How one designer found her signature in color

One of two cover stars for our creative business issue, Leta Sobierajski is a Brooklyn-based graphic designer and artist who went against the grain to build her own distinct visual style.
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With her husband Wade Jeffree, Leta Sobierajski runs Wade and Leta studio in Brooklyn, working with businesses on branding, design and creative strategy work. They work with a range of media, from illustration and graphic design to photography and physical installations, but their style of unapologetically bright colors and clashing patterns is instantly recognizable. We sat down with Leta to talk about her creative process, inspiration and how she manages her wellbeing as a business owner.

How did you get started in the worlds of graphic design and photography?

A. ‘My entry point was anime. I was drawing a lot of fan art, and for my 12th birthday, I asked my parents for a copy of Photoshop, so that I could make my drawings look more official. I really felt that doing something design-focused felt right for me. I went to the State University of New York (SUNY), and a class on the theories of color has really stayed with me to this day. I started to understand the way that the brain perceives color and what kinds of emotions we get when we put different colors together. It felt like decoding a new language.’

How did your initial experiences at design school shape your signature style?

A. ‘We’re taught as designers to never have a visual style, and I struggled with that when I graduated. Now, 11 years later, I’ve really embraced having a visual style. When I graduated, I worked at a design and animation studio that had a very distinct style. Working there, and understanding that clients were calling them because of their style, meant that I learned a ton.’

What did building your own personal design practice from scratch look like?

A. ‘When creating a personal body of work, something needs to be sacrificed. It can be time, money or social life. It felt like I was sacrificing all three of those things, but it was important to put in the time. I started sending my portfolio to anybody and everybody, and thankfully I got a few freelance graphic design jobs. I had created self-portraits, and I started photographing fruit that I had spray-painted and drawn patterns on. [The fruit compositions] became a defining point of myself for about a year; they were all over the internet, but that was really validating for me, too. I felt like I was building worlds. I could stay up doing it until 4am.’

Are there any projects that have stood out to you since you started your own practice?

A. ‘In 2018 and 2019, we started focusing on physical, tangible work that exists outside of a photograph. We want to make an impact outside of the internet, so creating an installation, or shooting something with which people can interact, reflects our interests. For example, we created an indoor playground and jungle-gym set for adults.’

What does a typical day look like for you?

A. ‘We’ll typically start the day at home, and then go for a run or get a coffee. We’ll check some emails and walk over to the studio. This week, we’re finishing up a branding project, but also starting on a wall piece that is going to be across 100 stores for a client in Asia. It’s hard to work on the same thing all day, so we’ll also work on some personal stuff. We tend to work a lot, but the evening is devoted to personal time. Sometimes we have to be on emails till 10pm or 11pm, but we’re really happy and excited to be doing all of these things. Work doesn’t always feel like work for us; it’s never arduous and exhausting.’

What does time away from work look like? How do you find rest and wellbeing?

A. ‘When we do take time off, it’s about traveling to monuments and architectural wonders. We usually dedicate one day of the weekend to biking around and seeing a gallery or a new show in New York City. All of those things are therapeutic for us, but also really inspirational.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 43, October/November 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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