As another successful Design Week Tallahassee draws to a close, organizer and graphic designer Brittany Gress (BA 2017) reflects on her goals for next year’s event. Founded by designer Stephanie Irigoyen, Gress first attended Design Week by chance three years ago and was delighted to stumble upon a community of like-minded people.
She felt energized by Irigoyen’s spirit, and took on organizing responsibilities for this year’s event, which included five workshops, five socials and four talks given by local and national designers. For coming Design Weeks, she is hopeful that more local designers will become inspired to step up into leadership positions.
As a member of the local American Institute of Graphic Arts chapter (AIGA), Gress also wants to remind designers of the year-round events they can take part in, such as monthly Designer Drinks meetings and Coffee & Creatives meetings every second Wednesday of the month.
“Design Week has a very simple mission to have locals in Tallahassee be uplifted, share their ideas and learn,” says Gress. “It should make you more excited about what you love to do. I want people to walk away inspired and with a friend or two.”
This year’s theme, “Imagine” spoke to Gress’ vision of having designers become invested in the city and what they can achieve together. Gress says this is sometimes a challenge, as designers tend to be more introverted, but that establishing a support system where they are celebrated and showcased is imperative in order for their community to grow. Gress feels design stands apart from other fine arts as a more straightforward medium of communication.
“You can reach people by writing to them or talking to them but when you see something that speaks to you that is something that is immediate, intense and stays with you,” describes Gress. “It’s an effective way of communicating because it gets to the heart of a problem.”
Starting out as a creative writing major, Gress ultimately graduated from Florida State University with a degree in design. As a former visual effects director for movies, Gress’ father was excited for his daughter to be a part of the same creative industry so they could share ideas with one another.
“I like bold colors that get an immediate visceral reaction, but I’m trying to explore other color options, too,” says Gress. “It’s good to experiment because you are constantly changing. There’s as many different yous as minutes in the day.”
Her design process differs greatly depending on the assignment. As a designer for the Florida Geographic Alliance, she recently completed a campaign that blends geography and the environment by teaching students to be good stewards of nature.
Gress embraced the opportunity to design logos and materials for room-sized Florida maps that were then sent to classrooms across the state. Gress also designs for Florida State University and remarks on how no matter the task, she always tries to find an aspect to love about a project.
“I have to find something in it that I think is really interesting and translate that to other people visually so they can be interested in that too,” says Gress. “You need to be able to negotiate what’s important to you and what’s important to the viewer since design in its natural state is about communication.”
For Gress’ passion projects inspiration can strike any time, anywhere. Recently, she was inspired by a unique story of the unusual animosity between owls and crows and chose to illustrate their interactions in a book. Music is another integral part of her process, often colliding and combining with her design work.
Gress’ playlist varies from rap to electronic dance music to rock, however for a show in Minnesota, she designed classical music boxes with album cover designs. She was interested in exploring a physical object as a vessel for what is typically an ephemeral listening experience.
“I’ve always been really interested in a lot of creative fields,” says Gress. “My goal in life is to figure out how to get them all in the same room together because I want to be able to do all of them at once.”
Problem solving is at the root of Gress’ many investigations and is also how she describes the art behind design. Gress contemplates how the field can provide function as well as address emotional and societal problems while ultimately communicating a specific message.
Regardless of her goal, she aims at connecting with viewers through her passionately articulated work. Gearing up for her next project and next year’s Design Week, she hopes to continue linking up with local design talent in order to grow the programming and strengthen its impact.
“Do what you love,” says Gress, when thinking of advice she’d give to future designers. “Even if I’m doing what I love, sometimes I’ll get caught up in projects that might not feel as fulfilling or like they are bettering the world. That’s something you need to recognize for yourself. It’s hard to say goodbye to a project you’ve invested time in but if you don’t love it, then what are you doing?”