Day Designer Creator: Whitney English


My affinity for paper knows no bounds. Likely a result from my newspaper background, I develop an emotional reaction when beholding paper that is simply beautiful: note cards, letterhead, envelopes, tablets, books, magazines, even basic birthday greetings. Despite the growing hours I spend each week working, living, and playing in the digital world, I am still continuously pulled back in a space of paper. And I love it.

 

While attending an Alt Summit session last month about organizing my online life, our presenter, Erin Loechner, mentioned a very analog method to manage blog posts: through paper! Yes, paper. It is a spiral-bound day planner that has quickly become a favorite of bloggers everywhere. When Erin mentioned The Day Designer and its creator, Whitney English, who was in the audience, I made a mental note to investigate.

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After connecting with Whitney online and learning more about her business, her philosophy, and The Day Designer, I collected my notes (paper and electronic alike) to share with you.

 

>> Also! Whitney was kind enough to include a Day Designer giveaway as part of her Q&A. To win your very own Day Designer, simply comment below. Share your goals for organization, online or elsewhere. One winner will be selected at random and contacted via email. The Day Designer giveaway closes on Wednesday, March 6. Good luck!

 

WT: Let’s start with your background. Provide an overview of where you grew up, what you studied in school, any activities or memories that you fondly recall.

WE: I was born in Texas but grew up in Oklahoma City. I went to a small private high school, then graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Facilities Management (which is basically interior design with business courses). I completed an internship with designer Charles Faudree in Tulsa, and later did some graduate work in Design and Management at Parsons in New York City. All through high school and college, I worked for various entrepreneurs in creative fields, and loved every experience I had in the creative/entrepreneurial arena.

 

Clearly you have an affinity for paper and the like. Share with me your initial thoughts as you began spending more time communicating online. Did your letter-writing drop off due to email?

Sadly, my letter-writing has suffered lately, but I would say that it’s due in part to being busy with kids, not because I communicate and connect mostly online. It’s definitely a personal mission to work towards connecting with loved ones more via the hand-written note, and my kids will definitely be learning how to write thank-you notes at an early age!

 

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Much like you, I live for the handwritten word. What are your thoughts about so much of our personal communication moving to digital platforms?

Social media has been a fascinating journey into the science of human connection. As humans, we’re hard-wired to want to make that connection and engage with others. As creative entrepreneurs, we find social media is an excellent canvas with which to share our ideas with the rest of the world. As digital communications have become a commodity, I believe it’s actually driven up the value of the hand-written word. Sure, we can send a tweet, or leave a message on a Facebook wall, but it’s never going to mean the same as a hand-written note. Digital communications make the hand-written word worth more – not less.

 

Let’s transition to your professional world. What prompted you to launch your website?

I launched my website back in late 2002 or early 2003 whenever I started a wholesale, imprintable stationery company. Over the years, the website was used to showcase my imprintable designs, but I’ve been slowly transitioning it into a more personal platform and blog.

 

Tell me more about the line of products you design and sell.

For over a decade, I designed imprintable invitations and note cards and sold them wholesale to stores all over the world. At one time, our products were in almost 3,000 stores worldwide. With the success of the imprintable line came forays into personalized stationery and gift products. Some of my more popular products were a line of note sheets on a clear acrylic clipboard – we called them ClipSheets – and a line of eco-friendly, reusable shopping bags called Trend-E-Totes. As the imprintable industry declined, however, I found it necessary to close the wholesale business. I learned a lot from that decade in business. If anyone asked me if I would do it all over again, I definitely would! I’m glad I have some experience under my belt now, and I’m definitely going to apply those lessons to future ventures.

 

Let’s talk the Day Designer. This little beauty seems to have taken the blogging world by storm. Tell me first about your inspiration to create it.

Last year I started a new venture with a product called the Day Designer. It’s a yearly strategic planner and daily agenda for the creative entrepreneur. I created the Day Designer because after years of sitting through strategic planning meetings and brand strategy sessions, I realized that I had done very little to internalize my values and execute living them through my brand. I also needed a product that would help me organize my appointments and schedule as a creative entrepreneur, and not just as a mom. I’ve been a creative entrepreneur for a lot longer than I’ve been a mother, and I always felt like there was a void in the marketplace when it came to agendas for female entrepreneurs. I have a few other product ideas up my sleeve, so who knows where the coming years will take me!

