Brittany Melton On The Work and Play Of Freelance Graphic And Web Design
I don’t remember the details of when I first discovered her, but I can tell you I for sure never forgot her! I mean, I’m sure you’d remember a Black woman who wore a fantastic smile and Pikachu hat if you came across her in your Twitter feed!
Brittany Melton, the talented graphic and web designer of xobritdear.com, is a bold statement online. But the best part about her colorful presence is that it’s all just her being herself. Being herself consists of rocking her quirky side while still being professional and consistently delivering her services!
Like… UGH! #Goals
I find this interesting because I’m used to seeing people in tech stay pretty streamlined with either a clean-cut look, or super “geeky” by showing off all they can do tech-wise in their portfolio.
This isn’t the first time Brittany’s been featured on Quirktastic, she’s given us insight on some fun facts about her in a past Quirky Tech Talk.
But despite always enjoying the Twitter interactions I’ve had with Brittany, I have secretly wanted to know even more about her! So I had the honor of interviewing her via email (she’s a busy woman!) on all things tech, encouragement, and what she’s nerding over.
Despite being an email interview her personality shines through her replies, naturally!
Q: What does it mean to be a graphic and web designer in general, and what does it mean to you (what's your WHY?)?
Brittany: Being a graphic and web designer means I have the honor, and privilege, of manifesting the visual depictions of dreams and passions. I get to be the one that makes the dream a visual reality.
Q: You stay true to yourself as a young adult person of color who loves cartoons, bright and colorful patterns… how did you get to this level of confidence to just “do you”?
Brittany: To be honest, doing all the trendy stuff felt so boring. And it was difficult to be one way at work and a different way during raid time lol. One of the beauties of being my own boss means I should define how people perceive me, and I want them to see me as I am at all times. It's nice. I can use Pikachu and Sailor Moon gifs in emails and people expect it.
Q: Speaking of staying true to yourself, how did you get into freelancing?
Brittany: I started freelancing because the money struggle is real. I've moved many times over the last 10 years. Freelancing was the only way to stay employed in some capacity. I wish I could say I've always wanted to do this. But the reality is I had no idea what freelancing even was until I needed to dust off some skills for clients.
Q: Where do you think your interest in graphic and web design come from?
Brittany: I'm a gamer and artist at heart. So my love for digital art stems from the desire to be both of those. Graphic design and web design are the happy middle ground between full-time gamer and full-time artist. I received the technical training I needed from college and high school, so already having those technical skills allows my brain to focus on the art and visual side of design more often.
Q: Pretty recently, I saw you wiped your blog slate clean and adorned it with words of encouragement and affirmations instead, I love the shift! It seems your love notes are starting to address freelancers’ mental troubles, why specifically people going into business for themselves rather than another demographic?
Brittany: I've been blogging for a minute, and I have yet to see anyone talk about the reality of freelancing in the digital age. Social media allows you to craft a perfect image when in reality you're dying inside. I decided to wipe my blog and restart in an effort to "normalize the struggle." It's okay to be yourself. It's okay to struggle. It's actually extremely normal. So my new blog focus is an attempt to be the change.
And honestly, it's something I wish somebody shared with me when I first started. I think I would've been more comfortable being myself in the business world had the realities of freelancing been explained to me years ago.
Q: What’s the first step you feel someone curious about a career in tech needs to take?
Brittany: It's so cliché but start a blog. I learned so many tech skills from running WordPress and managing the backend of my server. When you commit to blogging on a regular schedule you force yourself to learn something new regularly. You can't let your readers down, after all.
Q: For people who feel intimidated by tech career paths, do you have any words of encouragement? Any hard truths?
Brittany: It's extremely hard to break in without experience, and honestly, taking one programming class won't change that. But thanks to social media and the speed of the Internet, you can gain the experience you need if you're willing to invest in the time.
