‘Staring into the abyss of Photoshop’: A day in the life of a Squarespace designer

For designers, the advent of platforms like Squarespace has meant new job opportunities in digital — but also a shift in the way they work.

Michelle Liv

Michelle Liv, a former production designer, joined Squarespace two years ago and soon found that designing templates and graphics for the platform’s customers means a complete mindset shift. Part of a 20-person team, Liv said that she attempts to go beyond the computer screen with her designs. “I’m an anomaly in the tech industry because I use products in my work,” she said. For example, while creating a template that may work for a small food vendor to use, she molds and photographs objects like glass jars. “It’s really important to go beyond the industry and recognize that inspiration goes beyond the stimuli on your screen.”

Here’s a day in the life of Liv, slightly edited for clarity.

7:30 a.m.: My alarm goes off. I am still mostly unconscious as I stumble out of bed and embark on my morning routine, which, to my surprise, resembles that of Dr. Frasier Crane. He insists on easing into his day with coffee, a high-fiber breakfast (arguably the most crucial part) and a crisp newspaper. However, this is 2016, and I am a vaguely modern person who reads the paper on my aging iPad that I received as a holiday gift in 2012 (thanks, Dad). Foregoing any step of the morning routine would result in a less-than-ideal day.

8:47 a.m.:  I read a few more articles and lose track of time, mostly to postpone the arduous task of grooming myself. Being a presentable person in public can be trying at times.

9:54 a.m.: I like to listen to empowering songs by Nasty Women while walking to the subway to brace myself for the day. Lately, it’s been Miss Jackson’s “Nasty” because #topical. Give me strength, Janet.

10:12 a.m.: The train pulls up to Hoyt-Schermerhorn, where I have to transfer. I move onto the next Jackson sibling and listen to “Bad” on the platform because my friend Kenneth once told me the music video was filmed at the station. I get onto the Manhattan-bound train and continue reading Elena Ferrante’s captivating “Neapolitan” series like everyone else on the subway.

10:38 a.m.: I get to the office. I then proceed to check a few emails, grab a glass of water and start thinking about the next persona for whom to create a new portfolio template.

11:06 a.m.: I browse through a collection of digital assets from the Brooklyn Museum. It encompasses a vast range of art from around the world including Baule portrait masks from Ivory Coast, 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints and early American photography. I could easily spend the day exploring our digital asset library.

12:30 p.m.: Slack notifies me of many hangry messages from a group of colleagues who want to eat lunch now.

1:17 p.m.: Squarespace has a flexible vacation policy, so we reconvene for a postprandial coffee break consisting of chocolate and talk of our dreams of taking a sabbatical.

2:36 p.m.: After doing extensive research on a variety of online portfolios, I start to consolidate all of my findings and concept an archetype for the new template. I settle on creating a persona for a freelance graphic designer who needs to showcase a wide range of projects. I then begin to determine the type of content that will live within the template by considering what a designer would want to highlight in a portfolio. For instance, someone would probably want to showcase a project that includes multiple parts, like a mobile app with various screens or a branding project with several components. I check in with our producer to go over materials I might need to acquire to start creating the demo content and review certain images to license.

3:43 p.m.: I find myself staring into the abyss that is a Photoshop file zoomed-in at 1600 percent. A slight existential crisis sinks in as I catch a glimpse of myself in the afternoon glare on my monitor. Before I start to question everything in my life, I turn to my deskmate to discuss the podcasts we’ve been listening to while working. We really admire podcasts like “Call Your Girlfriend,” which is sponsored by Squarespace, and “Still Processing” for addressing certain issues we both experience as women of color in America.

5:15 p.m.: After stumbling across beautiful photographs by Consuelo Kanaga in our digital asset library, I decide to incorporate her photos into a fictitious monograph as one of the projects in the portfolio template. Keeping in mind what a typical graphic design portfolio entails, I thought this example could illustrate how one could showcase multiple aspects of a project that fall within the same visual system.

6:30 p.m.: I eat oatmeal for dinner at my desk before heading off to an evening French conversation class that was recommended to me by fellow designer.

8:07 p.m.: I somehow manage to form semi-coherent sentences in class through the magic of wine. Another student recounts a weekend bachelorette party, which we learn literally translates to “the burial of a young girl’s life” in French. 

10:00 p.m.: I finally make it back home. Time to get ready for bed and indulgently watch episodes of the mundanely fascinating series “Terrace House” and regret staying up late the next morning.


More in Marketing

With the rise of the chief AI officer, it’s time to examine ‘czar’ culture

Even if it’s a familiar pattern — hot new thing, new C-Suite exec to tackle said thing, a few years go by and that C-Suite position no longer exists as everyone is now doing said thing (or it was a fad that has since faded away) — does it make sense for businesses to continue to appoint new czars with every new trend? 

Why Cava’s bid for brand awareness means prioritizing streaming ads

Fast-casual restaurant chain Cava has been in growth mode over the past year and is leaning into streaming ads in an effort to boost brand awareness.

A history of middle manager stress: The Return podcast, season 3, episode 1

In episode one, McKinsey partner Emily Field tells us more about why middle management is critically important to the workforce.