Graphic designers are a multi-talented, multi-passionate bunch. Case in point: Ana Popović (or ananana14 as we know her), a Belgrade-based graphic designer who specializes in logo design and branding. Her work blends hand drawn elements and watercolor techniques to give each design an organic, authentic feel.

Ana holds a Masters in Architecture and the years she spent studying helped to shape her design thinking. Upon graduating, she decided to put what she learned to use and kicked off a freelance career as a graphic designer on 99designs.

These days, Ana fills her days with plenty of her passions. She has a loyal clientele that she works with regularly—and still enjoys competing in the occasional design contest. When she’s not designing, Ana also works as an architect, practices photography and has been a setter on a professional volleyball team for the past five years.

We chatted with her about how she became a successful freelance designer, her experience on 99designs and some of her favorite projects.

Name: Ana Popovic
99designs handle: ananana14
Location: Serbia
Specialty: Identity & watercolor design

How did you get into graphic design?

It feels like a series of unplanned decisions led me to where I am today, so I like to think this was just meant to be. I’ve been drawing since I was a child, but throughout school I was good at a lot of things so I didn’t necessarily think of choosing the graphic design path.

During my senior year in high school, my best friend encouraged me to prepare with her for the Faculty of Architecture entry exams. I was accepted and went on to complete a Master’s degree.

What brought you to 99designs?

I signed up on 99designs when I was still in college, a while before I became active on the platform. When I graduated, I didn’t feel like finding an office job. I heard from a friend about the 99designs platform, decided to give it a try and here I am now. I joined my first contest out of pure curiosity and since I suddenly had so much free time.

Back then it wasn’t about making money, but rather about finding new ways to express my creativity and fill up my schedule. The profile I created during my studies finally fulfilled its purpose. In my case, curiosity didn’t kill the cat after all!

ananana14 branding
Folklore is a baby brand that partners with artisans and designers. The owl now hangs as decoration above Ana’s desk.
How has your experience been since then?

I’ve had the most amazing experience on 99designs and feel like I’ve grown a lot as an artist since my early days. Shortly after becoming active on the platform I won a contest, bought my first Wacom tablet with the prize money, and everything sort of fell into place.

Today I have a lot of clients whom I regularly work with, but I still enjoy participating in contests. Especially because I like that “winner” label you receive when awarded, for which I blame playing volleyball (more details on that to come. 🙂

Are you also currently working as an architect?

About a year after I started working on 99designs, I got an architect job offer. It seemed interesting, so I took it—and I’ve been juggling between the two ever since. It felt like a very good combination right from the start. Whenever I got tired of my day job responsibilities, I turned to design. And designing is still my creative outlet today.

Has your architecture background influenced or helped you develop your design skills?

During my studies I learned to think like a designer first and foremost. We had a few courses that relied on graphic design principles and photography (another skill that comes in handy nowadays).

We always had to present our projects and written assignments in a certain way that was both aesthetically pleasing and functional. The same goes for actual projects. In architecture, there is always a collision between form and function that needs to be tied up by the architect—much like the process of creating a logo, something I often do today.

What type of design work do you enjoy most?

I enjoy creating hand drawn illustrations, and designing for pet, cosmetics and children industries. I also love doing custom lettering and working with watercolors.

Is there a client you especially enjoyed working with?

One of the first contests I won was for a logo design. After winning, the client asked me to create a bunch of illustrations for her book of poems for children. Since I was still a beginner at that time, I was very insecure.

But she believed in me and insisted on giving it a try, even though back then I couldn’t tell her how much time it would take me. We finished all the illustrations a couple of weeks ago. The client is now in the process of publishing the book and I couldn’t be more excited!

mama's links
After designing the logo for Mama’s Links, the client sent Ana one of their matching jewelry sets with a handwritten note. Ana gave her younger sister the additional bracelet.

Following another logo contest that I won, the client sent me some of the company products with the logo printed on them. It was one of my favorite designs so far, and it was such an awesome feeling to hold it in my hands. I continued working with this client on branding for their other companies and we still work together today.

Do you have any tips for maintaining a good client- designer relationship?

My recipe for a good, long-lasting client relationship is to be responsive and something else a lot of us neglect—being kind. I don’t just mean saying nice words.

This is especially important when you need to tell your client that their idea won’t work well. If they feel disparaged, they most likely won’t come back. On the other hand, an ideal client should appreciate the designer’s time and opinions.

My favorite clients are those who can give me clear pointers about what they like, but let my creative freedom kick in to create their dream end-product.

hello cider packaging
Packaging for the cosmetics brand, Hello Cider. Ana is currently working with them on a new collection.
Between graphic design and architecture, you seem to work a lot! What do you do to unwind?

I’m very passionate about sports in general and have been playing volleyball since I was ten. When I graduated, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to balance it with an office job, so freelancing was like the cherry on top.

I am known to sit for many hours in front of a computer when I feel inspired (yes, mom, I have had lunch), which can take a toll on the body. That’s where volleyball fits in. Also, when working from home, you tend to start missing interacting with people, which is something I redeem from playing sports too. Lately, besides volleyball, I’ve started doing crossfit and aerial yoga as well.

And a few last questions, just for fun:
  • Favorite food? Ice cream without a doubt
  • Favorite music? Lately I’ve been listening to the Assassin’s Creed games’ soundtracks 🙂
  • Early bird or night owl? Night owl, definitely

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