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Jessica Karle Heltzel


At the Walker Art Center’s show “Graphic Design: Now in Production”

Primary design concentration:

Design, Writing, Publishing

Most preferred tools for designing:

Apple and Adobe

Exhibition of “100 Days of Design Entrepreneurship”

How and why did you choose to become a designer?

As a kid, I stayed in my room for hours coloring with my Crayola 96 pack of crayons—orange red, jungle green, and shocking pink were some of my go-to colors of choice—stressed over how draw the perfect “Práta Person” from Ed Emberley’s “Big Green Drawing Book,” and crafted tiny furniture for dollhouses. Eventually my love of color and crafting worlds on paper led to architecture and then to graphic design.

What are some of the challenges you encounter as a designer and how do you deal with them?

I’m a detail-oriented designer, and I always struggle with the idea of perfection. It’s hard for me to let go, to say a project is “finished,” and to ship it. I have been fortunate enough to partner with teammates who are great at that and who nudge—or kick and shove—me in the right direction.

“Kern and Burn” zines at Linco Printing, New York

What is your definition of an “elegant solution,” that is, good design?

An elegant solution is one that solves the problem in the most efficient, functional, and beautiful way. The simpler solution, the better.

From skills to values, what makes a designer successful?

Passion, curiosity, and creativity. An unyielding desire to achieve the best solution and to never settle.

How do you stay motivated and grow personally and professionally as a designer?

I see all of the amazing work created daily in the design, fashion, and tech fields. The sheer amount of innovation, and the pace of which it is happening, is inspiring. It motivates me to continue to work hard and to stay interested.

Initial positioning process for “Kern and Burn”

For those aspiring to become a designer, whatever the discipline, what is your advice?

Love what you do. There are too many amazing jobs to be stuck in one that you hate. If you hate it, leave. If you’re too comfortable to soak anything else in, leave. Oftentimes, taking that risk will lead you to finally embark on the project or career that you were meant to do. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is an opportunity to learn.

Share your perspective. Write, design, and experiment. Tell your unique story. Figure out what you want to say and say it—people will listen if you are honest and true to yourself.

Just Ask. I’m continually surprised and delighted by the results of just asking others for help, support, or participation. The design community is amazing.

Website for “100 Days of Design Entrepreneurship”

What is your quest in design, from a professional practice, education or evolution standpoint?

I just want to create my best work and hope that it’s meaningful in some way.

Jessica Karle Heltzel is “Pretty Much Kern” of Kern and Burn, “an online and print publication that curates discussions, interviews, and essays about design entrepreneurship.” She highly recommends digital product designer Wilson Miner’s presentation When We Build at Build, an annual design festival in Belfast.

Images courtesy of Jessica Karle Heltzel.

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