For me, the easiest way to create these is in AutoCad.  I love to use Illustrator, but because of my day job as an architect, I personally am more comfortable drawing vector images (particularly those with curves) in Cad.  From Cad, I can then export the file to a .eps and open that to manipulate in Illustrator.  I used Illustrator to then create several iterations of the layout of the actual card.  As mentioned above, MB and I discussed them all, made some adjustments, and then agreed on the final option.  See below for the preliminary designs and the final free download!

And the final design that you can download today is...

Download yours today and don't forget to invite us to your BBQ too!

Inspiration: Everyday Cards - It's Been Too Long July 14, 2016 08:00

We've talked before about how we've come up with a few of our different products and designs (like the Sticky Pads, and the NC Toast Everyday Cards, as well as lots of posts about the 2016 Planner). Today's post talks about another product inspiration, specifically the It's Been Too Long Everyday Cards.  

MB and I are both dog lovers and have dogs of our own, as you may have read on the FAQ page of our website.  I never had dogs growing up, but whenever we would visit with my grandmother, her little dog Lucy was in tow.  Lucy was a dachshund and my sister and I loved to play with (read: torture) her by dressing her up, toting her around the house and yard, and teaching her to sing and howl.  When my husband and I were a year into our marriage, we decided it was time to get a dog.  We looked at local shelters and almost took home a medium sized mutt, but with our small condo, lack of yard, and non-commitment to the daily walks she would need, it wasn't the right fit.  In the end we agreed that a smaller dog would be better for our circumstances, and looked into adopting a dachshund.  We finally ended up finding our sweet puppy Penny from a doberman rescue (her full name is Penny Pinscher... I know I know, it's such a good name).  A year later we adopted her sister Gretta from a dachshund rescue.  They have been the best of friends since day one, and provided us a ridiculous amount of entertainment and love.

Before our first round of Everyday Cards came out last summer, we came up with countless designs, but in the end chose just 4 of them to feature.  In those designs were a few fun dachshund patterns, but they didn't quite make the cut.


Fastforward to this past winter and the release of the 4 new Everyday Card designs.  We knew we wanted to open up options for a card with a dog on it.  A dachshund paired with the phrase It's Been Too Long was developed (because dachshunds are long, get it!) and voila, a new fun card inspired by our furry friends.

These knuckleheads are pretty cute too though :)


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.)


What is Bullet Journaling? April 14, 2016 10:27

First off, for all of our Charlotte fans: this Saturday, UPstudio will be participating in the Pink Social Girl Tribe Pop-up. It will be held at the Sugar Creek Brewery in Charlotte, NC. Click here for more details.

So.. Bullet Journaling.. 

We first heard of bullet journaling at the Pink Social Girl Tribe Pop-Up last December. We had a customer tell us about how her roommate had just stumbled upon it and was going to try it. The customer bought one of our planners thinking that since we have a significant amount of graph paper, her roommate could utilize our planner for the task. Let's be honest, we didn't know what she was talking about, and we weren't sure how our planner would stand up to the challenge. Needless to say, the customer went back to her car, watched some videos on bullet journaling to confirm and 15 minutes later came back to our booth and asked us if she could return the planner. We accepted her return and made a mental note to look into this bullet journaling thing.

We then turned to Google. Apparently bullet journaling is a "movement", and there are tons of resources out there to help you understand how to use it to your advantage. 

For some, bullet journaling is just using a notebook with pages that have bullets or dots and creating your own designs and layouts for list making, tracking, or as a planner, by connecting dots in a creative manner.  

For other it is a more rigorous system. The best resources I found explaining the bullet journal system are the Bullet Journal website and a blog post by Tiny Ray of Sunshine.

First off, I would definitely recommend watching the video on the Bullet Journal website. It is the best way to visualize the system and to understand the basics.

To over simplify, the bullet journal system is a notebook (typically with bullets or dots) containing a collection of ideas (whether it be sketches, lists, diary, planner, etc.) that is organized with an index. Start a new page with a new idea, give it a title/topic and add it to the index at the front of your notebook (page numbers used for reference).

(Interesting fact: The system was created by Ryder Carroll, a Designer based in New York. In his words, the Bullet Journal is meant “to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”)

Lets break up this post with some photos of examples:


Tiny Ray of Sunshine Bullet Journal Example


Roz Plans on Instagram Bullet Journal Example


Pretty Prints and Paper Bullet Journal Example


Boho Berry Bullet Journaling Example

We won't get into the nuts and bolts of bullet journaling (because lets be honest, that would be a crazy long blog post and you probably wouldn't read it), you can read the two resources we listed above for all the nitty gritty.

But lets talk about how you can utilize some of our products if you decide to dip your foot into the bullet journal pool.

