Since graduating from Shillington Manchester back in 2011, Amy Patsalides explains how she now “designs her lifestyle”. After working as a full-time designer for four years (promoted to Art Director!), she eventually took the plunge to go freelance, and followed her calling to found Akasha Yoga Life.
Read on to learn more about how Amy founded Akasha and the story behind its branding, the unexpected challenges when designing for your own venture, and the biggest lessons she learnt at Shillington. And if you’re digging Amy’s interview, be sure to check out Akasha’s upcoming Nomad Retreats—Panama in February, Bali in October and Portugal in November!
You graduated from Shillington in 2011. Give us an update on what you’ve been up to since then!
Quite soon after I left Shillington, and I’d spent about 6 months working in internships, I got my first job working as a designer in fashion, this company was small, but growing fast, and I stayed with them for 4 years, creating the brand and marketing materials, but also producing photoshoots and film, and designing anything from a stand for a trade show, to prints for their products. It was an amazing learning experience, and got me to the level of Art Director, at which point I decided to leave, and brave the world of freelance.
Congrats on Akasha. Tell us why you were inspired to found it?
Around the time I realised I wanted to become freelance, I got more seriously into yoga. I’d practiced for about 4 years, but never religiously. Now I focused more energy into exploring yoga, I realised how useful it was in all aspects of my life. It helped me focus, kept me calm and most importantly it made me realise a lot about what I wanted (and how to get it). I’d credit this discovery of yoga with giving me the courage to quit my job, and go it alone.
Once I did that, I seemed to naturally attract design clients in the wellbeing sector—yoga studios, therapists and a few vegan chefs—most of these people had the same story as me, that yoga had in some way changed their life, and they wanted to share that. I believe yoga is a lifestyle choice, rather than a form of physical exercise, and that inspired me to look at ways to offer people a glimpse of what it can offer. I trained as a yoga teacher in Bali, and stayed on for a few months.
There I found a tribe of digital nomads all living the lifestyle lots of people want, combining work, travel and wellbeing, and I decided that was also the life for me. Now I always get asked how I manage to do this, and actually make money.
So Akasha is my way of helping people figure out what they want, how to get it and be successful!
Why should people attend your retreats, and how can they get involved?
I’ve curated all of the retreats to reflect my experiences of yoga, and how it’s helped me in real life. We have 3 retreats next year that look at this in different ways. Our Bali retreat is all about activating our creativity away from a computer screen – looking at movement, writing and artistic expression. It would be perfect for any overworked and disillusioned designers out there that want to change things up and overcome a creative block. Portugal will be about movement combined with sound healing and music. In Norway we will look at overcoming our fears, and going for our dreams. This trip is for the more adventurous as we’ll also be hiking, balance boarding and slacklining! I’ll be teaching on all of the retreats, and talking about how yoga has helped me as a designer. You can find more information here.
You also used your design skills to create Akasha’s brand identity and website. Tell us about your creative process!
I used the Shillington method of course!
I still follow the same creative process we were taught at Shillington, and that includes any branding I do for my own business.
I did know right away that the Akasha brand needed to be very experiential, and that meant investing in photography and film, that was one of the best decisions I made because so many people tell me they bought into the brand purely based on the photography (I should credit friend and fellow yogi Phillip Suddick for the images). I actually get a lot of designers booking my retreats, and they all tell me they were drawn in by the branding, because in the yoga sector, a lot of other companies are not very design-led.
What was the biggest challenge designing for your own venture?
It didn’t really feel like a challenge at all, it came very naturally for me, and I find that with any design work I do for clients in this sector. I think as with any job, when you’re really immersed (and engaged) in what the client is doing, the creative process becomes easier. My main aim when I decided to become freelance was to curate a portfolio that would attract the clients I wanted, 5 years after graduating, it really felt like the time to be more focused about what I wanted to do, rather than taking any design work I could get my hands on, and I find everything more fluid now that I’m specialising. I work with a lot of similar companies now not only as a designer, but a consultant on everything you need to consider when you’re starting a wellbeing business.
What were the most valuable lessons from your time at Shillington? Anything you still draw upon in your work today?
Getting inspired away from design blogs. Sometimes when I have back to back branding jobs on, it can be difficult to think of original ideas. The only way I can do this is to get inspiration away from a computer—I get a lot of my inspiration from travelling, but also from galleries, theatre, magazines – basically anything cultural that you can’t find on a Google search. It can be another challenge working for yourself that you don’t have a design team around you to bounce ideas off, so to keep the ideas flowing, I think it’s so important to think creatively about everything you do.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Next year I’ll be involved in new experience aimed at anyone wanting to design their own lifestyle. ‘Found‘ will be an immersive 21 day event in Bali, offering guidance for small businesses, aspiring digital nomads and entrepreneurs. The program will include a balance of wellbeing and movement, alongside a rich curriculum of subjects designed to offer practical guidance on being successful in your chosen field, and doing it your way. I’m really passionate about sharing this, and our whole team is excited to show that anyone can find the life they want for themselves, if they’re willing to start the search.
Want to learn more about studying graphic design at Shillington? Learn about our 3 month full-time and 9 month part-time course in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane –> www.shillingtoneducation.com