Below are excerpts from a conversation between Queens College Design graduate Ginine Gordon (Class of 2017), and Assistant Professor Ryan Hartley Smith about entering the job market after graduation, and advice for current and prospective Design Majors.
RHS: Hi Ginine, thanks for doing this! What are you doing professionally now that you’ve graduated?
GG: I am an Art Director [at Ogilvy, an NYC advertising agency].
RHS: Entering into the professional field of design is extremely competitive and it can be difficult for recent graduates to balance supporting themselves, making new work for their portfolio, and networking / applying for jobs. How has this process been going for you?
GG: I knew the design industry was a highly competitive field and it would be difficult to find a job. I can’t stress enough how fortunate I am to have been a part of the One Club internship program. Professor Weinstein and Justin [from the One Club] found an agency that was the perfect fit for me, and I’m fortunate the agency has kept me on the team long term.
RHS: How would you describe the work you’re making now?
GG: I love the work I’m doing now. I enjoy the challenge it brings. Plus, I get to make gifs for a living, how many people can say that?
(c) Ginine Gordon
RHS: What are your professional goals for the near future? How do you plan on achieving them?
GG: I want to experience many different kinds of projects. I plan on developing my skills at multiple agencies as a senior Art Director or a Creative director. I want to be able to grow and evolve on more than one team.
RHS: Did you participate in an internship while at Queens College? If so, what was it? How did you get it? And what was the experience like?
GG: Yes, I completed two internships while at Queens College, both under the One Club. During my last two semesters, I submitted my design portfolio and resume into a competition headed by Professor Weinstein. The One Club then selected 7 students to intern at big agencies. I was fortunate enough to be chosen both times. My first internship at BBDO was a culture shock experience.The environment was faster-paced than I expected, but, it gave me a great taste of the advertising world. My second internship, which was at the agency I currently work for, was even better. I was able to get a lot of great feedback on my book. I was eventually scouted by a Creative Director. He said he always liked to pass my desktop to see what I was working on, including my book. I thanked him and gave him my card. The next day I was told he wanted to hire me on his team. In one word, it was awesomeness times two.
(c) Ginine Gordon
RHS: What was your favorite Design course at QC and why?
GG: My favorite design course was book design with Natalya Balnova (yes this is a shout out). It was one of the first times I had a professor kick me into high gear. There was no sugar coating in class. We also had a chance to make great projects for our books. My advice for students considering a major in design is to understand this is not the “easier” courses. This major will take a lot of time to master (I’m not even one yet!). But, it is worth it. It’s not a major that is not really grade focused (although you should always aim for that A!), but more about the quality of the work that you produce. Half-a**ing is not welcome.
(c) Ginine Gordon
RHS: What advice do you have for students who are considering pursuing a major in Design?
GG: One Club, One Club and if I forgot to mention, One Club. It’s the go-to place for a chance at internships with big companies. Professor Weinstein is always posting new internship opportunities on her website. A clean resume and portfolio are a given, and it should be on your personal website. I’m not going to tell you what your professors have probably been telling you forever, but it is important.
(c) Ginine Gordon
RHS: What advice do you have for QC Design majors who are beginning to search for internships and their first Design industry job(s) after graduation?
GG: I would definitely apply to more internships during my time there. I would have also taken more After Effects courses. I found that in this business, most art directors don’t know how to use After Effects and most clients like motion in their work.
(c) Ginine Gordon
RHS: Where can we see your portfolio (website, behance, anything else you want to share…)?
GG: My website is ginine-gordon.squarespace.com. I also actively make gifs for Ibmblr from time to time, so you van see my work there as well. Make sure to also check out Art with Watson, the Josephine Baker portrait. I was an art director on that team.
Below are excerpts from a conversation between Queens College Design graduate Freddy Japa (Class of 2017), and Assistant Professor Ryan Hartley Smith about entering the job market after graduation, and advise for students considering a major and career in Design.
RHS: Hi Freddy! What have you been up to since graduation?
FJ: I‘ve been keeping myself busy on personal projects for my portfolio. Professionally I have been doing freelance work for clients thanks to social media. I am also currently applying to internships to obtain more experience and hopping to soon be part of a well-known agency.
(c) Freddy Japa
RHS: Entering into the professional field of design is extremely competitive and it can be difficult for recent graduates to balance supporting themselves, making new work for their portfolio, and networking / applying for jobs. How has this process been going for you?
FJ: Entering into the professional field has been competitive. There are many talented individuals in the field. Using the social media platform like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Behance have helped me a lot in exposing my work and networking. Throughout the social media platform I have been able to obtain many clients since I am currently a freelancer. LinkedIn has also become a great resource for me right now, as I am applying for both jobs and internships. For me exposing my work on every social media has really helped me a lot, I believe the more you expose your work the more individuals get to see it and could be a potential client.
RHS: How would you describe the work you’re making now, (both professional and personal work)?
FJ: Lately I have been focusing more on logo design and character design for clothing brands that are both small and large businesses. A recent project I worked on was creating a logo for a new restaurant called the “Kings of Tacos”. It was a nice experience and pretty awesome to see a restaurant use a logo I created.
King of Tacos branding (c) Freddy Japa
RHS: You’ve done an amazing job at developing a huge social media following for your work. How did you make this happen and how is it useful for your career?
FJ: At the beginning I was very scared to put my work on social media. My fear was that my work would not be good enough and that people would dislike it. I ignored my fears and gave it a try, posting all my work on social media. The outcome was amazing! I was surprised to see how many people loved my work. I was completely over my fear and posted kept posting more of my work. People did not only like my stuff but started to contact me for design work ( logos. T-shirt designs, business cards etc.). I would definitely recommend using social media, it’s free so take advantage of it to expose your work to the world.
RHS: What are your professional goals for the near future? How do you plan on achieving them?
FJ: My professional goals for the near future is to create more work and try to develop my style more, so agencies can see what I am capable of creating. I would also like to work on getting more people to know about my work and expose my work more. I recently started a YouTube channel with videos of how my work is done in time-lapse.
Twelve Clothing T-Shirt Design (c) Freddy Japa
RHS: Did you participate in an internship while at Queens College? If so, what was it? How did you get it? And what was the experience like?
FJ: I did participate in an internship while I was at QC. It was at an advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. I did this internship with other fellow friends from QC. The [Winter Semester] One Club program guided us into getting the internship. The experience was really amazing because it gave me an glimpse of how a agency actually functions and we had the opportunity to work alongside with head of art/ design to develop concepts for advertising campaigns.
RHS: What was your favorite Design course at QC and why?
FJ: The course that I enjoyed in QC was poster design. The instructor was Natalya Balnovaa, and I enjoyed her way of teaching the course. I also loved how she would challenge us and push us to work harder. She helped me develop my style eve more. I learned a lot and enjoyed creating poster designs and other projects.
Felix the Cat Poster Project (c) Freddy Japa
RHS: What advice do you have for students who are considering pursuing a major in design?
FJ: The advice that I have for QC design major who are considering into pursuing a major in design is to work super hard all the time and to never be shy in asking for advice or help. I use to be shy and that held me behind a lot. The second I stopped being shy I started to ask help into building my portfolio. Thanks to all the feedback from great instructors I was able to build a strong portfolio. My last advice would be to get many internships because experience is very important.
RHS: What advice do you have for QC design majors who are beginning to search for internship and their first design industry jobs after graduation?
FJ: The advice that I have for QC design major who are beginning to search for internship and their first design industry jobs after graduation is to have a really solid portfolio. Have a lot of variation of projects from school and personal projects.
JL Carpentry Interior Branding (c) Freddy Japa
RHS: If you had to go through the QC design program again, what would you do differently?
FJ: If I had to go through the design program again, I would work even harder to create better projects for my portfolio, but most of all work on my typography.
RHS: Where can we see your portfolio?
FJ: You can all check out my work on my website www.japadesigns.com. I am also on various social media which are all listed on my website. I also have a YouTube channel- japadesigns, which you can subscribe to and watch some speed art videos of my work.
Below are excerpts from a conversation between Queens College Design graduate Jimmy Mercado (Class of Fall 2015), and Deputy Chair Ryan Hartley Smith about entering the job market after graduation, and lessons learned along the way.
RHS: Hi Jimmy, How was your summer? JM: Hey! What’s up Ryan?! My summer has been pretty good but mostly busy. Just keeping myself relaxed, the usual lol.
How would you describe the work you’re making now, and what’s the work you’re most proud of?
Well, I’ve been keeping myself busy- most of my work is animation (either in After Effects or Cinema 4D), however my favorite animation work has been in Cinema. In addition to that, I’ll say the work I’m most proud of has to be my Coca Cola Advertisement Poster (below). I say this because I felt like it matched the design choices I’ve thought of at the time before I started it. Plus it’s cool to me! Many people gave that poster so many compliments which made me happy.
