get in touch

** I am unavailable for freelance work until January 2014 **

If you'd like  to get in touch about a freelance project or just to say hi, please send me a message using the form or via twitter at @ivonnekn.

~ Ivonne




If you have a budget in mind, please let me know.
Do you have a timeline for your project or a hard deadline for launch?


Designer and illustrator specializing in brand identity design, web design and UI/UX design, based in Toronto via Milton.


Filtering by Category: Work

Passion, Creativity, Fear and Burnout

Ivonne Karamoy

Burnout happens to the best of us. No matter how many people warn you about it, you still experience it. When I started freelancing, I was quick to hit that burnout. I would have a lot of work and then work and work and work then reach a wall where I was so exhausted and felt the passion drain out of me. Then what would ultimately follow is days spent not wanting to do a thing and trying to calm my mind and cleanse my brain. It's hard to quiet the noise. But somehow I always found my way back. Many creatives say the key is time management and being able to say no. I'm still learning on both fronts. It's been helpful to return to a full-time work schedule because it forces me to get up at the same time every day (going to sleep at the same time and much earlier than I'm used to has been a challenge). But I still work with my freelance clients and love that work too so I don't want to give that up. On top of that I've found a tech and design community here in Toronto that I love to be involved in. So that's on my list too. It's difficult to say no to any one of these so for now I'm not going to. Instead I'm trying to work on my time management.

When I was freelancing it was my time management that screwed me but I would focus on one project at a time. But now, even though my time management is a bit better, it's just the shear volume of ideas and projects and interests. And I feel like I will get burned out soon if I don't check myself. It's almost as if I can feel it chasing me and one day it will get to me. The thing is I try to avoid it and even forced myself to spend a day or even a morning sitting on the couch and watching TV or going out or doing something that isn't at all related to my work. I used to do this easily and I'm sure I still can, but right now, I have so many ideas that I can't sit still. So I take it as my passion calling me and I have to take advantage of it. The difficulty happens when I sit at the computer or with my sketchbook in hand and I'm stuck with fear. Fear that what will come out won't resemble anything that I pictured in my head. Fear that it won't be as good as my contemporaries and I'll come to the realization that I am mediocre at what I do. Fear that I can't find my own voice, my own style and that I'll be nothing more than a joke. Gosh that's unnerving. It's also exhausting.

So here's what I realized: Fear contributes a lot to my exhaustion and even more than that, not putting pencil to paper, as they say, makes me so overwhelmed. I think that will lead me to burn out before I even get started! I'm working on it. I'm starting to file things in my head in 'do now or soon' or 'probably will never do therefore let it go'. Here's to avoiding burn out! *fingers crossed*

Managing Change

Ivonne Karamoy

I once heard someone say, "Do something that makes you uncomfortable". I think that being uncomfortable is one of the keys to growing. Life has a way of letting you settle into your normal, your schedule, your happenings. And then wham! something changes and you're forced to react, adjust and settle in again. Change is the one constant in life. And the more we resist it the more difficult it is to accept. I made a career change or rather an adjustment lately. After freelancing full time I decided to take a permanent full-time position working for a company and while also maintaining a part-time freelancing career. Part of the reasoning was personal and part of it was that I think I was ripe for change in my professional life. After designing and illustrating for a few years and enjoying the work that I was doing I wanted to try my hand at something close but somewhat new. I took a position as a UX designer and front-end developer and am working for an organization designing it's online content management system.

I've realized that designing a product and building and improving on that one idea is quite different from designing for games or web projects. It requires a different mentality and approach. Where I would have project stints for one game or website or design project, now I am working through a release cycle in an agile environment on essentially one product. In some ways it can be exciting to know that as your product grows you grow with it and you make changes for your clients and improve on your initial assumptions. On the other hand you don't have that release where you send your work out into the world and set it free. True, game and website development isn't necessarily finished when you release it and you can improve upon it but there is still that big launch when it's completed. In an agile product development cycle, your work is evolving and growing. You have less time to finalize your decisions and have to make compromises for the sake of business objectives or time restraints. It is quite challenging for someone who is comfortable developing a project and refining it before it's released. In terms of production it is a huge change for me and can be quite challenging on it's own without the design challenges that also comes with it.

