5 Designers Tell Us How They Got Their Start in Design

“I think there is something special in this kind of work.”

Image: Inspiration Lettering Quotes + Extras / Typography by JeksonJS

Thanks to online marketplaces, more and more talented folks from across the globe are breaking into the world of design, diversifying the industry and creating some incredible, creative products and digital designs. Some take the traditional route of studying design at university, while others are self-taught. Regardless of the path they take, their talent is indisputable.

Five of our rising stars on Envato Elements share how they got their start, what motivates them, and lessons they’ve learnt along the way.

“A shot in the dark” – Matej Il_ík, aka guerillacraft

“It was a shot in the dark,” says Matej Il_ík about how he got started in design.

Matel didn’t study design or visual arts at university, but developed his visual senses over many years of painting. “Generally, I like beautiful things and I really appreciate all kind of creative expressions. So, design is just another way for me to show my creativity and it’s one of those areas where there’s no boundary between work and fun.”

Analog Camera Actions for Adobe Photoshop by guerillacraft

Still, making the transition from artist to designer wasn’t an easy one for the Slovakian native. When he started designing, he was a newbie to software like Adobe Illustrator, so he needed to teach himself how to use it. Once he’d done so, he then came face to face with a big problem many freelancers are only too familiar with. “My first projects were making some gig posters for clients, but I got fed-up when people didn’t pay me or paid me poorly. So I eventually gave up on this kind of freelance work and turned my hand to creating graphic resources instead.”

Mid-century brushes for Adobe Illustrator by guerillacraft

The first thing the 28-year-old created was a set of brushes for Adobe Illustrator called Ink Age. He was delighted when they began to sell well and knew right away that this was the way he wanted to work as a designer. “I think there is something special in this kind of work,” he says. “You don’t have pressure from clients, so you have more freedom to do things you like.”

“It’s about creating a feeling” – Deasy Sanjaya, aka august10

Like so many kids, Deasy Sanjaya loved to draw, and was so good at it that a friend of their parents suggested they take a graphic design major at university.

It wasn’t until Deasy joined an agency after graduating that they began to fully understand what it meant to be a designer. “For the first time, I was forced to produce projects with a creative message, and I realised that being a designer is not just about making designs; it’s about creating a feeling through your visual approach using colours, patterns and all sorts of details to communicate a specific message.”

Leah Gaviota by august10

The 28-year-old, who was born in Indonesia and now lives in Spain, used their agency experience to create fonts, and eventually began to sell them on Envato Elements. “Making fonts is interesting. I particularly like the script ones because they feel so handmade and express my originality.”

August by august10

“Creating some nice designs always make me happy,” Deasy says. “Knowing that I’ve made something visually good that other people like and use gives me great satisfaction.”

“Just packed my stuff and quit” – Snezhana Baseeva, aka switzergirl

Snezhana Baseeva (switzergirl)

Russian designer Snezhana Baseeva took a huge risk when she decided to quit her well-paid job in a prestigious company in Moscow and embark on a career as a freelance designer. “I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live.” Snezhana said. “So one day I just packed my stuff and quit. It was scary but it was worth it. “

Today Snezhana makes her living creating beautiful fonts, logos, social media banners and watercolour graphics which she sells online. Her success as a designer however wasn’t overnight. In fact, she began laying the foundation for it many years before when she was 17. “About 8 years ago I began learning website development by myself and created the first website for my mom. That was when I realized that there was something in the world I could be extremely passionate about.”

Watercolor seamless patterns set by switzergirl

After high school, Snezhana moved to Moscow to study IT and spent many years working for various companies in that field but during her spare time she experimented with branding design, watercolour painting and photography and it was this spare time play that led to her love of graphic design. “For me design is a way to brighten life up by creating beautiful, interesting and eye-catching things. When you create something beautiful you can enjoy seeing it on a notebook cover, or as a pattern on fabric, or as wall art. It’s great to bring beauty to the world and share it with others.”

Blue Watercolor Textures by switzergirl

Soon Snezhana began to create a selection of products for various online marketplaces. Establishing herself in the online market ultimately gave her the courage to make the transition to full-time freelance design work. “Sometimes it’s really difficult to follow your dreams, but if you feel you’ve taken a turn that is carrying you in the opposite direction from what you really want, you have to be brave and change things.”

“Fresh ideas are best” – Leonard Posavec, aka LeoSupply

Leonard Posavec (LeoSupply)

At 21 years old, Leonard Posavec got turned on to design when he was just 14. While playing online games, he noticed that some of the better players had great-looking signature banners. He wanted to create the same sort of thing for himself, so he started learning Photoshop. This led him to Illustrator and then to delving deeper into design.

Originals Typeface by LeoSupply

Within a few years, he’d created his first font, and when he got paid the very first time for his work, he was hooked for life. “I was pretty young when I got a donation of just $5 for my work. Money wasn’t what was interesting to me, what was important was that someone really appreciated my work. That was really the best motivation.”

The Croatian native, who says he’s proudest about being completely self-taught, got even more incentive to keep designing when, just a month later, ABC Studios contacted him to use his font in a series. “That had a big impact on me and reinforced what I really wanted to do with my life.”

California Jackpot Font by LeoSupply

Leonard, who also designs brushes for Photoshop and Illustrator, says that most of his family and friends don’t understand exactly what he does all day. Design is not just a job to him, it is a passion. For this reason, he says he leaves his computer on overnight so that when he wakes up he can just jump right back into where he stopped the night before. “When I get an idea for a product, font or anything like that, almost always I start to work on it immediately. Because I think that fresh ideas are the best.”

“To do what I love” – Ievgen Radchenko, aka JeksonJS

Ievgen Radchenko (JeksonJS)

Just two short years ago, Ukrainian native Ievgen Radchenko discovered Illustrator and became so intrigued by the software, that he turned his interest into a passion for creating graphic resources, and then into top sales on Envato Elements.

Adventure Pennants & Vintage Flags / Logo by JeksonJS

Ievgen attributes his success to his love for process. He thinks that as a designer, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the end result and to worry about producing work that clients will like, but he believes that he has achieved success by focusing on the process and enjoying it. “I love all the process, from the basic idea and brainstorming to the finished product. I like to see how the simple idea that was born in my head becomes a finished design.”

Mountain Shapes Vol.2 by JeksonJS

Ievgen creates logos, badge designs, and T-shirt prints with a retro look, and says his designs reflect the things he loves to do most when not designing: getting away from it all, spending time in the great outdoors, camping and fishing with his wife and three year old son. “I’m proud that I can draw in themes and styles that I like and have sales. It’s very important for me to do what I love, not what I should. When people see my work, I want them to be excited and to imagine immediately what cool products they can make using them.”


Nona Blackman

About the Author Nona Blackman

I'm currently travelling around Europe with my husband while working as a freelance writer.