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Deep Sea Designer

A Personal Project Reflection

By Nicole FennPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 10 min read
Top Story - January 2024

Link to Instagram Account:

For the past year (2023), I’ve been working on a personal design project inspired while on my trip to Adobe MAX in 2022. This is a reflection of the project, what I’ve gained from it, and how I hope it continues to inspire me and my love for the ocean.

Adobe MAX 2022

In recent years, my confidence in my design capabilities has been rather - nonexistent. Stuck in a dead-end job where any projects and work to further my experience and skill sets are limited or just not present at all, I was desperate to find something to jump-start my creativity again and bring a sense of purpose. I had asked my manager if I could attend Adobe MAX back in 2022 to potentially bring back ideas to the company to further help the marketing department (including me, myself, and I) and to help further my design capabilities with workshops and lectures. I was lucky, and rather grateful, he said yes and took the solo trip out to LA to spend a week surrounded by like-minded creatives.

While traveling solo was rather nerve-wracking, the entire trip itself was worth it as I walked away with not only ideas for my company’s department but with the inspiration to start a project on a topic that resonates so deeply with me.

While at MAX, I attended two lectures that brought upon this spark - and I would love to recognize them. Photographer Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier (Instagram @mitty) and fashion icon Courtney Quinn (Instagram @colormecourtney), both sharing their experiences with photographing marine life and the details behind self-branding. The words that stick with me the most - and inspired this project - were spoken by Christina during her lecture, saying something along the lines of “When you find something that you feel so strongly about, that is your purpose”.

And after viewing a video Christina had shown during her talk, a video about all the marine life she’s encountered and the threats they face from global warming, pollution, overfishing, etc. I couldn’t help the strong swell of emotions and threat of tears to cloud my vision - realizing then and there the connection with Christina’s words.

“When you find something you feel so strongly about - that is your purpose.”

Deep Sea Designer

I’ve never taken on such huge personal projects before, as a designer. Projects have typically been reserved for school and work, and my free time is usually filled with other hobbies such as reading or writing. But, I was desperate to regain that spark and passion for design, so I took the leap and decided at the end of October 2022 that I would start a project that would last all of 2023. A project dedicated to my love for the ocean, the marine life that resides within it, and all conservation efforts in protecting such a vast ecosystem.

Was I in a little bit over my head? Eh, maybe.

I started right away with ideas on what platform to use for this project and what to really make this whole project about. Should I just focus on talking about different marine species? Or rather talk exclusively about conservation efforts and what the average person can do in their daily lives? So, what better than to start with a word map, displaying all that felt important to me with this topic and what stood out to me the most to highlight specifically? (Please, please, please note that "Relatable, Accessible, Dolphin Poaching" is NOT all one thing but separate points.)

Word Map for Project Intentions

Next was figuring out how I wanted all of this to look. The hard part for a designer struggling with imposter syndrome and an artistic blockage.

DSD Branding

The initial branding actually wasn’t as hard as I had expected it to be. I believe because I was finally engaging in something creative, I was chomping at the bit to go through a more casual design process with my own branding.

Deep Sea Designer Final Logo

Deep Sea Designer Final Typefaces & Colors

Deep Sea Designer Mockup

Utilizing the process I had learned in college, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with a logo for the Instagram page - the platform I had decided almost immediately to use for this project. I wanted to do something simple, but a logo that was still easy enough to recognize as a profile photo. Looking back on it now, there are still some things I’d change font-wise, but the multi-colored waves within the profile photo-friendly circle is still something I recognize immediately as part of Deep Sea Designer’s brand. The colors also represent the ocean and its different water columns (the sunlight zone, twilight zone, midnight/abyssal/hadal zone) with the nice pink sky reflecting the many amazing sunsets I’ve also witnessed along the beach.

I also gave myself some freedom with the colors in that I created a color column for each where I’m able to select different tones, utilizing the set colors for the brand but allowing myself to use lighter versions of whatever color when necessary. The typefaces I chose were also simple, sans-serif fonts (without little feet, a serif example would be Times New Roman) and they would be easy to read. Avenir is a personal favorite and go-to font of mine as it’s easy on my eyes, but I also included a font called Novecento Sans Condensed. While this font is a sans-serif, it is also a condensed font, which adds a little extra flair to what could be an otherwise stale graphic.

