Archive for the 'tips' Category

Tools for Fashion Productivity: Evernote

September 17, 2009

In my goal of helping fashion designers move forward with technology so that our jobs are easier and we can spend more energy and time on creating, I would like to share with you some of my tools for being productive. So much of a designer’s job is processing information, and I think a lot of time is wasted and things forgotten because they are often unproductive in their methods for organizing and finding things.

In trying to minimize the physical space I am taking up, I aim to move as much as possible of my research onto my computer. That makes organizational and productivity tools essential for me. Today, I am focusing on how we organize information for research and design.

Way back when (last year), I used Google Notebook to store information and jot down notes, etc. Then the project folded, and I had to find an alternative. And that I did. The better alternative is Evernote, and so enthused about it I am (I managed to capture all of what was available to education subscribers on trend forecasting site WGSN right before they canceled the service), that I am now a premium user. With all the images we use as visual inspiration and text we use as research, fashion designers are among those I see this program working well for. It would probably work great for collaborative environments as well.

Let me explain with visuals:



And a close-up of my notebooks and notes:


Basically, you get a browser add-on, and can simply “clip” items (text, images, pdfs, screenshots) into your notebooks. It’s so easy to use, frees up space on my hard drive, and is accessible from any computer. I clip market research in the form of PDFs, which all can be read directly from Evernote so that you don’t have a bunch of windows open that take forever to load. I also clip screenshots of projects and designs I am working as throughout the process so that I have a reference point to look back on, and process shots if I needed them.

I have Evernote on both my IMac and my laptop, and can clip from a shared computer as well into the Evernote web interface. (If you’re really that mobile, I believe that it can be used on mobile phones as well). Syncs are automatic. No worries about where you dropped that research and finding your computer’s hard drive messy and completely chaotic – so chaotic that all that research goes to waste because you can’t bother going through it. It’s all here (most of it lands in Inbox until I come to organize it, and often I put a bunch of things in to use as reference later).

I just had to write this post, because as I am currently researching my niche market collection (which is coming along, and I am so excited about!), I am finding that everything is going by so smoothly and productively because of this one simple program. I imagine the design process to go by much smoother as well.

Click here for Evernote


Portfolio Tip: Designing Layouts

July 10, 2009

As someone who straddles between visual communication design and the design of wearable garments as my chosen avenue of design, I find that I am able to marry the two with more ease than most people who limit themselves to one discipline. Here’s a method I use in order to save time when designing my portfolio later on.

I used the same vector illustrations, technical flat drawings, the same line name, and a random description to experiment with layout. The following two examples are some of my earlier work, each took about 5 mins. It’s so much fun to do, and very quickly you will have a library of layouts you could use when you actually start developing your portfolio.

I did these in Adobe Illustrator, but they could just as easily be done in Photoshop, InDesign, or even the good old fashioned paper-and-scissors method.

layout 1

layout 2

There is always the option of adding more features to the layouts to communicate what you want (i.e. style descriptions, SKU plans, mood boards, colour swatches, target market images, etc.).

Another pro: the speed at which this can be done makes it easier to criticize your work and really see if there is a major problem with your layouts in communicating your work most effectively.

Trust me, fashion students spend countless hours working on their portfolios. Time spent perfecting layout could be better spent on revising your actual work or moving on to something new and fresh, after all, we in fashion are notorious for our mutability, so why not allow ourselves to be truly creative rather than bogged down by nitpicky layout details? It’s all about getting things done productively and making the most of your time – Hope this helps!

Creative Sketchbooks/Journals: Tips on the Process

June 10, 2009

Sketchbooks, journals, whatever you want to call them, are so important in a designer’s life. I find actually that so many disciplines could benefit from a creative record like it. It hasn’t always been an easy process to build and maintain this, so I want to share what I went through and some things I learned from my own journey.

