Katharina Sertić – creative journey into branding and design

2 February 2021

About two years ago I’ve met Kath. I was about to start a blog and I needed a logo. Someone recommended her, and I remember the most confusing first email I’ve sent her. I had no idea what I wanted, but she made me think about everything by asking just the right questions. I thought logo was what I needed, but she made me realise I was about to create more than just that. I was creating a brand. After Oil on paper was born, we worked on 2a1House project before diving into this website. I just so love how she works, I love her sensibility and her way with clients. Well, at least with me. I can’t recommend her enough, and I wanted you to meet here this way. Listen to her story. 

My dear Kath, I am so happy to have you here, since it has been a true pleasure working with you for a few years now, and also learning so much from you, your work, your approach, and your sensibility. I would love for my people to hear from you and get to know you. I have much on my mind right now, but let’s start with who you are and what you do in your life. I’d love to know more about your life and your history. Where do you live, where are you from, who do you live with, pets, hobbies, age, education… anything that you would love to share. 🙂

Hey Marina! I’m so so happy to be a part of your journey so far. It’s amazing what we’ve done together, right?! I usually don’t like talking about myself as I’m more of a “let my work talks for me” kind of gal, but thanks for asking. 🙂 I’ve been a brand designer for 8 years now. Woah, that’s a lot! In short terms, being a brand designer means that I design logos for a living! In longer version, I’m your guide and support on your very beginning stage of starting and running a business. I will not call myself an expert since I’m a firm believer you need to have a way more than 8 years in your shoes to call yourself as one but I love what I’m doing and I’m always learning new things and how to be better at it.

Currently I’m sharing my everyday with my partner and cat Evie in a lovely small town called Karlovac. Both my partner and I are spending most of our days working at the moment so I don’t have enough time for hobbies but, to be honest, my hobbies are changing on a daily basis so anything non-creative will do. That’s maybe weird as hobbies tends to be creative outlet but I kind of use my hobbies to let me step out of my creativity. So, just a random cooking day can look super fun to me (from time to time, haha)!

How did you come to start doing what you do now? Was this something you really wanted to be doing for work or did it come spontaneously?

My whole life I was in creative fields, from the very young age. I had luck having the parents I have because they let me be whoever I wanted to be. I didn’t get any restrictions about what school should I attend or what passion should I pursue. They believed in me and let me do what I wanted so anything I do now actually came spontaneously. So yes, it was what I wanted from the very first day.

Since I love how you do the ‘business’ part of your work, what is your entrepreneurial background? Have you had any other businesses before? Did you grow in a business-like environment? How did you figure out everything you need to know about these things? Did you took any courses, read books, listened to podcasts… or did it happen naturally? Because, from what I have seen, there are many talented people doing and creating beautiful things, but have trouble communicating their needs, desires, boundaries, and therefore keep ending dissatisfied many times. How has this been for you?

That’s an interesting question! Well, I didn’t had any businesses before (but I’m just now, at this moment, working on another one!) but I have 3 months only experience working for someone else. Long story short, when I was in my first year of college, I sent out open letters to graphic design studios to ask to work for them because I needed to find a job. I’ve sent 10 emails with one response and ended up working for them. And it was great, but it lasted for only 3 months because I asked for a raise that was not accepted. Without having enough money to support my college and living in another town, I had to leave. In that same year I came back home and I started thinking about what should I do next. Yes, I’m a college dropout. The two main reasons why I had to leave was that I didn’t had the money to continue my education + I was teaching my assistant on how to use the Adobe software, so I asked myself what’s the point anyway?

That’s how the business was born, out of need to make some money. My parents helped me a lot in the beginning, specially with having their entrepreneurial experience as well and today I am where I am, creating beautiful brands and websites for clients across the globe + starting something new!

In the meantime, I’ve read many books, listened to podcasts on business and design, took courses and hired coaches so yes, it happened naturally, out of need and with a lot of investments. Let’s not forget about tears and wanting to give up around million times.

