Meet a Mintie: Gakemi Art + Design

Nam of Gakemi Art + Design broke out onto the Minted scene in December 2008, and has since then, been a steady presence in design challenges and the forum, offering her fellow designers constructive feedback and warm wishes. We’ve long been admirers of her too-cute-for words children’s designs and delicate, pretty flower illustrations and thought it’d be fun to reach out, and take a peak into the life of one of our designers in the great white north (hi, Canada!).

Nam and Gabriel

How did you get your start in graphic design?

When I was in grade 3, I remember drawing people, flowers and objects from encyclopedias. I was always interested in art, and people who knew me, knew me for my art. Growing up, our family didn’t have much and asking my parents for things like art supplies was unheard of so I drew and doodled on any surface, covering the inside covers of books and pages in those encyclopedias. I took visual arts throughout high school and sold my first two drawings: a picture of goats and one of a house – all for $200.  Not bad when you consider it paid for all the paper and pencils I needed for art classes. I didn’t really consider design as a career until I returned to college and graduated from architectural technology which gave me tremendous exposure to AutoCAD, 3-D Viz and Photoshop. From there I taught myself Illustrator with the hope of grasping typography and creating my own fonts.

I’m curious to know about how you taught yourself Illustrator and how you have developed your typography skills.

The first time I used Illustrator was to convert architectural floor plans from AutoCAD into marketing materials in Illustrator and InDesign.  Most of the learning was through reading user guides as I go, and practicing through trial and error.  Soon after discovering the Minted Design Challenges, I taught myself by reading website illustrator tutorials, Adobe Creative Suite WOW books and watching video tutorials.  When I’m confident with the skills, one of my goals is to design my own fonts.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find the time to create them, but when I do, I would love to use it for the Minted Design Challenges.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 9   COMMENTS

A Minted Manifesto – Celebrating our First 2 Years

As Minted celebrates our progress since our launch in April 2008, I thought it would be a good time to answer a question that one of Minted’s community of designers posted in the Minted forum: “I would love to know how the company has evolved over the past two years.”

I started Minted in 2007 when my daughter was 3 months old, with the desire to bring the best in design on paper to consumers.  I had taken my daughter to the stationery store with me to order holiday cards and the process ended up taking several hours by the time the designs were chosen, priced, and purchased.  Minted could make ordering beautiful paper more convenient.  At first, Minted only sold only letterpressed invitations from gorgeous brands such as Dauphine, Oblation, Wiley Valentine, and Elum.  At the same time, though, I was excited about Threadless, the online business that held T-shirt design competitions.  I felt that they had the best T-shirt selection I’d ever seen, and this came from allowing a community of users to provide their opinions.  I had also observed over the years that some talented people, including the artists in my own family, had a hard time getting their designs to market.  Minted could provide open competitions where designers could have fun, express their creative vision, gain exposure, and have the chance to sell their stationery designs; consumers would have the chance to tell us what they wanted to buy, and together we could use the Internet to create as pure a meritocracy as was possible.  (Here is where I will admit to you that a) I am somewhat rebellious, b) I enjoy up-ending industries, and c) I have a personal, emotional attachment to level playing fields and the American dream.)

So we started our own crowd-sourcing experiment.  Our first design challenge was held in April 2008 and was a save-the-date card challenge with 66 entries.  We were pretty surprised by the high quality of the designs submitted.  Here’s the very first design challenge winner, “Bird Lover’s” save-the-date cards by The Happy Envelope.  The design received a score of 3.64 out of 5.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 8   COMMENTS

Meet a Mintie: Design Lotus

With her trademark smile and effervescent energy, creativity, and passion, this designer is known by many. Some people call her Design Lotus, while others refer to her as the mayor of the Minted forum who coined the term “Minties.” We simply know her as Amy, the rock star designer and mom of three who has shown over and over again that she is a force to be reckoned with. Fair warning: As if it weren’t enough that she is tirelessly enthusiastic, generous with her knowledge and opinions, and always hilarious, her kids are really, really adorable. Keep reading to see for yourself.

Amy + Gavin

Everyone who encounters your energy and spirit must wonder: How on earth do you juggle three children and a bustling design career?

