We discovered Moni Yael Garcia by happy universal chance. While stumbling through the internet we landed on an amazing site called Real Heroines and were immediately mesmerized. The graphics, the stories, the layout – everything captured our attention and we needed to know who the mastermind behind it was. We are excited to introduce Moni Yael Garcia, freelance designer, illustrator, and entrepreneur extraordinaire! From web design, to photography, to mobile, to identity development, Moni does it all (and makes it look effortless!). We asked Moni to describe her work as a self-starter and where her life and creative inspiration comes from.
Carpe juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?
Moni Yael Garcia: Enjoying your time as an individual where responsibilities are few and self exploration leads to personal epiphanies.
CJ: What originally drew you to design and illustration?
MYG: I’ve always had an interest in art and drawing. Even before kindergarten I would sculpt roses out of Play-Doh and dinosaurs out of aluminum foil. I really enjoyed experimenting with colors and drawing what I saw in picture books. I found these things relaxing and the only way to accurately understand myself and the world around me. I never considered design or illustration as a sustainable form of living. I went through various career choices from grade school to high school, and becoming an artist was never something I considered possible. Even though both my parents are creative individuals their careers have followed more traditional paths. Luckily, I came across the “graphic designer” occupation during a career research project for my 11th grade BCIS class. That’s when all my tension on choosing a career dissipated, and I finally had a direction I could wholeheartedly follow.
CJ: After graduating from University of Texas in Austin you struggled to find footing in the professional world – what made you decide to invest your time into late night tutorials and, in hindsight, was it worth it?
MYG: Late night tutorials were the only thing that kept me sane after graduating from UT. It was such a tough time for me. I couldn’t find a job for almost a year due to the competitive nature of the industry and the recession. The majority of places were under a hiring freeze and if they were looking for new employees, having no experience in the field just didn’t cut it. I only had one real internships under my belt and my skill level was bare minimum. Don’t get me wrong, my education in the University of Texas Design Program helped me immensely and gave me an understanding of design, the importance of concepts and the creative process. However, I needed more experience and a chance to level up my abilities as a designer. I actually treasure these obstacles now. They drove me to push through, take initiative, and reevaluate my goals.
CJ: What was the main trigger that made you realize that the corporate environment wasn’t for you?
MYG: I would say the differences in our creative process. The pay was great, and the hours were predictable, but I found myself constantly frustrated in the way things were approached. Then after several months of trying to make it work I had a heart to heart with myself. Would I be happy working there for the next five years — heck even two? Did I see myself growing into the designer I wanted to be or would I fall into complacency? Would it be okay to go to a job that I would eventually come to hate every day? I saw no progress in site and that’s when I decided to make a change professionally.
CJ: What inspired you to create a personal website, and how has that affected you professionally?
MYG: The reason I decided to create my own personal website instead of using a standard template was because I felt it necessary. I wanted to showcase my work, creative skills, and personal story in an unconventional manner. I was ready to step out of my current situation and become a full-time freelancer. It was definitely a challenge filled with stress during the whole process, but ultimately I knew it would lead to my new identity. I strongly encourage all creatives to have their own website, or at least some form of a digital portfolio where they have the ability to showcase their own work. Behance, Cargo Collective, and WordPress are great places to start if developing your own custom website from scratch isn’t possible.
CJ: Can you please tell us more about your volunteerism work with the Boys and Girls Club Holthouse?
MYG: Well, for a couple of years I had the opportunity to share my Fridays with a group of 7 to 11 year olds at one of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston. I wanted to make the most out of my visits with these kids, so we set up “Club Tech”, in which we covered business, art, design, programming, and robotics. Basically everything I learned during and after college. I wholeheartedly believe it’s important to give back to others who may not have certain opportunities or resources available to them due to circumstances out of our control. Exposing younger generations to these subjects early in their development sets them up for success. I really tried to create a curriculum that encouraged creativity and problem solving. At times it was difficult to motivate them through a project though, since they already had a long week of school, but they were real troopers. Some of our favorite activities were, creating business cards for their fictional business, building real working cardboard robots, 3D printing figurines, and designing their own computer game. As long as I was able to open up a new world for one of those kids, I’m happy.
CJ: What advice would you give to younger artists/designers/illustrators who are still studying their craft?
