Meet a Mintie: Yolanda Mariak Chendak

Today we’re pleased as punch to get to know Mintie Yolanda Mariak Chendak and learn a little about how her graphic design career started and how she does the career / mother juggle now. I know you’ll especially enjoy peaks into her Polish heritage (especially the eggs!!), corporate career, wedding and her idyllic family life!

Yolanda with her husband David and their two sons Austin (2 yrs) and Aidan (5 yrs) we are at the Annual Balloon Festival in their hometown Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
Like most designers say, it is something that starts when you are very young. As a child my mother would catch me staring at sculptures or paintings for an unusually long time. I was always sketching and looking through her art books instead of watching television. I can honestly say there wasn’t anything more I wanted to do than to be an artist. I get my artistic side from my mother who is an amazing home decorator and can assemble the most beautiful floral arrangements. She instilled in me the idea that there was a grace to being a homemaker and to do it with pride. My sister, who is an incredible artist, was also a huge influence on me. As a little girl I would watch her paint beautiful landscapes and portraits on canvas in oil. Although she is not a professional artist and is actually a pediatrician, she still finds projects for her creative outlet and has always encouraged me to follow my passion for art.

As part of my wedding present my sister painted this “Wedding Box” for me.

It is a painting of me and my bridal party walking along a beautiful scenic countryside. The details of the charming homes and flowers are amazing. She lined the inside of the box with the material of my bridesmaid’s dress and housed contents from the wedding inside.

Do you have any formal design training?
Yes, I have a Bachelor of Fines Arts in Communications Arts and a minor in Illustration from New Jersey City University. Over the past 18 years I have been working as a professional designer in the advertising and marketing field engaged in projects such as advertising and e-marketing campaigns, website design, packaging and corporate identity. After graduating from college, my first job was in New York City at a company called 20/20 Design and Marketing Inc. where I worked for twelve years. I began as a junior designer and worked my way up to Creative Director and held this position for the last four years I was there. This job had offered me amazing opportunities and projects that I never thought I would get to experience. One particular project that was very special to me was Cigna’s Annual Report. It was an important project for my company and it was entirely my responsibility. I was only twenty-nine years old, really nervous and very “green”. It involved months of designing and flushing out concepts for the front end of the annual and traveling for an entire month on photo shoots – visiting different parts of the U.S. and Europe. It was an exciting time in my career and this project was a significant personal accomplishment.

In 2006, I was offered a job at a design firm in Princeton, New Jersey called the Topspin Group and was hired as their Associate Creative Director. Coming from Manhattan to New Jersey was a big change in pace, but the projects were exciting and creatively challenging.

Last summer I left the corporate design world to stay at home full time with my children. I have shifted my career path to teaching which I have always been passionate about. I obtained my Art Teacher Certificate to quality for teaching high school design, and am currently taking graduate courses for my Masters Degree, which will allow me to teach on the college level. Unfortunately my studying has left little time for me to design for recent Minted competitions and I sometimes get serious Minted withdraws, but I am very excited about my new career path.

How would you describe your style?
I’m not sure I have a specific design style but it’s fair to say that I am developing my niche in stationery design. I am drawn to European vintage, retro design and nature and marvel over unique typography, wallpaper and beautiful fabric design. I actually have framed fabric in my home. I strive to be unique and more importantly be true to my own design aesthetics.

What is your normal workflow or process like?
I basically brainstorm ideas in my head and then loosely sketch them on paper, doing a lot of research online and reading through various design blogs for inspiration. Then, I start flushing them out on the computer and see which of the ideas are working or not.

How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
It really depends on the design. Some come easier than others, but early on, if I feel that a design isn’t working, I usually let it go and put my creative efforts towards next one.

What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
An absolutely essential tool for me is the Internet. I believe that stationery design requires research, and reading and following current popular design blogs are important.

What are the easiest and the most difficult aspects of the design process?
The easiest aspects to the design process is getting excited about it and coming up with ideas. The most difficult part is delivering the design in a unique and clever way.

How does designing for all of your corporate work compare to designing for Minted?
I feel that they are completely two different animals. When I am designing for my corporate clients my mindset is completely focused on meeting their objectives. I usually have to follow a corporate design guide and have strict requirements on photography. When designing for Minted there are no walls or barriers and I can do whatever I like. I do not have to chose between PMS colors or have a small selection of fonts to use. I can’t say enough what a wonderful creative outlet Minted has been for me. I really enjoy competing and it has definitely made me a better designer.

If you’re married, what was your wedding invitation like?
I actually ordered my wedding invitation. Although I really wanted to design them myself, several of my design friends, who had done their own wedding invitations, talked me out of it. They said it was very stressful and created too much pressure. I took their advice but I did design other items that were in our wedding like our wedding programs, menus, name cards and table numbers.

Did you send out a family Christmas card? If so, what was it like?
Yes, of course. I sent out two different sets of Minted Christmas cards of my own designs.

Tell us about one of your favorite cards offered for sale on Minted and how you came up with the design.

Papercut Flowers is my favorite card offered on Minted because it is a nod to my European heritage.

My parents were Polish immigrants who came to America in the late 60’s. I grew up speaking Polish and eating lots of delicious Polish food. I also practiced a lot of Polish customs such as designing wax eggs every Easter and doing Wynicky, which is the Polish folk art of paper cutting. I took this old folk art and merged it into today’s aesthetics by designing individual “Wynicky” like paper flowers and adding a modern color scheme to them.

