Welcome back! Today we’re introducing you to our lead designer Sam, who helps bring all of our clients' visions to life! Sam studied digital media at the same technical high school as Rachel, and she has been working in the design field for the last 11 years. She’s incredibly creative and thinks outside the box, coming up with something unique and appealing for every client.
In addition to being an accomplished designer, Sam loves to sew, vlog, play video games, exercise, and play with her cats. She answered a few different questions for us to share a little more about what she does and what is important to her!
What first got you into the world of graphic design and why did you choose it?
I first started creating digital art when I was 10 and on Neopets. I remember all of the little customizable pages in your account required HTML and graphic design knowledge and I knew I wanted in on that. I started looking into programs that the people on Neopets use and before I knew it, I was on Microsoft Paint because I couldn’t actually afford one of the “real” programs at 10! My parents ended up getting Jasc Paint Shop for me a few months later and a super tiny Wacom which to this day makes my heart melt. That was so nice of them. I started drawing my little digital pets and decorations for my pages as I learned basic HTML and then started my own website at 11. This website provided Neopets graphics for free to fellow users! From there I was hooked and found myself always wanting to create something digitally. I kept up that website until I was about 14 which is when I entered high school where I majored in Digital Media and just soared with my digital passions. Since then, all I want to do is create online content! I make scripted videos, vlog, graphics, animations, digital art, and so much more. It’s truly a dream to be able to do this everyday and with some kickbutt people.
What makes you a good graphic designer?
Listening, patience, and understanding is truly a big part of being a good graphic designer when working with clients. When creating for yourself, you already know who you are and your interests. Every step of the way you are making changes based on your preferences and what you think. When working with other people, you absolutely must take the time to truly create a connection with the people you work with so that you can be their eyes during the process. Each time a draft comes with new feedback and changes, you must dive deep into their comments to really get their direction on the same page as the visuals. You can get the font, alignment, colors, and pictures perfect, but without connecting to someone’s vision, it is going to fall flat. I love working with people and love creating something that brings them joy and also helps them with their goals and dreams and I truly believe I create that deep understanding of someone’s design needs.
Are there any people who influence your aesthetic approach to the work you do?
Growing up, I pulled so much inspiration from fellow artists on DeviantArt. I remember looking up to a few artists on there and feeling inspired. Presently, I feel inspired by the art communities on Twitch, YouTube, and Instagram. A few different artists actually spoke about moving platforms from DeviantArt and I love the fact that, in a way, DeviantArt is still inspiring me! I love looking through art zines and hashtags to see what people are creating. I love seeing how happy this makes them and others and seeing people follow their passions. I also go for walks and try to pull references from life itself. That’s a little cliché but I promise it helps a lot! Nature is my jam and walking through it always puts my head in a good place.
How have the advances in online resources changed the world of graphic design today?
I feel like whenever I have a question about some kind of feature or about something I don’t know how to do, I have been able to find very informative YouTube tutorials. The people that make these videos put so much care and thought into their videos and they really help so many of us. There are also places like Udemy that have helped me learn new techniques! I love that these tutorials are more accessible because that allows for more people to learn and try this if it’s something they would like to do!
How do you approach the creative process?
I always take a moment to look at everything from a very zoomed out perspective. This allows me to move things around in my brain and make a plan with as much knowledge as possible. From there, I usually “zoom in” and take the project in sections. The branding visuals, for example, is one section I work on before moving onto social media assets. This has worked very well for my other creative endeavors as well!
How do you incorporate feedback into your designs?
To be completely honest, sometimes feedback is straightforward enough that I can just make the change and then we’re good. For those times where it’s not as easy, I like to make sure I understand someone’s comments enough to move forward. Sometimes I get broad feedback like “make it more fluid” which could mean a few different things. I usually take it back to the drawing board, only this time with some kind of foundation already set instead of a blank canvas. Though the plan is to keep building every step of the way, sometimes I knock down a few blocks, regroup, and build something different.
What do you do if a client doesn’t agree with your design recommendations?
This can definitely be a tough one! When a client hires us, they aren’t only looking for completed graphics and assets, but also recommendations and guidance on where to take their brand and visual presence. If a design’s colors clash or something doesn’t work, I speak up. I’m always sure to include a breakdown of my thinking as well as a few options that emit the same effect they’re going for but in a way that’s more cohesive. I have found that opening up a dialogue about different options helps the client and myself get on the same page as well as build an understanding of next steps! If disagreement continues, because the dialogue is already open, we continue to talk until we come to a resolution. Communication is key.
What is a project in your portfolio that you’re most proud of?
When I was in college, I interned with Viacom in New York City. I was so proud to be there every day and learn directly from their marketing team. I created a 15 second animation for their lobby screens that was intended to say goodbye to Winter and welcome Spring. I’ll never forget the feeling I got when my manager emailed me to tell me my animation was live on their screens in Times Square. I’ve always wanted something I made to appear in NYC so this was a BIG deal for me. To this day I watch it with a smile. If you’re interested, here it is!
Are there any big design campaigns that you’ve been really impressed (or really unimpressed) by?
When Pokémon Go came out in 2016, so many companies made their establishment a Pokéstop in order to get more foot traffic. Starbucks even put a new drink on the menu that you can only see if you are at a Pokéstop! I can’t tell you how many new places I visited because of this. Pokémon Go was a huge deal when it came out and I am still so impressed with the amount of people that communicated with it. Though it’s no longer as “loud” as it was back in 2016, there are still millions of active users who visit Pokéstops everyday. I still see it advertised and I still see “secret menus”. As a big Pokémon fan, I love it.
What’s your favorite part of the design process?
Though the final product is always digital, I’ve always made initial sketches traditionally in my sketchbook. I love that moment where I transfer the sketch to my digital program and start putting it all together. I start feeling really excited about what the client is going to think and just find myself lost in the process at this point.
If you weren’t doing design, what would you be doing?
I feel like if I wasn’t doing design, I’d be doing something else in the creative space. I love performing and also love working behind the scenes, so I would probably try a theatrical or performance media direction. I also really like finance and math and have considered that direction in the past as well! I’ve also considered a medical direction. Design ended up being very prevalent in my life and as that direction unfolded, I didn’t stop. Even with considering other paths, design always came out on top for me!
What do you do to unwind? What are your hobbies?
I love sewing and knitting! I also play video games and recently started streaming my playthroughs on Twitch! I really love it and I can just unwind and talk to people as I play. I also love vlogging and making videos on YouTube. In addition to digital design, I’m a big fan of making videos and have found such a great outlet on YouTube! I have 2 cats and play with them pretty much every chance I get. I also started exercising a few times a week and have really gotten into Barre and have found that it’s a great way to clear my mind. Finally, I love performing in front of an audience. Before the pandemic, I regularly started doing theatre since the beginning of 2018 and I was the happiest of Sams. I love to sing and act and am actually planning on exploring this part of my life more.
How do you measure success?
It’s so difficult to avoid measuring success strictly based on numbers and I’ve struggled with this for years. I have found that in order to measure success, there needs to be a balance. Maybe the numbers aren’t there but your foundation is strong. Maybe your foundation isn’t there yet but you’re happy and moving forward. Maybe you’ve realized that something isn’t for you so you stop and leave it behind to pursue a different direction. I feel like measuring success isn’t black and white. The criteria depends on the situation at hand. One thing I can say is a common thread across the board is to stay mindful. If you are still going, you are successful.