A Conversation with Andrew Berkemeyer

Social media and the internet, as many of you know, provides plenty of opportunities to foster community and discover good people doing amazing things with their work and pursuits. I came across Andrew Berkemeyer's work via Dribbble and Facebook a year or so ago and something I noticed besides his high quality and versatile body of work was his genuine good nature and positive attitude that radiates from all of his social media feeds. 

Andrew gave me the pleasure of taking the time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions and share some of his work with us.

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The Bridge Between UX & Brand Strategy

There has been many articles, conversations, and debates circulating around the internet that center around roles, responsibilities, and services that can be found or is even being built inside the creative economy. “Should you specialize or generalize?” “How can you future proof your creative career?” “What should I focus on as a creative?” These are just a few questions that I run into when I do my daily reading and article hunting, but I haven’t seen much about how certain areas of design and creativity can overlap. Maybe this is because it is probably common knowledge that a good creative, especially a designer, should be able to design or create anything in multiple mediums and genres. That being said there has, like I wrote above, a push to either be a specialist or a generalist and I ask. why can’t we be both? Why can’t a creative specialize in something that umbrellas more than one design or creative discipline?

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Post-Screen Design: The Future of Designers in Tech

Right now, many designers have immersed themselves in the digital world, fulfilling a huge demand for UX and UI in today's speed-of-light technology driven society. In just 10 years, the usage of smartphones and other mobile devices has grown to an incredible magnitude. Newer and better devices are coming it out every month, and it's not only hard to keep up as a consumer, but also as a digital designer. Screens are everywhere we look, and contribute to more efficient lives, with expanded possibilities for the opportunity. However, screens aren’t the last stop on this wild technology driven train-ride. 

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Design Thinking with Jeb Banner of SmallBox

In this episode we had the pleasure of talking with Jeb Banner, CEO and Co-Founder of the creative agency, SmallBox. Jeb and his team are driven by curiosity and focused on achieving the goal of partnering with people to create distinctive and meaningful experiences. In this episode we talk all things Design Thinking, and how to apply it to areas outside of design, like improving employee engagement and transforming the way you approach people and situations amongst many other things. 

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Interview with Icon Designer Kyle Adams

In this episode we had the pleasure of interviewing Icon Designer Kyle Adams. We chat about Kyle's journey in becoming an icon designer, as well as the history and process of creating icons. Kyle also gives helpful tips about becoming better at icon design.

Follow Kyle on Social Media!

 Twitter: @itskyleadams 


Here are some notes from the interview:

  • Icons have been around since the genesis of mankind, before human language or oral tradition. We can find early examples as simple drawings on caves and rocks. Many ancient tribes and civilizations used icons heavily to depict religious and cultural identities as well as observations about the world around them.

  • When designing icons, always establish what the icons are needing to convey. Icons are meant to convey communication without language. For example, when at an international airport, people from all over the world are able to recognize the icons on all of the signage and wayfinding materials.

  • Keep in mind the audience for which the icons are being designed. For example if you are designing for a children’s brand, rounded icons and bright fun colors would be an appropriate style to apply to the icon design. Icons with angular edges and dull or dark colors may not convey the correct feeling and thus would affect the success of the icons.

  • Always set goals when designing icons. Get to know your clients needs and assure them that you are there to take care of all of their icon design needs by conveying your expertise. Setting boundaries and communicating really helps with the efficiency and success of the project.

  • When you complete a project, it’s a good idea to create a case study. Having intimate knowledge of the project makes it fairly easy to make one. Building these case studies can help you monitor your progress and refine your process over time. Having case studies on your site can also help clients see how you think and how you might be able to help them as a design professional.

  • It is not always necessary to re-invent commonly used icon forms. While the style can change greatly depending on the target audience, many icons have become very recognizable around the world. For example, an envelope on a website or mobile device usually mean “email” or “mail”. The main goal should always be centered on communicating in the clearest way possible to the target audience.

If you'd like to learn more about Icon Design, take a listen to our interview with Kyle below and check out his awesome blog: https://kyleadams.me/blog/

Kyle also has a Youtube channel with tons of great icon tutorials: https://www.youtube.com/user/kyleadamsdesign

If you are enjoying our Podcast, please subscribe on iTunes!