1. Our new Arrow Journals with dot internal pages are 100% ready for bullet journaling. They have 80 numbered pages ready to catch all of your indexing and ideas. 

UPstudio Arrow Journal with Dot Pages, Bullet Journal

2. Our favorite aspect of the bullet journal system is how you can utilize it when making lists or what they call "rapid logging". Our Sticky Pad - Dots and the UPstudio Planner (in addition to our new journal) are perfect for this system. 

Rapid logging relies on a short description paired with bullets and signifiers. Every bulleted item is entered into your list with a short objective description. The type of bullet will help you organize entries into three categories: Tasks, Events, and Notes. Signifiers are additional symbols that serve to give bullets further context.

This is the basic breakdown of bullets and signifiers, but you are strongly encouraged to add your own as needed and make a legend for yourself.

Bullets Explained - UPstudio

An example list: Note that you start with the simple dot for all tasks and it morphs into one of the other three states as you complete or migrate items.

Example of List

One of the key components is migration. When creating a new list consider all items on your previous list(s) that were not completed (or simply still just noted with a "•"). Cross out items you no longer want to tackle and transform your dot into a ">" for those you migrate to a new list. If you're like us, you over-commit yourself with your to-do lists and end up migrating a lot of items.

We just brushed the surface on bullet journaling and we are by no means experts. Again, we highly recommend checking out the Bullet Journal website and this blog post by Tiny Ray of Sunshine for more in-depth information.  We're learning right along with you!

Apps we can't LIVE without! March 31, 2016 08:00

Everyone has those apps on their phone (or other device) that they just can't live without. The ones that when you stumble upon them, you can't imagine going back to doing things the hard way!

To aid you in stumbling across that perfect app, we've included our "made our life so much easier" app list below. We are both cheap people, so all of these are FREE!

Just a forewarning, we are both iPhone users, so for you Android and Window's phone users out there, we aren't sure if all of these are offered (but we hope they are for your sake).

Repost App for Instagram - UPstudio  Repost for Instagram App- UPstudio

Repost for Instagram
Prior to starting UPstudio we didn't really have too many instances where we needed to repost pictures on instagram from other's accounts. But now, we run into that need pretty frequently. We have found that Repost is the best free app to handle this. You can move the source banner and change its color to not interfere with aesthetics of the picture. It also opens the image in instagram automatically and it generates automatic text you can copy and paste if you so desire. 

 Wunderlist App - UPstudio Wunderlist App has Sublists - UPstudio Wunderlist App - UPstudio  

We've mentioned on multiple occasions how much we love lists! List of all kinds. I use my planner for most of my lists but I also use Wunderlist. There are times that I don't have my planner with me, or I'm out on the go and I have a great idea I want to jot down. I find inspiration everywhere and if I don't write it down in the moment, it will escape me. Within Wunderlist you can categorize your lists, you can make sub-lists, and you can even share your lists with other users. I find new amazing features everyday. 

Gmail App can use alias e-mails - UPstudio  Gmail App uses your signatures - UPstudio  Gmail app can log into multiple accounts - UPstudio

Most phones have their own interface where you can set up your e-mail. For my personal Gmail I typically use the default iPhone e-mail app, but for UPstudio the Gmail app is clutch, we can still look professional on the go. Google Domains hosts our domain for our website, through that we can have alias e-mail address. So our is just a cover that really sends e-mails to our account. (Makes us look more professional though, right?) From the iPhone default e-mail app we can only send e-mails from our actual e-mail account whereas through the Gmail app we can send an e-mail directly from or any other alias we have set up. Another great benefit is that our signature comes through when using the app (note you can't see it when transcribing an e-mail, but it is there, see image above). Also, not sure if you all are as folder crazy as we are, but sometimes you label an e-mail multiple things, so you can find it in multiple folders, well you can do this with the "label" feature in the app. Lastly, you can be logged into multiple accounts at the same time.

Google Drive App - UPstudio  Google Drive App - UPstudio

Google Drive
Not sure how many of you out there are Google Drive users but if you haven't gotten on the bandwagon you should. It is similar to Dropbox. Today we aren't focusing on all the #awesomeness of Google Drive, (we'll let you discover that on your own) but when you start using it, the app on your phone is pretty awesome. The app lets you view all of the documents in your drive. It allows you to have multiple accounts logged in as well, so I can view my personal documents and UPstudio documents without logging in and out. You can't edit your documents in this app, you will have to get the corresponding app based on your document type in order to do that (like Docs, Sheets, etc).

