5 Things I Tell Myself While I’m Running

5 Things I Tell Myself While I’m Running

I ran the Kansas City Half Marathon on October 20th, 2018. It was my fourth half marathon race and it was a picture perfect Fall morning. I would probably hesitate to call myself a, um, runner? That just feels too official. But I put in the time to train and what kind of creative weirdo would I be if I didn’t blog and design about it? I didn’t run for almost two years. I hated it, couldn’t imagine running for 30 minutes. How boring! In life, I’m generally more productive and focused when I have a measurable goal. I want to be the kind of person who just goes for a run on any old day whenever I feel like it, but signing up for a race gives me a deadline and plan to get there. Over the past few months and years, I’ve realized how much the words I use encourage to myself during a training run are just as applicable in real life. Here’s what Katie’s Brain tells Katie’s Body during a run.

Number 1 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

1. Go as slow as you want but do not stop.

I am a person who needs momentum. If I’m in motion I’m more likely to stay in motion. Newton’s First Law and stuff. A hard stop? That makes it really hard for me to mentally and physically get moving again. I track my mileage with a Garmin watch so I know how fast and how far I’ve gone. This means I’m aware of my pace; faster than usual, slower than usual, standing still waiting to cross a street. I notice that I run faster than usual on shorter runs when I know it should take me less time. My splits are all over the place, I’m winded, tense, and my expectations are unrealistic. But on longer runs, I am consistent. I mentally and physically know that I need to settle in because this one is going to take a little time. And that, I am learning, is the key to most important things in life, in business, in relationships. Go slow. Settle in. Save a little bit for later.

Number 2 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

2. Take the hills one step at a time.

I’m not a fast runner, I am extremely average and extremely okay with it. Literally no one in the world cares if I run up a hill, or walk up a hill, or sit on the couch. And yet, I feel like a stadium full of spectators watch as I approach a hill. I find myself sizing up how giant and steep it looks. I’m contemplating how hard it’s going to be before I’m even there. Hysteria ensues… That’s not a hill! That’s, like, a mountain! A steep, jagged, treacherous mountain! Right here, in my suburban neighborhood! Spoiler Alert: Hills are part of the course, not the course itself. The act of running up a hill is the exact same as cruising a flat stretch. Two feet, alternating steps. Keep doing the thing you’ve been doing. It’s not one giant stride to the top. Um, is this sounding like a metaphor for life? A technical glitch, an upset client, a family miscommunication. They’re part of the course, not the course itself.

Number 3 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

3. The only way home is to keep going.

Maybe this one sounds sad or harsh but I usually need a little tough-love-self-encouragement at the half-way mark or my turn-around point. I have to remind myself that I committed to putting in the work to do this run. I don’t force myself to a point where I’m injured or unhealthy or anything; this is more about accountability. In a firm, but polite manner I tell myself, “You’ve come this far. You committed to this run. You’re [X] miles from your end point. At half-way? It’s the same distance back that you’ve already travelled. You’ve gotta cover that ground to be done.” Backtracking over your first 50% requires the same amount of effort as finishing the remaining 50%. I try to employ this same mindset when finishing a particularly tedious or challenging project. Procrastination or self-sabotage inevitably set in and I just want to be done. The big idea is that there’s absolutely no substitute for doing the work. Tasks A, B, C must be done to complete the project. Power through. Keep Going. Refer to Number 1.

Number 4 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

4. Measure your progress.

This is a habit I am working on cultivating. My better half is a meticulous record-keeper (gas mileage, bank account, running logs, you name it) and I’m trying to learn from him. Measuring progress is a big reason I wear my GPS watch to track my distance, speed, and frequency. Numbers help take the emotion out of certain decisions, especially for me (feelings, feelings, everywhere). Can I really run 6 miles today? Absolutely! In fact, you’ve done this a dozen times before in all types of weather! When I feel overwhelmed or discouraged, I’m learning to look back at the “analytics” of my life. According to the past 29 years, the data shows that I have survived 100% of the stressful times in my life. Track your progress and let the numbers prop you up when your heart’s not in it. Count the miles and the milestones.

