UM student makes money creating Snapchat geofilters and graphic designs

Reagan Smith
Oxford Stories

In an age of social media and technology, young people who are turning 21 are celebrating their birthdays in new technological ways.

“A popular thing for girls to do when they turn 21 is to have a Snapchat geofilter,” said graphic designer Ellen Spies. “I have done about 20 Snapchat geofilters, and those range from 21st birthday parties to just a friends back porch.”

Spies, 20, has created an Instagram account to display her graphic design ideas and art.

“I have an Instagram account called @ellenchristinedesigns,” she said. “I use that to reach followers like family and friends, but I have set up an account with Redbubble, which is an online store for independent artists. Artists like me upload their designs and customers can buy stickers, T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. with those designs on them.”


Stickers with Spies designs

Spies has created 10 designs that are currently on her Redbubble account (@ellenchristine), and she is working on more. She also does a lot of freelance work for friends, with a majority of her designs used for Snapchat filters.

Snapchat geofilter user Mae Miller approved of hers.

“It was perfect,” she said. “I asked her to do a geofilter about three weeks before my 21st birthday, and that gave her just the right amount of time. Everyone loved using it at my birthday party, and I would ask her to do one again.”

Spies said she became interested in graphic design in high school art classes. “Then, when I got to Ole Miss, I applied for a job at the beginning of my sophomore year with the Ole Miss Student Media Center,” she said. “Though I had only a little experience, I was hired and was soon designing advertisements for campus organizations and local businesses featured in The Daily Mississippian.”

Using Adobe programs such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, Spies creates digital media.

“I have done everything from advertisements for places on the Square, Snapchat filters for friends birthdays and other events, app design, magazine layouts, logos, and illustrations,” she said.

Though Spies enjoys creating graphic designs, she also loves to sketch and paint. “I draw my inspiration from all over,” she said. “From my favorite places (including Oxford and the Ole Miss campus), animals, friends, pop culture, and sometimes a song really inspires me to create an illustration.”

Spies said she loves to sit outside and listen to music while working on her art.

“I sit on the back porch of my house in Oxford,” she said, “and I also like sitting on my porch at home. I also like going to coffee shops and getting in the zone, and when I am designing, I am usually drinking some sort of coffee.”


Spies sitting on the back porch where she creates her art

Over the summer of 2016, Spies had an internship with handbag designer Kelly Wynne. She created graphics for her, managed her blog and social media accounts.

Spies said it was “an uplifting environment.” “Her brand is all about expressing yourself,” she said, “and I really got to do that with fashion and practicing my growing interest in graphic design.”

From a young age, Spies doodled on any piece of paper she could find, and she took many art classes in high school. She loved to paint, but “…really found a niche in graphic design at Ole Miss.”

Spies doesn’t control some of the prices of her art. “Redbubble sets their own prices for art,” she said. “Their most popular product is stickers, and they go for about $2.50 to $5 a sticker, depending on the size, so it is pretty affordable.

“For Snapchat filters, I usually charge around $25, but then Snapchat charges different amounts depending on how long and how big of an area you want to set up your filter, so I add that price on to the $25. It also depends on how much time the customer gives me to create it, as well as what their needs are.”


Some of Spies sketches and paintings

Spies said her target market is mostly college students.

“My parents’ generation doesn’t have a need for Snapchat filters, and generally are not decorating their laptops or cars with stickers,” she said. “In college, there are so many events where Snapchat filters can be used, like formals, parties, 21st birthday parties, campus organization fundraisers, and much more.”

Spies said college students like to express themselves. “So having a fun sticker that represents their greek affiliation, campus organization, or even just university pride is very common,” she said.

Spies said she became an artist because art came naturally to her. “It is something I love to do every day, and I hope that one day I am able to integrate it into my career,” she said.




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