 

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Why design something so “analog” as paper, especially when your primary audience for this project is primarily online?

I believe in writing things down. I believe that the lists and notes and ideas that we scrawl across bits of paper are incredibly powerful, and I don’t think the truly digital folks give writing much credit. I think our brains process what we write differently than we process what we type. The process of writing, literally, by hand, helps get ideas and thoughts and novelties out of our heads and into our hearts. When ideas live in our hearts, we find the energy to act on them. Heart-action produces much more powerful results than head-action. Heart-action can change the world, right? That’s why I believe in paper, and the process of writing things down.

 

Tell me how you, personally, use the Day Designer to manage your work and your life.

My Day Designer sits on my nightstand most of the time. I partially fill in future events – my husband’s work schedule, important events like kid’s programs and school parties, travel schedules. I use my Mac calendar to keep track of client appointments, because I make the appointments via email. At the beginning of each week, usually on Sunday afternoon when my kids are napping, I sit down and fill in that week’s events, and do some meal planning. Each daily page has a spot for the Top Three most important things to do that day – and I try to leave this as empty as possible until the day-of. When I was on maternity leave, every day literally had “make milk” in every day’s Top Three. The Top Three is so important because it helps you prioritize your day, and it also serves as a reflection tool. Writing down “make milk” every day brought the realization to the front of my mind that my kids are the most important thing in my life right now.

 

Throughout the day, I use the checklist section on the right side of each page to make notes of things I tell people I’m going to do. When I sit at my desk, I flip back to previous lists in my Day Designer and make sure I’ve done everything I’ve said I’m going to do. If I complete a task, I mark it off with a check. If the task has become obsolete, I mark through the entire line, crossing it off. I’ll also use this column in my Day Designer to make notes if I’m on a conference call. The idea is to get as much writing off of little lists that float around my desk, and into the Day Designer. I love that I can look back and celebrate accomplishments that might otherwise go unnoticed in my life!

 

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What has launching your website and following your passions taught you about yourself?

Actually, I think I’ve learned more from NOT following my passions than I have from following them. I’ve learned that money is not a motivator and that profit is not a purpose. About five years into my wholesale business, I started chasing the dollar signs, instead of my passions. Nothing but heartache came out of that. I also think that as a creative entrepreneur, our passions can change, and wax and wane, and we have to be cautious but defined about consistency. It’s important when building a team. I’ve learned that it’s important not to rush, and I’ve learned to never sacrifice the luxury of creative self-expression. That’s fuel for us creatives. The moment we stop creating, we’re headed to scary purpose-less burnout zone.

 

What motivates you to continually create beautiful things?

At the end of 2011, I was incredibly burned out. I stepped back, evaluated what needed to change, analyzed some actions, and then intentionally made some decisions that others would probably have defined as selfish. To a certain extent, the decisions were painful in the short term. However, they were the beginning of creative liberation. I started finding myself again, and the ideas started flowing again. So, I guess you could say that I create in order to preserve my sanity, to make my home a better place for my family, and to make the world a better place while I’m in it.

 

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I noticed that you live in Oklahoma City. (Yay for the Midwest! I’m in Omaha.) What do you enjoy most about living in this part of the country?

Oklahoma City, is, for the most part, a small town, and I think that anyone who lives in a small town would tell you that it has it’s pros and cons. My favorite thing about Oklahoma City, though, is my family, and the network of friends who continues to support me without hesitation, and embrace my wild-fangled entrepreneurial ideas with so much unconditional love. I’m truly blessed.

 

Anything else I didn’t ask about? 

I talk about purpose a lot, and people often ask me what my WHY statement is, so I thought I’d share it: Glorify God authentically, exemplify the power of choices and change, and love with gratitude and creativity. I try to practice the discipline of using that framework to make every decision.

 

And now … a few fun questions!

 

Describe your perfect meal.

Some kind of champagne cocktail, for starters. Then tuna tartare, followed by beef wellington, and if there is still room, some kind of extraordinarily exotic ice creams: think basil, honey, lavender flavors.

