Emma Bush, my guest this week, is known for her warmth, love of Disney, and excellent recommendations. She’d choose Disney World over DisneyLand, 1998 Mulan over 2020’s remake (it’s all about Mushu), and she’s currently jamming to Driver’s License by Olivia Rodrigo.
Emma is also known for her beautiful graphic design work, which features raw, organic lines that she draws by hand for most of her projects.
“I want it to be natural and warm and I just really love community and natural beauty. So, tying those things together in graphic design is the dream,” she says.
Though graphic design is her thriving career, she didn’t even know the field existed until she took a digital arts class in high school.
“I honestly just loved it and it clicked and my teacher was like, ‘Hey, you should go to college for this.’ And it honestly sounded way too fun,” she says. “I was like, ‘Okay, if you can have a job that’s also fun, why not give it a shot?’”
So she did. While attending school for graphic design in Orlando, Florida, Emma had a professor who had a knack for helping students find their style and passion in art. In her very first class, he remarked on her talent for hand-drawing and sketching designs before moving them into a digital format. Today, these raw and organic lines continue to form the basis for her art style.
“A lot of my designs are still that same organic feel, but it’s adapted to how everything changes,” she says. “Trends change, colors change, but usually when you have a brand, you want to have the few aspects that are always the same. So mine is organic, warm, it looks friendly, basically. I don’t want any of my designs to seem or give off a vibe of being intimidating.”
Her brand reflects these roots, but it took time to settle on the exact style she wanted to use. To do so, she wrote down 5-10 words that she would use to describe herself and 5-10 words to describe her brand. Using the words that overlapped, she then evaluated what she liked doing vs. what she knew how to do.
“So I had to just write out that list. I know that I’m really passionate about the outdoors and so that feeds into what I design and how it looks,” she says. “And I really love people and community and making people feel a part of things, so helping people either do that better by having a logo for their business or, honestly, how my interaction with the client can even be, I want to incorporate that.”
One word that continues to be a core part of her work and career is teachability. Whether she is getting feedback from clients or creative friends, she doesn’t take it personally. Instead, she uses the opportunity to improve.
“I think that it’s really really important to have that attitude of teachability in anything,” Emma says. “There is so much more growth when you have a posture of teachability vs ‘No, I know exactly what I’m going to do and here’s the cold hard design and nothing can be changed.’”
It’s this value that helps her through difficult times in her freelancing.
“The hardest is definitely just feeling stuck or comparing yourself to other people,” she says. “There will always be a designer that’s way more successful and what they display, it looks like everything comes naturally to them and that’s just not the case.”
In her six years of freelancing, Emma has struggled with days where she wondered if she’d have any creative ideas that day or if she’d reached the limits of her creativity. Thankfully, she’s found a great way to fight those thoughts.
“Something that I’ve learned to combat that is trying something new. It doesn’t even have to be graphic design,” she says. “I got really into rock climbing and that just opens up a whole new side of your brain when you try something new. It just sparks a fresh start in every area if you let it.”
Along with rock climbing, Emma has recently started experimenting with dyeing her own paper. She’s made multiple shades of pink with beet juice and, surprisingly enough, avocado skins harvested from her local Chipotle. You can find the results of these experiments and more of her designs on her Instagram (@emma_bush) and her website (emmabushdesign.com).
Hear more from Emma on this week’s episode, including what keeps her positive and grounded in life, her experience with her first graphic design job, and why she surrounds herself with a community of other creative people.
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