I freelance for free and it makes me feel like a bad designer.

Spend any amount of time around a designer and chances are you’ve heard us making fun of the whole “it’s good exposure” comment. If you’re unfamiliar with this, basically it’s extremely frowned upon if you expect a designer to do your project for free. Counter points are “I went to school for this. It took me 15 minutes to do but it took 4 years of studying how to do it” or “Tell a dentist to do a filling for free because it’s ‘good exposure.’” Seems perfectly logical and perfectly makes sense and we should all be behind designers for this. Right? Right. My problem…

I can’t stop designing this shit for free.

Like, I get it. If you’re good at something don’t do it for free. I work full-time at NewCity, but tackle freelance projects outside of work every so often. Sometimes I expect to be paid, sometimes I’ll get so excited about the idea of the project I’ll do it for a burrito. And then it feels like I’m damaging the value of what I do, but part of me wonders… “would I still get the opportunity to work on cool shit if I charged everyone my hourly rate?”

How us designers usually feel about new projects.

I work primarily in higher education. I honestly have grown to love working in that space, and I think it provides enough creativity and constraints where I’m happy. However, it can get tiresome every now and then. Sometimes similar clients can start to feel too same-y, especially when you start hearing the same stuff over and over like “Student Faculty Ratio of 8:1” or “We even have a quidditch team!” If I’m in a rut from a lot of the same clients, freelance work is a great way for me to get out of that. Some clients have money, some don’t but you might find yourself making something really fucking cool. The best way I’ve been able to stretch my wings in design is by taking on freelance projects…for nothing. Going back to burritos (mmm…) – graphic design legend Aaron Draplin swears by this idea as a way to find yourself doing cool, new things.

Speaking of cool, new things…I can learn a lot by tackling work for cheap. I learn better when I feel like I have a goal in mind other than “Hey I should learn CSS.” As long as I can communicate it at the beginning, some clients are very understanding of the fact that I don’t dabble in InDesign too often anymore. Or that I have a limited knowledge of HTML and CSS. Doing work for free lets me learn new things as a way of keeping things fresh and growing my skills. But like I said…doesn’t work for every client.

Of course there are issues. Sometimes you get a client that you would NEVER EVER want to work for even if they paid you, let alone for free. I try to get a good idea of the personality type first before I tackle a project. Seems obvious but I thought I’d mention it in case you all thought I was crazy for dealing with these crazy folks for free. I’ve been burned many times before for taking on more than I can chew because it sounded interesting at the time. There’s also just the idea of “YOU’RE the problem! Wtf, why are you using your free time to make stuff for cheap?!” Oh I don’t know, I just enjoy it? It really does feel weird, because I totally get the sentiment. I can always use extra cash (gotta get beer money somehow). But like I said, I don’t just blindly go in giving everyone free work. But every so often I’ll get someone who has a REALLY cool idea or project I like, but not a lot of money to do so. I bend the rules a bit for them because I can see the benefit it’ll give me in my otherwise higher ed-only experience.

So that’s my mini rant…I feel like I get a lot of weird looks when I tell people this. To be honest it’s a plus of having a full time design job then being able to be selective on the side. If you’re currently doing freelance as your only means of work, please charge people! But maybe if someone awesome comes to you with a unique idea, be open a bit. You might find yourself doing something different and that’s okay.

Check out this TED Talk from Aaron Draplin! ❤️ MY MAN!

9 Video Games for People that Hate Video Games

I get this question a lot ”My gf/bf/friend hates video games. How can I change their mind?” As someone who is both an avid gamer and watches her significant other play games when he’s using the TV, don’t play Star Wars Battlefront. Joking. Not really.

Basically, if you’re hoping to entertain the idea of someone to get into gaming, I would try and find something with an engaging story or isn’t too time consuming (whether we’re talking about game length or “it doesn’t get good until 8 hours in.”). While I enjoy the hell out of MOBAs, MMOs, FPS, all sorts of genres…interactive narrative is always something I will make time for. And when I come home to visit family, my 3 non-gaming sisters are always begging for me to throw on a game and play it for them.

I’ve always wanted to make a post like this, so here are the top games I’d suggest to anyone, viewer or player, to check out. All of these are solo player only.