When we first met, you did brand identity for my blog, Oil on paper, which included logo, colours, fonts, tone, style, and more. As a brand designer, could you explain a bit what is brand identity, what does branding mean, and who needs that kind of stuff in the first place?

Brand identity is a helpful tool in your business tool box. If you don’t have it, you will still be able to do the job but if you have it, it can help you in so many ways. It helps you to position your business and, as the name says, to identify your brand in the saturated market. It also helps your clients to recognise you and memorise you. It helps you set the tone and vibe of your brand even when you’re not talking. So, everything that a brand identity package has like logo, colours, fonts and other accent designs, it’s something you need to use as a tool that will help you get where you want to be, faster. 

Okay, I feel you are opening a new page in your life or business. Tell us a bit more about that. Are you taking a new direction, starting something completely new, or you just need a break to re-evaluate everything?

Yes, that’s correct! This new chapter started out of a need to re-evaluate everything but ended up being something much bigger. I still work on brand identities and websites (primarily for US clients) and that will not change anytime soon but I’m starting a side hustle (with intention to grow it into a real global business) with my partner. We have a vision to create a lifestyle brand offering wide range of products with my design on it. It’s all in the VERY beginning stage so I can’t show you really anything at the moment but hopefully I’ll be able to share more with you soon.

What would you say, what were the greatest lessons you have learned as a creative entrepreneur? What personal or collective beliefs did you have to overcome?

Believe in yourself. Just do it and the result will come. No matter my parents let me be whoever I wanted to be, I ended up having a lot of fears and doubts in myself. You know when in class the teacher tells you to draw an apple and then you criticise them because you actually want to draw a banana, but then, when they tell you to draw anything you want you end up not knowing what to draw? That’s how I felt most of the time. Not being sure in anything and just being sure in everything. It’s all the process and you learn every day… But not believing in yourself and starting any action out of fear was the main and only reason for all my business mistakes.

Since we just entered 2021, when you take a look back to THE 2020, what was it like for you? What has it brought to you, personally, internally, with everything going upside down – including two earthquakes in Croatia at the very end of the year? How has it all affected you?

Well, 2020 was the year of growth for me personally. I went through a whole palette of emotions on both business and personal side. It was tough but I feel like I’m much wiser now. So, a year of growth, for sure.

The pandemic and two catastrophic earthquakes were just the cherry on the top of my self-realisation cake. These two reminded me of how short life really is and how it can stop any second. I’m much more aware of Life and it made me more grateful, for sure.

Now that we’re starting to dig deeper, tell us what do you feel most passionate about? What brings you joy? Personally, I have been in a weird place the last year, focusing too much on the ‘business’ side of life, forgetting what I really wanted to do, and what my passion was. And at one moment when I was creating my own brand imagery for this very website, I found myself dancing, and smiling and full of joy while doing what I was doing. And at that moment I realised that the joy was always there, it was just me being focused on other things than that, like making money. I now feel I am coming back to myself and my senses, and I feel 2021 will be bringing a great opening to the world. It is a constant learning curve, isn’t it?

It absolutely is. The sun is always there, always shining, you just have to turn around to see it (it’s a saying/quote from the book “The Having: The Secret Art of Feeling and Growing Rich” from Jooyun Hong and Suh Yoon Lee – very strange but positive book). To be honest, as I started last year with my re-evaluation and looking at myself from the outside, I realised that I’m not happy. I realised that I’m not where I wanted to be, I’m not where I needed to be, so I understand you completely about loosing focus. Reminding yourself, being in the moment and asking yourself every single day are you happy where you are is something that will count in the end and will set you for better. But also, being able to enjoy the process, no matter how rough it is, is the actual beauty. There is no perfect but you can find all those little elements that will make it worth.

One thing I have noticed with you is that you have a deep sense of feeling others, stepping into their sensibility, and understanding their values, thoughts and emotions. What are your thoughts on this?