Number 5 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

5. Find yourself a few good cheerleaders.

I do not mean that you need to arrange a large crowd of adoring fans. It probably wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary. I do mean that you need a few people in your life who notice. A few trusted souls who acknowledge you’re working hard, putting in the hours. A few people who ask if you’re eating, sleeping, stretching, telling you to “just get it done already.” A few people who will linger after the race to sit with you while drink chocolate milk and eat a banana. I have found this to be true during each race and in my first year running a small business. I do not mean that only good friends refer clients to you. Again, wouldn’t hurt (I’m kidding!). I mean that a handful of people have trusted me to take care of businesses and people they care about. No crowds of screaming fans. A small circle can make such a big difference.

Race Day

When people ask why or how I could possibly RUN THIRTEEN MILES, I usually tell them that any hesitations are shattered on Race Day. I know life-long runners likely don’t want or need the loud, spandex fanfare of an organized race but I love it. There is an electric energy the morning of a race. It’s early, it’s dark, the strangers next to you have run their hills and healed their blisters. Most folks will have one spectator along the route–a spouse, a kid, friend, coworker, etc–to shout a few encouraging words or hold a clever sign. Some runners are going it alone. You can hear the noise and celebration of the finish line a mile away. You might only recognize one voice in that crowd, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone is cheering for someone. Let the cheer spill over because it could encourage someone else.

Thanks for reading. If you’re one of my cheerleaders, thanks from the very bottom of my heart. If you’re someone else’s cheerleader, thanks from the very bottom of my heart, too. I don’t think you have to run half marathons or a business to know that slow and steady helps you stay consistent. But if you do want to run a half marathon or a business, settle in. This is gonna take a minute.

It’s OK to Design for Fun

It’s OK to Design for Fun

Happy Friday! This is not a lengthy deep or personal post but I’m try to put more effort into my website and blog. The truth is like genuinely like designing and writing so I’m using my season of change to implement new creative habits. Before April and May of this year I had not designed or photographed or written anything for the pure joy of designing in at least a year. A YEAR. OF NOT DOING THE THING I LOVE TO DO. I mean, the glorious part of a J-O-B in the creative field means using one’s “creativity” each day in the office for clients. But after months and years of strictly making stuff for other people, you get burnt out or uninspired or both. I felt like I was withholding the very thing I like to do, from myself, because I should only spend my time on paid work. Getting paid to do what you do is, well, important and probably (definitely) the ideal scenario. There’s value in design; it’s important for communicating things. There are many technical aspects that can be most efficiently understood and completed by a professional. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUN.

2 Hours of FUN

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a perfectionist in almost every area of my life. But the books I enjoy reading, the art I enjoy looking at, and the people I enjoy spending time with are not perfect. And it’s OK. We’re all better for it. So I’m getting back to the basics by blocking off 2 hours of “Design for Fun” time to my calendar each week. I can make whatever I want for those two hours and the result can be simple, complex, dumb, ugly, or whatever else. The graphics below are the result of a couple hours of Design for Fun time a few weeks ago. I’m also experimenting with finalizing my own brand color palette so that’s how I ended up with those colors.

It's OK rosy graphic | Katie Kassel Graphic Designer

It's OK stoplight graphic | Katie Kassel Graphic Designer

It's OK blush graphic | Katie Kassel Graphic Designer

Things I am OK with this week:

  • I made progress on but am not done with my UX mobile app design.
  • I worked out almost every day this week.
  • There are emails from recruiters and miscellaneous other contacts I did not follow up with.
  • I have not done my business accounting for May yet.
  • I finished a 20 page document layout that was a day late but my client was flexible and excited about the result.
  • I ordered, like, 12 dresses and shoes for upcoming events and I didn’t really like how any of them fit or looked.

If you didn’t get everything on your list done this week, it’s OK. You’re OK. I’m OK. OK then! Thanks for reading.

