Our latest artist interview is with Graphic Designer Sumera Arshad. We discuss how she got started, where she finds her creative inspirations, her design process and most importantly how to make your portfolio stand out!

Sumera graduated in Graphic Design and currently working as an in-house graphic designer. We personally got to me her at our annual Behance Portfolio Event where she won the runner-up award for the best portfolio presentation. She is an inspiring young women who is  continuously learning, exploring and developing her personal style. 

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Hi Sumera! can you tell us a bit about your background?

Hi Shumi! I’d always been a creative child. I just wanted to make things all the time. My household was very creative growing up, so I was nurtured artistically. I studied Fine Art in school and college, but it was Graphic Design that really interested me. I immediately saw its emerging wave of new potential in the Design world, at a time when technology was rapidly evolving. I jumped at the chance to study Graphic Design at uni. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and still do!

In terms of software knowledge and methods of art-working, I'm self taught. Regarding particular elements, it’s the history, visual theory and culture of the industry that university helped me explore. Personally, I found it very helpful. Being around other creatives and learning from them really pushed me in the self led units.

I’m currently working as an in-house Graphic Designer for a global Duty Free company. I create concepts and artwork for the in-store campaigns which run throughout major European airports. The nature of the work can vary; from seasonal or promotional campaigns, to special events being held in that particular country. Recently the company has expanded the reach of their stores, providing artwork for cruise liners. This is exciting because they are keen to adopt campaign identities that are unique to these particular stores. The result of this is that I have much more creative freedom.

My dream is to use my skills and have authorship of something tangible, something that’s visually informative or influential and all my own. Right now I have ideas floating about everywhere. I’m currently exploring different styles and learning what I like. Hopefully I can develop consistently enough to apply my own signature art style (when I find it) to a worthwhile cause or theme.

Presentation is everything! Pick out your best work and show how it can
be used in a range of contexts

You attended our Behance event last year and won the runner-up prize for having the best portfolio, what is the best advice on getting your work noticed?

Use Behance to display current projects, since it’s the best network for designers in your field and other design industries. Use other visual social media platforms to spread your work and to reach others like yourself.

Presentation is everything! Pick out your best work and show how it can be used in a range of contexts. There are plenty of mockups that you can download, but I think it’s really important to edit and personalise them or make your own ones. The look of the mockup is equally as important as the artwork itself. I find that using the same mockups as everyone else means that it becomes identifiable as a default style across the web; ultimately this will cheapen the look of your work.

Another way to get your work noticed, is to set yourself crazy hypothetical briefs, like rebranding any product you want to. This is a great exercise in creativity and self discipline, it also allows you to have more creative freedom.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to let your personality show, it’s your work, own it!

You won the YES course membership prize at the Behance event, which course are you watching at the moment and how is it going?

I’m currently going through the masterclass for Adobe Illustrator, it’s going well. The videos are sectioned coherently and they’re easy to navigate through. I'm mainly learning better habits. I think it’s good to refresh your memory when it comes to methods of working. Great job on putting together the videos!

Which design application is your favourite and which tool/software would you like to master? 

I can’t live without the big three! For a print designer it’s all about InDesign for layout, Photoshop for editing and Illustrator for vector work. Though I’ve been using these programs for years, there’s still so many features I come across. This is usually when I’m trying to achieve something new. Learning by doing is always the best way for me.

I know that there’s so much new software that’s been appearing over the past few years, like the Affinity Suite and Procreate. They look awesome. I definitely want to master Digital Illustration especially when apps like these make the process more streamlined.

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We love your work, do you ever get creative block? How do you deal with it?

Thanks! It’s always nice to be recognised. Yes, I get creative block for sure!  Mostly at work when I'm given seasonal briefs aimed at the same customer base. It’s difficult to set apart themes that haven’t already been used before.
I find that integrating current design trends as well as adding my own style to the mix can result in something special. I tend to use social media to research the direction in which art styles are heading, not just in Print and Graphic Design but other creative industries like Fashion and Digital Media.

When it comes to my personal work, I create whatever comes to mind. I don’t have a set style and I think that’s kind of nice, as it means I can just play with and feed my passion. When I need inspiration I try to surround myself with things that excite me and fire up ideas: like good music, enlightening talks, great artists and people with healthy and driven mind-sets. 

If I get to a point where I can’t look at something that I’ve been working on for ages, then it’s better for me to step away and do something very different. Coming back to it with a better attitude can really help.

What advice would you give to people trying to get into the creative industry?

Know your industry! There’s skill in understanding how processes used to be done and how they differ from today. Aim to learn the theory behind design practice as these things can be adapted to a range of applications.

Always research what others are doing. There is so much valuable content online compared to when I first graduated from uni so take advantage of it as an active resource!

I would advise aspiring designers to gather a range of short experiences at different design studios and learn a range of typical and time-honoured processes. Having the initiative to shadow established designers can also benefit you, it's amazing what you can pick up just by watching someone work.

As you go on to present yourself, build a solid portfolio with work that has meaning behind it and that you made with passion. This way it's much easier to talk about the work enthusiastically when you’re presenting it to others. Aim to fill your portfolio with work directed at the branch of the industry you want to get into: e.g. Print or
Digital Design.

Generally, it’s vital to focus on the themes and media that you enjoy the most and always do what makes you happy. Even if you’re not in position to do what you absolutely love full time, do it in your own time. Develop your skills organically, if you’re serious about it, you’ll find the drive to excel and there will always be a place for you and your skills in the industry.

Do everything you do with honesty and integrity. It’s important to keep bettering yourself and to master your craft whilst also embracing change. The creative world is a competitive one thanks to the Internet. If you don’t feel like you’re meeting your goals, the only thing to do is carry on. You’ll never fail unless you stop trying.

Lastly, always know your worth and don’t do any favours! Graphic Design is a real industry involving labour,
thought and skill. Your time is valuable so make it count for something.

Thanks so much Sumera for sharing your story and providing us with use-full tips and advice! You can stay inspired by following Sumera on Instagram and check out her beautiful portfolio on Behance and her personal website.

If you are a creative or know someone who you really admire and would love to see being featured,
please don’t hesitate to let us know: [email protected]

Or if you would prefer to carry on reading check out some similar artist posts here or here.

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About the author 

Shumi Perhiniak

Shumi is a self-taught graphic designer and illustrator who has worked for Toni&Guy, Renaissance Learning, Baker Ross, and many others.

Additionally, she owned a brick-and-mortar stationery shop selling her art prints and now sells wholesale to retailers and online shops under the brand name www.herdesignworld.com.

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