Archive for March 2009

What a mess!

March 27, 2009

Clutter-free times. Janine [1], Christopher [2], Greg [3], and Cindy [4] hanging out at our Uncle Mikes and Aunt Cissy’s house.


Too much stuff !
On a daily basis, we come home from work, bring in the mail and toss it in a pile, When we shop for groceries, clothes, or just spend a night out on the town, we collect receipts, and put them in a pile. We collect gifts from friends, relatives, co-workers… some we use, and some we just don’t have any idea what to with it. More piles collect.

As days turn into weeks, and weeks into months, most of us become cluttered and unorganized. Now that spring has officially arrived, we should make a concerted effort to get rid of those piles, and vow never to let it happen again. Right?

Overwhelming clutter (to some of us anyway).

She would not agree, but our sister, Cindy is a neat-nut! She is THE most organized person that we know. Not only that, but she also loves to organize other people. This hobby has helped her small business of re-decorating and organizing people’s lives.

Last summer, she visited Christopher in Phoenix. Since he runs his own business, often times he would need to get some work done while Cindy, being Cindy, made herself busy by cleaning out some shelves and storage space. He would be the first to admit that it was weird, as he was hoping that she would just relax and have some down time. At the same time, was secretly thrilled. It was much needed and appreciated because Christopher couldn’t (or wouldn’t) make the time to get to it. The best part was that she had fun!


Mommy’s Little Helper. Maybe it all started with this outfit.

In our eyes, she is not only an amazing sister, and friend, but knows a lot about keeping a place clutter-free. We invited her to share some of her thoughts and tips in keeping your life in place.

Christopher: We remember you as being very neat, and you always seemed to be very organized as a teen. Have you always enjoyed this?

Cindy: I don’t know if I like to organize as much as I like to be organized. I can’t move forward on any project unless my thoughts and surroundings are in place.

Christopher: I know that I wasn’t when I was younger, nor am I today, a very organized or neat person. Even though mom did try to keep the house clean, I remember our house as a bit messy. We had our chores to take care of the house, but it was the last thing on our minds. Mom had it tough with seven kids, keeping the house clean. We also seemed to have the house on the block, where all of the neighbor kids hung out. Where do you think your organizational skills came from?

Cindy: I think I was born a freak. I remember those cold winter days in South Bend (Indiana), with nothing to do. I was so bored being stuck in the house. I would go into the attic and start organizing, or I would straighten out Mom’s closet, and try to get her to purge clothes that I did not see her wear anymore. I must admit that I do not know anyone that likes to organize. But I am marrying a man that likes to purge. Sometimes I even think that he lets go of clothes before their time.


The neat couple in 2007. Our family finds in hilarious that Cindy [1] and her fiancé, Larry [2] are not neat at all in hotel rooms.

Greg: Since you are naturally neat, does it frustrate you to see other people’s messes?

Cindy: I don’t see a mess, I see a project and my mind is already calculating how to arrange everything. My frustration is for the client because I know they waste so much time looking for things if they are not organized, and I just want to help them.

Christopher: You came to Phoenix in the summer, and you spent time organizing some shelves and space of mine. I have to admit, I was embarrassed. It is hard to realize that it had gotten so unorganized. I’m so busy, and keeping track of all the paper and products that come into my studio is hard. I do not have the money to hire anyone yet, so I find myself in a situation months later that seems out of control.

Cindy: I know you were embarrassed and it took me by surprise since you have known me all of my life. Again, I did not see you as messy. I saw that you needed help. You are so busy with your growing business but your space is not increasing which makes it even more difficult to stay organized. In cases like this, you may need to change the way you have things organized to include all of the new additions. You should put aside 2 days every 3 months to re-access your needs.

Christopher: People collect things, and they like their treasures. How do you work with people who don’t want to give anything up?

Cindy: I do have to be very sensitive when items involve memories. I recently helped Mom with a bedroom in her house that had shelves of some of her memories. Two shelves held all of the vases from the flowers that you and Greg sent to her. It was a very touchy and emotional decision for her to let go of the vases, but I explained to her that the memories where not in the vases but in the flowers. And from now on she should take a photo of the bouquets that she receives.

It is great to keep those memories, but be selective of those memories, and keep the object in a place that you can see every day, or have easy access to. If it is stuffed in the back of a closet or in the attic, “do you really need it?”

