My First Group Workout Class

My First Group Workout Class

I told myself for a long, LONG time that exercising in a group sounds like my nightmare! First of all, I don’t know what I’m doing so I’m not going to be perfect at it. Second, struggling in a room full of people is very embarrassing! Plus there are just so many mirrors that they can watch watch me squirm from every angle. Next up? Morning classes. Like early. Like class starts at 5:30. In the morning. So here we have a small potpourri of Things I Dread: trying something new, not being perfect, people watching me not be perfect, and getting up early.

I have a touch of social anxiety. What does this look like for me? Welp, lots of fun symptoms include but are not limited to crying meltdowns before group outings, getting sick at large events (cute), hiding in bathrooms at large venues, and overcompensating with too much excitement (interrupting others and grilling people like they’re at a job interview). It took me a while to identify these as patterns but once I read about and looked for them…It’s been a lot better! Needless to say, I knew just putting myself in this situation was going to make me nervous. I have really been trying to challenge myself so I set my alarm for 5:00am. Want to know how my first class went? K!

Where my introverts and socially anxious people at?! If you’re an introvert, you are going to be both mortified and delighted by my experience. If you’re an extrovert then enjoy the pictures ’cause this is going to sound absolutely ridiculous to you. Either way, you’re here and I’m happy to have you!

What to Do at Your First Workout Class

Arrive 10 minutes early.

I arrived only 4-5 minutes early and it was not nearly enough for reasons you’ll soon discover. Arriving mere seconds before the start time of anything is traditionally considered “early” in Katie Time. So let us take a quick moment to acknowledge that.

Triple-check aka Procrastinate.

I parked, the gal at the front desk scanned my keychain, and I asked questions I already knew the answer to. BUT WHAT IF I DIDN’T, YOU KNOW?
Me: “Hi, I’ve never taken a class before, what do I do?”
Her: “Ok, great! Go on in and find a spot. Class starts in about 5 minutes. Lift as much or as little as you want, go at your own pace.”
Me: “Cool, thanks.”
Also Me: *go-in-find-spot-panic-5-minutes-lift-more-than-you-should-freak-out-go-fast-be-perfect-panic*

Go On In and Find a Spot.

I am ruler-follower so I did as I was told. I was also feeling terrified so I zeroed in on an open spot the second I opened the door. Class started in 4 minutes so I piled my pink fluffy sweatshirt and Ugg boots by the back wall and slid on my tennies. I walked to The Spot and psyched myself up.
"Go in and find a spot in the gym" illustration by Katie Kassel, Graphic Designer

Lift Those Weights.

The instructor started class. The tunes were playing. I lifted the various weights lying before me. They were really freaking heavy. We were nearly 10 minutes in and everything was mostly fine. A woman arrived about 10 minutes late, looked around, and walked across the room kinda towards me. She said, “Excuse me, are you…? Did you…?” and walked away. I was oblivious, I smiled and focused on how heavy these darn weights were. She emerged from a closet with equipment. Weights, bar, a mat, the whole shebang.

Which I never did…

…I waltzed in the door, found a spot, and started lifting.

"Hand lifting dumb bell weight" illustration by Katie Kassel, Graphic Designer

Get Your Own Sh*t

There was a slight break where people shifted their equipment and sipped water. The woman walked by me to grab her water bottle and gently mentioned, “Make sure you come a little early next time. You need to set up your own equipment before each class.”

And it finally dawned on me.

I was in her spot. Using her weights. I was MORTIFIED.

Stick With It

At this point, I was in Fight or Flight mode. I was telling myself, “Don’t you dare. Don’t you DARE cry. Suck in those little tears” while simultaneously glancing at the door thinking, “Humiliation is FUEL, you could be gone in seconds.” Instead I did not cry and I did not run out. I stayed. I survived the whole class and was only a little humiliated when two gals from my church were in there the whole time! I was blinded by sheer embarrassment and hadn’t noticed them earlier. SUPER.

The kind soul whose spot I borrowed, introduced herself as Melinda after class. Come to find out, she has been coming to this class for more than 12 years and sets up her equipment extra early so she can run on the treadmill before each session. I apologized profusely, and then apologized a little more for good measure.

For those of you keeping track at home, my worst introvert nightmare became reality. Not only did I steal the spot of a beloved attendee, I did so in a mirrored room where everyone watched the whole scene unfold. To top it off I didn’t know what any of the moves were called and I lifted weights that were way too heavy for me. That pretty much checked all the Things I Dread boxes.

Be Decent.

