Alaina Jensen sells a number of excellent design resources on Creative Market and elsewhere under the name Studio Denmark (although she now resides in the UK), largely focusing on textures, brushes and handwritten script fonts. Both her products and her presentation skills grabbed my attention, particularly her Procreate brushes and numerous gold foil textures. I’d previously only chatted with her in a Slack forum for CM sellers and wanted to dig a little deeper to get her take on her own work and her thoughts on all of the joys and challenges that come with being a seller of digital design products. I want to thank Alaina for taking the time to speak with me.
Did you always want to be a designer? How to did you find your way to selling through online marketplaces?
I always wanted to be a great many things, but designer/artist was one them. Ever since I first learned about the internet as a child I understood the potential to reach a large and wide ranging audience, so I made a goal to learn how to earn a living that way, somehow. I first studied English because I also had a goal of being an author, then went on to do a completely unrelated M.S. from the IT University of Copenhagen. They had a Design degree which was the one I really wanted, as I had already been dabbling in design at that point, but it was in Danish which I wasn’t proficient enough in at the time, so I ended up taking the degree in Software Development instead (which was also fun, and taught in English).
After that, while I was on maternity leave, I had a friend who was selling digital designs on Etsy, which she told me all about and I was so intrigued that I started working on my own digital paper designs and selling them on Etsy. Soon after, I discovered Creative Market which is now my very favourite marketplace to sell my designs.
Your shop largely consists of high quality feminine textures. Can you briefly describe your creative process from concept to product release for one of your textures? Do you regularly collect actual textures for source material?
Each one of my products has had a slightly different process depending on what it is, but I love realistic texture so I almost always start with a photo I have taken or a scan of my own artwork. Then I usually do a lot of edits in photoshop, and tend to work pretty intuitively fiddling with this and that and using digital tools on the texture until I like how it looks. Then there is sometimes a lot of formatting to make sure the texture is easy for people to use in particular programs like Photoshop, Illustrator. or Procreate.
Are you someone who needs to continually out-do yourself or are you content with much of your work?
I’m quite perfectionist so I’m probably never 100% satisfied with my work, but I usually take a lot of time to get things right and don’t release a product until I get to that point. I wouldn’t say I’m trying to outdo myself but I do like to keep learning new things and tend to obsessively cycle through artistic interests, so I usually try to get a product or two out of each obsession before it fades.
Would you mind sharing 3 of the products you’re most proud of and explaining why?
This product represents all of my bestselling layer styles which basically means that years of work and creativity went into it. Each of the included products is a mini bundle with tons of layer styles, textures, vectors, templates and even fonts. I’ve created each of them around a different theme, for instance watercolor, chalkboard, textured gold, etc and I’m really happy with all of these products and excited to offer them as a bundle now!
This product came into being when I first got an iPad Pro and basically fell in love with everything it could do, especially in the Procreate App. I wanted to make a set of brushes that would be a starter kit for anyone beginning to do iPad lettering, basically what I would have wanted to use when I first started, and I’m really happy about the result.
This one was another venture into an unknown territory for me – social media templates. I wanted to create something that would basically be one huge work of art that people could customize like a giant mood board for their own instagram page. I’m excited to create more products in this category in the coming months.
About how long would you say a typical Studio Denmark design asset (including preview images) takes to complete?
Sometimes I will think about product ideas for months or even years before they come to fruition (if they ever do), but once the work starts, realistically it usually takes an average of about a month and a half from start to finish.
What do you find to be the greatest struggle(s) for designers selling online?
I can’t speak for all designers, but my biggest struggle has probably been self doubt. When I first started out, it was terrifying when someone spent money on something that I created with my own skills and imagination. I constantly worried that it wasn’t good enough.
My confidence has grown now but I still feel very nervous with each and every new product that I release, so much that I have to work on something completely different or even just take time off for a day or two afterwards in order to “recover.” I’ve been working on it and someday I hope to completely eliminate that emotional rollercoaster, at which point I will probably be a lot quicker at releasing products.
When settling on a concept, which is more important to you: immediately recognizable or outside the box?
I can sometimes get carried away with a visual trend I like – gold or watercolor for example – but when developing a concept I try to look at it in new ways. I’m always trying to keep my mind open to how I can provide convenience and innovation that will save time, effort and money for my buyers. I am influenced by trends if I like them, but if something that’s trending does not appeal to me, there is no way that I would make a product within that trend.
Do you love, hate or feel indifferent toward promoting your own work? How do you reach your audience?
I’m pretty indifferent to it – it’s definitely not something that I prioritize. What I like about Creative Market is that if you consistently come up with good quality products, the buyers do show up. I enjoy connecting with customers on Instagram and sharing my current projects there, but I do it because I enjoy it rather than any specific marketing technique.
Is “Studio Denmark” your full-time job or a side project? If side project, what’s your day-time gig?
It’s definitely my full time gig when it comes to earning, and has been for over four years now. For me this started out as a way to earn a living doing something I enjoy while still being able to spend a lot of time with my family. I can’t imagine working at a “normal” job again, and routinely turn down custom requests because I absolutely love making digital products that can be enjoyed by more than one person or company. My youngest is starting school soon, so once that happens I will have an (almost) full time work schedule for the first time in almost a decade, and am very much looking forward to having more time to get more products released.
Do you listen to music when you work and if so, what are you listening to?
It depends on what stage of a project I’m on – if I’m in the final stages of releasing a product, I’m usually in the zone and music with lyrics takes me out of that, so I often am working in silence or I find an Apple playlist with some instrumental music, usually classical piano or electronic.
During really creative stages of a project I enjoy listening to old school rock and alternative, usually with the volume all the way up, mostly bands I grew up with like Muse and Radiohead. I also get periodically obsessed with some musical or other and listen to the soundtrack way too much, for instance there was a time when I started my work day (every day) by listening to the LaLa Land soundtrack 2 or 3 times.