Semester VI: Elevate Your Brand
Design House Prep School | Online Workshops for Creatives

This semester's theme is 'Elevate Your Brand,' focusing on the idea of taking your brand to new levels from the inside out.  

So many people focus on the word "elevate" and how it applies to branding and image, but what they don't tell you is that if your work doesn't back that level of perceived elevation, having an 'elevated brand image' won't help you at all. 

We're taking the idea of 'elevation' to the next level, talking about how to elevate your work, your knowledge, your style, and your aesthetic to set you apart in the industry first and foremost.  

Develop a Unique Calligraphy Style.jpg

Develop a Unique Calligraphy Style

We see the same styles recycled over and over again as artists and calligraphers are inspired by all the same things they see on instagram and pinterest. In this course, we’ll teach you how to develop your own style away from outside influences and to take a more critical and analytical approach to building a unique aesthetic.

Learn to develop your own style with intention and discipline to set yourself and your work apart. Build a repertoire of styles from formal to modern with the principals taught in this course.

We’ll begin with a basic calligraphy style and show you how to evolve it into several styles, all that feel and flow naturally with the understanding that a unique approach allows us to attract unique and higher end clients.

Design House Prep School | Online Workshops for Creatives

The Instagrammer’s Dilemma

Each semester, I have a favorite course and this semester, it’s The Instragrammer’s Dilemma.

In this course, we’ll dive in to a bit of social psychology and start to unravel the ins and outs of buying habits through social media platforms. We’ll tease apart the issues of monetization, how to monetize your social media platform, and why what you have tried in the past hasn’t worked.

We’ll begin to understand how to harness your instagram account as a powerful tool for marketing and sales through the understanding of the laws of reciprocity and buying habits of consumers.

We’ll also take a hard look at your current approach and understand that sometimes being successful requires a change in how we view our own identity.

Design House Prep School | Online Workshops for Creatives


Join us as we pair with Stephanie Hare of Share Studio and spend the day with her learning how to make handmade paper.

We’ll discover the tools and techniques, including cooking and hand beating kozo, machine beating, and several drying techniques. We’ll watch her work through a batch of pulp as she shares her vast knowledge with us.

This course is perfect for anyone interested in beginning a hobby or career in handmade paper, but is even better for stationers to gain an in-depth understanding of the process behind handmade paper. With such a labor-intensive process, handmade paper tends to be a higher end product with a price point to match. Many stationers have a difficult time selling high price point items to clients, but after taking this course, you’ll easily be able to explain the value of such costs and start to elevate your work to higher-end products and clients.

Design House Prep School | Online Workshops for Creatives | Wedding Etiquette


Building out wording for wedding invitations can be incredibly intimidating and stressful. Every line on the invitation indicates something, stands for something, and is there for a reason….so how do you know which options to choose? Selecting the incorrect layout can be offensive or communicate the incorrect message to guests.

As stationers, we should know wedding invitation wording and etiquette inside and out, giving us the ability to guide and advise our clients in the proper decorum based on their wedding and specific needs.

In this course, we’ll walk you through the details of building out invitation wording. We’ll review some of the origins of the wording and why we use it, what it represents or indicates, and how to property put wording together. We’ll also touch on a modern approach to some of the older traditions.

The most important portion of this course will review how and when to begin constructing your client’s invitation wording to create a seamless and simple creative process.

Design House Prep School | Online Workshops for Creatives  | Create a Repeating Pattern


There are many ways to create and use a pattern. In the wedding industry, we see in gracing the liners of invitations, or the backs of printed pieces. Most of us create patterns by hand in Illustrator or Photoshop, but in this course, we’re going to learn a new method. A seamless repeating pattern is a pattern that is automatically generated from a small amount of work, expanding endlessly without seams or edges.

This type of repeating pattern is uniquely useful for scalable or larger pieces, such as wallpaper, wrapping paper, or fabric. In this course, we’re going to learn how to use Illustrator to create a scalable seamless pattern ideal for surface pattern design.


Custom crests are totally having a moment right now and are hugely popular! When I first started in the industry, I thought that art pieces like crests and patterns had to be created in one go, with everything painted together and scanned in as one piece. The idea of assembling them in Photoshop or Illustrator felt like cheating and I felt like “as a designer and artist” I had to be able to do it all at once. As I’ve honed my skills and experience, I’ve learned that idea was a load of crockery!

