A Day in the (Design) Life

20 May 2016

Some people think that Web designers have a glamorous, Pinterest lifestyle. And in some ways, we do. But at the end of the day, it's about doing real work in collaboration with your clients. Here's what my typical day looks like...

Get to Work

Like most Austinites, my day begins with a long commute through traffic. I listen to Morning Edition on NPR and drink a cup of coffee as I inch towards TradeMark’s offices in east Austin.

I believe a designer is only as good as her inspiration—and that familiarity with a variety of disciplines improves the depth and breadth of my work. Simply put, the stories I hear on NPR—or on podcasts, or in books, or on blogs—make me a better designer. At TradeMark, we design for a diverse roster of clients and feeding my brain helps me serve them better.

First Hour

Every day at work is unique, but they all usually start with checking email and spending time reading through industry news.

What’s new? What is the buzz in the technology world? What’s the latest trend (or debunked trend) in website design? I subscribe to Sidebar, a daily e-newsletter of links to the latest news in the design field.

The Rest of the Day

The rest of my day is a smorgasbord of activities:

  • Time at our giant, wall-sized whiteboards working out wireframes or designs with my fellow designers and information architects
  • Time spent tweaking homepage or subpage designs in Photoshop (which has gotten so much better for Web designers to use!)
  • Meeting with clients to present designs and talk about how we can best meet their business goals and make their websites user-friendly.

Designing a truly wonderful website requires regular collaboration. So no matter what I’m doing, there’s a good chance I’m doing it in concert with my fellow team members.

After (and Sometimes Before) Work

One important way to stay energized and inspired about my work is to engage with Austin’s enormous and diverse Web design community.

There are a ton of meet-ups and professional organizations for designers in Austin. Some are very job-specific and others are for creative professionals in general. A few of my favorites are:

AIGA Austin

The American Institute of Graphic Artists Austin is a professional group of designers who work across all media. AIGA offers all sorts of professional development opportunities—including a great series of talks called “Under the Radar” that feature local talent, seminars on user experience design, and regular networking happy hours.

But my favorite AIGA event doesn’t involve the Web at all: Design Ranch. For an entire weekend in the beautiful Hill Country, all sorts of creative types join together to get our hands dirty and make stuff.  They offer workshops on everything from bookbinding to painting. It’s a great way to draw inspiration from somewhere other than the Internet—and it makes me a more innovative Web designer.

Refresh Austin

Refresh Austin is “an organization of Web professionals working together to foster new ideas and refresh the creative, technical, and professional aspects of their trade.”  They offer classes and networking events––as well as a great Holiday Bash every year. They also have an email thread and Slack group for designers to seek help solving tricky design challenges.


I’m particularly biased towards CreativeMornings Austin because I help organize their events every month. It is a free "breakfast lecture series for the creative community” (aka, a before-work event). And as you can read in their manifesto: “Everyone is creative” and “Everyone is welcome.”

CreativeMornings take place every month and are a great place to meet other designers (a lot of the Web community attends). Featured speakers may or may not have anything to do directly with web design, but the wide variety of experiences inspires my day-to-day work. If you can’t make it, you can also watch past talks online.

More Web Design Groups

Austin is a veritable paradise of learning opportunities for Web designers and developers, including:

At Home

At home, my focus is on relaxing with my family so that I’m refreshed and recharged for the next day.

I also try to have some computer-free work time to engage the creative side of my brain in new pursuits—e.g., block printing or sewing. These hands-on activities are an important way for me to expand my creative experience and stay inspired.

Polly Thurston

Senior UX Designer

As a Senior UX Designer, Polly works on both the user experience and visual design of our clients' websites.

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