 

What’s your best-kept beauty secret?

Newly discovered Got2B Dry Shampoo. Secret revealed to me by my dear friend and Alt Summit roommate Amber Housley.

 

When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to combat such feelings?

A couple of things. I’m pretty good at pep-talking myself, so I tell myself that feelings aren’t facts, they’re just emotions trying to get me off course. I go back to my WHY statement and see if it’s in alignment with my actions. I love inspirational quotes, and my faith sustains me through Bible verses I’ve memorized over the years. If that’s not cutting it, I ask my husband or one of my best friends to listen to me. I’m not against resorting to therapy if I just can’t shake it.

 

What book changed your life?

Hands down, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Start With Why by Simon Sinek was a more recent eye-opening read, and I also really enjoyed the paradigm shift provided by Daring Greatly by Brene Brown recently. Bottom line, I love books.

 

Editor’s note: Whitney English photos courtesy of Shannon Ho Photography.

 

33 Comments on “Day Designer Creator: Whitney English”

  1. 1 Daisy Hutzell-Rodman said at 8:04 am on February 27th, 2013:

    Thank you, Whitney, for creating a date book that works for today’s world. Like you, I have a calendar on my computer that I use to keep track of work appointments, but I always have a paper date book that I use for almost everything else. It’s color-coded, so I can look at my day and know I have a professional lunch, an interview and a personal meeting throughout the day, but I love the idea of having the room for your Top Three.

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  2. 2 Laura said at 8:50 am on February 27th, 2013:

    I have been eyeing the Day Designer ever since Alt! Right now I’m working on my list of 101 in 1001 days & I can’t think of any better way to cross off those 101 things than to get organized with the Day Designer. I’ve tried so many different planners & all of them just fall short. Thanks for the great giveaway, ladies!

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    Sarah Lindsay Reply:

    I have a 101 in 1001 too!! One of mine is to get more organized — my planner is pretty organized, but I feel like it is missing some key things the Day Designer has!

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  3. 3 Sarah Lindsay said at 9:30 am on February 27th, 2013:

    I’m getting married in less than 3 months, going to South Africa for my honeymoon, and am a full-time teacher. Without my planner I’d be a mess. Right now I have a Lilly Pulitzer jumbo agenda, but pretty soon it will be a time for a change. 1st of all, I really really want my blogging to pick up. But if I don’t write down my ideas or plan for a post, I get lost with all the other things I’m doing.

    Right now my blog notes are in one notebook, along with the notes app on my computer…too many places.

    I’d love to win!

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  4. 4 Elizabeth said at 10:11 am on February 27th, 2013:

    I’ve always found that I do better with written checklists than I do with digital ones, even when I keep my calendar and everything else online. I really love the idea of the Top Three for each day, definitely a good way to prioritize.

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  5. 5 Kathryn Guilliam said at 10:50 am on February 27th, 2013:

    Having spent so much of my previous working life focused around sales goals, I was really struck by Whitney’s comments about a “Why” statement. Now that I hear it, it seems so obvious yet something I had not before thought about stopping and putting into words. It is, in fact, something I have been struggling with lately but didn’t realize it. I just jotted this down on my ever-growing pile of post it notes that serves as a make-shift to-do list. Every day begins on paper for me; I love making lists. Also, I am obsessed with pretty paper. I have boxes of stationery, cards, note papers and so on. Something about making my day’s to-do list on a pretty paper sets the right tone for the day.

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  6. 6 Tonya Kauffman said at 11:10 am on February 27th, 2013:

    Love this interview! Right now I keep a little notepad in my purse to jot down design doodles, ideas, goals, etc when I’m on the go. When I’m at home these thoughts find their way onto the closest paper item I can find before another thought interrupts…usually a piece of mail, receipt, kid’s spelling list, you name it!, but those are things I can’t usually file and transfering it to another place doesn’t always happen. The Day Designer would take the place of all these notes, they would instead be in ONE place…and hopefully make me that much more productive!
    *My organization goal is to streamline my processes and my business goals so I can (hopefully in the near future!)hire my first employee with the smoothest transistion possible.

