You’ve probably seen Marta Custic (aka CMYK13) around 99designs. When her clever logos aren’t popping up in your Discover feed, she’s been hosting free webinars for our community, mentoring fellow designers on the Forum and writing for the 99designs blog.
With a background in print production, Marta came to 99designs to build out her portfolio and gain real life experience. Today, she works professionally as a freelance designer with a focus on logo design and branding – although she’s constantly in pursuit of new creative skills.
We chatted with Marta about her passion for music, the value of a good creative brief, and what she loves most about working with our community.
Name: Marta Custic
99designs Handle: cmyk13
Specialty: Branding & identity
Tell us a little about your design background.
After moving from Australia to Croatia, as a teenager, I had to quickly choose what kind of high school I wanted to enroll in – either a gymnasium or a vocational school. I ended up selecting graphic arts and technology, so it was only logical to get a degree from the Faculty of Graphic Arts at uni.
I was interested not only in design, but how things were printed, as I think understanding what happens to your files after you hand them over to clients is really important. At university I was able to learn about all the technical aspects, which I feel greatly affects the way I design when creating print work. I always bear in mind the final product and where and how it will be used.
What brought you to 99designs?
I was in search of design contests to build my portfolio and I found that having real design briefs to study and learn from was a great way to improve my skills and to find the style and type of work I enjoy most (and what I’m good at). The way 99designs looked and worked was appealing to me, which is why I’m still here.
What’s been the greatest inspiration to you, design or otherwise?
Music has always been a source of inspiration. I always have something playing in the background depending on my mood. Seeing new album art from my favorite bands is always exciting. My top three have to be We Buy Your Kids (who created several album covers for Something for Kate and Paul Dempsey), Raymond Pettibon and his work with Black Flag and Shepard Fairey’s posters for Henry Rollins.
Lately I’ve been addicted to interior design blogs and shows, having a beautiful space to work in really helps my creativity. And finally, finding new interests and hobbies helps me evolve my design style. For example, I’m currently working on brush lettering and typography.
When brainstorming, do you prefer to work digitally or on paper?
Always on paper! I usually make a total mess, crossing things out, adding side notes, scribbling things that only make sense to me (most of the time). I find that sketching things out on paper is such a time saver.
I don’t worry about getting the details perfect. At this point I am only brainstorming, and I just want to see that what I have in my head makes sense on paper. By the time I turn on my computer I already have a clear idea of what I want to do, and this is where I play around with typography, colour schemes and refinement.
How do you decide which contests to enter?
I usually decide within a few seconds of reading the brief whether or not it’s something I’d like to work on. In most cases the company name draws me in, and a good brief will give me ideas and inspiration and make me stay. And by a good brief I mean a client that has taken time in answering questions, filled with visual references that make sense to their industry, not just pretty logos in general.
I tend to avoid briefs that have too much info and go on and on, or ones that have no info at all. I’m like Goldilocks, looking for that one brief that is just right :).
Is there a project that you’ve worked on that stands out? Can you tell us a little about it?
The logo I designed for playlab comes to mind. It’s one of those logos that prove taking time in sketching out ideas is crucial in creating any design work. Just by drawing the letters in different formations led me to the idea of combining them to make something visually interesting.
It’s one of my favorite logos I designed just because the end result was simple, with a twist. The client was great to work with and he gave me quite a challenge, but due to a combination of great feedback and communication I really wanted to create something different in a contest for an industry I typically tend to skip.
Sometimes it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone as it’s a fantastic way of expanding your skills, and ultimately was the starting point in my new design style – creating really simple, minimal designs.
You’ve contributed to our blog, taught webinars and worked as an Advocate in our Forum. What do you enjoy most about working with our community?
Passing on knowledge in a way that is easy to understand is difficult. I guess I wanted to see if I could do it. When I was first asked to prepare a webinar, my immediate response was “no way”, followed by panic – but in the end I’m so glad I said yes.
I was introduced to some awesome 99designs staff members (shout outs to Sasha, Caroline, Alli, Stephanie and Kelsey) who were always ready to help out and the feedback and comments from designers was great. I got to really experience a sense of community, and motivated me to work on other webinars and articles for the designer blog.
What advice would you give to other designers?
Don’t enter every single contest just to enter. Find something that gives you instant inspiration and ideas – it’s so much easier than working on something when you don’t know how to begin.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, constantly educate yourself in new things and don’t worry too much about trends, but try to find a style that makes you unique.
Anything else to add?
Copious amounts of coffee helps.