Yazmin Butcher

Visual Editor at Refinery29 Canada, Creative Director, Graphic Designer, Illustrator

6 years experience

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As seen in the ‘failing New York Times,’ Yazmin Butcher is a graphic designer and illustrator living in Toronto. She graduated middle of her class from Ryerson University's Fashion Communications program and still managed to find gainful employment. When she's not staring into her computer for work, you can find her staring into her computer for pleasure. Currently, Yazmin works as Visual Editor @ Refinery29 Canada.

At what point did you learn about design and what drew you to it?

My mom is a fine artist, so art was always a part of my life. I always knew I wanted to be a part of the Arts, and for awhile I thought I was going to be a fashion designer. I went to Ryerson for Fashion Communications, and it was there that I was introduced to graphic design. I had never known that was a profession! I always loved to draw, and to be able to do it digitally seemed otherworldly to me. I was so intrigued.

I ended up taking an internship at a startup production company as a graphic designer under the impression I’d be working with a senior designer who would  teach and mentor me. That was not the case (haha), so I ended up teaching myself everything I know today. I love that I have a recognizable personal style but also that I’m not limited. I can try and try again.

Describe the first office where you worked as a designer.

The first office I worked at was the startup production company I mentioned earlier.  I was there for two years, and it was a pretty toxic environment. I remember going to my parents house for the weekend and just crying. I was depressed and unhappy. I liked the majority of people I worked with, but the owner didn’t respect his employees, paid us WAY below minimum wage, and really just took advantage of how young we all were.

I quit the next week and started freelancing instantly. It was the best decision I ever made. I was terrified. I didn’t have a plan, but I knew that leaving there was the first step I needed to make in order for a change to take place. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew it was going to be better than what had happened.

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

The first thing I do each morning is give thanks for the day! I’m so grateful for everything I have and for everything I’ve gone through—it’s led me to where I am today. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I also write down my dreams! I have intensely vivid and strange dreams—usually three to five in a night!

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What project are you most proud of?

The project I’m most proud of is one I’m currently working on. I’m Creative Director for musician/artist named lemin. who is so incredibly talented. It’s been such a learning process, and I’ve been flexing muscles in areas I never thought I’d use. It’s scary and intense, but every time we complete something, I’m so proud.

What is your personal or professional motto/philosophy?

My personal motto is “I am empowered because I am powerful. I believe in myself and all that I want for myself.”

I say this to myself each morning. It gets me in the right headspace to take on the day, no matter what I’m doing.

What’s the boldest thing you’ve ever done in your professional life?

I quit my job on a work trip. The circumstances didn’t allow for me to wait until we got back as the new job wanted me to start two weeks from the date they sent me the email. It was so stressful. I cried a lot. But then I told my boss and he was really understanding. I was excited for a new chapter. It turned out to be not so great, but I learned so much about myself and what's important to me when it comes to working environments.

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What does success mean to you?

Success means being happy and proud of the work you're producing. Success, for me, has nothing to do with numbers. Some projects I’ve worked on, and that I’ve loved, were pro bono. I care about the work and the people who are involved. When everyone is super-excited and they put their all into it… the project is a success.

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

I would be a TV/Film writer (I’m doing it now!). I have always loved film and television and have always had so many ideas.

When I was younger and living at home, my mom and I used to stand around in the kitchen and spitball movie ideas to each other back-and-forth! I knew I always wanted to write a tv show, but I always felt like I wasn’t a writer, so I couldn’t. I had this idea for a television show, and my mom said to me “I better not die before you make it.” That was enough to make me start right away. I’ve never been happier. There is nothing stopping you but yourself.

What advice would you give to a woman designer just starting in the industry?

Don’t let anyone—yourself included—tell you that you can’t do something. You’ll be surprised at all of the things you can do and how little you can’t. The resources are out there for you to learn most things!

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

Since I’ve been home for the past 100 days, it’s not necessarily something I like to do when I come home: I just love to dance. I’ll put my Spotify on shuffle and will literally make up routines in my living room.

Which of your traits are you most proud of?

I love that I’m a great listener; that I can make people laugh and feel comfortable; that I can laugh at myself! I love that I’m determined and am somewhat of a perfectionist. It comes in handy!

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are to continue to challenge myself, professionally and personally. To finish my script. To find balance. And to just live as truthfully as I can!

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