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If, like me, you’ve ever woken up and realized your hair
hasn’t been washed in four days, you might be a working mom. If you
choose your outfit for the day based on which clothes won’t show baby
food and slobber, you could be a mom. If you find yourself at work with a
fever and a nose like a faucet because you’re afraid to use sick days
for yourself, you’re definitely a working mom. And if you’re a designer
mom, things get even crazier.
It’s not every mom who struggles with form versus function when buying
baby toys, who has to design her kid’s Valentine’s Day cards for school
because there is no way she’s using those two-dollar ones from Wal-Mart or who
can’t help but art direct her baby’s one-year photo shoot.
We designer moms have a mismatched mix of blog subscriptions that seem to alternate between Smashing Magazine and I Heart Nap Time, while our
Pinterest boards might include everything from infographic design
inspiration to a tutorial on sewing a pillowcase dress. And that’s only a
glimpse of all the different things that are going on in our heads. Balancing the dual identities of “mommy” and “employee” is always a
challenge, and being a mother in the world of design brings its own
As a mother of two and a full-time art director at Savage, I regularly battle the
ups and downs of being a mom in a designer’s world. Although it can be
overwhelming at times, it can also be highly rewarding. Obviously,
everyone handles the balance in their own way, so I’ve added some advice
from other creative moms in my office to the mix.
My favorite mantra is, “Life is short. Keep it real. Make it sweet.”
It’s something I saw on the wall in a bakery and fell in love with, and
it reminds me that I never have to settle. I love being a mom and I love
being a designer, so I intend to do both. Here are some of the ways my
fellow creatives and I have found to maintain the balance.
There really is an overwhelming perception of the design profession
as not very “family friendly”—that you are looked down upon if you
leave work at 5 p.m. on the dot every day because you have to pick up
your kid. I’m sure some people feel this way, but I am lucky to work at a firm
that is not only supportive of employees, but also encourages them to
spend time with their families. If your environment is not so encouraging, confront your boss about
issues you have. I think every mom—and dad—would be surprised to see how
supportive their industry can be.
Savage President Bethany Haley says, “I find that I am my own worst
enemy at times, feeling that I am at the mercy of everyone else’s
schedule. I end up telling myself that ‘I have to’ be at a meeting, or
‘I have to’ stay late, or ‘I have to’ miss this because of that. I think
we all do that to some degree. Then I wake up with the realization that
I have made my own sacrifice without even asking for some flexibility.”
Some weeks I feel like Super Mom, other weeks I feel like a zombie.
It’s during the latter weeks when I really take advantage of those around me. I
ask my husband to pick the kids up from daycare, and if other designers
have lighter workloads, I ask for their help. You can’t handle everything yourself, and you shouldn’t have to. As Susan Simon of
Savage Business Development says, “Know your boundaries.”
Haley adds, “You’ve heard the quote, ‘It takes a village’? I take
that to heart. I rely a lot on my husband and the grandparents, and I
pay a lot for childcare. In any dual income family, whether you are in
the design industry or not, you have to find people you trust to rely
Everyone that I work with at Savage knows that I have to leave work
on time in order to pick up my children. They also know that if they
give me enough notice or if I am swamped, I will make plans so that I
can work late. Planning is a crucial part of being a working mom. Simon shares insight into planning as a single mom: “As parents, we
know that we have a ton of planning that needs to be done to make each
day successful. From our morning routine to the last light out, if we
plan, we can achieve balance.”
Designers are lucky. It’s easier for us to get lost in our work than it is for those in other professions. However, it’s also easy to think about your children
all day long if you want to! Focus on work when you’re at work so you
can focus on your family when you’re with them. If I find myself getting
distracted, I put on my headphones, tune out everyone around me and
bust out some beautiful designs.
Just as I am all business at work, I am all mom at home. Some
people are able to beautifully mesh work and home, but not me. Although
it may not always be possible, turn work off when you leave so that you
can focus on creating memories for yourself and your children.
The other Savage moms share my beliefs about balancing work and home.
Misty Loocke, project manager at Savage, says, “I try not to bring work
home. If I stay late every now and then, that is fine, but I don’t want
to be distracted by work when I’m spending the hour-and-a-half a night I
get with my daughter. Sometimes I just think: ‘You know what? Life is short and my daughter
won’t be this way for long, so I need to calm down and focus on her.’”
Jackie Dryden, Savage creative strategist, offers similar advice:
“When your child is sick, be a mom. When there is a school event, be a
mom. The work will get done. And it will be done better and more
efficiently when you are not worried about your children.”
Design was my first love, and I refuse to lose that. I make it a
point to spend time every week doing something creative—alone! Don’t
get me wrong, I love my family, but we all need time to ourselves to
focus on things that make us happy.
Take time to recharge and remember what you love about design and
being creative. Design a poster, paint, sew—whatever it is that reminds
you you’re doing what you love.
Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about taking some time for
yourself, or for anything you do to take care of your family. You have
to trust that you are making choices that work best for you.
Being a parent is a demanding, rewarding job. It requires a lot from
us, but parenting and work don’t have to be mutually exclusive. At the
end of the day, I can feel proud about doing both because I am teaching
my children, especially my daughter, that they can do whatever they
want. I can work hard and be good at my job, and I can be a wonderful
Life is short. Keep it real. Make it sweet.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on AIGA Houston’s blog.
Ashley is fast – really fast. In fact, in the time it took you to read that, she already designed two websites and had a mid-morning snack. Ashley is also an accomplished illustrator, a former certified fitness trainer, a neat freak, new mother, and has
never missed a visit to the dentist, as evidenced by her big smile (sunglasses sold separately). In addition to being talented, productive and efficient, Ashley is an Art Director working in conjunction with Design Directors to create unique visual solutions
for identities, print collateral, and with a special emphasis on websites. Ashley has applied her talents to projects for companies like Sysco Corporation, Quanex Building Products, HTS and Albemarle. Ashley received her BA in Mass Communication Advertising
Sequence from Texas State University and is an active member of AIGA Houston.
DesignEd K12 is a movement to inspire and sustain design education programs for elementary, middle and high school students—instilling creative
confidence and a design thinking mindset at a young age through hands-on
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Section: Tools and Resources -
K-12, teaching, education
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Section: Inspiration -
Without leaving the comfort of your chair, Andrew Blauvelt, chief of communications and audience engagement at the Walker Art Center, will take you on a virtual tour of Minnesota design at “Head, Heart, Hand: AIGA Design Conference.”
Section: Events and Competitions -
Conference , culture
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Section: Why Design -
advertising, communication design, environmental design, experience design, graphic design, marketing, nonprofit, print design, user research, Competition, mass communication, posters, print advertising, signage, culture, diversity
Steven Heller has immortalized our graphic past and made coherence of our present. He is the author, co-author, or editor of more than 60 books on design-related topics. A journalist, critic, and commentator, he has written for a wide array of publications and has been the editor of AlGA's journal of graphic design, Voice, since its inception in the early '80s. In addition, for 33 years he was an art director at the New York Times, originally on the OpEd Page and for almost 30 of those years with the New York Times Book Review. Currently, he is co-chair of SVA's “MFA Designer as Author” department and a special consultant on new programs to the president of SVA, and writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review. In recognition of his role as the ubiquitous, tireless chronicler of our design times, he was awarded an AIGA Medal in 1999.
Section: Inspiration -
print design, AIGA Medal, writing, criticism
When I look back on periods in my life where I struggled to prove myself, and reach the next rung on the ladder of my career, it's amazing to me to discover how much of what I went through then, I am still going through today.
Section: Inspiration -
advertising, corporate design, personal essay, mentoring
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