Want to build video games? Do it! And blog about the journey. Want to be a web developer? Build some sample sites! Want to be a UX designer? Study the code of a popular open source platform and contribute to the project.
Q: I feel like going into business for yourself always involves testing the waters for what you truly wanna do. What all did you try doing before you landed on freelancing graphic and web design?
Brittany: I'm probably not the best one to ask lol. I've been designing websites and graphics since high school as a way to learn to program and digitally draw. But, what I would say is building an audience around your strengths takes forever.
I've spent 10 years working in the design world corporately, for small businesses, and for creatives before I found a space I enjoyed fitting into. I've learned that what you're good at doesn't manifest itself until you've applied one skill to a few different areas and niches.
Q: What’s one big piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to start a freelance business?
Brittany: Don't quit your day job. And be willing to give your business at least 2 years of effort. Usually, after 3 months you can tell if you can do a thing for 2 years. The time commitment is the biggest piece most people fail to figure out.
Q: Who were you as a child? Gimme 3 adjectives to describe what type of child you were!
Brittany: Artsy, sci-fi, colorful.
Q: Do you think your childhood had a big influence on where you ended up today?
Brittany: Yes! I developed my love for gaming and cartoons in middle school. For a while, no one understood why I always drew dragons and elves LOL. But I made one friend in high school that gave me the confidence that I could be the cool kid and the geek. And that it was normal.
Q: Did you go the typical schooling path (high school, college, job)? What disrupted this traditional life path for you?
Brittany: Yes. I graduated high school valedictorian. Got a full ride to be a computer scientist and software engineer. Landed a co-op with a major company. I was that kid tbh.
But, I hated desk jobs and busy work LOL. I cannot do it. Like please leave me alone to draw if you have no more work for me. After realizing this in about 2010 I slowly inched closer and closer into freelancing full-time. It wasn't until I lost my last job that I decided to commit to full-time. That was in 2014.
Q: How difficult was the leap into freelancing?
Brittany: The leap itself was determined for me. So not hard lol. Finding work was infinitely harder.
Q: I need to know… What’s your favorite anime? Favorite cartoon?
Brittany: Foster's home for imaginary friends is hands down my favorite cartoon. Regular Show might be a close second. Sailor Moon or Fullmetal Alchemist are my favorite anime. Both anime have reboots that have been just as good as the original. And who doesn't like hugging the pillow crying while watching Fullmetal Alchemist?
However, I have to say that anything by Miyazaki wins as my favorite animated anything. Miyazaki is my art hero. #thugtears
Q: I’m a huge advocate for unapologetically being yourself (especially unconventionally). Do you feel you are a representation for unconventional Black women? Or are you just doing you and chugging forward?
Brittany: That second thing lol. All black women are deemed as unconventional by society.
Q: What are your favorite types of design projects to work on?
Brittany: I love working on the first rebrands of artists and creatives. That first website and brand is experimental and random. It's usually the first rebrand where an artist truly knows who they are and need a design that directly reflects them.
Q: When people are confronted about not having conventional interests or career paths they work toward, what words of encouragement would you have for them? How would you respond to naysayers who don’t agree with how you decide to (unconventionally and non-destructively) live your life?
Brittany: Don't let others' fear and personal insecurities derail you from your goals. It can be so easy to consume the advice of those closest to you as wisdom when many times it's really given out of fear or insecurity.
Q: Ending this on a fun note… as a busy self-employed boss, what would your dream vacation consist of? Give me all the deets!
Brittany: I love being at the beach after the tourist season ends. The sand doesn't have to be white, nor does the water have to be clear (yes, I am that Southern girl from the Gulf LOLOLOL). But, there's something about spending all day with a sketchbook watching nature do its thing.
Q: Now, what's the best ways to reach you for your work? And where can we find your epic #DesignSaturday newsletter?
Brittany’s interview was filled with wisdom and fun, which I had zero doubts it would've been anything but! I really hope you take some time out of your day to look into Brittany’s content further!