Field Notes


Hey there! Here’s what we’re listening to in and out of the office right now.

And meet Rebecca, she joined the team in March as a content producer and account manager. When she’s not assisting on shoots and social media and graphic design accounts, she’s also a jewelry designer and artist.

Rebecca’s listening to:

The Dropout - I’ve been really into this new investigative podcast about the downfall of the medical tech company Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes. Of course I read about this when they were all over the news but I never realized the extent of the fraud.

Hashtag Authentic - This is my go to podcast for social media and online tips. Sara Tasker interviews lots of creatives about their work and how they share it.

The Daily - The New York Times daily podcast is my favorite news podcast. Each episode is about 20 minutes, which makes it easy to fit in everyday.

Table Manners - Singer Jessie Ware and her Mom invite folks over for dinner and talk about everything. I love it. I can’t imagine what hosting a podcast with my own mother would be like, but this one is thoroughly enjoyable. The episode with Mel B was my fave.

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And Kelsi’s listening to:

Bullseye - Specifically the Barbara Kruger episode, linked here.

99% Invisible - Design is everywhere. This sweet podcast shares lesser known stories about the origin of the shopping mall, for example, and one of my other favorite episodes talks about a vandalized statue of the infamous Spanish conquistador Juan Onate.

Design Speaks - By New Mexico native and fellow designer, Brandi Sea Kniffin. This one is a super relevant resource that takes subjects like branding, color theory, etc. and addresses these topics in a way that is relatable to creative professionals outside of graphic design.

Over My Dead Body - Y’all know I love true crime and this is one of several new crime podcasts from Wondery that I am obsessed with. Did you hear that HBO is making a mini series about the case covered in the Serial podcast?! I also spent my evenings this week watching a new murder series on Netflix, The Innocent Man, 10/10 would recommend.

Rebecca Grady
Designer 2025
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Every so often the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) analyzes trends in the industry and makes recommendations for college and professional continuing education programs. Their newest report “AIGA Designer 2025” is now available and we thought share some of our highlights of the report.

[The US Bureau of Labor Statistics] estimates 0-1% growth in traditional graphic design positions between 2014 and 2024, well below the anticipated 7% growth in all sectors of employment. At least 20% of current graphic design positions are held by self-employed freelancers, suggesting that replacements will have to start from scratch in building new practices. By contrast, the Bureau expects design positions in networked communication to grow by 27% and the economy will add 186,600 positions in software development by 2024 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook).
— AIGA Designer 2025

What does this mean for the future of graphic design? And for designers?

AIGA identified seven trends that we as designers should be prepared for: complexity, aggregation and curation, bridging physical and digital experience, resilient organizations, core values matter, new forms of sense making, and accountability for predicting outcomes of design action. They make a series of recommendations for how college courses and professional continuing education should respond and prepare for these. In reading through this report, some of their recommendations really resonated with us and we plan to take them into account as we move forward. We’re sharing these highlights below, and if you’re interested in reading more you can find the whole report here.

Things move faster on the internet. Technologies are constantly changing. Websites and what we need and expect from them are continuously evolving. And we need to be prepared for that. Here are the recommendations from AIGA that we’ll be putting into practice, and building into our professional development strategies:


1. Complexity:

AIGA recommends, and we agree: “Professional continuing education should address: Tools, methods, and processes for developing adaptive design solutions that account for continuous updating under constraints that change over time….”

2. Aggregation and Curation

“New branding strategies that account for message fragmentation and persistence in various media;”

3. Bridging Physical and Digital Experiences

“Accommodating people’s need to curate and customize a suite of products and services in the pursuit of goals; and developing technological platforms in support of continuous experiences.”

4. Resilient Organizations

“Reimagining and generating new business models that focus on the value added by design to user experiences;”

5. Core Values Matter

“Clarifying organizational and stakeholder values and envisioning socially and environmentally responsible futures; and Reflecting design concern for the lifecycle of products and services, from the identification of people’s needs to when they discard the object, abandon the environment, or discontinue the service;”

6. New Forms of Sense Making

“Processes for designing complex adaptive systems and information-product-service ecologies that respond to ongoing social, economic, and technological change; and ways of prototyping these systems.”

