Tuesday, January 29, 2013

STUDIO SPOTLIGHT: Artists For Humanity Design Studio!

AFH mentors, teen artists, and design studio mascot, Milo.

Increasingly, more AFH projects and commissions involve creative design elements. Word is spreading about the quality of AFH design, and our client-list keeps growing. National Grid, Ubicare, State Street, and the MBTA are just a few. AFH's talented and experienced mentors guide AFH teens to learn the intricacies of design - from typography, to web design to developing branding strategies to creating logos and graphic design to presentation skills for working with AFH's diverse clientele, AFH teens and their mentors do it all!

Who are our AFH Design Studio magicians?  AFH Design Director and Mentor Claudia De Piante Vicin, Graphic Designer and Mentor, Kyleen Hill, Graphics Project Coordinator and Mentor, Joe Ramirez, and Web Developer/Web Design Mentor, Ryan Conley.  For this special edition of our STUDIO SPOTLIGHT, we asked each of these talented and inspiring artists what excites them about the challenging work at AFH. 

Once you get to know our Media Studio superstars, check out our website for more examples of projects and completed client work! 

AFH: Hi Claudia! Please introduce yourself. 
CDPV: I am the Design Director and also co-direct the Media Studio, which is compromised of: Graphic Design, Web Design, Video, and Photography. I concentrate on Design. 

Meet Claudia De Piante Vicin!

AFH: When did you start working at AFH?
CDPV: It has been a long time. I cannot believe that it has been 11 years!

AFH: How did you hear about AFH?
CDPV: A family friend, Samer Salty was involved with AFH in its early days while he was at the MIT's Sloan School of Business Management and suggested I meet Susan Rodgerson. I had just moved to Boston from London.

AFH : Where did you go to school and what did you study?
CDPV: I went to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and studied design.
AFH: What first interested you about art?
CDPV: We all have the nostalgic story of drawing on walls with crayons when we are wee children, the art teacher that inspired us to take creating seriously, and the classic adage of how we didn't really expect to be a designer until we woke up one day and realized that we were one. I have had sketchbooks all of my life - when a child, they were just scraps of paper that I drew or wrote on and kept.  As I grew up, the collection of notes/sketches were housed in official sketchbooks. Design is a perfect combination of art and writing and so it was a natural progression to pursue design. I particularly am interested in the problem solving aspect of design and the ability to work with people to help communicate their ideas, projects, and ultimately who they are in a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing manner. As Paul Rand says, "Design is everything. Everything!" and he is absolutely right.

AFH teen-designer works on some typography.

AFH: Who are some of Graphics’ current clients?
CDPV: We have an interesting range of projects. Some of our current clients are: 1. The Philanthropy Connection: we are currently developing their brand. This involves designing their logo, all of the promotional materials that they require: ie stationery etc and the front end of their website. 2. UBICARE: We had the pleasure of being asked to design the office space of Ubicare's headquarters in JP. This process involved bringing their existing brand into a physical space and creating a space that was reflective of their mission and one that communicated their ethos and aspirations. 3. BRIX Wine Shop: We have been asked to create a custom content management system and e-commerce back end mechanism for their new website. BRIX Wine Shop is a partner of AFH - they donate amazing wine for our events and so the crossover of them becoming clients is not only natural, but indicative of the trust that supporters have in our ability. 4. Kensington Properties: A Boston based developer who came to us to revamp their existing website. They would like their site to reflect a more updated and current look, indicative of the times and the work that they do. Giving people a different visual perspective is what distinguishes us from more traditional design firms.

AFH: What’s the best part about working at AFH?
CDPV: Designers all attest to how fast paced, deadline orientated, and idea driven their work is. AFH has all of these same attributes but has distinguishing elements that make it unique.  When you add the rawness of a teenage mind to the design process, the results are incredible. It is hard to pinpoint a best anything, but if I had to choose, I would say that witnessing a young designer first realize how important typography is; the look of constant surprise on a client's face when they first sit in a meeting with teen designers; and the sense of empowerment that comes from being part of a results driven team gives a young mind, are top on my list of "bests."

AFH teen graphic designers hard at work!

