Arin Fishkin: Designing for Burning Man

A Story of Girl Meets Man …. Man Burns

Arin Fishkin is an independent San Francisco graphic designer that has been designing for Burning Man for 12 years.

Brief History of Burning Man

Burning Man began in San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986. In 1990, the Park police shut the event down and it moved to Black Rock desert. The event grew from 80 people then to 80,000 people today. In the beginning the event was more minimal and rugged but lawless. A tragedy happened which was a turning point for the event. Rules and wayfinding structures were put in place in case of emergencies, and driving was banned from the event.

How did she get Burning Man as a client?

She asked. People liked to be asked. It also have a contact on the inside.

Arin’s Tips:

1. Design for the community you are part of.

2. Women tend to not ask for the money they deserve so double your rates.

3. Design is problem solving, not beautification.

4. Educating the client is part of the job description.

5. Failure is a necessary evil.

6. Your skills and flaws are assets. Be yourself. Authenticity is your personal brand.

Challenge: An Anti-Commercial Client

Burning man is anti-commercial. In the beginning Arin struggled with designing for an anti-commercial client and bringing the feel of the event in the design.

Her work for Burning Man included calendars, ticket design, and survival guides. After using photos by her favorite photographers in the calendars, she wanted Burning Man to publish one of her photos too. She took classes and bought lens and tools to work on her photography skills until she was good enough to have her photo included in the calendars.

Ever since her daughter was born, she’s taken on a new creative project per year – from learning photography to the ukulele to running a half marathon.

Having a child made her realize that by treating everyone like a child, she has better client relationships. By this she meant seeing and acknowledging her client’s contribution.


Arin Fishkin

Independent Graphic Designer (San Francisco, California)

Arin Fishkin is an independent graphic designer who creates brands and materials for unique San Francisco businesses. Arin Fishkin Graphic Design has been based in the Mission for over 15 years, creating award winning work for Burning Man, Black Rock Solar and Bi-Rite Market, with logos appearing in multiple LogoLounge and I Heart Logos books.
Arin creates art prints based on her favorite SF spots, and is an enthusiastic photographer documenting the Maui rodeo Paniolo culture , and the breathtaking landscape and artwork of Burning Man. Arin has a BFA from the University of Michigan and has studied photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and graphic design at City College of San Francisco.

More Tips:

You are your business. She wanted credit for her work. As a one-person shop working solo, in isolation, she realized she needed to step away from the computer and start marketing.

Don’t try to do it all on your own. She wanted credit for her work. As a one-person shop working solo, in isolation, she realized she needed to step away from the computer and start marketing.She now has an assistant.

Fake it till make it.

Don’t edit your quirk self much. If they don’t respond, they are not the right fit. Be honest but professional – which Burning Man has termed, “radical self expression,” which leads to personal satisfaction and increased quality of life.

Play. Don’t Worry. Burn Something.

Truth about Burning Man

Burning Man started as an accident.

The event and themes are open to interpretation.

It is dependent on volunteers which leads to a range of quality.

Burning Man is run by a matriarchy.

Burning Man has no logo or design guide. They do not believe in branding, which historically makes sense.

Burning Man now has a non-profit arm which has a logo. Going forward, they need to decide how the non-profit is separate from the event.

Burning Man expects that designs should look different every year, which pushes and challenges Arin to the next level.

– Written by Diana Banh (@dibanh)