Leah Ragain’s start in design is very Pinteresting

Talk to creative types, designers, artists—heck, anyone who loves pictures—and they’ll likely tell you it’s nearly impossible not to get sucked into the eye-candy rabbit hole that is Pinterest.

Leah Ragain, a 37-year-old Minneapolis mom of four, was no exception. Every day during her kids’ naptime, she got into the routine of holing up on the couch and Pinning her favorite photos of food, home decor, and fashion, including those from her faves Smitten Kitchen and The Fauxmartha. But with the thought of earning supplemental income at the front of her mind, one day in 2015 her outlook completely changed. “I distinctly remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to spend my life just pinning other people’s ideas. I want to be the one creating something beautiful and have people Pin my work!’” Three years later, the rest has become history for hers in the making.

“It was like the light clicked and started a shift in my thinking,” Leah explains. From there, she purchased fonts, learned Adobe Illustrator, starting dreaming, and began entering Minted Design Challenges. “I decided to really go for it,” she says. And though Leah still loves Pinterest, she now uses it as a tool instead of an obsession. Here she tells more of how her life and creative path are evolving.

Love to You” Valentine’s Day card by Leah Ragain

Minted: Did you tell anyone about your a-ha! moment to become a designer, or did you keep it a secret to yourself?
Leah Ragain: I talked to my husband and a couple friends—it wasn’t really something I wanted to announce to the world in case I wasn’t good at it. My husband has been so great from the very beginning and has always encouraged me to keep moving forward. I don’t think he realized how much of his life would be listening to me talk about fonts, color palettes, and Christmas cards! I’ve also had a few friends cheering me on and have encouraged me every step of the way.

Leah Ragain at home in Minneapolis. All portraits by Slow Road Photo.

How did you teach yourself Illustrator, and what’s your advice for learning the program?
I started design without any training, and it seemed like a foreign language at first. Illustrator seemed like the best program for what I wanted to do, and now I love it. My advice is web tutorials. I did lots of YouTube and web tutorials when I couldn’t figure something out.

Are you a full-time designer?
I work part time as a designer. As you can imagine, the four kiddos keep me very busy and with a new baby, I’ve had to slow things down a bit. I try to get in design work whenever I can—usually during naps and at night. I also create custom projects for clients.

Some of the client projects I’ve done have usually been word of mouth up to this point. I’ve done logos, and mostly custom wording, such as a favorite quote or Scripture verse, and people’s holiday cards.

It Really Is a Wonderful Life” foil-pressed holiday card by Leah Ragain

How have you developed as a designer in the last few years?
I feel grateful that, although I don’t have as many wins as some of the more seasoned designers, some of the milestones I’ve achieved have been so exciting. My “It Really is a Wonderful Life” card sold better than I could have expected. And having a pick in the Better Together Greeting Card Challenge for Target was seriously one of the highlights of my life.

Joining Minted has been so crucial in teaching me to take risks and be OK with failing—things that have always been hard for me. Competing against the best has really helped push myself to become a better designer, and I’m so excited to keep growing and learning.

We Are Merry Forever” holiday photo card by Leah Ragain

You studied Psychology and Business at Evangel University. Did you ever work in either of those fields?
No, like many psych majors, I did not go into my field. My thought at the time was to go into Human Resources, but I never ended up doing that!  I thought about pursuing counseling several times but never felt passionate enough to convince myself to spend the extra money/time to continue education. I worked with property management before I quit several years ago to become a full time mom.  Starting design has allowed me to work and be able to stay with my kids. Sometimes I pinch myself that I get to stay home with them and do work that I actually enjoy!

You’ve said that Minted has been crucial in teaching you to take risks and that it’s OK to fail. Can you share an example of some of the risks you’ve taken with your Minted work, and what you’ve learned?
My Goodbye Sleep greeting card was a risk for me because it was the first time I had tried illustration. I have always thought the illustrations from other artists were incredible, so I wasn’t sure if I had much of a shot to be picked, let alone get a retailer pick. I’ve learned that taking those risks usually pushes myself and helps me grow. Even the times when I try something and it doesn’t work, it’s OK. Those failures don’t define who I am as a designer.

Leah holds her Minted greeting card at a Minneapolis Target store. (Little Print Design wrote the copy for this card.) What was it like for Leah to see her greeting card design at Target? “Since Target headquarters is in Minneapolis, I’ve actually gotten to see it in quite a few stores,” Leah says. “It was one of those design-dream-come-true moments I’m still soaking in. But my kids are a little ‘over it!'”

How do you describe your design style?
I don’t know if I would say I have one distinctive style, but I tend to make things simple and clean, and I try to add something fun—whether it’s a phrase, illustration, or a little pop of color.

Of all your Minted designs, which one is most meaningful to you and why?
I would say the “It Really is a Wonderful Life” card. It was a phrase I wanted to use that really appealed to me. It was one of my first Christmas designs I worked on, and it was one of those times when things came together pretty effortlessly.

What’s a typical day in the life like for you?
Like many other Minted artists, there’s no typical day. This past year since I’ve had a baby, there have been more “seasons” where I hit the design work hard, usually during naps and late at night. Then there are seasons where I do very little design and try to keep up with my family. I’m hoping this year it evens out a little more.

Leah’s four children, Charlie (age 6), Lucy (3), Teddy (9 months), and Sophie (9).

Leah with her husband Matt

What are your goals and aspirations?
I’d like to keep improving on illustrating and start building my brand to a larger scale.

What’s your advice to up-and-coming artists and designers?
Don’t give up. Keep learning and competing because it makes you better. Initially, when I started to put my work on Minted, it was a scary thought to put my work out there, for anyone to vote and comment on. I didn’t know the community and felt intimidated because of the talent. But actually, I found the opposite. The Minted community is very kind. I got feedback from designers I recognized, and I felt excited to be part of the group.

More About Leah Ragain
Leah Ragain’s Minted Artist Store
Leah Ragain’s Website
Leah Ragain on Instagram

Published March 12, 2018

  1. Natalie Bryant

    This is so inspirational! Thank you for sharing!!! I look forward to starting this journey!! We’ll see what may come!