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Meet Monika. Monika Brenner is Founder and Creative Director at Monika Brenner Designs, an Okanagan-based creative agency focused on brand strategy and interactive design. When Monika isn’t making magic for her clients, you’ll find her grabbing a quick 6 (ounce) of BC wine, chilling with her cat Prada, or video chatting with her fans on Instagram (@designermon).
We recently caught up with Monika to learn more about her design career and her experience working for Disney.
What inspired you to pursue a career in design?
“I was always a big yearbook nerd and I actually jumped into yearbook a year earlier than was normally allowed (Editor’s Note: what a rule breaker!). Once I was in, I became the layout queen. After I graduated, my Dad was like “Okay, you can work at the Wrap Zone or you can go to school” and I was like, “Well I guess I’ll go to school then!”. My Dad was actually the one that suggested I study graphic design, so I really have him to thank for my experience at the Art Institute of Vancouver and my career as a designer.
How did you get your foot in the door at Disney’s Club Penguin?
“I moved back to Vernon after I finished my design program at the Art Institute of Vancouver. I was out for lunch with my Mom one day and we bumped into a family friend. She suggested I apply for this new company in Kelowna and explained that it was some Disney thing. Pretty sure she called it Penguin Treehouse or something like that!
As soon as my Mom heard Disney, she was hooked. She literally bugged me about my application every day. I can still hear her saying, “You need to apply! You need to apply! You are Disney! You NEED to apply”.
It’s funny because when I was in high school, I played a game called Neopets all the time. To be honest, I was a bit of a Neopet fanatic. At Club Penguin I was part of an all-star team responsible for building another kind of virtual world so all that time I spent on Neopets really paid off.
What have you been up to since you left Disney?
After I left Disney, I worked for a startup called Minga. It was while I was working with them. I started taking on a couple of design contracts on the side. The contracts just started to pile up so I decided I had to make the switch to full time freelance.
I never thought that this is where my career would go, it just kind of happened. Now that I’ve done it, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve never loved doing something more in my entire life. Being able to work with so many different people on so many different projects is just so exciting for me.”
What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
“Well, to start, I would highly recommend the Art Institute of Vancouver! They have a really great program; I loved it. But what I found to be the most beneficial thing for me, design-wise, was working alongside experienced designers. Once I graduated, my first six months of working at Disney taught me so much! I attribute a lot of my design knowledge to my community of designers! We do design nights all the time and just having that collaboration is so powerful.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re looking to get connected with the graphic design community follow the Ladies, Wine, and Design nights.]
What is one word that describes you and why?
“One word that describes me?…hmmm…Sassy AF?! Oh wait, that’s three words isn’t it?! Seriously though, I am really loud and proud. I would like to be known as eccentric, but I don’t know if I am there yet but it’s in my goals. I think that comes with cooler glasses, bigger jewelry…and brighter pants!”
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“The best piece of advice I ever received was in a feedback session. A little backstory, when I was fresh out of school, I was quite high on my high horse and wasn’t very good at taking feedback. When I would receive feedback, I would get upset, like visibly upset, and I would make it all about me.
One day a mentor of mine pulled me aside and he said: “We are not giving you feedback because we think that you did a bad job, we are giving you feedback because this is an opportunity to do better and to evolve. Remember, this is a collaborative process.” Bottom line: You can’t take feedback personally, you have to look at it as an opportunity for growth!”
Are there any fellow designers you take inspiration from?
“Jessica Walsh from Sagmeister and Walsh inspires me. Seriously, her stuff is really vibrant and really loud. Sagmeister and Walsh is a design studio in New York. They’re pretty cool!”
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
“No, definitely not. Being an entrepreneur is hard and super challenging but I am in it now, and I am never going to go back. Four years ago, when I was at Disney it wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind. I just started filling up with so much work that it just happened and I love it now.”