Kate Harmer, Graphic Artist
Kate Harmer’s bio on Hum Creative tells us she grew up in a Navy family moving from Memphis to Hawaii to Florida and eventually settled in the Pacific Northwest. She’s been working as an illustrator and designer for over ten years, and in 2010 she received an MFA from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. Communication Arts recognized her as a “Fresh Illustrator,” and she’s been featured in multiple design annuals, magazines and blogs.
I first noticed Kate’s work on She & Him‘s Volume Two, which was featured in PRINT‘s December 2011 Design Annual. Specifically, I was stoked on the well-thought-out design. She created a clever concept, well-executed illustration and a well-produced product. This is a common theme throughout Kate’s work. What makes her even more unique is her ability to not just create great design, but to actually go one step further by helping clients foresee problems, solve them and develop thoughtful products.
A few things you should know about Kate? She is very kind, she loves Beyonce and her first car had a fake wood dash. Oh- and the Obamas sent her a Christmas card last year. No big deal.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I was a fairly creative kid, but didn’t think of my interests as potential careers until much later. When I was 9-ish there were ads for a crisis counseling center on heavy radio rotation in Jacksonville. I would spend hours drawing & coloring imaginary print version of the commercials. I’d draw the people I heard talking and create little logos and taglines. I even set up little offices for my barbies with custom built kleenex-box couches and tiny posters on the wall. I thought maybe I’d be a therapist. Obviously design was the real interest.
How did you get to where you are today?
Process of elimination and lots of encouragement. I just kept trying things until I found what I liked doing; I didn’t really know at the start. Maybe I still don’t! Luckily my family helped me along the way, and raised me to truly believe I could be whatever I wanted to be. I also could not have made it through grad school without my now-husband cheering me on. I have fewer tearful breakdowns now that I’m out of school, but when I’m frustrated he still knows exactly what to say to reassure me.
What do you LOVE?
I am obsessed with my dog. I love that she has such clear priorities: cuddle, make friends, eat foods that are bad for her, and sleep. She’s such a kind, happy little creature.
What is your process like?
I used to really rely on other people’s work to help me imagine possibilities. I think that’s common for new designers; to have a process very much about inspiration. That got me into jams, though, trying to be someone else. Now I’m a bit more confident in my own skills and limitations, and I’m able to ask myself ‘what is my best answer to this question?’ rather than ‘what is the best answer.’ Now I need to kinda burrow into my own space to be creative. I put my hood up, shut the door, stop looking at the Internet. I work best early in the morning or late at night, when there are fewer distractions.
What is something you had to learn the hard way?
Everyday I learn something the hard way! Starting a business means a million little lessons, but I think the biggest one is to not be frustrated by the process of learning. I’m trying to just kinda lean into it these days.
Best advice you could give to someone who want’s to do what you do?
I’ve gone on about this on HelloGiggles, so please forgive me, but I think that if you want to do something you just have to start doing it! Design students shouldn’t just be doing their homework, they should be making things they love and sharing them with people. Its much easier to hire someone for what you see they can do, rather than what they say they can do. If you wanna get hired to design albums, just start designing them as if you’re pro. Imagine a band, write a creative brief, draft a schedule & budget, then make it as rad as possible and share it with the world. Or at least the Internet.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would you say?
I would tell myself to be a little bit braver. Every big risk I’ve taken in life has created a giant mess, which then clears up to reveal something awesome. Why not do that sooner, or bigger, more often? (I’m so not gonna take my own advice, though.)
3 of your favorite books:
The Death of a President by William Manchester
Anything by Nora Ephron, read on vacation.
The English Patient. I’ve loved this book since I was 12.
What is one thing most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I hate wizards.
How do you define success?
I’m very day-to-day right now. When I’m able to close the office at 5:30 and still know I have a busy day tomorrow… that feels like a huge success.
What personality trait do you think is most important to success?
The most successful people I know are totally open to experiencing the world. They want to know about other people & experiences. They are also unapologetically nerdy about the things that they love.
Words to live by:
Our studio wall says “there’s magic everywhere in this bitch”, which is a line from a ridiculous Insane Clown Posse song. We originally hung it as a joke, but it’s still totally true.
*Featured photo courtesy of: Sarah & Chris Rhoads
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