Violin major-turned-graphic designer. History professor’s wife and awesome 10-year-old’s mom. Robust coffee lover and ambitious home cook. These are just some of the words Kristie Kern uses to describe herself.
With 130 Minted awards under her belt, it’s no wonder she also calls herself an “exuberant Minted artist.” Here she shares her story—as an independent graphic designer who works from a beautiful home in Akron, Ohio.
How did you hear about Minted?
I first happened upon Minted while doing some research for a client, and was blown away by what I found. Though I often visited Minted after this to admire the amazing designs and designers, I didn’t enter a challenge myself until almost a year later; I was busy with my design studio and young son.
During the summer of 2011, my workload slowed quite a bit. Instead of immediately pursuing more work and clients, I decided to take advantage of the down time to finally enter a Minted challenge. I submitted one design for a gift tag challenge, and then received two file requests for my next challenge, which was for weddings. I was instantly hooked! Seeing my excitement as I jumped up and down at the news, my then 6-year-old son yelled, “We’re rich! We’re rich!”
I still get excited with each new file request, but what has become much more exciting to me over time is the way that Minted has reinvigorated my passion for design.
What is a typical day like for you?
I often begin my day running with a group of amazing neighborhood moms, then aim to be in my office on the third floor of our 1919 Craftsman cottage by 8 a.m. First, I sort through email, then list my intentions for the day (on Post-Its!), which include work deadlines as well as personal goals. By far, my best time for creative work is early morning, so I try to make that happen as often as possible. Evening is spent enjoying family dinner and helping with my son’s piano and violin practice.
“Criss Cross” by Annie Clark
How do you describe your style?
As an independent designer for nearly 11 years, I’ve been fortunate to work with a variety of clients; many of them long-term, ongoing relationships. However, much of the work I do involves designing within an established brand. The wonderful thing about designing for Minted is that I get to explore my own aesthetic—and it is still evolving. I love so many styles, from chic modern to whimsical, feminine, and urban. I love to experiment, and it’s so interesting to see what sells well—it may not necessarily be a design that was a big stand-out in a challenge.
Tell me about one of your designs for sale on Minted and how it came together.
I like the way my notebook and stationery set “English Countryside” turned out. It actually began its life as an art print submission that just wasn’t feeling right. I ended up taking that art print out of the challenge I’d submitted it to, but kept the basic design in my back pocket. When the time came to re-envision it as a notebook, it came together easily.
I also still feel good about my wedding invitation suite “Bliss.” This design evolved as I moved various elements around my Illustrator file rapidly—this often helps me see things that I wouldn’t otherwise.
I usually start a design without much more than a glimmer of inspiration, and just let things flow organically. One thing I’ve learned is that the creative process can be a strange and very personal thing, and can take on a life of its own. Sometimes you just have to follow where it leads and be “in the zone” while it’s happening. Being in this zone is where I do my best work, but it can be so elusive. I wish I could bottle it!
Who are your favorite designers?
I love the simple forms and bright, unexpected color combinations in the work of children’s book author and illustrator, Ezra Jack Keats. I also adore the rhythms of color New York painter Juri Morioka creates in her abstract art. In the stationery world (aside from the many crushes I have on the work of fellow Minted artists), I really enjoy the work of Ingrid Reithaug and Tonje Holand, the Norwegian duo who make up the design studio Darling Clementine.
“Leaf Study” by Kristie Kern
What’s your advice for new designers?
Make a non-negotiable appointment with yourself each day to practice your passion, preferably during the hours that you are at your best. If you have to break this routine, try not to let too many days go by before you get back to it. I’ve found that the more time I spend outside the creative zone, the longer it takes to find that oh-so-happy place again.
In terms of design, these are some of the things I keep working on myself: When you realize you’ve stopped designing and have started “decorating,” take a break. Come back with fresh eyes, shift a few things around and take a few things away. Try to look at the overall composition rather than fussing with tiny details in the beginning. Find the focal point, then pare back on anything that competes with it (or decorates it rather than enhances it). Then refine: Check kerning, leading, and for a pleasing amount of space between text and graphic elements. Detailed attention to typography can really make a design.
Designing for Minted has brought amazing opportunities. The added visibility has helped potential clients find me and has generated additional work. More important to me, though, is the strong sense of support that I’ve received from being part of the Minted community. Especially for anyone in a solo career, feeling connected to a group of peers is so important, and I’ve found my fellow Minted Artists to be not only wildly talented designers, but also incredibly smart, funny, generous and good people.
“Hello World” by Kristie Kern
Photography by Stephanie Miller and Angie Arthur
Published August 28, 2015 • Learn how to become a Minted artist here.