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Feature No. 2:

BEN MIRKA

Occupation: Graphic Designer w/ focus on logo design and mark-making
Birthplace: Seoul, Korea
Current location: Cleveland, Ohio
Instagram: @benmirka

What does being an American maker mean to you?

For me, being an American maker is about embodying a certain type of spirit. It’s embracing and utilizing the opportunity that’s afforded to you simply by being in America. Especially for someone like me, who was born in Seoul. I recognize that opportunity, and it makes me just want to get after it, and execute everything I do to a high level.

Was being a graphic designer always your passion? If not, how did you come into it?

I just never let go of the kid-like side of me that had all these interests and ideas that I wanted to see through. Obviously, those ideas evolve and change over years of growth and honing your craft. But at the end of the day, I still had them, and I still believed in them. When I got to the age where I was faced with the question, ‘what am I going to do for the rest of my life?’ I didn’t necessarily have an answer. I knew that if I only picked one thing to focus on, it would get old pretty quickly.

As a creative person or anybody, if you don’t let society hold you down, you can really push yourself to the next level. Where you don’t have to worry about all those things that society projects onto you. I realized I had needs that required creative fulfillment. So, I pursued a combination of technology classes with design and art. I was sure this was the only path for me. I’m fortunate enough to have gotten to a point in my career where I’m able to create these visions that I had as a kid, but execute them as an adult. So, looking back, that was the only path for me.

What is your daily routine to keep you motivated and on track for your goals and your career?

After college, I was working a corporate job and had gotten accustomed to a 9-to-5 regimen. Even though I no longer work in a corporate environment, I keep that schedule because it makes communication with my clients easier and me more reliable. But I didn’t always stick to that kind of schedule. There was a period where I made my first attempt at freelancing. I didn’t know there were all these things that you needed to do in order to make that lifestyle successful. But luckily, my friend offered me an opportunity to work for this design studio which bailed me out of failure, honestly. Experiencing that structure allowed me to think, “Okay, I can do this. If I ever leave this company, I can do this on my own.”

In terms of staying motivated, I think just seeing other people achieve their goals and doing their own thing helps me. That’s part of the reason I try to get up and out of the house everyday. It forces me to meet and talk to new people. Interacting with people helps me maintain or regain focus. It’s hard to stay motivated if you’re in a vacuum all day.

Being a designer will push you to the next level and out of your comfort zone. My friend told me, “Design is a sport. It’s very quick, it’s highly competitive, and you’re working on your craft every day. There's people behind you that want your clients and your job, and they’re not going to stop working to get it. It’s the same thing as football or basketball. You need to show up to work every day, and if you don’t, somebody else will be there to replace you.” When he told me that, it connected with me. I took his advice, and I applied it to every decision that I made. It’s that kind of mentality that reaps rewards.

Take us through your creative process, and why does no one else do/design like you?

The number one differentiator between my designs and someone else’s all comes down to my taste. The same guy who told me ‘design is a sport,’ also told me, ‘design what you want to see.’ When I was working that corporate job, I was designing a lot of stuff I wasn’t happy with or passionate about. But when I started doing my own thing, I could pick projects and create something I felt should exist. I was like ‘this is what I want to see.’ I developed my own taste. That’s why I’m different.

In terms of the process, a key for me is communication. Making sure I’m in constant communication and asking the right questions before, during, and even after the project’s over. This ensures that I’m not wasting the client’s time, and they’re not wasting mine. From a design perspective, it’s really important to get on the same page visually. I like Pinterest for this reason because both the client and I can add imagery to the same board. From that imagery, I’ll make a mood board that the client feels connected to and that contributes to their overall identity. These mood boards are so crucial to my design process. Once we agree on the direction and I can get to work; that’s where the magic happens.

What are you going to take away from this time in your life?

I quit my job in November, 2019 and started my own studio on January 1st, 2020. Covid was basically in full effect by March, so that made everything really challenging. My business took off during a time when we weren’t really allowed to create or interact with one another. All these obstacles kept piling up on top of everything else we were already facing, and you just had to figure it out. Now that I’m looking back, I’m really proud to have gotten through it.

But it’s crazy because my friends and I didn’t just get through it, we were lucky enough to have excelled through it. I was able to open up my own studio during a pandemic. This really is a substantial period in my life, and I’m really happy looking back because it shows, just, so much growth.

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