I realised that just last year as well, but thanks for noticing. 🙂 I think that kind of empathy has a lot to do with how my mind works. Also, it has something with the childhood but I’ll skip that part for now. But, to be honest, I just love listening to others. I love learning about their past, their future, their wins and losses because it’s what we’re made of. I also focused a lot much on myself in the past few years so I’m able to recognise the patterns, the emotions, the feelings. But I was not that way in my younger age – it has everything to do with the personal growth.

What does personal growth mean to you? 

It means a lot. Really. It’s again, the tool in your life tool box. It’s something you can go for or not. It can get you down on your knees (after some realisations) but it can also help you live a better, more fulfilled life. I think everyone should choose to work on themselves and never stop because there is always a space for growing.

Who inspires you? Who has inspired you on your entrepreneurial journey so far?

My parents were a big inspirational roles in my younger age. They had nothing and they were able to build a lot with their own hands. Only thing they inherited was a small piece of land, no money, no nothing. But they worked hard and now they have everything and they’re just starting out! 🙂  Also, my partner is someone who I’m inspired by. He is just… so different yet so simple. I love his fight for life, for himself, for us. 

What is your relationship with spirituality? Are you spiritual? How do you perceive Life itself? 

I’m spiritual but on my own terms, if I can say it in that way. I trust my inner self that I’ll be able to go through anything.

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years from now? How does your life, personal and business look like, what is your lifestyle, what did you overcome, where are you at, how are you feeling…? Let your imagination run wild. 🙂

5 years from now I’m running a successful lifestyle business and we’re expanding. We are just in time to look for a bigger warehouse after our second move. We have over 20 employees and our brand starts to get recognised all over the world. Personally, at least 2 little ones and a brand new house that’s on my to-do for quite some time. 🙂 And yes, we live in a rural area! Not sure how it will work out because of the business but I know we’ll figure it out somehow, we always do!

What was your toughest decision ever? And what was your greatest lesson, and/or realisation ever?

My toughest decision was more of a toughest work and that’s the work on myself and my mental health. And that was my greatest lesson as well. Being able to fully connect with your inner self is the win of a lifetime. Being able to realise who you really are and what are your strengths and weaknesses is something like you win a lottery. Self awareness is the hardest but it’s the most awarding.

Before we end sliding, where can people find you and what can you do for them?

I’m available at info@seventytwostudio.com. Share your story and we’ll see what we can do to make it work for you. 🙂

Now a few brainstormers… 🙂

Favourite food?

I know I’m boring but, spaghetti bolognese! I could eat the sauce with the spoon only and without spaghetti, haha!

Tea or coffee?

Both! Right now I’m starting my day with coffee then I drink some tea. After lunch I’m again on coffee, and then I drink tea in the afternoon… 😀

Gluten or free?

Gluten free! I have a celiac disease so I must avoid gluten.

Meat or veggies?

Both but I tend to eat more veggies.

Sea or mountains?

Mountains all the way. I actually don’t like the summer and the sea…

Blog or podcast?

Hm, both! But, anything valuable is better.

Podcast or Youtube?

Both.

Cats or dogs?

Cats <3

God or the Universe?

Both, really.

Spring or autumn?

Autumn! But I’m starting to like spring as I’m getting older.

Outside or inside?

I’m a natural introvert so staying home is natural to me but as we live in the apartment on the 5th floor now, I miss being able to get outside any minute. So, both.

Warm or cold? 

Warm drinks, cold weather!

Crowd or solitude?

Solitude. That will probably hurt my future business but I’ll find a way to overcome it.

Recommend a book and explain why.

“When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress by Dr. Gabor Maté” (there are great video materials on You tube as well) for your mental health and second one would be “You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth” by Jen Sincero for those of you reading this that are not able to put a price on your services or products. I’ve met many people over the years that have a hard time around pricing their work and seeing themselves worth so that book is a great staring point. It’s all about the mindset.

Give me some music inspiration…a song, album, artist… Something that has served you well the last year?

https://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialDianaKrall

Diana Krall, she served me well my whole life. 🙂

Kath, thank you so much. It has been a pleasure working with you so far, and I’m looking forward to projects that are yet to come. 

You can find Kath on www.seventytwostudio.com

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