Interview: Lindsey Made This

Lindsey is a Minnesota-based creator with a magnetic personality and an infectiously feel-good illustration style to match.

David, the founder and creative director of Dschwen, first met Lindsey when they attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design together. We’ve all been inspired to see how she’s evolved her work over the years, and we were eager to hear more about what she’s up to.

You have a massive range of work. In the past year or so, what are the mediums that you’ve dipped into?

I’ve been hopping out of the computer and painting on all sorts of things. Windows, Timberlands, denim, skateboards, and canvas.

Illustrator, designer, artist, creative human… How do you describe yourself?

I think I’ll go with: a creative, who at the moment, is hyperfocused on illustrating her little heart out.

Could you give a bit of high-level background on your professional trajectory from college to present?

I graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2004 with a graphic design major. After a few small shop stops, I accidentally dosey-doe’d my way into advertising. I was able to design and play the role of an art director. My last full-time title was Associate Design Director, which is cool to tell your parents. Ultimately, I learned that I want to be the one making the things. More specifically, I want to be illustrating the things that in the past we would’ve hired someone else for. I recently signed with an illustration rep, Closer&Closer, in hopes of getting the type of work that is best suited for me and my style.

How did you know it was time to go off on your own and do your own thing creatively? Any advice for someone considering making the jump?

If I’m being totally honest, it’s because I was going on too many ‘calm yourself down or you’re going to blow up’ breaks at work. Things became too complicated and layered, and I personally believe that with creative, and a lot of things in life, it really doesn’t need to be that hard. I was tired of killing myself night and day for an agenda that didn’t align with my own. So, I popped smoke. I immediately developed a stress rash, which is to say that it’s not as effortless as it may sound. But, I continued to work my tail off, only this time for myself, and it was all ok. My biggest piece of advice is to try to be easy to work with. The connections I made along the way really helped me on the other side.

What’s your typical illustration process, from concept to completion?

I like to start every project the same way: feel so overcome with potential and perfectionism that I freeze up, panic, stress eat a bunch of candy, and consider finding a job as a professional shopper. Eventually I face the reality that professional shopper isn’t a thing, and I get past it. It’s helpful to set up a good mood board on the front end, and to start by sketching like crazy and not being too precious, which is easier said than done. I bop back and forth between computer and paper throughout the process.


Have you always been a doodler? What role does impromptu pencil-to-paper play in your creative process?

I have! My favorite projects in school were of the poster board variety. As for impromptu sketching, it plays a great role in my process. I always keep a stack of 8.5x11s on my person, and when I’m stuck on the computer, I start to sketch. The computer usually helps me map out what I’m about to do by hand, and vice versa. I wish I could have a really cool, enviable sketchbook instead of a sloppy stack, but I’ve accepted that I’ll never be that girl.

How would you describe your aesthetic? How has your style developed and evolved? Notable influences?

I’ve used words like “sticker vomit” and “doodle explosion” to describe my work before, and that feels accurate. I try to always keep things fun and light-hearted, because those are my values. And I’m often inspired by other illustrators and brands that share those same characteristics. I’d say that my style has evolved in the sense that it’s now my own. As a designer/AD you need to do what’s best for the client’s aesthetic. But as an illustrator, you’re hired for your aesthetic. How cool is that? That’s really allowed me to come out of my shell and be a lot truer to myself. If a client doesn’t dig when I use the words “vomit” and “explosion” to describe my work, then we probably aren’t a fit.

Your work is super colorful across the board, and you describe it as “girly” at times. Could you talk a bit about how you express your femininity through work, and maybe how your intentionality around this has evolved over time?

I spent a lot of time in the agency world trying to keep up with the boys or pretending to have interests that I really didn’t, just so I could get projects. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, I just hunkered down at shops that had a lot of bro brands. So, maybe that makes it my fault? Anyways… Somehow a cosmetics brand fell into my lap and everything shifted. I came alive. I felt super inspired, and the work flowed. I realized that this type of work allows me to be natural. I decided to put more intention into my style and to say out loud that my work is girly. Then prospective clients won’t have to guess!

How does being a parent affect your inspiration, creative process, and workflow?

It definitely affects my workflow! I’ve made it a point to be there in the evenings and weekends. I intentionally shut ’er down until they’re asleep and then work until I’m exhausted. It’s … exhausting. But I’m doing what makes me happy, so it’ll be ok. Having kiddos is inspiring to my (some would say) youthful aesthetic. My 6-year-old gives me lots of wild ideas when we snuggle before bed. He plagiarizes plenty of my work, so don’t feel too bad for him.

What have been a few of your favorite client projects from the past year?

My favorite projects this past year have been painting on fashions. People love having things customized. It makes them feel special, which makes me feel special to be able to do it for them. I’ve also enjoyed working with NHL WAGS for those same reasons, but primarily because it gives me street cred with my hockey-loving nephews.

It seems like you’re collaborating the time. What is the importance of teaming-up with other creative people for you?

Agency life taught me the value of working with a writing partner (SHOUTOUT TO APRIL) and tapping into other creatives who do what I can’t (SHOUTOUT TO EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER, EVER). Collaborating not only feeds my social soul, but it allows me to discover new ways to push work into a better place. Being exposed to other processes will also help me to become a more well-rounded creative. Plus, community is everything.

You started The Shirt Show in Minneapolis and seem to always be customizing clothing and footwear. Could you speak to the importance of style self-expression for you?

Self-expression has become even more important to me the older I get. 23 is hard, you guys. 😉 To be completely honest, though, it was probably amplified through a slight identity crisis after having babies. Good times. I’ve always loved fashion and being able to make items even more ‘Lindsey’ keeps me energized. Plus, I think that everything you can see with your little eyeball peepers is an aesthetic opportunity. Except for the interior of my car, don’t look there.

What are your hopes for the year ahead?

I want to continue to push myself as an illustrator. Even though I’ve been around for a minute, I know this new role will be a lot of learning and growth. Which is exciting! I hope that along with the help of my rep, and by continuing to do passion projects, I can find the work that feels the most natural to create.

  • Words by Patrick Murphy
    Photographs by Jessica Ekstrand