Funny enough, it was a total accident. I come from a family of artists—my mother is a writer, her mother was a painter, my father is a musician/painter, his brothers and father, all painters. And stubbornly, I figured I wouldn’t be an artist. Starting in high school I began to take interest in commercial art—specifically music videos and photography. I went to Hunter College in NYC hoping to study with Roy DeCarava. Thinking through this route I might end up art directing music videos. I ended up meeting an up-and-coming photographer on the street (this is why NYC is amazing) and convinced him to train me for free and once i was good enough he could pay me. He was shooting mostly for music magazines and though it was thrilling work, I quickly realized being a photographer was not for me—as much of it is selling your own personality, as it is selling your work—which I figured I’d be no good at. When I transferred to Pratt, I chose the Communications Design program because it offered the most electives. I thought graphic design was designing brochures—boring right?— So I went with the “art direction” focus (not realizing that meant advertising art direction) again, hoping it would get me closer to making cool music videos. Totally wrong but what I stumbled into was my passion for design!
(Sidebar: my husband owns/runs a commercial film production company, AfterAll.tv, and I will happily offer tips to anyone who hopes to become an art director for film. Hint: it doesn’t involve school!)
I am a mother of four, so I am often balancing a few things at once. I’ve learned to work very efficiently at home but to be totally honest, still struggle with efficient working methods at the office. I’m a night person, so I focus best in the afternoon and evening. Most days I wake up and read through my emails quickly but do not respond. I do all the morning stuff with my kids and get them off to school then I either head back home to exercise before work or I head to the office. On a typical day at the office I’m juggling a few deadlines, giving feedback, working on proposals. I try to balance leaving early to be with the kids and working til 5 to be with my team. This flexibility is the benefit of working in the same office as my husband! 2-3 nights/week I jump back on my computer after the kids are asleep and work for a few more hours. I encourage this flexibility with my staff as well. We feel like if the work is getting done, do what you gotta do. Most are parents and need that flexibility as well and I’d like to cultivate the environment I would want to work in if I had to work for someone else.
I’m hiring people for their potential, not to be a minion. I look for designers who’s work feels like it’s pushing boundaries but has clear consideration to detail and who’s design point of view meshes with ours—but doesn’t mimic it. A good sense of color and a good sense of humor is a plus. I founded AfterAll as a place to have fun and be excited to work—it’s important that the people that I work with see themselves in the work too, so they feel a sense of ownership and pride. Bringing together different points of view is how we continue to learn and grow as people and as a studio—and how our work continues to feel like it’s evolving.
As a person that took and quit lots of jobs, I think internships are GREAT. I assisted and I interned and it taught me so much. It’s how you learn to preempt and intuit, which is an important part of working with clients. And interpersonally, it’s a great way to feel out personalities, working styles, work, studio culture, etc. We take interns and our two faves are now designers in the studio!
A great client is one that recognizes beauty is the ultimate goal. That it’s not simply a service we provide for them, but rather the culmination of the exchange throughout the entire project. Success comes from respect for time and expertise, an open dialog, productive feedback, and clear communication.
I see interactive design as becoming more integral to every day life but that the most interesting work, projects, brands will be the ones who mesh the old and the new. Keeping the past, whether that’s physical, historical or theoretical and reimagining, meshing it together in new ways—that’s what excites me.
The Brand Gap is the only memorable design-related book I’ve read. I check It’s Nice That and blogs like The Brand Identity weekly. I like to pay attention to what’s happening with environmental and industrial design via blogs like Yellow Trace and Sight Unseen. I probably use instagram the most— My studio has a group thread where we share inspiration. I listen to lots of podcasts, but none about design—more about building businesses or stories about the world like Radiolab, How I Built This and Open for Business—I am continually inspired by the podcasts I listen to! I do love the design of Debbie Millman’s website but I’ve never listened to a single one.
I’ve learned more in 2018 than any other year—it has been both the most exciting and toughest year to date.