From retailer to designer: How Bethan Lumb built her career through hard work and Minted Challenges

Bethan Lumb sits in the ‘Basket of Dreams’ in Queenstown, New Zealand.

When you look at Minted artist Bethan Lumb’s body of work—clean, minimal stationery designs with carefully crafted typography—you might assume she’s been working as a graphic designer for many years. In actuality, the English artist has been a self-described steady “work in progress” who’s designed her own path.

“Golden Pines” wedding invitation by Bethan Lumb

At 18, Bethan went to Manchester School of Art to study Embroidery—which she describes as “more like fine arts and textiles”—followed by a stint at Bergen Academy of Art and Design in Bergen, Norway. “I thought maybe I wanted to pursue a career that had something to do with printed textiles or interiors, but I wasn’t really sure,” she says in retrospect. Upon graduation in 2012, Bethan landed a job in retail. “I worked for a few different companies but most recently L’Occitane, helping to manage one of their boutiques. It’s a great company with lovely products, but I was keen to do something more creative again,” she says.

Examples of Bethan Lumb’s work while studying Embroidery (aka “fine arts and textiles”) at Manchester School of Art, and briefly at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design in Bergen, Norway.

With that “keen” thought in mind, she coincidentally discovered Minted in 2014, and even with a lack of knowledge about design programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Bethan dove head-first into entering Minted’s competitions, learning as she went along. After achieving 98 wins with Minted—and with a growing creative itch needing to be scratched—Bethan decided to go back to school in 2016—this time to design school. She registered for classes at Shillington, a graphic design college with campuses around the globe.

I’ve always enjoyed being creative, but feel like I only really started to understand design properly after going back to college,” she explains. “I love that design consists of so much more than making things look nice; it challenges you to think creatively to solve problems, consider the end user, and learn from your mistakes.”

Long story short, after graduating from design school in 2017, Bethan is now following her dream of working full time as an agency graphic designer by day in Manchester, and moonlighting as a designer for Minted by night.

Here, she shares more about her story and what she’s learning along the way.

Of all her Minted designs, Bethan’s “Watercolour Stripe” wedding invitation is the most meaningful to her because she originally designed it for her sister’s wedding. “The feeling of knowing that someone has chosen this invitation for their special day never gets old,” Bethan says.

How did you discover Minted?
I honestly can’t remember where I discovered Minted—I think through a design blog. I remember seeing the design challenges and thinking, “This would be a great way to learn to use Adobe software.” I remember my first pick was in the Holiday cards, and I was so slow in Illustrator, the file prep took days! But seeing my card for sale on minted.com, and seeing people choose it as their holiday card amongst so many amazing designs was worth all the hours of work.

Adobe Illustrator is a pretty intense program. How did you figure it out?
I’d only watched some YouTube tutorials and Googled the basics, so even designing for the initial few challenges was really slow. I saw so much beautiful work being submitted, and strived to work out how people had achieved various techniques.

“Manchester has a great creative scene, from music, design, museums and galleries. And lots of lovely coffee shops to work in!” she says. Some of Bethan’s favorite places in Manchester include The Whitworth Art Gallery, Plant NOMA, HOME, Manchester Craft and Design Centre, and Magma bookshop.

How did you make the decision to go back to school for graphic design?
The more Minted Challenges I entered, the more I realized I enjoyed it much more than my day job in retail, and it helped build my confidence that I might be able to have a career in design. When I started thinking about making a career change, I realized I would need to retrain. I couldn’t commit to the time or cost of another degree, and a friend recommended Shillington. It was an intensive three-month course, and the best decision ever. I learned so much, met lots of lovely people, and it gave me the skills to make the leap into a full-time graphic design role.

Minted gave me the financial freedom to be able to study full time. The community is an endless source of inspiration, with so many talented artists and designers—the bar is set higher every time. Each challenge pushes you to try and keep up with the really high standard of work being created.

Bethan visited the Minted Store in San Francisco in October 2016.

What did you learn when you went back to school for graphic design?
So much! I started from scratch with design principles and design thinking, and learning all about typography. I also learned about developing a toolkit of techniques and processes to help overcome creative block—how to generate ideas and to trust that process. Don’t panic if you can’t see a finished design early on, and don’t dismiss any ideas—everything is useful!

I’ve found this to be true with Minted; what doesn’t work for one challenge, can be perfect for another.

“Holly Jolly and Bright” foil-pressed petite holiday photo card by Bethan Lumb

What’s one of your favorite tips for overcoming creative block?
Walk away from the screen or paper, make a cup of tea, or talk with a friend. Also, using the SCAMPER techniques always brings up interesting results and can push you out of your comfort zone.

Bethan walks in the Little Langdale valley in the Lake District.

How do you describe your creative process?
I tend to start with sketching and initial ideas in a notebook before moving onto my computer. There tends to be the usual rollercoaster of the excitement of a new idea, followed by the panic of worrying if the idea is actually any good. Or, looking at it the next day and wondering, “What was I thinking?”, second-guessing every decision, but then eventually getting to a point where I’m hopefully happy with the design.

What are some of your aspirations in life and design?
I love traveling to new places, so maybe one day I’d love to combine designing and travel—travel the world and work in as many different countries as possible? Sounds like fun!

“So Merry” Minted holiday photo card by Bethan Lumb

What’s your advice to up-and-coming Minted artists and designers? I’m not sure I feel qualified enough to give advice, but I think I’d say Don’t give up! It’s easy to get discouraged when your work isn’t selected, but it’s all part of the learning curve. Keep learning. Looking back at designs from one month, six months, or a year ago can be a good reminder of progress, and an incentive to keep trying. There are so many talented Minted designers who are so kind and generous with their time and feedback. I think that’s what makes the community so unique, so make the most of it. Most importantly, have fun!

Bethan’s favorite design by a fellow Minted artist and why:
I’m not sure I can pick just one! If I had to, it would probably be “Acapulco” wedding invitation by Angela Marzuki. “It’s such a bold design, yet classic and elegant at the same time. I love the color palette, and how the full suite has been designed with little details from the main invitation.”

Bethan’s favorite design resources
Skillshare
The Dieline
Creative Boom
Form Fifty Five
Brand New: Under Consideration
siteinspire
Any books by Victionary

More about Bethan Lumb
Bethan’s Minted Artist Store

Published May 1, 2018

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