This month, we chose to feature freelance graphic designer and illustrator, Alexa Erkaeva. With years of successful design experience, Alexa has gained well-deserved respect and admiration for her incredible aesthetic and unique design style.
Tell us about yourself, and your background in logo design and illustration.
I was born and currently live in Turkmenistan, a Soviet Republic in Central Asia. I have over 15 years of graphic design and illustration experience. I have worked in local and international studios, and have done projects for brands like Coca-Cola, Samsung, BMW, Mercedes, UNDP, and British American Tobacco. Throughout the years, I have gained a lot of experience in brand identity, illustration, print, and game design. In 2016, I started freelancing. I am quite happy with my decision to freelance, as I now have the ability to plan my schedule freely and choose interesting projects for myself. I also love that freelancing gives me the opportunity to work with lots of people from all over the world.
What was it that made you want to pursue a career in graphic design? Did you ever want to give up and do something else?
Since I was a kid, I dreamt of having a job related to graphic design and illustration. Because I didn’t have the opportunity to study at a university, I started working at a local advertising agency as soon as I finished school. I started learning graphic editors on my own when I was just 12 years old, which is why I didn’t have a problem completing any test tasks when applying for jobs. Access to information used to be pretty limited back when I was a child, so I really learned everything by trial and error. It wasn’t until 2002 when I got the first hardcover Photoshop 7.0 manual, and then Internet appeared, my life changed completely.
For two years at the advertising agency, I was given random and boring tasks in my opinion. For example, I was tasked with designing shop signs … It wasn’t my dream job that’s for sure.
Everything changed when I got acquainted with the best designer in the city at the time. He lured me out of the agency and into his own company, which allowed me to step up my game. I think that one of the best ways to boost your knowledge is to work with good company in general. The people I worked with believed in me when I had little experience. I met my best friend and my mentor at this company — a person who helped me develop my own taste and change my perception of things in general.
What does your design process look like? What tools and/or vices do you use to help you get through difficult projects?
I start any project, regardless of its complexity, with a discussion of all details with the client. The better I understand the task, the easier it will be to complete the job, and changes and revisions should be minimal. I wrote more about my working process here, on my website
What designers or design agencies inspire you the most? Who or what inspires you outside of the design world?
I check the Behance newsfeed daily, and every time I manage to find something inspirational. I really can’t name anyone specifically, because there’s so many awesome designers out there, so many people who motivate me to develop myself and be better.
Currently, I’m reading manga. I really love the art there, especially the way it conveys character emotions. I am very fond of Japanese culture. It’s a big source of inspiration to me.
When you’re not designing, what are you doing? What hobbies or activities are you involved with that would surprise us?
Nothing surprising here, my job is my hobby. In my spare time, I do some personal projects. For example, logo collaborations with other designers. You can check out some of these collaborations here.
What work or works are you most proud of and why?
It is probably subjective, but I consider the map of Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) to be one of my best works. Since tourism isn’t well developed in this country, this project is truly one-of-a-kind. It is the only illustrated map of the city. I depicted the most curious sights, shops, and markets, parks, restaurants and cafes that I would recommend to any tourist. I had to visit these places many times to accomplish this project. In total, I was gathering material and drawing for over a month.
Please describe a current project that you’re working on?
Currently, I spend most of my time with my newborn baby. I plan to go back to work after New Year’s. My January is already booked with a number of interesting and upcoming projects. Stay tuned!
What are the best and worst parts about being a graphic designer and illustrator?
These professions are rare in my country. Consequently, there are no gatherings of like-minded people, conferences, lectures, courses, design schools or useful literature … All of this is absent. I have to solve certain problems that many people have never heard of, I am not complaining though. There are always solutions. I just have to make a great effort to create even something simple. Aside from that, I see only good. I really can’t imagine doing something else.
What are some quotes, mantras or practices that you live by?
Due to everything described in the previous answer, over time I came up with a motto. It is based on the famous quote “Work smarter, not harder.” I often tell myself, “I have to work smarter AND harder.”
Do you have any advice on how to be successful? Any tips or tricks to making it in the design world, while being true to yourself?
These days it’s possible to gain almost any knowledge, thanks to the Internet. The rest depends on you and your will to study and learn new things.
I’ve realized that people who remain true to self are the ones who follow their own path no matter what. Failures, lack of experience, earnings, style, really anything… it doesn’t stop them. They don’t give up, they keep going. And sooner or later, these people achieve what they want.
Nothing comes for free. Success is not about luck or natural talent. It’s a lot of hard work.
To view the work that Alexa Erkaeva has uploaded to the Lounge, simply click here.
To view her personal website, see here.
Be sure to check back with us in 2019, as we bring another talented designer “Center Stage.” The next LogoLounge featured member could be you!