In this course, we’ll learn how to build a crest from individually painted artwork pieces to create a seamless and effortless custom crest for a client. We’ll also look at creating several versions to be used throughout their design, varying in size and complexity.

Design House Prep School | Online Workshops for Creatives
Design House Prep School | Online Workshops for Creatives

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Master Class | Judging Our Own Work
Design House Prep School | A school for creatives

Who among us hasn’t judged their own work?

It’s part of our job to judge and evaluate the work we create, determine if it’s good or not, determine if it’s worthy of completion or continuation or not. It’s our job as a creative to create a self reflective narrative so the world can see who we are.


It’s our job as creatives NOT to judge our own work, but to create. Anyone who uses social media can tell you of a time when a post they didn’t really like very much garnered far more attention than anticipated or a post that was heartfelt and personal resounded with very few people.

It’s not up to us to determine how the world is going to receive our work, but it IS up to us to watch and interpret their reaction.

I feel like this idea is one of the biggest struggles facing new creative professionals today, and we certainly see a massive amount of it in the wedding industry and stationery world. New creatives come into this community, follow the trends and create what is currently popular. It creates massive amounts of competition and very little room for growth, but it does help weed out the less creative and driven.

You have joined an industry because you saw others being “successful” at it. Rather than pursuing art, exploring and expanding like we talk about in the Passions course, and then producing…you just followed everyone else. Have you ever produced anything other than the items you feel fit within the paradigm of the wedding world? A lot of you probably haven’t.

Producing is such a huge part of being successful, and I don’t mean producing a wedding invitation. I mean generating art. it’s in the generation of art as an idea, as an exploration that produces great ideas and unique approaches. Without that generation, you’re not moving forward.

When you position yourself to create something in the exact vein that you see others creating and then hold yourself as the only judge and jury, you’re setting yourself up for stagnant and sluggish growth or no growth at all.

It’s not our jobs to judge, it’s our jobs to create and to put those creation into the world and allow the world to judge. It’s our job to then listen.

Master Class | Amateur Isn't a Bad Word

In the creative industry, so many of us struggle with Imposter Syndrome, where we feel like we’re just faking everything and we really have no clue what we’re doing.

Like being an “amateur” is the worst thing someone could say to us.

There is this idea that we can either be an amateur or a professional, but those two titles have zero overlap. We either get to be one or the other.

Once we’ve hit the “professional stage”, there are things that are no longer permitted…it’s like being an “adult.” Once you’ve grown up, there are just certain actions, behaviors or thoughts that aren’t acceptable or as acceptable as they were when we were younger. Some of those are reasonable, like saying out partying all night, but some of those we should try and hang on to more tightly, like curiosity and wonder.

I feel like so many artists apply this to their work and their identity as well. When we hit this stage where we consider ourselves a “professional,” we aren’t allowed to be fearless, to explore, to take risks.

Yes, technically, amateur means that you’re unpaid while professional say that you’re paid for the work you’re doing, but we’re going to blur the line between those two a bit more. There are some things about being an amateur that we should hold on to and guard more than we do. Amateurs don’t have to let money dictate their actions or decisions.

This allows them to take risks, experiment, and they have little to lose in the process. They share more, exploring ideas publicly and sharing those results. They’re willing to try anything.

Let’s all spend a little bit more time in the mindset of an amateur and worry less about fear and less about what others will think. Explore more, grown more, and never think you’re as knowledgeable as you ever will be. Don’t allow the fear of what others will think to stunt your own potential. There is always more out there, so let’s think a little more like an amateur.

Design House Prep School | A school for creatives
Master Class | It's not enough to be good.
Design House Prep School | Creative Workshops | Cyanotype

It's not enough to be good.  You also have to be discoverable.  

The landscape has changed drastically in the past ten years.  When I first started out, it was all about networking and building those in-person relationships.  Social media has altered the way we do business and has removed the local boundaries to our work.  It allows us to connect to people worlds away and show our work to hundreds upon thousands of people who would never have otherwise had a chance to be exposed to us and us to them. 

Rather than focusing on networking, we can now focus on building a network.

On the other hand, if you're an unbelievably amazing artist, but don't have a strong social media presence, how do you plan on being found? 

If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it.....


These days, it's simply not enough to be good at your job if you don't also maintain and build your social media presence.  It's a tool, just like your email and your computer, that has to be maintained and used on a daily basis.    By maintaining and updating frequently, we’re building an audience we can leverage later.