Christopher: I know it was hard for her. But, I also know that she feels happy that she has more room.

Cindy: The most difficult part of organizing for most people is the need to purge. First, I feel that if your house is stuffed to the gills and you are not willing to let go of anything you will remain stagnate. There is no room for new to flow into your life.

Greg: What do you mean by new?

Cindy: New could be a coat, a piece of furniture, a fresh look or a feeling of renewed energy. If you want new energy in your life, than it is easier to let go of items that you do not have use for or need. The best part is that you can give your items to people who need them, or you can sell the items to make money for things that you would rather have.

When I bought new furniture I gave the old to a ministry that took in homeless families. When I purchased new light fixtures for the whole house I gave the old to a new Women’s shelter that was being built. I do not like to throw much away if possible. I believe in recycling and giving to people in need. Greg, you do an amazing job of finding old furniture and giving it new life.

Greg: I do love buying, or finding unloved pieces, and making them into treasures. You make it all so sound so easy though. How can people start cleaning up, and not seeming like a huge venture?

Cindy: I would start with the room, closet or drawer that bothers you the most. Do not take on everything at once. As you complete each project it gets easier. Again, get rid of anything that does not fit; you do not use, or is outdated. If you have memorable items, place them where you can see them. If you don’t like them out in the open… then you have your answer, you need to let them go.

Once you see the progress of your completed projects life becomes much easier. You now have a place for everything and you can find what you are looking for in an instant.

Christopher: Is there a tip or two that you can give to us neat-impaired people?

Cindy: In every home that I help, I see loads of paper stacked high. I get a little crazy thinking how hard it is for that person to function, and know what they have. Mail is usually the culprit. My tip is to touch the mail once. First throw all propaganda away. Don’t even open it. If you have won the Publishers Clearing House you will be notified in other ways than the mail.

Open the bills when you are ready to sit down and pay them. I write the checks and place the due date on the out side of the envelope so I know when to mail the bills. If you need to keep any statements for tax benefits, file at the same time. This process will take 10 minutes a day or maybe 30 to 40 minutes one day a week.

Greg: How about some other advice?

Cindy: If you are very busy during the week and tend to throw your clothes in a pile when you come home… I would recommend taking 15 minutes on a weekend to put everything where it belongs. This may be at the same time you are planning to do your laundry or send out your dry cleaning.

Purge, as you live, everyday. When I lived in NY, my closet space was very small and I love shoes. I made a pact with myself that if I brought home a new pair of shoes, I had to give away an old pair. I still keep a bag in my closet for purged items. If I try something on and I don’t like how it looks and I don’t want to wear it, I decide whether to throw it in the bag. Sometimes it takes 4 or 5 times of trying it on before I give it away.

Another trick is to hang all your clothes with the hangar hook facing you instead of the in back of the closet. At the end of a season, if the open end is still facing you, you never wore the item and it is time to give it up.

Don’t over think what you are purging. For example: people say; “I paid a lot for that item.” Instead, they should think of the price they paid and how many years they have had it, and realize that they have gotten their money’s worth.

Keeping up with organization does not take a lot of time if it becomes part of your thought process in your every day actions. If it gets out of control, you might have to spend more time to get it back in order. Everyone has time to lay around and watch TV, so take the TV in the room that you are working in if that helps you get through it.

No time like the present.


Simply put together. Cindy’ purse was probably very well organized.

With warmer weather approaching, now is the time to start tackling some of those projects. Clean out that garage, sort out that basement, or donate those old winter coats to charity. Soon we all will want to lie around in a hammock, and enjoy those dog days of summer. Meanwhile Greg is waiting patiently for Cindy to come and visit him to help with a number of projects. Her advice is always appreciated, and an extra set of hands to actually do the work is always better!

For those of you that may have questions for Cindy, feel free to submit those questions and we will try to address them in a future blog. If you are in the central Florida area, Cindy’s help is available by contacting us through the Design Brother’s blog. For those of you that would like more of Cindy’s tips, she will periodically update us with other ways to simplify and organize our very busy lives.

Design Brothers this week: If you are in the Boston area, check out Michelle Willey’s store windows in the South End, to see Christopher’s dinnerware.

Have an organized week!
— Greg, Christopher & Cindy


A new season

March 20, 2009

With spring comes new beginnings, a chance to take root and spread. Sure there may be rainy, gloomy days but they usually lead to greener and more fragrant summers. It is part of the cycle; it signifies the end of winter. Don’t waste this opportunity to get outside, and take a lungful of that fresh new air!

