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Designer Kira Crugnale on creative purpose and embracing the absence of routine

Chicago based Kira Crugnale specializes in design, lettering, and illustration. Having her own workspace separate from her home has given Kira a work/life balance that can be hard to accomplish as a freelancer. Now, she’s embracing her lack of routine and enjoying learning new skills. Keep reading to check out her dedicated studio space and get a glimpse of what Kira’s freelance life looks like!


Where do you work? Tell us about your space(s).

My studio is located in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. It’s an old artists’ building filled with a ton of different designers and makers, most of whom work by hand. For that reason, it’s much less commercial than a typical design studio and has ultimately inspired much of the way I’ve come to approach design.

I share my space with my partner—a 3D designer, and our dog. It’s a fairly large space for two people so we’ve designed it to incorporate a variety of workstations dedicated to things like illustration, sign painting and photography. It’s all sort of modular so we can set up or tear down a space as needed. This allows us to be incredibly flexible in our workflow and makes each day a little different from the next.


What hardware and software do you use to create your designs?

My setup is fairly standard, comprised of a MacBook Air and Wacom Cintiq. I’ve recently thrown an iPad Pro into the mix for more gestural illustration and sketching on the go which has opened me up to a whole new way of approaching design. Not to mention completely eliminating the steps of tracing, scanning and digitizing.

In terms of software, I work primarily in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign when the job calls for layout, and Photoshop when I need to create a mock-up or retouch a photo. I use Procreate on the iPad which has been a bit of a learning curve but also forces me to loosen up and play around a lot more than I normally would—an unintended side effect which I am eternally grateful for. Of course, there’s always the old faithfuls like paper, pencils, and Microns, as well as my old Canon 5D MKII and whatever else I feel like playing around with that day. There isn’t a ton of structure to how I approach design overall so having such a wide variety of tools at my disposal and the space to explore different mediums has been incredibly helpful to my practice.

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Tell us about your routine (or lack of one.) How do you structure your days to get things done?

Something I’ve been learning about myself lately is that I’m not a huge fan of routine. As a self-employed person, it actually comes in handy—allowing me to work all sides of the business without getting bored or feeling stagnant. Some days I wake up feeling uninspired which is when I sit down and work on the bureaucratic side of things; answering emails, sending invoices and working on proposals. Other days I’ll spend 8+ hours in the studio drawing and finishing up projects. Some afternoons are for lunch meetings and others are for taking the dog to the park and stepping away from screens for a minute.


How do your space, tools, and habits benefit you? What about those things do you think needs improvement?

In any creative pursuit, there’s always room for improvement. That might sound like a drag but is actually my motivation for getting out of bed most days. I try to approach each new project as an excuse to learn something new and try not to let myself feel bogged down by a project or a technical skill I might not (yet) possess.

Having a separate workspace has been an incredibly eye-opening endeavor. For years I had craved a sense of work/life balance and going freelance only narrowed that possibility. Having a space dedicated solely to creation allows for a real, tangible boundary—so much so that I try to avoid the studio on days when I’m not feeling creative. It’s also opened me up to working in mediums I would have never attempted at home, like sign painting. From a psychological standpoint it gives me a sort of creative purpose and from a utilitarian standpoint, it gives me a reason to put on pants in the morning.

Want to keep up with Kira? Find her on Dribbble, Instagram, and Twitter.

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