The Through Line of Design
It’s clear to people who are constantly creating and designing how so many disciplines of design are connected. We spend so much time concepting, sketching, developing, fine-tuning, editing, etc. I’ve always been interested in ‘the architecture of things’ and I spent much of my adolescence watching HGTV with my parents . From that exposure to construction and design, I grew up with the aspiration to be a carpenter and build furniture. In middle school, my family moved to Fayetteville, NC and when we were building our house, I worked with the contractor to design the second floor. I gave myself a private bathroom, included a wet bar in the bonus room and designed the interiors and shelving in all of our walk-in closets. That was my first applied design practice for a physical product, and it was so thrilling to see it all come to life.

Informed by that experience and many others, I took several years of architectural drafting throughout high school and grew to love what can be created through the process of sketching, CAD-ing and developing physical products . Though my professional work lends itself to digital design and front-end web development, I’ve learned so many of my applied skills through drafting classes and sewing with my mom.

Earlier this year I launched an apparel brand. Because I chose to include “apparel design” into the cocktail of the design practices that inform my interests, introductions are often confusing. “I’m a digital designer/developer-turned-apparel designer,” is generally where I start. When I tell people that I’ve launched a clothing line, Leigh NY, they first ask if I sew all the pieces. I do not, but I am responsible for sketching, CAD-ing, pattern development (sometimes in 3D), cutting and sewing muslins, fitting, editing (x5), sampling fabric, adjusting, lining, adjusting again, etc. Have I lost you already?! The process is so involved and I am learning something new everyday. Once I solve a present problem, it is replaced by a new one. It’s an exciting and confusing time.

It’s been incredible to see how all the work that I’ve created in the past, even from the interactive design and coding courses throughout college, have informed what I am creating today and what I am continuing to learn along with way. Everything from color theory and conveying a mood to the apparel production process and discovering 3D design. I took 3D courses in college, but I didn’t apply myself like I needed to. Creating work professionally and in the context of applied design makes the output so much more meaningful. Designing products that can be worn and taking my attention to detail outside of the 2D, digital space, has been rewarding.

I am very fresh on the learning curve for apparel product development. Think developer notes are tough? Try garment specs, while being mindful of how those specs will vary on different women's bodies—the ultimate UX challenge. I am currently working on new pieces and editing patterns so that they are flattering for all shapes and sizes, which tends to skew towards classic silhouettes and vintage style designs.

In this journey of developing product and designing, I am better understanding who I am and fine-tuning my voice and vision. All of my freelance work has informed so many aspects of what I’ve learned and grown to value. It’s not always easy to do work that feels so personal, outside of client work, especially when discovering who you are is a constant journey, but I am surely learning my blind spots.
Morgan Johnson is an Independent Designer + Illustrator living  in New York, NY. She is the creator of Leigh, a New York City-based apparel brand, and can be found on social media at @morgannjay or @leigh_newyork.
Art used in this issue: “Corridor (Chair)” by Lorna Simpson
Desk Lunch is a community for all creative people of marginalized genders.

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