Wearing the seasons finest. At our grandmother, Jurek’s house, [1] Janine, [2] Cindy, [3] Christopher, [4] Greg, and [5] Kelly loved to climb and sit under this crabapple tree. We all ate too many of those apples, got sick and crabby, but it was so worth it!

We’ve got the (Spring) fever!
As we write the blog this week, Greg is enjoying 60-degree weather, while Christopher is already feeling temperatures in the 90’s. In the Midwest thoughts turn to planting flowers, herbs and vegetables although it is still a bit early yet to bring out the hoe and shovel.

Not so green yet! Chicago’s Lincoln Park on St. Patrick’s Day .

In the Sonoran desert, the wildflowers are out and beautiful, and spring has been there for a while now. We hear that, because of the big rains this winter, the Mojave desert is having a spectacular year for wildflowers, and people are driving to Death Valley and beyond to see them. In Chicago it is still a bit dreary and brown except for a couple of  oasis within the city. The whole country is ready for their blooms, as it was an especially harsh winter for most people this year.


Color Swatches. There is a small glimpse of spring to come within the Chicagoland area. Greg made a visit to the Lincoln Park Conservatory and found some color there.

When Christopher moved to Phoenix (seven years ago), he discovered that the Desert Botanical Garden was such a beautiful place to have some iced tea, draw, and get inspiration from the buttes in the background, the quails underfoot, and the bird calls hiding in the plants.

At the same time, he was overwhelmed with the size of his yard, and all that came with all of these new plants. His Boston deck was a far cry from his new home with it’s huge yard. He ended up taking classes at the Desert Landscaper School in hopes of figuring what to do with his yard, and became a certified landscaper (and a Master Gardener) in the process. He also seriously considered a landscape design career as a possible future.

Christopher continued his love for the Desert Botanical Garden, and has been a volunteer there for about four years. Now, every Wednesday morning, you can find him working as a horticulture aide. He works there along with another volunteer Tom, and Chad Davis, a Curator (of Agavaceae, Aloeaceae, and Nolinaceae) at the Garden. Tom and Christopher help Chad by working on various jobs around the garden; potting up plants, removing dead or overgrown plants, cleaning up the greenhouses, watering, and, of course, planting in the garden. It is a lot of fun, but seems like they are always moving boulders!

Christopher loves the great group of people, and is able to use his skills to design areas there. Last spring, he was on the committee as a Volunteer liaison for the new Succulent and Cactus Galleries. It was very fulfilling to leave a little mark there for years to come. Chad gives him some great opportunities to make some design choices with plants and small landscaped areas.

There are always small surprises; a hidden snake, or scorpion is found under a pot, a pack rat’s nest is found, or a monsoon rain pours out of the sky. It is still a place where opportunities and friends are found, and he wouldn’t miss it for the world.


Design at the Garden. This area on the edge of the Succulent Gallery was designed by Chad Davis of the Desert Botanical Garden, along with Christopher’s and Tom’s help.

Start it up
It is not too early to start planning what needs to be done to spruce your outdoor space. Whether you are choosing a plant to compliment others already in place, for a few pots on a balcony, or starting an entire yard from scratch; here are a few things that Christopher has learned about choosing plants for your yard or patio.


Don’t forget to bring spring inside. Grey’s, pale lavender and creams let the colors shine in from the outdoors. In Greg’s clients’ living room
, a fresh bouquet of flowers add the pop to make everything come alive.

Do your research. Look at those outdoor spaces that you like. Drive around your neighborhood, and see what your neighbors have done with their yards. Ask them questions. Find out if they hired a landscape designer, and ask what they did for the money. Look at books and magazines. Look closely at the things you like: color, scale, height, etc. Go to a local botanical garden, and get ideas. Take notes, and photos so you can look at plant combinations.

Plan a budget. Plants can be expensive and they can be habit forming. You may see a beautiful exotic plant at a nursery, or a sad little plant that needs a home, and end up with a crazy patchwork of orphans. Remember to plan a budget and stick with it. Most plans get bogged down with details, and they can go higher than the estimate, and you have to figure out what need to be cut out. The worst thing you can do, is stop half way through a project because money runs out. Instead, it might be better to do your plan in stages, so your bank account does not dry out.

