October 16th 2020
The #Hi_IMadeIt series features the work and stories of creatives from all over the world as we dig into what it really takes to make something and bring it to life on the internet. Submit your own on Instagram—share your design or code project, tag us @hisuperhi and include the hashtag #Hi_IMadeIt for a chance to be featured. Today, we chat to designer Meg Lewis on how she's built a company based entirely on her personality.
Hi, I’m Meg (@yourbuddymeg) and I’m a designer by trade, but I do so much more than that. I mix performance and comedy and education. Basically, I just work to make the world a happier place and I make custom content and experiences that help people shine and brands make a connection with their community.
I think those projects are the most fun to talk about because they truly are initiatives, projects and businesses that I’ve started that I don’t think anybody else could do besides me.
It’s really fun to talk about that because I’m a huge fan of trying to determine with other people, what everybody can create for the world, that nobody else can.
Sit There and Do Nothing is a comedy mindfulness podcast that I started earlier this year. It takes a lot of the traditional means of meditation and mindfulness content and uses those in a very helpful and useful way. But there’s also a comedy layer on top of it to where I had this epiphany when I realized the point of meditation and mindfulness is to get you feeling better than before you started.
I’m a huge fan of meditation.
And I realized over time, why can’t meditation and mindfulness be funny? If the goal is to make you feel calm and relaxed and feeling like goo, is there a reason why we can’t laugh along the way and make it a little bit less serious and more informal?
I think the answer is yes.
So I’ve been very called to creating this product and this experience where you are still getting the value of this meditation process and the mindfulness exercises, but it’s a little lighthearted and a little bit nonsensical along the way.
And it’s been really nice too, as a designer, to inject design throughout that and to make it this beautifully designed podcast series where I get to create all the episode artwork, I get to make the podcast cover art itself. There’s a lot of design that goes along with each episode.
So it’s been really wonderful because I think it truly is something that I can offer the world that other people can’t, because there are a lot of people out there that could make a mindfulness and meditation podcast, but nobody with my design skillset and my comedy skillset as well.
I think the nice thing about it is most people think that it’s something that they didn’t know that they needed until they hear it. It’s so specific. And a lot of everything I do is very specific to my kind of humor and I’m doing it that way on purpose.
Comedy and mindfulness is something that I think people enjoy once they’re doing it, but nobody is really seeking out.
That’s been a marketing challenge in itself of trying to get people to actually listen to it for the first time. But once they do, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, that was a pleasant surprise.”
No. This is how I am. I know this about myself and humans in general.
What we do, especially when we’re starting a new business or a project, is we think about the big picture, the longterm, what we want it to become someday. And I know that humans do this, I do this too, where you get thinking about the to-do list and it gets longer and longer and longer as you think, bigger and bigger about it.
And then eventually you just feel like you can’t move and can’t do anything and can’t make any decisions because how are you supposed to turn it into this big thing just in the first step?
So I do this thing where I just throw myself into it and I just get it up in whatever form I can possibly make at that time and then I allow it to grow and evolve naturally from there.
Because I too learned that, especially through this experience too, the assumptions I have about what people will like is never accurate. So I have to launch something and just see what happens and then grow and change and evolve it as I learn more about what people are enjoying and what they like.
It was two weeks from the initial idea to when I had the first two episodes out. And just being able to move that quickly was really helpful for me because I still had the momentum and the energy.
Yes, definitely. Because I’m a huge fan of meditation in general, and I like just slowing down and taking time to practice exercises that give love to yourself or other people, I was very inspired by that process and that sort of framework.
I wanted to make sure that I was translating that framework. So I listened to Headspace a lot, especially their sleep stories I love because it’s like bedtime stories for adults. It’s great. And so I listen to that stuff a lot. I really was a fan of the general structure and framework there where you’re starting with deep breaths to just get yourself kind of settled in and grounded, and then you go into this meditation process.
That was my main inspiration as far as the structure goes.
As far as my influences and inspiration throughout everything else I do, and bringing that personality into my work, I like to tap into the influences I’ve had since I was a kid that are still important to me today.
