"Surround yourself with things that inspire you."
Ever wonder how different paths can lead to the same ending? Just ask Olivia Reaney. As a kid, she explored everything from music to sketching, but each one led her to the same arena: Graphic design.
Now, as a seasoned designer, she's spilling the details on her favorite tools, why a simple scroll through Instagram can inspire her in an instant, and how we can analyze other brands to tap into our own creativity.
DesignRush: What inspired you to go into graphic design?
Olivia Reaney: I’ve always had an interest in the arts. Whether it was drawing, playing music, or sketching typefaces, graphic design seemed like the obvious and natural path. As I got older, I always appreciated the aesthetics of everyday things and decided that that was what I wanted to contribute to and learn about.
DR: What are a few of your favorite design tools?
OR: I may be the only designer to say this, but I love the chart tool. I primarily do infographics, so this is my go-to tool. I mainly live in Illustrator, so I like the shape and pathfinder tools for simple, geometric illustrations. I also recently discovered the width tool, which I’ve used to create human limbs, donut frosting, and flowers.
DR: What are some projects of your own that you are particularly proud of?
OR: I primarily design for an online platform, so I enjoy the occasions when I work on print projects. Something about having a physical product is exciting. One project, at my day job, was creating this desk calendar with illustrated scenes for each month with an occupying statistic. It was a short deadline and pushed my illustration skills to another level.
I’m also passionate about music. Recently, a friend and I have started a Medium publication called 12 Songs. We interview various folks in the music industry about what 12 songs have influenced their lives, write about it, and design accompanying imagery.
DR: You have the day off. What can we find you doing?
OR: There is almost a 100 percent chance I'll be outside — either at the beach, on my roof, or on a bike. If it’s cold, I’m listening to live music, scoping out sample sales, or eating at a new restaurant with friends.
DR: Which blogs, websites, or apps to you check every day and why?
OR: I like Instagram for home decor and illustration inspiration. When I get to work, I look through the latest Think with Google articles (the primary client at my day job). I love The Infatuation to keep up to date on new bars and restaurants. Lastly, I browse Spotify and choose which playlist or artist I’m feeling that day.
DR: What designers or brands speak to you and why?
OR: There are these two illustrators — Batabasta and Owen Davey — who I always keep up to date on and draw inspiration from. I’ve also recently discovered The Pudding, a collection of visual essays that have amazing infographic work. I also love the clothing brand Scotch & Soda. Their pieces are unique and unexpected, and their website, emails, and overall design is beautiful and whimsical.
DR: Tell us about your first big project. What did you wish you knew before you started, and what did you learn coming out the other side of it?
OR: One of my first big projects was designing a responsive infographic for a well-known client to encourage tourism for the city of Atlanta. It consisted of lots of little illustrations showing the top things to do in Atlanta. The responsive aspect meant designing for three different specs: mobile, tablet, and desktop. I had to ensure the graphics were all optimized for the platform. After I created the three static designs, I worked with a developer exporting assets and directing the layout as he coded what ultimately ended up being a web page. Before starting, I had not collaborated with a developer and learned more about best practices for efficiency. Since then, I have used what I learned and created more responsive infographics.
DR: What advice do you have for graphic designers that are new in their career but looking to grow?
OR: Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and push boundaries. We all start somewhere and all know how to use the programs, but what makes you stand out is what you create with them. What has helped me improve my work is executing the most outlandish and unique idea, which helps open my creativity and do things that don’t feel natural.
DR: Any final thoughts, comments, or words of wisdom you’d like to share with someone in the industry?
OR: Surround yourself with things that inspire you and talented people.
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