Disclaimer: These are the ones I’VE played. My god there are many, many more titles out there and I’ve only listed a few, but I myself am still constantly playing catch up with everything gaming has to offer. That’s the beauty of the hobby, I suppose.

1. SOMA (PC, PS4, Mac)

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Not the underwear. SOMA is an underwater horror game sprinkled with some pretty heavy psychological themes. The game has no combat system, and enemy encounters revolve around hiding from your enemies rather than fighting them. There are little to no jump scares with this one, which can make watching gameplay with friends less nerve-wracking. What’s terrifying about this game though is how dark it is. Everything from the scenery to the themes of “what exactly is it that makes something human?” will make your skin crawl. One of my favorite titles from 2015 and highly underrated. It took me about 10 hours for this one I think, so it’s one of the longer titles on this list.

2. Firewatch (PC, PS4, Mac)

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This 2016 title has you playing as a park ranger in the Wyoming wilderness over the summer. It’s got a lot of good mystery to it and moments where you’ll yell “NO FUCKING WAY!” Still, I have a love/hate relationship with this game. It’s absolutely stunning, and I still listen to the soundtrack from time to time. But its message is bittersweet. I still haven’t gotten over it quite yet.

3. Life is Strange (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

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Life Is Strange Episode 1
I’ve admired the hell out of this game since the trailer back in 2014. Absolutely my favorite single player experience I’ve had in recent years. It’s an episodic game, meaning instead of a full game there are 5 “episodes” about 2-3 hours long. Perfect for playing one part at a time. If I describe what this game is about to you’ll think it’s stupid. A high school, teenage drama (think Degrassi) meets Twin Peaks. It starts out with you just discovering time travel powers, but becomes so much more than that.

I love this game so much I’ve bought it twice. The art is fantastic and you won’t forget the indie soundtrack either. Just to give you a sense of how ridiculous this episodic series is, here are some youtube comments if you look up any walkthroughs or music:
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4. Oxenfree (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Mac)

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If Life is Strange is Degrassi meets Twin Peaks, this is Freaks and Geeks meets Poltergiest. Kind of similar to Life is Strange with the whole teen drama thing, but this one is more like Poltergeist. It looks like a simple 2-D platform game but has a completely unique way of telling a story. In real time you pick and choose through speech bubbles what you’d like to say to people, and those choices impact you later on in the game. Really cool illustration style as well.

5. Her Story (PC, Mac)

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VERY different game here. This crime fiction revolves around you watching various videos (and yes, with an actual actress) trying to figure out a murder mystery. I’m not going to say much here for fear of spoiling anything. Just play this one. It was nominated as Polygon’s #1 Game of the Year last year.

6. Gone Home (PS4, Xbone One, PC, Mac)

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Like SOMA, this is another one of those “walking simulators.” You play as a girl returning home to see her family after being away for a while, but find out the house is deserted. You scour the premises for clues and hints as to where everyone has gone. Great voice acting and once again a better title if I don’t say much more about it.

7. The Stanley Parable (PC, Mac)

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Finding the story IS the game. There’s a narrator describing your every move, to the point where the goal seems to be about disregarding the narrator entirely. It started out as a mod for Half Life 2 by game designer Davey Wreden. He found that most major triple-A titles at the time make numerous assumptions about the player’s experience and fitting that within the game, and don’t provide answers for “what if” questions that the player may consider. It breaks the 4th wall quite often and likes to mess with your head a lot. You can easily see all 6 of the endings in about an hour.

8. Transistor (PC, PS4, Mac)

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Stunning visuals and soundtrack. This sci-fi fiction is really the only one on this list with combat. It’s NOT an interactive narrative but I wanted to add it to this list simply because of the art. It’s got a great story to tell and is literally a feast for the eyes. The combat can be a bit challenging to those who might normally not be into games, but it’s worth the persistence with this one.

9. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PS4, PC)

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Another horror/murder mystery game. Yeah…I like these. It’s set in an open world environment, meaning the player can roam around and explore at their will. You use paranormal abilities in order to solve crimes, such as sensing where important objects are located and reassembling the timeline of events tied to a certain death.

Wedding Registry

Oops. This was written up yesterday as a draft but I never posted it. Co-worker had a going away party at the end of the day and I’m sure you can guess how that goes.

