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  • Writer's pictureSarah Elissa Stanick-Woods

Finding My Creative Lineage

“Seeing yourself as part of a creative lineage will help you feel less alone as you start making your own stuff.” – Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

Climb Your Own Family Tree

  1. Choose one writer, thinker, designer, activist, and role model

  2. Study everything there is to know about them

  3. Find three people that mentored or inspired them

  4. Repeat as many times as you can, until you build your own tree

  5. Once ready, it’s time to start your own branch

Why A Creative Lineage?

Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned freelancer, independent creative, or small business owner you’re not alone. However, a common problem I have found and experienced is still feeling like an island alone in a sea of people working 9-5s with their fellow colleagues turned friends to discuss the shared pains of the work they do. In an industry dominated by professional organizations and groups that ask you to, “join their creative community for a mere [insert a number ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars here].” and then “join today and we’ll give you a worthless certificate and a blurb on our website no one’s ever heard of where you can promote your business, but act now before the price goes up for no discernible reason at all!” My angst as an aside, I have run into this numerous times when simply wanting to join a creative women’s group on social media to connect and network for fun. Sound familiar? Super lame right? So, how do we combat freelancer loneliness and isolation? Part of my solution for myself is to craft my Creative Lineage. For more practical tips on combating isolation read this article, by Ryan Waggoner, The Ultimate Guide to Avoiding Freelancer Loneliness and Isolation.

Gathering My Branches

This process starts with homework, but as one that’s always enjoyed doing her homework that’s just fine! Luckily, we live in an age where access to information and fonts of inspiration is but a mere Google search away. That’s not to say I haven’t had my long-term creative idols. Masters of their craft both living and not. For myself, as a Graphic Designer and creative Jill of many trades, I’ll tackle this in sections to cover all my bases so to speak: Business, Graphic Design, Writing, Animation, and Social Media.

The Business Of Design

If you’re a creative and you haven’t heard of Chris Do or The Futur I don’t know what rock you’ve been under, but it’s time to lift it, my friend! This prolific Emmy-award-winning designer turned educator has more titles and accolades than I have hopes and dreams. He founded The Futur with an audacious mission to teach one billion creative entrepreneurs how to make a living doing what they love. Every social post, every YouTube video, every course, and even his book is jam-packed and full of know-how and guidance on everything from leveling up your confidence to your business. He covers it all, from how much to charge for your work, to how to pitch, to how to do everything else they never taught you in Design school. Better still? He talks about his struggles and how he overcame them, and how we can overcome ours too. He’s a no brainer choice for me as a kind of mentor from afar. I could write pages more, but I’ll stop here.

The Art Of Design

I take a lot of inspiration from a wealth of fellow Designers and creatives these days. After all inspo is just a browser click or scroll away. That said, I find myself drawn to the bold, modern, and clean logo design of James Martin, James Barnard, and Wells Collins. Or the feminine, fun, and playful logo designs of Kristy Campbell, Michelle Wintersteen, and Sarah Sung. However, the inspiration doesn’t just stop there! Some my favorite branding and design agencies are Hoodzpah Design Co, Alphabet, and Peters Design Co – just to name a few!

The Written Word For Design

Anyone who’s a Designer, especially a Logo Designer has heard of David Airey. David’s a prolific writer and highly successful Graphic Designer. Among my favorite reads of his is his book, Logo Design Love that schooled me on the fine art of logo design – literally as I read it in college. Then of course there’s Austin Kleon. His 3-part book trilogy Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work, and Keep Going are must-reads for every creative at every stage of their career. Heck, so much so it even inspired this blog post! ;)

Branching Out

By following all of my role models, I can take inspiration not just from their work, but from their creative journeys as well. While mentors these days are hard to come by, heroes abound if only you know where to look. If I’ve learned nothing else throughout my creative journey, you’re never truly alone when you seek what drives you.

“If you truly love what you do, nothing will stop you from learning. You will acquire expertise by any means possible. Nothing will stop you from becoming a master of your craft. If you love it you will teach yourself. If you don’t, others teach you.” – Yukitaka Yamaguchi

Go Out on a Limb

Now it’s your turn to go out on a limb, and explore. Inspiration is everywhere after all. Just be sure to organize and catalog your inspo hoards so that they’re easy to reference and sort through in your greatest hour of creative need.


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