For the sake of pulling my brand together, after completing the final version of the logo, I decided to design a few would-be posts to get an idea of how everything would look. I then created a mock-up of these posts on a blank Instagram feed, seeing how the posts would work in the square layout and what colors, graphics, and images popped the most in the feed. Of course, not wanting to do the same post over and over again, I mixed it up each month by creating a variety of posts with different layouts for each species and scheduled general facts that month.

It’s not all perfect, and I’m sure down the line I’ll be looking at this project with a different set of eyes, but for now it was a very much-needed creative outlet that allowed me to experiment and apply what I had learned over the years.

Deep Sea Designer Reflection

Starting off with this personal project, I was beyond excited. It was back in October/November of 2022 when I started organizing a Google Sheets spread regarding every month of 2023 and its details. January would be Whales and Dolphins focused, February would be sharks, March would be corals, April would be oceanic rays, and so on, and so on. I decided I would alternate every day with marine posts and general facts posts, those general facts on anything and everything I found interesting regarding our oceans; along with some information on climate change and pollution affecting marine life.

As an organized person, this sheet was the lifeline I clung to for the entire project. I loved being able to cross things off when posts went up and having the ease of changing something if a conflict popped up. But, overall, I was just proud of myself for creating the whole schedule to begin with - and what I could accomplish with it.

Deep Sea Designer 2022 Social Post Schedule

But, what about the project as a whole? Well, it certainly wasn’t the easiest to keep up with motivation-wise. I will admit that halfway through the year, it was almost a burden to keep up with; especially when I was neglecting designing the posts I needed to for the new month ahead until the last minute. When the year got busy for my full-time job, the summer was always hectic as I traveled for trade shows as my company’s trade show manager, I found it harder and harder to keep up with the daily posts. Within these schedules, I did give myself a day or two off during the week, usually not posting on Sundays and Thursdays. Sometimes, however, I found myself trading these days off for others during the week if I knew I wasn’t going to make Wednesday's post or what have you.

And I had to keep telling myself that this was ok.

This wasn’t a project for anyone else. Not a project for work or a freelance-type job. This was a personal project for me. A chance to stretch my legs and experiment with different designs that weren’t usually something I’d be so focused on designing: social posts. An opportunity for me to research to my heart’s content on species I’d love to learn more about and facts about our oceans I may or may not have known already.

I didn’t care about the number of followers. In fact, my mom was probably my number one supporter of the account, liking almost every new post when she could. And while the account did gain around 88-89 followers by the end of its run, the only thing I cared about was creative expression and sharing my love for our seas. If only a few people walked away with little tidbits of info regarding how they can help to reduce their plastic consumption and be more cautious of what they throw away and recycle, then I’m ok with that. Because that’s a few more people than before made conscious of the threats our oceans face and how we can play a part - be it small - but effective in numbers.

Toward the middle of the year, I thought about stopping the project. A close friend of mine even asked how it was going and reminded me I could stop if I wanted to, that it was my project, my choice. Of course, I always take my friend’s advice to heart and knew if I was tired of it, there would be no shame in stopping. But, I didn’t stop the project. I did stop the newsletter I was sending out every month because that became a little too much for me to handle while traveling for work. Otherwise, I continued with the schedule and worked with a very loose timeline when it came to designing new posts and researching for the next month.

And I’m proud. I’m proud I was able to push through that mental blockage towards the middle of the year and complete the project. I’m proud to look back on all the posts now and read through all the information I had worked hard to put together for each marine species and general ocean fact. It sparked the creativity I needed that year - even for my writing - and I am forever grateful for it.

Now, as I enter 2024, I intend to keep the Instagram page up for those who might find it this year and take the time to scroll through each post. However, as I also enter the 3rd week of the year, I am very content to say that I’m glad I don’t have to worry about trying to make a post about coral sound interesting. That was a rough month with engagement…

**If you would like to check out the account, a link has been provided at the top of this piece. Or, you can look for @deep.sea.designer on Instagram.

2024 Vocal Goals: Story 1 of 24

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About the Creator

Nicole Fenn

Young, living - thriving? Writing every emotion, idea, or dream that intrigues me enough to put into a long string of words for others to absorb - in the hopes that someone relates, understands, and appreciates.

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