Words of Wisdom from Today’s Top Illustrators and Designers

Check out these helpful tips from some of the top creatives shaping the future of the industry.

Art by Pretty Useful Co., Joanne Andrea de la Torre, Devanta Ebison, and Aurelia Durand.

We recently spoke with some of today’s top illustrators and designers to learn more about their career paths, how they approach creative collaboration, and their advice for new designers.

Whether you’re just starting out or are already an established creator, these words of wisdom will help keep you inspired and motivated.

Pretty Useful Co. – Design Studio

Art by Pretty Useful Co.

Pretty Useful Co. was founded in 2016 as a small goods collaboration between Allie Mounce and Clare Freeman that has grown into a creative studio serving brands large and small. The team excels at designing brands bursting with personality and creating illustrations and animations that delight and inspire. Pretty Useful has a deep toolbox of skills and they care deeply about what the do.

Allie, Clare, and Katie’s advice for new designers:

Allie: “Ask questions, even if you’re worried you’ll look dumb. Ask for help, ask for feedback. Be respectful of people’s time and energy, but most people are totally willing to help if you ask, especially if you pepper in some compliments. Share your work consistently, even if you think it’s not worth sharing. Compare yourself to your past self, not your peers. Make the work you want to be making for yourself, don’t wait for someone else to give you the opportunity.”

Clare: “If you use instagram as your hiring portfolio, make it work-related, not half-life, half-work. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions/make friends. Making work regularly and putting it out there, even if it’s not that great, is going to do more for your career in the long run than sitting on a bunch of half-finished projects because they’re not done to your level of perfection. Don’t be afraid to say no.”

Katie: “Fake your worth until you know it. And don’t ever work for free!”

Read more from Allie, Clare and Katie here.

James Round – Graphic Designer and Illustrator

Art by James Round

James Round is an independent graphic designer and illustrator. He loves to create crafted printed products, compelling data visualizations and bold illustrations that engage and delight people. Over the last decade, he’s created work with a variety of clients including the BBC, WIRED Magazine, the Oscar-winning film Parasite, and BAFTA. And his work has been recognized by the likes of The Adobe Print Awards, The Information is Beautiful Awards and The World Illustration Awards.

His advice:

“I think my best piece of advice would just be ‘do a lot of work’. There’s this great Ira Glass quote where he talks about how when you’re starting out, your work isn’t as good as your ambition, and so it disappoints you. The only way to get around that is to do a ton of work, and eventually that gap will start to close, and your work will start to meet your own expectations. 

I had that quote sat on my desk for years. Every time I felt like my output wasn’t good enough, I’d look at it and know that the only way to make it better was to keep learning, do more work, and eventually it would reach a standard I was more happy with.”

Read more from James here.

Devanta Ebison – Senior UX Designer

Art by Devanta Ebison

Devanta Ebison is Senior UX Designer at Hero Digital where he creates digital experience for one of the world’s largest tech companies. A passionate designer with years of experience, Devanta uses research, data, and thoughtful design to create delightful products that scale. He is also the founder of Halftime Academy, an online design school and friendly resource helping creatives confidently learn UI/UX design and grow professionally.

Devanta’s advice for new designers:

“I have two pieces of advice for new designers:

1) Detach yourself from your work and ask for feedback regularly. Getting design feedback from people you trust is one of the fastest ways to improve your work.

Learn how to communicate your ideas. There will always be a high demand for designers who know how to present their work, rationale, and thought process.”

Read more from Devanta here.

Andrea Armstrong – Artist

Art by Andrea Armstrong

Andrea Armstrong is an artist based in Vancouver, BC, with roots in rural Indonesia, small-town Manitoba, and metropolitan Singapore. She specializes in character-driven art, in the form of traditional portraiture, children’s book illustration, and more recently animation. She graduated from Capilano University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Communication. 

Andrea’s advice:

“Look for that sweet spot between taking this work seriously, and not taking this work too seriously. Don’t identify too tightly with your work; you are so much more than the art that you create!

And make time to play! Paint and draw comics with the kids in your life, go to a cafe and sketch people, make sidewalk chalk drawings, join an art therapy group, play the Exquisite Corpse game with friends, keep a visual journal – do creative activities that have nothing to do with skill-building or producing a marketable product. This can be challenging for those of us who are attempting to earn a living from our creative work.”

Read more from Andrea here.

Ka Lee – Designer, Illustrator, Art Director

Art by Ka Lee

Ka Lee is a Hmong artist, designer, illustrator and art director based in Madison, Wisconsin. From bright, vibrant pieces to vector-heavy graphics with a hand-drawn style, Ka’s work often meshes culture with his love of design.

Ka’s advice:

“Don’t worry about being “good” or not good enough. With the right amount of time and practice you’ll get to where you want. It’s a lot easier said than done but I promise you hard work never fails to show. Even till this day I’m still figuring things out and often face imposter syndrome. Which oddly enough is the best part about the journey. You never want to be complacent. Always look for ways to grow, be better and perfect your craft.” 

Read more from Ka here.

Diane Lindquist – Designer

Art by Diane Lindquist

Diane Lindquist is a sharp, intuitive, multifaceted creative with a multidisciplinary design career spanning the last two decades. Her award-winning work runs the gamut from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, cross-sectoring industries such as NASA, RedBull, Google, Apple, Kickstarter, Everytable, and Center of Nonprofit Management. She freelances under her studio Lindquist&Co and is the founder of GURL Museum Day, a platform for intersectional women claiming space in museums and galleries. She is a first-generation Latinx cancer survivor with monocular vision (exemplified by her literal golden eye). In her rare downtime, she enjoys visiting coffee shops, traveling, and spending time with her husband and their two cats, Didi and Lulu.

Designer Diane Lindquist

Diane’s advice:

“Make mistakes but don’t regret them. Learn the lesson and press on.”

Read more from Diane here.

Joanne Andrea de la Torre – Creative Director and Designer

Art by Joanne Andrea de la Torre

Joanne Andrea de la Torre is currently the creative director of bleepbloop.design – an illustration studio creating sassy designs for serious impact. After years of forging her path in the field of bespoke design, community-building, and photography, her commitment to sustainability, inclusivity, and creativity led her to pursue a design career in partnership with brands that align with her values like Canva and major Philippine retail brand, Bayo.

Her advice for new designers:

“I still consider myself a new designer, so this comes fresh from the heart. Engage with your community. Collaborate. Everyone is willing to help and give advice as long as they see that you’ve started on the work. You can achieve your goals faster if you find like-minded creatives and get together to produce the work that you’ve always wanted to do. Be nice!”

Read more from Joanne Andrea here. https://thelist.thenounproject.com/thelist/joanne-andrea-de-la-torre

View the full list of this year’s top creatives and read their interviews here. This list was curated in partnership with Canva, Designer Fund, Dribbble, Lingo, and Webflow.

Lindsay Stuart
Lindsay Stuart

VP, Brand Marketing & Communications at Noun Project

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