Seasons of Change

Seasons of Change

Seasons in the Midwest can be unpredictable. Sweltering heat, bitter cold, gusting wind, driving rain, boring grey, eerily still. I turned 29 this week and I’m feeling…contemplative. I’m ALMOST THIRTY. While discussing with friends, I decided I still feel 23ish? Old enough to buy a bottle of wine but definitely too young for everything else I’m supposed to handle. While there are no major milestones that happened, Year 28 was super good and super weird. So… what have I been up to? Um, a little bit of everything.

If you’re close to me or follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably gathered that I’m taking some classes and stuff. Long story short, I left my design job at any agency at the end of December. I learned a ton and worked with some really great people along the way, but I needed to make a change. I ignored my unhappiness for a long time and made myself and everyone around me miserable in the process. I felt stuck, frustrated, uninspired, unmotivated, unhappy, unhelpful, un-everything, while following the path I thought others expected of me. Ultimately, I needed to make a change for myself. As a card-carrying member of People Pleasers Forever (definitely going to design something for this), I didn’t have a lot of experience in choosing my own path. The unknown is terrifying, especially for people-pleasing perfectionists (so I hear).

Making this change forced me into action, progress even. I’ve always wanted to try freelancing so I started my own business, Kassel Creative, with the legal and professional counsel of people way smarter than I am. I didn’t know how freelancing would go so I signed up for a few classes, you know, to stay out of trouble. One lecture class, Entrepreneurial Foundations, and one online bootcamp, User Experience Design. And you know what? It’s been awesome. Not entirely what I expected, and definitely not perfect, but awesome all the same. I do not have the rigid structure I once found comfort in but I do have a new appreciation for students, teachers, parents, small business owners, and the list goes.

Every January, I wonder if summer will ever come again. And when I long for sweater weather in August, I know brisk fall days lie ahead. So… what does extreme weather have to do with my professional ramblings? Seasons, man. I always knew exactly what my next move or role was until I didn’t. I never really had or embraced a season of true change, quiet, and discomfort. I still don’t know what my next step is. But I’m okay. Trying something new was not fatal. My biggest take-aways from my Season of Change are that change is almost always good and also that time is going to pass anyway so you may as well do what makes you happy. Year 29 is off to a great start and I do believe summer will show up sooner or later.

Are you on a clear-cut Five-Year Plan or are you wandering through a Season of Change? I hope you’re happy and learning a lot either way!

The 20 Books I Read in 2017

The 20 Books I Read in 2017

Oh yes, it’s that time of year when everyone’s talking reflections from last year and goals for next year. I’ve got a lot of each of those, too, but one of my life goals, just generally speaking, is to read as much as possible. This will come as no surprise from the girl who invited her friends to come over and read growing up. (more…)

Grace in All Places: Finding Focus in 2017

Grace in All Places: Finding Focus in 2017

Grace in all places: Finding Focus in 2017

Grace in All Places: Finding Focus in 2017

My 2016 held many unique experiences. I learned so much personally and professionally. I could probably say the same thing at the close of every year, but last year was different. I took on new roles I wasn’t sure about, created things I didn’t know I could create, spent time with people I love, and explored new destinations.

And I took on way too much.

I spread myself too thin; this is a recurring theme in my life as a people pleaser. All were things I deeply cared about, all things I want to continue doing, but it was too much at once. But the calm after the chaos left me wondering… what do I want to focus on? What’s the important stuff? What’s the work that can’t wait until later? There are seasons that ask and seasons that answer; 2016 was certainly a season of asking.

Professionally and technically speaking, I *feel* like I grew tremendously in the last year. Things that once felt just out of reach–designing a published book and customizing websites–are now familiar. Personally speaking, I learned and continue to learn how to better balance quiet time alone with fun experiences with family and friends. There were a lot of things I wanted to learn, and I did. There were a lot of things I needed to learn, whether I wanted to or not. You don’t know what you don’t know, ya know? And the question remains, how do those experiences come together moving forward? What should I focus on moving forward?

While I wait for the answers to life’s bigger questions, I’m choosing for focus on giving and accepting grace.

