Interview: Designer Karin Schwarz on inspiration and confidence

Karin Schwarz is a digital designer based in Colorado. We asked her a few questions about her work for our new Design/Shine interview series, which highlights talented women in the industries of design and technology.

The name of this interview series is a nod to shine theory, the idea that women can raise each other up by highlighting each other’s accomplishments. It’s a concept that’s been used across many industries and fields (and even recently by female staffers in the White House).


What do you do for work, and why do you do it?

Karin: I help dreams become digital realities. I’m currently completing a Design Fellowship at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Boulder, Colorado. I’ve always loved design in all aspects: fashion, architecture, interior design, print design, etc. Design is far more important than businesses realize, and I’m happy to prove just how important it is.

How did you end up working in the field of design?

K: I was a classic nerd in high school; I was trying to fit in, but always ended up in the art room. My dad was a computer nerd and was always coming home with new software. I taught myself the beginnings of PhotoShop from editing my beloved myspace selfies. When choosing a major, I didn’t know much about myself but I knew I enjoyed art. As an angsty teen, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and my parents weren’t too supportive of only studying art, so they made me agree to double-major in business marketing. I didn’t get why they made me do business, but five years later, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mountains and man buns: design projects from Karin’s portfolio.

I remember being so inspired by a showreel from a motion graphics agency, The Mill. I chose to concentrate in graphic design. Throughout art school, I also fell in love with oil painting and classical printmaking. I took a year off after college and taught English in Thailand. I absolutely loved teaching, but I missed the busy, creative environment. I returned to the States and started getting serious about applying to agencies. I ended up at CP+B and couldn’t be happier – I’m surrounded by some of the most creative people in this industry. It’s a rarity to be able to utilize both of my degrees (marketing and design), and I’ve learned so much already. I’m excited to see where it will take me in the future.

What are some of your favorite trends in design lately?

K: I’m obsessed with the 60’s so I love the trending printmaking techniques, lettering, and retro textures. I’m also seeing the 80s’ starting to trend again which is really fun: neon, static, and fun patterns. I also love how everything is starting to become animated.

Tell me a little about a project that you’re most proud of in your design career so far.

K: Finding my first job is probably the most challenging thing I’ve done: countless hours putting together your book, building your website, nit picking literally everything, convincing yourself you’re good enough after convincing yourself that you’re not good enough, and finding a visual personal identity. When that’s all said and done, it’s a challenge to find a position at an agency or organization that you truly fit with and convincing them why they should hire you. Confidence is key, but cockiness will kill you. The design industry is hard to get your foot in the door and it’s easy to give up. Maybe that’s not answering the question, but as far as a project I’m most proud of is, it was my determination to actually go for it, put my brand together, and land a design fellowship at my dream agency. It kickstarted my design career faster than I could ever dream of and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Confidence is key, but cockiness will kill you.

What are your go-to tools for collaboration, working, and productivity?

K: I believe in Google Calendar and in handwritten to-do lists. I need deadlines, and I try to stay away from too much coffee. I also wake up earlier than usual to get some serenity before a busy day. I work out 4-5 days a week, even if I only have time to walk. If I’m not working on the weekend, I spend as much time outside as possible. I need hiking, mountains, and rock climbing in my life or I lose it.

What blogs/sites are your must-reads for creative inspiration?

K: As of right now I’m obsessed with Sophia Amoruso’ Girlboss podcast. I’m so inspired by other extremely driven women doing big big things. Aside from that, when handed a project, I like to sketch a lot before I go to external design resources. As far as external design inspiration, I normally turn to Behance, Pinterest, Awwwards,, etc. I also follow a ton of designers, painters, photographers, travellers, magazines, etc. on Instagram. Anything is inspiration and if ever feel stuck, I work out, walk, or go rock climbing.

You can check out more of Karin’s work on her portfolio.

Credit for all photos: Karin Schwarz. Featured image: 

Brittany Jezouit

About the Author Brittany Jezouit

Brittany is a Contributor to the Envato blog. She helped launch the publication and was its founding Editor. You can follow her on Twitter @brittanyjezouit.