Advertising project for class at QC.
Where can we see your portfolio (website, behance, anything else..)?
Anyone can check out my work on my website (www.jimdesigns.net), my Instagram dedicated to my designs is slim_design, and any other social media platform I i didn’t say here is on the footer of my website. I’m starting to do alot of animations now so I’m excited about that! Please follow if you guys like the stuff you see!
I met you before you were a student at Queens College, when you were in high school and we both worked for a community mural organization called Groundswell. The project you worked on was the entrance to the 191st 1 stop in Washington Heights. Did that experience influence your decision to pursue a career in art and design?
Oh that’s rightttt!! haha I was sooooo young! I believe I was like 14. I was a teenager, you know, so I didn’t know what I was doing. I started painting and it was relaxing and fun. Never did anything like that! I loved the environment, but believe it me it wasn’t that experience which made me like the arts and design. What made me pursue a career in art and design was actually being curious about the processes of making a poster, animated movie, and Photoshop skills I’d seen online during my senior year of high school.
Jimmy Mercado (left) works on “New York is a Rollercoaster” in 2008 with artists Chris Beck (2nd from left) and Belle Benfield (2nd from right). Photo taken by Ryan Hartley Smith for Groundswell.
Does the process of making a mural influence your current design work in any way?
That’s a great question!! Believe it or not it kind of does! It’s just like you could learn painting or drawing in college. I take note of what I learn each time. Like painting the mural with Groundswell actually helped me know more about complimentary colors, primary colors, etc. I learned what colors pop and can engage an audience. With that in mind, I encourage new comers trying to get into design not to limit themselves to just the computer. Log off and use paper and [handmade] materials when you can, trust me it helps!
Entering into the professional field of design is super competitive and it can be difficult for recent graduates to balance supporting themselves, making new work for their portfolio, and networking / applying for jobs. How has this process been going for you?
Well, that experience being a recent graduate that I am is honestly putting in work, work and more work. I graduated Fall of 2015 and for me I spent 4 months making animations. I thought to myself “I want to be an animator so bad. I want work, but I’m not getting anywhere right now.” I saw Professor Hyesu Lee one day while I was passing by to say “hi.” She told me don’t give up and keep applying. Another month passed by and the work and animations I put in worked out! I’m glad to say I found my first internship in May and this turned into a part-time designer/animator position with the NY Mets in the fall!
That is awesome that you’re working for the Mets! What is your job title? What are your responsibilities?
Yeah I know right! I was surprised when I had the interview a few months back. To answer your question I did intern with them as a “Productions Animation Intern.” I started with the Mets in May and the paid internship continued on until last week. There were 6 other interns including myself that worked with Productions. Some interns were designers and others were interning to gain experience in being part of a production team. I got hired to work part-time with them for the rest of this baseball season since they saw my interest in helping the team. My responsibilities include designing and animating a “vs match-up” between the Mets and the visiting team. I also am using player images and placing them in the templates given to me by the Graphic Specialist. In addition, I work closely with the Director, the Graphic Specialist and others to come up with transition animations. For example, I generate ideas for replay wipes, logos, icons, and more to build in Cinema 4D and/or After Effects. I’ve already made some cool stuff for them that are up on the scoreboards!
That is so exciting! Well deserved! What are your other professional goals for this year? How do you plan on achieving them?
This year is all about making new things to put in my portfolio. I will focus more on animation to expand my horizons as an animator and designer. I plan to reach out to other animation-focused graphic design studios. I also plan on trying freelancing for a couple of my friend’s bosses. The way I’m approaching these things is just by applying, contacting people, and improving my work to show potential employers what I can do as a designer.
What was your favorite Design course at Queens College and why?
I don’t even have to think twice about this answer! If you asked anyone from my graduating class, they will tell you in a heartbeat “3D Animation & Modeling with Ben Voldman!” It was sooooo different from regular design. It included the 3D knowledge I’ve wanted to learn since the first time I got into art and design. I knew I would catch on fast and make it my “new thing”. Combining 3D with design and animating in Cinema 4D is the best!! However, Ben Voldman hands down gave me the basic tools to learn the rules and engaged his class in new ways to do things and it dragged my full attention. I would be the one asking questions and approaching him when I needed it. It was great to say I’ve taken alot from his class. When I started working for the Mets at Citifield, some of the creative artists thought I did really cool stuff thanks to the things I’ve learned at QC.
“Lazer Spaceship” designed to showcase rendering 3D objects in realistic scenery
If you were able to go back and go through the Design program again (knowing what you’ve learned from entering the job market), what would you do differently?
If I had to go through the Design program again, I would’ve definitely liked to work more on my typography! I would’ve liked to change most of my designs to make them better than they were. Lastly, just approached my professors more and get the help to become better.
What advice do you have for students who are considering being a Design major?
I would say to you new folks “give it a shot!” Approach your professors when you want more knowledge and advice on your designs. Listen to the critiques you get in class and use them! When you learn from the critiques, it’ll make your designs 1000x better. Don’t be shy to speak your mind while critiquing because you help each other out! Aside from that, never give up post-graduation if you haven’t had work because SOMEONE WILL NOTICE YOU! Try finding an internship during your school years and if you still haven’t found anything don’t put your head down yet. Keep working and that hard work will push you to a point you’ll get a job.
Elliot Cowan is an animator, illustrator, artist and educator. He teaches 2D animation (ARTS215, Summer Session 2), Introduction to Digital Animation (ARTS193, Fall 2016), and Storyboarding for Animators (ARTS370, Fall 2016) at Queens College, CUNY. In this interview, he shares a little bit about his life, influences and projects.
KW: Tell us a little bit about your background? EC: I’m from Melbourne, Australia. My parents are British Jews. Mum is from Manchester in the very north of England and my dad is Scottish. They moved to Australia in the late 60’s and have never been back.
As I kid, I was mostly genial and quiet. I loved cartoons and movies. I had, and still have, no interest in sport, which is kind of a strange thing in Australia. I spent a LOT of time drawing and making puppets, little sculptures, that kind of thing.
KW: Were your parents artists? Who encouraged your art making activities? EC: My parents are not artists. I had a grandfather who was a musician who probably would have drawn if it had been nurtured or even discovered in him. My folks were very encouraging in a kind of hands-off way. They made sure I had plenty of paper and pencils and let me take some art classes when I asked to but for the most part they stood back and let me do my thing.
KW: When did you know that you wanted to become an animator? EC: As a kid I was obsessed with animation and puppetry. I don’t know when that started exactly – probably watching Sesame Street, which has a lot of both – I just know that animation has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I think I was originally more interested in puppetry. In the mid 80’s in Australia the idea of going into animation was only slightly less insane than being a puppeteer so I chose that path.
KW: How did you discover these artists—books, comic strips, television, at home, at school, wandering into bookstores? EC: I’ve never been entirely comfortable being part of a pack, and even as a young kid I was inclined to search outside the mainstream for creative stimulation.
I was born in 1974. Shortly after that Melbourne experienced a very large influx of migrants from all over the world. In an effort to accommodate all these new people a television channel was created to broadcast international programming—local news from Greece, soap operas from the China, and later on I remember seeing the Iranian version of The Nanny.
When I was eight or nine they would program a four-hour chunk of international animation on a Sunday afternoon and I was crazy for it. All short films, animated series and a crazy Czech version of the Muppet Show. It had a big influence on me.
My mum would also take me to the library every week and I’d always take a pile of books out. I discovered Gerald Scarfe at the library when I was 7 or 8 and I am still influenced by him.
KW: Why did you decide to attend Independent College of Art and Design and how did the experience shape you? Were you a good student? EC: At the time University in Australia was basically free, but I chose to go to a private college because they responded to my work in such a positive way. I studied Graphic Design and Illustration.
The experience changed my life completely. My lecturers said to us “We are here to show you all the stuff you don’t know about, so put down your security blanket and come see this”, which I was more than happy to do. They really did introduce us to the idea of thinking and feeling and living like an artist. I formed friendships with my professors that have lasted to this day.
I had been a very average high school student but did extremely well at art school – it was one of the most productive times of my life.
KW: Did you go directly to graduate school (and why Victorian College of the Arts)? Why did you think advanced studies were important? EC: I did go directly to graduate school. At the time there were limited places to study animation and one option was at The Victorian College of the Arts. My illustration professor had gone there many years previously and recommended it.
I don’t I think advanced studies are important in the arts at all. As an artist you’re better off spending all that money on an extended trip to Europe or backpacking through the Grand Canyon with attractive foreigners.
For myself, it was the only way I could go and do some animation and move forward in my career. These days you can learn a bit of animation on your iPhone but at the time there was only paper and big machines and film and Steinbecks and my time at VCA gave me access to all these things.
