Rachel Beyer

Designer, Illustrator, Animator

6 years experience

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Rachel Beyer is an Edmonton-based graphic designer, illustrator, animator, and woodworker. She attended MacEwan University and holds a diploma in Design and Illustration. She has a love for working with her hands, and in her spare time, she draws, carves wooden spoons, and experiments with a variety of new media. Rachel works at a boutique studio in the city.

What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day?

It seems like I’m the most productive first thing in the morning, even though I have a hard time waking up. I try to do some physical activity first thing in the morning like strength training and running or biking.

I try to draw every morning if I have time. Starting out my day by making something makes me feel excited about the rest of the day.

What was your educational experience like?

I graduated from MacEwan University’s design program with a major in design and illustration. Overall it was a good experience, and it introduced me to a lot of different things, but it felt like skimming the surface of what graphic design actually involves.

I’ve learned so much more since being out of school. I’m working to keep learning about design and illustration as much as I can, and in the last few years I’ve taught myself a lot about 2D animation (animation seems to be a wormhole of things yet-to-learn). Being surrounded by other people who challenge me, both in and out of school, has been a huge factor in growing, too.

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What does success mean to you?

Continuing to learn and grow, and maybe someday reaching a point where I feel like I actually know what I’m doing.

On the day-to-day, success means doing work that I enjoy, being challenged, and spending time with people who are important to me.

What project are you most proud of?

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work on the creative for the Brian Webb Dance Company’s 40th Anniversary season. We’re normally supplied with photos from the dance company, and we work with them however we can. This time, we wanted to do something special for the anniversary season, so we decided to shoot our own photos instead.

The project had a limited budget, so rather than hiring out a contractor, I spent two days building a set for the shoot. I built an 8 ’x 8’ wall area and a matching 8’ x 8’ floor area painted with black and white stripes. The photo shoot was overseen by a great team, and it was such a pleasure to work on an idea in such an involved way. I had so much control over the final outcome from the initial concept to building the set to art direction and design.

Plus, having a client who wants to push boundaries is always a real treat.

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If you weren’t a designer, what career would you pursue?

Something still design-related, but more craft-based, probably. Moving away from design altogether doesn’t seem likely. I have a real love of working with my hands. For a couple years now, I’ve gotten pretty into carving wooden spoons. I could see myself living in a cabin somewhere in the mountains and building furniture or doing metalsmith work or something like that.

What inspires your work (professional or personal)?

Side projects. I usually have way too many of them on the go—drawing, animating, or projects that involve hand-craft. Being curious to try new things and experimenting with different mediums, styles, projects, and practices bleeds into the work I do professionally. I try to be disciplined enough to work at it every day. When I see myself progress, it encourages me to work at other things.

I’m also really inspired by the people around me. Being surrounded by other people who encourage and push me to improve and to try new things is a big inspiration.

What is your personal or professional motto/philosophy?

It’s not always easy, but I’m trying to learn to enjoy the process. Improving a skill or learning something new can be filled with tedium and frustration, and it takes such a long time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and quit when things don’t happen as quickly as I’d like. Learning to enjoy the time it takes and to appreciate the little things on the way have helped me stay excited about the process and about reaching the end goal.

At what point in your life did you learn about design, and what drew you to it?

Design has been around me all my life without me really realizing it. As a kid, we’d drive to Southern Alberta to visit my Opa. He was an impressionist painter and went to a Bauhaus Art School in Germany after WWII. He would walk us through his studio and show us the pieces he’d made since we saw him last. Sometimes we’d take a piece home. Seeing his work was always a really memorable and special experience.

Both my parents are musicians, so art-making and creativity has been a big part of my life since I was a child (I started playing the violin at three years old and piano not long after). Music was never my thing the way visual art was, though. I preferred sewing, drawing, and carving.

After dealing with some hard things when I was 19, I moved to Paris for a few months to work on my French. Rather than attending my classes, I spent most of my time exploring the city or museums, taking photos, and drawing. When I came back to Canada, I applied to design school at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

I liked that design combined all the parts of making things I already enjoyed, but also served a purpose. It's art that has function.

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What advice would you give to a young woman/non-binary designer?

It can be scary and challenging, but it does get easier. Stick with it. Be curious, ask lots of questions, find a good mentor, and be eager to learn from the people around you—there’s something to take away from almost every situation. Make projects fun for yourself, even the boring ones. Get involved in the design community. Work at it every day. Every day is a drop in the bucket, and soon the bucket is full.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you come home?

I work from home these days, but after finishing my workday (and let's be honest, a lot throughout the day), I cuddle with my two cats. They are insane little monsters, but they make me very happy. One is sitting on my lap as I write this.

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