Membership Spotlight: Kristina Cancelmi

Kristina Cancelmi, a native Floridian, grew up in New Smyrna Beach and currently lives in St. Augustine. She went to Flagler College with the intent of earning a Fine Arts degree, but after taking a few computer classes, discovered a newfound love for the digital.

While drawing and sketching have always been a passion, she found the transition to the computer a great way to explore different design solutions. After graduating from Flagler in December of 2009 Kristina currently freelances with clients in Florida and Georgia, but spends time working on personal projects like posters, logos, illustrations, and self promotional items.

Fun comes in many forms, some of which she calls “ink-therapy”. Sketching and drawing ideas are a great release. Kristina is also an avid surfer and a runner.

Last year, she won two Addy Awards, and was published in CMYK Magazine’s Top 100 Creatives.

“I’m extremely thankful for what I’ve accomplished thus far, but I know it’s only the beginning –” she says, “I’m still very much trying to find my spot somewhere.”

So, you graduated from Flagler last year. Would you describe your transition from student to working life?

It took me a bit to figure out “OK- what do I do now?” (In all honestly, I’m still trying to figure it out). I just want to get as much experience as I can (doing freelance work, pro-bono work too). I’m just trying to work my way up – the more experience the better, and with my freelancing, I get practice everyday, so it keeps my hands/mind fresh and ready.

One of the hurdles I notice on a daily basis is finding time for “me-design”.  Some projects are, for lack of a better term, less-than inspiring (however, these projects are my business, therefore extremely important, and I treat each with an open mind and helpful insight). I always try to counter these projects with self-initiated work, usually sketching or illustrating, so I can get the best of both worlds.

I am very much a worker at heart – I love being busy.  Although freelancing is great experience and is teaching me first-hand designer/client relationships, I still would like to give an agency job a whirl. Collaboration and brainstorming with others is also a passion of mine – again, still trying to find my spot.

You’ve described to me that sketching and storytelling are some of your passions as an artist and designer, how has your ability to be a versatile artist affected your projects thus far?

When starting a project, there’s a certain routine I love – and it starts with a pencil (pens/markers sometimes too). My past of drawing and sketching plays a major role in the developmental stage; it just comes natural when concepting, to sketch it out first, like a mini-game plan of visuals. I love to try different mediums/methods, but I think much of my work shows an illustrative look.

I think being varied with drawing skills plus computer skills helps the end product – it allows for different outcomes and solutions.

It’s been said that designers are finding more innovative ways of getting their names out and getting noticed, what are your thoughts on the subject and how have you gone about getting your name out there?

Knowing what I know now, I wish I ‘d started a lot earlier with getting my name out there! Designers are doing some amazing things with self-promotion and portfolio websites, so I think it’s important to stand out and be original.

At first, I thought, “ Oh- as long as I have a business card, I’m fine,” BUT there are so many different outlets for exposure. I recently completed a self-promotional mailer, that when read one way, it features some of my work, and when read the reverse way, it is a 2011 calendar. Functionality in self-promo is important- if you can use it; they’re less likely to lose it!  Networking also has become more prominent in my design-life; getting to go and participate in AIGA functions has helped me connect with very, very talented designers/artists.

I’m also in the process of building my portfolio website; I hope having an online presence will get my name out there more.

Did you have any other career aspirations before wanting to become a graphic designer, and do they still influence you now?

I guess I always knew that creating was in my future – I used to pause the VCR during Aladdin and try to sketch out the characters and their surroundings.  Animation fascinated me, and still does. I try and dabble in Flash and After Effects, as I know the industry is changing so much, and there are so many different creative outlets with motion.

However, another passion rivaled my art interest for some time. I played the saxophone for about 8-10 years and the thought of being in a jazz band definitely had me going for a while. Music is a huge part of my life, I’d consider myself eclectic when it comes to genres – I love everything. I think it kind of goes hand in hand with my design and art.

I am a fan of many different kinds of art processes and methods, and the jolt I get from designing reminds me of the feeling I got from my saxophone. I guess it’s not the same thing, but I am most definitely influenced by music, and my past as a musician.

In 140 characters or less, If you could tweet just one piece of learned advice for other young professionals in the creative field, what would you choose to share?

Constructive criticism is good, take all you can get. Stand for something; allow your passion to be seen. Have fun; it shows in your work.

Kristina can be contacted at

Or email

—steph, membership co-director

By aigajacksonville
Published February 25, 2011