Didem Dönmez (aka Smashingbug) caught our eye with her outstanding PowerPoint designs. Her clean style and tight branding has captured the hearts of many clients on 99designs, bringing them back again and again.

Here, we chat with this Istanbul-based freelance designer (and music producer!) about her creative career so far.


Name: Didem Dönmez
99designs handle: smashingbug
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Specialty: Business & web design

People often think of PowerPoint design as being dry, but clearly you’ve found it stimulating, based on the creativity of your work. What do you find exciting about this type of project?

I was thinking the same before I knew PowerPoint. To be honest I really hated Microsoft Word and PowerPoint before I met them 🙂 I thought the creativity was limited.

But after some research and working on them, I see that I can create nearly everything that I did in Photoshop or Illustrator. I’m also switching between Illustrator and Photoshop to make good templates.

Do you typically create the whole Powerpoint during the contest or finish it in the handover stage?

For contests, I first do them in Photoshop to submit a sample of designs to the contest. I’m using Illustrator for vector objects. If you insert an EPS into PowerPoint, it becomes a shape so clients can easily change the color. After winning, in the handover I start to make them in PowerPoint. I basically work with the Slide Master to make the theme colors, fonts, etc.

Sometimes clients ask if those charts really work in PowerPoint. I think it is because they didn’t know it can be done.

powerpoint design by smashingbug
PowerPoint design for Leads to Clients
What skills are needed from a PowerPoint designer?

You don’t need anything specific. I was doing stationary designs before I entered the PowerPoint category. I gave up on those contests, because I started to see that my designs were getting too similar, which is bad for me.

Design is not something where you should just put a logo, make the same curved shapes (or the basic techy ones) and then add info. It needs to have branding. I always follow the branding and client brief. It’s the most important thing before I start designing.

I sometimes see people enter logo designs in PowerPoint contests –I don’t get it. It means they are not even reading the brief. PowerPoint looks more like branding to me. It is like a branded book that has many pages or a book-style website. I prefer designs where I can be more creative.

There is no skill that will guarantee success – but there is hard work. I prefer working on designs that I will love too in the end.

Stationery for GAFCO
Packaging for Obura Coffee
Stationery for La Voila
Tell us about your background

My background is completely different than this job. I studied to be a dental assistant at the university. But I don’t do that work anymore, because I didn’t like it. I worked as a dental assistant for a 2 years and then gave up.

After I gave up the work, I started drawing in Illustrator. It started when I met my husband. My boyfriend (who is my husband now) was a web designer and I always wanted to be a designer. My dream was to work together with him at home as a freelancer. Five years ago my dream came true. Now we work like a team and live together.

Can you tell us a little about your city?

I wish I loved my city, but no. Our city is making me sick. The traffic is so bad that we don’t want to go anywhere. The population is growing too fast, so our first plan is to move to the countryside by the sea.

Brochure design by smashingbug
Brochure for Wohnmarkt Analyse
What do you do when you’re not designing?

First, in the morning, I run everyday (5K) then have a coffee and read my mail. I go to fitness three days a week. I have been a tennis lover for a long time, so in the summer we play tennis with my friends and husband.

I am also a music producer. In my free time, I work on new songs. We have a family farm house, which is my grandfather’s heritage. When the weather is good, we go there for the weekend. I also have two cats and I love hanging with them too.

Where do you find design inspiration?

My mum is really good at handmade crafts and drawing. She studied in Art School at university. Sometimes we come together and make DIY projects with her, which I absolutely love. My grandfather was a very good painter and his father was a very talented, famous calligraphy artist in his time. I think my talent came from there and for a time I didn’t know that I could do it.

I’m very glad that I gave up the other job and found a real job that I love. If you love your job, then it will be never a job for you. Design is my life. I can’t breathe if I stop designing. It is in my blood. It is more than a job for me.

web design by smashingbug
Web design for Scribble Maps
Web design for Everyday Offset
How did you become a designer and discover 99designs?

I found 99designs 7 years ago. I really don’t remember how did I found it, but I remember my first winning design, which was a photobook design for the client Edo Segal. When I look at it, I still love it… I also remember how I screamed at my mum that “I WON!!!”

When you don’t earn money, you’re nothing to the world. But if you have some in your pocket you are something. This is the cruel world’s rules. Then time goes by and I improve myself in everything. Nothing came fast.

Sometimes I look at the older designs I did and they look terrible, but if they weren’t I wouldn’t be here. After all those years, now I’m in the position I wanted to be. I’ve found many outside clients and nowadays I hardly find time to enter the contests. I’m not just doing PowerPoint designs, of course. I do all graphic design and web design too. I also do templates for graphicriver and work for Envato Express Stationery Template Customization.

stationery design by smashingbug
Stationery for Katie Moos Photography
What are your plans for the future?

My career goals are growing and growing. Our plan is right now moving from this city to a seaside town in the Aegean Sea. We want a single house that has a garden so we can plant our own food. We want a quiet and calm lifestyle away from traffic and politics, where we can wake up to a shining sea, go for runs, plant some flowers and walk with our pets.

See more of Smashingbug’s designs here.