Inspired By



I’m not going to lie, when I walked into this month’s Creative Mornings, I wasn’t 100% familiar with Dallas Clayton or his work. When I left however, I felt like we were buddies; not because I had a conversation with him, but because I felt like I was part of his awesome little world. He has this unbelievable way of capturing an audience by opening himself up in such a personable manner, leaving me completely vulnerable, inspired, and ready to take on anything…. kind of like I was a kid again.

For those of you who don’t know, Dallas Clayton writes and illustrates his own children’s books and travels the world reading them to kids of all ages (including XXL kids, which he calls adults). He believes the most successful stories have themes that equally talk to adults as well as kids, which he tries to implement into everything he creates. After self publishing his first book, An Awesome Book (which you can read for free here! and do it, seriously), which became popular pretty much over night, he has since continued writing, illustrating and traveling the world helping kids dream really, really big. The coolest part about Dallas is the fact that he’s so excited to live his life, inspire kids (and adults) and help them realize their full potential. He doesn’t take life too seriously or let the small things get to him; instead he always tries to turn something negative into something positive.

When we become adults and live in the “real world”, a lot of times it’s so easy to lose our child-like sense of wonder. It might be because we know more or have a fear deep inside, but that should never stop us from trying something new, taking risks or dreaming big.

When I was really young, I wanted to be a professional basketball player (who doesn’t?!), which apparently is a popular dream for a lot of little kids according to Dallas. With height most definitely not on my side, my parents were pretty sure that was not in my future. However, god bless them, they never said a word and always encouraged me to do what I love and follow my dreams, which ultimately led me away from my high tops and and into into the world of art & design.

Sometimes, getting our inner-child back takes a little reminder, and for me that came in the form of Dallas ending his talk by reciting An Awesome Book to us. It was pretty powerful and for a second, I felt something that I didn’t want to go away – an excitement for what’s to come, a belief that anything is possible and a sense of satisfaction to be doing what I love and living my dream everyday.

His talk will be available to watch online soon, I’ll post it here as soon as it is!

Quote from his Instagram / image 2 & 3


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Last week, I decided to start pinning a few pieces of inspiration after a long quiet break from Pinterest. One of my goals for the near future is to also reorganize my Art & Design board and separate it by discipline. During my search for inspiration, I came across the work of Jeremy Evans and absolutely fell in love with this project he did for Tumba Gymnasium. The colors, bold typography and graphic nature of this design are RIGHT up my alley. Check out his site to see some more beautiful pieces.


kim knoll knoed creative

I’m so excited to have Kim Knoll on the blog today! I first came across her work when I moved out to Chicago a couple years back. Her and her husband run Knoed, a branding and design studio right here in the Windy City. They have received countless awards and recognition for their work, and are also very involved in the Chicago creative community. And if that’s not enough, Kim also has her own line of handmade vintage inspired jewelry, RFRM – definitely go check it out! Kim and her husband are such an inspiring duo, I always look forward to seeing what they’ll do next!

What inspired you to become a designer? I grew up doing fine art and my high school art teacher recommended that I look into graphic design. I remember him saying it was “the new thing” and said it was the only money-making career in the art field. I didn’t want to starve, so I took him seriously and looked into it. Once I realized what it was, I loved it and wanted to pursue it.

What do you do to continue to challenge yourself as a creative person? Good question. This is especially hard for me since I only work with my husband (and now our new employee), so there isn’t as much collaboration as I used to get working in agencies. I’m always pushing myself to be a better designer, and just a better person in general. It’s part of being human and always wanting to grow I guess. What challenges me is to look to other designers and studios that inspire me. The design community (both local and national) is really inspirational and motivational for me.

What are you inspired by on a daily basis?


My husband, Kyle. He constantly amazes me and is a great business partner. I learn from him all the time and wouldn’t be the designer I am today without his support.


Spotify. Music takes me to another place and my work gets better because of it. I can’t live or work without it.


I never thought I’d say this but Twitter is next. I find all kinds of awesome things through the people I follow


My dog, June. She makes me take breaks from the computer to play and walk with her, and that’s my time to recharge. I usually have some of my best ideas on our walks together.


Last would have to be the internet, generally speaking. It lets me explore the world.

Studio / Blog / Jewelry / Twitter


will miller

Will Miller is a very talented designer based right here in Chicago! He is also the partner & creative director of Firebelly, an award winning design firm that is all about creating “good design for good reason”. I’m very excited to have our first gentlemen in this week’s feature!

What inspired you to become a designer? I was excited by visual communication’s power to create moods, excitement and interest. I was drawn to the organization and interpretation of info that’s so inherent in design. And around all of it is the use of alphabets, letters and language. There always seemed to be a creative path and an organized direction. A larger, louder, bolder expression made understandable through organization and clarity. Design appealed to the wild chaos of my right brain while letting my structured left impose on the process. I love the contrast and the battle.

