In the city that never sleeps, inspiration can be found anywhere from graffitied subway walkways to the bold blue and red hues which make the Empire State building glow. For Merril Cledera, a Manhattan-based graphic designer and art director, there is no shortage of art here. She says: “I moved to New York to study at The New School and fell in love with the city. My passion for beauty in design is ignited daily by the architecture, culture, and the art of New York. I currently work in an advertising agency in the city and at the same time do freelance work for clients around the world. I have contributed to award-winning creative campaigns through my work with advertising and creative agencies, as well as NGOs,” says Cledera.
The Art Director knew she was passionate about creation from an early age. According to her, “I was already very creative and started to delve into visual arts, specifically painting. From then on, I started to meddle into the graphic world focusing on digital illustration and design. I studied Arts Management in Manila, but I realized that I wanted to focus on media and design, so I took graduate studies in Media Studies in New York City. From then on, I became a graphic designer and art director – jobs which I always wanted to do and which I enjoy doing every day.” Besides work, the artist finds pleasure in an array of aesthetics such as “Anything that surrounds art and design, really. From galleries, music, films to the visual arts. The design revolves around my lifestyle. Although, I am very passionate about traveling in tropical and ancient countries, learning about their culture and trying all their local foods,” she says.
Tapping into one’s passions is key in maintaining a peaceful balance between work and play. And to do so the Graphic Designer swears by a more holistic approach to keep herself grounded. When it comes to physical influences, “Meditation and yoga are two of the most important things which influence my way of thinking. This helps me to have a calm mind and to be ready on whatever creativity comes out from my head. Besides that, constant travel and being exposed to other cultures are big factors. As earlier mentioned, the things I see during my travels provide me with ideas and inspiration for my work” says Cledera. Perhaps these things are what lends a sense of casual freedom to the artist’s work with a direct example seen in Cledera’s proudest piece to date. “The Dondi Skincare Project taught me a new skill, that is, to not be rigid with my works and to be looser in expressing my creativity. “This project was created in less than a week where my creativity just sparkled out of nowhere. I wanted to try something different – something on-trend but looked different or [was] set apart from other works,” she says.
Calm professionalism is key when dealing with client criticism. For the graphic designer’s response to the notion is that “I listen but remain calm and confident as I look at criticism as feedback. When this happens, I listen and understand the client’s concerns. Afterward, I suggest alternative ways that still support his/her ideas and comply with the design guidelines. I then proceed to make the project better for both parties.” In the instance of convincing a client to trust her better judgment, the designer says, “Besides having a degree in media and design, I have worked in the design and advertising industries as a full-time and freelance employee. Dealing with local and international clients gave me an opportunity to work in and be exposed to different projects and backgrounds – both locally and abroad. This created a unique practice that made me progress as a better graphic designer as well as an art director,” she says.
In conjunction with keeping clients happy, it is crucial to stay informed on the latest design trends in order to give the customer what he or she wants. Cledera explains— “Being a member of numerous prestigious art organizations keeps me abreast with the latest design trends. However, as digital technologies have progressed and more people are finding ways to share their work, Behance and Instagram are good sources for daily inspiration and latest design trends. Although,” the artist adds, “visiting art institutions, museum biennale, and book design fair events keeps me updated for the most part.” From here the rest is simple; Cledera’s creative process consists of, “brainstorming to searching for pegs and seek inspiration from my books and both on and offline. I usually sketch my ideas in a doodle book and then transfer it to a digital platform (in which case Adobe Illustrator). To put thought to paper some tools of the trade entail “Being a good illustrator on paper and having a background in the visual arts. Digital materials or products are easy to learn; however, one must have a good eye in design or artistic talent in order to execute the latter part properly,” she tells us.
To give us an idea of the perks behind the design, the artist explains why the field brings fulfillment in all she does. “As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always wanted to become an artist because art is my passion, and I’ve been doing arts since I was young. My work involves many process–interacting with clients, brainstorming, drafting designs, executing the designs I have in mind, among others. But the thing I always look forward to is the end product because it is the thing that would be seen by the public, and that would hopefully influence them. Cliché as it may sound but to see a person smile because he/she saw my work is enough to make me happy,” says the New York designer. As for Cledera’s final piece of advice, however, there are words of wisdom she always abides by; that is: “There’s always a solution to every problem.”
The artist was a participant at the 2019 Indigo Awards competition in Malaga, Spain, to which the winner exclaims, “The whole experience was incredible, and I got a chance to visit Europe at the same time!” To learn more about the New York based graphic designer follow Merril Cledera on Instagram (@moylc) or visit her website at www.merrilcledera.co