I’m not feeling particularly inspired for this day’s post so I’m going to go back to ranting about wedding stuff. This is probably taboo to talk about, but I need an outlet to rant about my biggest challenge so far. The wedding registry.

I just don’t know how to do it. God it’s like I figured it’d be so easy to just throw shit together. I hate gifts. It feels weird, especially with us being together for so long. People are asking me things like “Where will your registry be?” and I really don’t know what to tell them. I’m finding it difficult to know what I should add to it, thinking of color palettes, what appliances I should add, etc.

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My “oh shit I sent out wedding invites but I don’t have a registry put together” message on our website

I’m a designer by trade but I can’t put together a room. Maybe it’s because I rent and I don’t particularly care for my space I’m in right now, but I feel like I lack the skills to look like I have my shit together. One time I put some oranges in a bowl and had it out on our kitchen table, I felt like the classiest mofo ever.

I’m going to Ikea this weekend to kind of get an idea of what I’d like to do or what I should start planning for. It’ll be challenging for me to try and picture the piece in a room, rather than “hey that’s pretty cool!” Next post will probably be me trying to do interior design for once.

A Grumpy Townie’s Guide to (drinking beer &) Tubing

I mentioned tubing in in yesterday’s rant/post so I figured I’d write about it today since the river is starting to warm up. If you’re a townie like me, chances are you’ve taken advantage of some of the rivers around here in the summer. Tubing around here has literally saved me from an otherwise miserable few months. Many get seasonal depression when it gets cold, I get depressed in the summer because I’m not on a beach. I grew up near the water, and my summer months in Maryland were spent mostly in Ocean City, MD and Delaware. I miss the Eastern shore terribly, and it doesn’t help that when I check it with my parents I’ll get an answer of “Oh hey, we’ll call back later. Too loud out here on the BEACH.”

Anyway, here are a few tips as well as some suggestions on the best beers to bring!

Where to Go

New River Valley Junction

Good variety of rentals and okay-ish tubing. Still, they pretty much run a business around this activity during the summer, so they’re prepared with everything such as a cooler to float down the river with and a bus to transport you back to the start once you reach it.

Yes...be prepared for this to happen at the end.
Yes…be prepared for this to happen at the end.If this excites you, go here.
My problem with this area is that it’s not a very long stretch of river, and the end has a few rapids so you have to be careful or you’ll lose your drinks (has happened to me before). It’s also been incredibly shallow when I’ve gone, leading to my butt scraping along the bottom or me freaking out when it comes across algae (WTF WAS THAT JUST NOW?!). What I do love about this place is that the shallow parts can lead to some good tanning. I prefer to bring a chair than a tube actually, and just sit out in the river as it flows by. It’s pretty relaxing.

Bisset Park at Radford

Literally THE BEST in the area in my opinion. Very quiet, a lot less people than NRV Junction. Little to no rapids, not nearly as shallow as some other places. If you go, expect to be tubing for a good 2-3 hours without interruption so MAKE SURE YOU BRING SUNSCREEN. There are also a lot of areas where the water is a lot deeper, so swimming can be fun too. There’s also a cool little rope swing on your way down the stretch if you or your friends feel like standing on solid ground for a little while.

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Me in my happy place.
The only complaint I have about this place is that the transportation is iffy. They claim that they have buses but I’ve just had the worst luck catching one or even just seeing one in service. I prefer going this route if I have a large group of people to go with. We usually park 1-2 cars at the start (the lot near the bridge for us), then another 1-2 at the end (the far side of Radford University’s campus). Also, this is the much better river to go to if you have your own rentals in my opinion. I think this one supplies tubes, but you’ll need to supply your own float for your cooler if you bring one.

Also – since this river can get a bit deep, there are a few people out on boats or fishing. Be aware of your surroundings and make sure you’re not in their way! AND BRING SUNSCREEN!

Roanoke River Blueway

Unfortunately, I’ve yet to go tubing here, but I hear a lot of good things. It’s very similar to the Radford River though in that it has a variety of water levels that won’t scrape your bum. It’s also similar in that it’s best to have transportation or a large group of people, but luckily there are quite a few access points that make this trip easy to plan if you aren’t sure where to start or end.

