my first [design] love

I remember it very vividly. And not like when you see photographs and then those photographs become your vivid memory of a moment in your personal history. I actually remember the moment when I first realized I wanted to be a graphic designer. 

It was middle school. 1994. I was 13. At the time we had a sweet little home computer in our play room. We had that cool and very cutting edge design app, you know the one, The Print Shop! My sister and I made the sweetest quarter fold greeting cards and awesome happy birthday banners on that paper that had the little tear-off holes on the sides. Then one day, it happened, we got cool... we got... America Online. You guys remember that melodic sign on song... the static, screeeech, ding ding ding. Well, after that and the "You've got mail!"... after choosing the screen name "Gel911" (I think I thought the word Gel just sounded sleek and cool... the 911... I have no idea)... after all that, you arrive at the main menu screen. The main menu screen that started it all. This exquisite example (see below) of the very beginnings of on-screen interactive visual design (credit: AOL's first in-house designer, Jeff Wright).

It was love at first sight... or, love at first site (haha! computer nerd humor). I loved those menu banners and how the imagery and typefaces stylistically communicated the section it was representing. I remember thinking how smart it was and oh how I loved clicking around into the different little worlds. I don't exactly remember what content was there... all I remember thinking is "Who made this?!" and "How do I make my own?!" I remember asking my dad, who also happens to be a graphic designer, how I could make my own version of America Online. I wanted to design my own community with banners that lead to my own little inspired worlds. At the time... there wasn't much out there for designing on your home computer... especially for a 13 year old. So I kept that twinkle in my soul and kept plugging away on my clip art greeting cards and birthday banners set in Unicorn, Regular

Throughout the next few years, 1995 into 1996, into my first couple years of high school, my dad remembered my interest in digital design (or maybe it was because I kept nagging him). He brought home programs like Adobe Photoshop 4.0 and CorelXara. He taught me very basic HTML using Notepad. With that vast knowledge, I made my first [very basic] web site... probably very reminiscent of this. I called it "Melissa's Supernova".

My "Supernova" eventually turned into what I renamed "SUGAR" -- which during my junior and senior year of high school ('98/'99) had lots of awesome articles I wrote about very important topics such as... bad drivers and "hotties of the month" like James Iha. I remember thinking the "logo" I created for SUGAR was super cool. I picked a typeface—something bold—and then clip-masked jelly beans behind it. I also used fontdiner sparkly (another fave of my early days) to create awesome purple and magenta hued visuals of my favorite "grrly-grrls". 

It took a number of years after that initial AOL main menu inspiration—but there I was—creating my own sweet visuals and stylish web banners... sharing my own inspired content to my own little community. I still had a lot to learn about the crazy world of graphic design... yes A LOT to learn... but that's the story! The story of how I fell in love... where my life as a graphic/visual/web/interactive designer started.

It's funny thinking back to that time... thinking back to when the glitter in my heart for all things design started flickering. Can you remember when you first realized you wanted to be a designer? What set your little designer heart ablaze? Comment below or hit me up with an email! I'd love to hear about it!!