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  7. 7 Sarah said at 11:11 am on February 27th, 2013:

    I love Whitney! I love how genuine (authentic ;0)) she is! Thanks so much for featuring such a sweet and inspiring girl!

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  8. 8 Tayler said at 11:53 am on February 27th, 2013:

    As a college student and a lover of the internet, this post was inspiring! I loved hearing Whitney’s story…Parson’s and Design is one of my dreams! You also mentioned Brene Brown, who I reference almost daily and it would make my life to be able to work with people like yourselves and Brene! I have found that blogging is a wonderful way to connect with other creatives, be inspired, and a neat way to express myself. As an extremely busy student, a calendar like this would be the perfect way to balance busy with creativity and ideas! It is really incredible to hear how Whitney has found family, a career, and what she really loves to do! From someone who is trying to figure all of that out, it provided such a positive example, and I really enjoyed hearing all of her words and thoughts! Thank you!

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  9. 9 Caroline said at 12:20 pm on February 27th, 2013:

    Thanks for the great interview! I’ve been looking into the day designer as I seem to be a die-hard listmaker myself. I’d love to learn more!

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  10. 10 Boucksy said at 2:27 pm on February 27th, 2013:

    Wendy, great post. Wonderful interview!

    Organizing my year has followed one, simple word: simplify. In every area of my life, I’m minimizing the “stuff” that’s in it, yet growing even more. I’ve paired down my closet (and continuing to do so); limited what comes into my home, gone through boxes that have sat untouched since we moved into our house two years ago (yikes!); and have really started to take “decluttering” to an extreme. I’ve read many articles of families who have chosen to live a more minimal lifestyle to really bring the attention to the things that matter: good times, good people, good food. Who needs all the other things, all the “stuff?” Why must we fill every nook and every cranny with “something?” Not anymore. It’s liberating, to say the least!

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  11. 11 Jillian said at 4:50 pm on February 27th, 2013:

    I really enjoyed this interview! I completely agree with Whitney that we process things we write down differently than what we type. Although I am an iPhone addict, I still jot things down in my planner and a little notebook. I get more satisfaction out of literally crossing something off my to-do list than marking it as done on the Reminders App.

    As a soon to be graduate, I will be entering my career and would love to with The Day Designer to keep me organized!

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  12. 12 Sarah Tucker said at 5:16 pm on February 27th, 2013:

    I am a mom of 5 kids and managing our time has been a chore. This planner may help make that process a little more beautiful!! :)

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  13. 13 Stephanie said at 12:57 pm on February 28th, 2013:

    I loved getting to know Whitney a bit better: what an inspiring person. Her “WHY” really resonated with me and has inspired me to get to the nitty-gritty of my own why. Her planner/day designer is simply gorgeous and so well thought out!

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  14. 14 Have a Great Weekend! (Plus Friday Links) | Bunny and Dolly said at 11:20 am on March 1st, 2013:

    […] to win a Whitney English Day Designer on Wendy’s blog. (On second thought, don’t enter because I want to […]

  15. 15 Carol Zuegner said at 11:38 am on March 1st, 2013:

    I love the insights here and found myself nodding my head throughout. I urge my students to blog, but this is a case where I am behind in walking the walk. I am always looking for tools that will help them and me achieve our writing goals. Thanks Wendy and Whitney!

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  16. 16 Lexi @ Glitter, Inc. said at 11:58 am on March 1st, 2013:

    I was at Alt and I wrote down the Day Designer in my notes from Erin’s talk! I would absolutely love to win this! I too have to write everything down. I find all of the technological organization a bit overwhelming, and nothing keeps me organized like pen-to-paper.

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  17. 17 Jackklynn said at 12:36 pm on March 1st, 2013:

    I think this is awesome, already making a gift list of women to share it with. Just need to get one and get started!

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  18. 18 Elizabeth said at 2:02 pm on March 1st, 2013:

    I work as an assistant at a publishing company and recently I’ve been finding my bosses schedule harder and harder to manage using outlook alone.My current pad of note paper is not cutting it and I find that I’m losing track left and right. It would really help to have a physical place where I can make notes about what she needs for all of her meetings, her travel plans and then at the same time organize my own schedule. I just learned about this planner today and am super excited to try it out!

