I had the pleasure of meeting this month’s spotlight designer at the very beginning of my own career – my first trade show at Surtex 2017. She was so welcoming to a newbie like me! We bonded over our love of chocolate and she’s been an artist I’m glad to call a friend ever since.
So please join me in giving a very warm welcome our spotlight designer for December, Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom.
Please Introduce Yourself
I’m a Cuban-American mixed-media illustrator and designer living near Cocoa Beach, Florida and I’m proud to have been a designer for more than 15 years.
Tell us a little bit about your design journey.
After working as a scenic artist and then classroom teacher, I went back to school for design. It was 2008, and I was just a few weeks from graduating from the Industrial Design masters program at RISD.
We were given passes for the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Festival) and after walking the ICFF for a bit, I saw all these bright and colorful booths, and wandered into Surtex! That’s when it sunk in I had spent the last two years studying the wrong thing.
But it would be several years later when I could finally focus on surface pattern design. Between 2008 and 2014 we moved more than 10 times (including cross-country and to Germany and the Netherlands). It was a tumultuous time where I took whatever work I could.
Our kid was born in 2014, and I was finally able to focus on raising him and in the quiet in-between moments, I began to draw again. I took a bunch of online art and design courses to refresh my skills and hone my color palette. Then, I started an art collective called Finch & Foxglove with my art/design friends, and we exhibited at lots of trade shows between 2015–2019.
Being part of a collective gave me a chance to experiment and figure out which clients were responding to what style of my work. I saw that I was connecting more to stationery and paper with my humorous style.
What did you struggle with most as a new designer?
I definitely struggled with finding my niche. I was so used to being a chameleon those years during the recession and trying to please everyone for the sake of survival. I struggled with figuring out who I was, and keeping my focus on my own style and voice. It was really hard to let go of all those other possibilities, but also a relief to limit my offerings.
What advice about the surface design industry has been most helpful to you in your career so far?
At my first Surtex, Ronnie Walters told me in a 1:1 portfolio review to really dig into the artwork that makes me “me” and that resonated.
My first Surtex portfolio was way too mixed up! I had every kind of style in every kind of medium. It took me a few years to figure it out how to apply her advice. I was listening, Ronnie, it just took me a while.
What has been your favorite client collaboration to date and how did you find them?
My favorite client collaboration was with DesignDesign, who I met at Surtex. I loved working with them on a box set of eco-friendly holiday greetings. I love their art directors and the product care and quality so much, and the message behind this card is still so important to me.
When you look back at your design journey so far, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of not giving up on my artwork. There were many years when things looked really grim on the creative front, I’m glad I came back to design. I love the legacy aspect of it all. I love that there’s a kid out there with my artwork on their umbrella or t-shirt. I’m proud of making cards that express my thoughts on the world, and that it resonated with other people.
Where do you see yourself in your career three years from now?
I’d like to work on more stationery projects. I want to develop more relationships with good companies that want to develop projects with me.
What advice would you give to surface designers who are struggling?
There’s no set “path” to becoming a designer or artist.
We come as we are.
If you’re like me, and you learn by doing and failing, it might take you a bit longer than your friends. Definitely keep your day job if you have one.
At the beginning, the anxiety of having to make money solely from your art can cramp your ability to make new work! Don’t skip the exploration phase, and really develop your own artistic vision. You don’t have to sell work from that phase, you’re still learning!
Where can we find you?
P.S. If you’d like to be featured on the SDR blog, you can always submit your story right here!