Bustling design career?  Are you talking to me?  Distractions are my life right now and Minted is my joyous outlet.  When everyone is finally fed, clothed, and happy… it’s mommy’s time to “play!”  It’s usually not until after the kids are fast asleep that I am REALLY able to think and/or brainstorm.

"Melonball" from the Be Mine Valentine Challenge

"Chef's Notes" from the Keep In Touch Good Housekeeping Challenge

How did you get your start in graphic design?

I stumbled into it while I was working as a training/event coordinator. I took some initiative to create some name badges, table tents, and signage for several training events. They were a hit with the client, and hence, launched my career in the design field.  I discovered Lynda Weinman’s H.O.T. books, which were fantastic, and I’ve been hooked on her training material ever since.  In fact, I have learned every software I know through lynda.com.

Where did the name “design lotus” come from?

The lotus flower has many layers and petals as do my design aesthetics. Also lotus tattoos are meant to represent life, new beginnings and the possibility of people growing to change into something of beauty. I would like to believe I can do the same for my clients through design – by taking something from a murky/chaotic start and transforming it into something to celebrate.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 14   COMMENTS

DC Minted Meetup

I had the great pleasure of meeting Amanda Larsen, Amy Ehmann and her business partner Tina Furjanic (Design Lotus), Sharise Williams, and Allston Wise at Darlington House in Washington, DC last night.  After getting over the excitement and slight strangeness of seeing each other in person for the first time after only communicating digitally for almost 2 years, we took over the Circle Bar, distributed Minted printed gifts, and got down to the business at hand – talking about how  much we love design and stationery and how to make Minted better (with a fair amount of mommy talk thrown in for good measure – every single one of us were moms). 

First, to answer the question many of you are thinking –  Does Amy Ehmann have as much energy as I think she does?  The answer is “Yes!!”  Amy is one of the most positive, dynamic people I’ve met – very charming, persuasive, articulate, and has her mind totally in the right place, which is how to help people and things get better.  No wonder she has had such a big impact on Minted’s community.

Talking with these designers was like drinking from a fire hose of incredible ideas.  We received some good hard feedback, like ‘don’t request a design on Friday and ask for it on Monday’.  Sorry about that, everyone, we’re not going to make that mistake again.  We received great feedback on new UI experience ideas: 1) allow me to sign up for a notification when new designs are submitted to the challenge by other designers, so that I can check them out, 2) provide an option to show/hide the designer so that I am not biased when voting, 3) allow consumers to create profile pages so that you can differentiate between bona fide customers’ comments versus friends and family comments.  We got a good sense of what new products people would like to work more on.

Overall, this was a transformative experience for me, as I understood more the impact Minted is having – for example, that interaction on Minted is leading to actual, real friendships in the offline world where designers are calling each other up on the phone or meeting up in person.  This goes even beyond what I hoped for when creating Minted, which was to support the professional development and discovery of talented independent designers, and create a meritocracy where what matters is one’s talent and hard work.

But more on that later in my next post… it is late here in DC (2:08am) and I will sum this experience up by saying that I am feeling incredibly privileged to be working with the Minted community of designers.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 7   COMMENTS

Meet a Mintie: Andrea Snaza

It’s hard to believe that its been 2 years since Minted launched its first design challenge. As a company and as a design community, we have grown a whole lot, but one thing (or shall I say person) has always stayed constant, and that’s Andrea Snaza. She participated in our very first competition, a Save The Date Challenge that received just 66 submissions, and has been an active contributor since.  She has a nice, restrained style and a knack for type composition, though what really sets her apart is her enthusiasm and friendliness. A quick survey of a few staff members produced the same response – Andrea always has friendly, helpful feedback for other designers, and she’s been a real joy to watch grow and evolve as a designer.

Andrea Snaza

How did you get your start in graphic design?

I’ve loved art and creating since I was little but there was this one day in my high school advanced biology class when I decided that I was going to be an art major. I didn’t really have any idea about a career in design at the time, but within a year of college I had declared graphic design as my concentration and dove in to communication design, typography, color studies and art and design histories. At this point I was thrilled that things were beginning to make sense – and I was realizing the meaning and substance behind the stacks of magazines, shopping bags, greeting cards and various other printed materials I had collected from a young age – silly behaviors that I like to justify now as links to the graphic or communication design field.

