Meet a Mintie: Gakemi Art + Design

Nam of Gakemi Art + Design broke out onto the Minted scene in December 2008, and has since then, been a steady presence in design challenges and the forum, offering her fellow designers constructive feedback and warm wishes. We’ve long been admirers of her too-cute-for words children’s designs and delicate, pretty flower illustrations and thought it’d be fun to reach out, and take a peak into the life of one of our designers in the great white north (hi, Canada!).

Nam and Gabriel

How did you get your start in graphic design?

When I was in grade 3, I remember drawing people, flowers and objects from encyclopedias. I was always interested in art, and people who knew me, knew me for my art. Growing up, our family didn’t have much and asking my parents for things like art supplies was unheard of so I drew and doodled on any surface, covering the inside covers of books and pages in those encyclopedias. I took visual arts throughout high school and sold my first two drawings: a picture of goats and one of a house – all for $200.  Not bad when you consider it paid for all the paper and pencils I needed for art classes. I didn’t really consider design as a career until I returned to college and graduated from architectural technology which gave me tremendous exposure to AutoCAD, 3-D Viz and Photoshop. From there I taught myself Illustrator with the hope of grasping typography and creating my own fonts.

I’m curious to know about how you taught yourself Illustrator and how you have developed your typography skills.

The first time I used Illustrator was to convert architectural floor plans from AutoCAD into marketing materials in Illustrator and InDesign.  Most of the learning was through reading user guides as I go, and practicing through trial and error.  Soon after discovering the Minted Design Challenges, I taught myself by reading website illustrator tutorials, Adobe Creative Suite WOW books and watching video tutorials.  When I’m confident with the skills, one of my goals is to design my own fonts.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find the time to create them, but when I do, I would love to use it for the Minted Design Challenges.

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A Minted Manifesto – Celebrating our First 2 Years

As Minted celebrates our progress since our launch in April 2008, I thought it would be a good time to answer a question that one of Minted’s community of designers posted in the Minted forum: “I would love to know how the company has evolved over the past two years.”

I started Minted in 2007 when my daughter was 3 months old, with the desire to bring the best in design on paper to consumers.  I had taken my daughter to the stationery store with me to order holiday cards and the process ended up taking several hours by the time the designs were chosen, priced, and purchased.  Minted could make ordering beautiful paper more convenient.  At first, Minted only sold only letterpressed invitations from gorgeous brands such as Dauphine, Oblation, Wiley Valentine, and Elum.  At the same time, though, I was excited about Threadless, the online business that held T-shirt design competitions.  I felt that they had the best T-shirt selection I’d ever seen, and this came from allowing a community of users to provide their opinions.  I had also observed over the years that some talented people, including the artists in my own family, had a hard time getting their designs to market.  Minted could provide open competitions where designers could have fun, express their creative vision, gain exposure, and have the chance to sell their stationery designs; consumers would have the chance to tell us what they wanted to buy, and together we could use the Internet to create as pure a meritocracy as was possible.  (Here is where I will admit to you that a) I am somewhat rebellious, b) I enjoy up-ending industries, and c) I have a personal, emotional attachment to level playing fields and the American dream.)

So we started our own crowd-sourcing experiment.  Our first design challenge was held in April 2008 and was a save-the-date card challenge with 66 entries.  We were pretty surprised by the high quality of the designs submitted.  Here’s the very first design challenge winner, “Bird Lover’s” save-the-date cards by The Happy Envelope.  The design received a score of 3.64 out of 5.

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Meet a Mintie: Design Lotus

With her trademark smile and effervescent energy, creativity, and passion, this designer is known by many. Some people call her Design Lotus, while others refer to her as the mayor of the Minted forum who coined the term “Minties.” We simply know her as Amy, the rock star designer and mom of three who has shown over and over again that she is a force to be reckoned with. Fair warning: As if it weren’t enough that she is tirelessly enthusiastic, generous with her knowledge and opinions, and always hilarious, her kids are really, really adorable. Keep reading to see for yourself.

Amy + Gavin

Everyone who encounters your energy and spirit must wonder: How on earth do you juggle three children and a bustling design career?

Bustling design career?  Are you talking to me?  Distractions are my life right now and Minted is my joyous outlet.  When everyone is finally fed, clothed, and happy… it’s mommy’s time to “play!”  It’s usually not until after the kids are fast asleep that I am REALLY able to think and/or brainstorm.

