I have an exciting new guest interview to share with you all! It’s my privilege to introduce local designer Kristen Williams from Pueblo, CO.
Check out our interview together and visit more of her work from the links below.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and how did you get into graphic design?
I was always artistically inclined. As a tiny child, I loved to draw and paint and when I turned five I finally got my hands on my mom’s Pentax SLR. I was drawn to typography and fell in love with the Egyptian typeface on my mom’s antique typewriter. I always noticed the logos on my toys. I think I was doomed from a very early age to be an artist and graphic designer.
It almost didn’t happen though. My family didn’t understand the difference between commercial and fine artists and I think they feared the “starving artist” stereotype. Wanting the best for me, they encouraged me to pursue other fields ranging from math, to aeronautical engineering and finally journalism, which is what they sent me to college to obtain. If it weren’t for a passing comment from my advisor that I could double major in graphic design, I’d probably be working at a newspaper right now. Ironically, journalism is far lower paying than graphic design, so I focused on my BFA and switched my journalism to the more complimentary integrated communications. I’ve never looked back since.
2. Describe your style/aesthetic and where do you draw inspiration from?
My style fluctuates a bit depending on my client’s needs, but it’s usually somewhere between eclectic retro, hipster and grunge on a Swiss modern structure. I’m a 90’s child and so grunge is a dominating influence, but I’m also inspired by 1960s advertising, halftones, drawing, printmaking and the colors of local Hispanic and Latin-American paintings. I’m in love with the contemporary Argentinian graphic design circuit as I see them working with the same influences—60s halftones, 90s grunge and contemporary Latin-American colors. There’s also a kinship in our environments and graphic design goals as I too am trying to use these in-your-face graphics to take a stand and promote change for Pueblo, Colorado.
Pueblo is my second home. I go to school here, met my best friends here, and I spend most of my free time here. Local leaders are trying to raise Pueblo to a cultural hot-spot and shake away the steel-mill roots and the 80s depression that crippled Pueblo. What was once a Victorian hot-spot for health and mineral water, the location of a Frank Lloyd Wright opera house and the home of gilded, marbled hotels became associated only with the dirt of working-class industry. This town has come so far, made so much progress, but people in other parts of Colorado (or other parts of the US) still over-look it.
We local graphic designers are trying to provide the visual component to revitalization campaigns, and so rebel graphics resonate with many of us. I’m one of them. Currently I am a designer at the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, a down-town venue that is one of the fore-runners of Pueblo’s revitalization projects. The Riverwalk has already made major improvements in beatifying Pueblo (it ranks comparable to my favorite spots in San Francisco). My job is to help lead the charge of a fresh visual identity system that will make people remember the Riverwalk fondly and thereby remember Pueblo fondly. The goal is to help people see Pueblo as a thriving cultural and arts center, and forget the long-gone steel-mill past. My love for bright, in-your-face colors and rebel graphics that scream for attention are now a necessary inspiration for my job.
3. Walk us through a typical day.
A truly typical day almost doesn’t exist for me, especially while I’m juggling my last full-time semester of college and two internships. But there are some things I can expect (mostly!). When I walk into the office, I either immediately deal with an unexpected challenge that arose while I was away at class (such as a rush job), or I can go straight to my desk and work on my projects. I like to start the day researching the project, brainstorming the design direction and researching related design trends (as both an example of what to follow or to avoid).
The rest of the day is spent collaborating with copywriters, communications directors, the printers, my boss and anyone else assigned to the project. Graphic design is a lot to juggle, but that’s also what makes it exciting. It’s not like the fine arts where I lock myself into the studio for hours on end, drawing compositions to meet a gallery deadline. Instead, it is a collaborative, back-and-forth effort. Sometimes things change, sometimes I might lose favorite elements in pursuit of the greater goal (or the client’s specific desires), but almost always the project is richer for it. You can’t expect to have a lot of control in graphic design—instead you have to be ready to adapt to change, and quickly.
4. What are some of your favorite pastimes?
I love pastimes that inspire my design, or let me take a break from it. I’ll stroll antique stores in search of vintage graphics or walk the down-town streets of small towns for mural and sign inspiration. My photography is also a great way to decompress and reflect. When I lift up my camera, nothing else exists in the world but me and my subject. It’s complete Zen.
Sometimes I need to take a break from anything visual arts to avoid overstimulation and during this time I’ll focus on spending time with my friends, taking a stroll in nature or watching equestrian sports. There’s something awe-inspiring about watching a man and a horse soar over a five-foot jump in perfect partnership. Thinking about what they had to go through over several years to obtain that level of strength and finesse puts all of my graphic design challenges into perspective. And, in a way, equestrian show jumping represents graphic design—you need strength, confidence and delicacy to clear major obstacles. The jumps look formable, but they are actually delicate–make a mistake and suddenly that jump crumbles and you are out of the competition. I can’t think of a better analogy for graphic design.
5. Any advice for future/aspiring new designers?
Never lose sight of the bigger picture, the end goal of the project, and your client’s needs. These are the most important things and if you meet them, you’ll never go hungry. There are going to be times when you will have to stand your ground and defend your design aesthetics, but that is only when you KNOW that the design aesthetics are the best to meet the client’s goals. If they don’t meet the goals, then the aesthetics are just your babies and you’ll have to let them go.
Be ready to juggle multiple projects and a lot of little details, many of which will change as the project progresses. This is what makes commercial art different from the fine arts—it’s not about you spending hours on your favorite image until you’re done. In order to please multiple people and communicate a message, you’ll have to juggle a team of people and roll with the changes. Learn to multi-task and always welcome change. Be like that show jumping horse and rider where your talents are your trusty steed. Always have confidence, always look to the next obstacle (not down), know when to use strength and when to be delicate. Nothing can stop you if you learn that.
Thanks again! Photo credits @Kristen Williams