Keri Thorpe

Carbondale, IL |

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What made you want to become a graphic designer?

“It's hard to put my finger on it exactly, but I've known from a young age, about thirteen or fourteen. In high school, a commercial art class had me picturing myself working for an advertising agency. Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps) my parents discouraged it. As I pursued other career paths, I kept gravitating back to design, enjoying other who practiced it. I finally decided to make the change, but I now feel my work and life experiences thus far may have made me a stronger designer than had I started right out of college the 'first' time.”

What are your favorite aspects of being a designer?

“I enjoy interpreting larger concepts: I would say bigger, more universal or intangible ones, and applying them to something concrete. There's usually a take-home message that I like incorporating into the visual design, whether it’s with photos, color, layout, etc. I love sharing the design world with people who aren’t in design: when you’re reading the credits for a movie, you’re like, ‘Is that an appropriate font?’ I think it’s great that we do that; it makes people more aware of the impact that graphic design has on the larger environment.”

Do you think school has helped prepare you for entering the real world?

“I’m a firm believer in that there are things you just have to learn in the real world. That being said, I think MSU's program does a good job of preparing us for what’s to be expected. This is my second time around, and I would say other programs I’ve been in weren’t really conscientious of that at all: they didn’t prepare you for the interview setting. Our projects really look at it from a client-based perspective, and since we have professors who actually work in the field, they’re in touch with how clients are going to react, and they share they’re own personal stories. It gives you a little skill in anticipating things. However, I do think internships are really key for giving you an idea for the types of environments you can work in and dealing with clients or fellow designers or marketing directors. I think the professors go out of their way to kind of create internships and opportunities for us to do that.”

How would you describe your process when working on a project?

“I do a lot of research and I brainstorm. We haven’t really had to create a timeline for ourselves until thesis-- we had it created for us: that was daunting, but I think I’ve done well. There are advantages to having a structured environment and goals. We haven’t had that with thesis: we essentially created it all ourselves-- created our own briefs, schedules, and goals.”

Would you say that you have a personal design "style" in your work?

“Thesis helped me explore a style that I haven’t really explored before, which has been kind of fun. I would say I have a more modern, refined style, but I guess I’m more in tune with listening to what a client wants and trying to meet their needs, as as opposed to just designing for myself. I don't know if I’m really working on a particular style as much as I’m trying to solve someone else’s problem with successful design.”

For designers, do you believe it's more important to work on projects you're passionate about or take whatever work is available?

“I do that now, in my real job as a planner for the city of Bozeman. I wouldn’t say I frequently have to work with people or projects I don’t like, but it’s kind of the reality of any work situation. I guess that depends on if I end up working in-house or for a firm or independently. If you work for a firm that does a lot of design for a lot of different types of businesses, it may not be your choice what you end up designing. If you do in-house, it’s kind of the same thing. I do think if you decide to work in-house, you’re going to be happier than if you’re working for an agency or corporation or non-profit: if you believe in their product, or mission, or what have you. That being said, I love design, so part of me feels like I could do just about anything. I guess I haven’t had enough bad experiences to know where I would draw the line; I've realized that if you work in-house, they may have a set style, so you might not be able to be as liberating with your personal style.”

The graphic design industry is doing more digitally-based work these days: are you excited about the evolution of design, or do you like more traditional mediums?

“I’m kind of excited about it: I think programming uses a different part of your brain: I enjoyed taking a web class. If I do what I want to do, which is interpretive displays and things, I don't how much programming I would end up doing. With Future-Farm here in town, they hire designers and have a separate programming staff, and I think that’s a really good way of approaching it: the designer doesn’t have to know the latest and greatest. I would look forward to working in a team environment like that, so you can meet with the programmers and bring something to them, and then have them work with your design. We all have some experience, but I’m not a computer science major, haha, and I’m not planing to be one. Folks are saying that print will be around a while longer, some say it’ll never die: I guess that remains to be seen. With iPads and other reading devices, I can see the possibility of making touch-screen boards in a museum. As long as I don’t have to figure out how the screen flips, I would love doing that; but maybe it’s not so hard to figure out, so maybe I could do it?”

Do you have any favorite designers, artists, or resources you like to get inspiration from?

“The latest is Janine Van Gool: she’s the founder of Uppercase; it’s a shop and magazine that’s centered in Calgary. She just has a really fun, very clean and modern-looking style, but it has a kind of hand-crafted look to it. Her magazines are pretty pricey, but I look at her blog, and she’s got some really interesting stuff. There’s always the classics, too: Paul Rand and Lester Beall.”

What are your plans for the future?

“I spent five years working for the National Park Service's Division of Interpretation. During that time, I developed a fondness for the design layouts found in museums, interpretation centers, and publications. Ideally, I'll work for a major museum, interpretive center, or an agency that does work for them.”

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