The Flow Of Excellence

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." - Albert Einstein

That man was brilliant alright. This is by far one of my favorite quotes and often how I like to refer to myself as a designer. It’s January and that means time for reviews and reflecting. I’m looking back on the last six months of my life as a UX designer, and I’m reading comments and advice from all sorts of employees that I’ve worked with that is truly touching my heart. 

I like to think that I chose a career, not a job. The difference to me, is passion. That’s both a blessing and a curse. A lot of my coworkers are my best friends. We have to actively stop ourselves from talking about work on the weekends sometimes…okay all the time, but it’s because it’s become so engrained in our souls. When you love your career and you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like it’s just work. A bad day at the office can give off equivalent emotions to that of a bad fight with your significant other over how to properly fold an omelet. You have no idea why it’s upsetting you so much, but you’re emotional nonetheless. A classic three-fold was my stance, but a spinach feta beauty folded in half was admittedly equally as delicious. And even after a tough day, I always always always come back to the belief that I would rather care than be indifferent. Without the bad days, you don’t get the f***ing fantastic ones. 

A few months ago, I created my first official portfolio site. My projects weren’t for school anymore, they were real. They were tested and used by customers, broken and challenged and put back together again. So naturally, I was a little hesitant and picky as to how I would display these projects and experiences. How would I present my work? But more importantly, how would I brand myself?

If you ask any designer, they will probably tell you that designing something for yourself is one of the hardest and most frustrating things to do. You are your harshest critic, right? When I get married, I will most likely come up with approximately 58 different invitation concepts and at least 112 menu ideas…because let’s be real, I’m really excited for the food. I will have a Beatles cover band and mashed potatoes, but the fonts and color palette are still up for grabs. In UX, you have to look past personal taste. You can’t just latch on to trends or make everything your favorite color. But when you’re making a website for yourself, you’re kind of the client. And boy was I one indecisive lil’ prick. 


Logos are one of the hardest things to design. I also think they’re one of the easiest things to BS. “These wavy lines represent movement and momentum…the flow of excellence” Right. I bet. However, the idea for my logo miraculously came easily this time. I’m not exactly sure when I grasped onto the concept of using geometry to represent my ideal UX. Fun fact, I was absolutely awful at geometry in school. Algebra though, entirely different story. It’s all about that attention to detail. However, there was something about the principles behind it that I latched onto as a designer. It was so logical and rational and yet so damn beautiful. From there, I looked at origami patterns and formed this concept. Coincidentally, it also reminds me of a compass, with the tip of the pencil pointing North. Happy accident, but I’ll gladly take the credit. 


Whimsical. That’s probably the best way to describe it…the colors, the layout, the vibe. I loved the idea of creating icons to represent each project I had worked on. Some were even simplified versions of the original work, stripped of most of their detail down to the bare essentials. As for the typeface, Gotham is often my go to. Bravo to Michigan State for selecting it as one of their brand fonts. Logotype? Well, I’ve always struggled with my initials. N is made up entirely of straight lines, whereas S is all about them curves. I thought it could be fun to mirror a Z instead, but I just couldn’t find a way to make it work. I also liked the challenge of combining my illustrations with UX work, but at the end of the day…I felt like the colors and overall vibe were stealing all of the attention. So I kept going.


Alright. So let’s tone down the color palette. I liked the simplicity of my logo, so I decided to strip out most of the color and go with a play off a primary color palette. 

R: 251, G: 204, B: 10

R: 236, G: 85, B: 54

R: 248, G: 167, B: 142

I ended up sticking with these colors for the most part. However, for a website it felt a little one-note and to be honest, flat. I wanted to give off the vibe that I could design killer websites, not that I’d just uploaded a print brochure online. 



Overcompensated a bit…tried a lot of stuff. Blurs, because you know, those are hot. I wanted to try and mix my iconography with large photos and elements that would make it feel like it had more depth, but the result ended up in a pretty funky collage-mashup state. I couldn’t decide if I hated it or loved it. I'm still not sure. 


Bring it back Sam. What’s one thing I always love? Context. I wanted to put my projects in the context of where they existed, whether print, mobile, desktop, or otherwise. By setting the scene contextually, I was able to better tell stories about the projects, rather than getting bogged down in symbols and icons and how to make my work feel connected. This layout let me show off illustrations, UX work, and print pieces.

I took it back to the client, she was very pleased.

Samantha NovakComment