Behance Creative Q&A Elena Miska

Elena Miska is a designer and art director originally from the Bay Area but now living in New York City. She’s recently been featured on Adobe Live.

When did you first find the creative spark? When you were young? Maybe later?
My parents are both very artistic and creative, and growing up, I was surrounded by so many art supplies. Because of this, I drew a lot when I was young, but my focus was ballet dancing, which I was determined to make a career out of until I got an injury when I was 18 years old. After that, I had to shift my focus and decided to go back to school to study graphic design. Although I wasn’t completely sure what graphic design was when I first enrolled, or how broad it could be, I knew it was a field that would let me be creative, and I could use my passion for art to my advantage. It wasn’t until a bit later that I realized many of my favorite artists were also designers, like Koloman Moser, or had a very graphic sensibility to them, like Matisse. And while artists and designers create work for different reasons, it was ultimately art that sparked my interest in design.
Who or what nurtured that initial spark? Did you have any early mentors?

My parents nurtured the initial spark through the art supplies, trips to museums, old books and movies, and education. Regarding a mentor-figure, I see my husband and fellow graphic designer Tom Sears as the person I look to the most for design- and life-related advice. I can’t imagine not being able to bounce ideas off of him, knowing that nothing is too crazy to share. His demeanor, work ethic and also aesthetic sensibility never ceases to inspire me to better myself and my work.

Who are some of your influences over the years?
My influences are broad, and while I’m without a doubt inspired by other incredible designers, I tend to look toward other art forms as well. I love the work of early 20th-century painter Egon Schiele. And Koloman Moser, who I mentioned before, is incredible because he took design to another level; he designed money, furniture, jewelry, textiles, and beyond, and did it all with such elegant boldness. And then there are dancers like Rudolf Nureyev, who are special because they infused so much passion into their art, and filmmakers like Hitchcock who did things differently and always kept people guessing. I think the common thread is that all these people were lead by passion, and whether they were driven by love or angst, or just the need to pay the bills, they put that passion into their art form and let the world see it.

When you start a new project, what’s your process? How do you gather your ideas, how do you execute them, etc.?

After receiving the initial brief, I do as much research as I can on the topic, while simultaneously finding relevant material that I can use to get my ideas flowing. If it’s an identity project, I’ll spend some time sketching in my notebook, and then take the best sketches to the computer for refinement. Part of the process also involves looking at typefaces that would fit with the project and scouring both books and the internet for artists, illustrators or photographers whose work could help set the right tone. Choosing the perfect color combinations is also an essential and fun part of it for me. Color can change everything and correlates with what the viewer or user feels, so I try to give myself some time to experiment with it. Overall, in any design process, there’s always give and take, lots of listening and trying to come up with fresh ideas that make sense to achieve the desired result.

If the project is more art direction-based, I’ll spend some time looking for the perfect team to put together for the project. Sometimes when a brief comes in, I’ll immediately have a particular photographer pop into my head, and then I have to make sure that person is right for the project once I place his or her work into the context of whatever it is I’m working on. Other times, it won’t be so immediately apparent, and I’ll have to do a little more digging.

What is your workspace like? Do you have any favorite places to go to do certain types of work?

My workspace at home is in the center of our apartment. I think it’s good to be able to separate office space from the rest of your living space if you can, but that’s not always possible in New York City! What I like about our home office that some of our favorite art and design pieces in our living room surround the desk, so it creates a calm but inspiring environment which is perfect for working.

What have you been working on recently?
I’ve just entered the freelance world, but most recently I was the Art Director of Milk Makeup. In that role, I oversaw the design that was produced in the creative department and put together the large-scale photo shoots for the quarterly campaigns and product launches that are used on the company’s website and in retail stores. It was exciting to be a part of a new brand that’s growing so quickly, and one which creates such relevant products for the modern girl and guy.

I also just finished up Zenzine, which is a zine I designed during a three day Adobe Live session a couple of months ago, and it’s filled with my art projects that I created over the past year. It felt so good to do a project like this, and I think it’s just the start of more exciting things.

What’s something the art/design world is too focused on or What is the art/design world not focused enough on?
The world, in general, is so focused on newer and newer technology that we sometimes forget about the human experience. We all use technology to varying degrees, all carry smart phones, and so on, but we’re all human, and can’t forget that we also need to focus on what we as humans want, need and feel. Different forms of technology come and go, but the ability to tell a story and connect with people is something that will always be vital.

Where does Behance fit in your creative life?
Behance is one of those places that everyone in all fields and skill levels in art and design can be a part of. It lets creatives be inspired by other creatives, and it’s also a great platform for sharing work. I love having a personal website, but sharing work on Behance is wonderful because it’s so interactive, and you get direct feedback from other members of the community.