Meet a Mintie: Melanie Severin

Name: Melanie Severin
Location: Alberta, Canada
Years with Minted: Four
Expertise: At once whimsical and elegant
Occupation: Work-From-Home Designer, Mintie, Mother of Three, Retired Lawyer

When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
I’ve always loved art and would paint and draw all the time as a little girl. I did well in school and followed a path which seemed like a good idea at the time, ultimately ending up with a law degree. After practicing law for a few years, however, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever! Then, while on maternity leave with our second child, I started playing around with Photoshop and creating photo cards for friends and family. I was hooked. I started an online stationery store and did not return to practising law. The skills learned in Law school were invaluable (especially as a freelancer and business owner), so I have absolutely no regrets. Design is definitely what I was meant to do though – I look forward to working every day! We now have three kids (Nicholas – 11, Alexa – 9, and Cassia – 6) and I feel so fortunate to be able to set my own hours and work from home doing something that I love.

How would you describe your style?
I think it’s a mix of classic and modern, always with a touch of whimsy or romance. I try to create designs will make a person stop and look just a little bit longer, and with enough depth that they will hopefully evoke some sort of thought or emotional reaction.

What is your normal workflow or process like?
I’m not sure it can be categorized as “normal” at all! I have multiple notebooks and stacks of papers full of sketches, ideas, notes, etc. Usually ideas will pop into my head at random, inopportune times (often just as I’m falling asleep – which I’ve heard from many other creative friends that this happens to a lot of us!).

When I actually sit down to start designing, the process is usually kind of messy and not so pretty! Often I’ll go through several hours or even days of creating reject after reject – starting on something, giving up on it, then moving on to something else, and then doing it again.  It can get a bit frustrating, but then suddenly – boom.  Seemingly out of nowhere a design will just “click” and when that happens it often comes together very quickly and easily.  My best-selling designs were created in less than an hour each, but all were preceded by hours or days of creating things that just didn’t quite work. I wish I could say the process was more organized and predictable, but I’ve just learned to deal with the fact that this is the way that I work best.

What design trends do you think are coming down the pipeline?
This is such a difficult question but one that I find fascinating. I honestly think one of the biggest “trends” in design is the idea of setting oneself apart from what might be considered “trendy”. This is not really a new idea, but it seems that more and more consumers are seeking products, art and design that differentiates them from what everyone else is doing, and showcases their own unique personality and style. I think because of this we will see more and more creative interpretation of existing “trends”, and also some very unexpected mixings of products and design elements.

How does living in Canada influence your work?
We live in a rural area and are surrounded by nature and beauty – gorgeous blue skies, trees, wild animals. Our home is located on 30 acres of natural aspen forest, and we have trails all through the trees that we love to walk on.  Many of my designs are inspired by nature, and the outdoors has always been a huge part of my life. The other aspect of living in a more remote and rural area is that I don’t think we are as surrounded by current trends to the extent that more urban areas are. Although this might seem like a disadvantage, I think in some ways helps me to see things with a fresh perspective. If I go online seeking inspiration, it is because of a directed effort to do so that is perhaps less subconsciously influenced by current trends.

Where do you go for design inspiration?
I love DesignLoveFest (Bri Emery is my hero). Other than that, I don’t spend a lot of time on design sites and blogs per se.  My go-to places for getting inspired are usually the Instagram and Pinterest feeds of the many talented designers and friends I follow. I might also spend a little bit of time on for interior design inspiration (okay maybe a lot!). In addition to online inspiration, I find a lot of inspiration from the outdoors and natural world. “Nature does it best” as they say, and we are surrounded by examples of that in Western Canada. There is nothing better for getting inspired than a walk outdoors in a beautiful setting with notebook and pen in hand. And a cup of coffee in the other hand!

To you, what is the ultimate indulgence?
Belgian chocolate flavored coffee from Second Cup with Bailey’s Irish Cream. And cheesecake, any kind really!

What designers do you really admire?
I admire so many designers, illustrators and artists. A few current favorite creatives that come to mind are Ashley Goldberg (known for her wonderfully quirky and creative illustrations and patterns), Kal Barteski (fellow Canadian known for her gorgeous brush lettering), and Britt Bass Turner (abstract painter whose work I would love to fill our home with!). Lately I’ve also been fascinated by the work of Andy Spade (branding genius and husband of Kate Spade) – he has a photography series on Instagram that is absolutely brilliant.

What advice would you give a new designer?
I think the best advice I could give is to keep trying, even if something doesn’t work at first. Over the years I have pursued a variety of different opportunities, created many, many (many!) designs, and tried all sorts of different techniques. Every once in awhile, if you keep working, growing, learning and pursuing, something will just “work”.  Whether it is a great, profitable relationship with a particular client, a best-selling design, or an artistic style that resonates with both artist and consumer – all of these great successes seem to appear not magically overnight, but amidst a sea of other things that didn’t quite work, or were just okay. Over time, your strategy can gradually be refined, but I truly believe that the process of creating and doing things that aren’t necessarily huge successes is a prerequisite to stumbling upon those that are.

Favorite pen?
I can’t choose just one: Micron Pigma, Sakura Gelly Roll, Tombow Black Brush pen, and of course gold Sharpies!

How do you balance all the different parts of your life (three kids!!) and work?
It’s definitely tricky and some days I am more successful at this than others!. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who is able to set his own hours as well, so between us we juggle work, the kids and their various activities (school, hockey, dance, piano, lacrosse etc.), and manage to find time to give back to our community (I’ve been a member of several local boards over the years) and have some fun as well! As contradictory as it seems, I think keeping our lives full and busy outside of work has really been the key to maintaining balance – having a full schedule forces you to stop working and remember to prioritize all aspects of life. We are happily exhausted most of the time but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

  1. Olivia

    I loved reading this, Melanie! Your work is amazing, you’re a natural. I was *this* close to going to law school, too. Glad we both ended up where we are!

  2. Laura

    What a great interview, Melanie! You have such a beautiful family and home, and are so talented- it was great to meet you at NSS this year!

  3. Katie Wahn

    Great post on you, Melanie! And, what a beautiful family you have!

  4. That is so beautiful Melanie so nice to see that you pursued your dream that is so inspiring to see.

  5. Melanie! So awesome to see you on here with such an awesome interview and wow! where you live looks amazing! I just want to take my kid up there and run around in the snow. So much fun 🙂 Congrats on the interview and love all your hand lettering and designs. So beautiful. Keep being great 🙂

  6. Renee

    Loved learning more about you Melanie! I can totally relate to your workflow process 🙂

  7. becky

    wonderful interview melanie. thank you for sharing yourself and your family. is your desk really that clean?!

  8. Shannon

    So many words of inspiration! Thanks for sharing, and congrats on the interview and wonderful outlook on life and design 🙂

  9. Ana Sharpe

    Loved learning more about you Melanie! You were one of the first Minties to give feedback on my very first design challenge. Your work is wonderful and so inspiring. Congrats on the interview!

  10. stacey

    Awesome feature Melanie. You have a beautiful family and home.