Celebrating your own achievements is so important. You have to recognise your own progress and acknowledge how far you’ve come. Not only is it nice to give yourself a little pat on the back, it’s essential to keep you growing and striving forward for the right reasons. Mini-celebrations are sometimes just as important as the big ones because every big project is made up of little steps and each one of those is a milestone and a learning opportunity in its own right.

You can’t just celebrate your own achievements. You need to recognise those of the people you love. For me, one of the best ways to see if someone truly cares about you is if they’re there for you when you’re winning as well as when you’re losing. It can be a lot harder to put your own problems to one side and celebrate someone else, especially if you feel they’ve done something you want to achieve. But if you love someone, that love should be the bigger feeling and you should share in their joy and help them remember how important it is to acknowledge their achievements too. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you too.

Here are some of the best ways I’ve found to celebrate my wins and those of the people I value most…

A NIGHT OFF

Taking a night off, to do whatever you want (for me that means Netflix and a bar of Ritter Sport) is such a great, and simple, way to celebrate a small success. So many studies have shown that the thing that makes us feel happiest is having free time to spend doing something we love, so give yourself the luxury of some breathing space. I feel like a night off is also particularly great if you’ve been working on a project or spending a bit extra time to get something right.

TREAT YO SELF

I wrote a whole post about the importance of treating yo self, but I had to put it in this list. Everything here is essentially a variation on treat yo self, but I’m thinking specifically here of the Tom Haverford style of buy yourself something nice. If there’s been something you’ve been waiting to get or wanting for a while, use a small victory as an excuse to get it. Not only is it nice to get something nice, when you buy something as a bit of a self-reward the item itself gets caught up in the victory and will act as a reminder of your achievement in the future.

WRITE IT DOWN

If you don’t want to buy something but you still want to make sure you remember the little things, write it down. Again, so many studies have shown that writing things down makes them stick in your memory so much more. So, take the time to jot them down in a diary or journal or even write a letter to your future self.

The Story Behind: My Greeting Card Designs

SEND SOMETHING SPECIAL

Writing it down doesn’t just work for your own wins, if you want to celebrate a friend there is nothing better than sending a hand-written note, or even a little care package filled with victorious goodies. If you’re looking for a card to put your thoughts in and to express your joy there are two in my shop that I designed just for this kind of situation: my YAY card is great for all celebrations and is one of my bestsellers, and my Number 1 Fan card is perfect to tell someone you’re their, well, number 1 fan. Making that bit of extra effort to celebrate someone else’s success is one of the best ways to show that you care.

MINI PARTY

Or, there’s always the option of going all out and throwing yourself or your friend a mini party to celebrate. That doesn’t have to mean canapes and a band (unless you want it to), it can just be having a pizza night or going out to the cinema together. You can do whatever you want as long as you’re celebrating in style.

BREAK WITH ROUTINE

If you don’t want to do anything big, just break with routine. Have a special dinner. Take a more scenic route to work. Have a morning shower instead of an evening one. Call your mum a day early. Just do something to mark it as something a bit special. If you’re celebrating a loved one, take on a task they would normally do. Do they normally cook you dinner? Put the oven on. Do they always organise group gatherings? Take the reins. Acknowledge all they do for you, and all they’re doing for themselves at the same time.

This blog is about design of all kinds. It’s about illustration and graphics, as well as designing your life to be something that works for you. And an area of my life I’ve been working to design over the last little while is fragrance. Seems strange? Well, let me get scientific for a moment.

Dr. Rachel Herz at Brown University in 2004 found that a group of five women showed more brain activity when smelling a perfume with which they associated a positive memory than when smelling a control perfume they had never before smelled. The brain activity associated with the memorable perfume was also greater than that produced by the visual cue of seeing the bottle of perfume.”

– Sabrina Stierwalt, The Scientific American

Anecdotally, I whole heartedly agree. Certain perfumes take me back to very specific moments in my life, whether those scents were mine or someone around me. Estee Lauder Pleasures can’t help but make me feel like I’m 8 again following my mum around, and Elie Saab Le Parfum brings back terrifying memories of being 18 and on a gap year that I didn’t want.

As soon as I discovered that link between scent and memory, I’ve been trying to design scents around my life to make my memories more tangible. I’ve picked up new fragrances every time I’ve had a major change in my life, or at least when I’ve needed one.

So, I thought I’d share a few of the scents that I’ve used to define the past few years and some of the design that went into them, because so much of what makes a fragrance what it is the design that goes into turning it from a scent into a luxury.

Estee Lauder – Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia

This is my “signature fragrance” if I can be pretentious enough house a phrase like that. It’s the first fragrance that made me feel grown up. It was the scent that I wore on my first trip to America to visit some of the best friends I have ever, and will ever have. It was the fragrance that I wore when I started going out with my boyfriend. It’s what I wore when I graduated. It holds so many memories, it set the scene for me to define myself as a grown up. I changed an incredible amount through my time at university and my time wearing this perfume. It smells heavenly and the hammered gold cap on the bottle is supposedly inspired by jewellery given to Aerin Lauder by her grandmother, Estée Lauder, which makes it feel precious and that little bit grown up.