I went to Polish school every Saturday for eight years. This is a picture of me participating in a school play dressed in a traditional Polish costume.

This is one of my waxed Easter eggs. It doesn’t look like much but this was very hard for me to do. It takes a lot of patience.

This is a hand drawn painted Easter egg designed by my Mother.

You are so good at making black and grey, as well as brown and ochre look awesome! (Simple Affair and Paper Cut come to mind.) What are your favorite colors to work with?
Thank you so much. I can’t really say that I am drawn to muted colors. With each individual design I do I have a particular color palette in mind – they range from muted to vibrant colors. I like to research color trends on various design and fashion sites.

It was great meeting you at the National Stationery Show!  Did you have fun?
I had a wonderful time at NSS and really got to connect with everyone. Unfortunately the next day I was unable to attend the party because I was going to Disney World. So I took Minted with me… my sons and I proudly wore our Minted shirts around Magic Kingdom. We had a great time!

Sidenote: Minties reading, if you have great pics of Minted-tees in exotic locales please email them to natasha@minted.com and we’ll put them up on the blog!

I love everything about savant plaid. Tell me about how you created it!
Thank you. Savant Plaid was probably one of the easiest designs I ever did. Plaid has always been a staple in design and recently very popular in fashion. I thought it was a versatile and trendy way for someone to express himself or herself through a business card.

What was your favorite Minted design challenge and why?
My favorite design challenge is both holiday and wedding invitation competitions. Every year I am in AWE of all the unique and creative work the designers submit.

How does living in New Jersey influence your design?
I grew up in a small town called Nutley in New Jersey located just 13 miles outside of Manhattan. It is a quiet town that has beautiful lush parks throughout. It also has a lovely center of town filled with interesting stores and delicious restaurants. Much of my design influence comes from growing up in this area because it is so enriched with different ethnicities and cultures. As a child traveling into Manhattan was a frequent thing to do. My mother shopped at various stores and bought fabrics for dresses that she sewed for herself. We frequently visited Manhattan’s museums, famous landmarks, and saw many Broadway shows. It was a great area to grow up in. After getting married we moved to Whitehouse Station in New Jersey, which is a beautiful area filled with scenic farmland. The town is nestled in the middle of rolling hills and is famous for their Annual Balloon Festival.

What are your favorite online design sites and blogs?
Some of my favorite online design sites and blogs are as follows: www.ohjoy.blogs.com, www.designcrushblog.com, www.designsponge.com, www.marthastewart.com, www.grafikmag.com www.marthastewartweddings.com, www.europeandesign.org www.davidcarsondesign.com, www.jcrew.com, www.katespade.com, www.style.com, www.anthropologie.com and www.wmagazine.com

What designers do you really admire?
One particular designer that I admire is Karly Depew of Oscar & Emma. She has an amazing sense of composition and typography – her work always looks flawless and effortless. She is very much a pillar in the Minted community. There are so many other Minted designers I admire – too many to mention. Everyone has something different to offer creatively, and I learn so much from each and every one of them.

What advice would you give a new designer?
My advice would be to stay true to your own design aesthetics. Learn from other designers but don’t try to mimic them. You should focus and build on your own design strengths. Most of all don’t get discouraged. With each design competition you will learn more and sharpen your design skills. Just recently for the first time I made top ten. Prior to that, all my designs were selected by “Editor’s Choice.” I guess the good people at Minted saw something in me and I am very grateful for that.

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

13   COMMENTS
  1. Carrie O'Neal

    Yolanda, It is so nice to learn more about you. What a beautiful family, and great interview. I’m so interested in your new career path as a teacher…it’s one I’ve always wanted to pursue as well. All the best!

  2. Jen Wick

    I don’t know how you do it all Yolanda! I loved learning about your Polish background and how you incorporate your heritage into your fab designs. You’re an awesome designer and I hope to see you again at a meet-up!!

  3. Love that picture of you as a little girl and I love this interview. Best wishes with your new career, you’ll be wonderful!

  4. Jessica Y

    what a great interview Yolanda! Love your designs and reading about your transition to a career as a teacher and your Polish background :)

  5. Melanie Severin

    So great to get to know a bit about you, Yolanda!!! I’ve tried my hand at waxed Easter eggs once and you are so right – much harder than it looks (yours looks much better than mine turnd out!). Best of luck with your new career path – that is fantastic :)

  6. Cecile

    Nice to meet you Yolanda ! Wish you all the best with your career teacher, I hope you will still find some time to submit more beautiful designs.

  7. Hailey

    Yolanda!! It was so fun to read about you – you are such an inspiring designer. Congrats on your new career teaching – that sounds so exciting! It was so great to finally meet you at NSS – hope to see you again next year!!

  8. Jana Volfova

    Great interview Yolanda! You are so very talented. Good luck with your new career.

  9. Yolanda

    Thank you everyone for your kind comments and warm wishes :D

  10. Meg G.

    It was a joy to meet you at the NSS. You have a lovely personality, and a great eye for typography!

  11. brandy

    Great interview!

  12. gerrie@chocomocacino

    beautiful interview.. and good luck on ur new career path! Must be exciting!