Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NYC & Company

We've recently returned from an inspiring visit to Brooklyn and NYC. During the visit we had the opportunity to meet up with a bunch of super creative expat's that have made New York their home. The purpose of the trip was to accompany 3rd year Alberta College of Art and Design students and help them meet up with former ACAD grads working in NYC.

Our first visit was the Design MFA program at SVA. Several former ACAD grads have went on to get their masters here, including current ACAD instructor and superstar designer Thomas Porostocky. A highlight of visiting SVA was meeting Steven Heller, who was very approachable and a pleasure to chat with. The advantage of the masters program seems to be the contacts students make in the design community and courses with instructors that include many of the top people in graphic design. The disadvantage was the substantial tuition costs!

Our second visit was at GQ Magazine with Art Director Chelsea Cardinal. It was a treat to hear Chelsea and her design team talk about working at the magazine and their creative process. And it was informative to hear what qualifications enabled Chelsea to get her foot in the door at the magazine.  

Design director Fred Woodward (whom we had only introduced as a guy named Fred!) mentioned that what get's a person hired depends not only on their work, but also on what is needed at a given time. In Chelsea's case he mentioned being impressed by a series of book covers that she had designed for fun, that she was a reader, and that she was confident speaking her mind (sassy mouth was the exact phrase I believe).

It was interesting to learn about the process they go through in designing a magazine. For instance the term, feature well, was not something I was aware of. Nor that there are no ads in this area (at least in GQ) with the goal of making the feature read more prominently.

The next visit was with Matt Luckhurst, a design director at Collins. He talked about working as a creative in advertising and it's challenges and rewards - including access to a superb view of NYC from the roof at Ogilvy.

Matt is interested in both design and illustration and found it an advantage in his career. In Calgary we are often told to separate the two, but Matt and many of the other New York designers mentioned that their drawing skills were viewed as an asset.

Besides his design work, Matt's first picture book was published last fall by Abrams. It is titled, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure. It's a fun twist on the classic tale with a special focus on pancakes of course. Doing this more personal type of work seems to be a good balance to the complicated business of advertising and design.

I confess I had never heard of Bumble and bumble before planning this trip. But the students had, and so we headed over to the meat packing district to visit the uber talented Lauren Tamaki, a recent ACAD grad who works in their in-house graphic design department creating the packaging and stuff for their hair products.

Lauren gave the students a tour of her department which does video and web as well. Having graduated and moved to NYC only a few years ago, Lauren had a very fresh perspective. She had been tipped off about the job from another ACAD grad in NYC, Lionel Cipriano a senior graphic designer at Tommy Hilfiger. By no coincidence her drawing skills helped in getting her a job at Bumble and bumble. A significant part of their design look is hand drawn type and textures, and Lauren is super good at this sort of thing.

Next the students discovered the hipster haven of Williamsburg and Greenpoint where they visited illustrator Sam Weber in his studio at the Pencil Factory. As with all the folks we visited Sam was generous with his time, answering questions and even letting the students handle original work.

Sam mentioned that after he finished his Master's in illustration at SVA he showed his portfolio around, but things didn't exactly take off. It wasn't until he showed his sketchbook that contained work different from his portfolio that his stratospheric rise began.

I've seen this with other grads that have had the same experience. Bioware art director and ACAD alumni Matthew Goldman comes to mind. He had showed his portfolio several times to try to get into the game developer, when he finally did get in, he too showed his sketchbook and personal work instead.

For most of the students, the final stop was a visit to Renata's publisher Little Brown. Editor Connie Hsu and art director Patti Ann Harris gave the students an in-depth overview of how a kids book is made and showed them around their fun office which is filled with wonderful imagery such as the inspiration wall shown in this photo.

A few lucky students also got the chance to visit ACAD grad Ray Ferarro an art director at Coach/Reed Karkoff. After a nearly four hour visit the students came back super excited. Advertising student Tobie Ma said "Seeing Ray was both amazing and inspiring! Moving to NYC when I graduate."

Thanks to all the folks from NYC that shared their valuable time with us, seeing all of them was amazing and inspiring!