Our Graphic Designer Jessi Brattengeier was recently profiled on Designation’s Campfires – an interview series featuring designers’ “tips, insights, war stories and more.”
Read the full interview below, and at Campfires.io.
by Wolfram Rong
Jessi Brattengeier is an exciting and talented young designer working out of hot NY shop Sub Rosa. A branding and identity specialist, she previously put time in at some creative design shops as Partners&Spade and Opening Ceremony.
Where do you work and what is your current title?
I’m currently working as a Designer at Sub Rosa, a beautiful sunlit space occupied by experimenters and thinkers. We design and build unexpected and empathic solutions for a whole spectrum of clients.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
Growing up immersed in the Austin music, zine, and DIY scene, I always had a solid support system in which I felt free to explore my voice as a maker in, and plenty of awesome folks to get inspired by. Watching friends pursue their passions, brand their vision, and collaborate in the vibrant community together to create some righteous content really got me thinking about how I could hone my skills to make an imprint on the community alongside them. I started illustrating, making posters, xerox/acetate collaging, writing, making dumb films with friends, just doing as much as I could to get my ideas out of my head.
After realizing that visual communication was what I wanted to pursue, I decided New York would be the most challenging and inspiring place to actualize my goals. I went to the School of Visual Arts and tried to engage myself in the art community/the bounty of resources available to me as much as I could. I interned as much as I could, explored as much as I could, collaborated as much as I could, worked as hard as I could, made as many mistakes as I could, and somehow ended up here.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
I can recall two specific instances among many spread a decade apart that helped to clarify my future. Growing up for a handful of years in the Bay Area and seeing a lot of the hand-painted signs in the Mission, I became really interested and inspired by the shop owners taking visual problem solving into their own hands and expressing their point of view through typography. I knew I wanted to be involved in that sort of thinking, but wasn’t sure what exactly it was at the time. Fast forward a decade and I’m in a strenuous Visual Language class and my collages are being brutally compositionally torn apart, causing a thunderstorm of mini-epiphanies of what it means to think critically about design, craft and the attention to detail it entails. From then on, I was obsessed. The understanding, the analyzing, the critique, the distillation of an idea, the adaptive method of thinking and problem solving – I became addicted to it.
What was your first design job? Any interesting stories about how you broke into the field?
I interned at Opening Ceremony. When I first started working, I remember not knowing how to approach problems with confidence. I was always going back to the Creative Director asking for re-calibration, even when I didn’t really need it, and constantly asking if what I was doing was OK. I realized it’s much a better process to first release any and all ideas that come to mind — sketch them, write them, express them through mood — whatever. Just have a good understanding of the client needs and then get your ideas out there as much as you can and be confident in them no matter how silly they are, then critique and question. I regret not being bolder, but by the time I was done I learned my lesson and felt inspired find answers for myself through experimentation and taking risks.
Please describe a normal day at your current job. What’s the workflow like? What are your primary responsibilities?
Much of the time my days are a balanced mix of researching, executing, DJing for the 2nd floor, collaborating with the design team, and working with strategists. I’d say 75% of the projects I’m on are brand identity related, which I’m psyched about! Something about creating identity systems rooted in unexpected solutions and then exploring the endless possibilities of the visual language really turns a switch on for me. I feel like an inventor in a laboratory, and I love the interpretive process as well as the satisfaction of seeing content shape-shift across platforms.
Are there any memorable war stories, client interactions or close calls that have stuck with you over the years? An event that taught you something important about workflow or how the industry works?
The first time I ever had to do a full-on massive strategy-heavy deck at Sub Rosa, it was like trying to decipher a book in a foreign language with no translator. I remember being totally overwhelmed, losing track of what needed to be done, and wasting most of my time because of all the worrying. Never again! Stressful as it was, it taught me a lot about approaching new problems with a calm collectiveness and asking the right questions.
What’s a common mistake you often see entry level designers make? What are some tips to avoid or overcome it?
I feel like entry level designers feel as though it’s not important to have passion and understanding about what we’re intrinsically trying to do. Solve problems by having a true understanding of their roots — find some sort of personal connection to everything you do. Know how to speak up about your work, and know how to make your work speak up for you.
Any industry sites or blogs you read on a regular basis, or anything else you read for inspiration?
There’s something new and amazing coming out every day. What’s something awesome you’ve seen recently that you’re dying to share, or something you’re excited about?
There’s this bizarre but charming short portrait documentary released a few weeks ago about Joe Maggard, the official Ronald the McDonald clown from 1995 to 2007. It’s beautifully shot and fascinating, albeit off-putting. “More men have walked on the moon then been Ronald Mcdonald.” Puts things into perspective in an unconventional way.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
Work as hard as you can — it shows. Also invest in a good pair of headphones.
What do you think is the future of digital design?
I’m really keen on the idea of a future where digital design truly embodies the “less is more” design mantra. Less interference, less unnecessary content, less creative constraints. In an age of information and visual stimuli overload, I’d like a future where digital design seamlessly and instinctively integrates into our lifestyles to inspire clarity.