Posted 09 July 2024
Interview by Isabelle Cassidy
Mention Rina Kulemeka

How Leeds-based creative artworker Rina Kulemeka combats imposter syndrome

After graduating with a graphic design MA in 2023, Rina Kulemeka applied for every design and artworking role she could find. When she secured a junior creative artworker role, she initially struggled with the idea of working with designers rather than being a graphic designer herself. A year later, she is happily in her second artworker position at The Onlii, loving working in an agency and still designing personal projects. Here, learn more about Rina's role, how she navigates social media pressures and her tips for overcoming self-doubt and imposter syndrome.

Rina Kulemeka

Rina Kulemeka

Job Title

Junior Creative Artworker, The Onlii



Previous Employment

Junior Creative Artworker, Roxor Group, 2023-2024

Place of Study

BA Graphic Arts & Design, Leeds Beckett University, 2018–2021
MA Graphic Design, Leeds Beckett University, 2021-2023


Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do as a junior creative artworker?
In a nutshell, at The Onlii I work with our artwork team to develop concepts from our creative team, producing final artwork for print and digital elements. The agency works with big-name brands like Puma, The North Face and Pets at Home, to name a few, so each project requires something different. My day-to-day is pretty hard to define!

The Onlii office in Leeds

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
My level of creative freedom varies from project to project, and adhering to brand guidelines is a big part of my role. For example, when working on digital assets for Puma, I’ll utilise skeleton templates to keep everything cohesive.

Recently, I’ve been working on a project for one of our pro-bono clients, which has allowed me to really put my own spin on things, which has been exciting! I proposed introducing illustrative characters similar to what I design in my spare time.

How did you develop your design style?
I developed my style throughout uni, inspired by Rubberhose characters (think classic Disney animations) and designers such as Elliot Ulm and Kel Lauren. My job requires structure, and my personal work is the opposite; it's a fun balance and makes me pretty well-rounded.

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Some of Serina's personal work and characters

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Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
Personally, I don’t think you need a degree to be a creative artworker. However, if you look at job sites, most places classify a degree as ‘essential’ or ‘highly desirable’ for the role. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t a degree specifically for artworking, but any similar creative degree is what they’re after. Skills-wise, attention to detail and a good understanding of industry-standard Adobe software like InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop are important.

What’s been your favourite project to work on from the past year, and why?
One of the first projects I worked on in my current role was finalising a footwear wall for The North Face. It’s been my favourite project so far but for unusual reasons!

At the time, producing work for a big brand felt exciting, but I was struggling with imposter syndrome. There had been a lot of back-and-forth between our team and the client, and I was having doubts about it being my fault and not being good enough at my role.

However, after the design was approved, we received photos of the fully installed walls in a Denver store, and it was as if something clicked in my brain. I knew that the mockups on my screen would eventually become physical objects, but it was hard to comprehend fully. Then, all of a sudden, it was real! It was a fairly simple output but even now I’m so proud to have been a part of it and seeing it become fully realised was a real boost for my self-confidence, I’m super grateful for that experience.

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The North Face footwear wall during the development stage

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The final fully installed project

How I got here

How would you describe your journey as you’ve been starting out?
I didn’t plan to end up where I am! I only studied graphic design as a BA because I didn’t get the grades to do architecture. When I graduated, the world was still reeling from Covid, so I did a panic Masters. Both decisions worked out great for me. Uni was a really fun time, I came out with two degrees and some mates for life.

How did you go about landing your first few jobs?
After uni, I jumped on every job site and applied for graphic design and artwork roles. I think that having a varied portfolio full of projects I was passionate about helped massively in my job search – feedback from job interviews consistently highlighted that they appreciated my enthusiasm when talking through my work. I landed a role as an in-house junior creative artworker, where I stayed for six months before moving to my current job, the same title but now at an agency.

“After struggling with self-confidence and imposter syndrome, developing my skills away from other people worked wonders.”

What has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Self-confidence and imposter syndrome have always been struggles for me. When I was first learning how to use Adobe software at university, it felt like I was surrounded by people who already knew how to use everything and it really knocked my confidence.

I found that developing my skills away from other people worked wonders. It meant I didn't have an anxious voice in my head telling me everyone was watching me struggle (which wasn’t happening by any means; isn’t anxiety fun!).

I also struggled with the idea of not being a graphic designer after landing my first role as an artworker. However, I’ve since learnt that while I have the ability to be a designer, being an artworker suits me! I also design posters in my spare time, so I really have the best of both worlds.

Rina's work on a live product banner for Puma’s website

How important are social media and self-promotion to your work?
Social media is a tricky one. I design a lot in my spare time and share stuff on my Instagram, but I wouldn’t say it’s an integral part of my creative process. Sure, it’d be great if one of my posts went viral and I gained thousands of followers, but that would put a lot of pressure on me to post regularly and stay on top of analytics. That sounds like a nightmare for someone with an anxious brain!

I’m very happy producing work that goes into the world under the name of my agency, I haven’t been here for a long time but I’m already so proud of the work we do and the boundaries that we collectively push.

“It‘s hard coming to terms with not being the right fit for a role, but you don’t want to work somewhere you won’t thrive.”

What are three things that you’ve found useful to your work or career, and why?

  1. It's Nice That! One of my uni tutors introduced me to the site and it’s become my go-to for keeping up to date with the world of design and the thought processes behind it.

  2. Elliot Ulm’s 'Design Chef' Twitch streams. On his channel, he sets a challenge to the chat with some kind of theme and allows an hour for everyone to create a design. The designs are shared in a Discord server, and he then goes through everyone’s designs on stream, the only rule being that only positive feedback is allowed. This is super-beneficial for self-confidence and the inspiration is amazing as anyone can get involved, no matter their experience with design.

  3. Kel Lauren’s YouTube channel. I love long-format videos and Kel has made some great videos designing projects from scratch. Watching their channel introduced me to the idea of designing for fun, which is something that I’m super-grateful for.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Ask. The. Question! I struggled with being too embarrassed to ask ‘stupid’ questions when I first started my current role. My manager gave me a great tip: give yourself a set amount of time to try and figure out a solution to your issue. Then, when time’s up if you haven’t figured it out, you have to ask someone for help. It’s such a simple idea but it drastically cut down the amount of time I spent feeling confused, and in turn boosted my confidence as I was learning faster thanks to actually asking questions.

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Rina's graphic design work for a personal poster project

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What advice would you give to someone looking to get into a similar role?
Your portfolio is your best friend. Having a solid body of work that you can talk through enthusiastically and demonstrate that you know your stuff is what an employer wants to see. Don’t think that you have to figure it out all on your own, ask any design-oriented people you know for tips on what projects to include, layout, all that fun stuff!

Also, take care of yourself during the job hunt. Getting rejections is normal and isn’t a reflection of you or your skills. You can be great but not the right fit for a role which is hard to come to terms with, but ultimately you don’t want to work somewhere where you won’t thrive.

Interview by Isabelle Cassidy
Mention Rina Kulemeka