As a designer, it’s very important to have a source of inspiration. For Croatian character designer Jelena Stupar, this inspiration comes in the form of years of practice, a devoted husband, the memory of her son and some super groovy music to get her in the designing mood.

We chatted with her about her history as a designer and the life she leads today as a 99designer.

Name: Jelena Stupar
Location: Croatia
99designs handle: 3AM3I
Contests won: 44

How did you get started with design?

I started to discover my interest in design in high school, and continued into college. In college and then after it as well, I worked on my skills.

I graduated from the School of Applied Arts & Design in Croatia-Zagreb, and then after I decided to finish my education at the Academy of Fine Arts & Design, also here at my home town of Zagreb. So you can see, I started with the arts education and practice quite early.


What led you to start using 99designs?

When I finished with the Academy, I started to work in a few different studios because I thought it was my ‘calling’. After I didn’t find satisfaction in any of those places, my husband started to look through the web to find interesting alternatives for us — a place where we could get as creative as we wanted. He found 99designs and that was the start with it.

At first, as with every beginning, it was hard to get into the contests. But, as the time passed my wish to succeed on the site design didn’t change, and it helped me to see the other designers doing so well. Once I started being active almost every day on 99designs, the clients found me — and they found my contest skills to be perfect.

dad & mum  NEW CLOTHES

Jelena’s work from 2011, compared to her most recent win

Have you seen yourself improve your design skills through the use of 99designs?

I improve my skills every time I enter a new project, by giving my best on anything I create. I took advice from the 99designs blog, where I saw a sentence that I go by: don’t submit something if you are not completely satisfied with it yourself.

How did you accomplish this improvement and what tips would you give to other designers to improve their quality of work?

I draw everyday, since I LOVE what I do. That is one of the most important things. And of course, without practice, quality isn’t possible. Spending time on what you love the most helps you do your best at it.


Are you a freelancer or do you have a full-time job?

I work as a freelance artist, but am on my way to opening a design studio. So for now, 99designs as well as other clients is my full-time job.

What are your goals for your design skills and career? Does they have to do with this design studio you mention?

I plan to create my own firm. I am not crazy on becoming popular and big, I just want to keep living with my hobby as my job 🙂

For now, I am uploading designs as fast as I can draw. But a skilled hand has no problem working a bit faster! And, of course, my husband is a great helping hand.


Do you have a particular style? What is your inspiration for that style?

As you can see, I find the characters most interesting and fun to do, although I’m not limited to them alone. I do get inspiration from my baby son, who passed away. He brought all those cute faces to all of my characters and helps me a lot to be inspired.

What is your process and where do you like to work?

To start the process, my husband searches for the right kinds of contests for us and there the game starts. First I draw the character on paper and scan it into my computer, then finish with the color and other touches on Illustrator.

I love to work around people. I had a few opportunities to work in different design studios and I loved it! But now I work at my home with my husband, who helps me with any project. I love to work in my little corner, which is full of my sketches and the things that I love. That really helps with my creativity.


Do you listen to music while you work?

I grew up listening to all kinds of different music, from P.J Harvey to modern DJs. Since at one point I got the opportunity to go to music school for guitar, I have a huge appreciation for all music.

The music that I listen to gives me wings to draw more and to enjoy it more. When I am working, I play the music to suit my mood at that time and I just flow with it.

Can you make us a short playlist of songs you listen to while designing?

Sure, here are a few songs that I play every day. They give me a rhythm for drawing: