We’re very fond of our eclectic community of both students and teachers. It just so happens that Dylan Mierzwinski has lived the life of both.
Dylan came to Skillshare to perfect her design skills as a student and now gives back to the community with her own unique style as a teacher. Across her illustrative work, pattern design, and sewing, Dylan describes her style as bold, retro, and playful. After 6 years of learning, practicing, and now teaching, Dylan has built a professional graphic design career she’s proud of.
In hopes of finding out how she’s found her niche, we asked Dylan some questions about her career progression as a designer and what truly inspires her creativity.
When did you get started in design and how has your career evolved since?
I got started with design in 2011 — after literally crying over not wanting to take organic chem classes, my family encouraged me to go after something creative, since creativity had always been a close friend.
I thought I wanted to be an editor but long, joyful nights in Photoshop proved otherwise.
I started off feeling like I had to work in an agency or be a successful freelancer, and so many years were spent forcing myself to fit into and bumping up against that image I had of what a graphic designer was. This year is one of huge transition as I finally kick traditional graphic design work to the curb and go after my calling as an illustrator. Besides the work itself, an immense amount of growth, reflection, and self-ass-kicking goes into making art, so there’s been a lot of that, too.
What is your creative process or where do you find your inspiration?
“Exploring the idea, getting the idea on paper, refining the work digitally, shamelessly sharing on Instagram.”
I start by writing the idea down, so I don’t forget (something like “repeating pattern of windows with plants and flowers on the sills) and then usually peruse Pinterest, Google, or Designspiration to find something that fits the feel I have in my head.
I tend to get stuck in this phase of research and looking around as a procrastination measure, but at some point, the anxiety of having an idea and not working on it becomes too much, and I get to work. I wish I could remember how good it feels to push past that finally, but alas, it happens during every project.
I’ve found that I truly like having both analog and digital processes in my workflow. The actual images and such are almost always created by hand with markers or pens or paint, then brought into Photoshop or Illustrator to edit. The analog part is the scariest and most valuable part, so by the time I get into my software I’m feeling clear, calm, and ready to keep working.
Color is always my last battle. I have to really work to find palettes I like.
The process usually ends with some type of final product (a card, a poster, fabric, a repeating tile) that I like to show off on Instagram; the warm fuzzies from my network of fellow creatives gives me confidence and fuel for the next project.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a designer? How have you handled them?
Well, they’re all mental. People think making art or designing something is hard because the programs are dense, the work hard to find, and the difficulty of the clients. While that may hold true, it’s all the BS that you run into mentally and emotionally that make the creation of art so damn challenging. Yet, a beautiful feat when it does happen.
“As a maker, you’re always up against the vision you have in your head.”
Comparison, procrastination, self-doubt – they’re all little seeds that are planted somewhere along the way that we’ll need to come face to face with, one by one. As a maker, you’re always up against the vision you have in your head, which will always be ten steps ahead of where you are. You have to make ugly work to make not ugly work. You have great ideas that turn into contrived or flat pieces. You make work that looks like someone else. You don’t make work at all because you’re afraid, unsure, or apathetic. You have too many ideas pulling you in different directions. etc, etc.
The best way I’ve overcome them is to talk about it with other creatives, read books about creatives (I’d suggest ‘Art and Fear’, as well as Austin Kleon’s books), and most importantly, putting ink to the page.
What is one important lesson that all new graphic design students should know?
Don’t be afraid to change your mind. You may get into design because you love branding, and then realize you love animation or UX design. Whatever the case may be, don’t feel the need to pigeonhole yourself in one area for the sake of your brand. You have to follow that thread that’s leading you along.
What are you excited to learn or work on next?
I just started getting into painting (watercolor and gouache). I’m also getting ready to launch a web shop with my own stationery, gift wrap, and sewn goods (bags and such), which I’ve been telling myself I’d do for awhile now! Mostly though, I’m just excited to confidently move further down my path as an illustrator, finally shedding the skin of the sleek, all-knowing, too-cool-for-school graphic designer I once felt I had to be.