Break through fear and design with purpose, a chat with Amanda Ortiz

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Oakland-based Amanda Ortiz recently made some big changes to her lifestyle. On top of transitioning to a full-time design gig after freelancing for a few years, Amanda’s new routine includes going vegan and taking small steps to live more sustainably — a new source of inspiration for her passion projects.

Get to know Amanda as she shares her journey into design, how she tackles impostor syndrome head-on, and much more!

Tell us about yourself and where you work.

Currently, I work full-time as a designer and illustrator on the Brand Studio team at Gusto. Before that, I was freelancing full-time and running a small design studio at home with my fiance who is also a designer. We did that for about two and a half years, until we both decided we wanted to be a part of something bigger.

My favorite part of freelancing was having the opportunity to work with so many energetic entrepreneurs and small business owners putting in work and pursuing their passions. The energy was contagious and I loved burning the midnight oil. The lovely array of industries we crossed paths with kept us on our toes, and we relished the mixed bag of projects — from pastry box packaging, an entire brand identity for a cannabis lifestyle brand, to layout templates for patient test results for a genomics company.

We thoroughly enjoyed connecting with so many wonderful, knowledgable, hard-working folks.

  1. Golden Year - Detail

  2. Pollinate with Peace No. 8

  3. Who wants to pin swap? :)

How did you get started in design?

The way I got into design was by accident, and the story is rather anti-climactic but here goes:

When I graduated high school, I didn’t have the slightest idea what I wanted to pursue, so when it came time to apply to schools I literally sent out one application to one school (California State University, Sacramento) with no backup plan. (What was I thinking??).

I’ve always had creative tendencies, and I thank my parents for being the heavy influencers in that arena. My dad was a pastry chef and was constantly working on various creations. He’d build kites out of bamboo and newspaper, or make miniature sculptures out of chocolate for fun. My mom is super crafty and was the MVP of all my school projects. She’d make custom greeting cards, build miniature dollhouses, sew me Halloween costumes, and so much more. Even my brother and sister were talented at drawing, so being artistic ran in the family.

Let’s be honest, being a ‘starving artist’ scared the shit out of me.

Even with the heavy creative influence at home, I was undeclared during my first year and a half in college because I was feeling pressure from my dad to pursue dentistry, and let’s be honest — being a ‘starving artist’ scared the shit out of me. Luckily, one day I finally became fed up with myself for being so indecisive, so I marched my way to the academic advising hall and signed myself up to be a graphic design major (whatever the hell that was).

The rest is history 🙂


What project(s) are you currently working on?

Gusto just recently launched their new brand, so I’ve been a part of supporting that initiative. Some projects include refreshing illustrations for both product and marketing purposes, designing fun posters for the IT help center, and working with an animator to bring a couple loading animations to life. As far as freelance goes, I’m helping my brother brand his photography business.

What else are you passionate about outside design? How does it influence your work?

Outside of design, I’m becoming more and more passionate about advocating for climate change and environmental activism. I’ve been taking steps to reduce waste, live more sustainably, and I even went vegan this week! (Wish me luck 😅).

Adopting this new lifestyle has influenced me to devote my talents to promoting activism through my creative work because I know how impactful visual design can be for these types of initiatives. As a passion project, I’m currently seeking out non-profits and sustainable brands who need design support for spreading their mission.

  1. You made it to Tuesday

  2. Prints!

  3. Blackletter a

  4. San Francisco Themed Metallic Letterpress Holiday Card

  5. #PollinateWithPeace - No. 6

  6. Happy Birthday to my boy! 🎉🎉🎉

Tell us about a favorite piece of advice you’ve received as a creative.

I’m not quite sure who or where I absorbed this piece of advice from, but it has been the mantra I constantly come back to every time I start feeling the creep of impostor syndrome:

Not everything you make or do has to be a masterpiece.

As creatives, we’re in a constant state of vulnerability. We share our work with the world knowing that it will inevitably be judged, dissected or analyzed. With every post, we relinquish our egos into the abyss of the internet, and whether we like it or not, we’re affected by how it is received.

Many creatives and myself included, are deeply influenced by these outside forces, which makes it difficult to escape from perfectionism. Striving for perfection is not only a fool’s errand, but it also fuels an unhealthy perspective of your work and causes censorship around process. Reflecting back on this piece of advice has greatly helped me create more, and in turn, create better work by remembering that progress can be ugly at times, and that is absolutely, entirely okay.

Shout-out: Who is another Dribbble designer you admire?

Shout out to Jenna Carando! I admire her for not only being a top-notch human being, but she’s also a gifted letterer, and actively contributes her talents to advocate for environmental wellness.

Her passion project #smallchangesbigimpact showcases all of her extensive research around reducing waste in the form of beautiful lettering. She even created a downloadable PDF of easy steps to take to lower your own carbon footprint!

Any events, speaking gigs, merch, workshops, classes, or products you’d like to shout-out?

I’m not selling anything at the moment, BUT I would love to trade enamel pins with anyone who is interested. I’ll be swapping with my rose gold ‘peace-a’ pin, found on my page.

Want to keep up with Amanda? Find her on Dribbble, Instagram, and at

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