AFH: What’s the biggest job Graphic Design teens have done for a client? 
CDPV: Jobs vary in sizes. Sometimes the smaller jobs are the ones that demand the most focus and time and the jobs that one would consider to be bigger, are smooth sailing. A job that stands out was designing the exhibition space and experience for The American Plumbing Museum in Watertown, MA. It was our first job that involved taking design and applying it into a physical space that was so much larger than our screen and any piece of paper that a traditional printer can output. Files grew into dinosaur sizes, vectors wrapped walls, and we were given the task that most designers dream of- which is to manipulate the viewers experience on a physical level without the lighting and motion tricks a computer can give a file.  To walk through your design is an unforgettable experience. 

The amazing Plumbing Museum! Designed, created, and installed by our Media Studio!

Another aspect of the Plumbing Museum designed by our talented teens and mentors!

AFH: What do you do for fun?

CDPV: Really? I don't have fun. No. Seriously. I have habits that make me happy. Collecting books, watching planes land, exploring new areas, dinner parties with good friends and interesting strangers, and traveling are a few of the habits that I consider to be fun.

AFH: What is one thing people probably don’t realize about Graphic Design?

CDPV: A computer to a designer is like a paintbrush to an artist. It is a tool, nothing more.. The common perception is that Graphic Design is easy. It isn't that exciting watching a designer work, we look like glorified data entry people, sitting in front of our glowing screen. However, design is a multi-faceted process that is primarily enmeshed with people. As a designer, you also have to have good people skills, a lot of our job is taking a client's goal and translating it into a visual. To translate the desire of a person or company into a series of communicative pieces, takes a good listener, a firm persuader, and a person who has an eye for detail. 

AFH: Who or what inspires you?
CDPV: I am inspired by Susan Sontag's white mane of hair, Paula Scher for her repertoire of work and the impact that she has caused in the world of Graphic Design, a well made coffee, the ability in people to create simple elegance with such little effort, and lovely typographical work of Jessica Hische. I am ultimately inspired by things and people who cause in you the desire to be more, to learn more, and to imagine a better life. 

Buttons designed in our AFH Media Studio.

AFH: HI Kyleen! Tell us, what do you do at AFH?
KH: My days are spent working alongside Claudia in the graphics studio pushing pixels and mentoring. 

Meet Kyleen Hill!

AFH: What brought you to AFH?
KH: I had been working freelance prior to joining AFH, so I was always on the lookout for new work opportunities. I was very excited to find out about AFH and how teens are employed to create professional designs!

AFH: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
KH: I went to Syracuse University and studied communications design & photography.

AFT: What’s the best part about working here?
KH: There is always something going on and there is such good energy. I have freelanced at so many places, and it is a relief to not be stuck behind a 9 foot high cubicle wall or have a silent-library style workplace. It's also awesome to work alongside people with a wide range of different talents & skills in art, design, and business. 

AFH: What do you do for fun?
KH: I like to collect new hobbies. I like designing, doing ceramics, making cyanotypes, photographing, jewelry and metalsmithing, and drawing. I enjoy spending as much time outdoors as possible, going on impromptu road trips, retaining useless information, reading, spontaneous cooking, canning, baking bread, attempting to plant things, and crocheting.

AFH: What is the most challenging aspect of Graphic Design? What’s the most fun part about design?
KH: As a profession it is one that technically and creatively evolves faster than most. There is always a pressure to stay on top of the latest software and trends in order to keep growing as a designer. Tight budgets & deadlines are frustrating at times, but the positives outweigh the negatives. Graphic design is the intersection between art & problem solving, two things I have always enjoyed. I love to make people happy. As a designer I love to create experiences for people and help solve their problems. I love to create something tangible as opposed to something that is disposable, one that someone will cherish, find inspiration, and learn from is something I always try to aim for. I feel lucky to say my avocation is my vocation.

AFH: Who or what inspires you?
KH: From my past, my high school art teacher. I would not have taken a creative path without her. The words and advice from old professors still continue to inspire me. Design wise, I enjoy simple clean design that communicates effectively, Scandinavian design, and particularly the work of Herb Lubalin, Charlie Harper, street photographers from the 1960s, William Eggelston, Martin Parr,  and Stephen Shore to name a few.

