Brenna MacNeil hails from Inverness, Nova Scotia, located here on beautiful Cape Breton island. She currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she has been working as a graphic designer since 2007. Brenna studied Public Relations at Mount Saint Vincent University and Graphic Design at NSCC, both in Halifax. She worked at an advertising agency for three years, and is currently a graphic designer at Dalhousie University. She started missbrenna when the advertising agency she was working for closed in 2010. She says that missbrenna gives her the opportunity to work on personal projects like her self-published book twentythree, her year long photo project, 12-28, and her current “Love Cape Breton” Collection. Additionally, Brenna enjoys doing design work for smaller companies and bartering with like-minded professionals.
Photography has been a passion of Brenna’s for almost 20 years and it plays a huge role in her design work and personal life. When she isn’t creating, she can be found listening to live music, hiking, walking along the coasts of local beaches, travelling, discovering new restaurants, partaking in pilates and yoga, cooking and taking road trips with her family.
We reached out to Brenna to learn more about her and her creative process. Here is what she had to say!
How did you get into making cards & stationery?
My grandmother gave me a camera when I was 11 years old. That was the beginning of my love for photography.I made my first cards almost 20 years ago by gluing scenic Cape Breton photos to blank cards and selling them in local gift shops in Inverness. Once I became a graphic designer, this process changed and now I have scenic Cape Breton cards as well as playful greeting cards.
What does your creative process look like?
It looks like a lot of notes and designs on loose paper and in notebooks. It also looks like Pinterest boards and folders filled with colour inspiration. I find I have more creative bursts in the fall and early spring, but I’m always keeping notes on paper and my phone with ideas for new products, designs and especially for greeting cards. That’s the beginning of the process. When I get into artwork/mockup phase I put on headphones and start designing from my sketches and notes. I’ll often have ideas that connect as I’m designing and will add those to the mix. I have numerous folders on my computer of ideas and inspiration. Once I’m ready to finalize artwork I review my designs, choose the ones that work the best and go into production mode. It is quite a process once my designs are ready to send to print – deciding on quantity, other pieces I may need to order (envelopes, stickers, mattes, protective envelopes, tags) as well as sizes, product and colours for apparel (that takes forever). I love receiving my final designs from the printer. I inspect all designs, photograph them for social and my website/Etsy and then put the pieces together. I wish I had more time in the day to do this part as well as to execute on my lengthy list of “someday” projects.
Where do you get inspiration for your items? What is your favourite piece to create?
Inspiration comes from everyday experiences, things people say, the people I meet and am around, travelling near and far and the coastal beauty of my two homes in Halifax and western Cape Breton. I find inspiration comes from being present in the daily moments of life and giving my brain time to rest by going for walks on the beach and around the neighbourhood near Dalhousie, listening to music and going to see live music, watching movies in theatre, reading magazines and hanging out with my friends and family. I have a lot of awesome kids in my life, including my daughter, that are so fun to be around. To be creative, it’s important to have a childlike curiosity about the world – my daughter, nephews, nieces and younger friends certainly remind me of this.
My favourite piece to create are greeting cards. They can be quick and fun and a bit quirky. I enjoy connecting copy with photography and illustrations. It’s especially satisfying when my awesome customers comment on the designs or tell my why they are sending the card to someone. Cards are meaningful and can truly uplift someone or remind them they are loved or appreciated.
Where is your favourite place to create?
I love going to a quiet location with a giant piece of paper to organize my ideas or brainstorm. I LOVE the brainstorming process and reviewing sketches and ideas. When I’m in a brainstorming phase, the ideas flow pretty quickly – it’s very exciting. The real work comes when I’m designing the pieces and choosing fonts, colours and the appropriate photo or artwork.
What does your business mean to you?
It means connection to people and place. It’s a creative outlet that constantly inspires me. Through my business, I’ve self-published twentythree - a whimsical book of Q&A with photography, participated in two Lumiere art projects and studied screen printing at NSCAD. But designing Cape Breton inspired apparel, artwork and greeting cards is truly special. I started doing this in 2012 because I thought other people must love Cape Breton as much as I do. My business constantly reminds me of the amazingly special community I grew up in where the connections run deep and the memories continue through the generations.
What is your favourite quote or life motto?
My favourite quote: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” - George Bernard Shaw. My life philosophy is 85% kindness, optimism and a sense of humour, 10% laissez-faire attitude and 5% don’t take crap from people.
We are so excited to carry some of missbrenna’s products here at LQ. Currently, we carry Cape Breton stickers + bottle openers, various Cape Breton Island scenic greeting cards, as well as other greeting + occasion cards. You can shop missbrenna here.
Thank you for a behind the scenes peek at your life and creative process, Brenna!