On The Busy Trap: Web Designer and Creative Director Laurel Barickman

On The Busy Trap: Web Designer and Creative Director Laurel Barickman

Leading up to our Summer ‘19 iteration of WORK, we'll feature select interviews with some of our conference's speakers and thought leaders. In this interview, web designer and artist Laurel Barickman talks about her approach to work and branding. Click here for a look at Summer 2019’s conference schedule.



Laurel Barickman has over 15 years of experience in the design world, working as the creative director for a college with over 65 campuses, for record labels, app developers, social causes, and more. Her work toes the line of being modern while still referencing the past and the best aspects of early, classic design—giving it a timeless yet contemporary feel. She is the creative director of Recspec, a boutique design agency focused on branding and web development based in Austin, Texas.

How would you describe your brand?

Adaptive, inclusive, and someone that anyone could work with. I’m inspired by classic design and like to straddle the line of modern and traditional while remaining accessible, open and friendly.

How would you describe your work?

Client driven, collaborative, flexible. I’m highly creative and pride myself on making work that doesn’t look like anyone else’s. I don’t follow trends and want to make something different from the usual Austin design vibe. Ultimately, the product is for someone else so there is also a lot of variation in the output.

How do you approach working with others?

I prefer face to face communication and garner a lot of information about who my client is through their body language and the way they talk about their company. I have a very personalized branding questionnaire that asks probing questions to learn about the person beyond just what they want their logo to look like. 

What advice do you have for people struggling with identifying their brand?

Find what makes you special, what do you own as that uniqueness about yourself and to focus on that. My work is a little bit weird and so am I and I don’t hide it, which brings me interesting clients who like that about me but also not interesting clients who just like my work. I used to feel self-conscious about not fitting into the Austin design scene but am now realizing that’s what draws people to me and makes me unique. 

How do you exercise personal and professional patience?

This is an ability learned over time through not only your own weaknesses and pitfalls but also through working with clients. For example, being able to recognize the things that are difficult for them and preemptively preparing us both for those. There will always be frustration and a need for patience for myself and others—we are all people and are all busy and trying our best! Additionally, putting tools and systems in place to help prevent challenges, such as having a copywriter. 

When do you know it's a "yes?" when do you know it's a "no?"

This is one of my greatest challenges. I know in my stomach when it’s not a good fit, but am still learning how to properly say no and trust my gut. When I am very excited and inspired, it’s easy to say yes. Not to get too KonMari, but I ask myself, “Is there a spark when you're thinking about this or are you already dreading it before it’s even begun? Are you just taking on the job for money?” Sometimes, if it’s a no, I will put the client in contact with someone better suited to their needs. If you truly listen to yourself, you know. The challenge comes with actually listening. 

What are your thoughts on concepts of work/life balance?

When you work for yourself, the lines get blurred constantly. As much as it’s nice to work from home, one of the best things I’ve done for myself is having a studio. Creating separation between home life and work life is essential to maintaining that balance. 

How do you take care of yourself?

I focus a lot on exercise and going to kickboxing twice a week helps my brain. I make sure I eat, especially as a freelancer. If I’m having a bad day where I can’t focus, I check in to see if I’ve had water and when was the last time I ate. It’s amazing how much blood sugar can contribute to making our days terrible! Therapy (which I suggest for everyone) is also big. I don’t work on the weekends anymore and use them as a break to get outside and away from the computer. 

What's something you've unlearned lately that you're grateful for?

The busy trap: learning that being busy (and everyone knowing you’re busy) is detrimental and unhealthy. I am trying to teach myself not to default to saying “I have work” when instead I could be spending time with a friend. The gig economy and being a millennial teaches you that if you aren’t busy you are literally going to die. Giving myself the space to not do anything, literally and mentally, because that also affects my work. 

About WORK: WORK is a biannual pop-up space, designed for sharing new ideas and approaches to creative and entrepreneurial work. The event's panels, workshops and speaker sessions explore personal and professional curiosity, storytelling, diversity and equality, business management and creative entrepreneurship. Our next conference pops up in July 2019 at Rowling Hall in Austin, Texas. ✨Click here for more information.

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