Staci Janik – A designer and typographer from Atlanta goes into detail about what she really looks for in a strong portfolio, and how teaching typography has been pivotal to her own growth as a designer.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
I’m a Graphic Designer, typography teacher and lover of paper goods, living and working in Atlanta, Georgia. I spend most days designing graphic identities, deliberating over paper samples, colors, and typefaces while working hard to cultivate happy and long-lasting relationships with my clients.
What does a typical working day include for you right now?
It’s my favorite time of year. I can’t sleep during the summer, so I get up super early and since the days are longer, I manage to get so much more accomplished. Lately, I have been waking up at 7am and answering emails and tackling admin work before 11. Then I like to go for a quick swim. It is a great way to take a break and squeeze in some exercise. I work from home and I spend a lot of time sitting at a desk so it is really necessary for me to get out into the world every day. Human interaction, sunlight, and movement help me break my work into more productive chunks. I really get into the deeper tasks that require more focus around 1pm. This is when I spend most of my time on the design elements or problem-solving aspects of a project like research, building or producing. Very regular kind of schedule, ya know. I did recently remove everything in my office and I’ve been working on the floor. It’s a nice change of scenery from down here…
What’s your take on internships?
I’m all for them. An internship is perhaps the closest thing to an apprenticeship. I’m definitely pro-education but I maintain a firm belief that a good skill set is something you acquire through observation and practice. Learning “how to see” from a person whose perception you value and trust is very important. School allows you to be exposed to ideas and people but building relationships within the industry with the so-called “masters of their craft” is much more educational.
What do you look for in a great portfolio?
I look for work that is authentic, precise and subtle. I also look at the attention to detail. I have a strong appreciation for projects that you can get deep into and really see an entire system of choices and how each one supports the outcome visually. A successful project is contingent on so many factors and when you can see those things from start to finish, it really elevates the work. I appreciate people with talent and that some people can just sit down at a computer and make a really great thing on their Cintiq, but I am more interested in seeing the successful management of client expectations, production and delivery of well-designed print pieces and how each item in the system works to form a unified whole. I also really appreciate the mixture of old and new technology. There is something really nice there.
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice?
I teach typography. It has been pivotal to my own growth as a designer. In order to be a successful teacher, I must have a solid understanding of what I am teaching. Over the years, I have developed a much deeper understanding of letterforms, and the elements of design. I also feel as if I am paying it forward. I was lucky to meet some really outstanding people in my local design network, people that were willing to mentor me and answer all of my questions. I would like to give back in that way—to provide a little guidance and a discerning eye when students need it.
Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?
Designers are promoting themselves, learning skills on their own and functioning a lot more independently these days. There is a lot of energy there but I wonder what this says about how we interpret taste. In such a saturated industry, full of talent, there is a level of criticism missing that comes with exposure, experience and opportunities—things that are so beneficial to being a good designer. I feel that the future of design will be more ambiguous and adapting will require a constant reframing of identity and the ability to stay lean.