I went back the next Monday morning. Got there 15 minutes early (yes, ME!). Found a spot in the back. Set up all my equipment. Put on my shoes and stretched. Melinda greeted me on her way in, “Oh my gosh! I’m so glad you came back! This is my favorite class and I was worried we’d never see you again after last week. By the way, how are you feeling? I couldn’t believe you used my weight the whole time!”

Girl, SAME. I also cannot believe I used your weights the whole time. She lifts heavy. I explained that I hadn’t come back on Friday because I couldn’t move or lift my arms for a solid 4 days after class. My hair was an absolute mess because I could not raise my arms to put a ponytail holder in. I’m also very glad headbands are back in.

I am not kidding when I tell you the only reason I even thought about going back and trying that class again is because Melissa was so kind, and decent, and gentle. She didn’t yell, shout, or demand that I move. She didn’t offer a snarky or sarcastic remark. She didn’t shoot dirty looks my way during class. It would have been so easy and probably a more natural reaction to totally shame and embarrass someone who steals your equipment and spot! But she didn’t. I’m still kind of surprised and totally impressed by how she handled it. There are so many easy, short words and phrases to offer encouragement and kindness between reps.

"Be decent high five encouragement" illustration by Katie Kassel, Graphic Designer

This post started as a funny, self-deprecating story about being an introvert and surviving my worst first-world fears. But it kind of morphed into a life lesson. January is a big goal-setting, resolution-making time of year. Health and fitness is a big one for a lot of people! This is good! So whether it’s January or May or December, don’t make anyone feel like dirt for trying to improve themselves. Show them where the equipment is. And be decent while you do so. You don’t have to be cheery even. Just decent. Someone might come back to class because of your not-cheery-but-not-terrible interaction. Realize that an activity that’s super easy for you to do, like showing up for a one-hour workout class, might be a real fear for someone else (hi!). There are some real risks in the world and I would never encourage someone to put themselves in the harm’s way. But if you can survive your brain’s version of the worst case scenario then I think you’ll be stronger for having tried whatever it is.

Go on in and find a spot.

Step Away From the Desk

Step Away From the Desk

It’s taken me nearly 30 years of sitting at desks to realize that I’ve been sitting at desks for THAT LONG. You’ve heard the sad, morbid warnings of sitting for hours on end. Most are based on research, and I am big fan of science and facts. Scary statistics to do little to motivate me. I need motivation that’s a little more…friendly? Happy, even! I am really truly honestly trying to let my brain work while my body moves by going for regular walks. Outdoors, when possible. Admittedly, this is much easier to accomplish during spring, summer, and fall months with a Midwest address.

Step Away From the Desk

Cup of coffee, bathroom break, refill the water bottle, have a snack, empty the dishwasher, pull out the ole laptop in another room. When I start talking or whisper-shouting to myself, it is absolutely time to STEP AWAY. Slowly. Release the mouse. Set a timer and get outta there.

"Please step away from the desk" print by Katie Kassel

Get Some Sun in Your Eyes

I feel better mentally and sleep better after even a small amount of time spent outdoors. I would advise some fabulous shades and/or a hat for this step, but you get the idea. I feel more alert just being outside for a few.

"Get some sun in your eyes" print by Katie Kassel

Time to Go For a Walk

Very few tasks cannot wait 15 minutes. I am terrible guilty of thinking and doing the whole “I’m in the middle of this so I’ll just slog through until I’m done.” Some situations call for this. But usually a walk breaks loose whatever obstacle I was mentally running into.

"Take time to go for a walk" print by Katie Kassel

What are some things you do during the workday to refresh your mind and body?

Day of the Week Sunglasses

Day of the Week Sunglasses

It’s late April in the Midwest which could mean ANYTHING weather-wise. But on this particular day, it’s sunny and 60 degrees and I’m happy. Been in a mental rut all week and decided to do a short series to design for fun. This particular series was inspired by my trusty plastic yellow sunglasses from last summer. And they just feel more appropriate and festive on a sunny Friday. I gave myself the following “rule”: each graphic had be sunglasses with green shades. A guideline or two keeps the challenge realistic (the real-world is rarely a free-for-all) and it helps the series feel consistent even with a variety of styles, colors, and shapes. I tried to capture the right style and emotion for each day. Do you agree with each day’s vibe?

A Shade for Every Day

Shade of the Day: Monday

Monday needs a little pep. If you don’t feel like tackling whatever Monday holds for you, this pair of sunglasses will help you power through. This is the eyewear your attitude and your eyes need for Monday.

