Guest Visit: Natalie Zanecchia
Natalie Zanecchia is a freelance/contractor for design consultancy in environmental graphic design, she also owns a letterpress business on the side. Zanecchia mostly works in environmental graphic design and her work ranges from making graphics for zoos, sports hall of fames, aquariums, and redesigning spaces for children’s museum. Zanecchia mentioned that through her success in environmental graphic design, she can get stuck on working on one type of environmental design projects (ie. Children's Museums), but she continues to push her concepts and design skills to adapt to different environments.
In terms of the different phases of her projects Zanecchia discussed that there is first a schematic and conceptual phase that leads into getting the clients to funding the project. After the funds are established it is important to budget and adjust the design to what is possible and get rid of aspects that are not needed. Zanecchia explained that in her work she works in collaboration with different teams of people that work to make the designs and graphics possible in the setting they are meant to be in. She works closely with the fabricators to make sure that the dimensions of the site and the dimensions of the graphics are crafted accordingly to achieve her design.
Zanecchia mentioned that she reviews the dimensions of the space by the architects and scales it down to work then scales it up to actual size for fabrication and final review. The architects also work on providing a 3d model to Zanecchia that she can then use to model her design. This is important for her work to be technically successful, especially with environments with more complex shapes. Such as with her work in the Little Caesars Arena: Heritage Elements. She even mentioned that on top of the complex shaping of the arena itself, the architectural models of the arena where given to Zanecchia mirrored to their actual dimensions leading to the fabrication being flipped the wrong way. With the installation of the wrongly fabricated pieces being close to the end date of the project, Zanecchia was able to resolve the issue through some creative problem solving.
Speaking of Zanecchia’s many great works I have a special connection to her work at the Roundhouse Aquarium in Manhattan Beach California. I actually grew up going to that beach and visiting/taking field trips to that particular aquarium. When she was discussing her work it looked familiar yet brand new. It was not until I looked at her sight and read the location that I realized it was the same aquarium. Zanecchia did an amazing job enhancing the space within the small aquarium to make a truly unique experience. I remembered an old aquarium from my childhood with small tanks lining the weathered walls, but she has done some truly great work to completely transform the space, but still keep its essence grounded on the local marine life.
After the visit I felt that with my knowledge in Industrial Design 3d spacial thinking and software knowhow, that with my practice in Communication Design I could consider environmental graphic design as a potential career.
Guest Visit: Michelle Merlin
Michelle Merlin is an MSU Denver Alumni that of our class visit works as a Designer in The Made Shop. Through her visit with the class she also discussed about her experiences as a freelance designer. She recommended us to have some side work to not only help with some extra funds, but also exercise come more personal creative projects or passions that would not otherwise be possible with certain design firms or work environments. Merlin emphasized the ability to be versatile and how off that variety in a portfolio, she also cautioned that the strategy may change depending if some clients prefer more constancy.
Merlin showed us her portfolio pieces form when she was still at university to more recent projects she has been working on professionally. It was really inspiring to see how here work ethic and strong design passion can be seen from some of her early works and only progress through the varied projects she was then worked on professionally. It was really inspiring to see how she takes her illustrations and evolves them into design projects that she uses to later influence her work.
While discussing her projects and work post-graduation, she expressed the importance of having a strong sense of self and having time to create for yourself to keep sharpening and refining your skills. She also discussed her value in having open communication for creative projects. By practicing your own self of sense and worth through independent work and freelance opportunities, when working in a more professional setting you the designer can take a more confident approach to making and critiquing work.
Being honest with yourself and knowing when something is not working is another value that we were discussing in class. Know when to keep working on a project until it is not worth pursuing further. As creators we often strive to make something ideal or match our idea of how something should work our function. All of which is true to life, one must reflect on what opportunities are in front of you and make sure you are doing what is best for yourself in that current time. Something may look good on paper, but the practicality and reality may not be worth it in the end.
Studio Visit: Grit
Our design class visited Grit, a small design agency located in Denver. Grit works with branding and packaging design for a variety of clients. The agency itself is a small studio with many different components of being of proximity to each other. Because of the amount of work that is demanded from this small agency it makes sense to have stations closer to each other for more efficient use of the studio and for communication purposes. The space itself has an open layout with different use of colors, texture, and various examples of prints and packaging lining the walls of the agency.