Plants get bigger. If you can find a good reliable professional, talk with them about the plants you like. It always surprises people when they have a plant that grows bigger than they thought. People want to fill in the area quickly, but will have to remove one in the not too distant future if it grows too large for the area! People can’t understand that different plants grow at different speeds. Also think about planting plants together that have the same needs. Placing plants that need the same amount of water, sun, or shade will be happier together.

Think locally. Choose plants from the area that you live. The local plants will thrive within thier own environment. They have adapted nicely to the amount of rain, the heat and the cold already. They will not have to be watered so much so you will be helping the world in a small way (by saving water), and you can enjoy more time doing the things you love.


Looking out Christopher’s front window. February through April is the best time to be in Phoenix for wildflowers. The weather is great, and the living in seductive. Don’t let it fool you though… summer is on it’s way.

Be patient. If you can’t afford larger plants to fill in the area you want to right away, buy small plants, and keep them happy in big pots (so they grow out) for a while. Let them grow, and then plant in the area you want, when they fill out. Spend your money on a larger plant or tree that may take a long time to grow. It is frustrating to see an immature plant when you know it’s potential. Be patient. It will grow up and look beautiful soon.

Now, take care of your babies. After planting, be sure to give them extra care at the beginning, but do not over-tend them. Let them get used to their new environment. People seem to either neglect their plants or worse, over-water or over-fertilize them. Also, be careful not to trim them too much… especially when they are starting out. If you’ve done your research, your plants will grow out to be around the size it is supposed to be… so, there shouldn’t be a need to hack them. A little pruning here and there will be necessary.

Whether you are getting ready to plant in your palatial back yard, your apartment terrace, a small pot in your kitchen or just purchasing a bouqet of flowers, remember to enjoy the fruits of your labor and “stop to smell the roses”.

Design Brothers News: Happy Birthday to our friend, James, and to D. Frank Designs in Scottsdale, AZ. They celebrated their second year anniversary, and carry the full range of Christopher’s dinnerware.

Happy hoeing from the Design Brothers.

—Greg and Christopher

Risk taking in risky times

March 13, 2009

Worth the risk
Our sister, Beth [4] married Kevin (not in photo). We all came into town for this beautiful day in September, 1997. [1] Kelly, [2] Janine, [3] Cindy, [5] Christopher, [6] Jeff, and [7] Greg. Beth and Kevin now have a beautiful daughter, Zoe… and live happily ever after.


To blog, or not to blog?
Last week, as we were going to post the Design Brothers’ blog, Christopher’s computer died.

It had all of the scans and latest information for Friday’s post, so we were unsure as to what we should do about publishing. After the initial panic, we talked and wondered if we really need to publish every Friday. We asked ourselves if anyone really cared. Why were we doing this anyway?

The great tech guys that Christopher use for situations like this, came through as always, and we made our deadline without a glitch. However, the questions still lingered.

When we first had the idea to start the blog, we had little idea what or how it would evolve. We did have some criteria though; talk about design and how it inspires us, to never be snarky or negative, and to hopefully inspire others to follow their dream, as we are following ours.

Home is where the work is
Lately, there hasn’t been a week that has gone by that the both of us have not heard of someone losing their job. This week, Christopher was talking with his friend Doug, who was recently laid off, and was starting a new venture out of his home. He was not rushing into this, and has been thinking about leaving his job for a long time. This friend understood that he wasn’t going to make much money for awhile. He had much planning to do, a lot of calls to make, and much investigation and research to take care of before his business could even begin.

Doug asked Christopher how to get up every morning, stay focused, and get work done when there is no one waiting for an assignment. Doug seemed to spend those first jobless weeks wasting time. He found himself puttering around the house, and doing very little work. Doug did some research on the computer, and then found himself getting distracted with Facebook, or some other fun internet sites. The days just got lost.

At the same time, our sister Cindy is considering a new field of work as well. Although she has always worked at home while being employed by a large company; working out of her home on her own is a bit different. She called the both of us, and asked similar questions on how to get motivated every single day.

Currently Greg & Christopher both work in their homes; while Christopher has been working at home for quite a while Greg has just begun to do so.

Christopher thought long and hard about what he does every day, and didn’t really have an answer to Doug’s question. Each day is different, with some more interesting than others. It is especially hard to get focus when he does not have to get out orders, or prepare for a gift show. Some weeks, he works twelve hour days, seven days a week, and there are other weeks, where he may put in about 20 hour weeks if he is lucky.