So many people make the mistake of creating something in the shadows and in the background of their business, hinting at it, being secretive, but not actually showing it or sharing it. Then one day, a new product is launched but is launched to such a blind audience, that it falls flat. Showing the growth and process is part of what makes an idea or product successful and desirable. A big reveal without anything leading up to it only reaches a very small portion of your audience, while exposing and sharing along the way builds anticipation and reaches a much wider group of followers.

Creativity also isn’t born in a vacuum. Great work is rarely the product of a lone genius, but is rather the culmination of collaboration.

A network of creatives challenge each other, mimic each other, look at each others work, drive the industry forward, develop trends, it allows for the rapid exchange of techniques, and out of that mindset of collaboration, genius is born.

Being part of a community like this isn’t about being a genius, it’s about what you have to contribute.

There are so many benefits to sharing and showing your work. It makes you discoverable, it builds anticipation for upcoming work or projects, it builds a network, and it contributes to the overall community. Developing your work in solitude because you’re too scared to share it or that it will be copied or stolen only hurts you because without it, you aren’t discoverable anyhow.

To read more on this idea, check out the idea of Scenius, developed by Brian Eno.

Semester V | Color Calibrations for In-House Printing
Design House Prep School | A School For Creatives | Online Creative Courses

Color Calibrations

for in-house printing


Without a doubt, the questions we get most often are regarding printing.  We do most of our printing in-house and have since our inception ten years ago.  

Many stationers are going the route of investing in an awesome printer and handling all their printing needs within their own studio.  There are so many advantages to being able to control this integral part of your production process yourself, but there can also be some major drawbacks.  Learning the ins and outs of your printer’s personality, what types of paper it likes and doesn't like, how long it takes to complete projects, etc. is all a major learning curve, but nothing compares to the learning curve of color adjustments.  

Have you ever printed something straight from Illustrator or Photoshop and it looks nothing like your digital file?  The colors are all wrong, they're muted and muddy, reds are browns, blushes are orange and dark greens are black.  Know that frustration?  This course will walk you through making color adjustments specifically for printing in house and will walk you through adding adjustment layers, running test prints, identifying issues and correcting them.  

Full disclosure, we will NOT be handing you the exact solutions for your very specific printer problems. Odds are, you have a different printer, a different computer monitor, a different paper… even a difference in the weather can change how your prints come out! What we WILL do is walk you through the same questions and best practices we go through for any in-house printing project that we do ourselves. We want you to walk away from this course with the tools and the confidence to troubleshoot any printing issues that come your way, no matter the specific circumstance!

Semester V | Products: When do you know you're ready

Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean it's a good idea for you.  Learn to tune out outside preasures and make good decisions for your business in the long term.

Maybe you’ve been in business for a while and you’re interested in adding new offerings to your business. Maybe you’ve just started dipping your toes in the water and can’t decide between a few different product paths. We’ve all been there. As a business owner, you have to make these kind of decisions as you move forward and continue to grow, but the decision can be harrowing — nerve-wracking and intimidating!

Jenny Sanders will be joining Victoria for an in-depth conversation about products and when (or if) to carry them.  We'll go through the questions you should be asking yourself when considering carrying product, what your answers should be and whether carrying products is the right move for your business. 

What do we mean by product? Product examples could be selling prints, a semi-custom line, greeting cards, ribbon, handmade paper, etc. But they don’t have to be physical products either, you might be considering offering services like mentoring, workshops, or branding consultation. For example, when Victoria decided to begin Prep School, a purely digital product, she went through the same thought processes we talk about in this course! We'll walk you through the process and behind the scenes efforts of what goes into researching, creating and carrying a product line.  

Design House Prep School | A School For Creatives | Online Creative Courses


Semester V | Venue Illustrations
Design House Prep School | A School For Creatives | Online Creative Courses

Venue Illustrations

Historic museums, exotic castles, nostalgic homes — our clients put a lot of thought into the venue of their event. Dreamy venue illustrations are an excellent way to acknowledge their efforts add a personal touch to any project you create.

In this course, we're going to learn to illustrate a venue two ways: the hard way, and the easy way. We'll be learning one and two point perspective and learn how to illustrate a building the old fashioned way: with pencil, paper, ruler and eraser. Although this is the time consuming route, it's always important to know the technique before you learn the shortcut. During the second half of the course, we'll learn to do it the quick and dirty way so you can spend less time illustrating and more time creating.

