Graphic designers often wear many hats. By nature, creative people have a hard time limiting their work to just one medium. I find the sentiment to be a lot like, “If one avenue isn’t sufficient to express my vision, then I’ll just have to use another!” Many designers also go through different phases in their careers; in fact, it’s rare to stick to only one thing. Variety keeps those creative juices flowing.

I interned for designer/musician/venue-owner Karli Ingersoll in the winter of 2014, designing a few posters for concerts at The Bartlett, her then-recently-opened music venue in downtown Spokane. A lot of my initial exploration with typography happened while learning from her. The internship was also a nice break from the heavily computer-centric education I was receiving at school, as most of my poster art was handmade. I ended up selling one of the designs to the band headlining one of the shows, and later on I got another poster gig from someone who had seen my work there. It was always fun and a great way to get my feet wet!

Karli and her husband Caleb are far from obscure in the Spokane art scene- Karli’s contributions to the graphic design community of the city are spotlighted regularly, and The Bartlett continues to bolster the effort to put Spokane on the map of the indie music circuit. 

Putting this article together gave me intense nostalgia! I’m not saying I miss school, but maybe I’m saying I should just start designing concert posters full-time. (Actually, I’m not really saying that.) (Or am I?)

In your own words, what is it that you do?

I do a lot of things! I'm a designer working mostly on editorial illustration and lettering and designing brands for small businesses. I did that for about 6 years full time. Currently I'm working full time at an advertising agency doing a wide range of work, so my freelance work has been pared down a bit, but I'm still working on some client projects and will continue to.

On top of design I'm also a musician in a couple bands and I own and help operate a music venue with my husband.

How did you get into it?

Design was something I ventured into reluctantly and ended up really finding it to be a good balance of all my skill sets. In high school I dabbled in fine art mediums and photography quite a bit. I found graphic design was a good fusion of a lot of art forms I enjoyed. So, I went to college to study it and have been working in the field ever since (almost 10 years).

Who are your influences?

A lot of illustrators have inspired me over the years and designers who work in the music industry. The Small Stakes and Mike Perry were really influential to me when I first got started with design. More recently I've looked a lot to Erik Marinovich, Dan Cassaro and Simon Walker is my absolute fav.

What resources do you always come back to?

Dribbble of course! And I use Designspiration a lot too to gather images. I don't read a lot online but I love Justin Mezzell's blog. Creative Inc. (book) was a huge help to me with getting my freelance career moving in the right direction.

What are your favorite tools and why?

Markers and pens are my most frequented analog utensils. I have some brush pens I like. I can't name any specifics because I'm always changing my supplies. I don't like to use one thing for too long for fear of getting in a rut. I use a Wacom tablet a lot and have some good brushes for Photoshop. Mostly I rely on the pen tool in Illustrator for my work.

How do you promote your work/attract followers/customers?

My website, although it could desperately use an update. Dribbble has been huge for me. I have a lot of followers on there and some of my shots have made it pretty far up in the popular stream which can move mountains for a freelancer. A lot of my work inquiries come from people finding me on Dribbble. Word of mouth has been big in my hometown also. I try to do a lot of fun group art shows and exciting projects which usually lead to press, which leads to more people knowing about my work.

What advice do you have for people trying to get started?

Output a lot of work and share it all over the place. Behance, Dribbble, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Use tags, hashtags, repost, reshare. Do it all. You might feel awkward or self-obsessed but get over it. If you want people to see your work it has to be in places where people will actually see it. But it of course has to be good don't post crap. Also, donate your time for high profile projects locally. Is the farmers market doing a big event? Donate a poster design. Does a well-loved non-profit need some Facebook graphics? Put yourself out there, offer your time to the right projects and more people will know what you do.

Also, ask for critique. Don't shy away from what people think of your work. My best projects have been ones I take the extra time to get feedback from other designers. It's humbling but if you want your work to get better, you have to submit yourself to critique.

If you could teach people who are not into design one thing about it, what would it be?

I would try to explain a little about the different between fonts and lettering. Or just general typography terminology. People see my work and always say..."did you make that font?" People of the post-Pinterest world have become self-proclaimed typography experts without really knowing anything. The outcome is a lot of improper language out there.

What was the transition from freelancer to venue-owner like? What was a challenge that you didn't expect?

Oh my gosh. It was a s**t show. I don't recommend running two small businesses that both require a ton of your time. It doesn't work out very well which is partially why I'm at an ad agency full time now. I expected it to be challenging for sure, but I didn't realize how hard it would be. It was constant mind-chaos. Always being behind on projects, letting people down, being stretched too thin.

(Photo by Brandon Vasquez)

What are your future goals for your work?

I'm excited to be working a day job doing design because I feel like it will loosen my creative muscles to the point where I can actually have fun making designs again. There's less pressure on me with client work, so I can do more fun self-initiated projects. I'm thinking a solo-art show in the next year of some of my lettering work.

Lastly, but most importantly: If your pet could talk (if you have a pet), what do you think it would say to you?

Haha, I do have a pet. She's an adopted 8-year-old Swiss Mountain Dog. The only thing she's ever thinking about is "when are we going for a walk?"

Follow Karli's work online!


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