Story about Charmin and me

23 May / by: Martina Lipovac / 37 comments /

When I started working on freelance sites for online jobs, I was primarily curious, I didn’t have a lot of expectation. I got a couple of jobs by bidding on the price and specific knowledge of my education background – the study of architecture, but after the first wining in a contest in the field of graphic design, I realized that I best suited the contests. I was not sure at the time whether I could hit the customer’s taste and was worried if he can ask me for something I wouldn’t know to do. In the contests, I was pretty sure that I can avoid that kind of problems. The clients will only choose me if my work is good enough for their needs. Because of this, 2013 when I discovered the 99designs that are based on the contests, the whole new world has been opened to me. During the next two years, I worked very intensively, won more competitions, gained rich experience in communicating with clients and my activities started to be more self-confident.

In 2015, when Charmin invited me to her contest, I liked the theme, but the task was very complex. From the pile of textual and imaginary materials, 4 large panels had to be arranged so that information is readable, clear and appealing to children. Charmin Dahl works as a curator at the Paly Foundation and her role is preparing content for science-based, nature-conservation themed exhibits – free of charge for schools, educational institutions, zoos, aquariums, museums, and others. The subject of the contest was the protection of the coral reefs: what are the problems, how they can help and what to do to avoid the extinction of species. The very noble goal of this foundation and a great responsibility for the designer! Basically, I promised Charmin that I would take part in the contest and when, until the last day, I couldn’t do anything, because of the burden on other things, that promise forced me to submit my proposal. I remember this day very well, my family was waiting for me because we were late for family gatherings, everyone was tense, but I decided to finish the work. It was not difficult to win the contest because I was the only designer who sent the proposal :). Charmin and her team were happy with my work, I got the great feedback and this day marked the beginning of a long and very pleasant collaboration with Charmin. Interestingly, if I just let the insecurity block me, I would miss a bunch of good experiences that are the main message of this story. After that, we worked out the panels in the 1-to-1 project because there were many revisions through a live interactive process between Charmin, her team and me. In this first project, we learned the way how we work, where we stumble, where we can successfully support, which situations cause frustration. E.g. I’m very pedantic and with every design revision, I have been trying to make every detail finished for the print process. With a large amount of material and all the slight alignments, this requires a lot of time. Every next revision would make this detailed work crash into the water. 🙂 In the next projects we worked on, I learned what is important to show and define in every step, what to leave for the last alignments, and all other shades in co-operation.

At this time, there are five big projects behind us, except the coral reefs, we were dealing with the protection of sharks, tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, and pangolins, and in 2018 we are preparing the sixth exhibition. Charmin is very patient when I need more time for some task, I’m patient when we have a lot of changes because I like this aspiration to get the best possible solution, therefore I love working with Charmin. In a multitude of pieces of information, I have to process, break, lay, paint … I found more sad information about the terrible ways people treat endangered living beings, and optimistic information about the extraordinary efforts and personal sacrifice of individuals to prevent the tragedy, so the panel design process is very emotional. For each exhibition of the preparation and creation of the panel takes a few months, but when the exhibition is finally set, it is a pleasure to see visitor comments, from large and small people. Charmin always sends me photos of the exhibition and write specific comments.

The number of visitors who have looked at one of the exhibits is totally unbearable. 2.8 million viewers in two years! I live in a small country Croatia with 4.3 million inhabitants. 🙂 The locations on which the exhibitions were set are also unreal, I can only look for them on the map: Aquarium of the Bay (San Francisco), Fishermans Island (Virginia), ABQ Biopark (Albuquerque), Natural History Museum (Las Vegas), South Florida Museum, Bergen County Zoological Park, Jenkinson’s Aquarium (New Jersey), Roosevelt Park Zoo, The Muse (Knoxville), Virginia Living Museum, Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Garden and many more (

If a couple of years ago someone told me that my panel designs would be exposed there, I would tell him he is crazy. 🙂

Something about our cooperation from Charmin’s side:

 I had a great experience with this designer. My project ideas were both specific and vague and she handled all my requests with professionalism and great creativity. I enjoyed handing ideas over and seeing the results. I had a massive project (with board reviews and multiple people to please) but fortunately a sliding deadline, so we could work together to get the results I wanted. I was very pleased she shared her professional opinion and really “got” my vision.

We have done several museum exhibits now and each has been creative and informative. Exhibit users often comment on how colourful and well-presented the designs are.

I can only be very grateful to and hope we will cooperate for a long time.

Thanks, Charmin for her great work for nature protection and, I invite all those interested to visit the fundamentals page of the Paly Foundation and ask about the exhibition on their own places – schools and museums ( The fund is non-profit, so little advertising will not hurt. 🙂


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