I'm all about working as efficiently as possible and getting work done as quickly as possible while still maintaining the integrity of the work.  Sometimes, this means creating and accepting shortcuts.  I have zero shame in utilizing these shortcuts, but the best way to learn a shortcut is to make sure you understand the long way first. 

Semester V | Sourcing

Sourcing is something that has been on my mind for a while.  I feel like a rather large portion of our industry doesn't actually do it.  Rather than seeking out information, they take was is handed to them.  This may be fine when you're just starting out, but in order to grow your business, establish your unique aesthetic, present as an expert in your field, and establish trust with clients, sourcing is absolutely imperative. 

When working as the go-between between products, production and clients, it's imperative that you are sourcing your materials fully and completely ahead of time.  You want to make sure that you know: what colors are available for this paper type? What are the corresponding envelope sizes? Which companies carry these paper lines but are frequently sold out or plagued with back orders (here’s looking at you, May Arts)?

When you have a good grasp on all of these background details, you will, for example, automatically grab your swatch book (that you pre-ordered from your paper vendor) to match a specific shade of purple for your client immediately rather than promising a product that doesn't exist.

Presenting your client with accurate and attainable product details when discussing their design will set you as the expert in your field, establishing credibility and trust.  Knowing the full range of available product will also help further define your specific aesthetic as a designer and better meet client needs.  We'll also briefly discuss pricing for different product and how to up-sell your client. 

Design House Prep School | A School For Creatives | Online Creative Courses


Victoria Rothwell
Master Class | Finding Your Voice
Design House Prep School - Creative Business Workshops

Something that new artists struggle with above so many other struggles is finding their own voice. I feel like new artists expect art to pop out of their fingertips like magic onto a page; that they'll immediately produce wonderful, unique and sellable work.  


Most often, an artist begins their journey by being drawn to the work of others around them.  They've curated a community that they follow, wether it be on instagram, youtube, other students at school, etc. and that will be the work that most strongly influences their own.  We all begin by mimicking the work that we're most drawn to, but this creates a few problems down the road that we don't anticipate at this stage.


The first is that the work we're copying is the work of someone who has found their voice and practiced speaking in the voice for some time now.  Our mimicry will fall flat, looking like a sad amateur copy, resulting in disappointment and discouragement.  


The second is when we continue to pursue perfecting another persons voice, we only end up sounding or looking like them rather than coming into our own voice. 


So how do you do it? How do you find your own voice?  The first step is to start speaking. 


Again, most artists begin by mimicking the work they're drawn to, but so many of those newer artists continue the same copying procedure in their pursuit of their craft.  


Rather than continuing to copy (aka "being inspired by") someone else's work, view that work as a jumping off point for your own voice.  It's like learning to begin by singing along with other songs in the car, learning the melodies and lyrics, moving on to karaoke, learning a cappella, exploring your own sounds and understanding what note ranges work well for you.  


In order to develop the same unique voice with artwork, we have to go though a similar process. 

Design House Prep School | Creative Workshops.jpg


Produce work, produce shitty work, produce it again. 


Evaluate your work (evaluate is different that criticize).  Identify the details you like and dislike about what you produce and produce something focusing on the detail you liked from your previous work.  Evaluate and produce again.  And again, and again and again.  Continue this process for a month, creating and evaluating something every day.  At the end of the month, line up your pieces with a few from the beginning, a few from the middle and a few from the end and see how your style developed, evolved and became more distinctive to you and less of the copy you started with.  


Identify what makes your work unique.  Are you drawn to unusual color combinations?  Odd scale combinations?  Unique medium combinations?  As you evaluate your work, watch out for the things that stand out to you and continue to build on them and embrace them. 


It's those things that you identify as being unique that will become your voice.  Own them.  Be proud of them.  Have the courage to stand up for them.  


Being an artist is like being a dumpster diver - we're looking for things that others have discarded or dismissed.  We're always hunting for the shinny object poking out of the bottom of the trash heap that everyone else has missed.  We shift through the debris of every day life, culture, influence and we pay attention to the things everyone else is ignoring.  Find inspiration in those things, develop them, evolve and evaluate and then own the shit of it as you develop and evolve with it.


Now you have a voice.