October 21, 2019No Comments

R.I.P. Feels Design Studio



QUICK UPDATE: I was gonna write a whole thing, but I’ll keep it short.

October seems like a great month to mention a death, so here I go. I’ve finally decided to terminate my LLC and I will no longer be doing business simply as Feels Design Studio either. Feels Design Studio served its purpose at a time of need, and that time has simply passed (a while ago, actually). Since I’m no longer working as a full time studio/freelancing, it no longer seems necessary to keep up the appearance of one—albeit a super lax one that’s been terrible at self promo since day one.

Moving forward, since I’m back working in-house full time (and have been for over a year), I will no longer be hiding behind an LLC or a simple DBA. I’ll be updating everything back to a personal level, where I will continue to work on small projects with select clients on an independent level. With this refreshing change, I hope to develop more personal projects and allow myself to explore other areas of interest tangential to graphic design.

I know I don’t have much of an audience, but I do know some are out there. If you have any questions around design or freelancing you’d like me to answer here, I’d be happy to write a response. I need some motivation to write more consistently, which I’m hoping to do more of moving forward.

Thanks for your support and interest.

—Annie Szafranski 🙂


December 31, 2018No Comments

2018 Wrap-up

Highlights +


From my last visit to Torrance. So much In-N-Out. So much Extended Stay.


I figured since I wrote one of these last year, I should write one again—because as the world became more and more fucked up, it’s still fucked up things somehow happened to work out for me, and I just want to allow myself to embrace it a little bit. The work and personal growth related frustrations over the last 4 years (after getting fired at my last job) just seemed to fade out and fit into place. Last year especially, I just wanted to know what city I was going to live in that would allow me to become financially stable so I could pay off student loans and be less stressed overall without feeling like I already threw my career away (you try finding a good design job while living in San Diego when you no longer want to freelance full time), but I got more.

Highlights/Accomplishments for 2018:

  1. Helping wrap up Toyota brand guidelines at Saatchi & Saatchi as a freelancer and returning my leased Toyota for a VW.

  2. Trying to write a little bit.


  4. Getting a full-time design job in San Diego with an amazing national design team (Compass).

  5. 10 year anniversary w/the boyfriend <3.

  6. Seeing the final result of the zine I designed with/for Little Dame.

  7. Seeing my favorite designer speak!

  8. Visiting The Sea Ranch again and staying in Condominium 1.

  9. Moving Feels Design Studio to part-time: easing off freelance projects and removing myself from others.

  10. Attending my first community voter forum with friends and volunteer phone banking for the 50th district (Team Campa).

  11. Taking Improv level 2 class*.

  12. Taking a Calligraphy class (copperplate)*.

  13. Becoming an AIGA member, which I haven’t been since college.*

  14. Visiting Letterform Archive for the first time (finally) with co-workers and becoming a member*.

  15. Continuing to volunteer as a docent in the rare book room at the central library.

  16. Starting the mini Felt Books cover archive.

  17. Reading 40 books out of my original 35 book goal.

  18. Already becoming a better designer at my new job.

  19. Becoming financially stable and paying off half of my remaining student loan debt (2019 is THE year they’ll be gone).

  20. +More

* Paid for by Compass as an annual Tuition Reimbursement, selected by moi <3

I have a lot to be grateful for this year, it’s ridiculous. I’ve been slowly working towards it all along while San Diego beat me and tried to kick me out so many times it gave up and let me have it. But, it’s also because the right people found me and believed in me when others didn’t, and I fucking took it. I could go on, but I’ll save it for later and keep this concise.

Here are a few of my goals for next year because goals are good:

~Some 2019 goals:

  1. Pay off my remaining student loans.

  2. Celebrate by planning a trip out of the country (and saving for it).

  3. Take a copyediting course.

  4. Read and write more about design (and non-design) + build a recommended design reading list (I’ve already got my general list of books/essays to start with).

  5. Become a better designer/maybe get promoted to senior designer.

  6. Expand on Felt Books.

  7. Take on some freelance non-profit design work.

  8. Become more involved and less overwhelmed.

  9. Read and spend more time with the books on my bookshelves I have not read yet.

  10. +more

~Happy New Year~



July 29, 2018No Comments

Feels Design Studio Update

Full-Time Job / Part-Time Freelance


I’ve been dreading saying much of anything here because I put so much weight in words and am terrible at sharing most things because everything happens so fast when you don’t have time to write, but I suppose I should state that Feels Design Studio will be changing. After a somewhat tumultuous four years of learning the ins and outs of freelancing, and trying so hard, for whatever reasons I cannot shake, to stay in San Diego—I’ve been spending the last few months working full-time at my new in-house design position here in San Diego and changing Feels Design Studio to part-time.

