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A designer, art director and artist, New York-based Elena Miska’s work ranges from creating brand identities, print and digital design to conceptual collages and photo art direction. Having worked with a breadth of clients, from Adidas and Adobe to Milk Makeup and Warner Brothers, Miska’s diverse practice is unendingly versatile yet remains recognisable. Something Curated met with Miska to learn more about her work, Zenzine, her favourite New York spots, and more.

Photo: Victor Prieto

Something Curated: How did you get into this field?

Elena Miska: I’ve always done a little bit of art. My parents are both very creative and there was never a shortage of art supplies growing up, which I’m incredibly grateful for. I ended up choosing to study graphic design instead of fine art because I tend to do my best work with restrictions, so graphic design seemed appealing.

SC: What prompted you to make Zenzine?

EM: When I want to de-stress or have bursts of creative energy, I tend to create collages, drawings, or doodles that are purely for my own enjoyment. Last year, I ended up creating quite a few of these pieces, but hadn’t intended to do anything with them. Then, when the opportunity arose to design something in real time over the course of a three-day live stream with Adobe, it seemed like the perfect occasion to do something with them; to design a printed piece where they could live. My choice to make something tangible instead of digital just stemmed from it feeling more appropriate for these tactile pieces, and I liked the idea of printing on such an unsacred material like newsprint.

SC: Where do you source visual inspiration for your projects?

EM: The Internet has a lot in terms of resources and inspiration, but it doesn’t have everything. I like to unglue myself from the computer and look through books – old and new – to find something that might be relevant to the project I’m working on. I think it’s great to be able to find graphic design inspiration from things that are creative but not necessarily graphic design-related, like art, architecture, interior design, fashion, furniture, film, and so on. 

SC: You work across a range of mediums. Is there an area of your work that you particularly enjoy, more so than the others?

EM: I feel most satisfied when I can work on projects that let me do a combination of the things that I love, like graphic design coupled with art direction, or graphic design with art. And of course I find it exciting to work on projects or with brands who have similar interests or care about the same causes as I do. 

Photo: Tom Sears

SC: How do you think social media has changed the practice of design?

EM: It’s definitely much easier now for designers, or anyone in any field, for that matter, to get their work out there and have it seen. It’s also an easy way to surround yourself with a constant flow of inspiration in the form of other peoples’ work. That being said, there’s definitely a down-side to it. If social media has changed design in any way, I think it’s made it so easy for people to “get inspired” that they look no further than their phones, and in turn, the work they put out ends up being a regurgitation of something they saw on social media. It’s so easy to get sucked into the vortex of having inspiration literally at our fingertips that it means a lot of work starts to look the same. Social media is a great place to share work, but it can also cripple imagination and innovation.

SC: You have an impressive list of clients. Is there a piece of work or an achievement to date that you’re particularly proud of?

EM: Thank you. At the end of last year my best friend and fellow designer Victoria Herrera and I both separately made a resolution that we would land a great freelance client early on in the new year who would let us do meaningful, provocative work, and on January 1st we signed a contract with a new client who was seeking just that! I’d say it was a pretty good way to start the year. 

SC: What is your work outfit of choice?

EM: I try not to think about it too much, because I’m not a morning person. That being said though, I also think it’s important to look put-together whether it’s for the job, the client, or just for yourself. Any given outfit is usually a mix of a couple simple staples, something vintage, and something thrifted.

SC: Name three creatives whose work you find inspiring.

EM: Koloman Moser is a huge inspiration. I’ve always been so impressed by not just his work, but also by the fact that his designs span across so many creative disciplines: furniture, architecture, jewelry, textiles, and graphic design. In terms of current creatives, I’m a huge fan of Gail Bichler and her team at The New York Times Magazine. Every issue is incredibly innovative. And Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag of M/M (Paris). I’ve always been drawn to their artistic approach to projects, and how they manage to find that beautiful, exhilarating balance between sleek and raw. 

Photo: Tom Sears

SC: What are three of your favourite designed spaces in NYC?

EM: The Guggenheim, The New York Public Library, and Central Park. I also love Grand Central – I don’t have the need to go through there very often, but every time I do, I enjoy picturing the scene from North By Northwest where Cary Grant is running through there trying to escape the police.

SC: What are you currently reading?

EM: I’ve been on a Bill Bryson kick lately. I recently read At Home, and I’m almost finished with The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way. I love his writing because he infuses his incredible wit into something that would otherwise be heavily informational. He’s actually the writer that really turned me on to non-fiction; he can make anything under the sun interesting.

SC: What are your favourite restaurants in New York?

EM: The Finch is wonderful for a celebratory dinner, and Kings County Imperial for delicious modern Chinese food. And anywhere that has great burritos!


Interview by Niamh Leonard-Bedwell | Feature image by Tom Sears

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