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Jo Skillman's Design Toolkit

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Creative and brand director Jo Skillman shares the essential tools and processes inside her design toolkit.

Words by 

Megan Hill

Published on 

September 1, 2022

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Name: Jo Skillman

Profession: Creative director

Location: Houston, TX, USA

Instagram: @jo_jayne_s

A designer and writer at heart, Jo applies her skillset to building large-scale brands and campaigns that engage and excite communities. Previous clients include, The White House/Michelle Obama, The CW Network, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).


Blank paper all day.

They don’t make for pretty sketches, but they do turn into good logos.


A 2 square colour palette showing a bright red with a baby pink.

I’m a fiend for warm colours. Especially the burgundy/red-orange with fuchsia/ice pink combos I’ve been seeing a lot lately.

Era of inspiration

I'm into vintage of every era. I have a particular love for the boldness and linear nature of Art Deco, and I once centred an entire campaign on mid-century clip art I found at an estate sale.

I’ve also directed a brand identity centred on vintage political buttons. Any era can be an inspiration depending on the client!

Designer on speed-dial

I have a years-long and very active group text of several senior designers, and I continue to believe that brain trust is far more helpful to me than any one designer’s phone number, no matter how famous.

We’ve found each other jobs, travelled together, designed an entire cookbook, celebrated birthdays, troubleshot print issues, shared business tips and largely been an irreplaceable resource for each other.


  • Firm favourite: A condensed gothic typeface always lets you say more with less space, and that’s an important quality.
  • A distant love: Ambiguity by Monotype. I almost got to use it in this really unexpected beauty campaign… so close.
  • Never again: Lato. It’s a great workhorse font and a ton of people use it. So many in fact, that I hope to never see it again. I prefer my typefaces to have a bit more personality.

Organisational approach

I am crazy organised. I use project management software, creative briefs, digital moodboards, and white boarding tools, Google Cal invites, and handwritten notes. Whatever it takes to get the team on the same page and the same schedule.

Trusted advisor

Children. Bartenders. Attorneys. Chefs. People you happen to be standing next to at a coffee shop.

I’m a big fan of polling people around me who don’t have any "skin in the game" at all because they have no design ego and no reason to overthink.

I’ll sometimes sketch or brainstorm in public places just for access to guest brains: “What does this look like to you?” “When I say ‘education,’ what do you think of?” “What does this colour remind you of?” After all, I’m almost never designing things for just the client.

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