So the things that I loved and was really excited about and very inspired by when I was very little that has remained in my life up until now, I try to always figure out what those things are and tap into those things whenever I’m making something. Otherwise, if we get inspiration from the traditional places, it’s always based on trending information. So if I go to Pinterest for example, and I’m like, I want to figure out what cover art to make for this podcast. Well, then you go to Pinterest and just kind of scroll around for a while until you’re inspired. I think that’s how we ended up making work that looks the same because we’re ingesting the same “inspiring” information.
What I like to do is to think back longer into the past and think about what I’ve always been inspired by that is still true today, because it’s more likely to remain true to me as my life goes on rather than fluctuate and change as trends change.
For me, those points of inspiration are usually a lot of comedy actors that do characters. So I am a huge Mr. Bean fan. Mr. Bean is an influence. Peewee Herman is an influence. Lucille Ball is an influence. I’ve always loved circus arts and miming and clowns and people that are extremely expressive with our actions, which is what we get with Mr. Bean. We get that with Lucille Ball a lot and Peewee Herman.
So I try to whittle it down to figure out what are those things that have been so inspiring to me about those people? And usually, it’s showcasing expression through words or through body language. It’s a lot of that color palette too, that I bring into my work a lot that’s very circus inspired. So you get primary colors, plus green and pink and purple. I tried my hardest to bring in those points of inspiration rather than just looking at trends because I think that way it’ll last a little bit longer.
I’ve had to learn a lot of new things when doing this podcast because I’m not an entrepreneur in the fact that I have like all of this money to put into things. I’m not investor-backed so I can’t just throw money at people to help me make something. So with this podcast in particular, I had to figure out how to record the podcast, edit the podcast, publish and distribute the podcast. I had to learn a lot of new things, but I found out that I really enjoy all of those things. So that’s fun.
The hardest part for me is creating, constantly churning out new episodes regularly. I try to launch them at least every other week, if not every week. And keeping up with that production schedule, on top of all of the work that I do in other areas, is really a challenge because it requires so much creative brainpower to write each of these episodes and then to record them, and then make all the episode art and the marketing artwork for it.
That part, the creative process leading up to the episode itself is really the challenging part because it requires so much energy and effort. And to try and carve out time throughout my week to do that is a challenge because this podcast is something I do that doesn’t make me any money. So a lot of times I feel like I shouldn’t prioritize it, but I really want to.
I’ve been freelancing for long enough where I’m able to allow my brain to work this way. And I realize that most people cannot afford to do this, but I have learned to just wait for my brain to feel ready to do something and then I jump on it immediately.
That works really nicely for me because it helps me to always make my best work. But on a given day, I usually have a list of to do’s that I need to do that day. And I don’t put them in any particular order because I listen to my brain and I say, “Hey brain, which of these things do you feel like doing right now?” And maybe it’s bookkeeping for some reason. So I’ll do that for a while. Maybe it’s not designing. And then another time, maybe my brain is feeling really creative. So I’m like, “Oh, I was in the middle of bookkeeping, but let me stop that and start designing something instead.
When it comes to making these new episodes for the podcast, I usually try to keep my mind constantly open to being inspired about a new episode. So I’ll listen to myself about what I want right now. If I was listening to a meditation, what would I actually want somebody to do for me right now and to say to me right now?
Sometimes I look at pop culture and I think like, “Oh, here’s this really interesting article that’s going viral. Maybe I could read this in a soothing voice on the podcast.” That kind of thing. And so I’m constantly just opening my brain to receiving that information. And sometimes my brain just has an idea so then I have to drop what I was previously working on and start working on that idea instead.
So it’s very, I guess, feelings-based and intuition-based at the beginning of my process.
For this podcast in particular, usually there’s a fair amount of script writing at the beginning. I try to make sure that the majority of my stuff that I’m recording for this podcast is improvised because I generally have weirder ideas and I say stranger and probably funnier things whenever I’m improvising and not thinking about it too much.
