The guys at Polygraph give us some insight into what they look for in a graduate, what the design landscape is like in DC and some solid advice of decision making, that we all face along the way as creatives. While also telling us not to be afraid to take a pay cut to get to where you want to be!
Give us your elevator pitch on what you do?
We’re usually pretty quiet in elevators! We’re creative people doing creative things. We’re a visual communication firm that focuses mainly on brand, print and editorial design. Our goal is to do memorable and meaningful work and we love what we do.
What do you look for in a graduate?
Thoughtfulness, agility and attention to detail. Strong layout work is a must and the ability to work effectively and meticulously with type is a huge differentiator. We see some amazing art direction and experimentation coming out of school, but it has to be grounded in solid, conceptual thought and executed to perfection. Passion, rigor, great communication skills and the desire to grow, go a long way too.
What is the design landscape like in your city and where do you fit in?
It’s a great time to be a creative in DC. When we set up shop in 2011 we were the scrappy newcomer with a lot to prove, and there were just a handful of studios producing consistently great work, so we saw extraordinary potential. Those firms are now pretty well-established, and there’s a lot of young motivated designers breaking out right now. The design community in DC continues to grow, and we’re constantly trying to do our part to raise expectations for the city.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1. Style can’t be the only goal. Stylish becomes passé. Thoughtful is evergreen.
2. Good design sells itself.
3. Learning how and when to say “no” to a project is an incredibly hard, but essential lesson for the survival of a small shop.
4. Having a client that values creativity is better than having a “creative” project.
What advice would you give students starting out?
Design can be anything: meaning don’t get married to your first idea. Leave yourself open enough to keep pushing past those initial designs. Chances are you’ll find something stronger. And don’t be afraid to take a pay cut to get to where you want to be. A partner at Pentagram once told us that and noted that every time he had, it rewarded him in ways he couldn’t have expected. We completely agree.
Tell us about any collaborations you’ve been working on?
We love working with creative people. We recently partnered on an art book with photographer Stephen Voss. He came to us with a project he had been developing, an extraordinary catalogue of intimate photographs of the Bonsai collection at the National Arboretum here in Washington. How could you not want to immerse yourself in that kind of beauty? It was the fastest we’ve ever said yes to a project! The bound book is absolutely beautiful. We also began working with Aaron Silverman and his team at Pineapple and Pearls to develop the brand for his award-winning restaurant over a year ago. As someone who’s creative in a completely different field, he came to the table with strong notions of how he wanted the brand to be perceived, and an equally strong desire to develop a non-conformist identity. Excited by this challenge, we’re still constantly working with the team to refine the brand experience and experimenting in presenting the brand in subtle, sophisticated and unexpected ways.