Guest Writer, Angela Bayout
Erik Marinovich spoke to a packed house about vulnerability, sacrifice, and dedication at WeMake's June sketchXchange. It was hot, but the hand-letterer blushed over a “Marry, Fuck, Kill?” - inspired design game called "Collaborate, Collect, Curse" thought up by friend and moderator Nishat Akhtar. Though it’s hard to believe, he claims he still doesn’t know what he’s doing. That’s humble as fuck.
As guests arrived, they were drawn straight to the floor-to-ceiling installation of sketches. Erik curated a show of process and progress from hundreds of drafts going back years. As the curious milled about, Instagramming and pointing out favorites, the delicate sheets fluttered like leaves on a sapling. Though they lead to a finished project or are waiting to flourish, Erik’s sketches stand on their own.
Erik is accomplished, no doubt. The freelance San Francisco hand-letterer definitely had a crew of Portland fans and followers in the house. But, he’s immediately disarming. When he first started in design, fresh from community college and the University of California San Luis Obispo, he says he was a “terrible” designer. Eventually, with an ache to design based on his passions rather than a paycheck, he took the leap into freelance in 2009.
Today, his portfolio includes pieces inspired by Frank Ocean tracks, a mural on the wall of a low-key sushi joint he did for a little fee, and the menu for the coolest coffee shop in SF’s Mission neighborhood. But how did he get this far?
"Never question the time it takes to foster and feed your curiosity," Erik stated. He needs time to fuel, flourish, and foster his vision. He quit his full-time graphic design job for a lower paying part-time gig just to pay the rent as he spent spare time practicing—and geeking out over the lost art of hand-lettering. He was constantly grateful for the support of his wife and circle of friends, which included Nishat.
Without shame, Erik admitted how he made connections in the design communities. “Make friends with people who are better than you at what you do,” he suggested, relating stories of following, on foot and in the shadows, his inspirations and mentors. Everyone is shy to some degree, he reminded the crowd in his totally unpretentious tone.
And if you ever feel nervous about the uncertainty of freelancing, you're 100% not alone. Even for Erik, sometimes "the phone doesn't ring." He certainly gets a creative block. And, like all of us, sometimes life gets in the way.
But, as a dad in the pricey city of San Francisco, rather than pushing a culture of Pinterest guilt and perfection, he’s forgiving. Of currently unfinished projects like the Frank Ocean series, he reminded us that “it’s okay to stop and pause.”
How does he get his work to stand out? He stays on top of trends and forecasts, but, to pull words of wisdom from his Croatian father, “Don’t feed the pigeons; they'll shit on your doorstep.”
Erik thrives on community. He supports other designers and honors those who came before him. He thrives on designing to rally a community, as evidenced by his popular “Hate Has No Home Here” poster. And he asks himself, “What does 60-year-old-me want?”
After Q and A, the more than 70 guests gravitated back to Erik’s installation of sketches, got selfies with the gracious dude, and, surely, asked themselves what their 60-year-old-selves want.