Goodreads App - UPstudio

Goodreads is one of the best ways to keep track of books you've read and books you want to read. It is also a great way to discover books because you can see what friends are reading. The app has all the functionalities as the website making it easy to quickly add a book to your "to-read" list that a friend tells you about over lunch. One other cool feature is that you can scan books to search for them. So if said friend had the book with them you could just swipe the barcode instead of typing it all in.

 Solid Joys Daily Devotional John Piper- UPstudio

Solid Joys
With our lives pretty hectic right now, it is hard to spend time in the word. Solid Joys is a daily devotional app from the ministry of John Piper. They are short but substantive.

Candy Crush App - UPstudio

Candy Crush
Don't judge me, I'm on level 508 and still haven't tired of this game.

Bloglovin App - UPstudio  Bloglovin App - UPstudio

If you're a blog reader, I recommend Bloglovin'. The app has almost all the same functionality as the website. I personally group blogs together so I can easily read in specific genres. You can create and edit groups from the app. In order to read full posts or to comment you will have to follow links to open the blog post in your internet browser, but that is pretty standard with mobile blog reading.

Dirty Dozen App - UPstudio   Dirty Dozen App - UPstudio

Dirty Dozen
This is the app version of the report and study done by the Environmental Working Group which talks about pesticides in foods. We're not afraid of a little bit of 'unclean' food in moderation, but we do like to be aware of what we're eating. This app is a quick reference guide to help you decide whether you need to buy organic or not (because let's face it: that can get expensive!)  The guide lists the 'dirty dozen', or the top 12 fruits and vegetables that commonly have the most pesticides found on them, and the 'clean fifteen', or the top fifteen cleanest (least pesticides) fruits and vegetables.

What apps do you use? We are always looking for new recommendations! 

Dress Your Tech December 3, 2015 08:00

You may not have ever heard of DESIGNLOVEFEST, but I follow her blog pretty religiously.  It is a great mix of just about everything. It inspires me to be more creative on a daily basis.

One highlight is the "Dress Your Tech" section where once a week or every other week she features amazing desktop backgrounds. Not sure if you're in the same boat as me, but I hate the standard backgrounds on my computer, and I feel like I can never find the perfect picture to use that I won't get tired of in about five minutes (sorry hubby and son). The collection on DESIGNLOVEFEST is perfect for me; simple and creative, with a ton to choose from so I can change it every day if I tire of it. Most of the images offered are designed by pretty famous people specifically for DESIGNLOVEFEST. The best part: they are all FREE!

Here is one of my favorites, it is vintage DESIGNLOVEFEST from 2013:

Desktop Wallpaper by Sugar Paper for DESIGNLOVEFEST

Link to Download

This is my current desktop background, in case you're wondering:

Desktop Background by Lindsay Gardner for DESIGNLOVEFEST

Link to Download

I might be moving on to this fun guy next:

 Desktop Wallpaper made by Silke Bonde for DESIGNLOVEFEST

Link to Download

Or maybe this one?

Desktop Wallpaper made by Coco Sato for DESIGNLOVEFEST

 Link to Download

For those of you who want something a little more colorful and fun, maybe this one?

 Desktop Wallpaper by Ali Macdonald for DESIGNLOVEFEST

Link to Download

There are tons of options, and your tastes might not line up exactly with mine, so go check it out for yourself.  You just might find something perfect! 

We hope to see you all this weekend (and next weekend, and the following weekend!)

--Mary Beth and Becky


STYLED November 5, 2015 08:00

So, before we get to the blog post for today. We wanted to let you all know that we will be participating in the Raleigh Makers Market this Saturday from 10am-2pm. Come out and shop local or just come and hang out. You'll find us in the breezeway by Benelux Coffee in Cameron Village. Hope to see you Saturday! (We'll have one of our planners with us for you to check out and flip through!)

Now.. onto the blog post.. 

So a few months back we talked about people that inspire us in a blog post. Emily Henderson made our very short list. She is so relatable and REAL. Did I mention she is superwoman? Three weeks ago her book hit the shelves, two weeks ago she had a baby, Elliot, and one week ago she was back at the flea market with a stroller in tow. 

Instagram pictures to prove it:


I don't think I left my house with my baby for weeks. I definitely didn't didn't go to flea markets and smile and appear to have showered after one week. See what I mean, SUPERWOMAN!

I did however 11 weeks after my baby was born treat myself to a "you're going back to work and won't be able to get pedicures during the day" pedicure. The icing on the cake was that I picked up Emily Henderson's new book, Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves on my way there. I'm usually not one to buy what I would consider "coffee table books". But I want to do my part to contribute to Emily Henderson's continued success! Also, after my purchase, I would say this is more of a "reference book" and I would highly recommend it!

The book is broken down into three sections: 1. The Stylist's Toolkit, 2. Style Secrets for Every Room, and 3. The Stylist's Notebook. I won't spill all the beans, but I'll tease you with a couple of my favorite parts.

