One Minute With…
Hi Liz, thanks for taking the time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
Hello! I am a designer & illustrator, but for the past year or so I’ve been more on the illustration side. I was born & raised on Long Island, NY and now I live in Brooklyn, NY. I did have a 4 year stint in Portland, Oregon which was really nice—it gave me a different perspective on how people can live (without constant stress!)
As for my everyday work and such, I do a lot of editorial pieces for magazines and newspapers, though I am lucky enough to still get a chance to experiment with design through infographic projects that involve a lot of planning, tons of lines & too much typography. I love having that variety to keep me on my toes a bit.
How did you get into design? Was there a defining point in your career, and if so, how did it shape you as a designer?
I was actually on my way to pursuing a career in the medical field—I wanted to be an Oncologist, believe it or not! Though, I was at a rebellious point when I was 18, and I just wasn’t invested in having a mostly thankless job, with a 12-year education (& an infinite amount of sleepless nights) ahead of me. I went on a bit of a self-reflection kick over the next couple of years and eventually landed myself at an art school in Portland. 4 years later I graduated with a BFA and absolutely no idea what to do with myself.
I was lucky enough to have had friends doing editorial work and an amazing boyfriend (Gavin Potenza) that would let me hitchhike on his design projects to make some money to pay the rent while I figured things out. Eventually I had enough bits of work that I could put together a portfolio, which got my first few jobs.
I think my defining point though, was when I got into Cooper Type and moved back to New York. I really needed to get myself together and focus completely. It was the most intense year of my life, workload-wise, and it really forced me to figure out what I was really working for.
If you could change one thing about your career to date, what would it be?
It may not seem like it now, but it took me a really long time to get to the point where I could motivate myself enough to pursue a career. I have a terrible, classic case of designer’s block, so working on self-initiated projects has always been really difficult. You know how in school, people always say, “Make your own work! Just come up with an idea and go for it!” Well, I was never any good at that. So I’d love to go back to be able to work through those sorts of hang ups and get a better head start on trying to find my own style.
So, how did you get over the creative block, and develop a style for yourself? Is this something that you still struggle with, or have you managed to vanquish it completely?
It definitely happened over time, and with gaining confidence in my work. Some personal successes really do go a long way when it comes to being able to feel like you’ve made the right decision, career-wise. Developing a style comes directly from constantly working. Every time I do a new project I try something new with it, in the hopes that I’ll find a new & useful technique.
But still, no one is perfect, and no one will work at 100% capacity each day. When I have a project I’m really into, I will wake up early and get really excited to start the day. But on other days, I do still struggle with getting myself to work on personal or less time-sensitive projects without getting distracted.
I recently heard a comment from someone that went something like, “creative blocks mean that you’re uncreative.” I disagree… for the most part. I think if you truly are a creative person and still find yourself having a hard time working, then it’s very likely that you’ve merely allowed outside factors to come between you and your creative process. If you can work through your own procrastination demons then I think it should all work itself out eventually!
You share a studio space with Grace Danico, Gavin Potenza, and fellow OMW interviewee, Dan Cassaro. How beneficial has that been for you? Does it ever bring about any challenges?
I think it’s really great to be able to work around people you enjoy hanging out with and that will inspire you to work harder. We generally don’t work together on projects but it’s still nice to be able to all be working towards similar goals.
Challenges related to sharing a work space usually has to do with the fact that I have to stay showered, avoid wearing the same clothing every day and make sure I actually look like I’m super busy all day long. Just kidding……sort of.
So, as you said, you studied at Cooper Type. How useful do you think this has been in your career? Is a formal education in design still relevant?
The best part of Cooper Type is that it is, by design, the opposite of formal education. It’s essentially a sort-of-masters program wrapped in an intense 1 year. Though I haven’t quite been using the skills I’ve learned for actual typography design, the level of perfection needed for that field has infiltrated into the work that I do everyday.
As for a normal, formal 4 year college experience, it really depends on who you are. For me, I don’t think it was the greatest use of my time, since I focused more on making my teachers happy than finding my own style. But for many people, school is really what helps give them the structure and guidance needed to pursue a creative career. Not everyone has the resolve to do it on their own, and sometimes they need help. My advice though, is to go to a school with really amazing teachers that you respect and would love to get to know. Those relationships that you can potentially build will be a huge deal after you graduate.
If, in some Freaky Friday-like situation, you could live the life of another designer, illustrator or creative, for a day, who would it be, and why?
I mean, there are tons of cool people I’d like to be for a day. But I’m friends with some of them, so that’d just be weird to admit publicly :) But in reality, I don’t like focusing on the fact that there are other people out there that might be better, more successful, etc. than me, because then I will just be depressed all the time. That’d be pretty awful now, wouldn’t it?
How would you define success? Do you think you’ve found it yet?
I think considering yourself successful is kind of a dangerous game. Everything can end really quickly, so it’s best to just enjoy whatever’s going on, while it’s going on! But if we’re getting real here, I think I’m on a really interesting path and if I can just keep pushing myself then I think I can hopefully call myself successful when I’m like, 70, looking back!
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?
Experiment a lot. See what sort of stuff comes naturally to you in your favorite medium (paint, pen, vector, etc). Just make sure you don’t force anything and it should hopefully work out!
Also, take internships with successful designers/illustrators—I know it’s really annoying to do grunt work but the time you get to spend with someone who’s really making it happen is so valuable. Seeing how they work, their daily issues and all that good stuff—all kind of amazing ways to see if that is the career path for you!
Many thanks to Liz for taking some time to talk to One Minute With. I really enjoyed interviewing her, and hopefully you enjoyed reading it!
Why not check out Liz’s site, and follow her on Dribbble and Twitter?