Sunglasses for Every Day of the Week | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

Shade of the Day: Tuesday

Tuesday’s sunglasses are a no-fuss, classic aviator style with a star at the hinge because they needed a little something. Look, the honest truth is that Tuesdays are often crazier and weirder than Mondays. Don’t add another thing to your plate or look. These shades are streamlined for a smooth Tuesday.

Sunglasses for Every Day of the Week | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

Shade of the Day: Wednesday

On Wednesdays we wear pink, obviously. And what better staple to pair with your pink than a bold, black pair of sunglasses. The tiniest pearl was needed to enhance your pink palette. Sleek and guaranteed to help you glide through Hump Day.

Sunglasses for Every Day of the Week | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

Shade of the Day: Thursday

Thursday, you beautiful symbol of optimism. Also fondly referred to as Pre-Friday, Thursday’s oversized square tortoise-shell style tells the world that maybe you’re a little tired but you’ve handled your week and poised for solid finish to the week. A little trendy, a little classic, a lot perfect for Thursdays.

Sunglasses for Every Day of the Week | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

Shade of the Day: Friday

The entire inspiration for this series; a happy and SUNNY Friday. The world is your oyster for 48 hours. The Monday version of you can handle whatever you don’t get to today. You will feel as festive as these sunglasses look. I would suggest wearing these through the weekend for maximum happiness.

Sunglasses for Every Day of the Week | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

Video Class Recap

Video Class Recap

I committed myself to one class each semester at a local university for the last year (and continuing this year). The experience has been positive in so many ways including but not limited to getting out of the house, meeting people, being uncomfortable, learning new things, being okay with learning new things, and being reminded how young I look ;).

Last fall I completed a Video Art class to re-familiarize myself with video software and techniques. A few jobs ago, I was doing quite a bit of basic video editing in Premiere. Nothing crazy or complex, but tediously trimming all of the mumbles, ums, and mess-ups out of talking head interview videos. I share this because not every designer knows their way around video tools and software, myself included. I do not intend to offer video services, but I would love to be able to creating training videos for my clients and/or marketing videos for myself. If nothing else, I figured this would at least get me closer and hold me accountable for learning.

Video takes so SO much time and skill! I know this because I have had the pleasure of watching and working alongside some talented video folks at every job I’ve held. It takes creativity, technical know-how, flexibility, resourcefulness, and so much more. I’m want to preface my sharing of amateur classwork by saying that capturing quality footage and weaving together beautiful stories is not easy. But trying new things is so valuable, so here are a few video projects I created!

All work represented below was created or curated by me for educational purposes. I have included credit where possible and will disclose where and how I used my own footage.

Project 1: Appropriation

Katie-Kassel-VA3150-Appropriation-Lemon-Tree-091018KK from Katie Kassel on Vimeo.

Lemon Tree


Exploring the symmetry and contrast between the pace of nature and the man-made world was my goal in this video. How did I get there? When browsing footage, I downloaded anything I found visually pleasing. After saving several video assets, I had to comb through my collection. I started to notice patterns emerging from the footage I collected that contained similar colors, and the subjects’ movements mimicked each other. The process began by pairing up videos and arranging them in an order of nature, man-made, nature, man-made, and so on. One thing that I was careful to mention when I presented my video in class was the timing, the pace of this video. When you watch it, it feels like everything lasts just a beat longer than you expect. This was intentional as part of the overarching concept of my video. As humans we’re like “yep, got it, okay, next,” and nature’s like “whoa, hey, what’s the rush buddy? got some more raindrops.”


This project allowed all of our footage and audio to be “found.” This meant using free and appropriately licensed footage and songs. This also left us the option of using footage that we personally captured too. All of the footage featured in this video is free and licensed, and not my own. All of the sounds were also found and pared with their corresponding clips. The ice in the glasses, the fingers typing, the bee buzzing, the wind, rain pouring down; all of those are separate clips that I matched up with the video assets. The music was also found, but the poem was written and recorded by yours truly. And let me tell you, there is only one thing worse than hearing your own voice…Hearing your own voice in a room full of people. Which I survived and lived to tell the tale. I felt like I needed one more element that would tie all of the videos and music together so I chose to write exactly what I needed. This allowed me to incorporate the words and timing that fit the video perfectly.

Project 2: Multi-Frame

Katie-Kassel-VA3150-Multi-Frame-Floating-100818KK from Katie Kassel on Vimeo.