7. Accountability for Predicting Outcomes of Design Action

“Futurecasting, foresighting, and speculative design as ways of anticipating changes in practice and cocreating client futures; Building research capabilities in professional design offices versus contracting research support.”

Rebecca Grady
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Pricing. I started off pricing my services low - I did my first website for $500 - everything included. I charged a little over $200 for my first fabrication job - I lost money on that project, but I gained experience that I applied to future jobs. Pricing your services too low can undermine your work and the work of other creative professionals. Pricing your services too high can leave you hungry for work. Be realistic with your pricing and do your research. I don't charge what I charged a year ago, and I don't charge businesses the same rates as individuals. 

Invoicing. Figure out how to manage cash flow (I'm still figuring this out!). I do all of my recurring invoicing once a month, for clients who consistently purchase packages from me (email campaign packages, social media management packages, etc.) I give clients a two week due date on all invoices. I charge a 10% late fee if the invoice isn't paid within that window. If the project timeline is less than a month, I typically invoice the project upfront. Likewise, if the project requires me to pay for materials, like wood, metal, printing or website hosting, I'll invoice upfront, since those type of costs are a burden to me.

I work on trade for a few of my clients. I know that isn't always sustainable, but I'll do a couple hundred dollars a month in trade for services - as long as it's a mutually beneficial trade.

Budgeting. The number one thing I've learned over the past year is to be willing to give up extraneous expenses - there are certain things, like rent, and car insurance, that I have to have. Other things, like entertainment, nights out, and shopping are things that I've had to pass at times when I'm making less monthly income. Set a budget and stick to it - and if you can't stick to it, adjust accordingly. This is advice not just for creative professionals, but for anyone trying to practice discipline in finances. For example, I tend to overspend my budget for alcohol/bars and coffee shops each month, so I sometimes have to offset that expense by spending less on restaurants. I used the budgeting app Mint - as a designer, having a beautifully designed app makes finances much more bearable. Screenshots below. 

Taxes. Charge all of your clients sales tax on top of your fees. And don't touch the sales tax, pay it monthly, just to get it out of your account - even if you are only required to report sales tax quarterly or bi-annually. When I deposit a check from a client - I immediately put the sales tax portion of the payment into a separate account - this has a few benefits. 1. This money doesn't get confused with income when I am doing my personal taxes. 2. I never factor this money into my personal spending. 

If you are looking to save a little money, file your taxes yourself using Tax Act - the annual fee is only $75 for sole proprietors and independent contractors. 

Consulting. Get a second look at your finances. In the past I've met with small business consultants, and last week I met with Barraclough & Associates, a Santa Fe based accounting firm to get answers to more specific questions that I had. And because I knew I wanted to write about financial literacy for creative professionals, I asked for general advice to share with y'all. 

Kelsi: What are three simple practices you recommend in relation to finances?

Barraclough: Clarity. Figure out what your bottom line is - that's the most important number. Action, constant action. Follow up with people, it doesn't matter how they respond or how you think they will respond. Stay true to your brand. Success comes from clear, clear, clear focus. Believe in yourself and charge for everything. 

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Hope this helps! Let me know what other concepts I should explore - even if they aren't specifically design related. 

Kelsi Sharp
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I mentioned earlier in the year that I've been working with a pro bono client. I was approached to do a campaign for an organization called Purses with a Purpose, that works with female victims of domestic violence.

Purses with a Purpose is one branch of a larger organization that helps women with concerns besides domestic violence, they interact with teenagers on topics like body image, and work with young professionals to build career opportunities, and they are doing so much more, besides. I was attracted to Purses with a Purpose because I felt that it addressed a cultural issue that no one is talking about - that domestic abuse transcends race and socioeconomic status. Domestic violence is perpetrated against women regardless of their level of education, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, and regardless of whether they are white or ethnic - but that's not how the media portrays domestic violence - and you know what I'm talking about.

And here's what I've learned from working with my first pro bono client:

Specify the workload in advance. Going into the project I committed to an amount of work that I would do for the client - this specific client didn't have much to work with, but I also knew I couldn't offer them everything they needed - a full branding update, ongoing social media maintenance, and so much more. So I developed a proposal for what I could offer them: a logo, a website, and monthly email campaigns.

