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Interview: Elena Miska, graphic designer and art director

Interview with graphic designer Elena Miska about her newspaper Zenzine

Sharing work in progress would give a lot of people the heebie jeebies, but not Elena Miska. When Adobe invited the New York-based designer to live stream her creative process, she jumped at the chance - and decided to make a newspaper.

Over three days, Miska put together her polished digital tabloid Zenzine – while fielding a stream questions from viewers online! – with seemingly effortless skill. In reality, it’s her years of experience working with clients from Adidas to the New York City Ballet, and her current role as art director at Milk Makeup, that prepared her for the task.

Here, she tells us about her journey as a designer and what it felt like to make her newspaper in front of an audience (surprisingly, not terrifying!)

Interview with graphic designer Elena Miska

Graphic designer Elena Miska. Photo by Zane Zhou.
Could you tell us about your journey as a designer? How did the Adobe Live project come about?

I’ve had a really great variety of experiences in my design career, but the common thread no matter where I’m working is that I always try to do personal art or design projects on my own time.

Over the past year, I created quite a few collages, doodles, and a bit of painting as a way to just de-stress and be creative in a way that’s different from my day-to-day design work. And because I had no set objective, when I was making these pieces, it was very freeing and quite meditative.

And that brings me to Adobe. When they reached out to me a couple months ago and asked if I’d do a three day Graphic Design live stream on AdobeLive.com, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to design something that would give these pieces a home.

I created my own brief for the session: I would design a zine in real time and would fill it with this art, along with typographic treatments that I’d also create live. The only rules I set for myself were to finish it by the end of the third day, and to make designing the zine as enjoyable and freeing of a process as it was to make the art itself.

Interview with graphic designer Elena Miska about her newspaper Zenzine

Zenzine by Elena Miska. Digital tabloid printed on 90gsm bright paper. Photo by Victor Prieto.
How did it feel to share your design process with a live audience?

Both the design process and being able to interact with the audience was very wonderful and exhilarating. I’d never done anything like it before, and although doing the design work and answering questions at the same time was definitely a test of my multitasking abilities, it made the process so much more fun, and definitely helped shape the zine into what it’s become.

Elena Miska Adobe Live graphic design session

Elena Miska designing Zenzine on Adobe Live
Why did you decide to publish Zenzine as a newspaper?

From the start, I knew that I wanted to create something tactile where all of these pieces could live together, because I’d made the art by hand, and it only seemed fitting. But I also knew that I didn’t want to make something too polished, since that wouldn’t be in keeping with the concept.

Newsprint was, without a doubt, the perfect medium. (I ended up using the whiter, slightly heavier 90gsm stock, since it worked best with the colors and contents of the zine.)

Interview with graphic designer Elena Miska about her newspaper Zenzine

Zenzine by Elena Miska. Digital tabloid printed on 90gsm bright paper. Photo by Victor Prieto.
Do you have a favourite piece of work that's included in Zenzine?

Probably the one I used on the cover! I spent an evening mixing the paint into a bunch of different colors, and then painted big solid sheets of it. A few days later after everything was dry, I cut up the painted paper and collaged with it, and that piece on the cover of Zenzine is the result. I enjoyed the process because I didn’t overthink it, and I love the resulting color combination.

Interview with graphic designer Elena Miska about her newspaper Zenzine

 Zenzine by Elena Miska. Digital tabloid printed on 90gsm bright paper. Photo by Victor Prieto.
What have you read/seen/listened to lately that's inspired you?

I always look forward seeing and reading the weekend’s New York Times Magazine. It obviously makes for incredible reading, but is also filled with fantastic art, illustration work, and typography. (And of course the covers are amazing. I have a large stack of them at home that I keep mainly because I love the covers so much.)

What's next for you this year?

Hopefully more exciting things! I am always trying to create fresh, meaningful, provocative work.

Interview with graphic designer Elena Miska about her newspaper Zenzine

Zenzine by Elena Miska. Digital tabloid printed on 90gsm bright paper. Photo by Victor Prieto.
This is the one we ask everyone: Where is your favourite place to read a newspaper?

At home with a cup of coffee! During the week, I do a lot of my reading digitally, so reading a physical newspaper on the weekend feels very special and luxurious. It’s one of those little rituals that makes the weekend feel like a weekend.

Interview with graphic designer Elena Miska about her newspaper Zenzine

Zenzine by Elena Miska, ready to be mailed. Photo by Victor Prieto.
Wait – one more thing! Can you tell us about how you packaged your newspaper? We love the stickers!

The mailing envelopes were something I found online. I knew I wanted an envelope made out of a raw material, and those were perfect.

And then I got stickers printed at Moo. All the stickers feature artwork I made for Zenzine, or the logo itself, so when I place them on the outside of envelopes before mailing them, they're like a little peak into what's inside.

Catch up on Elena Miska' Abobe Live session and watch her make Zenzine:

Even if you're not a professional designer, making your own newspaper is easy. Try it!

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