KW: What were the first types of jobs you held (and then how did you end up directing and editing low budget television commercials in Tasmania for 11 years)? EC: Like many art schools with a film department, VCA has an industry screening after each final semester. I started working the day after the industry screening for a small company called Oh’ Hell He Ran Productions – the guy who ran it was called Bernie O’Halloran.
We were doing animated pilots for MTV Asia. They’d send us a four-minute script and we’d put the thing together. I only remember one thing we worked on called The Supermuddles, a spoof about supermodels. Also did some great stuff on a pilot that Bernie was developing himself. I did a bunch of great animation on it and also did one of the lead voices alongside Australian actor and comedian Kim Gyngall.
Bernie worked out very quickly that I worked reasonably quickly and was happy working late so he’d skip out most of the time to have “meetings” which meant he was sleeping with pretty girls.
Eventually I became burnt out and a job came up at a multi-media company in Tasmania. I thought “Screw it, I’m taking it”, which is kind of like living in New York and deciding to move to a shack in the Appalachians. The company is still around so I don’t want to mention them but I worked for a guy who was part moron, part sociopath. I created several animated commercials and inhouse projects called “The Thungums” on which I did some of the best work I’ve ever done but remains lost to the world.
After a year or two a job came up at the local television station directing low budget commercials and I took it. I was there about 8 years before I was fired and went to work for their rival network down the street. It was all very, very hard work–lots of hours and little pay. Not a nice place to work.
During that time I continued to draw, exhibited twice and made several nice animated commercials.
I also developed Boxhead and Roundhead in Tasmania, which ultimately became several short films and an animated feature.
KW: Professionally, what were some of your favorite projects? EC: Well let me say this first. There is very little about working commercially that I’d ever describe as being my “favorite” anything. Unless you’re in charge of a project you’re toiling for someone else and that’s not something that works well for me unless the circumstances are very particular. Generally speaking the best commercial projects I’ve worked on were for people who paid well, paid on time and were respectful of the role of artists.
This is not to say I’m any kind of prima donna, because I’m not. When you are working on a commercial project it’s important to remember that 1) The person in charge of it is really invested in it because it is their reputation and ego on display. 2) There is usually a large amount of money involved.
The other side of that is that 1) As a gun for hire it’s hard to be as invested in the project as the person in charge. 2) The person in charge is making a lot more money than you.
Still from “How The Mormon Stole Everything”
Having said that I’ve worked with a lot of nice people who knew how to be friendly and professional and creative. Here are some of the projects I most enjoyed working on in recent times: How The Mormon Stole Everything was an animated short I did for The Big Gay Sketch Show, a SNL style show that ran on Logo. I had a very short time to produce a lot of animation but they paid well and pretty much let me do whatever I wanted. Remains one of the most satisfying commercial projects I’ve ever done. It was very divisive but, as I kept reminding people who were critical, it was made for The Big Gay Sketch Show not The Highbrow Shakespeare Hour.
Still from “How The Mormon Stole Everything”
Bitter Batter was a segment I did for Sesame Workshop. I’ve done a lot of stuff with Sesame. They’re a great bunch to work for. They pay on time!
I’ve done a lot of work for Ace and Son Moving Picture Company. They’re good pals of mine and helped produce my animated feature. For Ace and Son I did a bunch of work on The Buddah for PBS and a nice extended segment for a documentary called The Texan Promise.
KW: What are the skills necessary to be an animator? Looking forward, what are your predictions for the field in the next decade? EC: Let’s assume there are two kinds of animation.
1) Character animation, which is all Bugs Bunny and Flinstone and whatever. Actual characters that think and move and feel. This could be traditional (drawn) or 3D (Pixar etc).
2) Motion graphics, which is a fancy way of saying graphic design that moves.
Character animation is all about timing and character and acting and drawing (or poses if you’re working in 3D). Motion graphics is about design and software.
For the future, the more of both of these things you have an understanding of the more employable you’re going to be. This is all assuming you intend to put these applications to commercial use. You can learn all these things to advance your skills as an artist who wants to make things — films, installations, art pieces — and have something to say.
KW: Why do you think animation skills are important for graphic designers? EC: Several reasons… When you are a working artist you should always be the one who knows the most stuff — even if you aren’t the best at everything, you should still know the most. You should be the person who knows how to design and then how to make that design move.
The various medias are tightly integrated these days too. If you’re working for a studio and the client wants to take the design and make a commercial then you can put up your hand and say “I can do that” which makes you a more valuable player.
Nobody is saying you need to be the next Glen Keane or Eric Goldberg but an understanding of basic animation principals and the software required to producer animation gives you an edge.
Also — animators are the worst graphic designers ever. The industry needs you.
KW: What were the best animations you’ve seen in the past year? EC: Student films are just about the only films I look forward to seeing. I’ve been let down too many times to get excited about much other stuff.
I’m always excited about my pal Eric Goldberg does, and anything from my pals at Cartoon Saloon is something to be happy about. Actually, anything by anyone I know, so I have some kind of connection to it.
KW: What types of projects are you working on now?
EC: I do some story work with Oscar nominated Irish animation Studio Cartoon Saloon (Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea). I recently contributed concept design and story ideas to their new film, WolfWalkers.
I’ve worked a lot with Ace and Son Moving Picture Company. They helped produced my feature so they’re good friends. I worked with them on a documentary about the Texan education system, the Buddah for PBS and just wrapped up some segments for Tesla, also for PBS and Ace and Son.
KW: What’s the best advice you ever received? EC: Advice, huh?
I have a lot, but essentially it all boils down to thinking and living like an artist everything else stems from there. Spend time with motivated and interesting people who are making things and show an interest in your work. You can’t help but absorb the energy. Keep an open mind and stay curious about the world. Keep making art.
Below is a conversation between 2016 QC graduate Sila Chanrujipat and Assistant Professor Ryan Hartley Smith about Sila’s work and plans for after graduation.
Professor Smith: Hi Sila, Thanks for talking! Where can we see your portfolio?
Sila Chanrujipat: My portfolio can be seen on my behance page and my website.
Tell me about the project you are most proud of…
I am actually proud of all my works. The project that I am most proud of is my series of book covers that I created in my Typography II class. I designed a series of book covers for Alice in Wonderland. Each book cover had to have its own theme. Therefore, I designed book covers in different concepts; dark, dreamy and vintage concept. With each book cover, I tried to use different tools and techniques to make such as using a paper craft, gradient, and shadow. It actually was my first time to do a paper craft by hands. I spent a lot of time to revise my works and tried to make them look like a 3d in photoshop combining different elements.
One of Sila’s Alice in Wonderland Covers
What’s the most important thing you want the world to know about your design work?
Every design tells its own story. I like combining handmade and digital methods to create my work, because I think it gives a sense of mystery.
Crystals in the Desert, using 3D modeling
You just were awarded a $2,000 prize for winning CUNY Human Rights poster contest. First, congratulations!! Second, tell us about your poster design- how did you come up with the idea, and how did you make the final design?
Thank you very much! Honestly, I did not expect that at all. For my poster design, I started to make 3-4 sketches with a pencil then I asked my best friends to give me feedback, and colored the final draft in Photoshop. The idea of my poster is to raise awareness of Europe’s migration crisis that has been a chronic issue since last year. I combined different symbols. For instance, the big tear drop presents the emotional wounds of refugee. The barbed wire represents the acute migration crisis and division while the hands illustrate that they need help from us as fellow men.
No Human is Illegal Poster
You just graduated, now what are your goals for the summer?
There are two main goals for this summer. Firstly, I want to spend time with my family as much as I can because I haven’t seen them for 2 years. This time, they came to visit me for 3 months. We plan to travel in New York after the Commencement ceremony. My second goal is to get a job in U.S. I have just only four months to find before my visa will be expired.
What’s your dream job/next step professionally?
My dream job is to work in advertising company or fashion company. I know they are very competitive, but I want to give it a try!
What was your favorite Design course at Queens College and why?
There are many favorite design courses in this school. One of my favorite classes is advertising design. I had to come up with an idea for a campaign project in Time Square. I chose to do a healthy food event that provides healthy food to New Yorkers. The idea of the poster series is to mock fast food and sweet with healthy food. I really enjoyed doing research in the real place and create pattern design for merchandises.
Healthy Eating Campaign
Healthy Eating Campaign
Healthy Eating Campaign
What advice do you have for students who are considering being a Design major?
If you have creative ideas or like using computer programs. Then yes! You are on the right track! Anyhow, you have to understand all the basic rules. Then you would know how to break them and create your unique design style.
If you had to go through the Design program again, what would you do differently?
I would take more animation classes. Last semester I only took a 3D modeling class and I found it is very interesting. I want to make my illustration become more vivid and alive! I also believe that 3D Modeling and animation will play a huge role in the design fields.