Will you still take on projects?

Yes! Once I get fully acclimated to my new full-time design position, I will continue working as a part-time designer under Feels Design Studio, LLC, taking on shorter projects that require a less intensive process. All new projects moving forward will be done one at a time (aside from ongoing client work), to ensure that each project and client gets the proper amount of attention. I will also begin to be more selective about the work I take on in the future, making sure that visions and styles align to help form a better understanding and result.

Are you available to work on a new project now?

Unfortunately, no. I’m taking some time off from freelancing until I fully break into the rhythm of having a full-time job again and know how to better manage personal time as I slowly integrate freelance work back into it.

With these changes, what kind of projects will you be looking to take on?

For future projects, I’m looking to work with artists, designers, writers, and non-profits. I’ll be putting a giant pause on all new website work since I can no longer dedicate the proper time to it, but will still be working with digital and print projects.

Why are you doing this?

I always knew freelancing would be temporary. I wanted to use it as a forced learning experience incorporating areas outside of just design so I could no longer be complacent, while also learning to have more agency until I joined the right design team. It wasn't the most graceful, or loud, process, but I did what I sought out to do for the most part within this period.

Whats next?

After working regularly with Little Dame on small projects and updates, I’ll be starting a long overdue brand audit and refresh which will include updates to their website.

Also, I’ll be slowly migrating my portfolio to a new platform, where I’ll be updating it and moving work that’s no longer as relevant into an archive section and bring shorter-run projects and exercises forward eventually. I hope to use the space to display and encourage future short-run projects, along with visual experiments and design related writing, or, non-design related writing. 

I’m looking forward to taking everything I’ve learned and jump back into design again where can focus on being a better designer and pay more attention to the craft and its history without the stress of knowing where the next set of invoices were going to be sent to. 





January 15, 2018No Comments

New Year, New Studio Photo

Until I take a better one tomorrow


I poured myself a glass of whiskey and reorganized my bookcase last night after being away from it for weeks—it was heavenly, I’ve missed my books since I’ve been away. My desk situation is over on the right wall, where I’m still working without a monitor for now, and is very mundane in comparison. It was hard not to spend time looking over every book as I reshelved it, but I’m hoping to post more frequently here about some of my favorites—which is something I meant to do after entering the first annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, but didn’t.


January 8, 2018No Comments

2017 Wrap-up


I am one of those resolution types of people who does in fact look forward to a new year, but I think that most of us this time around want to see the majority of 2017 burn, hell, California already did. Through all the uncertainty that remains, I’ve been busy and happy, experiencing the rush of traveling and working while trying to manage everything on top of it so it doesn’t collapse again. I spent 2 weeks working on-site in Los Angeles, 1 week working on-site in San Francisco, and am currently about to start my 2nd of 3 weeks working back on-site again in Los Angeles before I briefly escape to the mountains to read, celebrate the birthday of a friend, and avoid the snow for a weekend until February comes. 

Since I’ve been so busy trying to set myself up again financially, which I am so thankful and appreciative of, I haven’t been able write any of the positives of this year down that helped me during the changing winds of the summer heat, so here are a few highlights: 


  1. Working w/Bluxom Salon, Native Poppy, Little Dame, Everlane, and Saatchi.

  2. Putting my RISO machines to use, but I’m hoping to sell one.

  3. Attending LA Art Book Fair again (+going to Printed Matter for the first time in Chelsea).

  4. Entering the first annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize and having an email exchange with one of my idols who told me my essay was a standout, and getting mentioned their blog post on the ABAA about the collection entries and becoming more focused on what I add and don’t add to my baby collection. It was nice to just be so welcomed and encouraged opposed to the design community, which I feel has been actively shutting me out or rejecting me consistently, not that I was ever IN the community anyway.

  5. Going to New York (2x) and going to all the places I love even though I was broke.

  6. Going to Vermont to celebrate my boyfriend’s 30th birthday and venturing to MASS Moca for the first time to experience James Turrell installations—feeling numb and at peace (something akin to when I saw Pharmakon live at Soda Bar, also a highlight, tbh).

