Surface Designer Spotlight: Natalia Zlateva

I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to befriend many artists who started out as my students and this month’s spotlight designer, Natalia, is among my favorites. Not only is she kind, supportive, and passionate about what she does, but she’s also incredibly talented! I know you’ll enjoy her story and her joyful artwork.

Please Introduce Yourself

Hi, I’m an illustrator and designer based in Frankfurt, Germany. I have more than 14 years of experience in design and in the last few years, I focused on illustration and pattern design.

Since I was able to hold a pencil I have been drawing and creating and I’m passionate about sketching, illustrating, and crafting. I have an inquisitive mind, love to explore new themes, and believe in life-long learning. The artwork I create is playful and colorful with a pinch of humor.

Tell us a little bit about your design journey.

As a trained designer I have a long journey in design — mostly graphic and interactive. In 2020, as the whole world was on hold and was going crazy because of Covid, I was enjoying drawing and creating again.

By this time I had learned about surface design but was not sure how and where to start and if I’m even capable to work in this area. By chance, I stumbled upon the 3×3 Design Challenge by Sketch Design Repeat on Instagram and created some of my first pieces for my portfolio. I was hooked!

Fast forward after many creative & business classes later and after many hours of drawing and pattern making, I signed my first license agreement.

Surface Designer Spotlight: Natalia Zlateva
What do you like to do outside of surface design?

Currently, I am working part-time as in-house visual designer. In my spare time, I love exploring new areas either near home or somewhere in the world or cooking new delicious recipes and afterward illustrate them.

Do you have a favorite portfolio design or client collaboration?

My favourite collaboration with a client is also my first license agreement. The design I created was inspired by a prompt from a 3×3 Challenge. I found the client in a trade fair directory.

My playful and cheerful Christmas alphabet is now produced on wrapping paper and paper bags and will be in the shops from autumn 2022.

Surface Designer Spotlight: Natalia Zlateva
What or who are you inspired by?

Nature and everyday life are a huge inspirations for me. I also love working on creative design challenges. Firstly because they make me work on subjects I would never have thought about. And secondly, I enjoy seeing what everyone creates to the same prompt — the variety and creativity are just indescribable.

When you look back at your design journey so far, what are you most proud of?

At the beginning of 2021, I took the leap and started reaching out to companies. At first it was very scary to show my artwork, but after a while it became routine. Now, a year and a half later, I have licensed two designs, have a large design portfolio, regularly approach companies, and have a group of wonderful and supportive design and illustration friends.

Surface Designer Spotlight: Natalia Zlateva
Do you have resources you’d like to recommend?

I’m a strong believer in life-long learning and discovering new subjects and techniques. So it’s no surprise that I have attended numerous creative and business courses to date.

I wrote a blog post about my favourite creative and business courses for surface designers and illustrators (including SDR’s Pitch Your Portfolio and Artful Pricing & Negotiation), but for books, I highly recommend Keep Going by Austin Kleon and Find Your Artistic Voice by Lisa Congdon.

Please Note: These are affiliate links, which means we’ll earn a small commission if you purchase books after clicking. But we’d never promote something we don’t love and enjoy both of these authors as much as Natalia.

Surface Designer Spotlight: Natalia Zlateva
If you could offer advice to other designers who are struggling, what would that be?

Keep going and take care of yourself! Patience and determination are essential for this business. Self-doubt and lack of motivation are frequent companions of every creative person. But the most important thing is not to give up, to do the work, and to put one foot in front of the other every single day.

Sometimes you just have to start, put a line on a paper and take 15 minutes to play. A supportive group of like-minded creative people can also be very helpful. Be kind and believe in yourself.

Surface Designer Spotlight: Natalia Zlateva
Where can we find you?

Instagram: @nataliaoro_studio

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