Jo Malone – Nectarine Blossom and Honey

This was my moving to London perfume. Peaches are my favourite summer fruit and this perfume gives me those summer feelings, it’s bright and fruity and sparkly. It’s a scent that smells like happiness and fresh starts and it helped lift my spirits in what was quite a tumultuous time.

Diptyque – O’Fresia

I bought this one when I needed to start over, at the beginning of this year. I wanted to feel like someone new when I stepped out of the door, so I moved from fruity to floral and it did the trick. This I think will be the scent that brings me back to my grad scheme. I, like pretty much every blogger in the world, love Diptyque’s packaging. Their typography and illustrated bottles feel really special, and really make you feel like you’re treating yourself when you wear it.

Diptyque – Do Son

This one is a more grown up (warmer, softer, a little more skin-like) version of the Estee Lauder. I got it in a roller ball to take on holiday and in my bag with me for special occasions. It makes me feel dressy because I mainly wear it for evenings out and like I’ve been out in the sun all day without all of the sun tiredness because of all of its holiday wear. It’s the perfect pocket pick me up.

Clean Reserve – Warm Cotton

My current daily fragrance is Clean Reserve’s Warm Cotton. It smells exactly like you would expect, like fresh sheets. I wanted something simpler for everyday and Warm Cotton the bill perfectly. It also puts me in a really productive and accomplished mindset, because I always feel on top of my life (rightly or wrongly) once I’ve done my laundry. When it comes to bottle design, I love Clean’s dedication to eco-friendly packaging, especially as I’m trying to be more conscious in my consumption and reduce the waste that I put into the world. So, it’s a fragrance that not only smells lovely but fits into the life I want to design for myself.

Is there a fragrance that takes you back to a specific time or place?

In the spirit of revisiting and updating posts from last year, I wanted to come back to my list of great apps for designers. As it’s been a whole year since I did my last list the apps I’m using have changed and updated, so I thought my list should be too.

FYI these are all phone apps (Android and Apple), mainly because I don’t have an iPad. They’re all also free, or were when I got them, because I’m cheap.

PANTONE STUDIO

This is the ultimate colour palette tool, as you would expect from the colour people. I like to use it to match hues from photos as well as to create palettes based on the world around me – it’s strangely soothing. Once you’ve created your palettes you can easily share them or sync them with whatever design software you use.

ASSEMBLY

Assembly is a kind of drag and drop vector tool. Just drag shapes (there are loads) together. It’s super simple to use. While I don’t use it for creating finished products it’s great for mocking things up, especially in meetings if you quickly want to visualise an idea.

PAPER

Designers have lots of notes, in lots of forms, and Paper is the best way I’ve found of holding them all together on the go. You can keep and edit notes, sketches and photos all in one place. The interface is really easy to use and swipe between notes to get an overview. It also has this really cool tick-able function for lists, I love having a checkbox, nothing makes me feel more accomplished than ticking a box. It was the iPad app of the year, and I’m so glad it’s now available for phones too.

GOOGLE PHOTOSCAN

This one is exactly what it sounds like. I’ve been using it to scan in old photos at home when I go back. I’ve been really enjoying them as reference images. Photoscan is great at piecing together fading colours in old, and in my case disposable camera, photos and making them look their very best. I also like it for scanning in images from magazines to add to Paper.

HEADSPACE

So, Headspace isn’t necessarily a design app but I think it’s a must use for all creative people. I’ve written before at length about my experience with meditation, and my ups and downs with Headspace. Right now, I’m loving it again. I’ve got back into the guided meditation it offers as a way to clear my mind and keep me balanced enough that I can be creative.

What apps are you using to help keep your design work on track while you’re on the move?

Now that I’m very much done with uni, a lot of my friends live quite far away. There’s an ocean between a lot of us. Keeping those long-distance friendships going is a lot of work. But it’s so so worth it. I wouldn’t lose them for the world. I’ve been doing this long distance friendship thing for a long while I thought I’d share some of the ways we stay in touch and maintain relationships that (I think) will be lifelong.

TEXT THE LITTLE THINGS

Text/Messenger/Whatsapp is the ubiquitous way to keep in touch. But as well as the every day, the outfit questions, and the endless gifs don’t forget to share the little things. Imagine those people are with you as you’re walking around, what would you point out? Did you see a great dog? Did you meet their doppelganger in a lift? I mean don’t do it all of the time, but make sure they’re a part of your life rather than endlessly catching up on your latest meeting at work. It’s also fun to send one-liners on a postcard like this cheesy number.

SKYPE

If you can’t be with someone in person, Skype, when it’s working, is the second best thing. With time differences they can be hard to arrange, but they’re totally worth it. I’ve started to skype my best friend from uni while I’m cooking and it is honestly like double therapy.

The Story Behind: My Greeting Card Designs

LETTERS

There’s something very special about a hand written letter. Something you have touched and spent time crafting physically making its way to them, it’s almost like being there. It’s wonderful to receive a letter, a little surprise on your doorstep. It’s wonderful to send them too. Writing a letter gives you time to get your thoughts in order, to help you make your memories permanent, and to give you a chance to work on your handwriting. If you want to make your letter something extra special, put it in a greeting card. I have a range I illustrated just for that purpose because I made the cards I would want to send – you can pick them up over in my shiny new store!