  7. Driving up to Joshua Tree to see Slowdive at Pappy + Harriet’s.

  8. Starting Felt Books as a side project that I want to do so much more with when I have time again.

  9. Volunteering weekly in the Rare Book Room at the Central Library.

  10. Going through my Edith Wharton phase.

  11. A successful Q4 and a valuable lesson learned from Q2/Q3.

  12. Getting a response from The Wing the day I applied for a graphic design position and video interviewing with them the next day. It was a refreshing change from the lack of responses and rejection from studios in San Diego, though I, unfortunately, didn’t get hired because I’m not in New York—again. I probably should’ve never said I lived in San Diego and should’ve jumped on a plane the next day even though it was my first time freelancing on a new project in LA. I’m loyal and keep my commitments, which truly sucks in this case. I’ll probably regret this one for a long time, honestly.

The year has definitely had its ups and downs, but I’m excited to wrap up this month with the agency I’m freelancing for and see what this year will bring—whether it will be staying in San Diego, or moving elsewhere for a full-time job. My car lease expires on my 28th birthday (March 2nd), so I hope to have an idea soon on whether I should get another car asap, or be car-less in another city after moving back to San Diego at the end of 2014. Figuring out what’s next is my main goal for the beginning of 2018, along with bumping up my monthly payments to fully pay off my student loan asap in order to leave future, long-term, opportunities open.

I haven’t spent much time doing personal work this year, or designing much of anything outside of the day to day work (which I know needs to be better quality)—I haven’t been able to bring myself to do so. Instead, I’ve spent the time stressing about my future with serious headaches, anxiety, and insomnia as a result—which can only really be cured by baths, movies, reading, writing, and eventually sleep. This year, aside from possibly getting a job and paying off my student loans at a faster rate, I’d like to move past the frustrations, read and write more, stress less, produce quality work, and become more financially stable.


November 20, 2017No Comments

Freelancing: Fixing What Doesn’t Work


The months of September and October both passed by so quickly and I’m finally able see complete figures again as things calm down to their typical slow pace—the rate in which San Diego pulls one into in order resume its natural slowness, until things pick up again. After essentially being forced into an unwanted vacation by losing planned projects like they were all communicating with one another, I was able to jump on a plane with my boyfriend to New York for what was a work trip for him, and for me, an ideal opportunity to get out of the house, my head, and a city that had so few jobs in my field—but I knew that.



Since my expenses had been undercutting the little profit I had by a significant amount the past few months, I found it painful to even check my quickbooks app to acknowledge the outstanding damage and begin to devise a plan that would allow me to control it as successfully as I had in Q1 and Q2, with a proper balance of expenses and profits. I couldn’t face the reality until I had an upcoming project that would bring me income, to know I was fixing it. I walked along the edge of Chelsea by the Hudson River multiple times, where there were fewer shops to walk past and fewer people to maneuver around—thinking how obnoxious people are who say New Yorkers walk so fast (they don’t). I later laughed out loud as I turned the corner to make my way back into a more populated area and found myself surrounded by excessively dressed fashion ppl and photographers doing fashion week things, as I modeled the same clothes I’ve worn for years, styled with my beat up high tops and earbuds that blasted Soundtracks For The Blinda soft but hilarious reminder of my financial status, as I walked through various wafts of perfume that combined into one.



I later retained a level of optimism aside from just being in a rad city with my boyfriend and having ample time for schemes, as I finally got an interview with the CD at a well known NY based company I was genuinely interested in, and a potential resolve to my financial woes. I had to be persistent with them as it wasn’t the most organized process, but knowing I had the interview helped my confidence, confirming I wasn’t a pile of garbage like the few jobs I applied for in San Diego led me to believe with their lack of response—as shitty as that sounds (when you’re low, you’re low). Though they naturally went with a New York resident, the process helped me begin to come to terms with the reality of living back in my hometown that I’ve been trying hard to make work out of my own stubbornness to stay in San Diego within the limits of my own personality, career path, and inability to—for lack of a better term, sell myself as a designer, when I’d prefer to distract myself with anything but self promo.



A few days after the last-minute trip to NYC, I was met with an opportunity to work onsite for a global agency in LA for three weeks on a branding project for a client. Feeling bitter about San Diego and trying to be more flexible after being alone with my thoughts in NYC, I took it even though it was intimidating. It was a personal benchmark, as I left my last in-house position back in 2014 and have been working one-on-one with local clients scattered with occasional on-site SF visits ever since, and was unsure how I’d take working in an agency setting due to its unfamiliarity. Perhaps it was the change of environment removed from the context of silicon valley, my increase in age, or knowing what my financial blow felt like, constantly berated by my own thoughts, but it was enjoyable to work in an office again, knowing I was being paid well for my services—temporarily free from financial concerns. I was staying at the Travelodge the first week, but I wanted the highest profit margin I could get to help the financial recovery process, and was distracted by the glowing opportunity, as different as it was.