I find artists, art and random things I really like. I study them, I find what I like and don’t like. When it comes time to design something, I picture what it might look like. When things I have seen pop into my mind, I mash-up my thoughts with pieces from the different inspirational images and ideas I may have found. Then I start to build my own unique idea. 

AFH's Design Studio was commissioned to transform Ubicare's office space to depict their brand. The challenge was to take their logo and apply it to their open loft like office space. We abstracted the logo and tied in their colours to create a space that reflected the innovation of their company.

AFH: Hi Joe! Tell us a bit about yourself!
JR: Along with Claudia and Kyleen, I’m also a graphics mentor. In addition, I also handle all the artwork for the screen printing department, as well as take care of all the IT issues. 

Meet Joe Ramirez!

AFH: How did you hear about AFH?
JR: Back in 1991, I was working at the Cheers production facility and was approached by Susan and a carload of kids who wanted to learn how to produce a line of "Salted" t-shirt designs.  This was AFH’s first t-shirt project, and I’m happy to say I've been involved ever since. I officially joined the team in 2007.

AFH: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
JR: I graduated with honors from MassArt, majoring in illustration.

AFH: What's the most challenging part about graphic design?
JR: Getting all of the important information out of a client who doesn't really know what they need or want yet.

AFH: What has been the most memorable project you've worked on with the teens here?

JR: The most memorable project was definitely the designing of the Plumbing Museum. It was a large, multi-media project, and our first involving large format printing. The kids did a great job!

The American Plumbing Museum!
AFH: What's the best part?
JR: Seeing the look on the client’s face when you show them what they didn't know they were looking for.

AFH: Who inspires you?
JR: My kids, and kids in general.  They are so sharp and their take on things is often much more direct, to-the-point, on target and unclouded.  Adults could solve a lot of problems in the world if they revisited the approach of their youth.  

Sketching a design before putting it into the computer.

AFH: Hi Ryan! What is do you do in Web Design?
RC: I am Artists for Humanity's webmaster/developer and web studio manager. I help maintain Artists for Humanity's website by adding new features such as new videos, artwork, press, social media, and whatever else. I also lead the web studio, which has one to two apprentices working while learning about web design. We work closely with the graphics studio to build websites for clients.

Meet Ryan Conley!

AFH: You were a teen in the AFH Painting Studio many years ago. What was that like? Who was your mentor?
RC: As a teen at AFH it was intimidating at first until I was given the freedom to be as creative as I wanted to be. It gave me an outlet to express myself and apply the ideas I was interested in.

My mentor in the Painting Studio was Luciana De Andrade. She is a painter who painted large color field paintings. She was very supportive and exposed me to the power of using color to communicate ideas. My paintings at the time were large scale and painterly with expressive uses of color.  Their subject matter was often surrealistic, taken from personal experiences, dreams, and books I was reading at the time.

AFH: What first interested you in web design?
RC: I first became interested in the web as a resource for learning about interesting artists and subjects.  It was also as a means to communicate with like-minded individuals who shared a similar appreciation for art but lived in locations I could only dream of visiting. I thought it was a very powerful tool, so I took a class at MassArt. After I graduated, I enhanced my knowledge by teaching myself different web programming languages. I eventually started taking classes and earned my certificate in web development.

AFH: What's the hardest part about web design?
RC: The hardest part about web design is the frustration when things don't work as expected. Web design takes an extreme amount of patience and determination in order to solve a problem.

AFH: What's the best part?
RC: The best part about web design is creating something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. I also find learning about new technologies satisfying, especially once some concept I'm learning about finally clicks and I am able to apply it.

After impressive The Philanthropy Connection with a redesign of the company's logo, AFH's Design Studio was then hired to design the front end of their website! Check it out here!

AFH: You were a painting mentor at AFH for almost a decade before you moved to Web Design. Do you still paint?
RC: I do have periods when I paint. Painting is a medium I will always have an appreciation for.

AFH: What has been the most memorable project you've worked on with the teens here?
RC: The most memorable project was a collaboration on a painting I did with one of the teens. We decided to let our imagination loose and came up with a very cool painting. 

Want more AFH Design Studio updates? Check out our Facebook page! 

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