A Celebration of Color

Graphic & Web Designer

by Elizabeth Lavis


28 Jul 2023

Gold in Branding for Beverages - Coffee 2022
“The little things I collected as a kid were secret windows”

Self-described color lover and taco snob Crystal Oliver of Crystal Oliver Design Studio finds equal joy in her idyllic home studio in Plenty Gorge as she does from nearby Melbourne. “I think being surrounded daily by nature keeps me grounded, and when I visit the bustling city, I get an overload of inspiration from vibrant street art, books, posters, design everywhere, and cultural events. I’ve got the best of both worlds!”

She credits Melbourne’s innovative vibe with keeping her on her toes and excited to learn. “Melbourne has such a cool creative scene with many talented folk interweaving and overlapping their skill sets and lots of collaborations happening,” she says. “I love that. It inspires me always to be learning, have an open skill set, and add to my tool kit with animation, web design, photography, graphic design, or collage. It keeps your ideas fresh.”

Oliver’s sunny, hue-drenched portfolio is a celebration of her design ethos. “I like to create work that makes me happy, which usually involves being super colorful and vibrant,” she says. Still, she notes that functionality and user experience are vital for good design. “I think the most important aspect of the overall design is that it needs to be imaginative, interactive, and user-friendly.”

WAM BAM Coffee Branding

Looking back, Oliver can pinpoint clues from her childhood that hint at her eventual career path. “The little things I collected as a kid were secret windows,” she says. “I was obsessed with business cards. Everywhere I went, I would look for ones that caught my eye. Another thing I used to do as a kid was play with drawing typography. I think it kicked in when I traveled to North, Central, and South America because there was so much cool design along the way everywhere. I was hooked after that!”

Oliver manages her time by scheduling three to four projects at once and prioritizing her work/family life balance. “Know your limits and stick to them,” she says. “Creatives are prone to working much longer hours and saying ‘yes’ too much. It’s important to set boundaries for yourself to have your own time to create.” 

Even while keeping a strict time balance and warding off burnout, Oliver goes all in with the projects she does take on. “I find my mental state can be so immersed in thinking about it that I can gain inspiration from all sorts of places, even going for a walk in nature or visiting the shops. I love playing with organic shapes. I have this technique where I either cut or rip up bits of paper and see what shapes arise from that. I can photograph and bring them into Illustrator to manipulate the image even more. Sometimes that process can be quite unexpected!”

Oliver’s advice for up-and-coming designers fits well with her boundaries and respect for the creative process and her time. “Never work for free,” she says. “It harms the industry greatly because then more businesses undervalue our work.” She also advises that new designers take the time to truly find their voice and invest in their personal style. “Doing this took me a really long time,” she says. “Now that I feel I’ve found it, the work I have created attracts the ‘right’ type of client. That is the ultimate fulfillment.” 

She also advocates for putting yourself out there and doing a lot of networking. “Although scary at first, try to get involved in the industry and meet people. Most jobs and projects are gained through word of mouth, so it’s super important to get out there and get to know anyone and everyone to increase your chances of getting picked.”

When it comes to clients, Oliver believes in transparent communication and understanding client needs from the beginning. “Every single project is different in terms of what the client needs, but I usually follow the same creative process,” she says. “Once we have an initial chat and book the project, I send them a ‘Brand Deep Dive questionnaire.’ It gets to the nitty gritties of their brand story, their why, who their audience is, and what attributes they want their brand to embody.”

This blend of in-depth research, collaboration, and consistent communication allows Oliver to bring in clients as partners. It fosters a healthy, productive environment where innovative design can form and flourish.

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