My love for stationery design definitely developed more with these contests! I’ve always loved stationery but randomly entered the first contest 2 years ago – and needless to say I have been hooked since. I‘m not afraid to admit that I’ve learned so much, it’s funny to look back on early designs now. I didn’t know a thing about stationery design then, but I have developed some great dreams for my future and goals towards a career in this particular area of design.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 9   COMMENTS

Meet a Mintie(s): Allison & Jessica of The Social Type

Okay, so I realize it’s a little past Friday, but a bad flu and a few other minor delays later, and here we are at Tuesday! To make up for the wait, we have double the fun because we have both Allison and Jessica of The Social Type with us today. Allison has been a long time customer service maven here at Minted. She specializes in all the fancy custom printing our brands offer. Jessica is Allison’s husband’s childhood friend and they’ve known each other for about six years now. Both Allison and Jessica have been long time community members, but starting in 2010 they decided to team up and enter together. It seemed right for the partnership to just keep on growing! They had been collaborating on custom projects for about a year and a half and will launch their greeting card line this summer.

Allison at left, Jessica at right

At age nine, you wanted to be?

Allison: A greeting card crafter, a spy, or a professional ballerina.

Jessica: Whitney Houston…or a fashion designer

When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?

Allison: I’m still trying to figure it out! There are so many different professions that I would like to say I am skilled at.

Jessica: I had an internship at Martin Williams an ad agency in Minneapolis. I was interning on the account management side of the business and quickly realized it wasn’t the side I wanted to be on…the creative teams were having all the fun.

Do you have any formal design training?

Allison: I have a BFA in Graphic Design.

Jessica: I have my Bachelors in Advertising and Certificate in Art Direction.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 24   COMMENTS

Judging a book by its cover

With the launch of a new challenge I thought it might be helpful to look around for some inspiration and as it turns out book covers have a lot to offer.

Covers is an entire website dedicated to the appreciation of book cover design. It’s produced by Fwis, a design firm based out of Brooklyn, NY and Portland, OR.

It feels like Over-caffeinated could have inspired this one!

The site’s authors point out the subtleness of the title treatment.

Using font to actually mimic what the text is describing.

We’ve seen silhouettes for a long time in card designs… this book does a great job of using them en masse.

The all-type book designs with a twist might be especially inspiring to our card designers. Here the author’s dead husband, about whom much of the book is about, is spelled out in the blue type.

Great type and simple illustrations combine for a showstopping result. We’re seeing lots more birds popping up in our designs lately.

With summer closer than you may realize, I’d love to see more shell motifs!

For our Here Comes Spring Birth Announcement Challenge, Book by its Cover, lets you sort by Children’s books.

Check out these cute animal illustrations:

Browsing the site, I also came across links to a few other covet-worthy books, including this one, Russian Textiles: Printed Cloth for the Bazaars of Central Asia, that could be a great source for pattern ideas.

And this one about typeface, A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, vol. 1:

Reading the Past shows how art has been re-used on various book covers.


Do you have a favorite book cover?

MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 1  COMMENT

Kiss me, I’m a Mintie

As a company, a lot of mail comes our way, and it ranges from the quotidian (office supply catalogs) to the fun and surprising (anything from designers). We recently received the fun kind of mail from Alison and Jessie of Sweet Street Gals, who sent us a care package containing a few essential items for getting in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit. In a word: awesome.

Boutonniere Kit

St. Patrick's Day-ready

Not pictured: the deliciously minty oreos that came with the boutonnieres. Those were pretty much eaten up on the spot.

Thanks Sweet Street Gals!


MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 3   COMMENTS

Friday flowers

Here’s to hoping that the rain dumping on us in mid-March will bring spring flowers just like May showers! Until then we have all of the beautiful floral illustrations recently created by our fabulous community of designers to tide use over.

Just this afternoon, we announced the winners from our Good Housekeeping Keep in Touch challenge. Kelli Hall’s poppies won her a first prize in the women’s personalized stationery category… isn’t it interesting to see a flower in reverse color like this?

