Dream or destination? Inspiration or income? Satisfaction or stability? To choose one or the other is a struggle for every college student, but how would their world change if all of these things could co-exist?
Picture this: you’re a college freshman unsure of what to do, with your future in one hand and your passion in the other. You pick your future; the medical field like your sister because that seems stable, and still keep your passion in your hand for fun. You gather all the tools you need to display your creations: an Instagram account and, of course, an IPad. While you are beginning to curate your inspired, cozy, aesthetic corner of the internet, you get a DM from John Jin Han, a musician for Isla Vista Worship, asking you to create an album cover. Wait, can you really do this? Can career and creativity go hand-in-hand?
That is the blossoming journey of Emily Fernando, graphic designer, photographer, and University Studies-Architecture fifth-year senior at Texas A&M.
From drawing in art class to snapping photos on her parents’ cell phone, art had always been the beat of her heart. Then, in her latter high school years, graphic design came into the picture as she discovered the community surrounding the occupation.
“I was like ‘oh my gosh, there’s so much community around graphic design!’” Fernando says. “Making a career out of something artistic was really cool to me.”
With the possibility of an artistic career in the windshield, she decided it didn’t make sense to pursue a medical profession and dove into graphic design. Fernando changed her major her sophomore year to University Studies-Architecture with double minors in business and communication after she received several commissions from Jin Han to design album art and the reality set it– she could do what she truly loved and get paid!
“Commission this girl! She’s fast [with her work] and she’s kind!” said Jin Han when reviewing Fernando’s work on Instagram.
Little did she know, she was just getting started. Soon, she would receive job opportunities to design, photograph, and let her creative imagination run wild and free. In the summer of 2021, she was recruited to take over the social media accounts of Carport Coffee, a local coffee shop that has been valuable in her college experience, she says. She also picked up a position at Antioch Community Church in Bryan designing the Sunday slides, posters, handouts, and occasional merch– the perfect outlet for her ultimate inspiration.
“I’ve always wanted to try and combine ministry and creativity because I’m like ‘God made us to be artists,’ so if that’s something that God gave you a passion for then it’s there for a reason,” Fernando says. “For a long time, I didn’t really see God as creative, but the more I grew in my faith, the more that the Lord was like ‘this is my heart, for creativity and dreams.’”
Letting her faith and her art bleed into one another has taught her how creative God really is and how to put visuals to what she’s learning through scripture.
“I remember freshman year, I was reading my bible in the morning and I was just really inspired by the passage I was reading, and then [I started] creating art out of the passages,” Fernando says. “I’ve learned more about how creative He is and there are some ideas where it’s like ‘there’s no way I could’ve come up with this on my own,’ especially if it’s inspired by the bible. I think [faith] has taught me that God cares about art because I guess I didn’t actually believe that before, and then at the same time it’s like ‘he literally created the world.’”
In addition to faith influencing her work, she says there is a lot of inspiration in being grateful for little everyday things, like coffee and good conversation about other people’s passions. To know the heart behind someone’s small business, for example, gives her a better vision for designing her commissioned pieces, she says.
“I think gratitude and inspiration go hand and hand because when you’re able to be grateful for the really small things then you’re able to see the beauty in them,” Fernando says. “So that’s been a big thing in what inspires me, is making sure I’m like ‘how can I be grateful?’ If you’re grateful in the little things, you can find [inspiration] in everything.”
As she reflects on her growth as a graphic designer and photographer, she encourages creators to not compare their journey to anyone else’s, especially on social media, and says her greatest piece of advice for aspiring freelance artists is to treat people kindly.
“I’d say whether it’s a small project or a big project, to treat people equally and to focus on the project, obviously, but don’t treat people like projects, because behind every project is an artist and you wouldn’t want people to treat you like just a service,” Fernando says. “So just make sure that you treat the people you’re working with kindly.”
In the near future, she is looking forward to being more organized as a freelancer and dreams of owning her own design studio.