What to Bring

Alright, a lot of places will have rentals and you can certainly go that route – especially if you’re tubing at NRV Junction. But tubing is a super cheap activity and if you have the right equipment you’ll find it’s waaaayyy easier to just bring everything you need. It’s like bringing 80% less of what you’d need for camping. Here’s my list:

TUBES!

My boyfriend and I started out with some cheap $8 tubes from Walmart and they got us through most of the summer just fine. Once they were in storage though a hole managed to poke through them, so we thought it was time for a good upgrade. These Intex River Run tubes are just about ready to be broken in, and look – cupholder! Also, ask any of your friends if they have a pump. If you don’t have space for a fully inflated tube in your car you’ll need one…no one likes waiting on you if you have to inflate your tube by mouth.

We're weird and also brought a giant rope to connect us all as we float down.
We’re weird and also brought a giant rope to connect us all as we float down.

Cooler

As far as a cooler goes, I prefer something kind of small (especially for booze. Sorry). You shouldn’t binge through too many drinks on your way down the river (especially Bisset), otherwise you risk being drunk at the end (of course this doesn’t matter with a DD <3). I prefer to tube while sorta tipsy, not wasted so I’m sober by the time I reach my car. We like this cooler because it’s big enough to bring enough drinks but not overload on them, and it’s inflatable!

Flip-flops

Don’t forgot to bring flip-flops or shoes suitable for being in the water! Walking in and out of the river can get nasty, and you don’t want to do that in your bare feet. I bought a pair of Under Armor flip flops last summer that float when they manage to leave my feet so I can easily grab them if they start drifting off.

Sunscreen

YES. PLEASE YES. And reapply! I shouldn’t have to mention this. But tubing burns are no joke. Nothing is worse than being a mile down the river when you realize your skin feels like it’s burning, you have no sunscreen to reapply, and you have another 1-2 miles to go until you reach the car or bus.

Snacks & Drinks

I always bring something to snack on in between beers. Once again some stretches of rivers are long, and you don’t want to be cranky and hungry halfway through your ride! Of course, the most important thing to bring is…

The Best Beers for Tubing

Let me get this out of the way – this is just my preference. Bring whatever you want when you go tubing. Wine, whiskey, margartias, I don’t care. Me personally…I like beer. Especially hoppy, over-the-top craft beers. But a hot day tubing will make me pass on a double IPA and choose something light instead. Here are some of my favorites that have been in the cooler in the past…

  1. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin – The king of tubing beers imo. Crisp, citrus-y flavors that aren’t too heavy. Even better in a can.
  2. Catawba Valley White Zombie Ale – Can be hard to find since it’s only an Asheville thing, but as a hophead this is one of the only witbiers I’ll drink.
  3. Hardywood Great Return – This IPA has a softer bitterness to it that lends itself well to being on the water for several hours.
  4. Flying Dog Dead Rise – Many beer nerds might cringe but I’m sorry I’m from Baltimore and I love this beer. Old Bay brings me back to summer crab feasts, and it just feels so right to be drinking this under the sun. The ONLY problem I have with this beer is I’ve yet to find it in cans, so you may want to bring a growler of it and pour as needed.
  5. Service Compass Rose IPA – Hands down the best IPA I’ve had in the Southeast. The rest of their beer is crap, but this IPA is something I rush to grab every time I’m in or around GA. Look out for it.
  6. Natty Green’s Southern Pale Ale – Pale Ales go super well for tubing but I also find it hard to put my beloved hoppy beers away. This one is the best of both worlds for me, and strikes a good balance between drinkable pale ale and hops.
  7. Heavy Seas Crossbones Session IPA – Very drinkable IPA with a light, fresh coloration. Very fruity with a slight bitterness at the end.
  8. Bells Two Hearted Ale – I didn’t realize how lucky I was to live in an area where this beer is distributed until I started following r/beer. Perfectly balanced, I think a few of my friends would opt for a floating keg of this instead of a few bottles.
  9. Oskar Blues Pinner Throwback IPA – Fresh, good blend of malt and hops. Easy drinker and juicy. Beer nerds and beer noobs will approve.
  10. Ballast Point Even Keel – I’m all about the citrus-y, easy drinking IPAs aren’t I? I didn’t expect to like this one so much but it’s very light bodied. I’d say probably the lightest session IPA on this list. It’s also quite creamy too compared to the others, I’d give this one a shot if you aren’t too keen on a hoppy beer in the summer heat.

