When did you become a member of AIGA Chattanooga? Wasn’t it when you were a student at UTC? How did you first hear about AIGA, while a design student in college or before then?
I became a member of AIGA Chattanooga when I was as a student at UTC. The bottom sticker on the back of my AIGA card says I became a member in October of 2009—I don’t think stickers can lie—so I was a sophomore. As a sophomore, I was just starting to learn more about design. A professor suggested joining AIGA Chattanooga to learn more about awesome potential design careers, so I joined.
How important was it to you to become a member? Was it helpful to you then, to become a member? In other words, what did you think you’d get out of being a member of AIGA? Be honest.
Honestly, it was—and still is—super helpful! A majority of the design collaborations I still work on today are with friends and mentors I’ve made through AIGA Chattanooga. I’ve screen printed t-shirts, participated in workshops, designed posters, created zines, and more with my AIGA buddies. The working relationships and connections I made through AIGA were influential in helping me land my first job after college.
What did you pursue after graduation? What was your career path plan? What type of work were you doing then?
I wouldn’t say I had a plan, as much as just a blind determination to do something design related. I didn’t know what specifically, just something. At the same time, I was taking on an independent study in branding and business management for a business idea Cupcakenstein, a cupcakery where customers picked their own icing, cake, and decorations.
To design a more professional brand identity and business model I attended Springboard—now known as Co.Starters—an entrepreneur class through Co.Lab. Through the class, I met former AIGA board member, DJ Trischler. DJ was excited about my enthusiasm over Cupcakenstein’s branding process and asked me to keep him updated when I saw him at upcoming AIGA events. I continued to update him on my design process and thinking. Finally when I finished Cupcakenstein’s full brand identity, DJ offered me a job to work with him, his business partner, and design team at D+J. I learned a ton while working with D+J. I designed for various mediums such as logos, brand guides, websites, and I even baked a cupcake or two for special occasions.
What is the value you place on being a member now? Has it been helpful in other ways, ways that might not have been planned, like new relationships, new opportunities?
I still find a great deal of value out of being a member! Events such as Drink & Draw are great for networking with my AIGA buddies. It’s also a fun and safe place to receive feedback on sketches or ideas for upcoming design projects. I find this to be pretty invaluable. Plus no one seems to mind when I overshare pictures of my cat Vlad, so there’s another bonus.
Your career as a designer has led you to Center Centre, right?! That’s exciting! Can you share more about how that came about? If applicable, how did being a member of AIGA help or aid you in the decision to join the Center Centre team? Or did being a member of AIGA help you in any way get the opportunity to be at Center Centre?
There is a connection to AIGA Chattanooga and my job at Center Centre—the user experience design school creating the next generation of industry-ready UX designers.
One of the co-founders of Center Centre is Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, a former AIGA Chattanooga board member and the professor I mentioned earlier who suggested I join AIGA. In the Spring of 2013, while Leslie was in the process of creating Center Centre, she offered me my full-time job as the in-house designer!
Every day is different and allows my to infuse my love for learning into everything I create for Center Centre. I’m also thrilled to work in an environment that supports my activity in organizations like AIGA Chattanooga, Cha Developer, Chattanooga Tech Council, Toastmasters, CodeXX, and more. I’m always excited to meet new designers, developers, and others to collaborate with, and I encourage others to do the same. You never know where collaborations or friendships will lead you and AIGA can be a springboard for those adventures.