Pre-Fashion School
I liked to draw as a kid. I liked fashion. I had determined at age 7 that I wanted to be a fashion designer. Throughout my childhood I did manage to pursue many different disciplines and explore a little bit of each before returning back to fashion. Throughout this period, I never managed to maintain an ongoing sketchbook. I drew some sketches now and then on paper and had them scattered in random places. I did, however, keep a journal for most of these years until grade 9. I’m not sure why I stopped, but I did. When I decided for certain that I was going to pursue fashion, I started keeping a sketchbook of fashion drawings. It was more of a way to practice drawing than it was to jot down creative ideas, in hindsight.

Fashion School: The Early Years
Keeping a journal was a part of the curriculum for design class. I think this time was an eye-opener for me about what sketchbooks/journals could be. It was more than just drawing clothes. It was about analysis and observation. I tried hard to keep my journal filled and useful, but soon it became a very limiting process, and I felt uncreative. My natural style in communicating my ideas is very organic. The example below (from my first semester) looked pretty, but it led me toward the path of analyzing other people’s work and what was going on around me without delving into my own creative well.

After a few more semesters, my design journal became more and more unstructured, which suited me much more. But, I realized that I had become lazy. My design journal started to fuse with my life and I couldn’t keep the two apart, further blurring my creativity. Soon, it became less a documentation of creative process and visual inspiration and more a dumping ground for random, uncreative thoughts.

I knew there was a lot going on in my head that could contribute to my life and work as a designer, but I couldn’t seem to get it out in a concrete way.

I’m not sure when it happened, but eventually I realized a few things about sketchbooks and journals that I feel are helpful to share with others who may have struggled with the same things I have.

  1. If you are a goal setter who plans and writes a lot, think about keeping a separate journal for that purpose. I found that once I kept my day-to-day life and my creative life separate that I benefited from the clarity.
  2. Keep your mind open to ideas outside of your discipline. Everything influences fashion. Write about whatever seems interesting, but don’t write about your own life. Because I am a conceptual person, I analyze fairy tales and connect their themes to fashion. A great way to fuel creativity when nothing is coming is going back to one of your favorite things and connecting it somehow to your discipline, or figuring out the metaphor behind it. Remember, art is all about metaphor.
  3. Experiment with size. I went through many sizes and formats, finally settling (for now) on a 11×14″ coil sketchpad for my creative journal and a smaller 6×9″ notebook for my separate journal.
  4. Focus on your senses. Observe and analyze in the moment, it is always better than doing the same thing while looking at a magazine tear.
  5. Switch it up. Keep the pages fresh, try to add something new and different so that you are settling into the same creative boundaries. Even the way you record becomes a creative process. Near the front of my current sketchbook, I have a list of possibilities. Add to this list.
  6. Be messy. I’m messy on paper until it comes time to get everything together. I don’t have the time to care about neatness.
  7. You don’t need to finish work. Sometimes, the pressure of just having to complete something hinders your creativity. I have no problem now leaving work undone. This documentation is meant to help your creativity, not to come out necessarily with a book of finished drawings and studies.

I read An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory, a great book that shows the inner workings of current artists, illustrators, and designers through their private sketchbooks. It was a helpful tool in allowing me to see how unhindered other creatives are. I aspire to that level of committment.

The only way to get good at something is to do it more. People tend to do things more when they are interested, and that is how experts are made. I’m sure that I’ll get better at finding my creativity through my sketchbooks and journals the more I work at it.

Lessons Learned From Etsy

March 1, 2009

This post by Fashion Incubator inspired me to share my own thoughts with you regarding Etsy, one of the pioneers in the online world that is really integrating the old with the new to move forward. This post focuses on viewing Etsy as more than just an online marketplace for crafty types. Its not the next big thing. It is the current big thing, and will remain one, in my opinion.

In the summer of 2007, I launched Channing Designs, which I ran for about half a year while going to school (for my toughest semester) before calling it quits. Jewellery is not what I want to do. For me, I felt the urge to jump on the bandwagon, and as someone who has always been interested in owning a business, Etsy made it way too easy for me. That being said, my little experiment taught me a lot about starting a business. I still believe in Etsy and plan on hopefully using it again within the next year.

