Expert’s Corner: Terry Lee Stone

Believe it or not, HOW Design Live is just around the corner. In preparation, HOW has contacted speakers from the HOW Design Conference, the Creative Freelancer Conference, the In-HOWse Managers Conference and The Dieline Packaging Conference to share a little bit about the ideas and inspiration their sessions will bring to the overall event.

Screen shot 2013-05-17 at 8.33.50 AMOne of the people we’re excited to welcome to this year’s HOW Design Conference is writer, design management consultant and creative strategist Terry Lee Stone. Stone’s general session will explore the five key stages of a design career to help you navigate the twists and turns that lead to success. She’ll also host a bonus hands-on session to help you practice the skills involved in developing a great creative brief.

We recently sat down with Stone for a brief chat about her design career and to pick her brain for advice other designers could profit from:

HOW: When did you first realize you wanted to be a graphic designer?

Terry Lee Stone: In college, thinking I was going to be a lawyer, I was missing art. Soon after, I found out there was a thing called graphic design that was a commercial art form. I liked that idea; it seemed like a great hybrid. So I dropped out of the university and headed to design school. I later morphed from creative to business and management positions, and incidentally, I ended up very involved in legal affairs for design firms. Ah, full circle.

HOW: What was your first design job?

TLS: I was assistant to a graphic designer/illustrator named Kim Foster in Miami. Since it was just the two of us, I got to do a lot of different things. Kim was a great mentor:

HOW: What advice do you have for other designers aspiring to a similar career path?

TLS: Keep pushing yourself. Try new things. Expand your capabilities. Do things that scare you. That’s how you’ll learn and grow.

HOW: What’ve been some of your favorite projects?

TLS: I wrote an exhibition called “Becoming Los Angeles” for the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, which was a fascinating collaborative experience. I’ve also started doing online training courses at, which is always something I’ve wanted to do. They’re a great company.

HOW: What’s the most influential thing that’s happened to you during your design career?

TLS: Getting to co-author the “Logo Design Workbook” with Sean Adams and Noreen Morioka of AdamsMorioka. That project launched my writing career, and it was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. It was originally published in 2004 and is still selling.

HOW: What self-promotion strategies have been most successful for you?

TLS: Blogging. It works. There’s not always a lot of money involved, but there is lots of good exposure for your ideas.

HOW: Do you have a pet project—a side business, passion project or a charity to which you donate time or services?

TLS: I co-wrote a book called “Booze Cakes” with Krystina Castella, a product designer and fellow teacher at Art Center College of Design. (Read a nice review from Publishers Weekly.) It’s been well received and was a great creative endeavor outside my typical work.

HOW: When you get stuck in a creative rut, how do you break free?

TLS: I rarely feel stuck creatively. I usually feel squeezed because I’ve overcommitted and then have to deliver. There is nothing like a deadline to force you to break free!

HOW: If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?

TLS: In the past I would have said lawyer. Now, I’d say writer.

HOW: What does San Francisco bring to mind? What do you plan to do while you’re there?

TLS: I’m from Los Angeles. San Francisco is sometimes considered to be our rival—there is a constant Southern California versus Northern California comparison. I like SF for food. (Of course, L.A. is even better. Okay, I had to say that!)

I would like to remind everyone that San Francisco is colder than you might think in the summer. Bring a sweater.

HOW: Where did the ideas for your session topics come from?

TLS: I came up with the Design Career Lifecycle session because I’m fascinated by career trajectories. I marvel at how creative people get from point A to point B in their careers. Recently, I was commissioned by HOW to write an article on this topic, and it was very well received. I’ll expand on that piece and continue the discussion.

My hands-on session came out of my experiences as a project manager. I realized how critical it is to write a good creative brief for your team. It is the roadmap for any project. Once I began teaching, I developed ways to “un-package” the complexity and help designers create briefs that are right for their practices.

HOW: What are you most excited to share with session attendees in San Francisco?

TLS: Hopefully I can save some other designers a whole lot of trouble! I hope to provide insights and assistance on topics that can be ongoing challenges for many graphic designers. I’m excited to share my ideas and techniques because I was led to them by lots of trial and error.

Meet Terry in person at this year’s HOW Design Conference!

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