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How did I get here? – An introduction

How did I get here? – An introduction

ann_kwilinski profile image Ann Kwilinski ・3 min read

Hello! I am Ann and welcome to my first post. I am using this as a space to talk about design and web development and share my perspective and thoughts on the inter-workings of both, as well as house the things that are exciting, energizing, and bewildering to me.

I’m sure, as anyone in this day and age can attest to,
–where we end up, is NOT where we set out to be.

I am not even working in the field of study I chose for my education.

I set out to be an interior designer and again–not a unique experience–but after months of trying to find a starting position out of school, I realized landing a job might not entirely be on my merits alone. Thankfully a professor happened to be in the office a friend was interning in at the time and asked if they knew any one that could do drafting work. That led to a residential design position, but most of my work was out in Long Island, or in high rise condos on the upper West and East side. Most days I had to commute 40 minutes a day to go to job sites. The work was not what I expected or really wanted to be involved with. I did one awesome project on a (semi-famous!) musician’s audio lounge and media room that I will forever be proud of. But after seeing the sheer amount of money get flushed into projects and all of the waste, financial and otherwise that it caused I had enough of this particular job and residential design in general. I decided it was not for me. Maybe commercial interiors would have been a better fit…maybe the timing was wrong…WHO KNOWS! But I am thankful for the eye opening experience. It gave me the blueprint- no pun intended for managing and being all-at-once self-reliant, decisive and a holder and hub of knowledge.

On Trying things and failing

I moved back to Chicago, tried my hand at estimating on large commercial residential projects- which did NOT last long. Had a stent at a high end furniture firm, which again was nothing remotely related to interior design, I was helping other interior designer’s pick things out. Which, was honestly kind of painful and like a slap in the face. Then I started doing simple graphic design projects, really basic stuff at first. BUT Instead of waiting months to see the fruits of your design labor like I was on a job site, graphic design was immediate gratification. It was fast paced and this digital world was way more exciting for me. I started to feel confident again, like I could do this.

I remember a design professor say if you’re a designer, you can design ANYTHING- little did I know they were referencing Massimo Vignelli, but it always stuck with me.

So I was a beginner again, but re-energized. I tried to get employment doing graphics work. Landed at an apparel company coming up with t-shirt designs and patterns, churning out ideas weekly. I worked on their catalogs, sales materials, the event spaces, and graphics and photography for the e-commerce site.

I knew nothing of the web, coding or otherwise. So little in fact, that back in 2006 I had my friend (Thank you Josh Taylor!) show me how to make a simple site using ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR and PHOTOSHOP (the horror!) to export to html. I realized I needed to learned how to code. HTML and CSS at first and it just expanded on from there.

I am a firm believer that much can be learned online for free when you have the drive, the discipline, and the determination to follow through. Youtube is one hell of a platform. FreeCodeCamp is a fantastic platform in which to learn, Codepen- a welcoming space in which to play and experiment, Stack overflow -a community full of saviors that love problem solving.

Go iterate yourself!

I ended up using the culmination of all that experience to work on design and development projects, which led to a lot of long term, on going relationships with some amazing people at great agencies and businesses. Things are ever changing, and hopefully I will be doing something entirely different in the coming years.

So if there is a moral of the story here, it is one of evolution. Grow. Change. Experiment. Fail. Do a 180. Try something new. Don’t stop, don’t get content, and don’t YOU EVER feel stuck.

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Ann Kwilinski


mostly design but sometimes dev, learning more each day


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