Thomas Jockin is passionate about type! AND he’s teaching Typography 1 on Sunday afternoons at Queens College, Spring 2016.
Thomas Jockin at Typ Thursdays
KW: Tell us a little bit about your background? TJ: I was born on Long Island, NY to an Irish father and Egyptian mother back in 1986. As I was growing up, I always loved drawing and painting. That was my original plan for my art career. Then I discovered “End of Print” the monogram of David Carson. I loved how he “painted” with letters. That was something I didn’t even think was possible.
KW: Why did you decide to pursue a Communications Design degree and why Parsons School of Design ? TJ: My parents hadn’t had saved for me to go to college so it all came down to which of the art schools I applied to could offer in scholarship. Parsons came on top, so I went there. But that one choice would change my whole life direction. In my sophomore year, I had the type designer Joshua Darden as my Typography 1 instructor.
KW: When did you decide type design would be your calling? (What did you find appealing about type design, what types of skills did you possess that made you feel you would be successful)? TJ: Meeting Joshua Darden was what made me a typeface designer. I had an interest in typography — in that paintery way David Carson used it — but I knew nothing about typeface design. He spoke of the history of written language, the emotional capacity in design, the complexity of technology. I was sold by the end of that first lecture. With the first lecture Josh gave the class, at 19, I knew I wanted to think like he did. If I had to become to typeface design to gain that way to thinking, so be it.
Typography and type design is characterized as this super nerdy, technical and logical discipline. I had none of that. I was a messy, chaotic, passionate kid; The last person you would expect to become a typeface designer. And yet, here I am. What made this possible was my absolute conviction that is discipline is worth my investment and to buy in to that commitment no matter what. That’s the skill you need to possess to become anything you want to become.
KW: What was your first job after graduating Parsons (and how did you find it and what types of projects did you work on)? How many jobs did you hold before you became an independent studio? TJ: I went straight to an independent designer out of Parsons. I apprenticed under Joshua Darden from sophomore year until I graduated. From that point, I was on my own. Finding, developing and managing client relationships was critical to me making it as a designer. When you work for yourself, you accept the responsibly for all aspects of the business and your relationship with your clients. That may seem like a lot, but I weight that less than my freedom.
KW: Why did you pursue a postgraduate certificate in Typeface design at Cooper Union and how did the experience impact your career? TJ: After my apprenticeship with Josh, I had a crippling inadequacy inside me. I thought I was just a shadow of Josh, without anything unique to offer. I was producing typography and type design for clients, but never on the public retail market. My original plan was to save to attend the acclaimed KABK graduate program for typeface design.
I was in the process of saving for that program when I was chatting with Jessica Hische at a TDC talk and she pointed out that Cooper Union was starting a type design program in New York City. The deadline was that Friday at midnight and it was Thursday. I made it just in time for the application deadline and a month or so later I received a call from the TDC’s director Carol Wahler I was accepted into the inaugural class.
The program had a dramatic improvement in my career. Just being in a class with great designers like Nick Sherman and Carlos Pagan really pushed me to do my best work. The instructors also pushed me to become a better typeface designer. By the end of that program I stripped away that horrible sense of inadequacy I had since I left apprenticing under Josh; I did have unique and valuable perspective in my craft. Since then, I’ve published 3 typeface families retail, and had the pleasure to work with clients such as Express, Foot Locker and Starbucks. Going to Type@Cooper was the best decision I made for my career.
Garcon in use.
KW: Tell us about the typefaces you have designed? TJ: Well, my first retail typeface, Garçon Grotesque was a simple brief; I can I make Copperplate Gothic better? Copperplate was one of those default design choices people make when they want to be fancy, stately, and stable. Instead of whining about poor choices, Garçon was my attempt to make this model work better. I did a big write up about the design process of the influential typography website, I Love Typography.
My second was Ductus, study on the fundamental of typeface design, the broad-nib pen. Ductus was originally from a client brief that got killed, but I was drawn to the idea of the fundamentals of calligraphy and flow.
My most recent release, Azote, also came from an client brief that was killed. The brief was for this multiline font that the strokes would get thicker in each weight. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not very exciting either. I came back with the crazy idea, “well, what if the typeface adds lines to for weight?” That simple idea took almost 3 years to get done. But I do love the results, and I’m very excited to expand on the project.
Azote @Thomsa Jockin
Universally my least favorite part of the process is kerning. Not because it’s tedious; but because in kerning the entire system of your design will be tested. A lot of times there will be a drawing or spacing decision that kerning exposed; you then have to go back and make the adjustment. If that adjustment affects a fundamental aspect of the design — say for example the rounds are too loose in spacing and too round in shape, you’ll have to make those corrections to every single character that has a round. That may cost you tens of hours to correct. It’s a very stressful period of the design process to say the least.
KW: When did you start to box? And what is the relationship of boxing to typography? TJ: I started boxing three years ago when I spent a year in Portland, Or. I was overweight and always wanted to pick up boxing. Pardon the pun, but I was absolutely hooked. I loved how the lessons of timing, rhythm and spacing from type design directly related to boxing. How deeply one understands these simple fundamentals is the difference between the amateur and the professional.
KW: What is TypeThursday? TJ: TypeThursday is a meeting place for people who love letters that I organize. This includes online interviews with world-class type designers and users. As well as monthly type crits/ meet-ups in Brooklyn. TypeThursday’s mission is to welcome those who use and make type. To offer those who use type a chance to learn more about the complexities of typeface design. For those who make type, to offer a venue to develop their skills and be more informed about our craft. I recommend readers to check out our interviews on Medium , or check out our meet-ups on Facebook .
KW: What are your predictions for typographic design in the next decade? TJ:As for the next decade, more robust typographic abilities on the web and apps are the trend. The kind of typographic expression possible will explode. Safari 9.1 now supports advance opentype features, finally catching up to the other modern web browsers.Frameworks that are easy to install and lightweight bring the robust print opentype options to the web designer today.
KW: What are your go-to typefaces for design projects? TJ: A typeface I’ll make myself! Kidding aside, while I am biased because I worked on the project, the Freight Superfamily is a masterpiece of type design.
KW: If you were a typeface, what typeface would you be? TJ: My typeface, Azote. Formal discipline with an exuberant personality.
KW: What skills do you need to be successful in this field? How much is technology impacting typeface design? What advice do you have for students wishing to pursue a similar career? TJ: You’ll need a mix of the logic of the programmer, mastery of figure-ground relations of the painter, the firmness and understanding of the salesman. Coming to resolution to the contradictory nature of type design is the key to success.
Technology is in every aspect of type design. Written language itself is a technology. But it’s better to say technology mediates everything in type design—How the printer or screen renders your outlines? How to automate repetitive tasks with programing? How type is distributed to anyone with an internet connection?
KW: If you had unlimited funds, what would be your dream project? TJ: To develop a typeface library for every language in the world. A kind of Tower of Babel.
KW: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be the strength for others to act.
Areej Khan is a designer whose work bridges the social, cultural, and intellectual gaps between the West and the Middle East. Her museum and exhibit design, content translation, and project strategy in the Middle East has defined her role as a cultural interpreter– respecting the differences between cultures while honoring the similarities they share. In this interview, Areej Khan shares a little bit about her life, interests and projects.
Areej Khan is teaching Advertising Design at Queens College, CUNY Spring 2016.
Areej Khan at the age of three dressed in traditional Bedouin clothing.
KW: Tell us a little bit about your background?
AK: I was born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The fourth of five children to my amazing makers. I spent my summers going to school and camps in California. Both my parents had gone to college in the United States, and it was important to them for their children to get a well grounded education in both countries.
My oldest sister, Ghada, was my biggest creative influence growing up. From customized t-shirts and sweatshirts to comics and ridiculously detailed birthday cakes, she was very artistic and spent most of her free time making things. I was nine when she left home for college when her room became my secret garden. I’d study her artwork for hours and I drew inspiration from it to make my own.
Like all my older siblings, my parents had planned for me to go to college in the United States. Much to the world’s despair, 9/11 happened at the start of my senior year in high school. I was sixteen at the time, very sheltered, and still uncertain about what I wanted to do exactly. The general attitude towards Arabs that was an unfortunate result of that event deterred me from applying to schools in the United States and I decided to stay in Saudi.
KW: Dar Al-Hekma College was the first college in Saudi Arabia to offer an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design and you were one of the first students to receive a degree. What prompted you to pursue a degree in graphic design? AK: Dar Al-Hekma –now a university– was one of the first private colleges established for women in Saudi Arabia. I visited the campus in Jeddah and was instantly drawn to how progressive it was in comparison to other schools I had visited in Riyadh. As I mentioned earlier, I was not exactly set on a major but was certain I wanted to be in design. I originally applied to the interior design program but a registration error lead to me being enrolled into graphic design. When I realized this error on the first day of classes, I was encouraged to attend as noted on my schedule and told I could switch within the first week. (Relatively new college with two new majors that year, first day, chaos at registration.)
