Meet a Mintie: Leslie Hamer

We couldn’t be happier to have Leslie Hamer of Unless Someone Like You with us this afternoon. The catchy name of her design company comes from the Lorax, one of her favorite books that she still can’t read without crying. We think her genius, imagination, and wit rivals even Dr. Seuss so the name could not be more fitting.

At age nine, you wanted to be?
Definitely a scientist. Maybe an astronaut. As a child I was encouraged academically and musically, but drawing or painting wasn’t a part of my life until college. I still love science, and long geeky conversations.

How would you describe your style?
This is tough question! Like many designers I find it difficult to “see” my own work. I try to keep things simple and clean. I like negative space, strong typography.

What is your normal workflow or process like?
Ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes I sketch, sometimes I walk around and photograph things, sometimes I dive right into Illustrator. I work quickly and try not to over think anything.

How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
As many as it takes! Each design is different. Some I rework to no end. Some just appear complete. I imagine it’s the same a writing a song, or composing music. Sometimes my ideas are clear and things just fall into place.

What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
My Cintiq is indispensable. I couldn’t work without it, I cant imagine how I ever did! When I remember drawing with a plain wacom I still cringe a bit.

What is the easiest part of the design process?
Brainstorming ideas. I’m a bit addicted to daydreaming, especially about design.

Most difficult?
Choosing final colors. I always finalize colors at the end, as having them in the mix too early will distract me from concentrating on layout. Usually there are so many lovely colors, and so many beautiful combinations that my head spins.

Your designs are all so different, which I love! Any tips on how to keep your design top-notch, without getting staid and stuffy?

I’m a very unconventional gal. I’m not girly my any means, but I’m not masculine in my designs either. I love trying something different even if it doesn’t work, because the stationery industry to so saturated with floral and frilly products. I’m not knocking the aesthetic, these designs are popular for a reason, but I personally try to stay off the beaten path. It’s harder than it seems! My father was a custom luthier (a craftsman who makes stringed instruments) and his designs were always completely out of the box, and totally unforgettable. My work seems very tame comparatively!

Hamer guitar image by LA magazine

Do you have a favorite font?
Hm. It changes. I was into Gotham for a while but it’s fading on me. I hated anything italic for some reason and now I find myself addicted. Lately I’ve been doing more hand lettering, which is time consuming but thrilling.

Favorite color? Or favorite color right now?
I’m into an orangey red right now. It will change, soon, and perpetually. I get into a color and use it everywhere and then quickly grow to dislike it. Just like every piece of clothing I’ve ever had! I’m fickle.

Favorite pen?
Pilot extra fine. Black.

Tell us about one of your favorite cards offered for sale on Minted and how you came up with the design.
I like my Elliott! Design. I made it with my son in mind, so it’s close to my heart. Anyone who has a little boy knows how I came up with the idea!

Destination is a very popular design! How did you manage to make it look so effortless even tough there is so much going on? (I’m personally in love with Cross Your Heart by the way—if I were to get married again, I would send that!)

Thanks for the kudos! That design was inspired by a vintage map I saw in book, where all the roads where converging at a church. This was one of those designs where I could see it all in my head before I started.

Negative space is really very important. Beginning designers tend to see empty space as “blank” and want to fill it, but that space is essential to having a visual flow to the design.

What was your favorite custom piece in the past year and why?
Hm. This portrait. I love drawing long hair and beards. This couple had it all!

What design trends do you think will emerge this summer/fall?
I try to never think about trends, forecast them, or design with them in mind!

I hear ya. That being said, what is your least favorite recent design trend?

Overly swirly script fonts have been everywhere lately. They will never go away, but I don’t know if I’ll ever like them.

What was your favorite Minted design challenge and why?
My first, joyful celebration. It’s what got me hooked.

How does living in the Midwest influence your design?
The Midwest is very unpretentious, which I love. I’m very laid back about my work, very humble and flexible about changes. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like my work is perfect and that I know everything about design. There is always more to learn, always someplace new to explore. I can always do better.

Where do you go for design inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere, if you are looking for it. I try not to look at design blogs very often. It’s a thin line between staying up to date on what’s happening in the world, and depressing the heck out of yourself. Seeing too much of others peoples work makes me feel lost. This is why on Minted I almost never look at other submitted designs until everything I want to submit is finished and uploaded.

What designers do you really admire? Do you have a favorite graphic designer?
I grew up near Chicago and started going to shows at a very young age. The Chicago poster scene was exploding when I was a teenager and for that reason I feel very connected to the work of people like Jay Ryan and his wife Diana Sudyka. When I look back through Jay Ryan’s older work its a very nostalgic personal expirience – so many of the posters are for shows I was at, or wished I was old enough to go to at the time.

I have a huge poster collection – much more that can fit on my walls at home! Besides the artists I’ve mentioned, I’m crazy for Jason Munn, Mat Daly, Dan Grzeca, and Leia Bell, among many others.

Jay Ryan poster image from the Bird Machine

What can’t you travel without?
My iPad. It fits in my tiny purse and the battery lasts for 12 hours! My poor laptop hasn’t been cracked in weeks. Sketching on the iPad with the pogo sketch stylus is super fun as well.

Do you have any hobbies of note?
I like tackling difficult projects. I’m currently dreaming of building a pinball machine with my little brother. Design is my job and my hobby. When I watch movies with my husband more often than not I’m sketching or working in illustrator on my laptop. I can’t turn off. It’s a problem. I’m working on it.

What can’t you live without?
My son. What will I do when he goes to college?

What piece of art would you most like to own?
I’ve always wanted one of Diana Sudyka’s original watercolors. I’ve had birds my whole life, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished my discretionary income could include originals instead of prints and posters.

Image from

What advice would you give a new designer?

Practice EVERY DAY, just as if you were learning to play the piano. Design even if you have no one to design for.

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Meet a Mintie: Leslie Hamer | --

  2. buy that Fugazi/Shellac poster of ya 😉

  3. Karen Glenn

    Nice to ‘meet’ you, Leslie! You are very talented–love your work.

  4. Maria Estigoy

    Loved this interview!!! Leslie you rock!

  5. Amy E.

    What great advice about practicing- even for seasoned designers. I thought I didn’t want an ipad – now I do… Thanks for the interview!

  6. Sharon(crimsonlane)

    Wow, so nice to learn more about you Leslie. You are such a talent. I always love hearing about others creative process.

  7. Great interview! Love learning more about my fellow Minties! 🙂

  8. lovely interview leslie. very envious of your illustration style. i might just have to go off and buy myself a Cintiq !!

  9. Sharon(crimsonlane)

    That Cintiq is mouth watering!

  10. Wonderful interview! Love your style and honesty…very inspiring.

  11. Erin

    Loved to hear about you and your design process.. Thanks for encouraging us to practice 🙂 You do lovely work and have a have such a great style….

  12. Yolanda Mariak Chendak

    Hello Leslie I enjoyed reading about your design influences and process… I think your wickedly talented and a great “outside the box” thinker. Good luck to you and all your design endeavors… and by the way your son is beautiful 🙂