Kick Step Design is run by illustrator, graphic designer, and outdoor adventurer Kristen Frakes. Whether it’s the tropics or snow-capped mountains, you can usually identify her prints by their warm retro tones and nature-inspired designs. To see more, visit her online or on Instagram 

How did you get started making your designs?  

As a kid, I always had a drawing pen in hand; constantly doodling or having coloring play dates with my childhood friends. Looking back, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I would reach for the pen or the coloring book when I was anxious or needed to ground myself. I didn’t really have a conventional childhood growing up, so art was a way for me to express myself and get me back into a state of zen.  

Fast-forward 15 years later, I really hit the ground running with my design work when everything slowed down during the pandemic. I had more time on my hands (like most people) and realized how happy it truly made me. 

Can you walk me through the process of creating your graphic art? 

Once I get a spark of inspiration, I start with a rough sketch on paper, whether that’s on the back of a lunch receipt or official with my archival ink and my drawing pad. Then I transfer the work digitally to my laptop or iPad (Adobe Illustrator and/or Procreate) and begin the fun part of creating concrete lines, adding colors or text, etc.  

Depending on how simple or detailed my illustration idea is, it can sometimes take hours or weeks to finish one piece. Lately, I’m really striving for quality over quantity, so I feel like my designs are taking longer to finish. But that’s the best part about it– more time focusing on a design equals more flow state.  

Where does your inspiration come from?  

I’m most inspired by nature and all of its unique elements. Whether it’s a local biking trail in Bellingham, or in the jungle of Costa Rica, I’m constantly in awe of the way nature looks and makes us feel. I find a lot of joy in mountain biking, snowboarding, traveling, or just going for a trail walk outside my door, so it’s not uncommon for me to stop whatever I’m doing and just take it all in. I couple that with my spirituality, outlook on life, and strive to make designs that remind us all how beautiful life truly is.