Christopher’s office [1] Plates and [2] paintings in Christopher’s office. These pieces, are only a small portion of his inventory.


The majority of his time spent working, is not initially profitable. He sends out press releases, take photos of his work, researches stores that might be interesting to approach, taking care of his books, sending out emails to promote his wares, or checking credit references. These are all things that Christopher hate to do, so it is sometimes really difficult to motivate himself to take care of these things.

Greg’s office
Preparing for a master bedroom presentation. Fabrics shown; [3] Gallery Herringbone to be used for upholstered headboard (from Old World Weavers), [4] drapery fabric: Groundworks (fabric by Kelly Wearstler), in magenta and gray. Chaise to be upholstered in [2] Old World Weavers Posh silk in Rose Bud, accent pillows to be made in [1] Old World Weavers Adobe Black check (piped in Posh silk in Rose bud). All fabric available to the trade.


Greg has the same experiences as well. Some weeks even when he is putting in an inordinate amount of time, he feels like nothing was accomplished. During those weeks when less hours were put in, he finds that he actually got more accomplished (and the reverse is true of course). During those bad weeks, Greg spends more hours worrying, than getting anything done. Productivity, however; is not dependent on the number of hours worked.

What are you going to do?
We are experts at working for ourselves, as much as we are blog writers… far from pros, for sure! To be perfectly honest, we do not always follow our own advice, and look to friends and family for help to get us through bad periods. But we have some thoughts for those who are finding themselves at home

Everybody works differently, so the key is finding out what works best for you. For example if you are a night person much of your “in office” work such as billing or research might be done at night, while telephone calls and email correspondence could be done during the day.

We have put together some ideas for those people who may find themselves looking for work, starting a new business venture, or not really sure what they may want to do as of yet.

Make an office. Designate a certain space within your home or apartment that is solely used for your work. If you can help it, do not have your office in your bedroom! The last thing you should do every night is to be staring at your desk thinking about all of the things that you did not accomplish that day. If possible, have an area that you can hide or tuck away, so you feel that your work is not “nagging” you. If you have to use a kitchen or dining table, try to keep it organized so it is easy to store away at the end of the work day. You will not have a relaxing dinner later if your work is scattered on the same table.

Get out of bed. Eat your breakfast, shower, then head to your work area at the same time every day. You did it when you went to the actual office why would you treat your own company any differently. A routine will help you stay motivated, and make your business a real business.

Schedule your week. Most jobs require deadlines with a boss breathing down your back. Once you stay at home, that demand is gone, so it is easy to goof off. Write down some things that you would like to get done during the week and plan deadlines for those items. You will be amazed how good it feels to cross things off the list at the end of the week.

Be specific about your tasks. Mondays are for correspondence, Tuesdays are for cold calling, Wednesdays are for billing, etc. You may not always follow the schedule exactly but you will notice that your calendar will keep you on track with those vital items to keeping your business running.

If you need quiet time to get specific projects completed, block a short amount of time where you don’t answer the phone, email or the door. Once you answer your phone, your time gets away from you, and it is often times hard to get back and focus. Write this time down in a calendar, and take it as serious as you would at your former job.

Now, schedule your days. If you are a morning person, plan to make calls earlier in the day when you have the energy, or any important tasks that absolutely need be done. As the day wears on you may feel less inclined to do it because you are starting to fade.

If you have personal errands to take care, do them when you normally may not be so productive at work. We know that it is easier to do your errands during the week, when places are less crowded. Don’t poke around though. Be efficient. Remember, you have a real job at home!

Give yourself a bonus. You really can take vacation days or vacation times. Although this is your business and you can work 24/7 you also need to reward yourself with rest. Often, small businesses will die early as people became burned out from all the hours they have put in.

Taking a break Christopher (back in 1982) working on a crossword puzzle. It is still his favorite way to take time out of the day. He loves sudoku, and crossword puzzles.


Go to lunch with a friend once a week. You need to see people, or you will go crazy. Schedule a personal call in your calendar. Take a little walk to get some fresh air. It is okay to treat yourself to your “Judge Judy” in the afternoon, but as soon as it is over, turn off the TV, and get back to work. Put each free moment in your calendar, and you can see what time has been used for fun.