I walked into my first Art Appreciation class and I met Jenny Spencer, the instructor who had moved from London to start the Graphic Design program. She spoke about art, but she also spoke about the power of graphic design.
“Designers are like sponges. They absorb all that is around them and then create beautiful things people did not know they needed to see.”
Even though I’d made endless custom mixtape covers, cards and posters in high school, I’d never thought of it as a field because of where and how I was raised. It was everything I already loved to do but was always told was just a hobby. I was hooked!
The program was developed under the advisory of the Texas International Education Consortium. All new programs have hiccups, but this one had additional limitations at its start because it was the first of its kind in the country and faculty, materials, resources and supplies were not readily available locally. We would not always have the right instructors at the right time due to visa and scheduling issues and there were a few shuffles in the order of the curriculum. Supplies had to be ordered in to the local stationery stores. Printmaking and photo development labs had to be built into the campus.
I like to think all of those hurdles gave me, and the other eleven women I graduated with. a unique angle. The program has since grown immensely and has had the highest number of graduates per year from the university since 2009.
Hadouken – Arabic style. 2005
KW: What were your first jobs in design and how did you find work?
AK: I got my first design internship through Dar Al-Hekma at Fullstop Advertising after my freshman year. Fullstop is a local Saudi agency that had just entered the market and had ten employees at the time. There were only two designers on staff who spoke Arabic and had a deep understanding of the local market. That meant that I got to dive straight into developing campaigns with the Creative Director. I learned a lot very quickly and continued to freelance for them during the next school year.
After graduating, I was hired as a Jr Art Director at Albert Promoseven, the Middle East arm of McCann Erickson. It was a giant in comparison to Fullstop and there, I dove into a larger think tank-type work environment. In addition to doing print advertising, I got to develop concepts and storyboards for TV campaigns. We had clients like McDonalds, Coca Cola, Unilever and several local snack and food brands. The work was a fun kind of challenging but I personally was always on the fence about advertising some of those brands and after a while found myself aching to do something different.
KW: You moved to New York in 2007, was that to pursue an MFA in Design at the School of Visual Arts (SVA)? Why did you decide to pursue an MFA? How did the experience impact your career, your growth of a designer? Did your campaign “We the Women” come out of graduate studies? AK:After losing my grandmother in late 2006, I decided to take ten days off work to visit my older sisters in the Los Angeles area. I needed some sort of change. I decided to drive to Santa Monica one morning and walked into a design book store. There were several books my teachers had told me about that we could not get back home due to censorship, and so many others I had never heard of or imagined. It felt like Eid (my version of Christmas). While there, I came across Milton Glaser’s The Design of Dissent. I picked it up, plopped down to the floor and flipped threw it for over an hour. I remember feeling elated to the point of tears and thinking that was the kind of design I wanted to do – design FOR people and for social change. I realized in order to do that, I needed to learn more.
I went back to Saudi fuelled by this notion and determined to apply to graduate school. It was two weeks before most application deadlines and I had not ever considered it or spoken to anyone about it before. I had a lot of research to do. I looked up programs all over the US that focused on or encouraged that type of design, narrowed it down to three and spent those two weeks going to work looking like a zombie because of sleep lost working on my application packages.
In April, I got accepted to all three. I chose the Designer as Author Program at SVA because of its focus on content and substance as well as aesthetics and because it encouraged socially driven projects. It was only after I accepted the offer to attend there that I learned that Milton Glaser was on the faculty (and that he had reviewed my application.
N7nu – We the Women, Areej Khan, 2009.
My thesis project was N7nu – We the Women: a campaign for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia. The campaign was designed as a forum for dialogue and the exchange of opinions on the subject, which was a taboo back then. Blank speech bubbles branded with a pictogram of a woman dressed as a man – a common strategy females in Saudi have used in the past to get away with driving in emergencies – were distributed and available for download online. The goal was to make it easier for people to express themselves and listen to and understand each others beliefs. To avoid being censored by the government, the website was iframed from existing and widely used social media outlets like Facebook, Youtube and Flickr. This also meant people did not have to learn a new platform to participate in the campaign.
I was not planning on launching the campaign until I returned to Saudi but decided to take the site live last minute, the day before my thesis presentation to see what kind of response it would initially get and use that to support my presentation. By the next morning, the page had 1200 followers.
N7nu – We the Women, Areej Khan, 2009.
Women are still not allowed to drive there, so I cannot say it was a success but there have been several campaigns by very brave activists since and I like to think N7nu helped start that fire.
N7nu speech bubble: “I want to drive because I am no less than any man or woman from a different country” 2009.
KW: You moved back to Jeddah in 2009 to work as a senior brand designer for Rayat Brands. Are there differences in the way you would work as a designer in Saudi Arabia, than in United States? Are there universals in design regardless of audience? Why did you decide to move back to the U.S.? AK: I moved back to Jeddah after getting my MFA to complete the launch of N7nu and teach History of Graphic Design and Corporate Identity at Dar Al-Hekma part-time. I then got hired by Rayat Brands as a senior brand designer and developed branding for several local startups and more established Saudi companies that needed to refresh their image to catch up with the new design boom in the country. The boom was a direct result of the growth of the graphic design department at Dar Al-Hekma, which was graduating and average of seventy new designers per year by then.
Swedish Ikea catalog (left). Saudi Ikea catalog–the woman has been erased out of the ad (right).
Teayana branding – a Saudi tea room chain. 2010 (left) and Cofique branding. 2010 (right).
Good design is universal. Working as a designer in Saudi had a few more limitations and restrictions. There are lots of cultural sensitivities that are irrelevant here and a great deal of censorship. Imagery of people and particularly women is frowned upon and often avoided. It was a little more challenging when it came to coming up with design solutions but it came more naturally to me in terms of language and messaging because it is home.
When I moved back there my parents had already migrated to the United States and it was my first time living there as a single female without my family. I could have never imagined what that was like before I experienced it. The combination of that and the launch of N7nu got me labelled as rebel and a staunch non-conformist by many. I was very disheartened by how difficult it was to get around and by the lack of support from my community. I decided to move back to the US to be closer to my family and to be happier. It was necessary for my own well-being.
KW: In a world that is increasingly connected, do you think having knowledge of two different cultures has been advantageous in your career? Do you have advice for students who may feel they straddle two worlds on how to utilize their experience to their benefit in pursuing careers? AK: It most definitely has. For the past three years, I have been working with Ralph Appelbaum Associates on museum and exhibit projects primarily in the Middle East. I was hired because of my experience in designing in Arabic and my knowledge of the culture. Living here and still being able to do work of this sort in the Middle East has been incredibly rewarding. I would advise anyone who feels any kind of duality to pursue multi/cross cultural projects. They lend themselves to an entirely different set of challenges that, if handled and approached the right way can be very meaningful and fulfilling.
KW: You have been working for some time for Ralph Appelbaum Associates as a 2D Designer / Language and Strategy Consultant. What exactly do you do? And please describe some of the projects and your role. AK: Ralph Appelbaum is a New York based museum and exhibit design firm that was founded in the late 70’s and now has offices in London, Berlin, Beijing, and Moscow. I work with content developers, coordinators, and 3D designers to develop the graphic language of the exhibits within museums.
Since joining the company, I’ve had the opportunity to work on multiple museum projects both in the United States and the Middle East. My latest one was the Al-Shaheed Park Museums – two museums on either end of a newly developed park in the heart of Kuwait City. The purpose of the museums is to help teach young Kuwaitis about both their military and natural heritage. The Habitat Museum is a walkthrough of the different natural habitats in the country, the plants, birds, and animals that live in them and the importance of preservation and environmental awareness. Remembrance is a memorial museum that goes through a timeline of the battles the country has gone through leading up to the Gulf War and what effects that had on the nation. I developed and art directed the graphic language for both and consulted on language and content translation throughout the process. While working on a project in a different time zone has its own challenges, being able to continue to design in Arabic and build meaningful projects in the Middle East while living here is a blessing.
Her Royal Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser at the opening of Msheireb Downtown Doha Museums on October 20th, 2015 (left) and The Habitat Museum al Al-Shaheed Park in Kuwait City. Opening December 2015 (right)
I have also worked on the Msheireb Downtown Doha Museums in Qatar, The Presidio Officers’ Club in San Francisco, and the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Presidio Officers’ Club. 2014 (left) and Detail of the Bruce Springsteen vignette inside the New Jersey Hall of Fame, 2013 (right).
