While there’s plenty of romance to be found in the world of graphic design, on Valentine’s Day we’d like to celebrate by showcasing a different kind of chemistry: a stellar designer-client relationship. As we all know, Design Cupid does not aim his arrow at every such professional pairing. In the case of designer Daivat and client Sterling1913, however, something special was evidently meant to be.

Dawid and Sterling

99designs: What is your design background? How did you come into the industry and where did you hone your skills?

Daivat: I have no formal graphic design education. I have a masters degree in marketing communication which can be helpful at times, but it has very little to do with designing. I acquired most of my illustration, logo and web design skills by myself, with a little (ok, a lot) of help from online tutorials, books and magazines.

99: How did you begin using 99designs?

D: When I found out about 99designs I was working full-time as a graphic designer for a small company in Wrocław, Poland. I had read some inspiring success stories from other 99design users, and this created a thought that I could transform my career just like they did. At the time I was also participating in a local contest for the official mascot for The Lubuskie Voivodeship and my project was awarded a jury’s choice award. That gave me the confidence to quit my job and commit fully to developing my career as a freelance designer.


Dawid (Daivat)’s entries in the Hognob.com contest progressed from rough sketches to an impressive final product

99designs: Tell us a bit about Hognob.com

Sterling: Hognob is social media for homeowner associations and rental communities. But really we’re about making life in your neighborhood a little better. We help neighbors get better acquainted and better informed. We also help managers communicate in an engaging way. All of this makes for a friendlier, more familiar, and even safer neighborhood.

99: What made you want to give 99designs a try?

S: I saw a few ads for 99Designs on youtube that were very well done. But more broadly, at Hognob, we believe fundamentally in the concept of crowdsourcing. Great ideas (and great designs) can come from anywhere and 99designs is a perfect example of how that works. It certainly worked for us. We simply didn’t have the time or money to invest in high quality design the traditional way. So 99designs was a great alternative.

99: Before you started the contest, did you have an idea in your head of what you wanted? When did Daivat come into the picture?

S: Yes, we did have an idea of what we wanted. Really it was only a bunch of hand-drawn sketches but I think they were critical to the success of the contest. I think you need to have some well-thought-out direction in order to get the design you want. Otherwise you’ll frustrate your designers, you’ll probably have to slog through a lot of stuff that’s off-the-mark, and you won’t be pleased with the final product.

Of course you want to allow for creative license but for the most part the more research you can do and provide beforehand the better your designs will be. Luckily I found Daivat (I’ll call him Dawid… although I can’t say that I’m sure I know how to pronounce his name) on the first try.

He definitely surprised me because he ended up being the rare kind of designer that can take an idea and quickly bring it to life. That’s not easy to find. It requires adept artistic ability, creativity, and excellent communication skills. Dawid has all three. Plus, he has a very modern style. He’s good with flat design. But he’s not one-dimensional. When I’ve asked him to change style he adjusted beautifully. I think that’s also a rare skill.


Dawid and Sterling worked together over several 1-to-1 projects to refine the look of the Hognob.com illustrations

99: What drew you to participate in the Hognob.com contest?

D: First of all I very much liked the way the brief was written. It clearly stated the goal while leaving some creative freedom for designers. Also, as a bonus, in the brief there was a promise of future work. During the contest Sterling was giving a great feedback for my every design, clearly indicating what he did and didn’t like.

He also provided a lot of new ideas that pushed me to work on various revisions. For me, right after the brief, feedback like this is the most important thing: when it is interesting and to the point, it can stimulate me to do more; on the other hand, when it is poorly written or there is none, I may decide to drop out of the contest.The communication between me and my client is fundamental, and in the Hognob.com contest everything was the way it is supposed to be.

99: You then worked with Dawid via 1-to-1 projects to produce several iterations of website illustrations. How did that work out?

S: It was great. I knew that it would be difficult to get the work of multiple designers to fit together so I started my first contest on 99Designs with the intention of finding one designer to do everything.

I could quickly tell that working with Dawid was going to be perfect because each iteration was an improvement. He took my feedback and ran with it every time. It was exciting to see my ideas come to life. Not only that but he added his own ideas that were incredibly helpful. That interaction only got better the more we worked together because we became more familiar with each other’s style and came to trust one another more and more. He was very responsive throughout, and open to criticism. It also rocked that he seemed to be genuinely excited about what he was doing for us. In short, I’m a Dawid fan.


Sterling pushed Dawid in many creative directions, including this Abbey Road-inspired illustration

99: What was the best part of your 1-to-1 projects collaboration that followed the contest?

D: It was an opportunity for me to try out different styles and search for effective ways to create a fun illustrations of various subjects. This project was constantly evolving, so the sketches I designed in the contest hardly resembled the illustrations I worked on in 1-1 project stage at all.

The style changed from a little cartoony at the beginning, to minimalistic with a lot of abstract imagery and efficient use of color at the end. I created whole bunch of circle-headed stick people that fly like superman, have candies flowing out of the head or simply enjoy a bbq in front of their house. Sterling is very creative and with every project he pushed and inspired me to develop my creativity even more. It was thanks to his ideas I had chance to design colorful spaceships, a lot of simplistic houses, and wide variety of more or less abstract objects.

For one illustration he asked me to design four stick figures dressed as a people from different eras, and wanted me to draw inspiration from The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. I loved it. It was such a fun project.

99: What’s next for you, as a designer?

hognob 4

99: Do you think you’ll ever make it out to Poland and hang out with Dawid?

S: Funny you should mention that because Dawid and I have connected on both Facebook and LinkedIn. I also mentioned to him that he’d have a place to stay if he’s ever in Utah. He extended the same invitation to me if ever pass by in Poland. I’ve wanted to visit Poland for a few years now. If I do I’ll definitely look Dawid up.

99: Do you think you’ll ever make it out to Utah?

D: Utah looks like an amazing place, so I hope I will. I already know who I can ask to be my tour guide.