The story of my beginnings
I’ve been always very fascinated by designers who blog, insightfully and frequently. I admired them and applauded them.
But at the same time, I’ve been always intimidated by the idea of me doing the same. Even though this has always been my dream and desire which I kept postponing to the next weekend and the next one, then to the next year, and on and on it went.
I think I was scared. Scared of not being as good, scared of not being perfect, scared of not being a good enough in English, scared of not making sense, scared of so many things, putting pressure on myself and making the entry barrier so high that it overwhelmed me.
Until it all changed or maybe I have changed with it. But after reading Julie Zhuo’s article “Write in 2016” and getting that indirect approval that it’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay not to be perfect, I finally decided that it’s time.
Last week I gave my first public inspirational speech at the school where I used to study design and today I share my story.
I came from a small country Lithuania which is based on a Baltic sea. It’s a beautiful country with many fascinating things, but there are a lot of reasons why I decided to leave it behind. But that’s another story.
After finishing my high school as most of the pupils, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life or who I wanted to be. Somehow I ended up entering “transport logistics” study program. So random, I know. But 2 years in, I had one of the biggest crisis in my life, realizing that whatever was happening to my life, I hated it.
I started looking around, experimenting, analyzing my personality. I have always been a very crafty person as far as I remembered and then I really liked computers, so I decided to find something that would connect these two. This is how I found digital design.
Design craft DIY style
Since I was still studying my bachelor, I had some time on my hands, so decided to give everything and learn that “design” thing. I was determined and I was happy. I felt really good about it and the future it promised to me.
At that point in time, lynda.com was one of the few sources of information for web design and development. And so it went. I spend hours and hours of watching tutorials and doing the exercises along the way.
After a year or so I felt ready to put my skills to practice. So I put my website together, called myself “freelancer” and started looking for some clients. With no practical skills, it was a rough beginning, I have to admit, but with time, it got better and better. Few years in I started noticing that it was difficult to argue and reason my decisions, so I decided that I needed to get a proper theoretical foundation. With that in mind I kelp going. Graduated my transport logistics degree, sold my car and moved to Denmark.
Why Denmark? As far as I remember I was considering two options: Belgium and Denmark. Denmark offers one of the best educational systems (free and with scholarship) in Europe and I was happy to give it a go.
I have picked an academy called “Copenhagen school of design and technology (KEA)” and started my journey of becoming “Multimedia designer”.
I was really happy, I felt so lucky to have an actual job and to put my skills that I have collected to practice. It was a more technical position, so I sent a lot of my time doing soft coding and building landing pages, but I also had a chance to express my design ideas through few projects.
One of which being a redesign of the company’s website and rethinking the brand strategy. The company wanted to be perceived as a more mature agency that can provide thought through online strategy. I came up with the idea of communicating a more sophisticated tone of voice through the dimmed greyscale nature images that fitted the messages behind.
And the second project I enjoyed working was the advertising campaign for one of the traveling agencies in Denmark. The whole idea for the campaign was to make it personal. Make it feel that you’re watching the place with your own eyes or through your own photo camera lens. Carefully selected and retouched images and targeted messages created a powerful campaign.
Every 3 months we had to change banners and every single time I had to do banners for 12 different destinations. So it meant literally hundreds of banners to go through, but I did not complain. Maybe because I had the time to enjoy looking at all these amazing places.
After finishing my “Multimedia design” education that took 2.5 years I have decided to continue and take a top-up study program to get my bachelor's degree in design. I have joined another 1.5 years program that was focused on developing design and communication strategies and concepts for clients. These 1.5 years were the years I grow the most. This school has put together an amazing and fulfilling study program. It is based on gaining practical skills, so we had a chance to work with actual clients and some of them were big Danish brands. But the most exciting thing of this education was people. Teachers and students who were really engaged and motivated.
During this period, I had a chance to work with visual identities, document my processes, argue my decisions, work with motion graphics and design concepts for products.
During the studies, few of us decided to form a group with a goal to do something cool while we were studying. 9 of us came up with a really exciting idea and got to work. The idea was to create a platform where people, similar to us, could login and find people to collaborate with on their own side projects. A creative collaborative platform.
We even got to participate in a startup kick off competition where we developed our platform for a full week, but at the end, after struggling for a half a year, we have decided to split. We were too many decision makers and I think we have burned out.