KW: What skills do you need to be successful in this field? How much is technology impacting the type of work you create? What advice do you have for students wishing to pursue a similar career? AK: Well first off, you need to be a designer. While technology is not necessary to be a designer, technical skill and flexibility when it comes to mediums is a must. It’s important to be able to design a concept and then be able to adapt it to all the paradigms that could help take it to the next level. The best way to stay current with technology is to use it. The more familiar you are with what methodologies work and what don’t as a user, the better you will be at designing for them.
It is also important to have an understanding of scale and the impact of hierarchy. Designing on screen or in print is very different from designing full wall graphics. It requires attention to a different kind of detail.
Don’t be afraid of going big, just make sure all the small bits work too.
KW: If you had unlimited funds, what would be your ideal project? AK: I would open up and brand a bakery of immaculately designed edibles here is New York.. Think Gehry cakes and Dali platings. I love the art of cooking and baking almost as much as I love graphic design and being able to combine both is my dream.
KW: What was the best piece of advice you ever received? AK: The best piece of advice came from Milton Glaser. “You should never tell people what to do, only imply it” The most successful design is the kind that provokes new thought rather than informs.
KW: Tell us a little bit about your background? DZ: I grew up in Springfield, MO, which is pretty much in the middle of the United States. There wasn’t a lot of stuff to do, so I sort of had to make my own entertainment. I was outdoors a lot—biked everywhere, camped, went on float trips, explored the woods. There was one museum and the downtown area was about 5 square blocks. It was a fun place to grow up, but in my early twenties I was ready to leave the small town vibe for something a little bigger.
KW: Your first degree was a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration from Missouri State University (MSU). Did you enter knowing you were going to study Graphic Design & Illustration? Why did you decide to go to MSU? DZ: I knew that I wanted to pursue art when I went to college, but I didn’t really know what graphic design was, or illustration, or really anything other than a basic knowledge of design fundamentals. The decision to go to MSU is sort of a funny story. I wanted to go to the Kansas City Art Institute, so when I was a senior in high school my mom drove me up for a college tour. Our tour guide had pink hair and kids were smoking on campus…I think my mom was freaked out, ha-ha. She was against me going there, so we agreed (to my disappointment) that MSU would be better. I think it was a really good decision though, MSU ended up having one of the better design programs in the United States, and I got a good-rounded liberal arts education that was pretty affordable.
The teachers at MSU were all really great as well. Cedomir Kostovic and Eric Pervukhin were both from Europe and had a really great background in traditional skills that they imparted on their students. Stan Sante was an expert draughtsman who taught me the value of composition and hand skills. Maria Michalczyk was the head of the design department, and she did a really job of encouraging discipline but also individuality. The education was a lot more conceptual and thought-based compared to a lot of design schools that were more focused on advertising and agency work. I think I got a lot out of that experience and it still influences my work.
Daniel Zender, “Phantom Flush” – The LA Times – Art Director: Wesley Bausmith
KW: Did you pursue graduate school immediately after MSU? Why did you decide to go to SVA? How did graduate school impact your work? DZ: I took about two years off after MSU for a couple different reasons. I wanted to travel, and ended up saving money in Missouri so I was able to go to Europe and South Korea. I just needed some time to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I am really glad I took that time to work stuff out because it was during that period that I decided to drop the design path and do illustration full time. Springfield was an extremely cheap place to live and I was able to sort of do trial and error work while I was there. It was an incubation painting where I was making paintings, collages, screen-printing–all sorts of stuff to see what worked best.
The decision to go to SVA was more based around a desire to move to New York, which I thought would jump-start my career in illustration. In Springfield I had started to do some freelance work for The New York Times and a couple other newspapers, but I wasn’t really getting the amount or quality of work I wanted to be doing.
Going to SVA gave me the really unique opportunity to devote a lot of time and concentration to the work I wanted to be making. It allowed me to just create constantly, which is really what I needed. It also opened a lot of doors to people I would have not been in contact with in Missouri. I think it was a really great place for me to get all of the kinks out and start making work that had my own unique voice.
Daniel Zender, “New Theories of Distraction” – The New Yorker – Art Director: Deanna Donegan
Daniel Zender, “Hiroshima” – The New Yorker – Art Director: Deanna Donegan
KW: Your illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, New Yorker, Newsweek, Playboy, LA Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek and Playboy. What were your first professional jobs and how did you find them? And what attracts you to the field? What was the most challenging job you have had to date? DZ: The first projects I got were from the New York Times and the LA Times. Basically, I flew up to New York one Spring, determined to get my work in front of some people to hire me. Luckily two different art directors at the New York Times were willing to hire me, and a few months later I started getting regular work. All of those early assignments were from me just bothering people endlessly, emailing and sending promos in the mail. I was annoying people, I think, but it paid off. Looking back, I find a lot of that work to be pretty embarrassing…poorly made, sort of cliché concepts. But I think I learned a lot in those early stages and grew quickly.
The joy I find in illustration is all about the process. There is a ton of thought and planning that goes into every piece before the paint starts getting applied. Problem solving and conceptual thinking go a long way when it comes to making a successful final image. Of course, I still want to be an artist, and the best pieces I make are the ones that tie to an article, but still maintain a certain amount of ambiguity that give the viewer a chance to think for themselves. The hardest projects for me have always been the ones that I can’t directly connect to or have no interest in. I always make better work when the content I am illustrating speaks to me on a personal or conceptual level that I care about.
Daniel Zender, “Heatwave in Kirachi” – The NY Times- Art Director: Matt Dorfman
Daniel Zender, “Who will rule the world of Oil?” – The New York Times – Art Director: Aviva Michealov 6: Daniel Zender
KW: What skills do you need to be successful in this field? What advice do you have for students wishing to pursue illustration (or design)? DZ: I really think it is less about the quality of work, and more about the determination of the person. If you really love art or design or illustration or whatever, your chances of success are going to be much higher than someone who hates what they are doing but feel obligated to do it. Of course, it is best to be passionate AND good, but the number one tip I think I can give is to just keep pushing and trying harder. I have encountered so many people that I felt were successful or famous even though they weren’t necessarily great at their job, and it was because of their passion. You have to be doing something that is fun to do everyday, month after month, year after year, or you will get burned out.
Daniel Zender, “Syrian Refugees” – The NY Times – Art Director: Matt Dorfman
KW: How would you describe your style/aesthetic? Who are your influences?
DZ: I have a dark sense of humour that is represented in simple, colourful graphic solutions. It comes from a lot of influences: horror movies, pop art, comics, Italian Art Deco, Swiss design, Polish poster design, modernism, Bauhaus, Renaissance painting…the list goes on and on.
Daniel Zender, “Eichmann in Israel” – The New Yorker – Art Director: Deanna Donegan
Daniel Zender, “Nuremberg” – The New Yorker – Art Director: AD: Deanna Donegan
KW: What prompted you to start HYDROCHLORIC (and what is it)?
DZ: Hydrochloric is a zine that I art direct and design, which asks illustrators and designers to interpret a new theme per issue. I put a new one out every 3-4 months. I started that project when I was at SVA….I had access to a photocopier that was open for students to use, so I took advantage of that. Now I print it slightly higher quality, with nicer paper. I am usually interested in getting a healthy mix of “up-and-coming” illustrators, people who haven’t been published yet, or are at the start of their career, and well-established people. I think it makes for a nice mix and gives people that are interested some new people to explore and get excited about.
(L) Daniel Zender, “Mermaid Towel” – Tictail – Art Director:: Dan Blackman; (R) Daniel Zender,” Enamel Pins”
KW: You have a number of self-initiated projects. If you had access to unlimited funds, what would be your dream project? DZ: Lately all of my self-initiated work has been comics, before that it was a number of zines, and I am always making paintings based on themes. A popular painting project was my Light Terrors series. I have also started making clothing and pins and accessories…I like to try new things and see where they go.
If I had unlimited money, I think an installation would be really fun. I would love to fill a huge space with paintings, sculptures, interactive pieces, video…I love the idea of a totally immersive artistic experience.
KW: What skills or software do you want to learn next? Do you have any desire to animate your work? DZ: Yeah, my goal right now is to start animating actually. It would be good to learn some of the basic animation software so I can start making little movies. Last year I made some very small animations for Halloween (they were basically .gif animations) that I ended up projecting on the wall across from our building. It was pretty successful.
Daniel Zender, “An American in Vietnam” – The New Yorker – Art Director: Deanna Donegan
KW: Your work has been recognized by American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, 3×3,Communication Arts, Creative Quarterly, Graphis, and HOW and you received the MoCCA Award of Excellence for “NOPE” and named one of ADC’s Young Guns of 2015. Has this fame made you an impossible person to live with? DZ: Ha ha. You would have to ask my girlfriend, but no, I don’t think so. I am really humbled by all of that recognition and feel a certain sense of satisfaction knowing that I am the same person now that I was three years ago or whatever. I really hate when people let that stuff go to their heads, and I would be horrified if the same thing happened to me.
