I’ve been a long time admirer of Alex’s design work and love that her incredible taste shows through everything she creates on her blog and instagram. If you’ve ever shopped at Madewell chances are you’ve seen her work and I’m so excited Alex was on board to share a little insight into her path and day-to-day. Read more about her below!
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m Alex, a graphic designer and art director living in New York. I work as a designer for Madewell and on the side I do some freelance work and write a lifestyle blog called Dreams + Jeans.
Describe your path to becoming a graphic designer.
From a very young age I was interested in arts and design. I learned early on that fine art was not my forte, and it wasn’t until I was a bit older that I became interested in interior design. During high school, I did an architecture summer program at Carnegie Mellon thinking that maybe I would go into architecture. When that didn’t seem to fit, I remember going on the College Board website and looking up different careers and the majors you should study if you were interested in them. That’s when I came across graphic design. When I read about what graphic designers did, I recalled my scrapbooking interest from growing up and the fact that I obsessively knew all of the fonts on my computer. I never realized that could be a profession and from that moment it just sort of clicked.
I had applied to Syracuse University and when I went to visit, I sat in on a Communications Design class and fell in love with it immediately. I knew it was where I needed to go and that graphic design was what I wanted to study – I never wavered with that. I started my blog before my senior year at college and it was through that that I realized I could combine my love of fashion and design and do graphic design for a fashion company. So I spent the last semester networking like crazy to find someone who would take a chance on me at a brand I loved. And that ultimately ended up being Madewell!
What led you to working for a company versus jumping into freelancing full-time?
You know, it never really crossed my mind to freelance full-time! School was incredibly challenging and it was really drilled into us that you graduate, move to New York and work at a design firm. It’s nice to know that I could always try the freelance route if I really wanted to, but for now I really love getting to collaborate with others and work for such an amazing company.
Working for Madewell sounds like a dream job! How is that going and what’s a typical work day like for you?
Working at Madewell was a dream job out of school and still is. I’ve been there a little over 3 years and it’s just as great as it was when I first started. When I first started I worked on our website and emails, and about 2 years ago I switched to working on more print/store materials, in addition to continuing to work on emails. So whenever you receive a Madewell email, I designed it!
There really is no typical work day, as I’m usually juggling a lot of different projects at once. But it’s usually a combination of meetings, designing, planning for projects, looking for inspiration, at a store visit, art directing still photo shoots, etc!
What is your favorite part about working for Madewell?
The company I work for and the people I work with! J.Crew and Madewell are full of creative, passionate people who help make for a really great work environment. I’m constantly inspired and pushed creatively by everyone around me!
How has living in New York influenced your creativity?
New York has had a tremendous influence on my creativity and aesthetic. It’s really opened my eyes to all sorts of new things, whether it be a museum or a restaurant – inspiration is everywhere! My style and aesthetic has changed so much since moving to New York and it’s exciting to see it come out in other ways than just my design work. I’m currently really into what my apartment looks like and honing in on my personal style. For instance, I used to wear a lot more color, and now I wear mostly neutrals. I’ve started to really learn what I like and what I’m most comfortable in. It takes time to figure it all out, but I’ve enjoyed seeing my evolution on my blog.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a creative?
I’d say the biggest challenge I’ve faced was moving to New York and trying to land a job at a company I was passionate about. I can’t say I’ve had a challenge larger than that recently, but I am challenged on a daily basis with smaller things such as staying inspired and figuring out the best ways for me to move forward in my career.
Who is inspiring you at the moment?
Such a tough question! I’m inspired by so many different people all the time. If I have to choose, I’d say that right now I am inspired by Maryanne Moodie’s weavings, Julia Kostreva’s product line, and Kristine Arellano’s letterpress business, Presshaus LA. I’m really inspired by female (and male!) creatives who start businesses based around their passion.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to be a graphic designer?
I would definitely recommend studying graphic design (or branding) if you are interested in being a graphic designer. Take classes, intern, really see what the field is like. Every career looks great on the outside but when you’re really in it you learn the behind-the-scenes hard work that comes along with them. You have to really love what you’re doing to get through the mundane parts. (And there will be a lot of mundane parts!)
I cannot emphasize the importance of networking enough! The Internet makes it so easy to connect with people and I’ve found that most people are willing to answer any questions you might have, especially if you are a student. Take advantage of that while in school and meet with as many people as you can and simply ask for advice. Your network will carry you far in life.
And for fun, what do you love to do when you’re not working?
I looove to travel! I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like to, but I really love getting to see new places and learn about new things. Outside of work, I like to just hang out, wander around the city, popping into new restaurants and shops. I really want to get into making more things in my spare time. I took a weaving class in college and want to take that up again and I’m dying to learn calligraphy. And I also enjoy a good dose of reality tv when I really need to check out!