Keep in touch with people in your industry. Join or create a network of people that you can bounce ideas off of. Too much isolation could reduce your creativity to how you approach work. A friend or colleague may also have thought of an easier way to accomplish a task. Look on the web for business groups in your area that may be able to offer some help.

People want to know about you. Tell as many people as you can about what your intended business will be. Learn how to describe it clearly in a short paragraph. Then, shout it from the mountaintop! By telling everyone you know, you may trigger potential clients. The more people that know about your business, the more it becomes real. You will be surprised, but people want to help. Your friends and family want to be a part of your success! If you don’t know how to describe what you want in life, who will?

If you are unsure of what you want to do, tell everyone anyway. Tell everyone your skills, and your desired future. They may be able to help with their knowledge, or suggest possibilities. Keep notes, but, don’t let others lead you. Listen to your gut, your heart and your head.

Good Luck!
In our lives, we have tried hard to support our friends and family as best we can. We are in no position to judge another’s dream, but at the same time, we want to be honest, and offer our experiences; good and bad. But we do suggest that you take a leap in life, and go beyond your comfort zone. It is scary, hard and frustrating, but it can also be the most liberating experience of your life. We wish you well in whatever step you take. Tell us about your experiences… as we, and our readers can learn from your mistakes, your successes, and goals

Christopher & Greg

Design Brothers in the news
This week, Christopher’s dinnerware can be seen in the March issue of Denver Magazine (currently only in print) and on the cover of Fancy Foods and Culinary Products Magazine.

March Fo(u)rth!

March 6, 2009

Greg wishes everyone an amazing March 4th! younggreg.………………………….………..
Always dapper
It seems like Greg always wore a jacket and tie, even when young.

About ten years ago, when I was working for Corporate America, I needed to inspire a group of young people that I worked with. I was in charge of an operation that wasn’t fairing so well financially. This, being bonus time, meant myself, and my employees would not be getting one — even though everyone had worked especially hard the year before. Morale was low, and I thought I needed to lift the spirits of everyone including myself. If I didn’t do something, things would only get worse.

So I decided to create a day of celebration that would happen on March 4th. The premise was simple; March 4th (Forth) would signify a new beginning. It was a chance to change things; by marching forth from that moment. It was an opportunity to make a difference in how we approached our every day jobs.

I purchased balloons, various snacks and a few lame but funny awards. I called an employee meeting, and started the celebration. No one there knew what I was doing, and most thought I was a little off my head, but we all had a good time.

I spoke to my team about the power of beginning anew. It is always a risk, and not always easy. I knew it would be hard work. But, in order to move ahead, we needed to change. I told them the slate was wiped clean, and it was time for a fresh start. It was a chance to get to begin anew.

Everyone left the meeting feeling a little better about themselves, and slowly over the next several weeks, things started to get better. The good mood and hard work became contagious, and we ended that year on a good note. Since that March 4th, every year I celebrate (with whoever is around) March Fo(u)rth!

Back to the beginning.

The both of us have had very different lives, before the ones we have now. Christopher worked as a graphic designer and art director for various companies, while Greg was in Sales and Operations for various corporations.

Christopher put himself through of Art School, graduated, and found himself in the middle of the last recession.

Ready for that interview
Just in case he needed this for a blog many years later, he wrote on the back of the photo: Christopher Jagmin, February 13th, Age 11, 6th Grade. Christopher has the same glasses now, except in black.

Christopher: I found myself out of school with an art degree, with lots of bills to pay. I went back to South Bend (Indiana) to live with my family, and immediately returned to work at a restaurant, that I had worked during my summer breaks. During the day, I would hustle my portfolio around town to look for a graphic design job.

I really only needed a job until January, as that is when I planned a move to Austin, Texas. I just needed to pay some bills, get a little experience, and save some money to get down there and live for a bit.

I wasn’t naive about the job possibilities of South Bend, but I thought some cool, little design shop would hire me. The problem was those little shops were little, because they couldn’t hire anyone. Finally, I found a job in the field I was trained for, working at the South Bend Penny Saver as an artist! Oh boy! It was a little bubble-bursting for me.

Myself, and a typesetter, were the art department! An advertiser would write copy, tell us the size of an ad that he wanted, and I would “design” the advertisement. I didn’t realize it then, but it was actually a great first job. I would design about 10-20 ads a day. I had to be fast, make sure the ads have their own unique look, and actually gave some of the small businesses a branded look (with repeat ads). In addition, the paper was only in black and white, and did not use photography. So, I had to resolve each problem with typography, clip art, or original illustration. What a great job!

