While there is still a big uncertainty in the whole European working industry, and creative professionals are actively looking for ways to break through their careers, Skillmill team decided to introduce a new series of articles #Skillmillstories. In these articles, top-notch creatives will be sharing their experiences, ups, and downs as well as provide useful tips to those who are either just starting their careers or struggle to find new projects.
For the first #Skillmillstories article, we have interviewed a talented illustrator, web designer and branding expert – Katrien Riks. Katrien specialises on feminine designs for her clients and believes in creating beauty and enriching it with femininity. During this virtual interview, we have asked Katrien a total of seven questions:
1. How long have you been working in the branding field?
I have a degree in textile design and after worked in home furnishings and interior decorating. When I started styling and designing a local Mexican restaurant, I found myself also designing the menus, a logo, colour scheme, and basically pulling the whole concept into an identity. That’s when I discovered my aptitude for branding. It’s like telling a story and setting a scene. This is about 16 years ago, and I have been developing my skills in branding and design ever since, adding illustration and web design to my skill set as well.
2. What is the most memorable event that happened while you were working?
When I started out, I was very insecure when people criticised my work, and I remember working in the Mexican restaurant painting the walls a dark grey, adding hot pink as an accent and hearing someone say: “Pink?! Why pink and not red, red is a much better colour for this place.” I felt mortified. But that was also the moment I realised that someone criticising your work or disagreeing with you, doesn’t make you or your work bad. It was a small moment, but a defining one for me and since then I have only grown more confident in my choices and when disagreeing with a client, able to explain my choice but also able to adapt.
3. What are the main three things that you’ve learned since the start of your career?
1. Dealing with criticism.
2. To keep learning, developing my skills, improving the quality of my work.
3. How to listen to clients, adapting to their personal communication style and how to set boundaries.
4. What are the three tips that you would give to someone who is starting their career in the branding field?
1. Set boundaries! This is very hard, and you can only define them for yourself through trial and error. You are in charge, but because we work to create the best for our client, wanting to please them, it is easy to lose sight of boundaries. And that can come back and bite you in a later stage.
2. Listen to your client. Really listen. And ask questions, push a bit here and there to understand what they are looking for and are expecting and then not give them what they want, but what they need. Because clients often start out not knowing what they want exactly. That’s because you are the expert and not them. But always remember it’s collaboration. They know their business, you know yours. And that’s where you meet.
3. Present your work in a way the client understands what you are envisaging. Use mockups, put it in context. It is easy to think everyone gets what your vision is. I know I forget all the time.
5. What are the three things that you recommend not to do to someone starting their career in the branding field?
1. Don’t copy. Be inspired by other designers, but don’t copy or play safe by using a generic style. It’s boring, it’s not personal, and it’s not what branding is about.
2. Don’t’ forget to trust your creative instinct.
3. Don’t work with clients or brands that don’t match your style. That never works.”
6. How do you find work and inspiration?
Finding work is always a challenge. I post on Instagram, Linkedin and Pinterest and have an account on Behance and Skillmill, and I’m featured on a female designer’s collective website. I used to network in my home city, Amsterdam and built a small network of entrepreneurs who have found me and subsequently recommend me. I have clients from over the world who have found me through Pinterest, which is fun.
Inspiration is always everywhere. As a designer, you have an eye for everything design and style, and the web is full of it. Pinterest *link to Skillmill Pinterest* is, of course, the first go-to place to find inspiration and to share this with the client as well. I myself have a storytelling style, and the ideas for a brand come from the brand itself. From the client, the concept, the business and its audience. That is where all the story elements are.
7. How do you challenge yourself to become a better branding expert?
By developing my design skills, by always pushing myself with every project, trying new ideas, always wanting to be better. To look at and read about branding projects that impress me. Following online courses about branding and design. And by doing.
Create your free profile on Skillmill now and get a chance to be featured on #Skillmillstories as well!