Interview with Print Expert Marina Joyce

Marina Poropat Joyce has been marketing, graphic designing, publishing and printing her whole life. She fell in love with design and printing early on, and she founded one of the first design-to-print companies in Los Angeles. She recently wrote Designing for Print to explain printing in graphic designer-speak.

Today we had the pleasure to interview Marina and ask her about all things print. We learned a ton of amazing things and hope you do too!

Here are some notes from the show:


Marina’s Kickstarter for her book “Designing for Print”, will be launched at the end of September, be sure to keep an eye out for it!

Check out her website for amazing resources for how to handle print projects:


Also, sign up to be notified when her book comes out:


  • Find out the process and cost required to accomplish a print project before showing it to your client. This prevents clients from getting attached to a design before you find out if the print is even feasible.

  • Great design is the most important aspect of achieving a beautiful print.

  • Find and build a relationship with a quality printer. You can find printers in your area here: http://printaccess.org/

  • Remember that a print will look much different than what you printed in your home printer.

  • Paper comes in parent sizes, for examples 8x8 is printed on 25x38. You can eliminate print waste by referring to standard print sizes.

  • Use a Color Gamut Diagram to find colors that can work best in both RGB and CMYK. Here are some links explaining this more: here and here.

  • Always be aware of the grain of the paper you are choosing. The grain affects many things including varied stiffness, and achieving clean cuts and folds.

  • Don’t use Photoshop for print layouts, use InDesign :)

  • Always request a print dummy, this is vital in making sure the paper you are choosing will work best for your project.



Creative Work is a Marathon

I have a few people in my life that I consider mentors, they might not even know that they are… but they are. I am very blessed to have a few friends, current and former teachers, and all around good people in my life that are much more experienced and talented in design than I am; and I constantly am seeking their advice on how to grow and improve in this craft. There is one common factor in most of the advice they try to hand down to me:

“Be Patient”

Of course they’re right, and I must admit that a lack of patience could be my number one weakness as a designer. It might be because I got into this business later than most, or it might be because I like to produce and share work as often as possible, or it could be my obsessive desire to be ahead of deadlines and please our clients at almost any cost. Whatever the reason is, I can be impatient at times. Chances are, that a lack of patience, effects you in some way as well, and a lack of patience can manifest itself in many ways, here are a few that I can think of:

Feeling anxious or feeling like a failure based on your position in life.

Finishing a project way before it’s due to save time.

Finishing a project right before it’s due because you wasted time.

Rushing to produce things daily for social media.

Taking short cuts in your work flow and process.

Purchasing something with credit because you don’t want to save for it.

I am sure that patience, or lack there of, is something you deal with on a daily basis. I think it’s important to realize this one basic fact that could be the key to your career:

Creative work is a marathon not a sprint

Angela Lee Duckworth, a Harvard educated psychologist won a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship partly based on her study on what factors make people successful. In short, her conclusion was and is grit. You can see her explain it better than me in her TED talk here. But grit is basically the unbreakable and passionate pursuit of long term goals and endeavors. In other words, Duckworth (and I) believe that determination and long term consistent effort is a key to success, in fact it maybe THE key to success.

How does this tie into the creative world? Think about how much time and effort you have already put into your craft, that was grit. Think about all the creative jobs you applied for with no call backs, but yet you kept applying, that is grit. Think about all the times you wanted to give up your craft and do something else but didn’t… that is grit. How many stories have you heard of about the actor, artist, designer, filmmaker etc. that had to wait tables, teach, or do whatever for years until they were finally able to break through and do their craft full time for a living. Are these people more talented, gifted, or skilled than we are? Probably not, but they were and are certainly still are, more passionate and determined to succeed at pursuing their passions than most of the people out there.