This post marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a series examining Etsy and its connection to web 2.o, its connection to the fashion world, and how people in fashion can take advantage of Etsy to stay on top of the innovation happening and broadening reach between fashion, media, and technology. I’m learning and sharing what I learn with you.

Part I: What I Know About Etsy So Far

Channing Designs by Annching Wang

Etsy + Technology
The movement we are seeing is that technology becomes a means to drive both business and communication. Etsy is not only a marketplace, but a community, and therein lies its success. The way it’s designed (and I have witnessed the changes as they’ve grown) connects people – buyer to seller, seller to seller. (The main overall theme for Promostyl’s forecasted direction was “humanity”, bringing the human factor back into fashion.)

Taking a look at Etsy’s About Page:

“Etsy is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade.
Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.
Our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice:
Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade.”

Etsy + The Eco-Revolution
Either Etsy jumped on the wagon fast enough to take advantage of the opportunity just when eco-fashion was starting to get noticed. Established in 2005, it may have been one of the influencers in this movement. Maybe both. Anyway, who cares where the idea originated. It’s here, and that’s all that counts. They cleverly use phrases like “building a new economy” to appeal to the undercurrent going on right now to do with change and hope and newness.

A Note to Fashion Students and Wannabe Designers
I highly recommend using Etsy as a route to break into your own fashion business. Why? Regardless of the continuing notion that Etsy is more for the “crafty” type, and not so much high fashion, the calibre of artists and designers on Etsy is really high quality – bad quality will get weeded out, and the strong survive. Etsy’s Leanimal eventually became winner of Project Runway Season 4 – you probably know her as Leanne Marshall.

This is a great place to start if you really have no idea where to start. The start-up money needed is low. Its a great way to test out your market, maybe earn a little bit of seed money, and make some strides toward your passion while going to school full time or working full time. If your business grows, you can always venture into wholesale, you’ll already have a customer base, and your product will have developed and grown for a bit before launching in a “big” way.

Things I’ve learned:
– Etsy makes promotion fun and easy
– The communal feeling is fun and easy
– Photography makes the difference between crafty and professional. Learn how to do it well (it took me quite a while to figure it out), or get someone else to do it for you.
– It’s handmade, it’s quality (hopefully) – cost accordingly. Its about perceived value.
– Know your product, know your customer
– Learning the ropes can take some time. There is so much to learn that unless you are willing to spend days on end researching, create limits and goals. Otherwise, you’ll always be reaching for a sky-high unknown

A Note to Consumers (Which is all of us)
I highly recommend checking out Etsy, if you haven’t already. Some of the stuff is amazing. The creativity, energy and quality is unexpected sometimes. Perusing this site satisfies my consumer needs. It is a great place to buy gifts, a great place to find inspiration. I liken the experience to shopping at Winners, except a lot more fun, with cooler stuff.

Possibilities for Those Already in the Fashion Industry:
– If you are an artist, you can create screen prints for tshirts and sell them- If you are a clothing designer, you can sell your samples or old stock (granted they were sewn by you)
– If you are a photographer, again, you can create prints out of your favorite shots
– If you are fashion stylist, you can sell vintage pieces you’ve obtained that you’ve just never used
– If you are a graphic designer, there are an infinite number of opportunities here. People have created product that helps Etsians promote their businesses (business cards, catalogs), as well as things like wedding invitations. This is one skill that can be used to help drive business for other businesses as well.
– If you are a fashion illustrator, you can make prints of your illustrations and sell them through Etsy. Bonus points if you already have an online following (ie. a blog, online portfolio)
– If you are a textile designer/artist, this is a great way to sell pieces to what would often be a niche market and hard to reach. If you exhibit, its a great idea to create smaller scale, more affordable art pieces for customers to buy
– If you are a writer (and this one is quite obvious), think about starting a blog promoting businesses like these. Etsy Weddings is a great example. Remember that for a movement to truly form and make an impact, it must have reach.