It all taught me to be fast, to experiment, and not fall into predictable traps. Don’t get me wrong, I would never say that I was a great designer back then, and I really could have used a mentor. But it was a little like being in school a little longer with some paid, practical experience. It helped me find a style earlier than someone who might apprentice under an art director for a few years. It was fun working there for 6 months.

Since I was working at the restaurant on weekends, I was able to save some money to get in a car with our sister, Cindy and move to Austin.

Lots of paper and too much coffee
Greg. at his old desk in New York City. A lifetime ago.

Another first job

Greg: After college, I moved to Chicago, and worked for Yellow Page publisher, R.H. Donnelly. I sold ads to local companies. I would work with the business to determine their, then develop a strategy that targeted specific markets and market headings. The work was not always the most creative, and was more about selling the ad. Then I had to prove the ad was generating calls for the business.

It taught me a lot about persistence, precision, and most importantly how to listen more closely. Getting the client to explain how they envisioned the ad, and what they wanted it to represent was difficult, because it was typically never discussed before. Sure, they wanted business, but they also wanted profitable business and often times they didn’t realize which was the most profitable part of their business.

Since then I have been involved with several start-up companies, utilizing these skills learned in that very first job helping figure out how to make an organization work.

I must say I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but as a mentor of mine (Lyle Dampeer) once said to me “I want you to make mistakes as you will learn from those, but understand I will never let you fail”. That statement spoke volumes about the type of boss he was but also about how successful people view themselves and can make their own path. I have never let myself fail in spite of the mistakes I have made and constantly strive to learn from those around me, to take chances, and to march forth toward my goals.


The both of us never really knew about each other’s first job before we started writing today. We found it pretty amazing that we started our careers at very similar places. We may not have done what we wanted to do, or at the time, been inspired about the job… but, we learned a lot, and are both surprised that we made it through.

Work gets in the way

Some of Greg’s jobs have been; newspaper delivery boy, he shoveled snow and mowed lawns, bussed tables, worked as a gardener, a catering chef, was a waiter, bartender, and bouncer (yes, can you believe someone would hire me to take care of the door at a bar??), worked retail (in a tanning salon), worked as a telecine operator at a TV station (I put the backgrounds up during the weather segment and ran “Entertainment Tonight” from the live news feed), I worked many a temp job and met a lot of great people and quite a few not so nice.

Christopher repaired swimming pools and leaky basements, worked at an ice cream parlor, worked in manufacturing — making parts for automobiles (still not quite sure what they were used for), was a fry cook (for a week), was a host at a restaurant, washed dishes, and worked for a Catholic printing company that made church bulletins.


At an advertising photo shoot
Christopher on set, in a rarely seen suit and tie (back in the 90’s).

And to make more money, we both spent time shoveling snow, mowing lawns, waiting tables, and worked as busboys at various times in our lives. We actually worked together for a bit at a catering company and Italian restaurant. When we catered Notre Dame events, we actually served some big, and not-so-big celebrities. Although, more memorable was our boss, Tina, who tried to fatten us up with some big pasta dinners.

More to learn

We have stepped out of our comfort zones over the past couple of years, and it has been the most wonderfully scariest times of our lives. Our current jobs are a work in progress, and we agree that we kind of make up a lot, and hope for the best. If we knew everything, however, it would not be as fun, and would be quite boring. Christopher believes that as you look back at your life, the most memorable moments were times when you took a chance and did something new.

Since those beginning days, we both have marched forth on our own (sometimes staying too long at a place that is not healthy or good for us), and have hopefully developed and honed our skills. We routinely come across brick walls that must be scaled, torn down or even leapt over. We make mistakes every day, but it has made us who we are, good or bad. We are optimistic about our futures, and encourage others to follow their dream. And we try and hopefully succeed by having a sense of pride in our work.

We are a work in progress, but always want do what is right and good, to stand by our principles, and keep on marching forth… until next week.
Design Brother News this week:

Christopher’s paintings were sold out at
13Forest Gallery in Arlington, MA, and more on are on the way.
Christopher is selling internationally! This week, he shipped off his dinnerware to Buenos Aires.
Mention of the week:
One Plus Infinity