Isabel Serna

Read the full interview here.
Dhwani Garg
The first question is also the most obvious: Can you tell me about your background, and how would you describe what you do?

Isabel Serna
I went to school for industrial design. So I’m an industrial designer. I worked at a luggage company for four years. I specialized in product design as an industrial designer and wanted to do packaging. I liked the graphic aspect of industrial design. Back in college, I liked branding and packaging as a specialization. When I was looking for a job, I found a job as a product designer, so I was fine. Working in the luggage industry is where I discovered pattern design.

As you know, as a luggage designer, I had to design the zipper pools, handles, wheels, and the bag’s look. It was a lot like figuring out fabrics for types of luggage, and one of the things that I needed to do was create the lining for the inside of the bag. I made patterns for the lining with the company’s logo because it was like a business-type luggage called Travel Pro, and now it has grown a lot. They used a lot of color, but at that time, it was mainly for flight attendants and pilots and was way more professional. 

I discovered patterns, and I was like, oh my gosh, what is this? I love the idea of recreating an icon or two and replicating them infinitely. I would go home and start figuring it out, and as you can see, I love colors. I would see how simple designs would look with a pop of color, how you scatter and play with them. So, I would go home and play a lot with patterns. That’s how I got started; I started creating a portfolio and made a website. I eventually started to reach out to companies, and I ended up leaving that job to do all this all the time.

So exciting and wonderful to hear. It’s always the best thing when something sparks. If you chase behind it and get to do what you love, it is always the best thing. 
It is true that inspiration can come from anywhere. Again, I was working as a luggage designer, and I never considered myself super artsy. All my life, I have always thought I wanted to be a doctor, and I come from a family of engineers. I did anatomy, physiology, and all that for two years, but I did not really get into art at all. When I graduated as an industrial designer and started working at this company, illustration was not even like; I didn’t know that there was a career as a pattern designer, and when I started playing with patterns at home, after I discovered pattern design, I was like, okay, let’s see if I can draw a dog. I would draw a dog. I’m like, I can draw a dog. I would challenge myself to be like, oh, can I draw a shoe? Can I draw an umbrella and a flower? This is how I realized I could draw. I started doing that more and more, and my business grew. I do pattern and illustration now because I realized when I was 30 that I could draw. 

It’s so amazing that you can follow your passion. Color plays a crucial role in your work. When choosing colors, do you consider deeper meanings, or is it all about aesthetics? Also, what makes working with color so enjoyable or fascinating for you?
Yes, color is very important for me personally and for the work that I do. When you say about the name of your thesis, it is like, what is the pt? Right? And for me, I asked myself that question in a different meaning, like, what is the point of what we do? The world is difficult sometimes. What is the point of beauty? What’s the point of art? I want to save the planet or whatever, like working on bigger things. I always come back to joy as an artist, illustrator, and pattern designer. At least for me, my mission and something really important for me is spreading joy and putting a smile on someone’s face when they see my work or making someone feel good, happy, and cozy when they see something I created. So, color is obviously crucial—all elements of that. Also, coming from Colombia and Latin America, I think you can relate because Indian culture is so rich in color. Because of our cultures, color is ingrained in us, and it’s important for us. It’s a way of expression almost. It’s weird because I am very drawn to black-and-white artwork. I love it when I see someone else doing that. I tried to do that sometimes. But it’s very different. Like, I just need to go to pink and yellow; it’s almost a necessity. It’s a way of expression.