Grit is addressing the marathon mentality on a very macro level, and to give myself credit, this is something that personally for me I am not to worried about. My intense, immovable, glacier like passion for design is by far the number one reason I get to do it for a living. You might be like me and are all stocked up on grit with whatever creative craft you want to pursue. But what about patience and having that marathon mentality on a more micro level? I think we can all admit that in a deadline driven results oriented business that is the design and creative industry, it’s not always easy to be patient and to think long term. As I stated in the beginning, it’s something I struggle with on a daily basis. How can we address patience on a micro level? Here are some of my ideas:

Give yourself more long term projects: I think the daily challenges seen on Dribble and Instagram are pretty cool and even helpful, but it’s easy to let these challenges push you to rush your work. Build a project for yourself that will go beyond a day.. for example, you might like building logos every day; now take one of those logos and take a few weeks to build an entire identity system around it.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others: This was an important issue we addressed on the podcast we did on the impostor syndrome, but I think this issue plays a role in patience as well. We are constantly getting bombarded with other people’s success that can often lead us to thinking we aren’t doing enough and thus will lead us into rushing our work or our career path. Don’t forget that this is your journey, not anyone else’s. Most marathon runners are trying to beat their best time’s not anyone else’s.

Write Down Short and Long Term Goals: I believe feeling accomplished on a short, mid, and long term basis is a vital component to feeling and being more patient. I use Teux Deux and Field Notes to keep track of my to do list and accomplishments on a daily and weekly basis. Writing things down has really helped me be patient and think about the big picture at work and when I am doing personal projects.

Get away from the screen: Obviously this is a thing that is mostly for digital creatives, but I think a lot of digital artists and designers forget to step away from the computer and get inspired and creative in other ways that take more time and patience.

I know this article was bit all over the place because it kind of covered being patient and being determined at the same time. But I think both are intertwined because I think determination or grit can lead to great patience and mastery of your craft. What are some tips you have for slowing down and being more patient? I obviously want to get better at both so any advice you can leave below on the comments or via email at zach@activecolor.com would help a great deal.

Imposter Syndrome

At some point in their careers, most Creatives will feel like an imposter. Its a phenomenon that leaves people feeling like they are suddenly unfit, unskilled and a con even though the person has been performing well for years, or has even reached a high-level position. In this episode we delve into why imposter syndrome happens, and how to overcome it.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, and Instagram!

A Conversation with Vy Tat

Vy (Vee) is another friend I met in the social media world. I, on occasion, believe that the flat illustration world is over saturated and sometimes a little redundant (I think I can say this because I am guilty of being part of making this world more saturated and more redundant). Vy however takes a popular style and aesthetic and brings her own spin on it just enough so that it feels familiar and on trend as well as unique to her and how she approaches design and illustration. I had a chance to chat with her a bit about her origin story, why she doesn't consider herself artsy, and why she loves icon design. 


ZH: Tell us a little bit about your origin story, were you always an artsy kid growing up? How did you end working in the design and illustration world?

Would it weird if I tell you that I draw a lot as a kid but I don’t considered myself artsy at all? Art to me, even at a super young age, requires a lot of creativities and emotions and not being afraid to get the blank canvas dirty. Unlike other kids who can just dive right into filling their page with colorful things, I typically start most of my “artwork” by measuring each shapes and lines and making sure that they’re balanced and even. I carried a ruler with me everywhere and love drawing buildings and furnitures. So to answer your question, no I was not an artsy kid growing up. I don’t get the concept of free-flowing art or colors or know how to appreciate it.

I pretty much avoided all art-related classed in high school and the first year of college. My goal was to study architecture and interior design, but after a year of learning only about the historical buildings and furnitures, I realized that it was super boring. I then decided to take the introduction to Graphic Communications class the following year, and fell in love with design and graphics instantly. The very first required material on the class’ list was a ruler. And I knew then that this is what I wanna be and do haha. It took me 3 years to get my degree in Graphic Communications and has been working as a web and graphic designer for an in-house apparel company since. 

I still cannot do artsy stuff but design has made me realized that I can draw and create aesthetic work with basic shapes and colors. There’s always going to be a solution in design and how it all work and that to me is the difference between art and design and why I considered myself a designer and not an artist.

ZH: You have a very specific yet effective illustration style how has did your process and style evolved into what it is today?

As you can see, most of my work are line illustrations. I started in 2013, doodling non-connecting line illustrations as a stress relief therapy type of thing, and it’ll always consist of a character I called Happy Girl and her pet Moo. I did lots and lots of these whenever I feel down or have too much going on in life up until the beginning of this year. And none of these are shared publicly.


