TDK caught up with Tiffanie Tran who talks about why we need to pay attention to more than art class when we’re at school, drawing spaghetti and having 50 mini dreams before work every day.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I studied at CalArts for three years. I kind of had no idea what I was getting myself into but once I was there I soaked it all up like a sponge. I went from not really knowing what graphic design was to studying and making design 25 hours a day, 8 days a week! It was super intense and difficult but also really freeing and rewarding. Almost every day was sunny and funny and it kind of felt like one long summer at camp. Most of my internships and jobs have been through CalArts teachers and friends but I’ve also gotten jobs from just emailing organizations and people I liked. That works too!
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
My day job is working for two really awesome designers and people, Colleen Corcoran and Rosten Woo, as a junior designer/illustrator. Separately and together we work on a variety of print and web projects for organizations hovering around the topics of art, social justice, and active transportation. And since I’ve graduated, I’ve had about five core organizations as clients and 1-2 major projects a year that are freelance. So I kind of have three jobs going on at the same time. I really love the variety of projects I get to work on in a given week. Some days it’s mocking up wireframes, some nights it’s drawing spaghetti!
What does a typical working day include for you right now? Monday to Thursday: I hit snooze for what feels like 50 mini dreams, and I run out the door to try and catch the train on time. I head into the studio and begin the day, working for either Colleen or Rosten. It’s mostly an uninterrupted day of design work so it’s nice to have the room to really focus on one thing at a time. It’s a 9-5 job, but it’s very relaxed and elastic. I head home on the train, walk my dog, eat dinner, and then on most nights, reply to any revisions for freelance work. Friday to Sunday: These days are much less structured and less work heavy. But this is when I get the meat of my freelance work done from home. I’m trying to get better at separating work and leisure hours but I don’t know, I kind of like the freeform aspect of it.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self?
Well, 1. You’re doing totally fine. You become a graphic designer no matter what you’re into now. (Note: I think I wanted to be an art conservator or an environmentalist at the time!) And along the same note, 2. Design is basically related and relevant to everything! Being more present in all your classes (not just art class) is something I would advise. Design is a very holistic and practical job. Projects always begin with research, problem solving is oftentimes half the day, and math and english are complete necessities for production. I’m constantly using skills I could have improved in high school. And lastly, 3. Building up your visual library is really helpful and totally integrated to daily life! Going to shows, looking at signage, grocery shopping, etc.
What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
Taxes! The election, a weaving class, branding for Princeton’s DAAS, another branding project with my partner Tom, new screen-prints… I don’t really know past spring. Whatever comes along!