I'm uncomfortable and nervous and anxious but also excited, hopeful and determined. I'm working in a way that I haven't worked before. In designing game interfaces and websites, you have to think about UX but the types of users you're designing for are different. Designing a software product or service poses different challenges in UX, UI and graphic design. Your audience is different in many ways. The context in which they use your product is different. Their motives are different. The tone takes a more serious turn. Your product must allow them to perform the tasks they need to without too much hassle and also give them some other functionality that they hadn't realized they could use. Your design aesthetic changes a bit as well. Your designs are sometimes based more on business objectives, time constraints and development challenges. It's an uncomfortable position for a designer to be in and though I welcome the challenge it can be frustrating. I do believe that being able to design within these limitations or restrictions is beneficial to growing as a designer. On a personal note it also allows me to enjoy and appreciate my freelance projects more because I have a certain level of artistic freedom and creativity. You can definitely be a bit more playful and have a sense of humour when you design for games or websites (depending on the website). I have counted myself lucky to have had and to continue to have amazing freelance clients who trust me and believe in my work. My full-time gig has given me insight into what it takes to be part of a development group and face the challenges many designers face: defending and arguing for the sake of design. I've never had to fight for design like this but I think I have been in a unique position until now and this experience will only make me a better designer.

Into the world of UX

Ivonne Karamoy

There is a mind shift that needs to happen for a designer to delve into the world of user experience design. Your aesthetic design sense changes because you're thinking not only of the visual design elements but how they work together. You have to care about the overall look and feel but also of the usability of the application and how users will interact with it. UX design often incites many debates about what it means, it's application, the skill sets people should have if they are to label themselves as such, etc. But the point is that user experience design is important and some people find themselves relegated to that position in addition to being a designer, a front-end developer, an interaction designer, etc. Some of us come from a Human Computer Interaction background, a technical development background, a psychology background, a designer background. All of that I think is great because working in technology these days means being able to adapt, acquire and use different skill sets.

For my role as a UX designer and developer, it means that I have a lot of things to think about... How intuitive is it for people to use the product and to navigate it? What does the visual design of the product say to our users? Does the functional design help to achieve the users goals? How well do the interactive pieces fit together from an architectural point of view? Does the design of the interface support and enhance the user workflow and does the application help to support their needs and goals?

Should all of these things be handled by one person? Probably not. Ideally there would be a team. But in some cases, including mine, you work on all aspects at one point or another. The thing I've learned is to try to separate it. I may be in charge of completing the design from start to finish and perhaps even code it but I try to approach them seperately at first. Tackle the workflow, the design, then usability, then the experience... you may cycle back to the workflow and fine tune it again, then critique the experience and the usability and then redesign. Development might happen after the first pass then you redesign it and make changes to the  implementation.

It's a challenging world to work in but can open a designer and developers mind in new and unexpected ways. It also helps to bridge the gap between design and development as we try to create experiences that are effective, effortless and enjoyable.


Happy New Year, 2012!

Ivonne Karamoy

As we all stumble back to work today I wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! I wish you prosperity, joy, laughter, success and happiness for this year and more. 2011 was a whirlwind of a year for me. There were hardships, difficulties, sadness but also resilience, strength and love. Most of that is personal but from that came a rebirth and a chance to start anew. In 2011 I returned to more full-time work with my notable clients EFS, Alex Shakar and Mauricio Calero Photography. And 2011 marks the year of my first print publication with the illustrations I did for Shakar's Luminarium. I also made a mental note to learn more, keep up with industry news and trends, get in touch with peers and mentors, and delve into the design & dev community in Toronto.

2012 will be more of that and I hope more work and more wonderful clients. As the year begins I already have some small projects for a couple of clients and January will be a busy month for me. January 2012 marks the launch of Mission US - Mission 2 "Flight to Freedom" on January 24th. I'm so excited to be able to finally show you what I've been working on for most of 2011! Be on the lookout for more soon!

Next week I will be speaking at a local high school to kids about design and development and how to leverage your skills to build the career you want. I'm also scheduled to help with Ladies Learning Code in Toronto for their January workshops. LLC is a relatively new initiative to help females learn about technology and programming, something I have recently become passionate about.

On the list this month is also a complete redesign of my website portfolio and this blog. I've decided that I want to consolidate my website and blog so that they are both easily accessible and people can come to one place to find all of my information. I have had this redesign in the back of my mind for the last half of 2011 but haven't had the time to buckle down and get it done. This will be a bit of a challenge as I want to redesign it and my mind changes daily. But I'm kicking myself in the ass to find one direction, focus and get it done. The challenge is always to find one a design direction and stick to it. I can do this with my clients but always find it hard to do when designing for myself. In terms of development I'd like to leverage some HTML5, CSS3 and possibly use a Responsive Web Design approach. I am also moving all of my content to a Wordpress enabled site which means that I will create my own custom theme for it. Now to get to sketching to define the look - I have so many ideas in mind. I just have to remember that this will be my design for now, it can/may change in the future but design for my taste and style now.

