Ben Wallace from Course talks to us about starting at the bottom and the shit they went through getting started in design. They also tell us how the design scene isn’t really valued enough in Denver, but how they feel there is change in the creative scene. And how mentoring from senior designers should be more of a thing!
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? I don’t have any formal design education. I actually went to school for television production. I thought my career would take me behind the camera or in an editing bay. It wasn’t until after college that my love for design emerged. Because of this, I started from the bottom of bottoms (that sounds odd, I’m keeping it though). I put together a terrible, absolutely atrocious portfolio containing all sorts of awful, no-good, disgusting work. It eventually got me some glamorous unpaid internships. One of the particularly bad ones was at a small public relations firm. I was completely exploited and too young and ignorant to notice.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. I represent half of Course, a design studio I started with my business partner, Brandon in 2014. Our emphasis is in brand identity and interactive design, but we cover the bits and pieces in between— product, motion, naming, strategy, etc. We’ve really set a foundation in the belief that design is most impactful when creative vision is in place from the very beginning. We approach every project with this holistic vantage.
We love working with great people. My job is to make those people happy and excited about their business by supplying them with design.
Who are your top five design crushes right now?
There’s SO many great designers and studios doing consistently great work, its hard to narrow to just 5. I’ll do my best.
What is the design landscape like on your city and where do you fit in? The design landscape in Denver is really interesting at the moment. Traditionally design here has had its presence within an agency context, supporting advertising or PR. There aren’t a lot of design studios, but there are a lot of agency’s with a design department. I think that is a result of how design is valued here. Which is to say, it’s not valued very highly.
The city is in a bit of rapid growth period. We’ve seen significant population growth over the past 10 years. Tons of urban development projects. A growing tech scene. Legal Weed. There’s a real opportunity for design to play a bigger role in this growth for the better. As Denver matures, hopefully its design scene does as well, and we start to see that value increase.
What do you think the design community could do more of to give back? MENTOR! There’s so many weird nuances in the design world. Stuff you can’t really understand by reading a book or looking at the internet. Sharing that knowledge and providing support seems like it should be a required practice for experienced designers.
What advice would you give students starting out?
Get Deep. Explore as much as possible. Play. Make shit for fun. Read everything you can. Look closer. Ask too many questions. Learn to articulate your work. Get off the computer once and a while.