Poppy Field by Kelli Hall

Gakemi’s stunning watercolor poppies look an awful lot like California’s state flower, don’t you think? I think that the flowers from both of these lovely ladies will make many a mother’s heart go a flutter come this Mother’s Day.

Chic Poppies by Gakemi Art+Design

Poppies do seem to be Minted’s signature flower. Cheree’s take on the poppy just launched in our selection of wedding invitations.

Preppy Poppy by Cheree Berry for Minted Select

The poppies on Bibliotheque have been a longtime favorite across multiple categories.

Bibliotheque by Beth Perry Design

I see gray everywhere these days–it sure is the neutral color of the moment. The gray flowers in Laura Hankin’s Lemon Lace also got her to the Good Housekeeping top ten.

Lemon Lace by Laura Hankin

Check out the posies on Cheree Berry’s new wedding invites in gray of all colors!

Pocket Full of Posies by Cheree Berry for {Minted Select}

Dauphine’s new wedding invitation also comes in gray.

Blooming Garden by Dauphine Press for {Minted Select}

I love Wiley Valentine’s pink cherry blossoms paired with gray type.

Tracy Wedding Invitations by Wiley Valentine for {Minted Select}

Also in the flower branch category, Annie Clark’s Apple Blossoms makes use of a gray background.

Annie Clark's Apple Blossom Wedding Invitation

And more new branches… what about these Dogwood branches in a bright yellow?

Azaria by Dauphine Press for Minted Select

Azaria by Dauphine Press for Minted Select

And late last night, we launched some additional Baptism & Christening announcements.

Marabou’s bulbs are so fresh and modern and combine to form a brilliant pattern.

Bulb Baptism and Christening Invitation by Marabou

Oscar & Emma‘s little flowers are oh, so, sweet!

Petite Fleur by Oscar & Emma

Do you have any floral favorites on the site? And anyways, what’s your favorite flower? Is it represented on Minted yet?

MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 1  COMMENT

Meet a Mintie: Mandy Gordon

Thank goodness  it’s Friday. It’s been a good and productive week for Minted, but whew, after launching lots of wedding invitations, baby shower invitations, and baptism and christening announcements, we’re all looking forward to the weekend… and to get you on your way to happy hour we are lucky enough to have the lovely and talented Mandy Gordon with us. And in case this Q&A leaves you yearning for more Mandy, you can follow her on her blog here.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a graphic designer?
I always knew that I wanted a profession that involved art. When applying to college I finally decided on graphic design as a major because it still involved art (which was very familiar to me) and also involved technology which I found interesting.

Do you have any formal design training?
I have a BFA in graphic design from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The design program was great seeing that most of the faculty were also faculty at RISD as well.

How would you describe your style?
Whimsical, maybe?

What is your normal workflow or process like?


I usually do some inspirational investigation before diving into a project. It’s sort of like a designer’s warm up routine. I’ll visit some of my favorite design blogs and websites, get inspired and psyched up to get started. I’ll use tracing paper and a #2 pencil to do some sketching (tracing paper is great for creating variations of the same sketch). I also make a list of words that correlate to the subject matter of the design which helps sprout even more ideas. There is a great website called visualthesaurus.com that really helps your brain get cooking some ideas based on one simple word. Lastly, there is always caffeine involved. Gotta have my cup of joe!

How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
This definitely depends on the project, but in general 3’s a charm.

What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
The mindset that I try to follow is, use your best effort and skill given the parameters. It’s always so easy to say “If only I had more time…” I think most designers/artist would agree that if they were given all the time in the world, it still wouldn’t be long enough to finish a project. That is the perfectionism in us.

What are the easiest and the most difficult aspects of the design process?
The easiest process is the designing part, the most difficult part is always looking back at certain finished projects thinking of ways it could have been improved.

You have such strong children’s designs. From ice cream to fire hydrants to guitars to lacey bibs, you always come up with interesting themes—where do you go for all those ideas?
Like I had mentioned earlier, I make word lists. These help me broaden my range of thinking towards a particular project. Children’s designs are my comfort zone and I love illustrating so it comes to me naturally.

I know you also do lots of fun toy and packaging designs—how is this similar or dissimilar from card design?

