Surface Designer Spotlight: Mandy Corcoran

Getting to know new and aspiring surface designers is one of my favorite things about being an educator. I’ve enjoyed Mandy’s art on Instagram for a while now, but finally had the opportunity to chat with her last month in a 1-on-1 portfolio review during the most recent round of Pitch Your Portfolio. I know she has a bright future in art licensing ahead of her.

And I’m pleased as punch to be sharing her story with you today! Please join me in welcoming our spotlight designer for November.


Please Introduce Yourself

I am from northern Virginia, about 50 minutes north of Washington, DC. I have been drawing and interested in design my whole life but actively pursuing a career in surface pattern design for about 18 months.


Surface designer Mandy Corcoran
Tell us a little bit about your design journey.

I first started in professional design about 20 years ago when I was a high school teacher. I taught a computer repair class but also dabbled in web design. My principal wanted me to start focusing more on the design aspect of my class. My students and I ended up designing professional websites for numerous companies over the next few years.

Ever since then I have been hooked on Photoshop and Illustrator. I first learned about surface pattern design through taking classes on Skillshare. I just love the idea of trying to figure out a complex pattern and working with collections.

What did you struggle with most as a new designer?

As a new designer, I struggled most with “finding my style.” When I would design websites and logos I would create it in whatever the client wanted. So I could mimic any type of style that was needed. I never really knew what my style was.

Doing monthly challenges on IG really helped me find my style, and using the same palette for weeks also helped. It allowed me to not think about colors and items and just draw. Now I feel that I have a style that is unique to me and I am starting to see a similarity to all of my designs. It took about 7 months though for my style to really emerge.


Surface design by Mandy Corcoran
What advice about the surface design industry has been most helpful to you in your career so far?

To have faith in yourself and not to compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

What has been your favorite client collaboration to date and how did you find them?

I have had a few clients, mostly small “mom and pop shops” who have found and contacted me through Instagram. I was recently contacted by a company called Love Handle and they licensed 6 of my patterns for cell phone holders. Pretty exciting!

Surface pattern design by Mandy Corcoran
When you look back at your design journey so far, what are you most proud of?

That I have stuck with it. There are days where I can’t seem to draw a stick figure, I get frustrated and think — “I’m never going to succeed” or “I’m not as good as (insert name here).” But I have a very supportive husband and he helps ground me. I am keeping my eyes on the prize and know it could take years, but that this is what I want.

Where do you see yourself in your career three years from now?

My dream would be to see one of my designs in Anthropologie, Target, and Paper Source! I would also love to have multiple collections licensed with Hawthorne Supply Company!

What advice would you give to surface designers who are struggling?
Keep going, never stop learning!
Where can we find you?

Website: www.amandagracedesign.com
Instagram: @amandagracedesign


P.S. If you’d like to be featured on the SDR blog, you can always submit your story right here!

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