August is Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Awareness Month, so we thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to interview our Chief Creative Officer, Alyssa Silva, who has SMA type 1! Not only does Alyssa have a real eye for all things creative in her work life, but also in her personal, creating beautiful art prints for your home or loved ones.
If you’re looking for some creative inspiration, want to get into design or want to know more about our CCO at Liberare, here’s our 1-1 interview to get you on that creative path! You can learn more about Alyssa on her website and Instagram.
1. What does a day in the life of a Chief creative officer look like?
Every day is different! I wear many hats at Liberare, but before I start my day, I always ask myself: “how do I feel today?”
Living with SMA, I often feel weak and fatigued. Simply put, my disease impacts my physical abilities. It is debilitating at times, especially when I overdo it, and it’s important for me to be honest with myself when it comes to how I’m feeling. Assessing how I feel, how much energy I have, what doctor’s appointments are on the calendar for the day helps me plan what I can and can’t accomplish in a workday. I’m also really fortunate to work in an environment that prioritizes health first.
Once I set myself up for success, I make a to-do list of what needs to get done. While the tasks for the day may vary, I know one thing is for sure— my creativity is going to be needed. I help our designer with patterns and colors and hardware designs. I brainstorm content with the marketing team and strategize based on metrics we track to help us grow. I handle email marketing and website design and all things branding. And I work closely with our CEO on partnerships.
That was a mouthful haha. But I really do enjoy it. I’ve always found expressing myself through creativity to be almost therapeutic. To be quite honest, I didn’t think I would be able to make a living out of it. But the opportunity came to me at the right time so I took it.
2. What adaptations do you have? Do you have an image of you at work/ videos showing how you work?
As a matter of fact, I do! I always tell people the world is at my fingertip because literally. I do everything, like everythiiing, with one finger. Like I said, my disease causes severe muscle weakness. There was a time when I was able to do so much more physically but over time my muscles atrophied and I lost the ability. But if there’s one thing living with SMA taught me, it’s how to adapt.
Today, I use my iPhone for everything. When I’m working, I use an app on my phone called WiFi mouse. This allows me to connect to my laptop through WiFi and use the cursor as a mouse and keyboard. I’ll send a picture to give a clearer idea.
Alyssa is laying down with her phone placed on her right arm. She is using her left middle finger on the screen with her laptop in front of her. You can also watch Alyssa draw here.
3. Where do you get your inspiration from/ how do you get over a creative block?
I know this is going to sound vague, but life. The beauty of creativity is that you can feel inspired from anywhere as long as you’re open to it. It could be a conversation with a friend or the colors of a meal while out to lunch one day. Creativity is always around you just waiting to be found.
That being said, all creators have creative blocks. Even as Chief Creative Officer, I deal with this often. I’m not trying to place any blame here, but my brain fog is a big contributor to this. It’s hard to be creative when your body is checked out. On those days, I do one of a few things. I either:
- Leave it for another day when I’m feeling more refreshed and focused.
- Watch YouTube videos of people doing creative things. I don’t know why but that inspires me.
- Or I create something mediocre, leave it for a few days, then go back to it and make it better. This is probably what I do most often.
4. Advice to others about wanting to get into the design industry.
I think I should start off by saying I am entirely self-taught when it comes to the design industry. In college, I studied business which has obviously been beneficial to my career as the CCO of a startup company. But I wasn’t taught how to be a designer.
I have always been creative my entire life. I think I’ve been drawing since I learned how to hold a pencil in my hand haha. But I didn’t know the technical stuff behind graphic design nor did I know how to use the programs like Adobe suite. So I taught myself. I watched countless hours of YouTube videos, signed up for courses online, watched a bunch of Skillshare classes, and practiced a ton. In the first few months of the pandemic, that’s literally all I did.
So if there’s anything I hope you take from this, it’s to just start. Apply yourself. Get serious about the work. You don’t necessarily need a formal education to be a designer. However, I would suggest taking courses from credible designers.
Once you gain a little experience, start creating. Your confidence will grow over time and with lots of practice. Create fake mock-ups for businesses. Offer to create things for your friends and family. Share your work online. Over time you’ll eventually build a portfolio to help land a job.
5. Who’s your favourite artist? Can be art, music etc. e.g music could get you in the zone!
Taylor Swift, of course. I started listening to her long before she hit the radio so I consider myself an OG Swiftie. I also love Andrew McMahon and think he’s a lyrical genius. Several years ago, he battled leukemia and ended up writing an entire album about it. Although I’ve never had cancer, his songs have inspired me so much to keep pressing on living with a disability. If you get the chance and like alternative music, listen to The Glass Passenger by Jack’s Mannequin. That was the name of his band before he went solo.
6. Why do you think it’s so important to have representation in the creative industry?
I think it’s important to have representation in all facets of life. Disabled people are often excluded because society deems us incapable. But the more disability representation we have, the more we can dismantle these misconceptions.