DMP008: Travelling Graphic Designer Karen Mareš

karen maresThis is my 8th podcast and interview with an independent graphic designer. In this episode I talk to Karen Mareš, née Karen McDade, about travelling, Photoshop, design, clients, websites and life!

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Have laptop, iMac, Cintiq; will design

It’s probably misleading to describe Karen as a “travelling graphic designer”. But, as you’ll see from the interview, Karen has lived and worked in 4 different places in the last 7 years – Johannesburg and Durban in South Africa, Ireland and Gibraltar. And during this time she has successfully set up office, found clients and run her graphic design business for her existing clients without any interruption.

(More about running a design business whilst travelling here.)

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One of the familiar characteristics of the successful graphic designers I’ve been speaking to recently is that they all provide an exceptional product for their clients, which ensures repeat business. You can only go so far with marketing and web presence. Karen has consistently relied on the quality of her work to get more work. She does great work for one client who recommends her to the next client, and so on.

Working while travelling

She’s “taken” her original clients with her everywhere she’s been. She was working for her Jo’burg clients in Durban; took her Durban clients to Dublin; and now she’s in Gibraltar she’s working for clients in South Africa, Ireland, Britain and the US!

She picks up work wherever she is but picking up work from the host country hasn’t always been as easy. Karen described Ireland as a “tough nut to crack” in terms of getting work, until she realised that you have to get out and meet people (usually in the pub) in order to secure contracts.

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Getting clients

The work comes from recommendations, meeting people face-to-face, 3rd party design sites/social media and the website – Karen has her portfolio at and her blog at

Karen has been very active on “social” design sites like Dribbble, DeviantArt, Behance, etc., which gets her name out there and secures her reputation within the community.

She has also had her work used in Advanced Photoshop magazine on three separate occasions. She found being published in a high-profile industry magazine extremely validating and all this exposure leads to getting more and more work.

Niyo advanced photoshop

You can do it!

It’s clear from the interview that Karen finds herself in a blessed position. She is running a design business, working from home doing something that she loves to do.

Of course it helps to have a talent like Karen’s but she’d never received any formal training. She just sat down in front of Photoshop after she’d left college. What happened after that was a mixture of hard work, persistence, talent but, above all, a passion about what she does.

If you are passionate about your digital creations you could do a lot worse than to listen to the interview and get inspired! I was. :)

Did this help you? If so, please share!

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  1. says

    Another great interview Rob! What a nice lady with some amazing work, The last piece of advice is one we should all take on board! :)

  2. says

    It was so nice chatting to you – long overdue I say! I’m looking forward to your upcoming podcasts. It’s always interesting to hear how other people work…