Grace for Others

I hold the people in my life to very high standards. Typically because they are exceptionally amazing, intelligent, and capable humans. But they are humans. They will err. We only know of others what they say and do, and I think very few people intentionally say or do things to make others miserable. With that in mind, I want to focus on leaving a little extra room for people to function, respond, or communicate in their own way. Accepting for who they are, not who we want or expect them to be. No one is all good or all bad, there are too many shades between the two. Jayce O’Neal’s quote sums this up perfectly, “We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. We need to offer grace to all, because we all need a little grace.” I need to write that quote on 1,000 sticky notes. Grace for others at work, at home, at church, on the phone, on the internet, in person, in line at the grocery store, in all places.

Grace for Me

If there is one person I hold to higher standards than others, it is myself. Dumb things I said, workouts I didn’t do, texts I forgot to respond to, and projects I didn’t give my full attention to bounce around in my brain. I beat myself up for weeks about minor, potentially unnoticed, offenses. Maybe you can relate? Some of those echoes are unnecessary baggage, others are motivation for growth. I want to let those past perceived mess-ups fade into the background so I can more clearly focus on the good stuff in 2017–the encouraging notes I will write, the long walks I will enjoy, the new projects I will tackle. Grace for me in my relationships, in my career, in my projects, in all places.

I don’t yet know how all my 2016 questions will be answered but, in the meantime, I’m going to focus on growth and grace while I wait. Grace for others, myself, at home, at work, at church, in all places.

What are you choosing to focus on in 2017? Anything you’re planning to leave behind?

Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer in Omaha, NE
Katie Kassel

Graphic and web designer in Omaha, Nebraska. Logos, branding, WordPress websites, and weddings.

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Back at it

Back at it

It’s been a minute, or three years, since I stretched my blogging muscle and I am itching to get back in the swing of things. My old blog “Oh My Heavens” was adorable, and super simple, but I LOVED sharing my favorite things. I am focused on web design these days and decided that a gal who designs websites should probably have a decent digital portfolio of her own. So I finally redesigned my own website. And there was big, blog-sized hole in the navigation bar (and in my heart) so here we are.

Things You Will Find on My Blog

Design Projects

A large part of why I wanted to jump back into blogging was to document and share projects I’m currently working on or have completed. You’ll see anything from wedding invitation suites to envelopes addressed in calligraphy to custom beer labels.


Design inspiration comes to me in so many forms. Colors, signage, packaging, fonts, clothing, photography, patterns, textiles, life events. I love to curate little collections of visuals with like colors, styles, etc. I will be clear about content that I’ve personally created versus images I’ve curated as inspiration.

Trends and Processes

In an attempt to help others or share insight, I may share my design process(es) or trends that I’m seeing/liking. I’m always up for new design techniques or better understanding a concept so I hope to learn a thing or two along the way.

Things You Will Not Find on My Blog


I am a terrible cook and I accepted that fact many years ago. I memorized a couple reliable (and delicious!) cookie recipes that have served me very well. I don’t do crazy food trends or weird diets, thus I will not share step-by-step recipes of food fads. I eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every morning so I can work in some captivating images of the Maple & Brown Sugar goodness if that peaks your interest.


Um, yeah, this is a design blog. Also, I don’t think one individual’s Facebook status has ever changed another individual’s views on important matters so we’ll stick to weddings and web trends.

Perfect grammar

I am not an editor or a copywriter. I am, however, an educated individual blogging. For fun. In my free time. Thus, a few grammatical errors may slip through the cracks or I might misspell something in my haste to share my latest breakthrough. My tone will be conversational… and maybe a little sarcastic at times.

OKAY, ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? Thanks so much for checking out my creative space. My design blog is meant to share projects and to document things I like. My design blog is not meant to make any other person feel bad about themselves or “less than” in any way. I’m really, super, way-far-away from perfect so don’t misunderstand pretty pictures or big life events for a perfect life. I might share some personal things, but remember that I’m choosing what I share and keeping the rest (good, bad, or otherwise) private. I don’t intend to share my deepest feelings, give life-changing advice, or complain about trivial things. Heck, my mom might be the only person that ever reads this, and I’m really okay with that. (Love you, mom!) Next time you hear from me, I’ll have something more exciting to look at than a picture of my left shoulder.

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