VISUAL DESIGNER at FROG
caitlinpiery.com / frogdesign.com
BFA in Graphic Design 2014
What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work? Right now I’m really interested in other design disciplines. In my career so far I have spent more time working with designers in other fields rather than those with a graphic design background. One way I’ve used this to my advantage is to ask them for critique on my work. They still have the designer’s eye and a problem-solver’s mentality, while bringing a unique outsider’s view.
I think it’s important to get in conversations with industrial designers, architects, interior designers and fashion designers. They are kind of like your extended design family. They are similar to graphic designers in that they are “makers” but have a wealth of knowledge to share with us.
“I think it’s important to get in conversations with industrial designers, architects, interior designers and fashion designers. They are kind of like your extended design family. They are similar to graphic designers in that they are “makers” but have a wealth of knowledge to share with us.”
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking about design? One summer I had the opportunity to intern with Nestle Purina in St. Louis, MO. It challenged me to think about how design fits into the larger structure of a business, outside of branding and marketing. I was able to work side-by-side with industrial designers, strategists, and marketing teams and learned so much in that one summer. As a student, it forced me to get outside my comfort zone and expanded my view of the design world. Internships are a rare time that you are given complete permission to fail and make mistakes. Between our awesome professors at Auburn and the team at Purina, I had never felt more prepared to take on a “real” job.
You worked for Jonathan Adler in New York as a product designer and graphic designer. In this position you designed and developed products, provided art direction and collaborated with outside vendors, correct? In all of that experience, what was the most interesting or perhaps rewarding part of your daily design work? The most rewarding part of working at JA was seeing products that I designed out in the world. I would work on these items for months and months trying to perfectly match a cellphone case to it’s intended pantone color. I’ll never forget scrolling through Facebook and seeing something I designed in an advertisement. It never got old!
You are currently a Visual Designer at frog in New York. What responsibilities does your current position involve? At frog, we are responsible for crafting and curating meaningful visual systems. We are placed on teams to contribute conceptually while also helping shape the overall design narrative. We make sure these systems and stories embody both the functional and emotional aspects of any type of design solution. Frog is a very unique place in that our responsibilities extend further than what’s in a job description. I often find myself in an “all-hands-on-deck” situation where I’m allowed the opportunity to support on a variety of different deliverables, whether it be wire-framing, research, or even strategy.
You are clearly gaining success as a designer in the field. Do you believe that it is harder for women to become successful in the design field? What I’ve seen in the design world, is that often—but not always—women make up the majority of the lower ranks, while men seem to dominate the more senior roles. I’m still not sure exactly what the biggest contributing factor is here, but it definitely seems to be a trend. If you have the drive and leadership qualities, I don’t believe it’s necessarily harder to gain that success, but sometimes there might not be as many women there to ask for advice.
One thing that I think often holds us back from being the true lady-leaders that we are, is that we are perceived as the more quiet and timid members of the team and treated as such. I think it’s really important to break down that perception by voicing opinions and getting involved in the big conversations.
Is there a difference between working in design with women or with men? Have you ever been treated differently because you are female? In my opinion, it really depends on the company culture. People seem to adopt the attitude of the environment around them. Thankfully, environments that are full of designers tend to be more open and collaborative, thus breaking down a lot of the gender barriers that exist at other places. I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by powerful female leaders in my career so far and have had fantastic role models to look up to when it comes to this topic.
While you were in school at Auburn, do you remember a specific design project that challenged you the most? I think most of the GDES grads would unanimously say Dunlop’s Gradation or Senior Project. Gradation (and Dunlop’s class as a whole) stretched our minds to think like a designer, while also teaching us the hard skills like time management, craft, and how to present your ideas intelligently. Senior Project felt like the pinnacle of my student career, but it was more of an exercise in thinking through every single little detail. It was during this project that I realized that I want to work towards a creative director role. I had the most fun at the beginning—creating the proposal and establishing a vision—and in critiques—presenting and convincing the panel of why I made these decisions. I would encourage seniors to use this time to explore why you love design and what you want to do with it. Senior Project should definitely challenge you, but have fun with it!
“I think it’s really important to break down that perception by voicing opinions and getting involved in the big conversations.”
Would you recommend some resources that young designers might find useful? (books, websites, podcasts, etc.) Podcasts: Design Matters with Debbie Millman; 99% Invisible; Websites (there are a million, but these are my recent favorites): niice.co, designmind.frogdesign.com, flatfile.lubalincenter.com, producthunt.com, designobserver.com; Non-Design Books (that are great for designers who are just starting out): Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were in school? No one knows what they’re doing – even the super talented, famous designers and the creative directors who make everything look easy. As long as you are cool with not knowing, you’ll be just fine.
What should a young designer avoid doing when applying for jobs in the design field? Avoid feeling pressured into accepting the first offer you receive. If you’re able to, take some time to explore different places and figure out what you really want to do. Look for a place that you will grow the most and will challenge you.
Designer responded to questions in 2016 via email.