You have several titles: Art Director, Designer, Interactive Designer. Do you have a preference?
I’m reluctant to choose one title over another, because what I love about what I do is the diversity of roles I get to play and jobs I get to work on. I can’t pick a favorite! I love the satisfaction of creating a new plan for a website just as much as getting creative with the functionality and interface. I love exploring the positioning of a new brand and then forging a beautiful visual identity that embodies it.
Your first project at Nutmeg was to redesign the brand. Daunting?
A little bit daunting, yes, but way more exciting. I had a lot of support because everyone I spoke to was ready for something new. It was also a perfect excuse to get to know some of my new colleagues, since a big part of the process was trying to understand who Nutmeg is comprised of, and what the company culture is like. The novelty of going through the design process with a new set of creative people was exciting for everyone involved. Nutmeg had never gone through a proper visual identity process before. I was happy to be able to give the gift of a new visual brand to such an awesome group of people!
“I’m reluctant to choose one title over another, because what I love about what I do is the diversity of roles I get to play and jobs I get to work on. I can’t pick a favorite!”
Other than you, the interactive team is all guys. How do you deal with so much testosterone?
While I am certainly an advocate for getting more women on the team, these guys are the best. We have a good time and we’re all passionate about the stuff we work on. I’ve been working with some of the same people for a number of years, and we realized quickly that there was something awesome and special about a designer and developer getting to work so closely together (literally and figuratively!). We worked faster and more fluidly than design and development teams that were less intertwined (or so we’d like to imagine). I’m not the only one on the team with an eye for design, so we’ve been able to push each other’s ideas in really fun ways. There’s nothing better than being surrounded by motivated, creative, thoughtful people! There are plenty of women at Nutmeg, they’re just not in my department—although I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before that changes.
How do you get into the design “zone”?
For me, it’s about realizing that, zone or no zone, the work still has to get done. Waiting for inspiration to strike is a sure-fire way to limit the amount of time you have to complete something. When I need serious focus, I pencil out a rough plan of attack and any goals I need to keep in mind as I work. I fill my water and coffee cup, have a snack (get that blood sugar right!), sit down and shut up for a while!
Where do you seek inspiration?
In the city, I’m constantly attracted to the wild abundance of new and old things. New stores, new products, subway fashion, street art, subway advertising, and then you’ve got these old streets, old buildings, signage that hasn’t changed in decades. I find that since I consume a dangerous amount of visual inspiration on any given day, the best way to feel inspired is to digest it all, which, for me, is meditation. As little as 10 minutes of silence and I’ll feel more clear-headed, and any problem I’ve been trying to solve, design or otherwise, the answer is more readily available. I’m also able to control my impulses a lot better when I meditate regularly, which helps me stick through a difficult design problem and not abandon it.
Are there any brand designs you really admire?
Birchbox does a really nice job of incorporating different artists onto their boxes each month, and it’s heartening to see a company celebrating art and design that way. Every single aspect of their mailing has a level of high-quality design, from the coupons to the information card and stickers that hold the envelope closed. I like to imagine they have a big, happy design team fussing over every little detail.
Are you able to turn your design sensibility off as you go about your daily life or is it always on? Do you ever find yourself looking at ads, brands, websites, clothing or anything else and think, “That would look better if it were blue… that font isn’t quite right….”
That’s every designer’s curse! We see bad kerning, we see horribly distorted images, but we also see and appreciate things I’m sure are equally looked-past by plenty of people, which is the craft and care that goes into really great design. As they say, great design is invisible—unless you’re a designer. Ironically, I’ve also become more forgiving when mentally critiquing design-in-the-wild. When you didn’t read the brief, and you don’t know the budget or what tools they were working with, it’s sort of unfair to judge something. Fun, but kind of unfair. I also think a lot of the design we encounter in the real world (flyers, small store signage, etc.) is actually created by non-designers or amatuer designers, and not because they decided not to hire someone, but because they didn’t have the resources (or understood the benefit). It’s hard to fault someone for doing the best they knew how to do. Even if it turned out really ugly! So… no, I can’t turn off these thoughts, and I have imaginary conversations with the creators of good and bad design all over the city all the time!
You live in New York City, home to many of the world’s most amazing art museums. Do you have a favorite museum or recent exhibit?
While not the most recent, there’s an exhibit I saw at the Brooklyn Museum last year that really stuck with me, Kehinde Wiley’s “A New Republic.” He paints modern characters with modern hip-hop accessories into classic settings, but it’s not overt, it’s very well merged and beautiful. The result is almost too pretty. The gorgeous figures on ornate floral backdrops with impeccable lighting. His painting style is just amazingly detailed and sharp. I could look at those paintings for hours. They feel so optimistic and celebratory.
Are there any street artists you like?
Bold colors and patterns have always been my thing, so when a Maya Hayuk wall came up a few years ago down the street from me, I fell in love! The overlapping colors and painterly style are really fun. Triston Eaton never fails to impress, too. I was in Hawaii in February and had a chance to see Triston’s new walls for Pow Wow, which was awesome. I didn’t see him putting it up, but I did get to see it when it was fresh, which felt a little special. My husband’s passion for getting out and seeing street art has led me to see so many incredible walls in person, and it’s sparked an interest I can’t say I really had before.
You recently adopted a miniature Apricot Poodle named Bebop. How’d she get her name?
The puppy-finding process was a few months long, so we had a long brainstorming period. We wanted something silly, fun to say and somewhat unique. My husband and I both have music in our backgrounds, so when the name Bebop came up, we knew it was perfect! For the record, she’s named after Bebop the jazz, not Bebop the Warthog from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Actually, we met another dog named Bebop at our first vet visit! He was a bulldog, so I’m going to guess he was named after the warthog. So much for the totally unique name!
Has Bebop taught you anything about yourself?
I have a habit of taking things too seriously sometimes, and a puppy won’t let you get away with that. Sometimes you just have to relax and go with it. She’s on no one’s schedule! She doesn’t care if she’s making me late, she doesn’t see an inherent problem with unrolling a roll of toilet paper… she’s just a puppy. She thinks paper towels are the coolest toys in the world. She gives a friendly hello to everyone she meets. She’s so easily amused and pacified. She gives us something to aspire to!