I attended a graphic event called the Pixel of Fury in February where I saw one of the contestant creating illustrations using strokes and shapes and I was blown away. Like OMG that’s super dope and I need to learn it. First thing the next day, I started searching for tutorials on how to create line art using Adobe Illustrator and just went from there. Since I never like to follow instructions, I just take notes on basics of how to create icons and flat designs and then incorporate my Happy Girl and Moo line style that I’ve developed over the years into the work.

Throughout the years I learned that consistency is key to successful design. And same goes for illustrations. Have you ever look at an illustration by some of the top players on Dribble versus an illustration from newer designers? The top player’s work are always consistent with every elements, from colors to shapes to the weight of their strokes. And that’s the number one focus for me when I create any illustrations, the first thing I check is whether or not the weight for all of the lines are the same.

ZH: What does your ideal dream project look like? Do you have any bucket list clients?

Ideal dream project for me would be a pure icon design project. I super love to create icons. I like to research on how people interpret different symbols and how that could translate in people’s head. And of course a reasonable timeline for any project is ideal. I’ve had clients that requires a set of illustrations and branding be completed within a week and a half, and I’ve had clients where I get 7-9 days per illustrations. I don’t have any bucket list clients, but if there’s anyone out there who needs icon design work and have a decent time requirements, those are for sure on my bucket list haha.


ZH: Besides the ruler requirement what made you fall in love with graphic design and communications?

I love the fact that there’s a whole set of science behind graphic design. Unlike art where a lot of the time the work is pretty subjective to its aesthetic whereas design and communications is more calculate-able…does that make sense?

For example, the first few weeks of graphic design class, we learned about the principles and elements of design. From balance to alignment, repetition to contrast, line to shape to texture and color, etc. And as long as some of those principles or elements are executed properly, the design will work. It will deliver the message clearly and aesthetically and the idea of being able to create a piece of work that can be measured and calculated and work (most of the time) is very attractive to me.

ZH: You mentioned the consistencies and lack there of in dribbble posts. Does the work and designers on that site and others influence you or kind of provide a road map on the kind of work you want to make?

 Dribbble is a great platform for inspiration. You get introduced to the latest and greatest designers from there and I do use it as part of my research process when starting a new project. I use Dribbble a lot when I’m in need of UI inspirations, this site is filled with amazing UI designers. But I also use Medium a lot because I like to read and learn about how other designers work and their experiences. Reading an article or two is like my daily morning routine when I’m at work sipping my tea and eating a bagel. It’s pretty cool. 

ZH: I am a fellow line and shape lover haha.. but I want to know why you are attracted to the use of shape and line in contemporary illustration and design? 

As I’ve mentioned before about my fear of adding colors to my art canvas when I was kid, same goes for design. I love work that are expressive and fills the page. I love seeing posters and websites and icons that are filled with details, it’s really pretty but I can never get myself to do those type of work. And after taking some design classes, I begin to realized that minimalism is a thing and “less can be more” as long as your the idea behind the design is strong enough to support the minimal visual. So I started to play around with basic shapes and lines for all of my class projects. I quickly realized that people recognize lines and shapes much faster than abstract objects. Combining those two elements plus understanding the principles of design when creating any illustration, icons, or logo is almost always guarantee to work. Haha this is probably what I’d considered as a lazy method to design, but hey at least it doesn’t look bad and people understands it.


ZH: Why icon design? What do you like most about the use of iconography and symbolism? 

Oh my gosh. Icon design is so much fun! It’s challenging compared to just UI design or illustration, but it’s the good kind of challenge. Unlike illustration where you have the entire artboard to design whatever you need with as many details as you want to get the message out there, icons are the exact opposites in my opinion. A lot gets put into the thought process of creating a symbol that is straightforward to the audience and is aesthetically pleasing at the same time.

This thinking process is also a reason why I love icon design so much. “Can you tell that this is the download icon?” or “Does this symbol speaks “upload” to you?” are the type of questions I’d ask myself when doing icon work. Being able to communicate an action without words or too much detail is what iconography is about and I love it

The Vendor vs. Partner Relationship


As the universe of the creative economy expands and becomes more globalized, designers, artists and creative entrepreneurs find themselves in a hyper competitive and oversaturated market. The new found appreciation for design thinking and strategy at the C suite of big businesses has created a virtual “gold rush” with scores of freelance creatives and agencies popping up everywhere seeking to get in on the new golden age of creative thinking.