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  19. 19 Gretchen said at 8:35 am on March 3rd, 2013:

    This planner looks amazing. As a full time English teacher (2 preps) and Journalism adviser (3+preps for two student publications), I am always looking for ways to streamline my calendars and to do lists. At this count, I have two paper calendars, 5 online calendars, and various lists. In the midst of all of this chaos I am trying to build ideas for a blog. Will it be professional or personal? Or a bit if both? Trying to figure out how to get that started. Did I mention I am a mother as well? Lessons four evenings a week and games on Saturday. I am currently trying to restructure/ organize how my classroom so we have a better day to day flow. I need organization in my life.

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  20. 20 Courtney Allison said at 9:54 am on March 3rd, 2013:

    Wendy – what an inspiring interview!

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  21. 21 Danielle Herzog said at 10:04 am on March 3rd, 2013:

    I love this! As a blogger and freelance writer, I’m constantly struggling with how to stay organized. I love writing on paper, there is something cathartic about putting a pen to a piece of paper. My grandmother and I wrote letters to each other every week for almost a decade and every one was handwritten and full of scratch outs and mistakes and I loved every one of them. I would love a chance to organize my blog with this!

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  22. 22 Felicia MV said at 12:37 am on March 4th, 2013:

    Whitney, I love organization and I still live writing myself notes, but you’re right, there aren’t many out there that are inspiring through their beauty, yet practical in design. So I’m do excited to find out about this day organizer! I can’t wait to get my hands in one! Thanks for exposing me to this.

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  23. 23 PJ | Bunny & Dolly said at 11:04 am on March 5th, 2013:

    I have forever been searching for the “perfect” calendar, hoping that once I find it, I will magically become organized — for good. Obviously, that will never happen, but I think The Day Designer could be a good start to LEARNING how to be better organized.

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  24. 24 Shayna Kellie said at 2:04 pm on March 6th, 2013:

    I first saw the Day Designer on Etsy and IMMEDIATELY fell in love with the concept. I am a design junkie who loves anything that will help me keep my life organized! I keep to do lists all over my desk and am always in need of finding new ways to organize my workspace and my life! As a freelance graphic designer, this organizer is a must-have.

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  25. 25 Mariel said at 2:07 pm on March 6th, 2013:

    I have to write everything down if I’m going to remember it, but my problem is that I don’t have one place for everything! I have notes on my phone, my computer, on post-its and index cards, and it can be so hard to keep track of everything! I’d love to be better organized and set better goals and deadlines for myself.

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  26. 26 Laura Wadsworth said at 2:22 pm on March 6th, 2013:

    I have been so inspired by Whitney’s story! My goal for 2013 is to work in more creative free time and build a creative business around my blog while fitting it into my already busy schedule, this planner would be oh so helpful!

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  27. 27 Bethany said at 2:23 pm on March 6th, 2013:

    Oh I love Whitney! She is so full of wisdom. This planner is absolutely perfect. I’m a complete planning freak so this would be PERFECT for me. It would certainly help me keep my design business in order! Oh what a wonderful creation!

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  28. 28 Kimberly said at 2:23 pm on March 6th, 2013:

    This came up at the perfect time! I was planning to purchase a blank one this week, but she ran out! As with many people, I tried going digital when I graduated and realized it was the worst thing ever! I am a very visual person, and the layout of the Day Designer would be ideal for my daily life! Between a blog, a job, and trying to run (or at least get started) my own business, I have been in search of the perfect planner, and I believe this is it! Crossing my fingers!

    Also, Whitney, Please bring your authenticate work shop to Los Angeles!

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  29. 29 Janet McKnight said at 2:35 pm on March 6th, 2013:

    Thanks for sharing! I want one of Whitney’s day designers so bad! :)

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  30. 30 Megan said at 9:34 pm on March 6th, 2013:

    Lovely. Technology is amazing, but there’s still nothing like taking pen to paper. I tend to keep lots of lists and idea journals in misc notebooks — no organization though. Yeah, that’s gotta change.

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  31. 31 Kendall said at 10:00 pm on March 6th, 2013:

    I would love to have this planner! I’m planning my wedding (and all the creative details that involves) plus launching a new blog. It would be a huge help!

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