It’s nearly impossible to categorize Senior Graphic Designer Julia Emiliani.

She runs her own Etsy shop. Do you?


Her artwork appears in stores across the country. Do you even art, bro?

Witch better have my money

She has her own supply chain of wholesalers and manufacturers. Big words.

Oh, and, she happens to work at Brafton.

License to ill…ustrate

So how did Julia end up here?

Born in Florida, growing up in Connecticut and honing her design skills in Boston, she was already well on her way to big things.

After graduating from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, she launched her professional career with multiple creative ventures. For one, she exhibits drawings, paintings and custom silkscreens at local events, supporting the regional art community and networking with other vendors.

Julia paintingCheck out more of her work here.

She also expanded upon her illustration skills by moving more toward the graphic design/UX world upon entering the Braftiverse in 2015.

Illustration for me is a more personal practice that is less about ‘the rules of design’ and more about combining experimentation in different media with objects and experiences that inspire me to create a piece I can feel proud of,” Julia said. “The transition into a more rigid environment that was more digital, more Vector-based, was actually easier than I thought because it seemed like a natural exploration of new tools and new mediums to accomplish a similar goal.”

Though not all digital assets in the commercial world lend themselves to heavy illustration work, the ones that do, like large eBooks and infographics, allow creatives like Julia to take the lead on concepting.

“Smaller projects that are text-based, like white papers, only call for a minimal amount of formatting and artwork, so overloading with too many design features or personal stylings can do more harm than good,” Julia noted. “But eBooks and infographics are meant to be visual assets, which means every character or illustration I produce is meant to display information in place of text. In a lot of ways, I get to call the shots.”

And when Julia calls the shots, clients find success.

“A certain level of collaboration and creative license goes a long way,” she said. “If you immediately shut down ideas too early in the process, you’re almost designing yourself into a corner, rather than starting from a fixed point and designing outward toward the vision you’re hoping to achieve.”

A certain level of collaboration and creative license goes a long way.

Listen up, brands

Art is inherently ambitious, yet too many companies view themselves with a near-morbid mentality of being boring or uninspiring. This self-defeating mindset comes across in branding, which sets the tone for how businesses interact with the public.

Bad branding = bad user experience.

If Julia had it her way, clients would be much more open and free of their perceived deficiencies. They basically need to put on their best face each morning and smile like they mean it – and you can do that with effective branding that incorporates illustrations into their identity.

Take Dropbox, a great example of how to include contemporary illustration into company culture:


Justin Tran, the creator of this design, and one of Julia’s favorite illustrators, managed to turn billing cycles into artwork – and there’s nothing more corporate than billing!

The fashion and retail industries tend to do a great job at using their websites and social platforms as communication vehicles.

“I really like how Lazy Oafs showcases their fashion designs through oversized photos and use new and innovative UX design ideas like having large bold type and images overlap with text,” Julia said.

Lazy Oaf

Lazy Oafs speaks its own language with every image, animated icon and bit of copy it has on its site, and it adds a dimension of personality and charm that you don’t see every day.

For companies wanting a UX design overhaul, a great place to start is ditching all the stock images and allowing margins to serve a purpose.

“Just because there is open space doesn’t mean it needs to be filled,” Julia said. “And you can convey so much more with an image than through text, so a bunch of jargon on every page takes away from your branding.”

If only there were more time

While brands try to stay on top of the latest trends, Julia’s not losing any sleep over it.

Julia painting

“There’s so much I want to do but so few hours in the day,” she noted. “While working at Brafton, I’m also making patches, stickers, pins and T-shirts to sell online, and I have to manage customer orders, deals with vendors and a few manufacturers that help bring all of this to life.”

In addition to becoming an expert at Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and After Effects, she wants to pursue large-scale still-life painting, sewing her own pillows, making her own clothes and finally decorating her apartment with her creations alone.

Is that too much to ask?

Mike O'Neill is a writer, editor and content manager in Chicago. When he's not keeping a close eye on Brafton's editorial content, he's auditioning to narrate the next Ken Burns documentary. All buzzwords are his own.