Karin says: [Ambar and I] went to high school together. She was always in the studio working away. Even after she went off to university, she came back to use our little etching press. Maybe it was her incredible drive – or the fact that she was a girl too – but whether or not she knew it, I really looked up to her. Today she is an incredible designer and illustrator at Mashable and has worked for countless amazing organizations like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and Nickelodeon.
What do you do for work, and why do you do it?
Ambar: I am an illustrator and graphic designer. I have always been terrible with words and the only way I can effectively tell stories is visually.
How did you end up working in the field of design?
I have always been interested in the arts, so I knew I would end up doing something “artsy” but I did not know what. I dabbled in fashion and fine arts and eventually through some career counseling I found Communication Design which is basically graphic design and I loved it. Through my graphic design studies I kept taking illustrations courses as well, which has lead to a hybrid of the two.
What are some of your favorite trends in design lately?
I am a big fan of colors! As a latina, the beautiful colors from Latin America have always inspired me. So I’m excited to see designers using bold colors shamelessly!
Could you tell us about your very first role in the design field?
During my studies I did multiple internships to help me understand where I fit in best in the design world. My two favorite internships were at Nick Jr. and Simon and Schuster’s children’s art department. This helped me realize that I love designs and illustrations that are whimsical and fun, as opposed to the more “serious” and clean type of design.
Tell me a little about a project that you’re most proud of in your career so far.
For my college thesis I created a children’s book. It is not perfect by any means, but I do love it. It was a fun challenging way to combine design, illustration, and my love for everything whimsical and fun. I also have loved painting skate decks, it’s a wonderful way to step away from the computer.
If you had to give an aspiring designer one book to read, what would it be?
To be honest, I don’t read many books about design. However, I do listening to podcasts. 99% Invisible is an incredible podcast about design. Another is Design Matters with Debbie Millman, I recommend the Elle Luna episode. I am also a big fan of the Tim Ferriss podcast, this one is not a design podcast, but inspiring nonetheless. Finally, I think this short yet powerful video is a must for anyone in a creative field.
A lot of your work integrates design with new media and communications, like your work with Mashable (Snapchat) or Femsplain (Medium). Do you think these innovations in journalism have shaped the role of designers today?
Yes, definitely. Online journalism means more and faster. This has forced me to become a faster creator and also not to treat projects so preciously, which allows me to create more freely and not be afraid to try new things.
What blogs/sites are your must-reads for creative inspiration? Design aside, what else inspires/influences your work?
For creative inspiration my go-to is Instagram. I love to follow artists and designers on Instagram because you often get to see the work in progress as opposed to just the final product. I love to see how others work and it inspires me to try new techniques.
Who is a woman in the design industry that you admire, and why?
Tarn Susumpow is a close friend and always a source of inspiration. I am especially inspired by her stop-motion videos. It’s been such privilege to see her grow as an artist and her animations are simply beautiful. Tarn is so thoughtful in her creations and seeing her videos on my Instagram feed always brighten up my day and inspire me to go out there and create.
More interviews with women in design:
- Interview: Katherine Liu on Books, Blogs, Empathy, & Facebook Design
- Interview: Hollie Doar, UX Designer
- Interview: Kayla Heffernan on UX, accessibility advocacy, & quantum physics