MYG: Five things. 1) Don’t overlook the history of your profession. It’s always a good idea to study the basics and build a strong foundation. 2) Dissect the world around you and don’t be afraid to recreate work you find inspiring. (Just don’t claim it as your own!) 3) Explore different concepts and techniques that spark your interest by jotting them down and finessing them through whatever medium necessary. 4) The more you make the more you learn. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re in a competitive field, but nobody starts awesome. You need time to develop your skills and even find your passion. 5) Posting your process on a social media outlet is a great way to document your journey and can even help you land possible internships or jobs.
I think if you keep these things in mind you’ll be able to find your own voice and make great things.
CJ: How do you create and maintain a work-life balance?
MYG: Honestly, I’m still working on that. As a sole proprietor it’s up to you to find work, manage clients, execute projects, and develop your business. It can be stressful and rewarding at the sametime. My personal time almost always relates to my business time, though indirectly. Whether it be daily exercise to get my creative juices flowing, hiking expeditions as a form of self reflection, designing products for my online shop that require a more personal approach, and even sleeping to work through mental blocks. I like to use this time as fuel for what I do and want to accomplish. As I see it, let the way you live your life dictate how you approach your work.
CJ: As a self-starter, how do you keep yourself on-track with goals and deadlines?
MYG: Having a scattered “To-Do” list with no unforeseen end can be daunting. That’s why I’ve switched over to organize my priorities with a project checklist where I have the flexibility to assign daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. I plan out all my client work and personal projects in Producteev, a free online management software, and move on to display my weekly and daily tasks throughout my workspace. I’m a very visual person so seeing things I have to accomplish outside of the screen and on my whiteboardand post-it notes keeps me focused. Overall this process allows me to change between projects and stay productive when I’m burnt out with one in particular.
CJ: Where did your love for women’s rights come from?
MYG: I can’t really pin point where my strong interest for women’s rights came from, but I’ve always been fond of encouraging others to reach their full potential, whether they be women, men, boys or girls. We’re all human and treating someone poorly due to gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability, or social status is baffling. Equality encourages a future of strong innovative thinkers and leaders, better economy, more creativity — not wanting everyone to be equal is just a stupid outlook.
CJ: How do you strive for equality in your everyday life?
MYG: Innately we all yearn for personal equality and acceptance. However, a constant barrage of negative comments and imagery can distort anyone’s understanding on how to treat others and even themselves. Personally, I stay true to my own convictions and openly express my concerns on issues that impede equality. Education on the subject is extremely important and in most cases allows people to reevaluate stereotypes they perceived as true. That’s why on August 26th my partner and I launched Real Heroines: an on going web project that compiles notable women who cultivated their minds and overcame adversity by defying social conventions. Through this site we hope to inspire female empowerment within men, women, boys and girls, from the action of their predecessors, so we can all move beyond gender stereotypes and grow as people. Education and an open mind brings awareness on equality, or any issue, really.
CJ: Growing up you were raised in a household that provided you with two different cultures – how did those experiences shape who you are as an adult?
MYG: I value knowledge and education and have a strong work ethic, but that’s more from being raised by a teacher and an engineer than being a second-generation Mexican-American. Growing up bilingual made me create a sort of pidgin involving a mixture of words and sound effects to express myself. Being the product of two cultures provides a perspective on problem-solving that neither culture might have on their own.
CJ: What is your favorite way that technology has changed over the past five years?
MYG: We’ve refined technology for so long that it’s much more accessible to individuals rather than only large corporations. This accessibility allows us to further integrate it into our society. An individual can now use technology to create something they’ve imagined with a degree of polish that used to only be possible with a team of people or large-scale machinery. 3D printing is a great example. And the whole thing is cyclical. The more we adopt, the more we refine, which in turn integrates it further into society.
CJ: What advice would you give to your eighteen-year-old self?
MYG: Take risks, stop waiting! Allowing your school curriculum to dictate your every move will only hinder your growth. Take the initiative to apply for internships, seek mentors, and invest in personal projects. These experiences will feed your creativity and raise your skill level ten fold before you graduate from college. Welcome obstacles that come your way and then kick them in the shins!
Image: Courtesy of Moni Yael Garcia