The process is so simple. I know that for a lot of freelancers, any form of income helps out. And broadening your reach with more products is often a good idea (though not always). Especially with the economy, it really is the time to get creative about how you sell what you do (whether its a product or a service).

Again, I’m always looking for ways to connect fashion to media and technology, and taking two separate notions and putting them together in a blender. I really believe that’s where innovation happens.

GTD: An Intro for Fashion People

February 22, 2009

My trusty Moleskine has been a great partner in organization for me, however, with my avid interest in technology and GTD principles, I have been playing around with some tools to help me in both my personal and professional life.

Team projects and collaboration

In class, we are doing a group project in product development. I suggested that we use Backpack to share our research and information in a collaborative manner (and this way, we have everything in a handy reference place.) In the context of fashion design, I see this tool cutting down meeting times and simplifying the research and design process. We’ve posted our SKU plans, company information, charts, inspiration images, etc. I see us posting our flat illustrations on there when we get to that stage of the product development process. (Note: At my internship, we tried implementing this as well, but because the company is such an intimate environment where everyone is always in the same vicinity, there wasn’t really a need for it).

Note taking and research

There is so much information on the www for designers to make use of. Most of the time we glaze through it, see things we like, and most often, it gets lost after that moment of “aha!”. I found myself experiencing this all the time, so decided to search for solutions. The catalyst for this was realizing that I was constantly coming across possible research material for my grad collection.

Prior to this, I have been using Notepad (y’know, the one that comes with Windows) to write my to-do lists and notes (it was a weekly mish-mash of to-dos, notes, and dear-diary type thoughts), but that hasn’t really been effective. Google Notebook is my new best friend. Here’s a little how-to to get started.

My categories make sense for my life:

– Inbox (where everything goes before I have the time to sort it)

– Fashion –> Marketing/Promotion, Design

– Technology

– Notes to Self

– Grad Collection

– Personal Finance

– Future Projects

– Etc.

I use it for professional and personal purposes. It is fully integrated into my internet browser, and the simplicity and ease of use is really great. I mastered this in 10 minutes and now use it for everything.


As a freelancer, I could see this working as well. Basically anything that you would require taking notes for could utilize this very handy application. As designers, we really have to be on top of trends, especially ones that cut down work and makes life easier. One thing I have noticed time and time again is how unorganized most designers are – the basic principle of GTD is through simple organization, work efficiency and productivity go up. Plus, designers are creative people. Use this practical tool and make it work for you. People in the technology industry are ahead of the curb in this aspect, but fashion people can benefit immensely.

Once you find the tools that work for you, take a little time to set it up for what you need it for, and after a little getting used to, I really believe that it makes a profound difference on productivity, which makes a profound difference on creativity and the amount of energy we can expend on this.

The most creative and effective people are not often the hardest working – they are the ones who can identify problems and provide solutions.

This is something I believe is crucial to people who work by themselves, for themselves, own their own businesses, set their own timelines, etc. Again, a lot of time is wasted by not being productive. You could be designing, drawing pretty pictures, daydreaming even!

What  else?

I also use to bookmark articles of interest to me. Its easy, and my bookmarks show up on this blog for my readers. I guess if ever I was really bored, I could go through my delicious account and reread all these.

Gone are the days of using your internet browser’s bookmarks or favorites section (that was useful probably back in 1998 when the internet was not nearly as vast and expansive as it is now).

I also have live RSS feeds of my favorite blogs up in my toolbar. They serve as my headline section basically, customizable to the topics that are of interest to me, and change up every few months. Right now, Zen Habits, Fashion Incubator, Geekologie, The Business of Fashion, Freelance Switch are up there. This forces me to keep up and allows me to learn something new about the fields I am interested in without having to actively spend time searching for it everyday.


To sum up, get started on GTD. It’ll make a difference in your life, and the sooner you integrate it into your everyday life, the better. Admittedly, it takes a while to weed out the useless tools from the ones that’ll work, but Google usually is a good guarantee. I’m constantly searching and exploring this, and trying to make it applicable to my life as an aspiring fashion professional.