I mentioned previously a shift in the way I operate—being open and flexible freelancing on-site for companies and agencies seem to be where it’s at for me currently. Not just one either, as that leads to trouble in terms of what you assume to be projected income. I’ve heard freelancers talk about this in the past, doing some agency work so they can continue working on their own projects, or working with smaller clients, and I get it. I’m on a smaller scale without an audience, but I get it. Yes, this is inching closer to a in-house position without the benefits and and added level of stress—that’s correct, baby steps. I’m learning that working with companies and agencies is basically a necessity to survive as a freelancer—at least for me, and for others who also find working with only small clients exhausting and nearly impractical when comparing time and energy output on the quest of a stable income.

The agency found me via WorkingNotWorking, which is the only luck I’ve had with the site so far since the majority of the jobs are in NYC, which is again, frustrating, but I’m remaining flexible and hopeful as things continue to change.



Obvious things I’ve found to be helpful:

1. Escaping the stress by getting out of the house and walking to help work out thoughts, as well as taking a break and spending time with loved ones. Baths with ambient music are also a great thing.
2. Artful distractions filled with film and/or fiction when productivity just isn’t happening, then making time for these regularly. 
3. No longer being 100% focused on what future needs to look like when it clearly isn’t working out as planned—knowing when to edit and how.
4. Being flexible and making room for improvisations and opportunities that help get back to a consistent income, it might lead to a better path than said plan.
5. Redesigning a routine to help keep focus amongst the chaos to prevent dark moods and inactivity.
6. Keeping the portfolio and resume updated in order to keep trying (but don’t spend too much time on one job if it isn’t working).


November 11, 2017No Comments

Freelancing: A Great Idea

Until we fail. It’s fine.


I spent the summer silently watching the world destroy itself and the lives of others in a series of natural and political disasters that today still seem unending. It was shameful mostly, but during a financially debilitating summer losing over half of my income streams at once (two of which I became an LLC for), it was hard to even keep up with the rate in which tragedies occur. I found myself unable to process what to do when I had little money to give since so little was coming in, while the majority of time was spent looking for jobs and writing proposals whenever I didn’t bury my problems in the bed sheets of different cities. 

These are the times in which freelancing feels like one of the more stupid ideas a person could have, or one of the most privileged. There are tests along the way that take shape and help define which class one falls into: a car accident, a chipped tooth, a potential root canal, a pregnancy scare, a UTI, a simple donation, a trump presidency, etc. all within a short period of time without even getting to the idea of saving money again, or being a better citizen. I’ve quickly journaled about the rollercoaster, but was unable to bring myself do so when planned client projects dropped one after the other for traditional reasons I could foresee, but at rates and quantities in which I couldn’t. These hits were pushed in further by occasional rejections from companies, if they were generous enough to reply, leaving the only reasonable reaction to laugh-cry for a minute or however long it fucking took to brush it off again. I waited until I could put my finger on something and keep it there for an extended period of time to know it wasn’t declining, and did in fact have some source of financial respite before I could process and turn those experiences into words and actions that would mark a shift in the way I operate. Those actions would essentially alter the kind of projects I take on and how to even get them, the rates I charge, the clients I work with, and the work I produce while getting back to a consistent income. 


 Little Women | The Laugh-Cry

 Little Women | The Laugh-Cry


the laugh-cry


This is by no means a white flag, just a series of events that requires a learning period and a new level of fear, angst, flexibility, and hunger as a result that I don't want to forget. Graphic design is very much a job to me, which is an important perspective to keep, and a job I do still love when it lets me in and pays me properly. The only option is to adjust and push through, as I continue working with the clients I do have (+creating room for more), making the most of challenges that come my way, and taking what I’m able to grasp on to that’s of interest, relevant, and ethically sound. It’s no easy feat working for oneself trying to stay focused on making a living and producing quality work, especially when there are so many forces against us, but I’m hoping to do so quickly.

It’s embarrassing, but I might write occasionally about the process of building back up to a consistent income again, assuming I will get there. The words may suck and the journey won’t be the smoothest, but I’m trying to be honest with myself and about the realities of freelancing—this will help hold me to it, if I don’t delete this.