"Melonball" from the Be Mine Valentine Challenge

"Chef's Notes" from the Keep In Touch Good Housekeeping Challenge

How did you get your start in graphic design?

I stumbled into it while I was working as a training/event coordinator. I took some initiative to create some name badges, table tents, and signage for several training events. They were a hit with the client, and hence, launched my career in the design field.  I discovered Lynda Weinman’s H.O.T. books, which were fantastic, and I’ve been hooked on her training material ever since.  In fact, I have learned every software I know through lynda.com.

Where did the name “design lotus” come from?

The lotus flower has many layers and petals as do my design aesthetics. Also lotus tattoos are meant to represent life, new beginnings and the possibility of people growing to change into something of beauty. I would like to believe I can do the same for my clients through design – by taking something from a murky/chaotic start and transforming it into something to celebrate.

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DC Minted Meetup

I had the great pleasure of meeting Amanda Larsen, Amy Ehmann and her business partner Tina Furjanic (Design Lotus), Sharise Williams, and Allston Wise at Darlington House in Washington, DC last night.  After getting over the excitement and slight strangeness of seeing each other in person for the first time after only communicating digitally for almost 2 years, we took over the Circle Bar, distributed Minted printed gifts, and got down to the business at hand – talking about how  much we love design and stationery and how to make Minted better (with a fair amount of mommy talk thrown in for good measure – every single one of us were moms). 

First, to answer the question many of you are thinking –  Does Amy Ehmann have as much energy as I think she does?  The answer is “Yes!!”  Amy is one of the most positive, dynamic people I’ve met – very charming, persuasive, articulate, and has her mind totally in the right place, which is how to help people and things get better.  No wonder she has had such a big impact on Minted’s community.

Talking with these designers was like drinking from a fire hose of incredible ideas.  We received some good hard feedback, like ‘don’t request a design on Friday and ask for it on Monday’.  Sorry about that, everyone, we’re not going to make that mistake again.  We received great feedback on new UI experience ideas: 1) allow me to sign up for a notification when new designs are submitted to the challenge by other designers, so that I can check them out, 2) provide an option to show/hide the designer so that I am not biased when voting, 3) allow consumers to create profile pages so that you can differentiate between bona fide customers’ comments versus friends and family comments.  We got a good sense of what new products people would like to work more on.

Overall, this was a transformative experience for me, as I understood more the impact Minted is having – for example, that interaction on Minted is leading to actual, real friendships in the offline world where designers are calling each other up on the phone or meeting up in person.  This goes even beyond what I hoped for when creating Minted, which was to support the professional development and discovery of talented independent designers, and create a meritocracy where what matters is one’s talent and hard work.

But more on that later in my next post… it is late here in DC (2:08am) and I will sum this experience up by saying that I am feeling incredibly privileged to be working with the Minted community of designers.

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Meet a Mintie: Andrea Snaza

It’s hard to believe that its been 2 years since Minted launched its first design challenge. As a company and as a design community, we have grown a whole lot, but one thing (or shall I say person) has always stayed constant, and that’s Andrea Snaza. She participated in our very first competition, a Save The Date Challenge that received just 66 submissions, and has been an active contributor since.  She has a nice, restrained style and a knack for type composition, though what really sets her apart is her enthusiasm and friendliness. A quick survey of a few staff members produced the same response – Andrea always has friendly, helpful feedback for other designers, and she’s been a real joy to watch grow and evolve as a designer.

Andrea Snaza

How did you get your start in graphic design?

I’ve loved art and creating since I was little but there was this one day in my high school advanced biology class when I decided that I was going to be an art major. I didn’t really have any idea about a career in design at the time, but within a year of college I had declared graphic design as my concentration and dove in to communication design, typography, color studies and art and design histories. At this point I was thrilled that things were beginning to make sense – and I was realizing the meaning and substance behind the stacks of magazines, shopping bags, greeting cards and various other printed materials I had collected from a young age – silly behaviors that I like to justify now as links to the graphic or communication design field.

My love for stationery design definitely developed more with these contests! I’ve always loved stationery but randomly entered the first contest 2 years ago – and needless to say I have been hooked since. I‘m not afraid to admit that I’ve learned so much, it’s funny to look back on early designs now. I didn’t know a thing about stationery design then, but I have developed some great dreams for my future and goals towards a career in this particular area of design.

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