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Jo Skillman's Design Toolkit

Megan Hill
A selection of logos designed by Jo Skillman.

Visualist speaks with top designers and creative directors to find out what essential tools they keep in their daily design toolkit.

Jo Skillman—creative and brand director. Photo credit: Alan Nguyen

Name: Jo Skillman

Profession: Creative director

Location: Houston, TX, USA

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). We quizzed Jo on the tricks and tools that make up her daily design toolkit...


A page taken from Jo Skillman's design notebook.

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


I’m a fiend for warm colours—especially the burgundy/red-orange/fuchsia/ice pink combos I’ve been seeing in interior design lately.


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.


A condensed gothic typeface always lets you say more with less space, and that’s an important quality.

Ambiguity by Monotype. I almost got to use it in this really unexpected beauty campaign… so close.

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 (Hey, Visualist) and whiteboarding 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.

Find out more about Jo's services and past projects on her website. Or keep up to date with her work on Instagram.