Polish graphic designer Natalia Pawlak initially thought she’d become an illustrator, having drawn avidly throughout her childhood. “I drew mostly Disney characters and fantastical creatures. I loved book illustrations and wanted to make my own books,” says Pawlak. “I went to university with a desire to become an illustrator, but during my studies I fell in love with graphic design and found out that book illustration was just not my thing at all.”
Pawlak studied at the Fine Arts University in Poznań, Poland. “The best thing was meeting amazing people, learning from them and with them, sharing graphic design ups and downs,” reflects Pawlak. “Especially if you’re an extrovert like me, it’s really important to have people on your path to learn with.”
Since fully switching to design, Pawlak has spent time refining her style which she describes as “a bit retro, sometimes mystical, with a sprinkle of funkiness”. The designer favours bright colour palettes, mixed typography and hand-drawn components, which help sets her work apart.
Taking inspiration from music, old cartoons, books, rave party posters and engravings, the designer has a few identity projects, zines and event posters under her belt. She has also created speculative projects to bolster her portfolio, for instance the Forbidden Fruit Club – a fictional clothing brand which Pawlak has created a comprehensive identity for, as well as a series of T-shirts and an illustrated zine.
More recently, she’s been working on the branding for a new cocktail bar in her city and designing several murals as part of it. It’s these types of projects that Pawlak enjoys most, where she adds illustrated elements to her design work such as cute characters and hand-drawn motifs. “I’m the happiest when I can combine the two – being a designer with being an illustrator,” says Pawlak. “Making graphic design and adding illustration work to complete the look is pure magic for me. My love for graphic design is mainly caused by the endless possibilities and combinations you can achieve.”
Pawlak has a methodical process for when she starts a new project. “First, I take some time to do some research and I make a moodboard. Then, depending on what I need to do, I write down the things I want to use and I’m aiming for and make some sketches,” explains the designer. “Experimenting plays a big role in my creative process, I like to just turn off and play with typography and composition.” The designer uses the typical programs Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, but she’s also keen to offset that with more analogue elements, by scanning in and making her own textures manually.
Working freelance has allowed Pawlak the freedom to work to her own schedule. “The best thing about being freelance is not having to wake up early if you don’t want to (and I never want to),” she says. The main challenge with this flexibility for the designer however is good time management, and “starting work early enough so you don’t end up realising that it’s 4pm and you haven’t started yet”.
Regardless though, freelancing allows Pawlak to choose the projects that resonate with her own style and fit her personality. The result is a portfolio of work from the young designer that feels exciting, colourful and confident.