Mandy's holiday teaset design for Target

It’s similar in the way that I brainstorm and sketch, but different because there are elements in children’s package design that are otherwise challenging. There are a lot of regulations and rules that have to be followed such as age grade information, warnings and package structure. These issues all effect (and sometimes create barriers) to my design process.

Favorite color? Or favorite color right now?

I would normally say my favorite color is teal, however I’ve been starting to have feelings for grass green lately (that could be winter’s cabin fever dictating, I don’t know).

Favorite pen?
Out of all my fancy pens and pencils, I still always reach for a good ol’ #2 pencil.

Favorite notebook?
Although I have many sketchbooks, I always reach for my tracing paper. It allows me to sketch over sketches.

Tell us about one of your favorite cards offered for sale on Minted and how you came up with the design.
My favorite is “Home Tweet Home”. It originally started off as a Christmas pattern that I was working on and I soon altered the design and colors to fit a general pattern theme. It’s very folk art and gives me that warm and cozy feeling.

Mandy's Home Tweet Home

What was your favorite Minted design challenge and why?
I definitely loved the Valentine’s Challenge! I really loved creating illustrations geared towards children.

Lil' Tweets by Mandy Gordon

What are the places in Newubryport that you would recommend a visitor check out?

Oldies Marketplace is a great little antiques mall. I find so many inspiring things there from furniture to vintage concert posters. Chameleon is a great little shop full of a plethora of art and design. They sell everything from handmade jewelry to trendy little kitchen magnets. It’s a great place to buy handmade treasures from local artisans. Lastly you have to visit Plum Island. It’s part of Newburyport and is the essence of coastal New England life.

Where do you go for design inspiration?
Portsmouth, NH has some great little shops in town that always get the ideas flowing. Boston is also a great place to go for inspiration. New York City is by far the best. ABC Carpet & Home on 888 & 881 broadway is my favorite. I just love the mix of textures! I also look towards music to create inspiration in my designs and illustrations. My top musical picks are Imogen Heap (British), St Vincent (American) & Sia (Australian).

Where do you like to shop? What are your favorite stores?
I love antique and thrift shops. I guess I’m always on the hunt for something rare and inspiring. I found some 60s vintage wrapping paper with sensational children’s illustrations for a quarter and it was still in it’s original packaging! It’s now posted on my corkboard of inspiration along side an owl plate from Chameleon.

What are your favorite online design sites and blogs?
Printandpattern.blogspot, orangeyoulucky.blogspot (Helen Dardik – illustrative genius), thedieline.com, frenchpaper.com (brilliant papers and printing treatments!) I have a few french paper company prints framed in my home. (see pic)

What designers do you really admire?
I am in love with the illustrative styles of Helen Dardik, Tad Carpenter and Kate Sutton. Helen Dardik has a very distinct illustrative style and fabulous color palettes. Tad Carpenter creates wonderful little character illustrations but also has a great sense of composition. I just adore the line quality in Kate Sutton’s work!

Helen Dardik's High Hopes design

Tad Carpenter's St Vincent poster

Kate Sutton's very cool logo

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Usually tropical places. This year is Puerto Rico in April, I can’t wait to take photos of Old San Juan!

What can’t you travel without?
My camera, it’s my back-up visual memory!

Do you have any hobbies of note?
I do some sewing. I make small little plush critters. Recently I purchased a woodburning tool and hope to create some unique art with that. I’ve also bought all the supplies I need to paint some kokeshi dolls. So much to do, so little time!

What can’t you live without?
Electricity – just recently lost it due to a severe wind storm here. I was helpless. I need it to power all my technology.

Biggest self indulgence?
Buying blind box items, like Dunnies figures (with designers like Tad Carpenter & Amanda Visell). It’s silly, but I always like the surprise of not knowing what I’m getting!

What was the last book you read?
Read? I’m a designer, I look at the pictures. ha!

What piece of art would you most like to own?
A few years ago I got to see the The Hallucinogenic Toreador by Salvador Dali at the MET. It was stunning! It was much larger a painting than I had originally thought.

Dali's The Hallucinogenic Toreador

What advice would you give a new designer?
Always ask questions, you’re never too experienced to learn.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP... 5   COMMENTS