To gear up for our upcoming event, “Chasing Dreams,” on March 6th, we are featuring and interviewing our speakers to highlight the best parts of what they do. This week, we talked to Bria Lear of Digital Darlings Creative.
I met up with Bria for tea and coffee at Elysian for a quick chat about her story, her passions, and how to balance life and work. Her journey to becoming a DigiDarling was anything but straightforward. With a degree in Fashion and Fine Arts, she stepped into a job that she hated, quit, started up her own magazine, put it down due to a burnout, worked at a social media agency, and then finally started up Digital Darlings. She sees every stepping stone she’s taken as an opportunity to grow and has her heart set on helping people grow their skill sets.
Bria will be running a Photoshop demo and speaking about entrepreneurship at our event. Thanks for your positive energy!
MTI: How would you describe yourself?
B: A little bit nerdy and goofy, and also I can be kindof shy, but I think I’ve gotten over that in the past couple years. I’m one of those people who always have a million ideas, but never really executes all of them. It takes a really big idea for me to jump in and go for it. I wish there was a million hours in a day, and I didn’t need so much sleep, so I could do everything. I’m definitely a perfectionist, so I sometimes have a hard time starting things.
MTI: Tell me a bit about Digital Darlings Creative.
B: I’ve always loved Photoshop and Adobe and I always used to geek out on that in fashion design school. That was always my thing, so I was always showing my classmates how to do stuff. I’d get my classmates to help me cut out some of my fabrics for projects, and I’d be like, “I’ll do your inspiration board!” That’s where that whole teaching thing came from. While I was doing the magazine, people would ask me how I did the layout. I was teaching my interns how to use Photoshop for blog posts and stuff like that.
There just wasn’t anything in Vancouver even if I wanted to do additional Photoshop stuff, because I would say 50% of my skills are self-taught. But I know a lot of people who don’t have the time to Google things or spend hours searching or even know what to search for and don’t have time to go back to school and do a graphic design course. A lot of the stuff you learn in school isn’t even relevant to what people want to do when they have their own business or a blog. So that’s where it started. It was actually a conversation with Alicia Kwon of Alicia Fashionista. We talked about how we should do workshops, but we never really did anything with it, because I was so busy with Framework and she was so busy with her social media agency. It was probably a good year and a half later that Digital Darlings launched.
I did a couple private lessons for people who wanted to learn photo editing and then launched the boot camps, and it’s been so much fun. People seem to really like them. I’m doing a lot more private clients as well. It’s actually morphed into doing website design, which has never been in the plan, but it’s been fantastic.
MTI: What’s the best thing about what you do?
B: I get to geek out on Photoshop all the time. Seriously. I catch myself wanting to use the shortcuts in real life. I’m like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I just said that. Control-Z, Control-Z!” And really, meeting all these people are doing all these interesting things and are really passionate about what they do; getting to meet with clients and hearing about their business and their vision. And then when I get to teach people – seeing that transformation between “I’m terrified of Photoshop. I don’t even know how to open the program” to “Look what I can do!” and having these light bulb moments. Alicia came to the first boot camp and she said that she had taken Photoshop when she was at a university and actually left the program because the class was so terrible, and that my two days completely surpassed the entire course. So things like that are really nice – seeing the transformation and people being confident and doing what they want to do. Or saying, you know what, this isn’t for me. I’d rather just hire a graphic designer.
I’ve had the opportunity to start doing customized courses for small businesses and corporate clients, so that’s really exciting because I’m getting to create content that aligns with their brand. I’m teaching some people more tips for social media or more tips for more graphics for their website.
MTI: What direction do you see Digital Darlings going?
B: I’ve had people request classes in Toronto, and I would love to take Digital Darlings across Canada and get more travel out of it. I would like to expand my skills too and take some of the graphic design workshops and creative workshops in the States, and get into more branding work and maybe doing some more customized courses more tailored to social media or visual content for Instagram. Also, I would think it would be awesome to offer the lessons online so anyone can take them. That will take a little bit longer logistics-wise and to record things and do live series and that kind of stuff, but there’s so many opportunities with it and it could go in any direction. Maybe bringing on some other people in different areas of graphic design to teach mini series on certain programs or certain things that aren’t my forte – like digital calligraphy, and hand lettering.
MTI: You talked about how you got really burnt out with Framework. How do you keep yourself from getting burnt out from Digital Darlings?
B: That’s the best question. It’s so challenging and anyone who’s moonlighting and doing something else that they’re passionate about can relate to being exhausted from working really long hours. I try to have at least one day a week where I’m not touching work or thinking about work. I try not to answer emails late at night; setting really clear guidelines and being diligent with a schedule. Also, exercise. I’ve committed myself to yoga 3 times a week, and sometimes that feels awesome and sometimes it doesn’t feel manageable at all. Making myself do something active is helpful when you’re sitting in front of a computer all day or doing anything stationary. It’s so hard on your body, so taking the time to exercise makes me feel so much better. It’s a world of difference compared to how I used to feel before. And getting enough sleep. I can’t work until 2 in the morning and then get up at 7. There’s no way that’s going to happen. I like to read a lot. I try to read before and shut down work mode and switch off my technology brain. I think that’s really helpful too.
MTI: What is something you’re currently addicted to?
B: My new Wacom tablet. It’s super geeky. I’m addicted to that because I’ve just gotten it, and now I can do hand lettering and stuff for clients. I’m really having fun playing with that. I’m also addicted to food. Always. I love food. I got the Oh She Glows Vegan Cookbook. It’s amazing. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I love it, because it’s easy. It’s Canadian so all the ingredients are stuff that you can find here. You kinda get stuck in a rut with cooking, especially when I don’t have a dishwasher anymore and I don’t have time. I find it therapeutic to pull out a cookbook and try something new. That and the Thug Kitchen Cookbook. It’s amazing. The blog is good, but the cookbook – I would buy it just to read it because it’s that funny. I’ve only cooked one thing, but it was really delicious. It’s a little more complicated, but it’s a hilarious cookbook. It appeals to the 12-year old boy in me.
MTI: Do you have a favourite book?
B: I do. It’s a historical fiction. There’s actually three in the series. The first one is called The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B, and it’s about Napoleon’s life, Josephine, and the French Revolution. It follows her life from when she’s 13 or 14 before she even moved to France and her marriage and then divorce, and her children and everything. It’s pretty cool.
MTI: What advice would you give to someone who wants to chase their dreams?
B: Go for it. When I first started the magazine, the first step for doing my own thing and doing something I was passionate about was realizing that the only person I need to justify my decisions to was myself and not needing so much outside validation to go after things I want to do. So many people have parents or friends or people telling them, “No you can’t just do that. You can’t quit your job. Why would you throw all that away?” But they’re not the ones that live your life. You do. And you need to go out there and do what makes you happy. It doesn’t matter what age you are. Obviously when you’re 20, that’s a really great time to do it because you don’t have that many responsibilities, but I think it would be worse in life to not try and never know and always be wondering, than to try and fail at it.
I could say for myself, with launching Framework Magazine, it’s taken a while for me to see that as a success, because it didn’t succeed as something that could support me financially and it wasn’t sustainable on its own. It was a success in some ways, because it set me up to do the next thing. It helped me find that niche between something your passionate about, something you’re good at, something that the world needs, and something that people are willing to pay for. You never really know until you step out there and do it and not worry about what other people are going to think about it.
Photography and Interview by: Rebekah Ho