Mellani DeJesus - Poppy Lettering and Design
Mellani DeJesus is a graphic designer, modern calligrapher, artist, and marketer. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mellani majored in business marketing in college and had a successful career in banking for years, but has always been drawn to creativity. She took many creative classes and graphic design became a major interest/passion that drew her towards a career change. She took a chance and created Poppy Lettering and Design.
Her style is optimistic, minimal and feminine. She has worked with creatives build their brands/marketing and is currently collaborating with a Pinay fashion designer. Mellani’s designs have been featured on Pottery Barn Kids, Creative Market, and the Camp Fire fundraiser. And she continues to grow, experiment, collaborate!
How did you create your career path? What brought you to pursue Poppy Lettering + Design?
When I was a little girl until high school, I wanted to be a fashion designer. But when it was time to apply to colleges my parents were really against me going to “art school” (I don’t think I spoke to them or a month), and they insisted that I get a practical 4-year degree. So to appease my mama and papa, I decided to get a degree in something I thought wouldn’t be too hard which for me was Business Marketing. At that time all of the other Filipinas in my college were in the nursing program, so I thought a business degree would be a piece of cake compared to nursing.
After I graduated from college, I landed my first real job at an investment bank. The salary was awesome, but I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do forever. But in your 20s you really don’t think too much about your future, but rather all of the clothes, partying, and fun you can do with money (at least that was my mindset at the time). So I allowed myself to get sucked into one banking job right after the other, with some other short term jobs in marketing and product development in between my banking gigs.
Although I learned so much in my banking career and made a lot of life long friends, I always knew that I was way too creative to be glued to a cubicle desk five days a week for 8-10 hours a day. So all through that career, I’d take classes on the side (probably because my job wasn’t very fulfilling). From massage therapy, women’s health issues, screen printing, to letterpress I was always eager to learn something different from banking. I also tried to learn things on my own because I’ve always been interested in the process of how things were made. It wasn’t until I took a graphic design class a couple of years ago that I finally thought, “Wow, I really love design and the process behind the finished work. I think I can actually have a new career doing this!”. So with the support of my husband (and after a lot of tears and soul searching), I finally put my banking career behind me. Deciding to reinvent myself as a graphic designer when I was old enough to be some of my classmates’ mother was definitely not an easy thing to do, but I feel that my job and life experiences help me become a better entrepreneur and add more to my aesthetic.
Have you always been interested in art, lettering, creating?
I have always been creative. When I was little, I’d make soap from the plants that grew along the neighbourhood we lived in in Makati, use colored pencils as makeup, and make sculptures from whatever I could find. Not having a lot of money contributed to my creativity for sure. I also have great memories of spending hours making different outfits with my fashion plates. When I was ten, I asked my parents to sign me up for sewing and calligraphy classes because I loved the thought of making my own things and having fancy handwriting. My cousins and sister would call me an old lady because everyone else in those classes was at least 3 times my age, but I didn’t care because the classes brought me so much joy.
How would you describe your style?
My style is optimistic, fun, whimsical, minimal, and feminine with a little bit of an edge.
What are some of the favorite items you created?
I really enjoyed creating my own font. I think I must have spent over 100 hours making all of the characters by hand, refining them on the computer, ensuring the spacing between each of the character combinations were visually correct, and creating the images to market the font. It was super satisfying to see it live on the internet and know that it’s available for other people to use in their own creative projects. You can see my font on Creative Market.
Last year, my linoleum carved letterpress print design, Rainbow in B&W was chosen by Pottery Barn as part of their first art & wall decor collection in their new Modern Baby line. I remember when I made the first few prints with my tabletop letterpress, I thought, “Will people get this?” since it’s a rainbow made with black ink. But I immediately answered myself with, “Eff it! I don’t care if people get it. I get it, and I feel good making it.” Well, I guess other people got it too, or at least the people behind Pottery Barn did. So I was really surprised when Pottery Barn contacted me, since it was something I designed a couple of years before it was chosen. It’s kinda crazy seeing something I made with my own two hands being sold by a major retailer.
I also designed some graphic t-shirts to help raise money for the recent Camp Fire in California. As the wife of a San Francisco firefighter, I really wanted to bring awareness to the firefighters’ homes that were affected by that fire. We were able to raise over $400 from the shirt sales.
How do you get in the creative flow? What is your creative process?
When I get a project, sometimes it takes me days before I even start using the computer or bust out the good pens and pencils. I usually spend some time just absorbing the project in my head, basically obsessing over it in the shower, when I’m driving, eating dinner, etc. My poor husband has to put up with the random things I mention to him when I get an idea. I also use a small sketchbook to write my thoughts, notes from the research I’ve done, and to draw my initial concepts. I try to plan as much as I can on paper before I get on the computer. Once I get on the computer, that’s where all of the obsessive little refinements come in.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’m inspired by all kinds of things - textures on old buildings, travel, music, something funny I heard on TV, floor tiles, neon signs. I’m also crazy about typography, and I’m a huge fan of mid-century modern and Scandinavian designs.
What do you love about the work you do?
I love being able to put my own style into my designs and the designs for my clients. It’s extremely gratifying to know that the work I’m doing is helping support entrepreneurs in my community with their own dreams. Being a graphic designer and artist pushes me to constantly learn and experiment with new techniques and programs and to figure out if I want to incorporate what I’ve learned into my design aesthetic or offer those services to clients.
Do you have any upcoming projects or work that you are excited about?
I’m currently working with a local Pinay fashion designer with a small rebranding of her website, marketing campaigns, and catalogue. Since my original childhood dream was to be a fashion designer, it’s so fun to actually work with one now. I love collaborating with other creatives especially with work that is very personal to them. I'm hoping to work with more entrepreneurs this year.
All photos and images courtesy of Mellan DeJesus/Poppy Lettering and Design.