Carissa Smart is a designer and photographer behind the influential Instagram account Design by Aikonik, which combines the fashion, design and lifestyle genre with a fantastic flair for flat lay composition.
It's this unique style that has helped Design by Aikonik to amass over 90,000 followers on Instagram and counting, and with such a heavy product focus in her signature image style, Carissa has become the perfect collaborator for brands looking for her golden seal of approval.
We caught up with her to find out how it all happened.
How long have you been an influencer for?
I have been on social media for the past 4 years, but have taken it more seriously over the last 3 years where I have been more actively posting on Instagram and on my website.
What channels are you big on?
I have always tended to focus my work on Instagram which is where majority of my audience reside.
What topics are you influential in?
I like to keep my channel quite open, so I guess I would be considered “lifestyle”. As of more recent, I have been consumed by makeup and skincare, but I like to incorporate a lot of my office, workspace and interior which I feel really inspires people and gives them a little insight into my world.
Occasionally I may make an appearance with some fashion inspiration, but overall, I am most well-known for my flat lays.
Years ago, it was extremely popular to do the typical ‘square’ flat lay, however, I have tried to adapt and create new ways to displaying products and create eye catching imagery.
How did you initially start to grow your following?
It was and still is a slow process. I think finding a niche, sticking to it and being consistent. My following grew more and more when my audience knew what they were getting from me.
Being known for a particular skill or type of style keeps people engaged.
How many hours a week do you spend working as an Influencer and all that goes with it?
It varies from week to week, depending on if I have any sponsored work (which I take more care and time with) and also keeping up with my full-time job, which is as a freelance Graphic Designer. But just to keep the running of my Instagram, posting a minimum of once a day, could take between 6-10 hours a week. A process of constructing flat lays, shooting content, editing and then posting.
A lot of time goes into being on the phone throughout the day, but more so when uploading, engaging with my audience and being as active as possible on the app.
Beyond this from week to week meetings or events may take place that require several hours of time, but are an important aspect of the job to network, learning about new brands and product launches, talking with brands and potential clients can take several hours or numerous days depending on the time of year.
Do you take the photos on your own or do you have assistance from someone else?
I have always been a one woman show. I do everything myself from the sourcing, concepts, styling, shooting and editing. Of course, for the occasional outfit post I may get someone else to take the shot. However, a lot of the time if I need my hands in shot a self-timer is my best friend.
I like having the ability to take an idea and follow it through to the end result.
What equipment do you use (Camera/software/editing apps)?
I generally use a Canon 5D Mark II which I have used for many years and it has never failed me. Along with an EF 24-105mm F4 or an EF 50mm F1.4 lens depending on the type of shot I am after or low light situations.
In terms of software I do a lot of retouching and minimal manipulation using Photoshop just to clean up the image and then take it over to Lightroom to colour correct, brighten, clarity etc.
On the rare occasion I don’t have my camera on me I will occasionally use my iPhone and Snapseed to edit directly on my phone.
Do you have a manager to take care of the business side of things?
Yes, I am managed by Ministry of Talent, directed by Roxy Jacenko and I am looked after by a team of girls who manage and negotiate any enquiries I may receive and deal with any sponsored work with brands.
This definitely makes life a lot easier as I have my own business to keep going at the same time, having a team who is constantly out pitching ideas to potential clients and dealing with the brands directly leaves me more time to keep creating content.
What are 2 of your favourite posts that you’ve ever done and why?
I don’t have a favourite, I think they always change depending on the products I am loving or the type of image I am creating. But two types of images that I have created and always have such great responses from my audience are my beauty ‘shelfies’ and my workspace flat lays.
I love creating a shelfie that has as much product in it as I can possibly fit, presenting it this way I think draws people in because it’s so aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Generally, it’s all my favourite brands I am drawn to because of the packaging, colours that work well together and give an overview of all the amazing products I’m currently using.
The other, my workspace, which is forever changing, whether it’s the magazine editorials and advertisements I’m inspired by on my walls, the products I am surrounded by or the snacks I’m consuming.
These are usually some of my most detailed images, which I photograph on many different angles and gives my audience a real insight into my world, what’s around me, inspiring me and even what I’m currently working on.
Do you use any tools to help you manage your account?
I don’t use any external apps to manage my account, I am a business account on Instagram and rely on the Insights feature in order to gauge my audience.
The times and days people are most active are really important when it comes to working with brands who want success when you put any work live. Also, the engagement and impression insights give me a real indication as to what my audience are loving on my feed and can give me an indication as to what content to keep creating or change.
Do you know the demographics of your following?
The demographics of my audience is 75% women, typically because of the type of content and brands I use. But surprisingly I have 25% men who I think follow me because of the structure and photographic work I put into my flat lays.
How has your experience been working with brands?
It has all been positive, I think if both ends (yourself and the client) are on the same page then there is no misleading information, and everyone knows what is expected.
I have learnt over the years that the more detailed the brief is the better the outcome. Outlining what they want achieved and exactly what success looks like to them.
Always asking the client as many questions necessary and presenting ideas before starting the work is always important to gauge any feedback to take on board before continuing with the final outcome.
What are some of your favourite collaborations and why?
More recently I have just worked with YSL Beauty which was very exciting. It was one of those brands who I always thought was out of my reach, but they approached me to create some content for them because they loved my aesthetic.
My first job and still an ongoing client, Clinique, have always been amazing to work with, I think because I genuinely love and use the brand, knowing what time and process goes into each product and getting to experience these is always a highlight. Also getting to know the brand so well and their aesthetic makes creating content with them is an absolute breeze.
What are some dream brands you would like to work with?
I think one of my top 10 brands I would love to collaborate with would be NARS. Being a Graphic Designer, I appreciate not only the product itself but also the precision in their presentation, packaging and concepts.
Being that the brand is very minimal appeals to me, making there less room for error. Obviously, there are so many luxurious beauty brands like La Mer, Estee Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Armani that I would love to work alongside.
Of course, in terms of content creation I would love to see my work (or styling) used in a campaign or magazine like Vogue, Elle, Net-A-Porter, David Jones. I think any designer can appreciate that when your work is in print or physical form is the pinnacle.
What advice would you give to brands looking to work with influencers?
To source influencers not only from the follower count, but their overall engagement and interaction with their audience. To achieve success on a campaign, not only is the final image and concept an important aspect, but the overall positive feedback received when the influencer promotes the product/service.
Choosing influencers who have a genuine love for the brand or who are a direct fit will then in turn create a successful campaign. Of course, the quality of the image is what will sell, so when working with influencers, brands need to consider the type of images the influencers takes and that it’s not something completely out of the blue as their audience won’t engage in this type of campaign.
How do brands generally contact you?
Brands either directly email me or via my management. Generally, I keep in touch with lots of brands and PRs that will constantly keep you up to date with new product launches and campaigns. This then allows communication to then keep in touch and see if any product or campaign may be a direct fit for a potential collaboration.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to become an influencer?
Be consistent. With the social media space becoming even more saturated it’s important to post regularly, create your niche and stick with it. This then will allow your audience to become accustomed to what you will like and then ultimately decide to follow your journey.
In saying that creating content that is quality over quantity will not only create consistency, but make you stand out to brands and allow them to see a true indication of what you can do or provide.
At the end of the day to become influential I think you need to promote a genuine content, not only will your audience see straight through it if you’re not, but you will be more respected by brands if you are more authentic.
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