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From the DCA program to a Thriving Freelance Career: Interview with DCA graduate Gabrielle Merite

“I am still discovering the bliss, pain and coffee addiction that come with being your own boss!” – Gabrielle Merite 

Designer Gabrielle Merite, who completed the DCA program two years ago, is becoming quite well known for her work in info-design. This is an article/infographic designed, written and produced by Gabrielle. And you can see her Behance here and her website here.

She was kind enough to take the time to catch up with us:

You completed the DCA program in 2019. Where has your career taken you since then?

When leaving the DCA program, I started working as a brand designer: first for a cosmetic company, where I had done my internship, then for a technology startup in the restaurant industry. Parallel to these in-house positions, I developed my focus on information design, working with clients as a freelancer. Last June, I quit my full-time job and started this exciting (but terrifying) adventure that is being a full-time independent designer.

What’s a project that you’re especially proud of?

That is a tough question. I am a harsh critic when it comes to my own work. I’d say that my main pride is becoming a (somewhat) competent designer in the very specific field of data visualization and information design. Coming from a non-design background – I was a scientific journalist before the DCA – it was definitely an ambitious project. This field is very niche. There are no traditional career paths to follow to get there. I am grateful that I was given so many opportunities to develop my design skills and portfolio, despite my atypical profile, while working with people making a positive impact on the world. If I had to pick my most favorite project… I probably would have a hard time choosing between my data illustrations series for WePresent because of how much fun it was to use mixed media, my latest piece in the MIT Technology Review for having the freedom to explore scrollytelling, or my ongoing work with the United Nations (all the above and more).

What’s one positive thing that you’ve learned about the design industry? What’s one thing that’s been more challenging than you expected?

One positive thing: once you find it, among this huge field that is design, your niche community will change your life! In the past two years, I have had the chance to connect and become close friends with talented designers and other creatives. Our exchanges on design, freelance, creativity… and their support have been invaluable. They have truly helped me be a better designer and a better person. I wish this type of support would be accessible to any new designer, including those from underrepresented backgrounds in order to build more inclusive communities. This relates to what has been particularly challenging : finding a place where I can design for people, not for profit. Us designers cannot afford to ignore our role in detrimental systems and processes any longer. Our work is embedded into business models, organizational structures and policies. This is a constraint. It can also be an opportunity to push, from the inside, a change towards a more sustainable future.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

I am not sure yet, I am still discovering the bliss, pain and coffee addiction that come with being your own boss! There are so many options from there. Whether it is to keep growing my solo practice, building an agency with collaborators or, who knows, going back to a 9-5?
Hopefully, then, I will still be creating designs (with data!) that fill my soul and tentatively help build a more compassionate world.

Congrats Gabrielle!

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