KW: What’s been the best exhibit you’ve seen in the past year? DZ: The most recent one that comes to mind is the AV Motley show that is on display right now at the Whitney Museum. Of course, I just love the new Whitney Museum in general and would recommend checking it out if you have the chance.
Daniel Zender, “Fear” – La Peste – Art Director: Cecilia Ruiz
KW: Do you think technology (mobile devices, etc.) is increasing the need for illustrators? What is your prediction for how technology will impact the field of illustration in the next 10 years? DZ: I have seen a lot more illustration and animation work as a result of the rise in app usage, online platforms, etc, and it seems like people are starting to rely more on illustration as a way to communicate ideas and information. My prediction on the future of illustration is that there will be a lot more animated work illustrating content as more information is available exclusively online. The NY Times and MIT Technology Review are already using a lot more gifs on their websites instead of static images, and I have seen some really amazing websites incorporate interactive and moving images to illustrate articles that would have been normally accompanied by singles images or photographs. It is really amazing and exciting.
KW: What was the best piece of advice you ever received? DZ: Don’t be a jerk.
KW: Kathryn Weinstein is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design, Queens College, CUNY DZ: Daniel Zender is an Adjunct Professor of Graphic Design at Queens College, CUNY
Danne Woo is an interactive designer, entrepreneur, educator, skateboard enthusiast and composer. In this interview, Professor Woo shares a little bit about his life, interests and projects. Professor Woo has recently joined the faculty of the Art Department of Queens College, CUNY as an Assistant Professor of Design and teaches Creative Coding, Web Design and Data Visualization.
KW: Tell us a little bit about your background? DW: Graphic design is in my blood and I have been a designer since birth. I grew up in San Diego, California. Like my friends I spent a lot of time skateboarding, surfing, etc. Unlike my friends, I grew up in a family of graphic designers (my father ran his own design firm and my mother taught and was the Chair of Graphic Design at the School of Art and Design at San Diego State University) so family outings included design conferences, lectures, and art and design exhibitions. I was even named after my parents’ friend, AIGA gold medallist Richard Danne. When I was 10, I became the youngest member of AIGA and at the age of 12, I was hired was hired to design a typeface for Splash Media (which later became Flash).
KW: When did you decide to pursue interaction design? DW: In 1990 when I was 8 years old my mother took me to the International Aspen Design Conference. This unique conference was called “Growing By Design” and featured parallel conferences: one for children and one for adults. Activities for children combined design, computer science, and engineering. I was introduced to interaction design in “LEGO LOGO,” an amazing workshop sponsored by the MIT Media Lab. I designed and built LEGO robots and used the LOGO programming language to control them. This experience left a huge impression on me that resurfaced years later. It was at this point that I fell in love with interaction design, even before I really knew what interaction design was. My definition today is very simple. Using design to improve a user’s experience when interacting with an object, whether that is a computer, cell phone or even something as simple as a spoon.
KW: Did you ever consider pursuing a career path other than graphic design? DW: When the time came to decide which college to attend and what to study, I debated between graphic design and computer science. I also enjoyed music but I thought studying music would interfere with that passion. I was good at math and had a knack for computers since getting my Apple II, but graphic design was in my blood. I attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia (UArts) for two reasons. First, this particular graphic design program taught Swiss design principles, which I knew about from my mother who had studied at the Basel School of Design in the 1970s. Second, I grew up on a skateboard and a friend told me that Philadelphia was a great city for skateboarding. Academics are very important, but it’s also important to have other hobbies and passions. Skateboarding and music were mine.
KW: How did attending University of the Arts shape your design sensibilities/aspirations? DW: The majority of the faculty at UArts at that time were alumni of the Basel School of Design and had studied with such masters as Armin Hofmann and Wolfgang Weingart. The Swiss design principles I learned at the University of the Arts provided a fantastic and important base. Once you understand the basics (grid systems, color theory, and typography), you can elaborate on them and bring your own twist and style.
During my time at the UArts, I included user interaction in every possible assignment. My thesis project was an interactive website that grew out of my love of music. The website called “American Stringed Instruments” allowed users to sample songs, listen to interviews, learn about the anatomy of a series of instruments, discover historical facts, and even digitally play a guitar, mountain dulcimer, banjo and ukulele. I developed a CD version and designed the packaging also in the form of a stringed instrument that could actually be played. The biggest challenge was that I was one of the few students in the program interested in interaction design and ended up teaching myself how to code. This is one of the reasons why I am so excited to help build out the Interaction Design focus at Queens College. Access to these skills and knowledge was not available when I was an undergrad and I want to make them accessible to our students. Considering how easy it is to get funding to produce new devices through services like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, the need to understand how to design the interfaces for these devices is more important than every before.
KW: What were your first jobs after graduating from University of the Arts? DW: UArts has a great portfolio day that is supported by its alumni. Luckily, Carol Smith, an alumna who interviewed me, offered me a job in New York in her small design agency called Creative Source. While there I quickly became the go to designer for anything digital or interactive. I spent about a third of my time designing and programming websites and Flash games for a number of high profile corporate clients. I learned a lot about the design world but was eager to focus more on interaction design. After three years at Creative Source, I was hired as a senior designer for the digital branch of a mid-sized branding agency in Chelsea called the Infinia Group where I worked with similar types of clients. About half of my time focused on interaction design and programming. I also liked working there and grew as a designer, but I was eager to do more with interaction design, user experience and programming.
KW: Why pursue a graduate degree? DW: After four years at the Infinia Group I learned about a master’s program at New York University called the Interactive Telecommunications Program or ITP. I went to one of their end-of-semester shows and instantly realized that this was exactly what I needed. The show was a mix between a gallery opening and a science fair with all sorts of amazing, very interactive, imaginative projects on display. Since ITP is part of Tisch School of the Arts, the program is very creative, but there is also a strong focus on technology and user interaction. I knew I had to do everything possible to attend this magical place. I applied a year after learning about the program and was incredibly excited to receive my acceptance letter a few months later. The two years I spent at ITP were easily the best, most creative and innovative two years of my life. I worked on projects that combined my love of design with my other passions for programming (Type Galapagos), electrical engineering (Circuit Board, physical computing (Bocce Draw), data visualization (Datavisual), music innovation (Light Hum, , and game development (Splat!,). After graduation I was accepted to stay on for another year as a Research Resident Fellow. As a Fellow I led workshops, held office hours, assisted in several classes and worked on my own research projects focusing mainly on data visualization and design software development.
KW: You have started several businesses, could you tell us a little bit about BigPlay and Datavisual, Inc.? DW:These companies grew out of either a need that was not yet filled or a project that was already underway and had the potential to go further. My first company, Datavisual, came out of my need for a better tool than off the shelf software to design data visualizations. While I was at Infinia Group I spent 5 years designing large data books and websites. The only tool that I had to work with was Adobe Illustrator, which is inefficient for creating large numbers of data visualizations. I spent years looking for a better option, but was unsuccessful. I ended up programming a custom application for my particular needs and realized that I was not the only one with this issue. So I turned my custom software application into a more productive tool. Datavisual currently has more than 2000 users from 130 countries, and has generated more than 500,000 visualizations. Datavisual is about to release a team account system to facilitate collaboration between designers and data editors within organizations.
BigPlay started out as a simple project I created with two friends, Phil Groman and Federico Zannier, for a class at ITP called Big Screens. We designed and built a game that allows large crowds of people to interact with large digital screens using their mobile devices. The first iteration was a multiplayer video game called Splat that allows up to 130 players to play simultaneously on the same screen. When players log into the game using their smartphones they are assigned one of the bird avatars that is sitting on a telephone wire and a button labeled “Poop” appears on the phone. The object of the game is to poop on the passing cars below to earn points for your team. The first time we showed Splat we actually received a Guinness World Record for the most players playing a video game at the same time on the same screen. BigPlay was commissioned by AT&T and VICE to create a game for their Mobile Movement event at SXSW where hundreds of players played the game including celebrities like Shaun White and Lady Gaga.
KW: What are the skills required to become an Interaction Designer? Do you have any advice for students wishing to enter the field? DW: Interaction design is very much about understanding the user and designing an engaging experience. Whether you are designing a website, an app or something else, it’s important to research the user’s needs, test prototypes, gather feedback, and iterate on that feedback from the very first design to the final product. My main advice for anyone interested in this field is to prototype early and often, get as much user feedback as possible, and design specifically for your audience. I also highly recommend having at least a rudimentary understanding of what it takes to bring your designs to life. It’s important to understand the basics of code and physical computing, as well as design principles like layout, typography and color.
KW: In a field that is rapidly evolving, how do you manage to keep current? DW: Hurrah for the Internet! There are so many blogs, tutorials, and open source software available online that it is much easier to stay up-to-date with the latest techniques, libraries, and applications. I also rely heavily on Twitter. If you follow the right people or organizations they will keep you informed on what is up and coming.
