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The Ones Not Chosen


I like to show a good mix of cover options to clients. A little safe, a little uncomfortable. A photo, an illustration. A white background, a dark background. People, concept. Not to mention the bigger picture questions I juggle: Is it too similar to something we’ve done in the past year? How many options are we showing for each concept? Does the cover fit the overall feeling we want to portray?

Getting the right mix is an art in itself and sometimes great designs don’t see the light of an art meeting. My rule of thumb is to never show a client a design option that I wouldn’t be totally on board with if chosen. I also try not to fall in love with any one option (to save myself heartbreak down the road).

All of this is to say that there are times when I’m left dreaming about what might have been.

The July/August 2015 cover of Middle Market Growth was one of those times. The story was about Direct Travel, a corporate travel service provider who essentially functions as an outsourced travel department.


We presented these four cover options to the client (clockwise from top left).

1. We did a photoshoot at the Direct Travel offices. This was the best portrait of the CEO. Light, bright and airy.
2. The CEO with a model airplane, which helps tell the travel story (in the most adorable way).
3. Our “concept” cover created using a detail shot we got from the photoshoot.
4. We turned to stock for a fourth cover option because we felt the need for something that screamed travel.

The client went with Option 4. It told the story in the most direct and compelling way and was the best choice.

But I still thought Option 3 was great. We took a photo Sara got from the shoot—the Direct Travel logo on a frosted glass window—and layered a transparent silhouette of a world map with travel lines over top. I prefer to use photography from our shoots over stock and I was thrilled that we were able to get a concept cover out of the shoot. Here’s how it went down.


And here’s what it looked like on-screen!


It’s also interesting to see how The Small Things—a quick, fun read and the last page of the magazine—plays with the cover since the content is always tied to the cover story. Option 1 was the winner.


Art Direction Heather Winkel
Design Laura Walter
Photos Sara Rubinstein

Produced at Network Media Partners for The Association for Corporate Growth.

Creative Block Turned Galentine’s Day


I love a good spa day, but I was stumped when this kid’s party idea hit my email.

Creative block + a tight deadline = the worst!

There are posts and books and entire courses about overcoming block, but my absolute favorite trick is to get out and about. Go for a walk, visit a museum or do what I do and wander around a store aimlessly.

This was a case for aimless wandering. With only a pink boa as a jumping off point, I headed to the Dollar Tree—my second favorite creative block defeater! Aisles filled with odds and ends and things you didn’t know you needed. All for only $1! Once I hit the beauty aisle I was unstuck: a glam, girly gals day.




Now that you know my creative block secrets, here’s my best party food tip: When crunched for time or out of ideas, cover with chocolate and sprinkles.


And serve mimosas.



Photos Dev Hanumara
DIYs + Styling Heather Winkel

For Momaha magazine, February 2016.

New Work / Scandinavian Crafting

Scandinavian Place Card Holder

I crafted up a few holiday goodies (wrapping papers, greeting cards, placecard holders, cookie tags) and sent them along for Inspired Living Omaha’s Scandinavian heritage Christmas photo shoot.

Scandinavian Wrap

Check out the festive display in the November/December issue and download my printable wrapping papers!

cross stitch / birch / horse / berries

Photos Daniel Johnson
Art Direction Heidi Thorson
Styling Mark and Mikal Eckstrom, Dan Hammond, Ann Etienne

For Inspired Living Omaha, November/December 2015.

New Work / Two Fruity Covers + The Suspense


I sliced and diced A LOT of fruit for this summery shoot. Or shoots, I should say. My original assignment was no-bake desserts to keep you cool and out of the kitchen when summer heats up. Since a lot of the ingredients were fruit, I parlayed it into a second story about guilt-free fruity desserts. It resulted in a shoot full of fruit…and two covers!


I put hours of brainstorming, visioning and thought into each shoot, but once I ship final photos and stories off to the publisher it’s always a suspense-filled wait to see what they do with my work. Here’s some of what I sent.




