SarahGeorge Durham, a Wix Ambassador, is a single mom of five from Atlanta, Georgia. She’s an entrepreneur, and one of the faces behind three4, a web design agency. But these definitions are just some of her “design elements” as she calls them. “From the second you are born, you are given design elements as if from a template – your name, your parents and family. Being a woman also has presets and layouts and design elements that come from things like culture and religion.”
Life, according to Durham, is just like building a website. We are all born with a design we didn’t necessarily choose but as life goes by, we all get the opportunity to change our design. High on Design, Wix’s blog for professional creatives spoke to her about adapting the design template you were born with, and why we sometimes need to delete it entirely, to start from scratch.
High on Design: What made you interested in tech and design?
SarahGeorge Durham: When I was young, I worked for my mom doing real cut and paste with an Exacto knife, a light table and a glue stick. I learned to use Corel Draw and later, Photoshop. I would create custom holiday cards using Photoshop and my own original artwork to send to my family. Also, we had a woodshop in our backyard. I was taught to use a jigsaw, a lathe and other tools for woodworking. I would build little boxes or cut out crazy patterns or drawings and paint them. I loved to take small electronics apart and see how they worked or repair them. I loved video games. I loved Sci-Fi. I think I just always loved to build, dream and create things from my imagination.
HoD: Does being a woman influence the way you design?
SD: Yes. I think women and men are equal, but we are different, which makes us see things differently. Even within that, each one of us is unique so our human design shapes our design style. But I think very often, women think about detailed solutions. I am not a frilly or fancy woman, I am very low key and my designs often reflect this. But I am always concerned But I am always concerned about whether the site provides a real tool for my client. Does it help them build their business or does it lessen their workload because it is performing for them?
DREAM AND CREATE
As a biracial female growing up in the American south in the ’90s, Durham has faced adversity throughout her life, and has always refused to accept it. She was a waitress, a saleswoman, a receptionist and even a boxing champion. Every title she acquired in life was a result of her curiosity, determination and her way of pushing the limits a little further. “I have experience in several industries from growing up with parents who were business owners, and also building a basketball academy with my ex-husband. Every time something cost more than what we were willing to spend, it meant that I had to learn a new skill in order to get it done. ‘No’ is seldom an answer. So I have learned food prep, roof repair, bathroom tiling, inventory management, grant writing, facility maintenance, government contracting and other skills.
HoD: What interests you within the field of design?
SD: As a designer, the niche I’m interested in is how do we reinsert a personal touch in an online world. How do we create a web design that feels personal.
HoD: What’s your typical creative process?
SD: Often, I dream solutions up when I sleep. My creative process begins with me jotting or typing my ideas. Sometimes I sketch an outline of what I want, but not usually. I start my workday looking at my calendar so I make sure I know what my day looks like. This is important because it is easy for me to get lost in an idea or design and not realise how much time is passing because everyday is different! I tend to work best in the late hours of the night or the early hours of the morning. So my work day often only begins at noon. But if I hit a snag or a rut I have to take a break or even a quick nap so I can restart my brain.
HoD: How do you keep yourself inspired?
SD: I look at sites all the time – sites like siteInspire or Awwwards. I also love seeing the sites that other members of the Wix Design Expert group have built. I like to look at other non-digital elements in life for inspiration. My kids inspire me. They see things is such direct views. I visit StockLayouts for ‘Quick, I need to get this done and I’m stuck in a rut!’ and AnswerThePublic for content ideas and Material Design – there is so much here, but I most frequently use their colour palette and the tools under the ‘style’ tab.
MAKE YOUR OWN SOLUTIONS
The way Durham talks about her life and work, you can’t help but admire how fearless she seems to be, but fear as it turns out is not a feeling she tries to beat – but rather, embrace. “I’m afraid, it’s just that my response to fear is that I try to kick in the door,” she says. That motivation is what drove her to change her career, win a national amateur boxing title and push life’s limits further and further.
HoD: According to your idea, that life is like a website, what are the design elements in your own design that you chose to keep and what did you decide to change or add?
SD: I was always raised with the freedom to be me and ask questions. I kept that. I expanded on that. I also kept strength and independence and curiosity. I feel like I will forever be competitive in some way – even if it’s not in sports. I added an open mind. I added the willingness to wake up every day with a fresh start and a short-term memory for anything negative unless of course, it was a lesson to remember so I don’t repeat the same failure.
HoD: What’s the best advice you can give to people that are trying to overcome adversity while pursuing their goals?
SD: Don’t give up. Make your own solutions if you don’t like your options. Ask for help. Accept help when it is offered. Don’t be helpless. Don’t be afraid of change.
This article was first published on High on Design, Wix’s blog for professional creatives.