The Power of One

The Power of One

POSTERS BY TOM DAVIE (still inspiring me to this day)

I don’t tell many people this, but I didn’t always like graphic design. In fact, for a long time, I avoided it like the plague.

When I was younger, I filled sketchbook after sketchbook (and every piece of paper I could find) with fashion illustrations and comics. When it was time to choose a college, I thought computer animation would be a great fit to pair what I loved doing (drawing comics/fashion) with computers (where I felt the future was). This was when the internet and computers, in general, first started integrating into everyday life. Car phones had just been replaced by cell phones, and chatrooms were all the rage, if that tells you anything. I am in the lucky generation that got to see all of this change within a childhood!

My dream job, at that time, was working at Pixar (Toy Story, Pixar’s first animated film, was released when I was 13) and when I went on college visits, I immediately felt at home at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. The community of people surrounding it were just like me and I could clearly envision my future.

But life doesn’t always work out how you planned, and I didn’t get to go to that college or major in computer animation (both of which ended up giving me 3 major blessings in my life). Instead, I went to a local college in the small town I grew up in. The closest major they had to computer animation was graphic design.

I wasn’t psyched to be focusing my time and finances on a major I wasn’t in love with (and didn’t really see in my future), so I decided to get through as many gen-eds as I could and immerse myself in fine art classes (which I LOVED) instead of design. Even though I didn’t have a plan yet for what school I would transfer to, I think I always knew I would be moving.

When I moved to Cincinnati with my sister and her daughter (Blessing #1: getting to live with them while Britt was little, which would not have happened had I moved to PA), I transferred to Northern Kentucky University. They promised to count the 2 years of college credit I’d already completed AND let me work while I was in school, which was a must for me. I was sold…except that I was still having to major in graphic design and now, I was at the point where I really had to start taking the classes.

At first I really did not enjoy it. Graphic design wasn’t as widely understood then, and to me, it meant cold and nerdy marketing computer work. I wanted to do something more expressive and artistic with computers and I didn’t see how the two could fit.

Then I met the teacher that changed my perspective (and really, the trajectory of my life…Blessing #2) —Tom Davie. Although our assignments were the same types of projects as my other design classes, Davie talked about design and critiqued our work with the lens of a fine artist. He was intense and inspiring, and through his example, I learned how fine art could be infused into graphic design, at times making them one and the same. He taught me how to make it richer, more purposeful and more emotionally captivating. He taught me that I wasn’t leaving behind my passion in life, but evolving it into something with even more meaning and with a broader reach. It was a total eye-opener for me.

Since that day, I’ve been in love with design, and I love it more all the time. Fine art appeals to the emotional side of people, while design is (or was, that’s another post!) more functional—figuring out how to do both within one piece is always a fun challenge. Simply put, I see design as the “smart” art. It’s art with meaning and function. It’s not just emotion for emotion’s sake. It’s emotion that moves you to act.

Looking back, it’s really crazy how a series of unfortunate events and one inspiring person can completely change your view on something. Because of that one professor, my whole life is different.

Are any of you surprised by the twists and turns your life has taken that got you to where you are now? Is there a teacher or someone in your life who really influenced you or changed your life in a big way? I’d love to hear your story! Give me a shout 🙂

P.S. Blessing #3, in case you’re wondering was getting an internship early on where I had to teach myself how to use a 3D animation program and then create a show for NKU’s new Haile Digital Theater’s opening night. Afterwards, I was offered a full-time job animating their future shows (in my sophomore year of college). I said no. That internship helped me realize that computer animation wasn’t for me. To me, it was too many hours of gray, colorless labor for a brief minute of beautiful, colorful output. I wanted something where I could enjoy the process as much as the end result and I feel so lucky I was able to learn that without investing thousands into a major that wasn’t for me.