KW: If you had unlimited funds, what project would you like to pursue? DW: Wow, there are so many projects that I would love to work on. I am very interested in Genomics and Bioinformatics. I would love to combine my passions for interaction design, type design, and this new-found love for DNA to create a software application that takes a user’s DNA sequence and outputs a completely unique typeface based on that data. It would be very much like a signature or fingerprint. I have many more ideas that I would love to explore, but that is my main interest right now.
KW: What are your predictions for new developments in the next decade? DW: Because of the open source software and hardware movement, as well as crowd funding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, there has been a huge rise in the number of digital hardware products coming to market including the Pepple watch, MakerBot, Oculus Rift, and Leap Motion. This trend will continue to grow over the next 10 years. Because of this increase in hardware there is quickly becoming a need for user experience and interaction designers to design content for these devices. So the future looks very good if you are interested in this field.
KW: Where do you look for inspiration? DW: I am personally inspired by creative uses of code, music innovation, and other forms of artistic expression. When it comes to inspiration for interaction design specifically, I love to just people watch. Seeing how people interact with every day objects and devices helps you understand how to design better interfaces and more engaging interactions between user and object. I recently drove across the United States from San Diego to Brooklyn and stumbled across so many inspiring areas in our own country. The natural beauty of the landscape from the desert to the green mountains of Colorado, the diverse people, culture and art, and the incredible engineering marvels of the roads themselves were all very inspiring. I believe that travel and experiencing personally unexplored areas of our world is very important as well.
KW: What was the best piece of advice you ever received? DW: Do what you love and follow my passions. Learn from any mistakes along the way to improve your future self.
Professor Woo will demo the work of student projects from his Creative Coding class at the upcoming NYC Annual Media Lab Summit, September 25, 2015.
KW: Kathryn Weinstein, Associate Professor, Graphic Design, Art Department, Queens College, CUNY DW: Danne Woo, Assistant Professor, Graphic Design, Art Department, Queens College, CUNY
An American In Paris (Eiffel Tower and Title Treatment by Esther Wu)
Esther Wu is a graphic designer and educator. In this interview Professor Wu shares a little bit about her life, interests and projects. Professor Wu currently teaches Typography 2, and has previously taught Advertising Design, at Queens College, CUNY.
KW: Tell us a little bit about your background? EW: I grew up in suburbs very close to Philadelphia. My father is a retired microbiologist and my mother a retired computer programmer. As kids, I was the “Good Grades Girl” and my brother was the “Cool Artist.” He could always draw really well. His talent, my apparent lack of it, and our upbringing probably kept me from considering any creative endeavors until much later. But he also introduced me odd and unusual art and to off-the-beaten path culture like Tetsuo The Iron Man and Raw. You might say he introduced me to the idea of creativity. I also had a cousin, Justin, who was very into modern art and he took us to see Anselm Kiefer and Duchamp, among many others and these trips stand out in my memory as eye-opening.
KW: You have a degree in Biology and subsequently worked as a biomedical researcher. What was your favorite all time science course? EW: I liked Physiology and Evolutionary Biology. I liked the principles of science and the theory more than the practice of it, and the Evolutionary Biology course gave me a deeper appreciation of Evolution. It’s an elegantly simple and (in retrospect) obvious idea. And nothing in Biology makes sense without it. Physiology taught me the intricacies and complexities of physical processes. The kidney is so amazing!
KW: How were you able to transition into a designer? EW: I had been taking Continuing Ed classes for a year or two when I naively thought I would switch to being a designer. I didn’t have a drop of real experience and in retrospect I really didn’t know anything about the industry. But I figured if I went back to school and got a degree in design, I’d be a designer. So I applied to a bunch of grad schools.
I decided to go to SVA and it was possibly the best 2 years of my life so far. We lived in a big, candy-coated bubble of Design. And by the end of it, through a professor in the program, I was freelancing at SpotCo, a Broadway ad agency, which was a huge foot in the door.
Matilda (L) Picnic (R)
KW: Did you have any connection to the theater before you started working at SpotCo? EW: Not really. I like theater as much as an average person. I’ve seen a lot of shows now, just from working in the industry. One of the big perks is free tickets.
The only theater I used to seek out, before working in the industry, was Shakespeare. I think I liked seeing different interpretations of the same material. I love that about design as well. If you give people the same source material, each result will be completely different.
The Last Ship
KW: What were your favorite projects from SpotCo? Did you have much artistic freedom? EW: My favorite has to be one of the last projects I did there, The Last Ship. For some reason, we had tons of time to work on it. It was around the holidays; maybe that had something to do with it. But in any case, I and two other designers had weeks to work on it (which is rare), so we just kept making comps. We were all painting things, which I hadn’t really done before, and really pushing it. It was a lot of fun. And the producer on that show has a great, artistic eye and vision for what he wanted, but it wasn’t a limited vision so we had a lot of room to create.
Our Creative Director, Vinny Sainato, gave us a huge amount of freedom, and just the right amount of direction. All the designers I worked with were pretty exceptional. There was a lot of mutual trust and respect in our department and for me, working with amazing people really kept me on my toes and wanting to pull my weight. My work improved a lot as a result.
The Last Ship
KW: How would you describe your style? Your process? EW: It’s evolved a lot over the past few years. I can’t seem to stick to any routine, so it varies a lot too. Sometimes I do lots of research, reading, looking for reference imagery. Sometimes ideas simmer in the back of my mind and now I know from experience if they will work out or not. Then I sit and start to make things and it comes out quickly. It took many years of trial and error to get to this point, and I still do go down some blind alleys. Many times, I have one kernel of a thought, I start to make something, and it turns into something else, and the act of making also very often leads to other ideas.
As far as style, I don’t think I have one. But I think I have a sensibility. As an historically shy person, I hope that my work is un-shy.
Ordinary Days (L) and The Beauty Queen: Leenane (R)
KW: What are your favorite types of projects? EW: I like to do things that are different stylistically or technically from things I’ve done before. And I like to work with my hands if I can. I do a lot of brush type these days, and I like to do calligraphy. I like buying different pens and trying them out. Sometimes I cut paper, gouge wood. For a project I’m working on, I am trying to create insects out of cloth. Not sure it’s going to work out, but it’s fun to try.
KW: Do you have any desire to create motion-based projects? EW: I did some in school, and realized I was not good at it. But I have collaborated on commercials based on key art I’ve designed, which I enjoyed and would like to do again.
KW: What’s currently on your reading list? EW: I’ve been full time freelancing for a little over a year. I’m currently reading The Money Book. It’s about setting up a financial system for freelancers.
KW: Why did you decide to go freelance? And what have been the greatest pleasures and challenges? EW: Things were changing at SpotCo, and I had been there for four years, so I felt I wanted to try something different. The freedom is great. I’m not a person who can easily maintain a daily routine so taking the obligation of showing up to work every morning was very freeing. I like making my own decisions about time. That said, time management is one of the greatest challenges. As a freelancer, you have to do EVERYTHING yourself. And I prefer to do things myself, but time management becomes the boulder you push up the hill every day.
KW: What designers/artists to you look to for inspiration? EW: I believe anything you see anywhere that makes an impression can be inspiring.
Photography is really inspiring, especially when designing for theater. Erwin Olaf, Frank Ockenfels. Today I’m looking at David Slade, who is DP for tv and movies, but has a beautiful, creepy style.
Most of the people I work with are super creative and have great vision. I find that very inspiring.
KW: What have you learned from teaching Graphic Design? EW: I am still in the infant stages of learning to teach design, so I haven’t come to a lot of hard-won insights. Design (especially typography) is an elusive, slippery thing and sometimes seems like something not to be talked about, only to be done. Yet here we are talking about it. And we have to as a way to perpetuate it and to learn about how things are perceived by others. I suppose that’s the only way it can work. I’ll be sure to ask myself this question again.
An Enemy of the People
KW: What skills are needed to become successful in the field? What advice do you have for students on how to break into the field? EW: Observe.
Learn to see.
Do good work (Good work opens doors).
Be a pleasure to work with.
KW: What was the best piece of advice you ever received? EW: “Go too far.” The first person I ever worked for as a design intern (Darren Cox, CD at SpotCo) told me this. And I say it now in my classes too. If you go too far, you can always walk it back, but if you haven’t gone far enough, it will never be good. Milton Glaser has said, “Just enough is more.” Sometime you have to go past “just enough” to see the line and head back. And there are really no consequences to going too far in design, especially if you’re in a supportive and creative environment. I sense that a lot of students are afraid to go too far or afraid of breaking “the rules.” I think it’s good to take rules with a grain of salt.
KW: Kathryn Weinstein, Associate Professor, Graphic Design, Art Department, Queens College, CUNY EW: Esther Wu