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I am a graphic designer. I am an artist. I make things.

by alexandra • March 29

I attended the AIGA Fresh Dialogue 27 session on Design Dualities and left the auditorium feeling inspired. Four very talented designers devoted to their careers are also painters, sculptors, illustrators, and makers. Mike PerryKeetra Dean DixonAndrio Abero and Timothy Goodman shared their philosophy on the duality of artist and designer is what sets their work apart.We all get asked the question, "What do you do for a living?" If the question was asked to Mike Perry about a year ago, he would have answered"I am a graphic designer". Now he says, "I am a maker." Maybe not the best answer to tell someone, but I can agree with him. I am a graphic designer, a painter, an illustrator and many other things. In general, I make things that I am passionate about.A few important questions came up during the dialogue like, How can you make your work stand out in this competitive industry? or How do you continue to make fresh new work in your career?

Your work stands out when there is a twist, something unusual that has meaning. We all get inspired by things we have never seen before. One way to stay fresh is force yourself to stay on your toes. If you are working on a personal project, give yourself a tight deadline. Tim Goodman says "Spot illustration to graphic design is like freestyle to hip hop. You have to come up with an idea quickly and execute it successfully." A good example of this would be the illustrations you see in the New York Times. It's a challenge to stay fresh in your career especially when you have a certain style. You have to push through the boundaries of what is comfortable to attain a new discovery.

My favorite designer of the group, Keetra Dean Dixon shared a few of her methods of staying fresh in her career. You can visit her website here. You need to have the constant pursuit and hunger for newness. Constantly push yourself and you will find new discoveries. Keetra is a graphic and experience designer. A lot of her work is tactile and 3 dimensional. She mentioned how the 2-d and 3-d world are blending and are not separate anymore because of the change in design. Designers are getting their hands dirty, making mistakes and getting away from bezier curves. They are incorporating illustration, silkscreening, product development, sculpture and even exhibition into their work. Keetra is a part of this wave of young designers. She stays fresh in her career by breaking the rules. Here are a few of her ways: Make through Breaking - using things that aren't meant to be will help broaden your horizons. An example of this is combining javascript with Adobe Illustrator to create artwork. She pushes the boundaries of javascript and forces Illustrator to create unexpected forms. You are then breaking the rules to create new meaning. Infuse the Unexpected into Accepted Forms - an example of this is her photo booth project. Embrace the Unknown - working with a foreign material and creating new form and meaning. A good example of this is her Word Squishers. Beautiful letter forms made out of wax are then extruded and stretched to create new forms. The concept was about how we communicate. An idea is formed in our head and transported out into the universe and can be perceived as a different meaning. This act of transporting thoughts into words is visually stunning with her Word Squishers. These 3-d forms later inspired her to create new meaning through words using Illustrator. She then transforms the word Mistake into Amazing. The Amazing Mistake Project was commissioned in GOOD Magazine.

The night ended with one of my favorite analogies. Graphic Design is like playing sports. You use your brain muscles. You have to be fast and swift, coming up with concepts and executing them quickly. All of the 100's of charcoal drawings you create in figure drawing Freshman year are just your warm ups for the big game you play in the real world.