Because some of them are fully guided meditations where there’s a storyline, for example, where you’re buying shoes. So you wake up in the morning and then you go on this journey to get the shoes and then you get the shoes. But when does the episode end? I have to figure out the general structure so that I don’t just end up talking soothingly for three hours going in circles with the plotline.
Within that general structure, I let myself say whatever I want to say. It helps me because sometimes I find if I say whatever I want to say it gets so weird that I start making myself laugh. But if I laugh during the episode, then it becomes distracting for the meditation. So that’s a challenge if I have to constantly just kind of stay pretty flat with my delivery, even though I’m saying really strange things. I have to make sure I’m speaking soothingly and not cracking up.
I definitely know if there was somebody else on the podcast with me or in the room with me when I record, I’d be laughing the whole time. I think it helps that I’m completely alone every time I do these, because it helps me to not start just dying laughing.
I’ve learned that you need a decent microphone. And if you have just a pretty standard decent microphone, then make sure that your editing capabilities are pretty good. I decided to go the opposite way. I got a really nice microphone because I knew that my editing skills were very sloppy. I use the Electro-Voice RE20.
This is a little embarrassing, but I just use GarageBand to edit all my episodes. Which I think is great because if you have an Apple computer, you have GarageBand, so it’s not like this extra thing that you have to buy. It does the bare minimum of what I need it to do. I paid a friend to give me a tutorial on how to edit a podcast using GarageBand, which was very helpful.
So I learned how to slice clips and put them together and then make my voice sound a little bit more… I don’t even know the terminology because I don’t know what I’m doing. But I smooth out my voice so it sounds a more relaxing wavelength.
I have a more even-toned, soothing voice and there’s meditative music laid on top. It’s a little less jarring to your ears.
I design for every episode using, it depends, but probably Illustrator and Procreate, which is what I normally use for everything. And it’s an easy process.
I also use a product called Simplecast, which hosts my podcast and then it distributes it onto all the podcasting platforms. That makes my job easier because otherwise I don’t know what’s going on. I wouldn’t know how to do that on my own without Simplecast. So it’s relatively low overhead and there’s not much involved. I had to buy the microphone, but I think compared to most businesses and new projects, that’s pretty low priced compared to what most things are.
I’m a person that starts new businesses a lot. I can’t stop. I have a lot of ideas and I just feel very called to make them happen.
How it all started was earlier this year, I was having this discussion with somebody about doing a workshop with them, in partnership with them, where I would be teaching some of the things I normally teach, which is about designing your own career in life to become unique to yourself. And alongside my teaching, they were going to be doing some guided meditations.
I panicked at the beginning when they were pitching me this idea because I thought they were asking me to lead guided meditations. And my response was, “Wait a minute, you don’t want me to lead the guided meditations, do you? I don’t even know what I’d say. I would probably laugh a lot. It would be very silly.”
And they were like, “Oh no, no, no. We’ll do that part. Don’t worry.” So I felt a sense of relief, but then a few days later I thought to myself, “Wait a minute, why can’t you be a little bit goofy and nonsensical during a meditation? What’s keeping people, everybody, from doing this?” I had that sort of realization of, Oh my gosh, I have this idea. I have this thing that I could make right now that clearly people need and want at this time in their lives and this time in the world.
So I’m just always waiting for that moment to hit me where it’s like, “Ah, I have something I could make and people want it right now. I need to make it right now.”
As this year has unfolded, people definitely need when I’m making. So I’m going to continue to make it.
-As told to Mirna Wong, September 2020. Transcribed and edited for clarity.
Mirna is a Queens, NYC native living, oop north, in England, working on helping our community be the best it can be. In her spare time, she's part of the CrossFit cult ("how do you know if someone does CrossFit...?") and looks after a baby boy and Frankie the Beagle. See if you can spot her in a video inspired by Ridley Scott/H.R. Giger's "Alien" movie!
October 16th 2020
We chat to graphic designer Adam Ho on designing Abstract, a design version control tool
We chat to SuperHi's designer and art director André Cândido on his creative process as he worked through SuperHi's brand refresh.
We chat to information designer Giorgia Lupi on how she manages her creative process, making Happy Data, and the book she's writing next.