This project was half luck, half skill and only came to be because I just got started with what I had. We had just vacationed in Hilton Head, SC where I had captured a wide variety of footage. I didn’t know what I would end up with so I just filmed wherever we were, whatever we were doing, whenever I could. When I started putting the frames next to each other, I thought I would show “water” images in every left frame and “air” images in every right frame. But it felt too simple. I’m all for minimal BUT I felt like the video as a whole lacked depth visually and metaphorically. So I did what I do best…Make It More Complicated (Trademark Pending). I started layering air and water videos together and the result was much better. I loved the tension of not knowing if you were seeing air or water in motion. This is also reflected in the color scheme and somewhat eery, ambiguous music. That’s how Floating came to be the title.


All of our footage had to be our own, captured by our own cameras. Our audio could be created or found. The goal of this assignment was to present footage in a unique way using two or more frames. Frames could be layered, side by side, different sizes, etc. I do wish I would’ve pushed the boundaries of spacing and effects more with this assignment, but I also feel the end result aligns with my personal design style.

Project 3: Mini-Documentary

kkassel-va-final-documentary-121018KK from Katie Kassel on Vimeo.

Behind the Screen


While I wanted to use my learning experience to try a new things, I also wanted to be practical about how I was spending my time working on projects. I decided that if I was going to spent 15-20 hours on a project, it should serve me and my small business well. Time is money, baby. So I decided to create a tool that might help me share who I am and what I do as a one-woman graphic design studio. I love how prominent technology is in what I do as a graphic designer, but sometimes it can be hard for people to truly get an idea of my personality (and face) if we only ever exchange emails and phone calls. You’ll notice a dumb blue line in the middle of the video that’s not supposed to be there. You’ll also enjoy a few sub-par audio moments (hello, hi, student project) and rambling explanations. If or when I revisit this, I would cut the length WAY down and ruthlessly edit what I choose to say.


All of our footage had to be captured using our own brains and equipment. Audio could be found, but most documentaries include some spoken word for narrative purposes. This video had to be at least 4 minutes (!) long. Folks, it takes SO MUCH footage to edit down to 4 minutes. SO MUCH. And since I was using all of my own footage and myself as the subject, I made this extra hard on myself. I literally cringe watching this because it is hard to watch yourself do anything, but you better believe I met those requirements.

Final Thoughts

I totally enjoyed this class. I will say, the hardest part of anything for me is getting started so just signing up and showing up for this class required five minutes of bravery. What keeps me hooked and continually amazes me about the creative world are the endless possible outcomes. We all start with generally the same requirements and the finished projects are wildly different. We all heard or read the same words but they meant something different to each person.

Perhaps the kindest and highest compliment I received from my professor and classmates was my sensitivity to typography. Insignificant to you but touched my heart! I’ve loved letters all my life and discovering that I can care for them in my profession is super cool! All that to say, I love typography and believe well-chosen fonts and colors help communicate the story or information you aim to share.

Books I Read in 2018, Pt 2

Books I Read in 2018, Pt 2

I set a goal for myself to read as many books as possible each year. I started with a hard and fast goal of 20 books and try to keep that number in mind. Last year, in 2018, I managed to devour 30 titles and today I’m sharing titles 16-30. Missed the first post? Check out titles 1-15 before you leave!

Let’s see what the second half of the list includes…

The Books I Read in 2018, Part 1 | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

List of 2018 Book Titles – Part 2

2018 Read: Educated | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

16. Educated

Another one that easily makes it into my top picks of the year. The fact that the author lived these lives (yep, girlfriend definitely lived a few lives) and eventually had the opportunity to document and share her experiences is impressive. I couldn’t put this down because I have no life experiences that can even remotely compare to the author’s childhood, and for that I am so thankful. It also made me endlessly thankful for the hundreds and thousands of teachers and professors who champion students without support systems. Just, thanks so much for what you do. Fans of The Glass Castle, grab this one.

2018 Read: Lilac Girls | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

17. Lilac Girls

World War II read. This is based on a true story of two Hungarian sisters who survived life in a Nazi concentration camp. They seriously survived the unspeakable.

18. The Stars are Fire

Not my favorite, but very okay. The main character is an INDEPENDENT WOMAN and she takes care of her family in a time when women didn’t have the autonomy we have now. It does involve a few somewhat sensitive topics surrounding motherhood and relationships.

2018 Read: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

19. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Another contender for 2018 Favorite! Eleanor is billed as a curmudgeon, and she IS. But she’s also so lovable. This book was so endearing and I am crossing my little fingers that this is adapted into a film or series. I would recommend this one to lovers of A Man Called Ove.

