Issue Three Feature: Karen Kavett | Graphic Designer


Issue Three - March 2013

Karen Kavett
Graphic Designer

Who are you and what type of creative are you?

My name is Karen Kavett and I am a graphic designer currently living in San Francisco. I also produce YouTube videos on my channel xperpetualmotion about graphic design and crafting projects. I also make a jewelry line, which is for sale at

What made you interested in graphic design? 

I went to a high school that had a big focus on the arts, including graphic design, video production, journalism, etc. I was very lucky that I got to learn how to use Photoshop freshman year of high school and then keep taking design classes at such a young age. I had Photoshop on my computer at home, so I just fell in love with it and was designing things every day after school for about four years, whether it was class assignments or just other projects I wanted to make for myself. I grew to love this medium which is in a safe environment where you have an undo button and aren't going to cut off your hand with a bandsaw. I love its similarities to remix culture, where you're taking images and fonts that may have been created by somebody else and putting them together in a unique way to create a beautiful product.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I read design blogs such as Nubby Twiglet and The Die Line, and if I'm working on a project in a specific style, I'll search for inspiration on Tumblr and Pinterest. I also have a fairly sizable collection of design books and magazines that I love to page through. Some of my favorites include Stereographics: Graphics in New Dimensions, Papercraft II, and New Illustration with Type.

How do you keep yourself inspired?

All of my friends are incredibly creative, whether it be in graphic design, illustration, video making, writing, or anything else. I'm a part of quite a big network of designers and YouTubers online, so anytime I see something cool that they've made, it just keeps me inspired to keep pushing myself and working hard on my own projects.

How do you go about starting a project? 

I'll usually start in my sketchbook and make some notes and ideas about what kind of direction I want to go in with the project. I'm not great at drawing, so all of the sketches are pretty messy, and there's a lot of just writing words to describe what I want to do (I got a lot of flak from my professors in college about that), but it definitely helps to organize my thoughts on paper before jumping straight onto the computer.

What is your favorite part of the design process?

I love the moment when it all starts to come together and I can see the finished product on the horizon. Especially if it's a project where I struggled to think of a good concept, starting to be happy with how the project is coming out is just the biggest relief in the world. And when I do print work, I love just holding the finished product in my hands and being able to say - I made this. This exists in the world because of the decisions that I made.

What are your favorite fonts and why?

I go through phases with fonts, where I'll use a few fonts for a bunch of projects in a row and then get sick of them and switch to something else. I used to use Gotham in everything, but lately I've been really into Interstate and Alright Sans. I also really love the two fonts I use in my website header, Populaire and Sackers Gothic.

What projects are you most proud of and why? 

I'm really happy with the box set I did for John Green, since it's the first thing I designed that you can actually buy from a  physical store. The feedback from his fans has been really great on that project too. I also still get a kick out of seeing things I designed while I worked as a UX designer at YouTube for a year, such as the emails template and the annotations timeline, which I use every day for my own video work.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into the graphic design field? Or for people just starting out in graphic design?

You just have to do it. Reading books and collecting inspiration is great, but it only gets you so far. Design something every single day, and give yourself assignments like you're in school. Redesign magazine spreads, shampoo packaging, a CD cover for your favorite band, anything you can find around you. It'll take a while until good design starts feeling intuitive and you start liking the things you make, but if you keep working at it, you'll get there.

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