Anya Perepelkina (aka wildanya) describes her style as curious, bright and bold. Her cheerful characters exist somewhere between the trend-forward front pages of Dribbble and Behance, and a universe all her own. They immediately caught our attention when she joined 99designs in 2017 and subsequently landed on our Creative team’s radar. When we broke ground on Design Without Borders: The Future of Freelancing, we immediately knew it was the perfect project for her.
With responses from over 10k designers to distill and visualize, Anya worked closely with 99designs to bring the data points to life. For the 46-page report—which offers a comprehensive view into the experiences of the global creative freelance workforce—she created custom illustrations, charts and infographics, plus the layout itself.
Her personal experience as a professional freelancer added a layer of authenticity to the finished piece. (Case in point: she took reference photos of herself to ensure the characters occupying the pages were relatable.)
We recently spoke to Anya about her creative practice and discovered she embodies the modern freelancer outlined in Design Without Borders. She’s educated, resourceful (thanks, YouTube!), works with clients all over the world, and is dedicated to continuously learning.
Read on to learn how Anya stays inspired as a full-time designer and why she adores her online creative community. Plus, get a sneak peek of illustrations from the report.
Name: Anna Perepelkina
99designs handle: wildanya
So, who is wildanya?
I came up with this username a long time ago when I thought I was wild (you know how it is when you’re a teenager). Originally it was just my Instagram handle but it’s become a part of me. It’s not the worst in the world of usernames, so I feel like I really lucked out there.
It’s been quite a journey. Sometimes it’s hard to be a freelancer, but I truly can’t believe that I get to do this for a living!
Tell us about your foray into design.
I went to university to study linguistics but quickly decided I wanted to pursue graphic design as a career. So, for the most of those 4 academic years I was teaching myself Photoshop on YouTube instead of translating Old English.
At university I designed posters for different events, and that’s when I discovered the importance of visual communication. Graphic design and I have been inseparable ever since. I never notice time pass when I’m on my laptop illustrating, and I’m always so excited to see my visions come to life. It gives me a sense of fulfillment like nothing else.
Your unique style really lends itself to the report. Can you talk about how it’s developed over the years?
I like to think that my illustrations are bold and a bit quirky—my style evolves with each project, whether it’s personal work or for a client.
I always try to make it fun for me and for the viewer, and I tend to use color palettes that feel like they could produce serotonin if they tried hard enough. My hope is that whenever someone stumbles upon my illustrations, it makes their day a little better.
How did your approach to designing the layout differ from the key visuals?
It was a bit overwhelming at first! When I first talked to Steven (Sr. Art Director at 99designs), he suggested I tackle the illustrations first and then the layout. It really helped me fully commit to both tasks.
Before I started I did a great deal of research. I had a folder with examples of solutions to visual problems, and things I felt suited the aesthetic I was going for.
It was a bit of a challenge to get to where we wanted to be, but I’m glad it wasn’t easy because it pushed me as a creative.
What conceptual decisions did you make to really elevate the content?
The report is all about freelance creatives, so I wanted them to be the center of attention. My goal was to humanize concepts so designers could see them and go, “that’s me!”. I pulled a lot of inspiration from my daily grind as an illustrator working from home.
Do you have tips for designers on how to keep things interesting in a text-heavy layout?
Designing the layout almost felt mathematic. I had to consider so much at the same time. Something that became essential to my process was making a rough draft and mapping out what I wanted to put on each page. It gave my work structure, and made things go faster.
I love to browse at a book shop, visit a new coffee place or just go for a walk and take in my surroundings. I find that inspiration comes from the simplest experiences, so I always try to be ready to accept it.
Where’s the first place you go for design inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is the amazing online community of designers, illustrators and other creatives. I love Dribbble for illustration and Behance for graphic design. I also spend a lot of time on Instagram, but I’m very careful to curate my experience there so I can pull as much inspiration as possible.
Let’s talk online portfolios. How do you choose what to feature and where?
My favorite platforms are Dribbble and Instagram, simply because there are more opportunities for feedback and exposure. I don’t feel like my art has to be polished or perfect to find its audience. It took me a while to get over the fear of people judging me or my work, but I’ve realized that people like to see the process as much as they do the finished product.
I also love that the communities are incredibly supportive and encouraging. The positivity definitely keeps you going.
In the spirit of global community, want to give a shout out to three creatives the world should know?
Eugenia Mello is one of my favorite illustrators at the moment. The way she works with colors, shapes and textures is superhuman. Kati Szilagyi is another artist I enjoy because of her smart concepts. Also, I love how playful Justyna Stasik’s art is! It’s so full of joy and always puts me in a good mood.