Introducing Cherrydeck’s new podcast: Off the Record — Conversations on the Creative Landscape. The place for fresh discussions and raw conversations. On our first episode, we spoke with designer Alex Proba.
The creative industry is so much more than creating cool content. At Cherrydeck, we felt it was time to get a scope of the creative landscape at a different level. We’re happy to introduce you to our new podcast: Off the Record — Conversations on the Creative Landscape. (Available on Spotify and Apple, amongst others)
Off the Record aims to break down the basics by observing trends, harsh realities, unspoken truths, and offer inspiring learnings.
Cherrydeck Co-founder and CEO, Philipp Baumgaertel, sits down with a range of creative people to learn about their stories and path to success. Set up with different seasons (just like Netflix), each guest appears on two episodes — one showcasing their life’s story and the other featuring three questions on the industry.
Are you ready to dive into intriguing conversations about the creative landscape?
Learn about our first guest, graphic designer and artist Alex Proba and the path she took to become her own boss!
I just keep pushing and I don’t take no for an answer.Alex Proba
The Beginning (1:26)
As Alex comes from a family of doctors she initially planned on starting a career in dentistry. However, before attending dental school, she realized that this was not where her interests lied and set out to find a place where she could study graphic design and interior architecture.
Before applying, Alex traveled to her past high school host family in Ohio, where her host mother helped her build her portfolio in only two weeks. However, right before the applications time, Alex got cold feet and began doubting if she should do it.
(Fortunately) her boyfriend at the time, sent her portfolio without her knowing, resulting in Alex getting accepted. During university, she saw to her father’s doubt as a fuel-off, ending up graduating with the best project and venturing out to New York.
Braving the Jump to New York (12:50)
Living in New York, Alex started applying for graphic design jobs. Not having any previous experience in graphic design, Alex’s host sister, Alexa, sent her portfolio to a friend who had founded General Assembly and Alex got a job on their brand team.
After working there for a while, Alex started to feel like she needed a new challenge to face. So she started A Poster A Day, where she would illustrate a poster and share it on Instagram. Initially drawing her very own daily feelings and experiences, Alex ended up opening the project to the public and designing their requests.
Studio Proba (27:17)
Setting out to grow in the next chapter of life, Proba decided to start her own business, Studio Proba. But after just 4 months of going solo, Nike offered her a job. Although she had always wanted to work for Nike, she felt it was the wrong timing and had to turn it down.
However, Nike and Alex’s paths would still cross again. The brand didn’t let go of the offer and Alex eventually accepted, after speaking with her mom about the opportunity. Now her main job was to build the New York design studio — as the creative decisions for the U.S. were made in Portland at the time.
The job opportunity with Nike did not only brought the designer interesting projects and unique collaborations, but it also introduced her to her current boyfriend, Ian, who lived in Portland. However, after a year of juggling a long-distance relationship, Studio Proba, and Nike, Alex made the decision to leave Nike and place her private life and interests first.
Right before Alex left the famous footwear company and decided it was time to focus on Studio Proba, the designer received an email from Dropbox to paint a mural for them. It marked the beginning of a great start and gave Alex the encouragement she needed to fully venture out on her own.
Nowadays, Alex already counts 3 years since she braved the jump and she is (definitely) not looking back.
Establishing a Name for Herself (32:44)
I prefer doing the unexpected over the expected.Alex Proba
After the Dropbox mural, everything kept falling into place. Alex is now busy painting murals in various places around the globe and focuses on her textile and homeware collections.
Some of her pieces have been featured in the New York Times as well as exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt museum. The success of her first rug collection gave Alex the push she needed to venture into new opportunities and inspired her to make use of past artworks from her project A Poster A Day. Stating that she “didn’t want the posters to die in the archive”, she often refurbishes old motifs and drawings in her textiles and rugs.
Steering clear of mass distribution, all textiles are handmade to order, and none of her products are stored in a warehouse. Alex takes pride in calling her production her own, through packaging each order herself and bringing it to the post office. Additional to this, Alex is the person who answers to press and replies to any email she receives — regardless if it is a complaint or potential business inquiry.
Pushing to Make her Dream Come True (37:28)
I’m the person, if I want something, I am always trying to get it. I always wanted to paint a pool, that was my dream job.Alex Proba
Alex’s render of a pool, led an architecture company to contact her and land her dream job of painting a swimming pool. According to the designer, it showed her that if you want something in life the only person that will stop you from achieving it is yourself.
