Success Ideas and Tips from Master Artist and Designer, Luba Lukova:
- You don’t have to have a graduate degree to become a master artist and designer, but you have to learn and keep learning, and look for excellence in your work. You have to be really good at what you do.
- Design competitions are good, but if you give your best in every project, no matter how small or big, people pay attention, and that speaks for itself.
- Meeting with people is so important because by seeing their reaction you can learn a lot about your own work.
Luba’s thoughts on building a career in design/illustration:
I’ve always thought it’s much harder to sustain growth than to attract initial attention when you just start in our field. That’s what I admire the most in artists of the older generation who have been able to achieve that.
First of all, you have to be excellent. You have to be professional in every aspect of what you do. And if you get recognition that doesn’t have to make you feel you’ve reached the top. Sometimes people become complacent after the first success and they disappear in a year or two. You have to keep striving for more, for personal growth. In the end what we do is not about the success and recognition. It’s more about the satisfaction you feel by yourself, by growing, by learning something new and keeping the love and interest in what you do. That’s really the most important thing because it’s not so easy to keep yourself interested. Sometimes the work might look repetitive or it seems like you’re getting off track and it’s difficult to find new challenges. You know? Sometimes you need to challenge yourself. The client takes it easy and they want to see what they’ve already seen. So it’s up to the creative person to expand their horizons and to keep the interest and the challenge. I guess that’s what makes you sustain the quality.
But first of all, you have to be really good at what you do. I don’t believe this mythology that someone who was a college dropout became a success. You don’t have to have a graduate degree, but you have to learn and keep learning and look for excellence in your work. That’s the only way I believe you can succeed. I don’t believe it’s possible any other way.
Luba’s thoughts on going into business:
I have a strong individual ideal of what I’d like to achieve and I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. In the very beginning, I worked as a full time graphic designer and I liked it because I collaborated with other creative people, not exactly in my own field. But when you are attached to a company that in a way limits you. When you have your own studio, it allows you to try many more things and have more control over your time. And I’ve always looked at that and wanted it. So, that was my goal. I know there are designers who prefer to be in a group environment. But I think what I do best is when I’m on my own. I can decide what projects to take, and what not to take. Sometimes you work much more, that way but I love the freedom of it.
Building client relationships and business success:
Well, mostly my studio was established after I began to show my work in the design competitions and got recognition from them. This was one important way of getting clients. Then, I think working as an editorial illustrator helped a lot. When you do an illustration for the New York Times, the people at the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and the Village Voice see that. If you do one good thing they notice it. So, little by little I established a number of clients in the publishing industry. Design competitions are good, but if you give your best in every project, no matter how small or big, people pay attention, and that speaks for itself. In the editorial illustration circuit a lot of art directors move from one publication to another. I have collaborations with art directors who have worked in several different magazines. I’ve always tried to keep a good relationship with the people I work with. And to do my best. That is the way for me.
I’ve never had an agent. When I was just starting in New York and I didn’t have that many assignments I was looking to work with an agency but at that time they weren’t interested in working with me. They preferred more established artists. Several years later they wanted me, but then I didn’t need them. Honestly, I’ve never liked working with middlemen because they take away the part where you communicate person to person with your client. And I love that. I love talking with people, you know? And the personal contact makes the relationship better. But I guess there are different agents with different approaches. I feel that at this point I am doing OK on my own. There is no secret that showing work in design magazines, annuals and international competitions increases a designer’s success. I guess you’ve done that, too. People notice the work and they contact you?
Luba’s views on what’s important, and on happiness:
People have asked me, “What is your biggest design mistake?” I don’t think I’ve done anything so wrong, you know? And I do not shy from challenges, because I’ve learned even from mistakes.
The recognition that I get from my peers is good because I’ve proven to myself that supposedly my work has met the highest standards of the industry. But what makes me the happiest now, and maybe always, is the reaction of the ordinary people who are not designers or artists. Because in the end, my work is for them, not for the design competitions. So when they call and ask me “Where can I purchase this poster, because I’m decorating my house?” that makes me happy. Or when I get emails saying I saw your piece, I searched your name and I wanted to tell you that I like what you do, that means a lot to me. I want my work to be for everybody, not just for the professionals. To me this is the greatest reward of all. In the beginning I was proud to see my work in the annuals, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that our work should be for the people who don’t know anything about typefaces or layouts. Receiving their emails and letters is the greatest love for me.
Views on business development and marketing tools:
I think with the Internet many of the showcase books have lost their impact. In the past one of these publishers had asked me to design their book but after a couple of years they stopped publishing it. Now they have a website and I subscribe to it for a small fee. I’ve never tried the other books. The Internet makes it so easy for people to research you and to reach you. I think we’re living in a good time because we’re able to promote our work so easily. Still, a great way for me to be in contact with the audience and to show my work is when I am invited to do lectures and workshops. I always show visuals and try to keep the words very concise. Meeting with real people is so important because by seeing their reaction you can learn a lot about your own work; I hope they can learn something from me as well. I like that format when I have a direct communication. I guess our personality is our best marketing tool. Otherwise, I don’t use outside services.
Do you solicit workshops?
I’ve not done that. I’ve never thought workshops could be a marketing platform; for me it has been always an opportunity to exchange ideas. I have to balance my time, but I never turn down opportunities.
About Luba Lukova:
Luba Lukova, (www.lukova.net), is a renowned artist and designer working in New York. Her distinctive art utilizes metaphors, juxtaposition of symbols and economy of line and text to succinctly capture humanity’s elemental themes. Visually engaging and powerful, Lukova’s work is exhibited around the world. Her solo exhibitions have been held at UNESCO, Paris, France; DDD Gallery, Osaka, Japan; La MaMa, New York. She is the recipient of the World’s Most Memorable Poster award at the International Poster Salon in Paris; Golden Pencil at the One Club, New York; Best of Show award at HOW magazine’s international design competition. Lukova’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Library of Congress; Bibliotheque nationale de France. Upcoming publications of her work include: a poster portfolio called “Social Justice 2008” and “Speaking with Images”, a book about her art.
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