Etiquette

Last thing I’m going to cover…DON’T. FREAKING. LITTER. This is so obvious but it always astounds me how people will throw their trash around. Keep a bag for your empties or just leave them in the cooler. Don’t be that asshole that just tosses your cans in the water. If you ask anyone that knows me well they’ll say I’m a shitty person in terms of recycling, but I will chase down an aluminum can down the river if I have to. Try not to bring glass either. I know some amazing beers are only in bottles, so if you do bring them…don’t be an idiot. Keep track of your shit and don’t let it leave your hand. Or cupholder.

Anyway, ranting over! That’s all I have! I hope this helps anyone new to tubing like I was a few years ago. It’s a blast and I look forward to seeing you drunk on the river soon 🙂

6/365 – Townie

Look, I get it. Virginia Tech is what makes Blacksburg  Blacksburg. And while I cheer for them in sports, rep for them when I’m in other states, and now see maroon & orange as an acceptable color palette…

I’m so glad they’re gone right now.

Quiet main st. outside the office now that the students are gone. Photo credit to https://www.instagram.com/katcombs27/
Quiet main st. outside the office now that the students are gone. Photo credit to https://www.instagram.com/katcombs27/

One of my greatest joys of the year is when the students at Virginia Tech go off on their summer break. It’s like the area suddenly freezes in time and feels even smaller than it is already. I struggled for a long time being so far away from the beach when it comes to summertime. I’m just not used to being in mountains still, but tubing down the New River really helps. A few other perks of having an empty college town in the summer…

  • Being able to walk into Lefty’s at 7:30 PM and get a table immediately? Yes, please.
  • I’m able to park at the gym as soon as work’s over and actually be on time for my yoga class. Awesome.
  • No frat boys sorostitutes invading every bar I walk into? Alright I sound lame but FINALLY.
  • Summer events where I don’t have to park far away, and instead can abuse school parking.
Pic of campus from https://www.instagram.com/juniper_hills/
Pic of campus from https://www.instagram.com/juniper_hills/
  • Easier to find O’s baseball fans to talk to in bars rather than all VT.
  • Did I mention you can basically just get into ANY bar?
  • Everyone is just so much more laid back. Especially true working in higher ed, where clients seem to have less stress on their plate.
  • Running on the huckleberry trail – it’s so empty! I can go whenever without fear of too many bikers or pedestrians. I’ve become such a townie.

The list goes on. At 27 I’ve become such a townie/hermit. Honestly though, things will eventually get boring and no one likes a college town without football season. But for now…I’m going to be enjoying this thoroughly. Blacksburg summer is here. Woo!

3&4/365 – Pre-Cana

Okay, cheating a bit with 2 blog posts for the weekend. Ty and I were at Pre-Cana, a class required if you want to get married in the Catholic church. While the two of us aren’t very religious, it was important to my parents that we follow through with it. And honestly, the class was not even that bad.

Over the years I’ve become more of a lapsed Catholic as a result of my laziness and perceptions of wanting to sleep in rather than attend church. I can’t be the only one. I went into this class super cynical, flipping through the class booklet immediately after we got in and giggling at chapters covering birth control and cohabitation. However, what surprised me is that while the book seemed to be preaching these things, our facilitators weren’t. It was more or less about WHY the Catholic church teaches this stuff rather than “hey I’m going to judge you for this.”

It also gave us some time to discuss things such as finances and how we plan to make marriage feel special, stuff I wouldn’t even think to talk about right now without distractions. Oh, and we also got free wine for our last session of the day. Not bad.

Alright, that’s enough talk about church for this blog. Back to freaking out about getting my damn invites out…

1/365 Blogging for Sanity

So I was inspired by Jenn at Cards Against Humanity to write a blog post every day for a year. Unfortunately, I really have nothing going on in my free time right now besides wedding planning (kill me).

I guess you could say I’m an introvert who doesn’t like girly shit, so wedding planning is kind of difficult for me. That said – I’m actually really happy with how my wedding invites turned out! It is so damn hard to find wedding inspiration that isn’t too frilly or decorative. I opted for simple sans serif text with die cuts and gold trim. Yay! Now to get everything assembled…

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The envelope liners with one of our engagement photos also turned out nicely.