2018 Read: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

20. You May Also Like: An Age of Endless Choice

This one was fascinating! If you don’t care about why humans make choices and the research documenting the process then maybe pick something else on this list. The best way I can describe the gist of this book is taste is an individual choice and is most developed by our repeated exposure to things. I believe there are more recent editions than what I read.

2018 Read: Monday's Not Coming | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

21. Monday’s Not Coming

Page-turner. Read this in a single day. No idea if I ate or drank water or breathed, but I HAD to finish this book. This was eye-opening as a white person who lives in the burbs, but I think any person would benefit from reading this. The author weaves a heartbreaking story of race, poverty, mental illness, and friendship. Read this.

2018 Read: Drop the Ball | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

22. Drop the Ball

This book was at once both exactly and not at all what I expected. I did expect the author to suggest not even trying to “do it all,” because you don’t have to and you don’t need to. But there were a few other really good, practical nuggets in there. Any relationship requires teamwork, yes? Both parties do not need to handle the same tasks/responsibilities – it’s inefficient – which means there are going to be certain things that one person tends to take on. Typically, the only way people will know if you need help is if you…what for it..ask them. And typically the person we harbor bitterness towards is the person in the best position to help us. Also, it can be frustrating if your counterpart doesn’t seem to care about the same things you care about.

2018 Read: The Hate U Give | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

23. The Hate U Give

If you saw this movie, then you know the general story but this book was another important read that brings awareness to the all-too-familiar story of racial tension and vilification of African American boys and young men.

2018 Read: How to Be Yourself | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

24. How to Be Yourself

If you know and love/put up with me, you may have unfortunately experienced the weird, emotional, irrational? meltdowns I have leading up to big events. Basically, BIG days bring out BIG feelings for me. It was like my brain was shouting “CHILL OUT, WE’RE FINE” while I cried about what I was wearing and snapping at people. After reading up on social anxiety, it’s pretty clear I display a lot of those characteristics. I’m reading about and working on how to deal with this and purposefully putting myself in controlled situations that push me. OK, THE BOOK, RIGHT. I loved this. Now, it’s totally geared towards me. It addressed common thought processes and behavior patterns of folks who get anxious before, during, or after social situations. More than addressing behaviors, it offered some super practical, quick, free exercises for managing anxious feelings.

2018 Read: The Great Alone | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

25. The Great Alone

I really enjoyed this book! I felt it was a well-rounded, vivid story. It could have been the timing of this read because I think I was ready to experience an escape.

2018 Read: Sweetbitter | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

26. Sweetbitter

This cover was everywhere and pink so I knew I would read it #millenialpink. I didn’t love this but did find the complicated relationships and demands of the hospitality businesses really interesting. If you’re all about NYC and have experience in a restaurant then you might enjoy this more than I did.

2018 Read: Grit | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

27. Grit by Angela Duckworth

I have been recommending this to everyone I know! Solid and fascinating research on grit and humans’ abilities to stick with things. I think the stories and principles can be applied to any person at any age in any industry.

2018 Read: Beautiful Boy | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

28. Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

This was honestly a hard read. And by hard I mean frustrating and heartbreaking. I am fortunate to have personal experience with addiction. To read about the destruction addiction can unleash on families and the cost of resources was eye-opening. This is a movie with Steve Carrell and Timothee Chalamet so maybe it will sound familiar. If you live a relatively comfortable life without need for government assistance (myself included, I’m working on this) this would be a good opportunity to expand your horizons.

2018 Read: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

29. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

I would not recommend this book if you do not have any interest in the political climate of the last 50 years of Africa, especially Rwanda. I was determined to read several Rwanda-specific books after our visit there last year. I do think this book did an excellent job of capturing the complicated, nuanced feelings of Rwandans post-genocide. Dry but informative.

2018 Read: Girl, Wash Your Face | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

30. Girl, Wash Your Face

My last read of the year was a positive one, on purpose. This book has been everywhere so the library queue was pretty long! I know I may get some heat for this, but I thought it was very OK. This book was really good and encouraging and all the “good” things you want in a book, but I feel like I’ve read this 10x before. I still think you should read it because it might be the warm fuzzy your soul needs, but don’t blame me if you roll your eyes a few times.

Ok, that concludes my 30 Books I Read in 2018 list. I hope you found one or two new titles that you hadn’t heard of or might add to your list. Most importantly, share your recommendations for your favorite reads below! Did you read any of these? What were your thoughts?

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