Karla Novak - Multi-Disciplinary Graphic Designer


Karla, can you introduce yourself, please?

Sure. I am a multi-disciplinary designer, working freelance across branding, graphic design (print & digital), website design, lettering, and illustration. I am also a toddler mum and a keen traveller.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a designer?

I kickstarted my journey studying Visual Communications back in my hometown of Zagreb, where I dabbled in a few design studios. Then, I decided to level up and pursue a Master's degree in Graphic Design over in Nottingham. Turns out, I fell in love with the UK and decided to stick around.

I was working freelance at this time, but after getting my degree, I landed a job as an in-house designer for a corporate business. However my real adventure began at Makermet, which was an amazing design agency based in Nottingham. This was such a steep learning curve for me and I feel lucky I got to be part of the (very talented) team. We tackled all sorts of projects – brand design, motion graphics, illustration, you name it. I got to work with some amazing ethical businesses, charities, and community projects all over the UK, which really opened my eyes to the impact design can have.

Sadly, the agency had to shut its doors due to Covid, which hit hard, especially as it happened right after I had my baby. But looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. It pushed me to finally take the leap and turn my freelance side hustle into a full-blown gig. And here I am, doing what I love every single day, helping businesses bring their visions to life through design.

What inspired you to pursue a career in design?

Ever since I can remember, I've been captivated by art in all its forms. I loved drawing as a kid, and I still do now. I also have this analytical side to me; I love to research and solve problems. Design lets me bring those two worlds together. So, when it came to choosing a career, design seemed like the natural and logical choice.

What are your favourite design assignments?

It would have to be branding. I find both the process and the outcomes immensely satisfying. When I embark on branding projects, I typically start with a comprehensive brand discovery survey and a collaborative branding workshop. This initial phase involves deep research to truly grasp the business's needs in terms of brand positioning, target audience, goals, and challenges. Together with the client, we define their brand strategy, which is when the real fun begins! With the strategy in hand, I translate those insights into a cohesive visual identity. This encompasses various elements such as logos, fonts, colour schemes, graphics, and more, all working harmoniously to achieve a distinct look and feel.

Clients often approach me with brands they've outgrown, seeking a rebrand to appeal to a new audience or to stand out among competitors. Others may be launching a new business or service, aiming to increase brand awareness. The motivations for investing in (re)branding are diverse. For me, the most gratifying aspect of the process is addressing these needs and finding creative solutions to clients' challenges. Not only can this significantly impact the business, but it also resonates with their customers as they discover and engage with brands that align with their values and preferences.

Do you take inspiration from nature?

Absolutely. For example, when thinking about colour schemes and colour psychology, a lot of that goes back to what those colours represent in nature. Or when designing typographic layouts and setting type sizes, I often use the golden ratio to achieve the best results.

Do you incorporate sustainability and eco-conscious practices into your design work?

Yes! Sustainability and eco-conscious practices are central to my work, and I strive for every project to play a part in creating a more sustainable and equitable world. I love working with like-minded businesses, who share the same values. That's why partnering with Elan Skincare to revamp some of the product packaging was incredibly rewarding. We carefully selected suppliers and materials that align with our commitment to responsible sourcing, ethical production, and environmental sustainability. The result? Exquisitely crafted packaging that proves sustainability can be just as stunning as it is conscientious.

As a designer, how do you stay creatively refreshed and avoid burnout?

For me it’s travel and periodic breaks from work. Simple changes of scenery can do wonders for resetting my mindset and getting back into a creative flow. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking a walk outside. Other things I’ve noticed really fuel me up with energy is seeing other creative work – like exhibitions and concerts.

What does living well mean to you?

Simple things: A positive mindset. A good work-life balance. Being present with my family. Being creative. Travelling. Eating well. Helping other people. And being around good humans.

What is your favourite self-care ritual?

Since becoming a mum, I've learned the importance of self-care, especially with my limited free time. It's been a journey for me to prioritise 'me-time,' realising that I can't pour from an empty cup. So, I've made a conscious effort to fill my cup whenever possible. Once a week, I sing in a choir. It's a refreshing escape that clears my mind and brings me immense joy.

As for skincare rituals, I absolutely adore indulging in a body scrub. Elan's chocolate and orange scrub is a personal favourite of mine – it leaves my skin feeling incredibly soft and smelling delightful.

Why Elan Skincare?

Because it prioritises and champions women. The products are exceptional – sustainably produced and packaged, crafted with scientifically proven formulas, and gentle on both the skin and the environment. Elan Skincare stands out as one of the exemplary skincare brands, prioritising more than just profit by fostering a community of empowered women who love and care for their bodies. Its mission is vital, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to it!