Her go-getter personality is portrayed in the fact that she does not have employees that help her in the day-to-day operations. She has a list of trusted assistants that help her paint murals, that are contacted only when their help is needed.
With the exception of one project due to Covid restrictions, Alex is always on-site on a project. The sketch of the mural is always sketched out by Alex herself.
Determining Who to Paint For (47:48)
Not only painting for commercial companies, Alex has also stated there is a variety of private people asking for murals.
If you would be interested in having a mural painted by Alex, then you will have to reckon with various phases. First, Alex would begin by asking you a variety of questions from the dimensions of the wall to the texture and material the wall is made out of. Based off of the information provided, an estimate would be provided. In this phase, the design day rate would be applied.
Moving on into the next phase, Alex would come to the space you would like to have painted and start working on it. Here, the painting day rate would be applied.
Sharing that her painting schedule is intense when working together with her assistants, you can expect the desired mural to be completed in 1 to 2 weeks — since Alex paints from 8am to 8pm.
I wouldn’t paint for every business, I make the decision on “Does it work with me and my brand? Is this something I support?” Ethically, I wouldn’t paint for everyone.Alex Proba
Before accepting a job, Alex takes into account the ethical connection present between Studio Proba and the company that is requesting her talent. If the designer does not agree with the ethics or mission of a brand, then she will not work for them. The materials which a company uses as well as how commercial they are, are deciding factors in the underlying decision.
Dealing with Copyright Issues (53:31)
After she launched the A Poster A Day project, Alex started noticing that brands were taking her posters from the website and printing them on iPhone cases. Not seeing that there was anything to do, she learned to see past it.
All designers and artists are struggling with the issue of copyright due to their work being published on social media. While social media is a great way for artists to put their work out there and gain more recognition, it is not beneficial in protecting the work of the creative.
While now most of Alex’s work is registered and protected, she says she would never go after a private person. However, if a big company is copying her work 1:1, she admits to get a weird feeling.
Stating she does not let it affect her as much anymore, when she sees that small businesses are copying her work she writes it off with the explanation that they do not have their own source of inspiration.
I’m just trying to ignore it as much as I can until something big happens, and I then have to go after it.Alex Proba
Finding Inspiration (58:02)
When starting a new mural, Alex likes to go about it in a way that does not show that she was inspired by anything. Rather, she looks at the new project as a fresh slate to think of new ideas.
However, as inspiration is not always a source that can be turned on like a light switch, she turns to her grandmother when she needs a source of inspiration. Sharing that her grandmother is the most creative person in the family, besides herself, speaking with her helps a lot.
As a child, Alex’s grandmother would teach her how to cook and garden, as she used to be a florist. In a way, her grandmother’s gardening influences can be reflected in the murals she works on, stating that most of her art is influenced by nature. With this, an additional source of inspiration is simply her every day and being out in nature and taking in the world and its different perspectives.
One artist that Alex always looks to for inspiration, although having a different artistic style, is London-based furniture and space designer, Faye Too Good. The different style of work allows Alex to see things from a different perspective.
Listen to the Full Story
Are you interested in learning how to follow Alex’s path?
Check out the advice she gave when asked our three questions!
#1 What do you think all artists should know?
All artists should know how to listen to themselves and what’s within them. Also, never be scared to put yourself and your art out there, and don’t forget that feedback is a learning curve.
Try to ignore all the negative voices that are around you through social media. And, always embrace and accept failure as long as you learn from it. Don’t fall into a hole where you start doubting yourself and start thinking that others are better than you. Likes, comments, and interactions on social media are great for getting seen but it does not determine your skills and creativity!
#2 What do you think every brand should stop doing right now?
Every brand right now looks the same. Every startup is using the same kind of look and feel, and I think they are doing that because they know what works. As a designer and artist, it would be interesting to see how you create something new and something that people can get inspired by.
As there is a startup for everything at the moment it would be cool if brands would start adding their own unique touch to the market.
#3 If you could spend €1,000 on an art piece, who would it be or where would you buy from?
I think I would invest in something from Faye Too Good. Probably one of her furniture pieces.
Listen to the answers above:
We look forward to seeing you on the next one — stay tuned! 🍒