Seattle based hiker, painter, and graphic designer Erin Oostra finds beauty in all aspects of life. Whether she’s summiting a mountain, navigating a concrete jungle, or juggling a hectic social life, she finds inspiration everywhere she goes. When she’s not at Nordstrom, one of her most notable projects include being the co-founder and lead designer for a non-profit called Soul Societies; operating by the philosophy that “Art, freedom, and creativity will change society faster than politics,” their goal is to provide an opportunity for “creatives in our community to volunteer their time and talents,” as well as provide art supplies to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them. Between working, hiking, and painting Erin found the time to sit down and talk with us about her path from school to freelance to designing for Nordstrom.
What do you do for work currently?
I work for Nordstrom. I’ve been here for two years working on their web design team and recently started collaborating with the print team here; I help design the smaller catalogs, which is really exciting to be challenged in a new way.
How did you get here?
I graduated from Seattle Central Creative Academy in 2015 and I’ve always been interested in fashion. I knew I wanted to work for a large company and being able to have a work-life balance was important to me, so when I found out I could get these things from Nordstrom it felt like the perfect fit.
What did you study at Seattle Central?
I was in an intense graphic design program for two years. It was a closely-knit, dedicated group of people that I worked along-side. I also earned an Associate of Arts degree in graphic design from an art school in Kirkland, Washington. Having a background in graphic design prior to joining the program at SCCA gave me a solid foundation and inspired me to pursue a career in the field.
Your resume shows you’ve previously done some freelance work, what advice do you have for freelance graphic designers?
Working for friends is extremely difficult. Your expectations should be clear with all your clients, working for friends could put a toll on your relationship outside of work. Also, I would also recommend opening a business savings account and put a third of your earnings away, dealing with taxes at the end of the year can be very chaotic and I found that putting money away each pay period saves me the stress later.
How important would you say a social media presence is in your career?
I occasionally share work on social media but I think it’s more important just to share your personality there. I show a lot of my paintings and hiking photos there, it gives more life to my work. I include glimpse if my Instagram feed in my portfolio; I like to show my clients that I’m a real person and give a highlight of what I'm up to outside of the office. However, if you’re a freelancer trying to get new clients I would recommend including more of your portfolio in your social media to share your work!
What are the most difficult and the most rewarding aspects of your career?
So, with every project I have it typically follows this timeline somewhat borrowed from Maureen McHugh
1. This is great, it’s gonna be inspiring and incredible. The optimistic phase
2. Diving into your work; trying to organize and visualize this ethereal project and put it on paper
3. Holy cow this is difficult; I don’t know where to find inspiration. The pessimistic phase.
4. It’s the dark night of the soul. I feel stuck.
5. It’s rough but that’s good because then I’ll learn something for next time
6. It’s done and not as bad as I thought.
To get through that timeline you must step back and clear your head for inspiration to come through. When you finally get back and complete the project, the most rewarding part is seeing all the hard work be worth it and seeing the finished product.
What do you do to stay inspired?
I love hiking. Observing how mountains and rivers are organically designed, getting a rush of endorphins, it all helps clear my mind. I also picked up painting within the last year or two. That propels me because there’s no CTRL+Z in painting; sometimes you screw up and from there you must find a way around the mistake and eventually make the project even better than it was before.