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No Business Doing That: A Designer Who Never Learned to Design

I wasn't a designer. I'm not professionally educated in the principles of design and I didn't even take an art class in high school. I spent my time at a retail job selling audio equipment and attending classes full time.

I took a few Photoshop courses and learned the basics. I bought a budget drawing pad for the computer and created a sketch.

I didn't touch the sketch for six months. Then I came back to it. I got the sketch into a semi-final form, and then I dropped it again.

Another six months passed. I had saved money for the past year and I was finally ready to do something with my drawing. I finalized it, and I sent it to a design company to get some renders of a possible hoodie and tee design.

It shouldn't have taken as long as it did. A year for a single sketch to become a reality from the inside of my head to the front of a shirt. It sounds so simple.

1.) Draw picture

2.) Pay company to put it on a shirt

3.) Profit!

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as it sounds. For most people pursuing a passion project, it's the money, which is completely understandable. How are you supposed to invest so much into sustaining something that may bear you no return on investment? It sounds risky, because it is.

It was never about the money for me though. No, I'm not trying to wave my assets around, I'm by no means exceptionally well off, and I had to save to make Dead Velvet a reality. But I wasn't afraid of losing money, to me, the investment I made was well worth it to say that I started a company that I was passionate about.

My issue was my lack of belief. Who was I to think that I could design something that people would wear? I had no experience in fashion aside from a passionate interest in its hobbyist circles. I'm from a town in Michigan that everyone forgot the name of after General Motors killed the automotive division carrying it's namesake. I don't have celebrity connections, big money, or extravagant resources. Who was I to believe that I could be successful?

I struggled with these thoughts for over a year. Spanning the entirety of the time I spent working on the "Crash" design. The Brand New inspired beat up pink limo featured on the hoodies and tees on the shop page.

The "Crash" Design. Dead Velvet's First.

One day, despite these constant doubts I had in myself about Dead Velvet's inception, I started the company anyway. I forced myself to cast all doubt aside for a minute and dove in headfirst, and in less than a month I went from a simple sketch to a registered LLC with a website, sales tax license, the whole shebang. And guess what? My head is still full of doubt.

I stress about my ability to run the company, to design items that people can connect with and form attachments to. I struggle with the idea of my brand being forgettable, something people are not interested in giving a try, or even paying attention to.

But, here's the difference between the worries I have now compared to the ones I had before Dead Velvet existed:

Instead of worrying about ever starting a brand, I worry about the success of a line that I created all by myself while working full time at another job and going to school.

Instead of worrying about starting a sketch, I worry about the artistic merit drawings I work on every day have.

Instead of worrying about what people think about my desire to start a company, I worry about what people think of the targeting advertising I put out on social media, and whether or not it's making a positive impact on people scrolling through the timeline.

Hopefully you see my point here. In reality, the concerns you have about your success don't ever go away. Because if they did, you wouldn't be moving towards success in the first place. The important thing is that your concerns evolve with your projects. When you dive into an endeavor, you learn as you progress, and as you become more experienced, you become much better equipped to deal with issues that arise in your journey towards whatever you're striving to do. New problems arise, but they become more and more important as you move forward. Ultimately, the day to day challenges you face are a reflection of your progress based on their scale. Therefore, it's important to take a step back and appreciate your problems sometimes, the more you have that you're working on solving, the better off you are.

Trial by fire is the best test of your resolve in going after what your truly want in life. So don't be afraid to do something you have no business doing, like becoming a fashion designer when you sell headphones for a living.

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