April Moralba - Graphic Designer, Hand Lettering Artist, CrashBoom Designs
April Moralba is a graphic designer and hand lettering artist based in San Diego, CA. Her love for art and design led April to pursue a degree in Graphic Design, while a job at a letterpress studio reignited her interest custom lettering. Hand lettering is a focus for April where she creates, learns and experiments in letterforms, mediums, tools and designs. And Crashboom became a business where April creates whimsically colorful, highly playful, evolving design. Some of April’s clients include Pop Pie Co. and Stella Jean’s Ice Cream. Currently April is a freelance artist who works a variety of projects including branding, murals, custom lettering. April puts it best, “In my own little way, just putting myself out there, showing up, doing the work and being 100% my nerdy self, can be some sort of visible example to any other young, female, brown aspiring designer or artist.”
How did you create your career path? And what brought you to pursue CrashBoom?
I had pretty good grades in grade school through high school but didn’t have anything I felt particularly passionate about. I loved art and design but in the back of my mind, my parents voices came through with “But health insurance!” My immigrant parents really wanted me to pursue a medical career and I struggled with trying to find something that would allow me to be creative but also not disappoint them.
So I thought maybe I’d try art therapy and decided on a Psychology major. I thought it was the perfect mixture of practicality and I would be using art to help others. When I started at college, I found pretty quickly that wasn’t the route for me and I did not want to waste anymore precious university time taking classes in a path that I didn’t love. I knew in my gut that I wanted to pursue something creative. My parents didn’t understand my decision and I think they still wish I had a M.D. after my name haha! But ultimately they trusted that I can find my own way.
On kind of a whim, I switched to the art and design college at the university and I fell in love with all the visual communication, art history, intro to typography, web design classes but my favorite class was an advanced typography class taught by John Langdon.
It was my first time really pushing the limits of what letters could do. We created custom letters, learned how to create ambigrams and delved into how you can really play with typography beyond fonts and traditional letterforms. Despite my obsession with letters, I veered away again, getting a job at a magazine and went down a more traditional graphic design career path doing editorial, commercial and marketing design.
But as my journey continues, hand lettering has become more and more of a focus for me. I eventually found a job at an amazing letterpress studio and I got to work on custom wedding invitations, greeting cards and other stationery. I rediscovered custom lettering here and haven’t let go since! Finding the world of hand lettering was like getting reacquainted with a long lost friend. It’s been an adventure and a never-ending quest to create often, continuously learn and experiment regularly.
I started CrashBoom as a way to share my process, my journey and get some feedback on the way. It’s turned from a passion project to a way to connect with clients, peers and a business. I left my full time job to freelance a few years ago now and I haven’t looked back! Now I get to work on a really wide range of projects from branding, to creating custom lettering for music videos to murals and everything in between.
Have you always been drawn to art and graphic design?
Art has always been something that I’ve loved. I drew a lot when I was a kid, especially after finding anime and comics. I took as many art classes I could and it was always the highlight of my day. Before knowing what typography or graphic design was, I was obsessed with drawing letterforms and exploring their usage. I remember as a kid, tracing illuminated letters from the library or loving the way a comic book page came alive because of the drawn sound effects. It’s funny looking back at it in retrospect. I loved drawing as a kid but if someone told my younger self that I could actually have a job drawing letters every day, I would have laughed.
What is your design style and influences your work?
I approach most things in life with some sort of element of play! I don’t think I have a definitive style because I’m always playing, experimenting, trying new mediums and tools. Inspiration comes from everything I interact with and that could look like my ever growing design and typography books, to the animated show that I’m currently watching, to the architecture of the last city I visited or the D&D minis I’m custom making.
As a pretty big nerd, I encourage unabashed and reckless enthusiasm for everything you love. As a designer or artist, look beyond the mediums and platforms you play in and you’ll come back to your canvas or desk with some fresh eyes. If you’re a web designer, try taking a special effects make-up class. If you are a painter who normally paints in oils, go take a wood-working class. You might not be the best at it, but you’ll probably walk away with a new way to look at your work. If you stay in your little bubble where everyone is producing the same stuff over and over, how will you grow?
How do you get in a creative mindset and maintain a creative flow?
When I know I need to get my creative juices flowing, I usually start with a big cup of coffee, hunker down in my office and turn something on to put on in the background. I’m pretty picky about what I listen to when I’m working. I like something like a really long audio book, a podcast that I can binge for a few hours or a series that I can follow without having to visually watch. There’s nothing that breaks my flow worse than a podcast ending and falling down a rabbit hole of trying to find a new one. It doesn’t take much to get me in the zone!
In terms of producing consistent creative work, I like to think of it as a muscle that needs to be exercised as opposed to a sudden strike of inspiration. If you’re going to create stuff for a living, you can’t really sit around and just wait for inspiration to happen. A few years ago, I started a 365 day project of making the time to draw and post something every day for a year. I learned pretty quickly that dedicating some time every day, even if it’s for five minutes, that you can keep that muscle pretty limber and ready to work when you need it to.
What are some of your favorite projects, collaborations, designs?
Oh man, I’ve worked with some amazing people! Currently, I’ve been working with the owners of local restaurants here in San Diego called Pop Pie Co. and Stella Jean’s Ice Cream. I’ve been a fan of both since they opened and so when they reached out to work with me, I was over the moon. We’ve collaborated on a bunch of things like branding redesign, packaging, merch design and with a brand new shop opened in Costa Mesa, I get to play with some environmental design. Working with small businesses is one of my favorite things!
What is your biggest driving force?
As a kid, I didn’t really think pursuing a creative career was for me. I didn’t have anyone in my life or anyone who looked like me or had my background that I could point to say “Hey! That could be me!” It just seemed like something other people do. In my own little way, just putting myself out there, showing up, doing the work and being 100% my nerdy self, can be some sort of visible example to any other young, female, brown aspiring designer or artist.
Do you have any advice for those interested in pursuing a career in art?
Constantly be creating, even if it’s shit. Especially if it’s shit. If you’re going to consider a creative career, you have to work whether or not inspiration is there or not. It’s only through habitual practice that you’ll be able to cultivate your own unique voice, see where your strengths and weaknesses are, see the themes that are recurring and important to you. If you’re showing up everyday, then over time, you’ll also see your growth. If you only work on perfecting one piece for a whole year, you won’t be able to see any progress. But if you make 100 things over a year, you’ll be able to see how things have changed from 1 to 100 and there’s tangible proof of growth and change.
Beyond that, I always encourage having interests beyond art and design. Only having your nose in design books and blogs makes for boring, redundant work. Read as much and as diversely as you can. Take a couple business classes because taxes are real my friends.. Be involved in your design and art community and get to know people. Show up and support your local communities and you’ll see it back in kind.
Photos courtesy of April Moralba