I'm what happens when an artistically inclined biologist can't decide what she wants to be when she grows up.
My first career was in Wildlife Biology. “Who cares!” you yell (stop yelling!) Well, here’s why that matters: a background in both the arts and sciences has given me a unique approach to design—it has honed my analytical thinking, and encouraged practical real-world solutions to design problems. Also I can tell you about mitosis. Kidding, I don’t remember anything about mitosis anymore.
Prior to going solo in 2012, I had spent six years working in both large and small agencies—a gamut of experience that has allowed me to wear many hats and work with global brands, across a variety of mediums in both the analogue and digital realm.
These days I work out of my home office in Hamilton, Ontario to deliver print and digital projects for clients large and small, from coast to coast.
That's a quick look at who I am and how I got here. Keep scrolling to find out more about the kind of work I do.
what I do:
websites—with the breadth of content management systems and themes available, very few websites these days are hand-coded (phew)—this is most of the web design that I do—skinning, branding and populating WordPress themes
branding—logos, brand environment, brand guidelines, collateral, etc.
print materials—brochures, annual reports, postcards, retractable banners, posters—you name it, I’ve probably done it
infographics—you’re nobody until an infographic loves you
app design—no, I’m not an app programmer, but I will design the hell out of an app
package design—admittedly an area where my experience is somewhat thinner, but of immense interest to me
what I don't do:
marketing—I have no interest in it, and I have no experience in it. I can design your marketing materials, but I don’t do marketing itself.
advertising—See above re: marketing.
digital strategy—By this I don’t mean web design and usability, but overall strategy regarding online presence. If you’re looking for someone to put together an overall digital strategy for you, I highly recommend Rachel Segal—wise beyond her years and a pleasure to collaborate with.
SEO—Beyond installing an SEO plugin on your already SEO-friendly WordPress installation, I don’t dabble in search engine optimization, nor do I want to. Best to have your marketing professional to do that for you.
programming—The only programming I do is light HTML/CSS customization on the WordPress sites that I skin. I don’t hand-code sites from scratch anymore (there is very little need to do this anymore with the breadth of customizable templates out there).
heavy illustration—I say heavy because of course I get into doing light illustration for infographics and other design—things like icons, logos, diagrams, etc. What I mean is I probably don’t want to illustrate the children’s book you’re penning. I love illustrating, and I’m not even half bad at it, but it’s just not what I do and I’m not quick at it. You’re much better off hiring a professional illustrator.
banner ads—If you’re hiring me to do your overall brand and materials associated, I’ll design your banner ads, but if you’re contacting me just to do banner ads—no thank you.
copywriting—While reasonably competent at stringing sentences together, I am not a writer. You’d be much better served by hiring a writing professional to produce copy for your project if it’s not something you can tackle in-house. (I highly recommend Hayden Jackson if you need copywriting—she’s funny, smart, and an absolute delight to work with.)
Hey—you made it all the way through all that! Want more? I've got more! Check out the section on working with me, how I like to work, the questions I’m frequently asked, and testimonials where people I’ve paid handsomely say nice things about me.
And if you just can't get enough of my writing, I've put a few articles on Medium (because I'm being very realistic of the likelihood of me keeping up a blog on my own website). They're mostly satire—an outlet for my mild case of misanthropy.
What's in a name?
When I was going to design school, one of our assignments in drawing class was to draw whatever we wanted—the only requirement was for it to be in colour. So, being a fan of animals and biology (see: that time Leigh got a Biology degree), I rendered a tree frog in coloured pencils. My instructor was underwhelmed. While he agreed the technical skills were impressive, he was disappointed that I didn’t do something crazy with it, like wrapping it King Kong style around the side of a building. He said: It’s just a frog. It will only ever be just a frog. As an animal lover with a Biology background, I didn’t really see this as a problem. I mean, have you ever SEEN a frog? They’re cool as hell!
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the fundamental difference between design and art. I would struggle as an artist because I craved structure and problem solving. There is always an objective in design, while art can be successful simply for the sake of itself. I also realized that I really liked parameters—I was actually far more successful when I had them. Simply telling me to draw whatever I wanted in colour wasn’t enough to pull the good stuff out of me. Design has an audience, an objective, constraints, considerations. This is why I’m a far better designer than I am an artist. Justafrog is a little nod to that, and a reminder that while I took a twisty road to get here (see: Leigh rides motorcycles), I ended up in the right place.