Lauren Ver Hage is the Chief Design Officer of The Financial Diet, your new favorite personal finance blog (that is, if it isn’t your favorite already.)
As a firm believer in personal finance and independence, she works every day to make money understandable and accessible for a wide range of readers. She talked with HelloFlo about her design process, her inspirations, and her career decisions and goals moving forward.
What is The Financial Diet, and why should our readers know about it?
So glad you asked! The Financial Diet is a site for women, about money, that isn’t boring. It’s an editorial/narrative-driven site with a strong community and contributor base that also offers resources, expert interviews, personal confessions, career advice, essays, and much more. Since the site was founded in 2014, my partner Chelsea and I have worked to create a space that allows people to come together to talk honestly and openly about money and some of the many other less glamorous aspects of life that we felt did not get nearly the attention they deserve in the media. We have so many people that write in and share their money mistakes, financial lessons they’ve learned, how-tos, and personal finance strategies, and they feel comfortable doing so because they know that we’re not here to judge anyone. We’ve all been there and have our own issues/baggage/hang-ups—it’s good to learn from one another.
Why is it important to make personal finance more accessible and communicable to people?
I think it’s so important to have control over money and use it as a tool to make your whole life better. Many of the same skills you need to whip your finances into shape can be applied to your career, your friendships, the relationship with your significant other—so many areas. When I’m responsible and think ahead, I’m giving my future-self so much more flexibility and freedom to build the life I want.
What initially sparked your interest in design, and how do you keep that passion alive?
I’ve loved art since I was a kid, I spent a lot of time drawing and loved working with my hands. I think the love for design specifically really manifested in college. I was originally drawn to the fine arts, but fell in love with graphic design after I took a typography class with a brilliant professor back in college and never looked back. I was so inspired by how powerful the language of design was, how designers were using it, and how they could reach and affect so many people—when design is done right, ideas and concepts you might have walked right by grab your attention and make you think instead. Expressing myself through art and design has always been something that’s come naturally to me, and I feed that passion by continuously learning and evolving my skills. For example, through building the company over the past few years, I’ve learned food photography (I’m still nowhere near an expert though!), designed products, and helped to shape TFD’s brand identity from the get-go.
I think it’s really valuable to keep curiosity alive and to keep yourself moving forward, and one way of doing this is to push yourself past your boundaries and what you thought you were capable of. Yes, it’s painful if you perceive something as a “failure,” but you learn SO much more from failing instead of always playing it safe in the I-know-I-can-do-it zone. I don’t want to sound too prescriptive, but I think you should always try to diversify the types of projects you’re working on and embrace new mediums to challenge yourself. For example, I’m in the middle of finishing up Jessica Hische’s Introduction To Lettering Skillshare course because I am straight-up determined to gain even a fragment of that woman’s talent. I’ve also devoured the Design Matters podcast with Debbie Millman (a total badass), and it’s really opened me up to the wider creative culture and how it can influence my own work.
What are your hopes for your future and the future of The Financial Diet?
My hope is that we keep reaching more people, diversifying the voices on the site, promoting honesty, feeling more engaged and connected with the community, and just getting more young women interested in talking about money. On a personal level, I want to use it as a platform where I can talk honestly about hang ups/taboos/touchy subjects in my own life—something that doesn’t come easy for me, but I want to get more comfortable doing. I also want to keep on flexing my design muscles to come up with creative tools that will make the learning more enjoyable and as beautiful as possible. I feel irrationally happy when a reader makes a comment like “I didn’t expect a website about personal finance to look so pretty!” #Score. It’s cool to see how design can make something so traditionally dry, like personal finance, feel fun and relevant. To me, there’s nothing more special than feeling like I’m helping to make TFD and the stuff we talk about accessible to more people.
Can you describe one of your proudest moments in your career?
Oh man, there have been so many over the past several years with plenty of “OMG” moments as we’ve seen the company build and really develop into something special. But, I think that one of the best was when I finished the design of our 40-page book proposal with Chelsea late last year. A few months later, around February of this year, we ended up selling the book to a publisher and are now in the process of working on a book with Regan Arts (which you can read all about in a post Chelsea wrote!.) I’m doing the food photography for it, along with designing the graphics, charts, and other visual elements, and it’s been an enormous undertaking. It’s a real (but exciting) challenge in transitioning an online brand to print and keeping it consistent, while simultaneously making adjustments and improvements.
What has been one of your biggest career challenges, and how did you overcome it?
Well, we’re currently in the middle of launching an e-shop and doing product design mockups for the items we plan on selling, which has definitely been one of the bigger challenges of my career. Figuring out how things will look and function out in the real world takes a lot of careful consideration. Product design is an art in and of itself, and I know some designers who do it beautifully, but it was a challenge that I wanted to take on. I have to admit, it wasn’t going great at first, and I went through rounds and rounds of iterations that were just looking…bad. But, I’ve been pushing through and have been getting better at adapting my work to physical products. I’m not out the other end yet, but I’m making solid progress and that feels incredibly rewarding. When I finish a mock-up, and the design elements feel like they just click into place, it’s like magic. When it works, it works, and I think, “Hell yeah! I would buy that!”—and that just feels so great.