The brief portfolio that was shown to us was a great insight into the creative liberties and talents of the agency. They have a small amount of workers that have their own distinct jobs that come together to make branding packages. IT is interesting to see how they take more illustrative approaches to their work, which is also due to their in house illustrator. As we were looking through the portfolio and discussing the various project they mentioned that they had an influx of similar niche companies looking for simple branding packages. What Grit then established is a set of prepackaged branding systems that these companies can then purchase and have everything taken care of, These branding packages that Grit develops are specific to a particular audience that the companies can then decide if it fits their market. This approach to design is very interesting and forward thinking of the agency, giving them a competitive edge.
The creative freedom that is available at a small agency such as Grit is very intriguing to me. Their in house illustrator is able to implement much of her work into the packaging which would be a great job, however they must be able to adapt to a variety of styles as needed by the clients and there is to be a quick turnaround time for these clients as it is a small agency and needs to turn profit sooner rather than later. In a smaller group setting such as grit there is also a better way to openly communicate and flow creative ideas with one another. That is one thing that I really enjoyed from our visit with Grit. As much as it can seem like a relaxed environment with w tight knit group of talented creative individuals, there is also much demanded of each individual and even more together. They must perform their very best one hundred percent of the time to keep pushing the quality of their work to keep up with demand and to be able to sustain their business. I would be interested to work in a small agency or even start my own someday.
Studio Visit: Matter | Rick Griffith
Our class was scheduled to meet at the Matter Studio, however due to circumstances we had a remote virtual interview with Rick Griffith from Matter. He had some great insight on how to best push the creatively through difficult constraints and limited access to materials. Rick challenged us to reanalyze the circumstances and use time to sharpen hand skills and work on more self-directed projects.
When asked about current projects and process work Griffith showed us some of his process collage work in his sketchbook. It was interesting to see how he puts together different pieces to make type or explore different compositions. Griffith mentioned to us that he had gotten well known in Denver for typography and his sketchbook and work on the letterpress allows for him to continue his work while maintaining his reputation.
During our interview with Griffith he gave us some great advice as to how use the tools around us to improve our design skills and find creative solutions. With the climate of the time of this blog, there is limited access to external resources apart from what is in your immediate surroundings. Being resourceful with limited resources allows for creatives to thrive in their environment, Griffith reminded us that this time of isolation is a time for refining skills and working on developing self directed project that have been in development for a time.
After his discussion on this self directed skill development process, I felt a little more reassured with how to best use my time. I have had some projects in the past that have surfaced into reality through various branding projects and even exhibition capabilities. From some reviewer feedback on my portfolio, I have been told that this is more of the work they want to dee, more self directed passion projects. I have some more projects that have had to push aside for sake of deadlines and efficiency that I now look forward to rework and finesse into stronger projects.
Guest and Studio Visit Midterm Summary
Over the course of the class visits and studio visits I learned on the variances of different design work from freelance to agency. It is interesting to see how the process of project development changes slightly depending on how many people are involved in the project and the nature of the project itself. In some cases the designer has to come up with a concept that can then convince the client to fund and or advocate for further funding. Once funding is established it important to stay within budget and be creative on hat is realistically possible to achieve given the timeline and available resources. Funds is one thing that really differentiates each of the different areas of design work, not only for the salary difference, but also the way to estimate time and hourly rate to contract.
This insight on the industry was interesting to see the ranges from working for yourself, to a small team. As a freelance worker you have more freedom to choose who you want to work with as opposed to more agency driven design environment. In either case, each of the people that talked with our class made clear that there will always be a difficult client in any environment and it is crucial to control how you react to them in which determines future success. It can be something as simple as finishing the project to be further away from working with that client.
Overall seeing the possibilities from freelance to small agency broadened my horizons to see what different environments I could potentially work in. The first visit inspired me to think about working within the environmental graphic design, Merlin inspired me to work more on my illustrations and working on how to translate that work into the real world through product mockups and Grit inspired me to create my own design small studio or agency.
