student Kotryna Siugzdinyte with a background of a design she has made as a BYOL student

BYOL Student Spotlight: Kotryna Siugzdinyte

Daniel Scott


One of the best parts about BYOL is our amazing community of students. I am consistently inspired by the work they create and it brings me so much joy to hear how being part of BYOL has helped them grow their careers and explore their passions. 

In our student spotlight series, we will be highlighting different community members, learning how they got to where they are today, and the tips and advice they would share to other BYOL students looking to grow their design skills.

Today I am excited to introduce Kotryna! Kotryna is a cellist turned graphic designer from Lithuania. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Kotryna, I’ve been on this earth for a little over 30 years now, and for most of that time I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by art. 

I grew up in Vilnius, Lithuania. It’s a small country near the Baltic Sea and it contains the most beautiful nature: vast green forests, various bodies of water, rich cultural heritage - especially when it comes to folklore. 

Both of my parents are musicians - my father played the violin and my mother the cello. When I was little, I spent my evenings watching ballets and operas as my mother worked in the Opera House, later on I loved going to theaters and art galleries wherever I went. I love most genres of music, nature, yoga, cycling, swimming, deep conversations about the ‘Human Condition’ and I see laughter as a cure for any situation.

Kotryna Siugzdinyte smiling at the camera

Meet Kotryna!

Tell us about your career path.

I have played the cello since I was 6 years old and went to an Arts School in Lithuania where I studied music for 13 years. While I specialized in cello, in my school we were all under the same roof: musicians, ballet dancers, visual artists. So perhaps while I wasn’t learning about design before beginning my journey at BYOL, I was exposed to it from early on. 

When I was nineteen I moved to Manchester, UK, where I studied music for another 6 years and earned my Masters degree. Then, just as I was beginning to enter the “real world” of post-study performances and teaching work, and even creating some of my own music, I injured my back, and everything stopped. I held on as long as I could, at times practicing standing up/laying down, but even on my best days I could only do that for a couple of minutes at a time. So much of my identity was tied to being a cellist, to creativity - music was the love of my life. To lose all that I worked so hard towards for decades, it was heartbreaking. Eventually, to cope with the grief and to try and find other ways to connect to my artistic side, I discovered painting by numbers. A while after that, I got myself a book and tried to learn how to draw (which I wasn’t very successful at). 

I continued to desire creativity, independence and a fulfilling career and eventually discovered UI design, Figma, and through that - BYOL. Dipping my toes in graphic design, the joy and expression it brings, makes me feel incredibly lucky. Finding something you love to do once in a lifetime is a tremendous blessing, but twice? Despite every hardship, I’m unbelievably grateful for that.

What drew you to the field of graphic design?

Expression. I think I’ve just always had the need to find ways other than words to share ideas. Music, amongst other things, was my safe place - that state of flow which we get into during ‘creative time’, where everything else in the world just kind of melts away. I needed to find something else that brings me that feeling, and graphic design turned out to be ‘It’. I love playing around with brushes and strokes, images, every medium of it - creating unexpected things, juxtaposing what doesn’t normally belong together, challenging rules and stereotypes. Perhaps that’s it? A different lens to see the world? I think more than anything I have this desire, this need for expression, and for a life in which my career is not only a source for stability, but something that I deeply enjoy and can be myself in.

A woman in a blue jacket kneels down and imagines walking on a beach in a dress and beach hat

“Dream Sequence” Kotryna created this in my Photoshop Essentials Course. This is about about illness, and the deep longing felt when the only way you can travel is in your imagination and memories.

What role has BYOL played as you have transitioned to this new field of graphic design?

BYOL has been INCREDIBLY important. Discovering the huge variety of classes, the approachable, thoughtful, well-structured and uplifting teaching style, and the community here at BYOL was like finding gold. 