Know what you are getting out of it. If a pro bono client promises networking opportunities, free product, or to cover your expenses, make sure you are super clear what that looks like before any work is done. here are a few tax deductions you can claim in relation  to volunteering your creative services.

Be realistic about how much you can give. For me, as a sole proprietor, I don't feel that I can handle more than one pro bono client at a time, so when I get approached by other organizations, I typically turn them down, and explain that. Once I wrap up the work I'm doing for Purses with a Purpose, I'll dive into working with on another pro bono client. 

Exposure isn't a currency accepted by your landlord - unless it is, in which case, can I meet your landlord? I can't work for everyone for free, so I also have my "wholesale" clients. A few charitable organizations, a few female owned/operated businesses,  and businesses who are ethically and environmentally inclined, I offer steeply discounted pricing. It's the equivalent of a friends and family discount, and it's a nice thing to offer a organization with limited means, or a brand with an ethos that you want to support.




Kelsi Sharp
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Meet Young Black Santa Fe. 

Zippy Guerin and I are starting a series of events for Santa Fe's young, black population. New Mexico is predominantly Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American population - and about 3% black - including African Americans, Africans, and Caribbeans. I didn't grow up culturally identifying as a black person, but as an adult, I have found that I want to connect with black people, and that opportunity doesn't readily present itself in Santa Fe.

This weekend we'll be hosting our first event, a super casual happy hour. We hope that this will be an recurring event (maybe monthly, maybe quarterly) where we can network and connect. If this is something you are interested in participating in feel free to email me for the details about this weekend's event and (hopefully) future events. 

I created the graphics for the events incorporating the iconic Santa Fe railroad logo and this terracotta tone that in Zippy's words is a "blend of black and desert vibes." 

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Kelsi Sharp
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The universe abhors a vacuum. 

I started this year by ending a contract... with one of my biggest clients. I was nervous (understatement) to end the professional relationship with a client that provided more than half of my income, but I firmly believe (and mama said) that if you create a vacuum in your life the universe will fill the void. 

So I took a leap and nearly a month into the new year I’m working with six new clients. 

I’m working with HANGTIME for the first six months or so of this year on a product launch. HANGTIME represents two new worlds for me - the outdoors industry and the start-up industry - and I’m learning so much. HANGTIME is launching a smartphone accessory for hiking, climbing, skiing and snowboarding and I’ll be creating graphics for the crowdfunding campaign and  investor pitches, including the ABQid Ski Lift Pitch next month. 

I’m working with MAKE Santa Fe on some web design and I’m eager to reap the benefits of a membership at MAKE and I’ll be attending several certifications in the coming month or so. I’ve already used the shared workshop space to create stunning laser cut product packaging for the HANGTIME launch this weekend at Outdoor Retailer and I’ll also be creating laser cut signage for another client in early February. 

I’m working with Cynthia Jones Jewelry, a minimalist jewelry brand here in Santa Fe on social media campaigns, email campaigns, product packaging, and signage. I love working with another female sole proprietor, especially Cynthia, whose work and aesthetic I adore. 

I’ve agreed to do some pro-bono work for a charitable organization called Purses with a Purpose. I’ve felt so fortunate in my career and in my life and I’ve wanted to volunteer some of my time to the right female-centric non-profit - so that is happening now! 

I’m also working with another female sole proprietor this year - my mentor of over ten years, Erica Westby. I’ll be doing web and print design work for her as she launches her private practice and I'm eager to collaborate with Erica in her powerful work.

Curtis Bobsin is an organ builder in San Antonio who also installs high end sound equipment in restaurants, bars, and cathedrals. He’s one of the only remaining organ builders in the world. We’ve already begun logo design that merges his classical work, welding organ pipes and milling custom cabinetry for the instruments, and the new and growing sound equipment component of his company. 

And the big news is:

Anyone who knows me knows that a microbrewery is my dream client and I’ve been working towards making that dream a reality. I can’t say anything more until everything is formalized, but I’m also going to be working with a craft brewery this year. 

