I sat down with Amy Yatsuk, our Graphic Designer, to learn more about her career path. Amy shared gold nuggets of advice for aspiring designers—and for creative people who may not know graphic design is their calling yet. She painted a crystal clear picture of her journey and daily life that breaks down any knowledge barrier about the role for aspiring creators.
Paulina Crum: Before Big Sky Public Relations, what did your path look like leading up to this point?
Amy Yatsuk: Once I graduated college, I took a little bit of a break to volunteer for a year with AmeriCorps. After that, I was ready to dive into graphic design. My first job in design work was creating wedding invitations for a stationery company in D.C. This presented a lot of interesting opportunities to work in print design and with unique materials, which is becoming increasingly rare in a field where most design is skewing towards digital.
Then, I made the move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming when a friend approached me with a job as housekeeper at a beautiful dude ranch. From this job I was able to segway back into the design field working at a local ski shop doing marketing and website design. That eventually led to working at a newspaper where I focused on ad design. Next, I jumped back into wedding work and designed lettering, invitations, and more. I liked getting back into the wedding space, but it is a high stress industry. Usually, brides and grooms have very specific visions and there is so much pressure on the moment that it can be an emotional process. It is funny because now I am going through it myself and understand it from the client's end (in-text congratulations shout out to Amy Y’s recent engagement!). So, I could only work in that wedding environment for a couple of years at a time. I eventually wrapped up my work there and took a break.
I worked as a bartender and landscaper during my break from design. This break in my career was good for me, because with graphic design you are required to be creative all the time, which can be really…what’s the word? Well, it can really drain you and be exhausting. I've taken breaks from my career path here and there, but I have always maintained my own freelance work on the side.
Then, I moved out to Whitefish, Montana, where I now live and work. I wanted to get back into the creative scene, so I started in the area as an interior design assistant, which was really interesting, but a completely different creative medium. It was cool, but I really wanted to get back into true graphic design. I saw the BSPR listing for a Graphic Designer and I ended up applying for and getting the job. I like that my position here has a mix of work in social ads, website design, and print design. With our construction clients, there is an opportunity and challenge to connect with the public on a very relatable level. That requires real creativity on our part to be able to translate engineering documents into communications and visuals everyone can understand.
PC: What does a day in the life of a Big Sky PR Graphic Designer look like?
AY: It definitely varies day-to-day. I usually start by writing out my day, which is really important to help me visualize my tasks. But, with the nature of our business, I am prepared to take on projects that pop up unexpectedly throughout the day. My daily schedule can evolve pretty quickly.
I keep a pulse on our projects and deliverables by regularly meeting with our managing team. This keeps all projects on my radar, and these meetings become more frequent leading up to big project events.
What makes my daily schedule different from some other designers is the fact that I get the opportunity to go out into the community and interact with people. Working for a public relations firm allows me to be tied in with the community when I canvass, hang signage, take photos, and help with open houses.
PC: Is there a specific Big Sky PR project you've worked on that involved a creative, exciting design challenge?
AY: At the open house for the Downtown Whitefish Highway Study, I designed an interactive rendering of the project that open house attendees could move around. It was perfect because I got to create these puzzle pieces that were a hands-on way to get the public involved. With our work, it is always helpful to ask, “how can we make this interactive?” It helped us understand what the public valued in the project. While we saw their perspective, attendees also better understood the physical bounds of the project site and how the pedestrian pathway, bike path, landscaping, and more would fit together.
PC: How do you keep learning in graphic design?
AY: I regularly check in with our Skillshare account, which provides lessons to help you practice new skills and think creatively. As a bonus, the platform provides prompts and mock projects so you can apply what you’d learned in a tangible way. When you are in a career with creativity, inspiration is not always overflowing or sustainable, so these types of puzzles help spark it. Then, what I learn and take from those simulations helps me for future projects. Because if a client asks, “what if we could do animation?” I feel ready to solve that problem and build upon that skill.
Sometimes it is a challenge to find motivation outside of work, because after work, you feel like “Alright, I'm going to unplug.” But in those times, I try to keep my iPad around so I can spontaneously draw or paint. It helps me decompress and refill my creativity in an informal way.
PC: Do you have any advice for someone looking to enter graphic design?
AY: Even if you haven't done graphic design in a traditional sense, practical experience is so important. It can be hard to get that experience at first. I recommend freelancing and reaching out to businesses you admire or those you think might need a logo refresh. Offer your services at a discounted rate when you are starting out and include examples in your portfolio. In this visual field, people want to see what you can do.
If you do not have a portfolio from past work experience, do mock exercises like I mentioned to build your portfolio. Many of these resources like Skillshare let you post your creations to receive feedback, too, which can help you start and refine your portfolio before offering design services. Even outside of these programs, you can just create from something you’re passionate about. I have examples on my website that were purely just something I decided I wanted to make. I also have friends starting out in businesses where I’ve helped them with design work that I then put in my portfolio. There are a lot of ways to get creative with what you have to jumpstart your design career.
PC: Do you have any final advice for those in this field or hoping to be?
AY: For any creative, whether you are a designer or a public relations account executive, your creativity is a resource. The key to maintaining it is to diversify and carve out time for the artistic things you enjoy. Unplug and connect with those things. Be gentle with yourself, even in your career. This can be hard for those of us who have strong ambitions. By conserving creativity regularly and taking breaks, it allows you to optimize those moments when it is needed in your work rather than constantly applying pressure on yourself