At the beginning I knew very little about using any of the Adobe tools, so most of what I’ve learned so far on my journey is because of BYOL. We live in a fantastic time in this way, that one can learn so much online. But finding a place of such high quality content that’s also organized in a naturally progressing way, that’s not a given. The culture at BYOL is tremendously important as well. In every comment or piece of feedback, we - students, teachers - uplift each other, we notice the things that are good, interesting, well done. I think this is very valuable at these early stages and allows us a safe space to create, experiment, and flourish within our own styles. It’s invaluable to have a space to ask #nodumbquestions, to share, and to receive feedback. There are many works of mine that have been made better because of insights that teachers and/or fellow students have shared with me. Pedro Almeida once, after hearing my story, quite literally went through everything that I had submitted at the time and commented with his valuable feedback - I don’t think I’ll ever forget that act of kindness. It truly is a community, one that I’m deeply grateful to be a part of.

Favorite BYOL class?

I love the Smoke Brush course at the end of Photoshop Essentials. It is such a wonderful way to dip into experimentation and exploration, while also learning a very cool technique. Learning about the blend tool in Illustrator Advanced shook my world - I spent days scouring the internet for a variety of ways to implement this technique and trying to figure out how they did it, to recreate it. I used these skills to create the Spring' magazine cover you see below. 

A magazine cover with blue flowers on a black background and the text overlay Spring.

The magazine cover Kotryna designed after taking Illustrator Advanced.

The most influential though, is possibly the Postcard project, early in the Photoshop Essentials course. One of the things that stood out to me from this course is the importance of applying lessons learned at BYOL to real life scenarios. With every new lessons, I now think to myself “what is a practical scenario where I could apply the lessons I just learned?” And I’ll try to take the techniques I learned and make a poster, a magazine cover, a mobile landing page - anything, really. And this thought process enables me to bring the project to a new level. 

 What advice would you give to someone looking to make a career transition?

First - you’re never truly starting from nothing. It took me a while and some deep conversations with a dear friend to understand this, but after a while I began to see that so much of what I’d learned from music is applicable to design, and not just because both are artistic careers. The work ethic, problem solving, communication, creative solutions - those are universal things that if we learn them once, we can carry them forward to any new path.

Second - remember how it was when you first began your previous career. When I get impatient with myself, I try to recall how long it took to be able to make good quality sound, find the notes on the instrument with ease - none of us begin playing the hardest concertos. Same applies to design. Celebrate yourself every step of the way, for even the tiniest bit of progress - the only competition or comparison that truly matters is “Me yesterday vs. Me today”. When you see a design you like that feels “out of reach” (right now!), instead of comparison, guide your mind towards pure inspiration and curiosity. Be your own best cheerleader. 

Kotryna Siugzdinyte smiles while holding a beverage in a plastic cup

Kotryna Siugzdinyte

What is next for you? What are some future goals you have career wise?

I’d like to do some poster designs, or other promotional materials for events that my colleagues in the music industry are doing. I think it’s a niche I’d be comfortable in, and one which would allow me to remain connected to the musical world. I had this wonderful experience with my friend Ingvild a few months back, when she asked me for posters for some concerts she did in Norway. That collaboration, and having this new way to support my friend’s goals, see the positive impact my designs had on her event - that was absolutely awesome! And bonus - my posters hung in streets, libraries and concert venues in Norway, which is absolutely surreal.

Two blonde women against a black background smile at the camera. The text overlay is in Norwegian.

A concert poster Kotryna designed.

That said, I’m only just now starting to get out of my shell and share some of my work outside of BYOL. In the future, I’d love to establish some freelance work with graphic design, although an internship somewhere would be wonderful. 

In the end, my quiet hope is that I’ll be able to blend my career in music and my career as a graphic designer. However, I’ve learned not to have expectations and not to tie myself to things going in a specific way or according to a specific timeline. That said, I also have hope. If one day I’m a graphic designer by day, and musician by night, or some version of that - it would truly be “the Dream”.

Anything else you would like to share that we should have asked you?

I think I would simply like to say Thank You. This community, the learning opportunity it gave me was something that lifted me up at a time when I needed it the most. It gave me a sense of momentum, growth, joy, fulfillment, and playfulness. I applaud each and every member of this community who shows this wonderful hunger for knowledge, dedication to learning a new craft, courage to share their work (especially the “work in progress”), and for the support they provide each other. And I’m deeply grateful for the teachers for generously sharing their knowledge, their insightful feedback and encouragement. I feel lucky to have found this place. 

Thank you, Kotryna! We are thrilled to have you as a BYOL student and can’t wait to see all you continue to create! 

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