The Merry Bird Always Sings the Sweetest – Alex Laybourne Interviews Kristine Sheehan

In the modern publishing world, freelance artists, and small independent companies are in high demand. My guest today is one such artist. A lady who is raising a family and working hard to carve a name for herself within the world of digital art. If you are in need of a company logo, book cover, or any other form of digital design, this lady can provide it for you, and with a level of professionalism that is often missed even in high-profile companies, in this day and age.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce you all to Ms. Kristine Sheehan


I always like to start the ball rolling with a nice gentle introduction, so please, introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about Kristine Sheehan?

I am a new yogi delving into the art of yoga to develop my spiritual side. I like to read Tarot cards, drink wine (fine or not), workout, hike, bike, cook , read a good book and keep my family happy!

How did you get started in Graphic Design?

I’ve always had natural ability to draw and paint “life things” but I think Graphic Design was THE challenge to the artist in me, (not to mention it was a payable outlet for an artist that didn’t want to starve!) I embraced graphics while in college, at first with artist tape and collage, but then was introduced to computer graphics – from that point on I understood the future of art was going to change and I went with it.

You run your own graphic design company, is it fair to say that art always played a role in your life?

I’ve been working with graphics for over 20 years but art has always played a role in my life. I come from a family of artists that created out of stained glass, pottery, fabric and jewelry.  My BA is in Art history and my first job as a graphic designer was with a publisher where I designed basic book covers by hand.

You are a mother the mother of two children. That must make it hectic to try to find time to work on your art?

I have been freelancing online since my son was three. Once I had my second Child it got a bit hectic and I had to take on less freelance work. 2012 is actually the first year I could take on a more vigorous freelance attitude – both my kids are in school full-time – which means more time to search for work and socialize with those that are in the market for design services.

You mentioned to me during our previous chats that you get bored when things are too quiet. Would you say that you are a bit of a troublemaker by nature?

Oh most definitely a trouble maker… a quiet trouble maker…shopaholic in need of SA therapy (Shopaholic Anonymous) ha ha!

At the start of the interview you told us about Kristine Sheehan, but what about your company. What sort of work do you do?

TheMerryBird Designs started  out offering  hand drawn stationery design for note cards, wedding stationery and business logo design but business design evolved to Logo, Book Cover and Ad design.

Do you only work on commission or do you create for yourself also; painting and sketching?

I work by contract only, at this point. I used to have time to paint and draw for myself but in recent years, time is scarce. I use all my extra time to freelance and be with my family. I do see myself later, while in retirement, having fun painting.

When it comes to your artistic process, do you have a specific formula you follow, do you sketch things out in your head, or on paper first?

I definitely don’t have a specific formula, but I do have a “process”. Depends on what the design task is, but I usually doodle, and think on it, sleep on it, mull it around in my mind first. I almost plan the entire pc out before I go to the computer to work it into an applicable/ useable design.

I cannot plan, I just like to create and see where the wind takes me, but when working for someone else, to their specifications, how hard is it to keep yourself from straying from the path?

As a young adult I would get irritated about not having the “freedom” to express what I think is right for the design work, but today, design work that involves specifications are ok too. I find this to be the case with book covers. The authors have a vision and I am hired to capture “their vision” and bring it to fruition. When I worked for a publisher, all I had to work with were specs. It keeps the world moving, and I can’t let my artistic ego trump a need, or break the rules all the time. In other words, I don’t stray from the path of the task involved unless asked to.

Have you ever had a client that wanted something, and refused to negotiate on it, even though it was clearly the wrong idea?

Yes, and it is a challenge in itself not to sound like a pompous know it all, but in the end the client has to be happy with what I create. That is why I have a design brief in place before the actual design work begins. A design brief is a tell all – it tells me if I am the right designer for a client, it lets me know if we can work together or not.  It’s usually obvious from the get go.

If anybody was interested in approaching you for work, how would they be best to approach you?

Interested clients can find me at , email TheMerryBird@gmail or call 203-551-1155

What are your rates on average for a piece of art? A book cover for example.

A book cover for PRINT production ranges from $500 and up – A book cover for E-PUB is flat $250. Work only begins with a signed echosign contract and deposit.

Do you have a preferred style? Light or Dark, contrasts, etc.?

I have been told I have my own style, one that can be distinguished but I just take each pc and do my best to create a balanced, intriguing, memorable design.

Has the boom in self-publishing and independent writers seen an increase in the demand for graphic designers such as yourself?

The publishing industry has changed significantly over the past 15 years or more. The demand for graphic designers is there but in the case of book cover design, it is fulfilled by in-house (publisher) designers. I do feel like freelancers have been slighted due to the “package” deals via publishers. Authors don’t have much say in the outcome of the cover art when working with in -house artists, but they have some control when working with a hired freelancer. I believe if an author is passionate enough they will want their vision to shine and will go the extra mile to take on a freelancer.

With these times of economic hardship, do you see that people are less inclined to approach designers, favoring the DIY approach, or is in actually working in your favor that they are looking for small businesses because the mainstream artists are too expensive?

Both are true.  The DIY approach is done by novice authors and businesses.  The outcome usually has to be corrected in a year or two when the brand fails or the book goes un-noticed visually.  And yes, who isn’t looking for a less expensive way to make a statement. Small businesses like mine are sought out just because of the pricing.

If you could take any one book cover, or company logo, and design if from scratch, which would you choose and how would you change it?

Hmmm, good question.  I need to think about it to pick a specific one.  I do find most companies are simplifying their logo’s to accommodate online, mobile and easy remember me tactics. For example, JCpenny logo changed to a square with letters jcp in the left upper corner… this isn’t a thrilling logo but it is an easy one to remember, an easy access logo which makes it successful. I find Macy’s Star is common but again effective for visual recognition, you know every time you see a star you will think Macy’s . The Pepsi logo has been transformed in recent years and I like the new wave, color and circle.

One logo I wouldn’t mind changing is the Toyota logo. toyotaI know it’s not a Lexus or Mercedes, but this logo makes me think of a Bull not a “relationship between customer and car” as it stated in its 1989 arrival on the scene. I would rather work with the TOYOTA letters, and create a typographic logo instead of symbol. The symbol is too similar to other car brands and I wonder how many cars rely on just letters?

Thank you very much for joining me today Kristine, it was a pleasure talking to you.

If you are interested in contacting Kristine, you can find ger online at Facebook, Twitter or via her Website. Alternatively, you can call the number Kristine supplied in t he interview.

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