I hope to continue work with some of my clients in the new year and also gain a few more. Along the way I'll continue to learn and showcase my work.

Best wishes for a productive and prosperous new year!


How to be a More Efficient Designer

Ivonne Karamoy

As a designer, I know what it's like to start designing and be so focused on getting your design done and tweaking it just right until you've created something that you and your client are happy with. I get into the zone when I design and I'm jumping from layer to layer, resizing elements, adding layer effects, etc. At the end of the day you don't necessarily have time to be as organized as you can be. Your process is your process and it works for you. But last week I was closing up my files and organizing my designs at EFS to allow for the next Art Director to take over. And let me tell you that opening up some of those designs was annoying and I have myself to thank. It was especially annoying because I remember working on some of them and making a mental note of how to make my files and designs more organized. So now I turn my mental notes into actual ones. As I worked on my EFS files while following these tips I felt so much better - more organized and more effective and efficient! Trust me, it's worth the time and saves you the mental battle. Here goes...

Name It!

Name your files, folders and layers. It is one of the most annoying things when you open up a photoshop document and the layers are named "layer 1" or "layer 44". What does that mean?! Even if you've worked on the file yourself doesn't mean you'll remember all those layers. It just saves you the time that you would use to familiarize yourself with the file. If nothing else, group the layers and name the folders that you group these layers into and make it descriptive but short. When naming your files, make it descriptive and short too. And if you have multiple versions of files, make sure you indicate which one is the master one. Now before people comment on this one, I know people are divided on this issue - some think it's a complete waste of time and others greatly appreciate it. I am in the latter group (obviously) and this is one designer's opinion.

Use Smart Objects

Whenever possible, design your elements as vectors or large images and import them into Photoshop as Smart Objects. This will allow you to resize these elements easily and as often as you want without losing quality. This will increase your file size but it's worth it! I've opened up other designer's files to work on them and realized that I can't enlarge their elements as I need to because they've flattened their vector objects.

Hide Your Layer Effects

I wouldn't say you need to do this while you're working on your photoshop files, but it's helpful at the end of the day or when you close out a design. Click that little arrow where you have your layer effects and hide it. It makes looking through your layers and familiarizing yourself with your files so much easier the next day or the next time you refer to them.

Use Layer Comps

This is one of those Photoshop tools that I discovered later than I would have liked. Layer comps are one of the most useful tools in Photoshop. It is especially useful if you're designing for interactivity. If you don't know what it is or have never used it I suggest you get familiar with it. It makes creating mockups of your designs so much easier because it remembers the state of your layers.

Design Bigger

I find designing for a larger resolution than you intend to is always better. Especially if you're doing a lot of your design work in Photoshop on flat layers. If you're working with mainly vector elements then it's not so much of an issue. But working at a larger resolution gives you the flexibility of going bigger. What if your client all of a sudden wants to deliver their project for 1024x768 and not 800x600 as they originally wanted?

Keep Text Layers

Do not rasterize your text layers whenever possible. This gives you the flexibility of changing your text layers as you want. If you're delivering the file over to another designer and font availability is an issue then by all means flatten it. But keep a copy of the original text layer when you can.

Delete Unused Layers

My design files usually have layers that I keep around in case I want to go back to that design, but most of the time when I've moved on from a certain look, I've moved on and never come back. So it's good to clean up your files. This goes for Photoshop files and also your CSS documents. This isn't always feasible on a day-to-day basis but even if you do this at the end of the project when you've finalized your design it's good practice. It can also reduce your final file size.

Invest Time Into Your Workspace

By this I mean your graphic editing software. Take the time to set up your workspace in Photoshop (or your favourite graphic app). This includes adding brushes, styles and effects plug-ins. This will make designing a lot easier because you can use and reuse styles, mix and match them, add your favorite effects, etc.

Know Your Development Environment

As a designer/developer, I consider what it means to have to develop and deliver a design myself. It's good to know who your clients are and who your target audience is. If file size is important then you can reduce your designs to the effects that are needed and make a difference as opposed to "nice-to-have" polish. You should also consider how to create the design programmatically. If it can be reduced to code then that's more efficient than slicing every element into images.

All that being said, I won't pretend to follow these tips 100% of the time. I know there are time constraints, deadlines, whatever. But I also know now that it will make my life (and other designers that have to see my design files) easier if I do.