From the Media Capital, to the Global Ethiopian Community
Wednesday October 20th 2021

Tigist Kelkay: Designing in High Spirits

“Graphic design is something I stumbled upon by accident but it became my passion.”

-Tigist Kelkay, Designer

Her designs are eye-catchy, her work uplifting.  Tigist Kelkay – a gifted designer – is an example of what we can become with ambition.

The oldest of five, Tigist describes her upbringing in Ethiopia as a well-rounded one, thanks to her parents.  “They have done everything to help us focus on our studies and we all did great in school.  I’m always indebted to them, for they have never failed to make us happy and content, even if it meant going out of their way.”  As a child, she dreamt of becoming an astronaut.  “I used to read books about the outer space a lot.”  By ninth grade Tigist knew she wanted to become a designer/architect.  “After graduation, although I still had an interest in architecture, I was more drawn toward the field of graphic design.”

Tigist graduated from Addis Ababa University with a Bachelors Degree in Architecture and Urban Planning and has been residing in America for the past two years and a half. “I always saw my life in Ethiopia. When the opportunity [to live in America] presented itself, I was faced with a hard decision.” While it was terrifying to leave everything she knew and start a new life, Tigist was convinced that “coming to America was a chance to explore a very different environment and I was ready to throw in a little challenge into my life.” With that ambition and keeping that motivation, Tigist landed a job for an engineering firm in New York where she currently works as a CAD Designer/Marketing Assistant. She is also a freelance graphic artist.

Designing is a line of work that comes with many rewards and challenges. “The best reward for my work is the feedback I receive from clients. It always gives me a thrill to see clients pleased with my work and I especially can’t wait to see a piece back from the printers to see how the design turned out.” The biggest challenge of being a designer “and the worst part of the design process” is when all creative inspiration vanishes. “It’s like ‘writer’s block’ and due to this fact meeting deadlines can be a big challenge.” And then there’s the “fight for self expression.” Tigist believes all designers resist having their design being either rejected, changed, or watered down. “But at the end of the day, the design produced has to meet the requirements and needs set by the client.”

Most of Tigist’s work is featured on the Behance Network where her portfolio features intriguing works from culturally inspired wedding invitations to professional logos.  “Graphic design is something I stumbled upon by accident but it became my passion.”  Tigist found bridging the gap from her educational background as an architect to a graphic designer to be quite simple.  “Being trained as an architect gives you the basics for design so the transition was easy.”

While working fulltime and being a freelance designer can seem daunting, Tigist – who uses her commute time to and from work “to read, draw, and think” – sees her freelance work as more of a hobby.  “The biggest part of the job is getting the creative inspiration and the best part is that the idea may come at anytime and anyplace.”  As the mind of a designer is always running, Tigist keeps busy with projects that include working on her upcoming website, Yolk.  “Yolk is a website I’m currently working on.  It will mainly showcase the works I have done over the years and it will constantly be updated with new works.”  Yolk will also have a journal where Tigist will share her thoughts and views on various subjects.

In the future Tigist visualizes herself equipped with more skills as a designer.  “I hope to establish a business that can grow into something that I can take back to Ethiopia that can benefit my people and also give me a fulfillment of doing something meaningful.”

In Ethiopia, Tigist has designed works for CDC-Ethiopia, Tulane University, and John Hopkins University, as well as companies in various lines of businesses such as real estate, design, security, retail, entertainment, etc and for individuals.  In the U.S., Tigist has designed works for independent record labels, private companies, and numerous individuals, in addition to designing for online publications.

For more information contact Tigist Kelkay at

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