On April 7, 2020 Karsh virtually visited our class via Microsoft Teams. They began with an overview of their current works and even some work that has proven to be a great case of how to adapt to the current circumstances. Karsh is a multi-services design agency that does a variety of work for clients such as Aspen and the Denver International Airport. While discussing their role within the design world they made an emphasis to discuss the importance of purpose in client values and how this purpose is integral to the design strategy. Without having strong purpose and intent with design it will not speak for either the client or its intended audience. Karsh also explained a bit of their work environment and how surrounding yourself with creative individuals is helpful to generate new concepts and those around you can bounce ideas to further develop and eventually realize them.
One of the projects that was an interesting insight into the inner-workings of the agency was the work for the Denver International Airport. The DenFiles campaign had great concept that feed into the public’s interest in conspiracy theories of the airport and capitalized it in a playful yet professional way. It was interesting to note how they even organized a photoshoot to get some images for parts of the campaign. Using a series of graphics against the backdrop of the airport being in the midst of construction was a great idea to contribute to the feel of mystery around the airport and to feed back into the campaign. The use of the gargoyle was a also an amazing feat of concept, design, and technical execution. The gargoyle itself is a direct reference to the gargoyles in suitcases that watch over the incoming luggage in the Airport, the talking aspect to the gargoyle ads whimsy. The improv that the stand-up comedian further normalized and poked fun of the conspiracies surrounding the airport itself. The use of pre-established knowledge and assumptions of the airport, combined with careful design considerations and great technical execution really brought this campaign to be a memorable.
Another project that really spoke to the characteristics of the company was that of the We Need to Stay Home Colorado advertising campaign that the agency developed as a response to current circumstances. Karsh explained that the idea came to them during a meeting and quickly came up with a sketch that was mocked up from a stock photo of the Colorado State Sign. After the initial post of the sign, 9News went to showcase it on a segment that really enhanced the popularity of the design. The work is now being used by Governor Jared Polis and they are working on developing more variations on the sign for social sites. Overall, I really enjoyed Karsh Hagan’s presentation and insight they sheared with us on the design industry and design agency.
On April 9, 2020 Ashley Reub virtually visited our class via Microsoft Teams. Reub went over her journey as a designer from where she started as a social media manager to contract work, Danone, and now at Interger. Her passion for design can be seen through her constant efforts to dig up some work and reaching out for any reason to keep busy. From taking on more than initially anticipated to taking coworkers for coffee to gain stronger connections to then move up the recommendation ladder. Reub’s story with this was very insightful and refreshing to hear the reality of what happens once entering the design world, even though you landed the job there is still no time for rest.
After this discussion of working your way to show how integral she is to her employer’s, she went over her portfolio. Because, of my internship with Danone over the summer, I was familiar with most of the packaging work that she showcased. I actually worked on packing work Silk, and So Delicious among others, and it was interesting to see how it has changed from what she was showing. Unfortunately, due to signing non-disclosure agreement I cannot discuss much further. I have yet to see some of the designs I worked on be on shelf, and I wonder how much the final design will change from when I worked on it. Danone being a large company within house designers creating and implementing change can happen efficiently.
Durin her discussion on packaging I asked her about her design process, if she starts with sketching, vectors/ templates, or utilizes existing work to modify. Her answer was that it depends on the project and the time frame, which makes sense. If there is only slight modification to be used for per say a new variation of a product, an established template will work well. The more time and free range a project allows the more sketching and conceptualizing can be utilized.
For final works and works of advice Reub gave was to create your own opportunities through volunteering for projects and keeping yourself relevant or showcasing your value to the company. I really appreciated her honesty and realness with the students about this aspect of working within the design field. Overall, I enjoyed Reub’s presentation and gained a lot of insight on the industry through her sharing her experiences. I also learned the vale in paving yourself as a designer and not to rush into position that is above your current skillset. Reub shared with us her experience as a student working as a social media manager that had another student working under her as an intern and having difficulty managing tasks due to lack of experience.
On April 16, 2020 Paul Kwong virtually visited our class via Microsoft Teams. He talked to our class about his work in a large agency and his time in New York. Kwong discussed the design industry in New York as very faced paced and difficult for people without passion for what they do. Kwong said that the current state of the industry is not as cutthroat and exclusive as it used to be, but there still needs to be more diversity and ways for the designers to be taken more seriously instead of for granted. Kwong discussed how many people overwork themselves and even slept at their offices. With a large amount of clients and designers being on hand to make and adjust as necessary one can see how busy the agencies can be. Especially given the quick pace of New York , if one designer is not able to keep up there are many other hungry designers waiting for their chance.