CARE PACKAGES

One of the most important duties as a friend is looking after each other when times are tough. Sometimes that can be tricky if there’s an ocean getting in the way of a hug. That’s why I like to send “open in case of” packages every now and again – writing this post has reminded me to send some more. I fill boxes with cards and tea, and lovely things (think face mask samples, candles, mittens), wrap them up and send them across the sea.

VISIT

Making time to visit each other is the biggie, and it’s the one I’ve been particularly bad about. It’s something I want to change, but a mixture of money, work, and my anxiety is holding me back from another American adventure at the minute. But I am going to be making the effort to take (semi) regular trips up to Oxford, more than I have this past year. So, if you can, make sure you see the ones you love in person. Hugs just aren’t quite the same through a computer or a letter.

Around this time last year, I wrote a post called 8 Things to do before 8AM. It was all about the morning routine I had, and how I was using it to kick start my day. If you’ve seen that post, or my review of my favourite posts of the year, you’ll know that it got a lot of positive comments.

But when I went back over it, I realised it wasn’t quite accurate to my morning routine now, a year into being a “grown up” so I thought I’d give it a little update. These are the 8 things I actually do before 8 am (the time I have to leave for work – I’m not sure if I would get up quite so early otherwise).

1 – TURN OFF MY ALARM ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM

I am such a bad snoozer. I have tried everything, and I have done it for so long that I just get back into bed on autopilot. Currently, I have my alarm on the other side of the room (in a tricky to reach and ever-changing position) so that I give myself the best shot I can of getting up quickly. I have a Newgate alarm clock which is really loud and isn’t as easy to snooze as my phone, plus it means that the first thing I seen on a morning isn’t a blue glowing screen which has to be good for me – right? If you struggle with hitting snooze I highly recommend them.

2 – REHYDRATE

This was in my last list, but it has remained really important. I always have a glass (or half a glass) or water as soon as I can when I get up. It leaves me thinking much more clearly and I’m always thirstier than I realise when I get to it. This isn’t so much of a “this is an incredible morning routine” post, I’m a normal person, but if there’s one thing you take away from this drink your water folks. I even leave a glass out overnight, so I have no excuses and don’t even have to go into the kitchen (AKA I don’t have to get dressed first)

3 – DO SOMETHING TO GET MY BODY MOVING

As I said last year I am never going to be the kind of person who goes on a run or goes to soul cycle before breakfast. I’ve attempted it, more than once, and it just isn’t me. But I do try and have a stretch, or, if I’ve managed not to snooze (so this maybes happens once a week), work my way through this fitness blender video because I have the worst core strength/back issues for a 24-year-old. It’s quite low impact so I don’t get sweaty but it leaves me feeling like I’ve achieved something before I even get to work. Thankfully I’ve done it so many times I can just look at a clock and do it without the video now.

*If you don’t use Fitness Blender it’s an ace source of workouts (of all levels/styles/lengths) for when you don’t want to go out.

4 – MAKE MY BED

It barely takes any time and makes me feel nice when I get home. Plus, I watched this commencement speech and I figured if it had any chance of changing my life it was worth it.

5 – HAVE A MOMENT OF APPRECIATION FOR NATALIE OF LAST NIGHT

Every night I make my lunch for the next day, pack my bag, and lay out my clothes. I even put my oyster card and passes in my coat pockets. Having all of that work done before I even wake up means my mornings are much more streamlined, and I have fewer panics when my brain is still too foggy to function properly.

6 CHECK MY EMAIL

Okay, okay hear me out. I know we’re not supposed to check our phones on a morning. We’re meant to be screen free and happy, unburdened by the outside world. But I’m a person in the real world and I do a job where my day can change at the drop of a hat. So I do check my email (not my social media) before I leave for work, if for no other reason than I need to know I’m going to the right office.

7 – DECIDE ON MY FOCUS FOR THE DAY

I normally write out my to do list for the day the night before, to capture any tasks from the previous day I haven’t done yet. But on a morning, I like to have a quick scan of that list to remind me what I have to do, and to decide what my focus is going to be. At the minute that involves checking my personal kanban board. I’ve found the practice of having just one or sometimes two things as my main priorities for the day makes me a lot more productive and it leaves me feeling better about what I have achieved at the end of the day.

8 – CHECK CITYMAPPER

In 2016 when I was a mere London baby, I had not learned the perils of the Piccadilly line. I didn’t realise how a leaf can cause months of disruption, or how an ill-timed trip out can leave you stuck in a mob outside of a closed station. Thus, I have made many mistakes and had far too many stressful commutes. But like a phoenix, I have risen an almost always well-informed traveller. I check TFL and Citymapper a few times before I leave, and on my way to the station to make sure I get the optimal route. When I have time, I like to get off a stop early and go for a stroll before getting to the office to walk off the feeling of being a sweaty human sardine.