For those of you that don't read introductions to books, my favorite line: "The best way to style your room is to have an idea of what you're going for. And how do you know what you want? You steal. Grab ideas from anywhere, magazines, TV, or books, and try them out in your space." Made me feel better about my decorating technique, stealing.

In the first section there is a style quiz, or style diagnostic. It helps your categorize your style. But she urges you to not let it box you in, use it as a starting point for discovering more! I (Mary Beth) scored a whopping 96 points. So I would fall into the category of... Modern Glam.

(Yes, that is my ongoing pedicure in the background. I'm sure the old ladies on either side of me were completely confused by my actions.)

I thought for sure I'd be in the 110 to 119 range and fall into the rustic category, but I guess not in Emily Henderson's world. I won't lie, I do love brass everything, so I probably would fit in with the modern glam folks perfectly. However I wouldn't say that I like "bling anywhere and everywhere."

Becky also took the quiz, and she fell into the category of "Zen", which she didn't expect either. The cool part about that is at the end of the quiz Emily presents the "style wheel" which helps you choose looks that mingle well together, simply by finding a style's opposite. So, you find your style on the wheel and the one across from it, is its complement. Modern Glam and Zen are complements. Again, another reason why we are such great partners in business and crime.

The second section of the book is broken down by room. Emily gives lots of pointers and suggestions in order to make your space amazing. I love all the descriptions for the spaces she uses. Like for a living room: "This space is like your home's business card, so make it memorable." She uses some amazing spaces as examples to help teach. This kitchen and bedroom really caught my eye:


In the last section she shares some of her secrets and references. She has a a list of must read websites for inspiration, a list of places to shop, a way to decide whether to DIY or hire someone, and plenty more. One of my favorites is a two page list of paint colors. Hunting down the perfect paint color literally takes forever, mostly because there are so many options! I'd rather have a short list to choose from, from someone that I know I like their style.

So, in short, I'd recommend it! If you'd like to freshen up your house and make it feel more personalized and inviting, or just more homey, check it out. (You can also feel like you contributed to Emily's continued success right along with me!)

A Little Inspiration August 20, 2015 08:00

A little inspiration... but first, a little background.  As you may or may not know, UPstudio is not our full time job.  We both work for the same company during the day, Becky as an architect, and Mary Beth as a structural engineer.  Did you know that out of all registered architects associated with the American Institute of Architects, only 17% are women, and out of all licensed Structural Engineers, once again, only 17% are women.  Not to get all 'Sheryl Sandberg' on you, but I think that's pretty significant and says something about the two of us.  We've worked hard to accomplish where we are in our careers, and that's on top of being wives and mothers, which are full time jobs in themselves.  It's easy to get bogged down in everything on our already full plates, so why would we ever want to start our own side business?

The answer to that is tough to define.  Here are a few reasons: we wanted a new challenge, we wanted to see what it would be like to work for ourselves, we wanted to create quality products that would be versatile enough to be great for us but also be fit for people in all walks of life, and finally, we've been inspired by others who make us believe that we can do it.

There are too many people in the design world to give credit to as inspiration, so for today we'll just mention a few.  Charles and Ray Eames broke the mold during their time by designing quality furniture that was affordable to the masses.  Not only did they manufacture furniture, but they designed graphic textiles, built houses, created films, developed company logos, etc.  We love their theory of 'the best for the most for the least', and as we develop products at UPstudio, that is in the forefront of our mind:  how can we create the best product that would be functional and pleasing to the most people, and sell if for the least amount.  Their influence and strong sense of design is still apparent in homes all over the world (including Becky's!) with their Herman Miller line of furniture.  You may see a nod toward them and mid century modern design in some of our products, including the sunburst everyday cards.  As for the best inspiration when we start to feel doubts about ourselves and our abilities, Charles is quoted, 'I don’t believe in this “gifted few” concept, just in people doing things they are really interested in doing. They have a way of getting good at whatever it is.' 

 image from

Another inspiration is modern day designer Emily Henderson.  Emily is a stylist and TV host (you may have seen her on HGTV), with a love for shopping thrift stores and flea markets for vintage finds (also a love of Mary Beth's).  She's quirky and fun and isn't afraid to share how she balances her home life with her career.  She's a mom of a toddler with another on the way and she still is perfectly adorable for every instagram photo.  She is REAL.  She inspires us to know that there is a time for work and a time for play, and to enjoy both to their full extent.  We relate to her love of vintage flair, which you can see in our staging of product photos on our website.  

image from

Now it's your turn - we would love to know who inspires you!  Share your thoughts and comments below.

-- Mary Beth and Becky

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