And here’s what they did with the no-bake and fruity spreads.



As an art director, letting go of my vision is pretty much the hardest part of creating content for hire. Then again, I get to be surprised when I land the cover!


And because I need you to fully appreciate just how much dicing there was…1/4″ squares…in a square.


You can check out these two fruity features in the May and June issues of Momaha.

Photos Dev Hanumara
Styling Heather Winkel

For Momaha magazine, May 2015 and June 2015.

HOW Design Live + Chicago


I can’t believe it’s been THREE months since I attended HOW Design Live in Chicago! For me the trip was a combination of the right conversations with the right people at the right time. It was epic.

The speakers were phenomenal. It was nearly impossible to narrow down my takeaways, but I did! Here are my tops.


1. Everything you do and say is auditioning you for leadership.
Sam Harrison, We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This

2. The quantitative stuff is easy! The warm and fuzzy stuff is hard.
-Glenn John Arnowitz, Bossypants: Making the Transition from Designer to Design Leader

3. Leaders cannot only see the dots, but connect them. People will want to work with you not just because of your ideas, but your ability to communicate in a powerful, effective way.
-Glenn John Arnowitz, Bossypants: Making the Transition from Designer to Design Leader

4. Micromanaging isn’t sustainable in a leadership role.
-Glenn John Arnowitz, Bossypants: Making the Transition from Designer to Design Leader

5. I’m a better boss because I’m a mom and a better mom because I’m a boss.
Tina Roth Eisenberg, The Best Way to Complain is to Make Things

There was so much swag. My favs were days of the week letterpress cards from moo and my Aaron Draplin signed Field Notes!


6. Creativity is not an answer, it is a process and needs to play out.
Stefan Mumaw, Anatomy of a Brainstorm

7. Design without objective is merely decoration. And we are not decorators.
Tim Cox, How to Get Taken Seriously


8. It’s harder to define your own goal than to take an assignment.
Cheryl Heller, Women, Money, Power: How to Be It, Have It, Get It

9. Problems arise when our job isn’t giving us chances to grow creatively. That’s when we need to create opportunities for ourselves.
Jim Krause, Sustainable Insanity

10. Do the work that feeds your soul, not your ego.
Jessica Walsh, Play By Your Own Rules

11. Discipline is the #1 factor of success. The more you do, the better you get.
Karim Rashid, The Future of Design

Tina Roth Eisenberg is amazing and was wonderful and kind when Jenni and I met her.


12. Relationships change the way we brainstorm.
Stefan Mumaw, Anatomy of a Brainstorm
(Putting this in life because I’d add that relationships change the way we do EVERYTHING.)

13. Don’t complain, make it better. You have two options: Do something about it or let it go.
Tina Roth Eisenberg, The Best Way to Complain is to Make Things

14. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, you never get a free pass from the dark middle. The only thing you get is a little big of grace.
Brene Brown, Make. Believe, Courage and Connection.


I was also happy to enjoy the city…Chicago dogs, the bean, Sprinkles cupcake ATM, lunches and dinners with exceptional, talented friends and a river boat tour were all had in between sessions. Let’s just say I didn’t have much downtime because I was too busy packing everything in.





LITTLE GOAT DINER Worth the hype. In fact, I went twice.
CAFE IBERICO You can’t visit Chicago without a trip to Cafe Iberica, amiright?
SOUTH WATER KITCHEN The “Pb & J” Grilled Cheese is amazing!
CH Distillery When your friend says you need to try her fav cocktail in the city, you try it. Order the Cease and Desist, trust me.


EATALY Such a cool store. Plus, Nutella station.
GOOP The goop pop-up shop was up, so I had to go.
THE LAND OF NOD If you like to shop online, you must visit the store in person.


WENDELLA BOATS A river tour is hands down the best way to see the city.
SPRINKLES CUPCAKE ATM Cupcake. ATM. Need I say more?

Speaking of Chicago, these Chicago buildings above clouds photos are amazing.