The Path is Rarely a Straight Line
Before and After and Around
As a maker, thinking about meaning constitutes a pretty significant chunk of what I do. Often this translates to spending time with a work of art and attempting to put language to its web of ‘what’ and ‘how’ and ‘why’ sort of questions. While this is certainly part of the design process, what I love about visual strategy and marketing is getting inside the minds of the people we work with to understand the things that drive them.
With this knowledge, I get to immerse myself in the doing — finding the typeface that communicates a brand vision before any words are even read, determining what palette of colors will evoke the character of a business, selecting from the endless possibilities a mark that will represent core values: the logo. Research is undoubtedly one of my greatest pleasures, but this is very nearly equaled by the joy that getting into the details brings — finding the personality of a letter or the nuance of a particular blue. At my core I’m an introvert who loves exploring the way other people experience the world: reading psychology and learning about the way we think — certainly — but also the way we feel, before and after and around thought.
Lessons From the Field
If there’s one thing creative work has taught me, it’s that the path is rarely a straight line. In fact, Damien Newman’s ‘Design Squiggle’ on repeat might better describe the way I’ve lived my life and how I became part of the 1909 team. Following a highly academic and interdisciplinary university training in Aesthetics, I was fortunate to work with great museum educators at the Dallas Museum of Art. Before long I discovered I still had much to learn and made the decision to return to school, finding my way to small institutions dedicated solely to the study of art and design: the incredible Kansas City Art Institute and renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art. At Cranbrook — the “cradle of Midcentury Modernism” — I was surrounded day in and day out by incredible design, powerful mentors and peers, and an ever-expanding horizon of creative practice.
Through my focus on sculpture and the study of space I found installation, which became activated by performance, which took on new life through video, which taught me the potential in photography, which eventually exploded into a curiosity about all things digital as well as an emerging sensibility of craft. Shortly after — as an instructor — I found myself encouraging students daily to ask themselves not simply what things mean, but how they mean, to commit themselves to learning how to see. When my partner took a new job that required us to relocate, we decided there might be as yet unexplored opportunities. After years working with students in the studio, the stars aligned as the leadership at 1909 found that someone with my experience might be useful to have around.
One of the incredible things about 1909 is that each member of the team is more than the sum of their skills. To be sure, as Branding and Design Manager the decade I spent in formal training, my literacy with tools and software, and my passion for culture and the designed world constitute a critical part of what brought me to the team. But — I believe — it is my experience in museums and gallery spaces, my enthusiasm for collaboration, or perhaps simply my ability to ask questions and take the time to understand the answers that have value. I joined 1909 because the excitement of developing and implementing visual strategy is matched by a commitment to authenticity in business: we embrace our own humanness and get to partner with clients who share this vision, all while doing great work.
In the Studio and In Real Life
Outside of digital marketing I am most myself in my personal art practice. With a degree in sculpture and years spent teaching digital photography, I suppose it’s natural that my interests would converge where the spatial and virtual meet — digital environments and architectural sites. These projects — such as the recent timber frame church enclosed by immense coral I’ve animated — also allow me to explore my relentless fascination with extreme music and magical realist fiction. While melodic death metal or the grace of a Calvino vignette aren’t always literally present in my work, sagas and poetry are embedded in its genealogy. The constructions that populate my digital landscapes embody human values and character drawn from this material, as well as their narrative strategies. When I really think about it, I’ve always enjoyed puzzles and making order (or finding it, depending on your ideological bent) and perhaps my Rubik’s cube collection tells the whole story.
Although I spend a lot of time with screens, some of the most important parts of my life thankfully remind me to step away: running, climbing, and — best of all — parenting an incredible and curious daughter. Having the opportunity to be present for these moments has taught me a lot about meaning (thinking about meaning constitutes a pretty significant chunk of what I do, after all) and little else is as pleasurable as great conversation over great coffee. I hope our paths (demonstrably not straight lines) intersect and we’re able to share a little of both!