Meet Andrea Martens, a full-time freelance designer learning to code and building a portfolio, all while moving across Canada and ramping up her business. With no idea how she’s juggling everything, I decided to chat with Andrea about how she got here and what advice she has for newbies learning to code. I even got her to preview her new portfolio and talk about her creative process.
Tell us about yourself.
Very early on in my life I gravitated towards the arts. It started off with music, but I’ve always had a knack for drawing and painting. My high school art teacher steered me in the direction of going to university for visual arts. My painting had this graphic/pop art quality to it, so after graduating the University of Western Ontario, I jumped into studying Graphic Design at Fanshawe College and felt like I was in my element—it really is a good fit for me. Even in college, I never thought of myself as a web-savvy designer.
After my academic career, I’ve worked at two places while doing freelance part-time. One place was an in-house graphic designer position and the other was a small agency environment. These days, I’m a full-time freelance designer. I just transitioned from Southwestern Ontario, Canada to the other side of the country – Nanaimo, British Columbia (on Vancouver Island). Time is of the essence – moments like this are very few and far between, and sometimes that means jumping out of my comfort zone! Right now, I’m ramping up my own business, ALM Design (freelance graphic and web design) and exploring other creative side project ideas to stay fresh.
How did you learn about Skillcrush?
Wanting to learn more about tech skills, I did a Google search and read about Skillcrush. I did the 10-day Bootcamp too, which was an excellent launch pad. What caught my attention was the short, concise daily emails, the personable tone that they are written in, and the interesting content that they bring to my attention.
Why did you decide to learn how to code?
It is becoming more evident than ever that technology is not slowing down, and how relevant code is in our everyday lives. It seems silly not to learn the languages that play such a huge part in our everyday lives to some degree or another.
As a designer, I want to keep learning and evolving, never letting my mind go stale (worst nightmare). Traditionally speaking, visual arts lend to alternate mediums and modes of expression. I am used to that. To me, graphic design is quite similar. The web is another canvas to paint – an alternate way to create – and there is no reason why a designer can only design for print. To be malleable skill-wise, I think, is a very valuable trait. I am always looking for ways to advance myself, and code opens up opportunities for that.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned in class so far?
To have a grander understanding of HTML and CSS is huge! It’s a stepping stone to everything else. The brand package board (page of colour palette, logo, fonts, icons) are really fun to put together. Seeing the overall feel of the project in the planning stages is very exciting.
What do you love most about Skillcrush?
Skillcrush has this way of making you feel a part of something larger, a part of a team. What Skillcrush provides is much needed support, but also structure, which is really what spoke to me most. Working a full time job, I needed to have a structured course to guide me through the learning process, so that I could jump into learning rather than organize on my own what needed to be learned. Skillcrush put all the information inline, and all that I needed to do was to commit to it.
Why do you think we need more women in tech?
I think sometimes women and young girls have the perception that tech isn’t a creative industry and then instantly shy away from it. That was true for me. Tech professions are all about problem solving and that IS creative. Variety of ideas and perspectives is a good thing in this industry. Women can provide that – an alternate sensibility. If we can start showing creative problem solving, and tech methods of thinking earlier on for girls, this could help them open doors of possibility for themselves.
What do you want to learn next?
What’s your favorite app or website?
I am a long-time Apartment Therapy (apartmenttherapy.com) addict. It’s full of authentic ideas and I love getting an inside peak at people’s living spaces from all over the world. It’s very telling of character—fascinating, really. I’m a bit of a sociology buff.
Tell us about how you built your portfolio. What skills did you use? What was the process like? Tell us about any challenges you encountered and how you overcame them.
Prior to starting Skillcrush I had a little, more basic website. I had it for 3.5 years, but it was time to bring it up to date, including more information and a closer look at my portfolio pieces.
Let’s take a look at some of the projects inside Andrea’s portfolio.
Client: The Sewing Studio
The Sewing Studio is a custom sewing and clothing design shop located in downtown London, ON. Owned and operated by Valerie Martens, she wanted her brand to have a timeless, clean look that speaks to both men and women. Naming it a ‘studio’ insinuates the acts of making and creating, rather than a retail business.
- Art Direction
- Logo Design
- Poster Design
Client: Uvalux 2013 Catalog
Fresh out of school, I had the grand task of designing the annual catalogue for Uvalux Tanning & Support in Woodstock, ON. Two separate books in both French and English (4 total) were mailed nationally to tanning salon owners. With no prices in the catalogue, these books would sit on the salon coffee tables, free to be enjoyed by their clients. Function was extremely important as there are over 300 pages of product. Page tabs, table of contents, a flap with a legend of the lotion icons (doubles as a bookmark) and a glossary of ingredients all aid in creating a useful tool for salon owners and fun experience for their clients.
- Art Direction
- Layout Design
For more of Andrea’s work, please visit her portfolio.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Not every person is meant to live life in a straight line – especially one of creative nature.” Some of the stories of the most fascinating and happy people I know, are of those who have endured peaks and valleys in their career and personal life. It’s much better to experiment, challenge the norm and fail, than to compromise your true potential by playing it safe.
What advice do you have for newbies learning to code?
Learning anything new is daunting, especially when it greatly involves your career and livelihood. If you are going to invest in anything, invest in yourself because you are your biggest asset in your life. It’s yourself that opens doors to opportunity and gives rise to new and exciting ideas. To stay motivated in those tough moments, focus on an aspect of code or that you really want to learn and ask yourself why; then, keep that thought in the back of your mind.
Want to build a business (and portfolio) like Andrea’s? Start by signing up for the FREE Skillcrush Bootcamp, and get a perfectly portioned tech tidbit in your inbox each day. You’ll be on your way to coding in no time. If you know you’re ready to dive into code, register for our next round of career blueprints and become a web designer or developer.
Dee is a fun-loving instructor with diverse tech experience across Fortune 500 companies, early-stage start-ups, government agencies & non-profits. Dee works at mobile product design studio Funsize, in Austin Texas where she lives with her husband, 2 border collie mixes, & 2 cats.