My parents are creative souls and always encouraged my siblings and I to pursue the arts. I grew up in a small mountain town in Colorado and was always the “artsy kid” of the class. In the first grade, I drew the airplane from the cartoon show TailSpin, and it ended up winning an award in an art competition. That’s when I realized that art came easily to me. In high school, I really got into coding and programming, and taught myself HTML and Flash. The Internet was relatively new at the time – Facebook wasn’t around yet and Google was in its infancy – and I started building and (unknowingly, at the time) designing websites for fun. When I was a senior in high school, I enrolled in a class called “Graphic Design”. I had no idea what that term meant, and figured it was a computer-generated art class or something along those lines. Little did I know, that class would open up a whole new world to me and come to be my career. I could create skateboard logos, album art and gig posters for a living? I was instantly in love with design.
My college experience was a little different than most designers. I was a student athlete recruited to run track and cross country for Western State University in Gunnison, Colorado – a small liberal arts school deep in the Rocky Mountains. I earned a BFA in design, minored in marketing and received unofficial degrees in snowboarding and a deep love for the outdoors. I did all sorts of design jobs while at Western. I was the layout designer for the school paper, art director for the arts and literature magazine, and a design intern for the University’s marketing department. As an intern, I got to design collateral for various departments, including poster design for the theater and music programs. That internship eventually turned into a part-time job during the school year, and a full-time job during the summer. By the time graduation rolled around, I already had more than a year of design experience.
Because I knew how to code, I was a hybrid designer coming out of school, which gave me an advantage in the job market. I got my first, post-college job offer a month before I graduated. My graduation ceremony was on a Saturday, and on Sunday, I packed my car with everything I owned and $50 to my name, and headed to Denver. I moved into a sketchy apartment off the interstate, and started work on Monday. I’ve been working as a designer, illustrator and artist ever since.
I’m a senior art director at Deloitte Digital, a global digital design agency. I get to work alongside developers, engineers, and some of the most talented designers I’ve ever met. Deloitte Digital is a full-service digital partner to a range of Fortune 500 companies – so all of the conception, design and development happens in-house.
I’m also an adjunct professor at Metro State University of Denver (MSU Denver) in the communications design program, where I teach design production, typography and user interface design. I usually teach one course per semester – generally an evening course, so I can maintain normal hours at Deloitte.
I also keep busy with my personal practice that includes illustrating screen-print gig posters for touring bands coming through Denver, painting murals, and helping out friends with design work. I also do fine art that is heavily inspired by design and illustration, and show at galleries and museums regularly. I work a lot, but always find time to hang out with friends, family, loved ones; as well as get outside to explore beautiful Colorado. It’s really important to me to have a strong work-life balance.
As I mentioned, I’m an adjunct professor at MSU Denver. When I started teaching, I had just quit a really high-stress, long-hour advertising job. I was 26 at the time, completely burned out, and wanted to find some relief in doing something that felt more intrinsically meaningful. The enthusiasm and excitement that oozed from my students during that period of my life not only rejuvenated my passion for design, but for my career as well. I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not become an adjunct professor, and it will always be one of the things I am most proud of.
Well, I work at a digital studio, so digital design is really important. I made the leap from traditional advertising to digital two years ago and it was the right move for me. Of course, everyone is different, and making the decision to transition to a digital-intensive job is something you should only do if you feel like it is the right fit and you’re confident you will enjoy the work. I would recommend having some knowledge of digital design, as it is more than likely something that you will encounter at some point in your career, and it is important to be thinking about how design is applied in different channels.
That being said, my illustration and fine art practice is very much analog, and defines who I am as a designer. I love finding a balance between the two mediums. I feel that the analog work makes me a better digital designer and vice versa.
1. Work hard and be confident but not egotistical – humility and kindness will get you everywhere.