by Elizabeth Lavis | 23 Sep 2021
The best advice Maria Bilinska ever heard is “good design is the most minimal design possible,” and this guiding principle enables her to create simple, impactful work that elevates her clients’ brands.
Bilinska grew up near Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains and draws heavily on their cultural legacy of decorative art. “I think the main influence on my aesthetic vision was from the Ukrainian avant-garde movement in 1910-1930,” she said. “It was a new concept not only in painting, sculpture, or graphic art but also illustrations and book cover and poster design.”
Bilinska is a freelance designer and illustrator whose portfolio of work spans multiple industries. She knew that she wanted to work in a creative field from a young age and attended art school at twelve, then honing her graphic design skills in college. For Bilinska, it was imperative to delve into the cultural side of her craft, so she studied abroad at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts in Poland, crediting her choice as the best decision of her life.
In Krakow, Bilinska learned techniques like lithography, aquatint, and mezzotint, adding them to her already substantial skill set. Traveling abroad had another perk. “I’m influenced by everything that surrounds me,” Bilinska said. “People, events, views, landscapes, art, books, music, and movies; and it’s a continual process.”
Bilinska also knows how to smooth over rough patches with her clients. When a customer fires back with harsh criticism, she takes it in stride. “It’s ok,” she said. “I think that criticism makes us better.” To better help her clients understand and trust her creative process and knowledge, Bilinska will sometimes do the “client’s version” to show them that it doesn’t work.
She also finds that incorporating passion projects into her paid work helps her to stay creative under pressure. “I think that from time to time, you should have your own non-commercial art project, where there are no limits or bounds. That helps you to keep creative,” she said.
For Bilinska, every great design hinges on a great idea, and she finds it helpful to visualize all of the work prior to doing anything else. “Every project begins with thinking,” she said. “What is the concept of this project? How can I tell this concept and visualize it? Then I find colors, shapes, and other tools to tell the story. I often use the collage technique to create sketches. It helps to find the best version of your idea.”
In her personal life, Bilinska loves to travel and search for inspiration in new places and countries. She’s also got an adventurous streak. “I like extreme activities; parachute jumping, hiking, rock climbing, and skiing. Also, I’m a huge fan of cinematography,” she said.
Although Bilinska is certainly headed significant places in the future, she prefers to remain slightly coy about what her plans are. “I have a rule,” she said. “I never tell anyone about my plans for the future before they are at least 50 percent done.” Undoubtedly, Bilinska is one to watch.