As a global team of Brand Creatives, it’s no surprise that there are lots of us around the Design Bridge Studios with extra-curricular creative activities and side hustles. We wanted to shine a light on some of these and have started a brand new blog series: Meet the Maker. We’re starting with Kirsty Struthers…
Hi Kirsty! Firstly, tell us a bit about your day job at Design Bridge
I’m a Designer in the London Studio. I joined in 2016 as a Junior after studying Graphic Design at Napier University in Edinburgh, and I was promoted a year later to Designer. Since then I’ve worked on a lot of projects for Cadbury, and more recently I’ve started to dabble in the worlds of chewing gum and household cleaning products.
And you also have a side hustle?
I do – Textbook Frog, which is a small a business I set up earlier this year with the ambition of creating my own range of products. In March I launched my first little pin badge. 7 months on and I have 3 in my range, plus another in production as we speak.
Alongside the pin badges I also run the Textbook Frog blog, which is all about raising awareness around mental health.
Why did you start it?
I have always admired small businesses – their courage, dedication to their craft, and the strong customer relationships they build – so I have always tried to shop small, and I love following the journeys of my favourite makers and crafters. I’ve been collecting pin badges for ever and I’ve always wanted to create my own pins, but over the years I’d come up with a million and one reasons not to do it. This year I finally decided to take the plunge!
Exciting! So, how do you come up with the idea and design for each pin?
I think nearly every designer I’ve met is a perfectionist, so coming up with a design I was happy with was always going to be a challenge! Also, I wear a pin badge every day so it was important that whatever I designed would be something I would genuinely wear. The first pin I designed was Tea Lover and it was really just a test, mostly so I could learn about how the manufacturing process worked and get my head around selling on platforms like Etsy.
I then started to share mock ups of other ideas on my Instagram account to get some feedback. My Pizza pin and the Girl Power design got lots of love, so they became the next two I put into production.
What’s been really exciting is that each new pin has always outsold the previous one, which gives me the confidence to know that I’m taking steps in the right direction and slowly finding my groove.
Tell us a bit more about your mental health blog
For years I have suffered with anxiety and stress, and I was also diagnosed with OCD at 14 years old. Mental health has been a pretty constant battle for me since a young age.
I created the Textbook Frog blog initially as a way to tell my own story and share my journey with mental health, especially my experiences reaching out for help and the challenges I have with OCD that impact my daily life.
After I published my first blog post the support and kind words I received from friends, colleagues and even strangers was amazing. Everyone was so supportive and I found this incredibly empowering. It made me feel so supported and it was great to see how it inspired other people to share their stories and personal tips with me. It was nice to feel that, after reading my story, there were lots of people who wanted to open up a dialog where they’d often found it difficult to open up before.
Since then I’ve invited others to contribute and share their personal story with mental health. So far I’ve had blog posts that touch on OCD and generalised anxiety, abuse, suicidal thoughts, and even people asking for help.
A new story is published each week by a brave person who wants to share. There is never any pressure, and they can tell their story however they want to. Each person that has written so far has been very humbled by being able to tell their story, and they’ve all felt a sense of relief after writing it. But what’s most important is that they’ve also felt supported from the responses, and I’ve always wanted Textbook Frog blog to be a safe place to share and feel supported.
I am a massive supporter for anything that can help with mental health, and something that is really important to me is feeling like you are not alone. If, by reading these blog posts, even just one person feels like they can better understand themselves, or if it helps someone to reach out and ask for help, then that is a huge achievement in my eyes.
What have you learnt along the way?
Textbook Frog on the whole has been a massive learning curve. I’ve had to learn a lot about pin production and manufacturing, finishes and styles, shop retailing and costings. But I think the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to trust my own judgement and feel confident that I am capable of much more that I believe I am. Yes, I’m going to make mistakes and I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve learnt to embrace the fact that life is always a work in progress.
I also think that my blog has taught me that there are so many wonderful people out there who can support you through life’s difficulties and, in turn, you can do wonders to support others in times of need.
I’m sure everyone wants to know: where does the name ‘Textbook Frog’ come from?
It’s going to sound completely random (because it is) but ‘Textbook Frog’ was the randomly generated Xbox name I was assigned 4 years ago! When I started this business I initially started off with the name ‘Kirsty Draws’, but I was never fully fond of it. I’d always loved the name ‘Textbook Frog’ and often joked about it being a shop name, and when I sent my first pin into production I had to decide quickly what I wanted to name my shop. I made a snap decision to change my name and ‘Textbook Frog’ was born.
Do you think having a creative side project helps with your day-to-day job as a Designer?
For me, yes. Textbook Frog has 100% helped me to grow in confidence as a Designer, and I feel much more confident in my decisions, my ability and my skills.
I’m forever grateful to Design Bridge for supporting and empowering my little business, and to everyone that has bought pins for themselves, friends or family – it really does mean the world to me.
How do you balance the two?
Balance for me is about enjoying what you do, and not forcing it!
I love my day job and I feel very grateful that I get to do the work I do, and I’ve found that running Textbook Frog outside of my daily work gives me a massive sense of pride and joy. I think that, with everything you do, you have to enjoy it. The minute it stops being enjoyable then you have lost the balance.
I never feel like it’s a chore to start drawing and designing for Textbook Frog after a day working at Design Bridge. Sometimes I simply don’t want to, and I’m ok with that. It just means that when I do, I enjoy it so much more and I really value that time.
If we wanted to buy a pin for someone this Christmas, where would we go?
For anyone in (or near) our London Studio then come directly to my desk! You can also buy my pins over on my Etsy shop, and I’m really excited that the lovely people at gift shop Space on Exmouth Market near the Studio are now stocking them, too! It’s an amazing feeling to see something you’ve created from scratch on a shelf in a shop.
And finally, what’s on your Christmas list this year?
I’m not one for asking for gifts, but of course a pin badge never goes amiss! As for buying gifts, this year I am shopping small and supporting local makers and crafters, and I would encourage everyone to visit their local independent shops or local craft fairs during the festive period. It is 100% true when they say “Every time you buy from a small business an actual person does a little happy dance”!
We’ll be back with a new ‘Meet the Maker’ in the New Year.