Drawing Inspiration: Talking Design with Tina Sims

Ever wonder who’s behind the beautiful hand lettering in our Ingredient cookbook? Senior Art Director Tina Sims works on everything from emails and websites to calendars and dog collars. Her distinctive artistry and attention to detail stems from decades of experience; she’s quietly tenacious and eager to explore new ideas. She recently sat down with Senior Copywriter Joanna Wing to chat about design, hand lettering, and life at Ingredient.

Joanna: How long have you been at Ingredient?

Tina: I’ve worked here for 20 years! (Fun fact: That’s longer than three of the current owners.)

J: Wow, that’s unbelievable! What’s your background? How did you end up here?

T: I went to night school at Brown Institute and have an associate degree in visual communications. I actually started working with Ingredient as a client. Right out of school, I worked for a company called Brainco. I was designing a website, and Brigette Peterson and Bryan Bowers (two Ingredient employees who have been around even longer than I have!) were building it. I eventually decided to quit my job, and when I did, Bryan called and offered me a job. When I first started, I not only did design work, but also coded emails and websites.

J: Which design projects are you most proud of?

T: Definitely the Ingredient cookbook. It was the first cookbook we ever created, and our whole team worked on it together. We developed all the recipes in-house. We wrote all the copy. We took the photographs. I laid it out and did all the hand lettering. It’s the most beautiful design piece I’ve done that I can literally hold in my hands. It’s such a great example of our teamwork at Ingredient — all our skills coming together in one amazing project.

J: Hand lettering is one of your specialties — your passion project. How did you discover you were interested in doing it?

T: I’ve loved lettering since I was a little girl. I’ve always had good handwriting. When I was young, I made a hand-lettered piece of paper — a little art piece that I had drawn that said “gullible.” You know how people used to say “gullible is written on the ceiling”? Yeah, I literally had it hanging on my ceiling. It was written out in huge, really cute letters that I had drawn by hand. So I’ve always done it, you know?

As an adult, I started following hand-lettering artists on Instagram and didn’t know how they did it. How did they make this beautiful art? I was just baffled. Then about four years ago, I started looking into it and saw a video of someone drawing on their iPad, and I was like, oh my God.

My husband, Mike, had an Apple pencil, so I asked him to download Procreate on his iPad so I could try it. I drew my first real drawing, and I was so overwhelmed with joy at a time when I was in a really difficult place. I had recently lost my brother to cancer, and it was hard to find happiness. Hand lettering brought me happiness.

That year, for our anniversary, Mike bought me an iPad and a pencil. And the rest is history.

J: Clearly this is a passion of yours for many, many reasons.

T: Well, there’s also the fact that it took so much out of me to put it on Instagram. For the longest time, I was posting my designs there but not telling anyone about it! Then one day I told people, and I was so nervous — but to see that everyone liked it and was actually excited about it, I just thought: whoa, this is really something.

J: Do you do much hand lettering outside of Instagram?

T: Yes! I make custom hand-lettered dog collars for our sister company, Stunt Puppy, which I absolutely love. I also have literally hundreds of drawings that I haven’t posted to Instagram. If I have spare time, I have my iPad in my hand. I mean, if I’m just watching TV, I’m drawing at the same time.

J: You were recently featured in a book for a hand-lettered piece that you designed. Tell us about that.

T: It’s called Typism. It’s an annual book that features lettering artists around the world. This is book #7. Thousands of entries. 190 chosen. And I got in.

J: Wow, that’s so impressive! Who does the book?

T: It’s completely made up of artists’ hand-lettering creations and put together by an artist in Australia. You have to submit your work to be considered. I submitted eight pieces and one got chosen.

J: Besides the cookbook, have you done any other hand lettering for work?

T: Besides the occasional email graphic here and there, no, not a ton, although I think our company looks for opportunities for me to do it any chance they can. I do get pulled in to do fun food illustrations, though.

J: What kinds of illustrations are you working on right now?

T: I’m about to start drawing a pig and pork parts! One of our grocery clients asked us to do something fun for “Porktober,” and since raw pork isn’t the most beautiful thing to photograph, we thought it would be fun to create illustrations to highlight the different cuts of pork instead.

J: OMG, Porktober, I love it! I’m literally sending you a piglet giphy right now. Okay, what other work projects are you proud of?

T: I also really enjoy creating Betty Crocker and Pillsbury emails for General Mills. Ingredient’s email tool uses preset components to build emails. It’s kind of like Tetris; we come up with all these new, creative ways to fit these design building blocks together. Also, it sounds cheesy, but I’m super proud of how our whole team works together to make our emails so awesome. We’ve grown over the years to have so much knowledge of email that I truly feel like we’re a dream team.

J: Speaking of which, what about Box Tops for Education? We’ve been working together on that for years!

T: Yes! I’ve been working with Box Tops since 2001. It’s a school fundraising program created by General Mills where families can scan their grocery receipts with their smartphones, find participating products, and earn cash for schools. I’ve designed hundreds, if not thousands, of emails and completely redesigned their entire website many times. They recently underwent a full rebrand — their website, a whole new logo — and I did that design work. That logo shows up on every Box Tops package. I’m really proud of that.

J: Anything else that really sticks out in your mind?

T: One of my favorite things I’ve done at Ingredient is internal print work, like our company holiday card, or our tiki-themed company party invitation. So fun!

J: Wow, those cards are from quite a few years back…

T: Yes, and I still have them sitting on my desk. I just love them. They turned out so cool.

J: Your job at Ingredient requires a lot of collaboration with writers and front-end developers to create designs that work from all of those perspectives. How does that affect your designs?

T: I love the challenge of it. I love thinking about how writers think, how developers think, how the tool works, piecing it all together. This may sound weird, but I like limitations. That gets me excited. I always go back to Tetris, because I love that game. All the pieces just have to come together.

J: We’ve always joked that you and I are two halves of the same brain. In order to succeed, you kind of have to be, right? Now we practically finish each other's sentences.

T: “...each other’s sentences.” (Said at the same time as you, LOL.) It's so true! Somehow we've gotten into such a good rhythm over the years that we're faster and smarter together.

J: What are some of your other interests outside of graphic design?

T: I like to decorate. I love home decor. I like to go on adventures with my kids. And I LOVE Pokémon GO. (I have lots of legendaries!) Other than that, I just like to be with the kids — and not just my kids, but my nieces and nephews, too.

J: What are your goals — design or otherwise?

T: I love patterns! One of my goals is to make textile patterns. So, I would create a pattern and sell it to Pottery Barn, Target, whoever wants it. Basically, you’re licensing out your patterns. And seriously — no joke — one of my future goals is to have something I’ve designed on a product in a Pottery Barn store. I don’t quite know how yet, but I’m going to figure it out.

If you’d like to see more of Tina’s work, visit the Box Tops for Education website, sign up for Betty Crocker emails, or take a peek at the Ingredient cookbook online. You can check out more of her amazing hand-lettering skills on Instagram, too.

Want to work with Tina and our other talented designers? Reach out to us at hello@ingredient.mn to see how we can bring your brand to life!