New York-Native Digital Artist with a Global Heart – Rashidah Mendez
Rashidah Mendez, a New York-native digital artist, and mother of four received her Bachelor's, Summa Cum Laude, from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Although she switched her area of study from Early Childhood Education to Media Communication and Technology, she finds it rewarding to integrate the two disciplines. Mendez's work exhibits her passion for digital art through her graphic designs and visual marketing and reflects her love for early childhood literacy through her children's books, like “The Dino Flu” and others, soon to be released.
Rashidah, today’s graphic designers are in high demand. They have to be able to engage and appeal to many different audiences with many diverse needs. With that said, what do you think are the most important qualities in a graphic designer?
During consultations, clients commonly say, “I’m not sure how to describe it but…” So, a vital quality for a digital artist is taking what may seem like a roadblock, and being able to interpret, envision and implement the design want and needs of a client. Also, as you mentioned, clients come with an array of requirements, and also come with a diverse sense of aesthetics. So, I believe it’s imperative to strike a healthy balance between what a client wants/needs and the artistic standards of the digital artist. And most importantly, I personally believe it’s important never to take my skills for granted. I try to be consistent in thanking God for the abilities and provisions He’s given me to be where I am.
As a side note, I’ve recently shifted from the title “graphic designer” to “digital artist.” Although the title may not be as widely recognized, the change was because my projects don’t only encompass graphic art, they also include, photo manipulation, video editing, and sometimes animation, photography and videography.
*So what happens when strict parameters are given for your design? How comfortable are you being told what to create? Do you find that this stifles your creativity?
I’m ok with following a client’s lead. It has its pros and cons. The cons being, as you mentioned, the lack of creative freedom and not getting to really put my stamp on a design. And unfortunately sometimes, I’m unimpressed by a final product, yet it’s exactly what the client wanted. Furthermore, a definite benefit with these projects is that the client knows what they want, therefore, ideally reducing the rounds of edits and amount of time spent on the nuances of a project.
*What about when you are told to create a design without any instructions, then what? How did you resolve that challenge?
This is quite common. These types of projects seem to take longer because clients begin to gain a sense of what they want as the design samples start rolling in. And that is how I tackle the situation; I send in multiple samples to give the client options. After that, I make changes based on the option(s) they gravitate towards. Like I said, it’s a matter of trying to strike a right balance between the wants of the client and the standards of the professional. For example, adding, even more text never appeals to my minimalist nature, but if the client needs it, I attempt to exhibit the typography in a way that still embodies my style.
*I know as an author, I have had to develop a thick skin to produce the best work possible. How well do you take criticism?
Yes. A tough skin is what the doctor always orders. I’m a minimalist at heart. I love everything about it! However, I understand not everybody’s eyes appeal to a design with “too much” whitespace (if that even exists). So, understanding that everybody has different taste is necessary when receiving criticism on projects. Ideally, I’m able to implement the client’s desired modifications in a way that appeals to both of us. In some instances, it doesn’t always work out that way. In the end, I realize the client knows what’s best for them and their brand, at least for today. So, I design for today.
Receiving criticism on my personal projects is another can of worms simply because it’s a labor of love and therefore, more of an attachment. So, I take the criticism, contemplate on it, and filter it through the “Will this Truly Improve my Project” strainer. I realize if I implemented all the changes based on everybody’s critiques, it would turn my project into something unrecognizable and sadly I would no longer be attached to it. But fortunately, I know that my critics come from a loving place and the scope of their particular profession, so I keep that in mind, as well.
*As a digital artist, how do you plan your designs before you start drafting them? Do you sketch your designs first before converting them to digital format?
I’m not much of pencil and paper doodler. Instead, after conducting any necessary research and/or studying notes, I usually just dive right in and start fiddling with some design ideas on the computer. I modify and save different versions as I go.
*What graphic design software are you most comfortable working with?
Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, and Final Cut Pro are my tools of trade.
*Your work is amazing and cutting-edge.Tell me about some of the designs you have recently created and their success.
During an internship in 2010, I was blessed to work under a super skillful photographer and retoucher, who sparked my love for photo manipulation. And actually, a photo I helped to retouch was featured in a New Zealand-based fashion magazine.
In addition, I was the principal designer for a 501c3 non-profit initiative, which raises funds to help improve the hunger and hygiene issues in Senegal, West Africa. Promotional content included logos and t-shirt designs, social media flyers, and some video editing.
Soon after my website relaunch, I also debuted my t-shirt business called RM Tees. The first two designs targeted folks who were celebrating and recognizing the Islamic holy month/day (Ramadan and Eid). I sold the t-shirts hand-to-hand, as well as from my website, where they are still available. I plan to add more designs to the RM Tees collection in the future.
Recently, I had the pleasure of completing a couple of promotional designs for a Muslim rapper signed to a notable record label, who’s gaining mainstream popularity. Although, I’m not very “likes” and “comment” driven—it did receive a nice amount of attention. Currently, I am working on layout designs for the next issue of a well-known Muslim magazine, slated for publication in the near future.
*Rashidah, can you share with the readers what projects are near and dear to your heart?
“The Dino Flu” collaboration with you is actually one of my favorite projects. Because the project was nearly seamless and quite organic, in addition to the creative freedom—making “The Dino Flu” was a great experience for me. Whenever I open up the book and review our final product, it brings me to a special space. I too consider “The Dino Flu” to be one of my successful projects, as it led to me becoming a published illustrator, and not to mention is a timeless part of me that can always be shared with family.
*This has been so informative, thank you for sharing! For those looking for a digital artist, how can they find you and see more of your work?
I am also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @rmendezprojects.