This is all well and good for experienced and established creatives and/or agencies and studios, but as the actual production of design becomes more homogenous and accessible (think Canva and Squarespace) how can an emerging creative professional establish their value and create real return on investment for their potential clients?

This is the vendor/partner dilemma. I see a vendor as a creative that is simply asked to “produce” or visualize an already established idea or initiative (jr. designer, emerging freelancer etc.) while I see a partner as someone in the room with the decision makers, C suite members, and stakeholders working with them to create the best ideas and experiences for their business, product, or brand (creative director, consultant, strategist).

I assume that most of you want to transition from vendor to partner, I know I do and I will admit that I am still in the middle of that transition. I still LOVE to create and to make. I try to populate my instagram and dribbblefeeds with creative work as often as I can to feed the pure production side of what I love to do. However I do know to become a better designer, to grow into a creative director mindset, I have to continue to learn how think at a higher level for my work and for my clients. I want to earn the respect of my clients and in return create design work that can make a difference to them and to my growth as a designer.

Here are some things I am trying to do as part of this transitional journey from vendor to partner:

  1. Building & Maintaining a High Confidence Level: I believe that this is the foundation for a partner mentality in any creative profession. I am not as experienced as I want to be, but I have to believe that I can create real value for my client that goes beyond creating the visuals. Confidence also provides the ability to say no to certain projects and to respectfully but firmly push back on certain client suggestions. The impostor syndrome is still something I feel from time to time, but I work hard to shake it on a daily basis because if I don’t believe I can provide real strategy and thinking to my clients I simply won’t be able to.
  2. Listen: When you are in the on-boarding phase with a client, listen to what they have to say and actively try to discover potential problems and pain points they are experiencing. They are coming to you to find a real business solution to their real business problem, you can’t do that if you’re daydreaming about how you want their new logo or website to look when you should be listening and responding to what they really have to say and as result attempting to discover the real problems that they are hiring you to solve.
  3. Ask Questions: On that note ask questions, a lot of them, and ask questions that don’t always have to do with the budget. Again your job is to provide them solutions, budgets are important, we need to get paid for what we do, but I think other questions are just as important. Who is your target audience/users? What does your business origin story sound like? How do you want your users to feel when interacting with your brand/product? Those are just a few questions I can think of when conversing with a client, especially at the beginning of the project.
  4. Communicate your Value: How are you going to create value for the client? What is the real ROI you are providing? If you have the numbers and analytics then that’s great. It helps if you can tangibly show that value; but if you don’t then it’s even more important that you can properly articulate why a potential client should hire you at a partner level.
  5. Do good work: duh right? But it needs to be stated that at the end of all of this don’t forget to create great work. You need to show that you can translate your great ideas into great communicative assets. If you don’t have the clients yet, don’t be afraid to create great work for yourself. If you are just starting to get clients, don’t be afraid to go above and beyond a project brief if it makes sense for you and the client. In the end try to find a way to do the best work you can do.

Those are just a few ideas I think about when I try to position myself as a potential partner for clients I work with. If you still want to be a vendor that’s okay, like I said, I still enjoy that part of the creative process and I think it’s important for yourself and your clients to produce quality content. However, the vendor market is going to grow and become even more over saturated than it already is; real ideas and strategy could be the last great differentiator in the new creative economy.

Interview with Type Expert Michael Stinson of Type Ed

Hey creative friends! We are back with another episode of the Creative Honey podcast and this time around we had the great pleasure of chatting with Michael Stinson of Type Ed. We covered general typography and graphic design principles and approaches so this is the perfect episode for you if you are a big design or type geek!

Be sure to check out Type Ed and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

Also take a look at Michael's awesome work! 

Design Thinking

In a time where we are pushing the limits of innovation, how we approach "problem solving" is more important than ever. In this episode, we discuss the benefits of using a "Design Thinking" methodology to come up with more original and efficient solutions; not only for design challenges, but everyday life.

Photo Credit: Quino Al