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Designer Aleisha Samek inspires us to make time for personal projects

Get to know St. Paul-based graphic designer and illustrator Aleisha Samek as she shows us around her home workspace. Learn where Aleisha pulls inspiration from, what her daily routine looks like, and why personal projects play such an important role in her life as a creative.

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Photo by Nicholas Rodriguez

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

Hey there! I’m Aleisha, a digital designer and illustrator. My agency job has me in a number of different settings, depending on the day. Our team most frequently works from one of our two office spaces, but occasionally we will assist with directing at a photography studio. Some may not fancy the idea of bouncing around to different locations, but I love the change in scenery! In both of the offices, I have a designated workspace or I can wander and find an inspiring spot to design.

I tend to be attracted to settings where the light is inviting and the greenery is abundant.

When I’m creating for my own enjoyment, I work whenever and wherever! Lately, my commute on the light rail has doubled as a second office. It’s actually the location where I’m answering the bulk of these interview questions! At home, I usually throw on a mindless Netflix show and cozy up on the couch with my laptop. Otherwise, I tend to be attracted to settings where the light is inviting and the greenery is abundant. Thanks to my roommate’s plant addiction, I can usually find a spot in my apartment that checks both these boxes, (if I don’t feel like venturing out)!

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Photos by Nicholas Rodriguez

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Photos by Nicholas Rodriguez

Where does your inspiration come from and what does your design process look like?

Like most creatives, I’m heavily inspired by my surroundings — both location and people. A few years ago, I moved from Fargo, North Dakota to St. Paul, Minnesota. This move alone was inspirational. Then, a couple of summers ago, I started a conceptual design series based on Minnesota lake names. Every summer since, I have created ten unique illustrations that playfully reference one of the lakes from the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

  1. Strawberry Lake
  2. Bijou Lake
  3. Darling Lake

Outside of summer, I’m still inspired by my surroundings, activities, and interests. Sometimes a trip to the thrift store gives me the itch to design, other days it’s hearing a favorite 80s song. If I travel somewhere new, I love to create an illustration or logo that emulates the feeling and culture of that specific place.

Our senses are strong, especially when we experience something new or of great importance. We can remember in great detail what we were wearing, eating, or even listening to. By drawing inspiration from these sensory elements in designing, my personal projects often tie me back to a specific moment in my life. Designing more personally has allowed me to connect to others through my work, which is my favorite part of the process.

My personal projects often tie me back to a specific moment in my life.

My process isn’t linear. Most of the time, I jump into Adobe Illustrator and start trying things until something sticks. A project sometimes starts from a simple snapshot from my iPhone. My camera roll consists of countless typography styles, bold textiles, or anything that catches my eye. Before sending off a final creative endeavor into the world, I will share my work with a fellow designer or two. It’s helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes look over my projects and provide feedback.

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Photos by Nicholas Rodriguez

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

The lack of a dedicated work location and my sporadic insomnia are just a couple of the factors that can affect how I go about my day. However, I do have some routines that keep me on track, regardless of my location or how rested I am.

Each week at work, I compose a checklist of tasks that I want to complete in the next days. I’ll also take time daily to review any meetings or presentations that require preparation. All work projects start with a kick-off meeting that will specify the game plan and what to prioritize. Once I have this information, I can develop concepts and photo plans, and have a better grasp of my responsibilities. During my daily lunch break, I’ll usually chat with coworkers and take a quick walk. It is a much-needed leg stretch and moment to decompress during the middle of the day. Also, it keeps the creative juices going!

Personal work productivity varies on the season. In the winter, I have no problem spending extra time on projects with the frigid temperatures. Whereas in the summer, I’d rather take advantage of the beautiful weather and break away from my laptop. Although, this weather can sometimes be just the inspiration I need! Either way, I can always find a couple of hours in the evening to give personal projects attention.

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Photos by Nicholas Rodriguez

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

I’m a night owl. My mind has a hard time shutting down, and it seems to run at full speed in the middle of the night. Although some may see this as a disadvantage (because it fights my 9-5 work schedule), I try to utilize my atypical schedule to my benefit because this is when my productivity is at its height. In the morning, I’ll use podcasts and music to get me into a groove. Complete silence does me no good creatively, so I have my relied upon methods to give me a jump start.

Since I can be particular about when and where I feel creatively charged, I hope to continue to find new outlets to inspire me in my creative process. Ideally, at some point, I would like to have my own space for serious creating. Finding what makes me most productive is an ever-changing experiment. Maybe one day I will have a precise recipe for success, but does anyone?

Want to keep up with Aleisha? Find her on Dribbble and Instagram. Photography by Nicholas Rodriguez.

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