Building MerakiDesigns 1.0

In our first storytelling piece, we travel back a couple of years in time and find out how I became a designer, and touch on the backstory of MerakiDesigns.

To get to the story of building MerakiDesigns, we should first travel back a couple of years in time and find out how I became a designer.

In today's piece (part of this small series titled “Building Merakidesigns”), I will impart the key moments that shaped me as a human, things that motivated me to become a designer, and why I decided to build my studio.

The Natural Curiosity of a Child

If I think about defining design today, my thoughts flow from the way I design and build products to the process of shaping my life based on the values I have, the priorities I set for myself, and the choices I make every day. Of course, this wasn't always the case, though I've had a sprouting interest in the creative industry since I was a child.

I was around 10 years old when I first started to contemplate the idea that perhaps if television advertisements were more engaging, my father wouldn't skip them the second they came on. I remember with such fondness how he always had the remote control ready, and with his trained, almost cat-like reflex, he would snap it and change the show to a channel that wasn't broadcasting ads at that moment. Then repeat.

It was around that same time when my curiosity skyrocketed. I remember that Dove ad so clearly. But it's not the script that captivated me. It was the last frame featuring a clean, white background and a tiny blue copy centered vertically and horizontally on the screen, claiming: “Better than Nivea products.”, then fade out. I was both outraged and excited by my discovery. I tried to ask every adult around me if that was normal. If Dove could do something like that? No one knew. No one could answer my questions or give me any information about this world.

Falling in Love with Branding, Marketing, and Design

It was these two memories that encouraged me to commit to a bachelor's degree program in Advertising. Happily, after only a couple of months of attending this specialization, I realized that I was starting to fall in love with branding, marketing, and design in general. I started reading a lot of books, taking courses, and striving to learn as much as I could. After I took my first steps with freelancing (had to hustle to make a slightly better living in a foreign city), designing logos, banners, and posters, I became very interested in finding the things that I enjoy doing the most. I started experimenting with everything from copywriting, illustrations, typography, and packaging design, all the way to marketing and web design. I learned a lot. And probably most importantly, I had learned which activities seemed daunting and which felt like play.

This experiment reinforced in me the idea to always put in the work and make everything possible to create a proper environment for myself. A great environment that starts with doing the things I enjoy doing. Then I started noticing that when I would work on projects that I cared about & clients I connected with, it would show in the quality of the outcome.

Marketing Design Department of One

My very first job in the creative field, let's say, was at a real estate agency where I was the branding, marketing, and design department of one.

I started by refining the existing logo and putting together a consistent cross-platform look & feel. I made an SEO audit for the existing website and worked to correct all previous errors.

With SEO and general user experience in mind, I created a template for the agents to write the new listings with (which I was glad to see that later it has been adopted by almost every other real estate agency in the city!). The agency invested in a better camera, a wide lens, and I would teach and give feedback to the agents on how they could frame rooms and what to take into consideration when snapping the photos. For example, carelessly thrown coats on couches, water bottles, and other random objects, and open toilet seats all disappeared from our listing galleries and website.

I truly enjoyed this process of bettering the overall user experience a real-estate agency could offer to their clients, especially when I would see that colleagues not only adopted these ideas but when they would come to me with their own initiatives.

That Significant Opportunity

By this time, I already started learning HTML & CSS after-hours. After approximately four months of Khan Academy, Codecademy, and General Assembly's Dash, I finally got an opportunity for a full-time internship as a junior front-end developer. I was super enthusiastic about it, even though it was a competition-based internship. I tried to learn as much as I could on the job, and I was thrilled when the company announced that I would be the one to get hired.

This technology-focused role helped me learn to work in an Agile environment using Scrum Methodology. Discovering Atlassian's Jira for project management was also a total gamechanger. I haven't known about these things before, and I was intrigued. It helped us to ship better products faster while staying organized.

On the tech part, I worked with HTML5, CSS3, and jQuery to custom code websites. Some of the frameworks I built with are Bootstrap, Semantic UI, and Foundation, but somehow I always preferred my custom component libraries. This preference led me to research methodologies that could help me create reusable and maintainable CSS, but I'll write more on that in another piece.

Returning with Courage to The Roots

After one and a half years of focusing solely on solving front-end problems, it was clear that I wanted to get back in the game of creative problem-solving. That's how the core idea for a design studio was born. I wanted to work on projects where I could have a similar or even greater impact than the real-estate agency, combined with my new and handy skills of coding, and to have the freedom to choose my clients, my schedule, my pricing, my creative direction, and tech stack.

That's how my collaboration with the outsourcing company ended in December 2016, and I started to work on MerakiDesigns beginning January 2017.

In the next piece (#2), I will talk about the first three years of MerakiDesigns, starting a company as a solo designer, my first projects, what I could have done better, what went well, and what was next.

  • Renáta-Adrienn

    I enjoy the challenge of making the complex simple and have a passion for the intersection of technology and design.

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