I appreciated Kwong’s ability to be frank with the students and give them a sense of awareness to the inner=workings of a large agency. He also made us aware that the design industry in Denver is in its own little bubble and depending on what city we move to the design industry can change drastically and call for a more aggressive approach. Kwong also gave the students a nice overview of the various different roles and what goes into running a large agency, which was very helpful in visualizing the scale of a large agency.
Kwong also went through some of his work over and introduced the students to the designing for broadcast, which is something that we have not been too familiar with. Seeing Kwong’s process and having his explanation of design strategies and concept behind the final commercial was very insightful. For instance, his work on the Wheaties advertisement that paired moments of sports history with everyday life, emphasizing the tag line Breakfast of Champions. Kwong did says that most creative directors do want to expose juniors to as many different fields and experiences as possible, however it does take money and time to train or show these juniors the ropes which contribute to the issue of hiring only more experienced juniors. Along with this, Kwong stated that New York creatives do not like to nurture creatives. Overall, even though most of Kwong’s discussion of large agency seemed bleak, it was very informative and posed an interesting challenge for designers with enough passion and drive to attempt a career out of state.
On April 28, 2020 Brandon Pickett virtually visited our class via Microsoft Teams. Pickett went over his portfolio and while doing so was providing some insight for the students, such as in how students should adjust their portfolio depending on the job they are applying for. He also informed the students that they should keep up some of their side projects that capitalize their skillset (such as illustration) so that you can include that into your portfolio to be more rounded out.
Pickett also shared with the students his journey from working from ranges of design fields and even working with UI/UX design even without prior knowledge. With his work in UI/UX specifically with his work on exercise machines and designing for people that are constantly moving and sweating. Then having this same or similar UI system to be implemented through a mobile application or a website.
Pickett also went over his work with Ford trucks and to my surprise the designers (based on Pickett’s discussion) has much for adjusting to problems constantly and working with what is available to lessen costs and creating o the final product. In addition, he went over some sites he frequents for inspiration: Instagram, Pinterest, and Muzli a chrome extension.
Along with general tips Pickett discussed the necessity on organizing a project in various achievable goals to better understand what is being asked and how to most efficiently obtain that. One such method is using the sprint mythology that can be constantly developed used and reimplemented for various development cycles through listing what important goals to hit and carefully plan how to hit them. There is also the known as the agile process that really targets potential trouble spots and generate a plan of action for each component of the project to ensure the most effecting use of time. Overall, I was really inspired by Pickett’s integration of illustrations within his portfolio and really appreciated his insight on places of inspiration to explore.
Laura De la Cruz
On May 5, 2020 Laura De La Cruz virtually visited our class via Microsoft Teams to discuss her experience in working in a large agency. She began describing her work and role in Crispin Porter Bogusky and how current circumstances have affected her work. It is unfortunate learning on the dramatic changes that have befallen the agency, however it is refreshing to have an honest look and insight into the design world and real problems they face. I did know that agencies rely on their clients for the agency to grow, but hearing it from De la Cruz really brought it to reality to see the drastic changes and layoffs within the company.
It was really great seeing De la Cruz’s work and hearing her explain the process behind each one. I also appreciate her discussing some variety in work that the agency would get. Some of the interesting projects that I enjoyed hearing about was the one Domino advertisement spread that was typeset and printed on a newspaper. This was exciting to see as having an advertisement be seen in a physical space through a newspaper is something that has not been a large focus for most agencies. In addition to having this interesting project be brought to live, it was also great to see type used in a way that not only focuses on the technical craft, but also invites creativity as the dominos logo mark was to be established visually.
Another interesting work is that of how the agency world pitches ideas to companies through an elaborate display of cases featuring food items printed in a way that suggests there is actual food in the presentation itself. This type of project peaked my interest as it allows for creativity of the physical space and peoples interaction with a physical object (look, touch, feel, smell, taste) but also the various design elements and design system that works as a unit. Overall, De la Cruz was an absolute delight to have in the class and dish out the dirt on agency work and similar to Ashley Reub, discussed the importance of keeping yourself busy and relevant to the company through creating connections and volunteering.