What do you do to continue to challenge yourself as a creative person? I like to let those battles, mentioned above, play out. Sometimes it’s difficult to have a million creative thoughts at once and know you can really only get to a few and see them through to the end. So I file ideas away in hopes that months or years from now I’ll look at them with fresh eyes and new perspectives and take up the challenge. It’s interesting seeing where your mind was roaming as the months tick by. Elsewhere, I teach a Typography Basics class at Chicago Portfolio School, I try to stay up with my design and lettering feeds, I draw as much as time will allow for, my wife and I foster puppies (70+ so far who’ve found homes!) and I run marathons. While training for these I run routes in the shapes of large letters across the Chicago grid with hopes for putting together a mapped font project. I typically try to find ways to work on design projects while doing other things I enjoy. My hobbies suffer from feature creep in a major way.

What are you inspired by on a daily basis?

1. andyluce

Lettering / So much of what I make involves alphabets, I get extremely inspired by people who make beautiful letters. This photo is of Andy Luce making some wonderful letters at the recent You Are Beautiful 10 Year Anniversary exhibit.

2. collage

The Subjective and Reinterpreted Nature of Information of the Current Day / It sounds really wild, but so much of what happens across the internet feels like a game of telephone, started by an organization with a slant towards their own purposes. In my creative space that feels like deconstruction and recombination; two things collage was made for.

3. team

My Team / We all help each other out at Firebelly. We push each other everyday to go farther and get better with each project we work on.

4. pigskin

Puppies / My wife and I foster puppies until they can find their “forever homes.” She also runs a non-profit that was started to help puppies get much needed and expensive medicine, volunteers and donates to many animal rescues and we’re working on a book together to tell each of our 70+ foster’s stories. Each puppy name will be hand-lettered in a style that captures that puppy’s personality! (This little guy was called Pigskin)

5. music

Music / Often, I listen to some odd music. It helps me get inspired and motivated from a different place. When I’m working, I use music as a tool to hang on to an excitement or train of thought. Sometimes it becomes more a reaction where making/listening feels like digital sketching. Getting things out as fast as possible to get to the next step of a good idea.

Portfolio / Firebelly / Twitter


anastasia marie

Anastasia Marie is a super talented stationery and graphic designer based in Vancouver, Washington. I’ve always been a huge fan of her work; she pays extra close attention to the details which show through in all of her beautiful designs. I have fallen in love with her Gift Wrap series over on her blog, you HAVE to check it out!

What inspired you to become a graphic designer? I took a graphic design class back in high school, fell in love, ditched my plan of becoming a nurse, and things flowed from there. It was one of those moments when a small hobby that you had suddenly made sense as a life-long job instead. I had done little craft projects here and there growing up, so when I started putting together my first official class project, I just knew that I had to be a designer.

What do you do to continue to challenge yourself as a creative person? This is harder to do than I actually thought. I sometimes think I’m my own worst critic and I often get in the way of myself. Over the years, I’ve learned how to tackle that and I get better at it daily. I try to surround myself with pretty things in the studio, whether it be a page ripped out of a magazine, a pretty photograph, past projects of mine, a good roll of washi tape, work from other designers that I admire, etc. This pushes me to try new artistic techniques. I also try to routinely meet up with good pals who encourage me and give me feedback on how I’m doing. This means sucking it in if you hear something you don’t necessarily like and making steps to improve. If my creativity feels stuck, instead of sulking like I did in the early days, I now take breaks that sometimes last up to several days in order to revamp. I used to think this was a waste of time, but I find it’s the exact opposite. During this time I play around with things I’ve never done before, like find a new fun way to print something or try a new technique in Photoshop. I come back a better designer and the projects that I got stuck on now get a fresh look.

What are you inspired by on a daily basis?


God. He created beauty in the first place and it’s hard to look at pretty things and not thank Him for being so creative.

Sunshine. You might consider this a strange choice, but it’s a big mood booster for me. I love waking up in the morning, walking into my studio and seeing the sunshine fill up the space. It definitely gets me all motivated to work.


Paper. I’m in love with all things paper. I’m the type of person who buys it just because it’s pretty. Then it sits in my studio collecting dust for the most part. So whether it’s an actual sheet of paper, a roll of washi tape, an envelope, a mini journal, a printed book or magazine — just looking at it makes me giddy.


Craft Items. I guess it’s only fair to add little things like paint, bakers twine, painted clothespins, fun paperclips, mini pencils, etc. next to my obsession to paper. I’m equally just as obsessed with these types of things. It’s crazy how just by filling up my studio with these items, I find myself putting together creative projects I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.


Meet Ups. Whether I’m meeting up with another local creative gal, spending time with good friends, or snuggling with my hubby (he’s a big inspiration), people are such a big source of inspiration for me. Whether we’re just catching up over a cup of coffee, making future plans, or analyzing our lives, it’s always a good time. I love studying other people’s lifestyles, characters, styles, etc. It makes my world just a bit bigger and my imagination follows suit.

Portfolio / Blog / Twitter

Photos by Daniel Usenko and Manchik Photography