A few months after, another opportunity came up. One of the 3rd-semester students decided to initiate a TEDx project for the academy and he showed up at our design class looking for designers that wanted to join and develop the event identity. I was sold straight away, I could not miss this opportunity. 5 of us joined, 2 of us stayed. We had 5 months to set up everything from the identity concept to the stage design. It’s been one of the most exciting projects I have participated at that point. Only having the event theme “Emerge” we had a total freedom to express ourselves without boundaries and without limitations. And we took fool advantage of it. We decided to create an identity that hasn’t been used for TEDx events before. We decided to go with illustration based identity built from triangular shapes. The whole concept was based on the submarine submerging from the deep down to represent emerge idea.
This event was an amazing opportunity to experience the actual behind the scenes event planning and all the operations that had to be in place for the event to happen. This was the first ever event that I helped to organize and it was unforgettable.
The whole TEDxKEA volunteering team took my breath away. They were an inspiration to me and this kept me going and pushing myself event further. It wasn’t a big event (we only had a license to do it for 100 people), but with the TEDx name we have attracted 10 amazing speakers to share their ideas.
One of the speakers noticed my work and invited me to join his new startup “Edukarma”. This was to be a platform that would help students to pick a better and more suitable place to study. The platform where they will be guided and supported by mentors and advised by students already studying these programs.
I have joined his team as a lead designer. It was very exciting to be a part of a startup which I believed in. This was the engine that drove me forward.
I have invited another designer that worked with me on TEDxKEA project to joined the startup and we spent many months conceptualizing and designing the platform. It had to be a tool for students to build their priority lists, chat with mentors and participate in the events. But it was also a tool for the universities to managed and overview the potential students and to guide them through the decision-making process. This was the beginning of working on developing and designing products. And I loved it.
Unfortunately, the startup did not receive enough funding and I was forced to move on. (since I was tired of doing free work)
And this time I decided to go big. I wanted to find something where I could grow even further and work for a company that was way bigger than the ones I worked before.
I’ve created my personal brand, put together my portfolio and waited for the opportunity to come up. And it did.
After tiring 5 interviews spanning across 2 months, I have managed to get a job at this very cool Danish/American company called Zendesk as a product designer. I can not describe how happy I felt.
This was the place where I wanted to be. Now 10 months in the position I couldn't feel luckier and more rewarded than I am. I finally had a chance to do proper problem discovery, I was introduced to design thinking and grasped the user research which allows us to deliver products our customers actually want. Now, I can not image how “not to do” user research and user validation. No one should deliver anything without talking to the end user of that product.
Zendesk is an amazing place to be in. Once you get in the company (who highly cares about hiring the right people to match the company’s culture) you feel appreciated and loved. This makes me to try harder, to give more, to aim for more.
Zendesk has a new hire onboarding program that allows employees from different offices to travel to the headquarters in San Francisco and spend 1 week being introduced to every department and another week to spend time with your colleagues.
This was such a humbling experience and I felt so unbelievably lucky to spend that week with the most creative people behind the Zendesk brand and behind the product design.
I even had a chance to participate at one of the video shootings. And it was amazing.
Since we have offices all around the world, I was lucky to join the company at the moment when they decided to start “Global creative offsite” to reunite all the creatives from all the offices and give them a week to work and have fun together.
I was lucky as I had a chance to travel to Los Angeles not long after. During my time at Zendesk I have learned so much and grown so much that I have a lot of stories to tell and ideas to share. My hope is to do so from this point on.
Since I was still a part of TEDxKEA, the team invited me to join and direct visual identity for the new event. And this time we decided to go big. We have applied for the new license and received a permission to arrange an event for 500 people.
We have decided to arrange it at the Royal Library of Copenhagen. I have joined the team as a creative director for the event and this was one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I have formed my team of 2 designers, 1 illustrator, and 1 developer and got to work.
The theme for the event was “Evolve” and we wanted to Evolve the identity as well. We have spent 5 intense months conceptualizing, ideating and designing illustrations, motion graphics and rebranding the website.
The new identity was based on strokes and outlines, communicating the ideas through yet again simple base shapes. We came up with the subthemes that explained the “Evolve” concept and designed the motion graphics for these subthemes.
Yet again, I had a chance to work with most amazing and most dedicated people that inspired me every single day.
It took me 7 years from the idea that I wanted to change my life to the point where I am right now. It was really hard at times and I couldn't have done it without the help and support of my husband. But if I had to repeat it, I will do it again and I would not change it for anything.
I would like to leave with this…
Don’t be afraid to risk
Step outside your comfort zone
Work harder than anyone else
And try things
I feel excited about future and what it will bring me.