We had a lovely chat with one of the loveliest ladies in San Diego, Olga Griesinger; graphic designer & illustrator at Elum Designs. We talk about internships (she’s the internship queen 👸🏾) and the benefits from both the student side and studio side of things; her biggest tip for finding your own style; and her top 5 design crushes, including everybody’s favorite, Timothy Goodman (am I right?).
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? I come from Minsk, Belarus, from a family of artists/designers: both of my parents studied interior design, my mom worked in architecture and then became an art teacher, my father is a graphic designer and photographer. Drawing, painting, any kind of creativity were always encouraged in me since young age. Through my childhood, I distinctly remember drawing two kind of things – funny animals and characters (before I started to read) and words and letters (after learning how to read). I think it is only natural that after years of practicing both I became a greeting card graphic designer and illustrator.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. I am a graphic designer/illustrator working at Elum Designs – a letterpress greeting card company. I get to have fun coming up with concepts (illustrations as well as words) for greeting cards of all sorts of occasions, which are printed in a beautiful old (and complicated to learn) technique of letterpress. I also get to design stationery collections and products, gift-wrap and gift bags, which are later sold in stores like Papyrus, Homegoods, Marshalls, TJ-Max, and Clintons. So when you are out there buying a paper bag for your gift, you may be grabbing one of my creations.
Who are your top five design crushes right now? I am very much into the free flowing emotional typography and illustration of Timothy Goodman and Adam Kurtz. I am also obsessed with everything Peter Tarka does, even just taking his color palette; he really makes me want to learn 3D. There is another graphic designer/illustrator I love – Shaivalini Kumar, her stuff is always so fresh and yummy, she has a great range of skills that she uses but always in her own recognizable way. Finally, my current illustration skill goals are carried by Min Kyung, those simple, elegant shapes, sense of light, and negative space are just beautiful.
What is your take on internships? (do you take interns now?) I love internships! I had many myself. I think it is crucial for students to do internships for many reasons: it gives you real experience, it teaches you many technical production details, it teaches you what the actual life/flow of the project looks like, it gives you great connections in your industry. I also think that taking interns is the best way to give back for the design community – real design and life lessons for the students that will forever stay with them and inevitably shape them as designers. We, unfortunately, currently do not take interns simply because we have really grown out of our office space.
How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others? It took me a while to define what my own style would look like; I think I still have at least two distinct styles that I switch between (which is a plus in my job). For years, I was switching between a more line-based realistic and more of a geometric-based style of illustration. Later, I realized that the geometric-based style better defines my personality and gives me a possibility to communicate the same concepts in a more condensed, and clear, easy-to understand from a glance manner. Tip – try everything, stick to what most successfully illustrates your ideas and comes off more naturally to you.
What advice would you give students starting out? Early on start thinking where you would want to see yourself work. Ask yourself many questions: do I want to work in traditional techniques? in print? in digital? Do I want to design spaces? Objects? Do I want to work in office? at home? Do I want to design commercial products? work for non-profit? free-lance? I think answering those questions to yourself will help you better understand what it is you want to do and where you would want to see yourself work. It certainly helped me – I found exactly the type of a job I wanted to have – working, not only with printed products, but even letter pressed, against all the odds of our mostly digital design world.