Featured Studio

Extended Play

December 2018

Not only could we spend forever on the Extended Play website clicking through those divine color combinations, but we could spend forever re-reading this interview with Principal Designer Joseph Bergdoll! It's such an honest and down-to-earth encounter of his experiences. We chat about mental health, awful internships, following application instructions, plus he makes us feel totally okay about all those doubts we have in school.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I'm Joseph. For the past 4 years, I've been designing graphic systems, websites, printed materials, apps (digital products for the fancy ones), and other things for brands, institutions, and individuals under the name extendedplay.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I studied at The Design School at Arizona State University. I grew up in a middle class family in Phoenix, Arizona and was beginning university in the shadows of the financial collapse of 2008. There was no way my family could afford any of the private art colleges, and I was a music kid in high school and thus didn't have a portfolio of work — I was limited to the in-state public universities. Little did I know, this initial perceived inconvenience would end up being one of the best surprises of my career, as Arizona State has one of the best nationally ranked design programs for public universities in the United States. The rigorous focus on excellence in typography and composition, along with the tight-knit relationship of the relatively small (under 1000 undergrads) community in The Design School made for a tremendous experience.

During my time in university, I worked part-time for a commercial printing shop during my second year, and then part-time for one of ASU's departments for junior and senior year, with an internship in New York City at Piscatello Design Centre mixed in the summer between junior year. The diversity in opportunities were really useful — understanding what goes on in the production processes before I was really making work that merited production was a huge help. Working for a university department that had to follow a strict brand standards document encouraged me to pursue more intriguing ideas and compositions as opposed to resorting to the gimmicks that young designers fall into. And finally, interning for a summer at a studio that gave me the opportunity to work on projects from websites to identities to eight foot tall glass etched museum donor walls was something mindblowing in and of itself — all of these were done in tandem with my education and helped guide me and my interests through my initial years post-graduation, and eventually lead me to starting my studio.

Whats your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)

Internships can be invaluable, or they can be completely awful — it all depends on the environment of the studio and the attitude of the managers. Some studios view interns as a cheap (or free) means of getting grunt work done, and I find that superbly embarrassing. Students and new graduates are coming to the greater design community with curiosity and a desire to grow in craft and practice, and to see that passion so quickly extinguished by managers with a penchant for emails at 4:20pm asking for a 69 page keynote by tomorrow morning — it's heartbreaking, especially since many in those scenarios are not receiving compensation. Managers need to understand that taking on an intern will take time away from their normal tasks, and that's not a bad thing. Whether I'm working with my students at Cooper Union, or with an intern at my studio, taking the time to consider the "why" in design processes and communicating those to someone else furthers not just their understanding, but yours as well.

We've been really lucky to have worked with two tremendous interns (Charlie and Stephanie) the past two summers and will definitely be having another summer intern position next year, with the possibility of adding spring and fall internships as well. We treat our interns as if they were a junior designer. Interns work directly with staff on client projects and are involved in client communications and meetings. We want them to walk away from the internship with a command of the tools, an understanding of the processes, and a few noteworthy portfolio pieces. And obviously, we pay them for their efforts and make sure everyone's keeping sane hours, having fun, and eating more than coffee.

"

Some studios view interns as a cheap (or free) means of getting grunt work done, and I find that superbly embarrassing.

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What do you look for in a great portfolio?

Many students aren't presented with opportunities to make work similar to the studio's output (big website design/builds), so instead I focus on a few key points. Are the projects shown executed in a way that is both made and presented in a considered way? Are any trends appropriated the projects shown, and if so, was it pushed further than just basic application? Having a breakthrough off of someone else's breakthrough is how design (and humanity) progresses, but ripping on a style without pushing at all is a sure-fire way to ensure your portfolio blends in with everyone else's. Is the portfolio itself presented in a simple and navigable manner? I know everyone wants to do the craziest javascript thing possible, but it's okay if the layout of the portfolio itself is a humble design executed at a high level. And lastly, does the internship application follow the instructions? We don't ask for anything crazy — just a link to their portfolio website or PDF and a sentence or two about what makes them the right candidate, in lieu of a long cover letter. Surprisingly, we receive many long cover letters, which seems like a lot more work. It is easy to write lots, but more challenging to write a little while still meaning lots.

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

As a person who lives with mental illness, mental health is something that's really important to me and it's a part of life where the design world can really improve. Burnout is such a common problem amongst working designers, when really it's a managerial failure that can be corrected — we have to make that change. For the past few months, I've been talking to people in the creative industries who live with mental illness about their working environment and what makes it good versus not-so-good, and what they think could be changed to make it better. At some point, all of these insights are going to be packaged up into a project — just not quite sure where it's going to lead yet!

What advice would you give students graduating in 2018/19?

It's okay to not have all the answers. It's okay to not know exactly what you want to do or where you want to do it. It's okay if you hate the project after you finish it — it means you've grown. It's okay to have doubts. It's okay that you're the only one who didn't pull an all-nighter — sleep is generally more valuable than hustle at those hours anyways. It's okay to not be as "good" as the other person in your class, don't let that diminish your passion, instead let it fuel you to learn more. It's okay to feel like you didn't learn everything you could've in school — you can still buy all the books, read them, apply those understandings to your work, and make an effort to grow everyday. You'll be fine.

Website: extendedplay.nyc

Instagram: @extendedplaynyc

Twitter: @extendedplaynyc

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