I’ll be continuing projects with several clients from last year, too. including Hutton Broadcasting (creators of and soon, and TWIG. And so begins my second year of business. 

Kelsi Sharp
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I work constantly - like twelve hours a day. I usually work about eight hours a day in my office (read: studio apartment) or on-site with clients. After dinner, I work for another several hours (read: in bed) fueled by Netflix and some terrifying true crime podcasts. 

A few of my audio/visual favorites for late night work sessions:

Abstract: The Art of Design I watched it nearly a year ago, and it didn't hold my interest, but watching it again while working, I found it inspirational and I really enjoyed it. There's an episode that follows Bjarke Ingels (superstar architect) and an episode that follows Paula Scher (superstar graphic designer), as well as an episode about an illustrator, a photographer, and an automobile designer. 

Great British Baking Show I love to have Great British Baking Show playing in the background while I'm working. It is so much less theatrical than any American cooking or baking show in the best way. I love how the contestants have real lives and jobs, and participate in the show on the weekends. I love how the contestants help each other with the baking challenges, wash their own pans, and drink tea. 

Sword and Scale Besides design, I also am a true crime podcast fan. Sword and Scale was one of the first podcasts I became interested in. My favorite episode talks about the origin of the last meal traditionally offered to prisoners given the death sentence and lists different serial killers and what they ordered for their last meal - ranging from dirt and cigarettes to a burger and fries with a milkshake. listen here

Casefile This is an absolutely amazing true crime podcast, and the narrator has an amazing Australian accent. listen here

S*TOWN It isn't a true crime podcast, but it is an incredible story and it's four brilliant episodes, produced by the people who made Serial and This American life. listen here

Dirty John I'm in the middle of this one currently, at the recommendation of a friend and it is really intriguing. Dirty John is produced by Wondery, and it feels like the podcast equivalent of Mindhunter, the new Netflix series or True Detective - it really paints a visual, and because it covers one crime over the course of the season, as opposed to other podcasts that cover one crime per episode, it really gets into detail. listen here

I also listen to less hi-fi true crime podcasts - like where you can hear the podcaster's wife or dog in the background, or the phone rings. I find non-fiction podcasts and shows easier to multi-task to than fiction/fantasy podcasts and shows, and obviously, anything with subtitles, I can't properly enjoy while working. 

(note: I'm in bed right now and it is after midnight and I'm watching Great British Baking Show)

Kelsi Sharpfilm, designComment
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Today is the first anniversary of my work as an independent contractor. I'm so appreciative for the clients I've worked with this past year who enabled me to make my graphic design work more than a side hustle this year and I've learned so many lessons in the past 365 days. 

I've learned loads more than I can put in words or should probably share....

Saying yes to work, saying no to everything else. I read an article on Girlboss that basically said 'You'll have to skip going out to cocktails with your girlfriends, but it will be easy for you to skip these type of engagements because you'll be so gratified with the work you're doing.' Wrong. It actually never gets easier to say no to happy hours and dates - no matter how gratifying work is, it never gets easier to pass up a social call. 

Making time for growth. I think my biggest asset to my clients this past year has been my lack of experience. I have had a really hard time investing in reading and growing my skills while juggling all of the administrative and creative responsibilities of running a new business. While being "green" has had the benefit of generating fresh and unusual ideas, I don't want to stop growing. I want to make time to develop new skills, attend trainings, and never become comfortable. 

Asking for help. Seek council from small business consultants and mentors. A small business consultant top meeting clients at coffee shops - it isn't professional or private enough. That's a bit of advice given to me at a meeting with a small business consultant earlier this year, precisely two days before I had the most uncomfortable coffee shop meeting of my life. I invite a select few clients over to my house for meetings, but I generally to meet with clients and potential clients at my office space in Albuquerque, or at the client's office or studio. Point is, I've learned so much from other young creative professionals.

What now? I'm looking forward to working with several new clients this coming year and working with my current clients on e-commerce, app design, and private label products. I just signed a contract with a local ad agency so I'm really excited to see what that will yield - it's a project unlike anything I've done before. 

Kelsi SharpComment