Fernanda Melo Stark (aka Fe Melo) didn’t always plan to be a graphic designer. Growing up in São Paulo, Brazil, she was fascinated by the city’s arts scene from an early age and went to college to study fashion.
But after moving abroad to continue her studies and work at a studio creating textile patterns and prints, her interest in graphic design was piqued. Fe began working on branding and design projects for a variety of TV shows and companies like Toys”R”Us, before deciding she was ready to branch out on her own.
And that’s where Fe’s success story really begins. With the help of 99designs, she was able to find enough clients to support her freelance design business, so that she could work in industries and on projects she’s truly passionate about (full disclosure: we also hire her for design work. Thanks for making us look good, Fe!).
We chatted with Fe about her career so far, her favorite types of projects, and how she became so successful on 99designs. Here’s what she had to say.
Name: Fernanda Melo Stark
99designs Handle: Fe Melo
Specialty: Illustration, packaging & identity
Who is Fe Melo?
My name is Fernanda, my friends call me Fe. I grew up in São Paulo, a big city in Brazil, and the biggest city in South America. Growing up there was really fun, as I was super exposed to arts and culture. São Paulo not only has great museums and galleries, but also a really cool underground scene with arts, cinema, music and graffiti.
My parents noticed that I loved the arts at a young age, so they always encouraged me, bought me supplies, took me to see things and let me explore different classes and workshops. This all had a big influence on my work.
How did you get started in graphic design?
I studied fashion and design at a fashion college in São Paulo called Santa Marcelina, which was extremely focused on drawing and the creative process.
There, I developed a graphic sense of things—especially a passion for patterns and drawing. I felt I needed to develop my computer skills to master everything, so when I moved abroad I ended up studying graphic design and working in a studio. There I fell in love with it.
After fashion school and leaving Brazil, how has your design career evolved?
I started by working mainly in the fashion industry, creating patterns and prints. Then, I started taking over more responsibilities in the studio. I worked on marketing campaigns for Toys”R”Us and did other tasks like branding design, packaging, logos and props for TV shows.
With time, I learned to adapt my skills to many different areas. The in-person work I did with clients helped me understand them and their needs better. That experience was really helpful for my work on 99designs today.
So, why did you decide to join 99designs?
I created an account years before I actually joined my first contest. When I left the studio and decided to work for myself, I thought working online was a good opportunity.
Since joining us, what part of your work here do you like the most?
There’s loads of reasons that I love working with 99designs:
- I’m exposed to projects from around the world. I’ve won competitions for clients in Australia, Iceland, Germany, USA and more.
- I enjoy the mobility that working on the platform allows me. I can work from anywhere in the world.
- I’m exposed to other designers, so I always need to keep up to date and to up my game. The short length of contests means I get to practice a lot, try loads of new things and get a quick evaluation and feedback.
- I also like the way contests work. I am evaluated on my designs—not on a pitching process like in the offline world.
I’ve built my client base on 99designs; it makes me feel like the sky’s the limit and pushes me to be a better professional. Personally I feel now more confident in myself and in my skills, and I really enjoy what I’m doing.
Looking through your portfolio, I see a lot of style experimentation. Where does that come from?
I love drawing. I experiment a lot and practice different techniques. I believe that it always helps to have some references through your work and to let yourself be influenced by art and other things that inspire you.
Is there a specific industry that you love designing for?
Yes, I really enjoy illustrating for the fashion industry, creating packaging for drinks, snacks, cannabis and beauty products, and I especially love designing all-over prints for baby and children clothes.
99designs has a really cool alert feature for that. I get an email whenever there’s a new competition in those industries!
Do you have a memorable project or client that you would like to tell us about?
I’m really lucky—I have loads of super nice clients. I most enjoy it when a contest becomes constant work, and a client reaches out to me again and again with new projects, so we eventually build an actual work relationship.
Sometimes it happens totally by surprise. I once joined a print contest for curtains at the last minute, and I ended up winning. I have kept on working with the client ever since.
Our work relationship is great, and the briefs are always clear and cool. We created a whole collection together last year! It is very exciting to see your work becoming a physical product.
Besides your work as a designer, you’re also an artist. Can you tell us a bit about your art?
I kind of have the urge to put everything on paper, I always did, but it took me a while to let it out for the world to see. Most of it is still a work in progress, but I would love to do something bigger one day.
Is there a specific subject you like to paint?
I love drawing women, because I think most women are drawn by men and therefore quite stereotyped.
I believe that women can be strong and delicate at the same time and I like to draw them in everyday situations, like undressing, in their underwear, vulnerable and (most importantly) being themselves all along and capable of anything.
And a few last questions just for fun:
- Favorite movie? Pan’s Labyrinth. It has everything! It’s creative, has a great story and is simply magical.
- Hobbies? Going to the cinema, swimming, drawing, cooking and eating nice food.
- What superpower do you wish you had? I’d like to teleport and go back in time or create things by just imagining them. Hard to decide! 🙂