Kat McCluskey


emergingexperiences.com & razorfish.com
BFA in Graphic Design, 2007
Atlanta, GA


What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work? I’m very interested in exploring different processes right now. It’s a fresh year so I always try to consider what went well in the past year, how I hope to move forward and how to challenge my work. I usually like to start new projects with a large research phase before diving in and this year I want to incorporate more experimentation into my daily work, to see how I can help grow projects in unexpected and organic ways. I think this will also lend itself well to working with teams cross country, which I often do. 

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking? Continuous learning – being in a tech focused design field you continuously learn how to design for new mediums. The process of problem solving with new mediums and using them to create influences how I feel about the present and what I hope for in the future, both in design and how we engage with the designed world.

“The process of problem solving with new mediums and using them to create influences how I feel about the present and what I hope for in the future, both in design and how we engage with the designed world.”

What project or design problem have you faced (in the past or recently) that seemed to be a “failure” but was perhaps an extremely valuable learning experience? We didn’t win a pitch this past year for a museum project, we made it through 2 rounds of agencies, but ultimately didn’t win the work. It was incredibly disappointing. While the project itself wasn’t successful, the work produced was really beautiful and maybe some of the most personally rewarding work I did last year. It was a great opportunity for the team I worked with to create openly drawing from content versus a strict brand guideline, which was very refreshing.

While you were in school at Auburn, do you remember a specific graphic design project that challenged you the most? The final project in my Typography II class with Kelly Bryant was creating a book where we visually designed our interpretation of a Nathaniel Hawthorne story. It was a huge growth project for me. With Kelly’s guidance I was able to really investigate how I approach and interpret work, and it also was a great project for me to dive into versus trying to plan out every detail before I started.

You are a Senior Art Director in the Emerging Experiences Group at Razorfish. How has working in a team-based environment like at Razorfish compare to your previous work experiences? And compare to your experience in school? My company has done a really nice job of establishing strong team structures, during my years with them I’ve been fortunate to work with a diverse range of teams—at least one to two new team per year. It’s definitely different from when I was in school—but it feels similar in that it’s very supportive of collaboration.

Are there any rules or habits that help you to do your job more efficiently? I make a lot of lists, and prioritize my day in the mornings. When I’m in deep focus mode I like to block out things like email and check in on those things at specific times. I do a lot of little things throughout the day, I take inspiration breaks to look at new work, and I stay hydrated (and caffeinated). I also like to move around and vary my workspace, I might spend part of my day at a desk, and the other working from a couch or standing in front of a table or board. A lot of days I like to take a short walk outside, maybe 10-15 minutes just to do a quick reset or problem solve passively. 

Do you believe that it is harder for women to become successful in certain aspects of the design field? I feel like it’s not necessarily harder, the opportunities exist and there’s certainly a strong demand for more women in design, I feel like it’s a matter of if we’re pursuing the opportunities available. In niche or specialty design fields, I feel like you have to be very dedicated to the roles you want to pursue, and that goes for everyone. You also have to have an awareness and a willingness to shape your life with the work that you want to do. I think that some roles have more demanding periods of time than others, but if you have an awareness of things it can be a lot easier to manage them and plan around them. In my current role, my work is often more demanding than a 40 hour week, but I’ve been able to find ways to balance that and make it work for my life.

Is there a difference between working in design with women or with men? Have you ever been treated differently because you are female? I don’t think there’s a difference. In digital design, most of my colleagues have been male, but I haven’t overly analyzed that. I feel like the perspective I can bring to problem solving often gets increased value since women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing.

What advice would you give a young designer hoping to work in marketing and experimental interactive media in the design field? Work hard, and know that you don’t have to know everything, you just have to know enough to accomplish what you want to do and get started. 

Would you recommend some resources that young designers might find useful? (books, websites, podcasts, etc.) I find it useful to read non-fiction, stay current on news and events, I like to absorb as much as possible and I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work. I like 99% Invisible This American Life. Once you get into a cycle of absorbing data, it’s cool to see how much you can contribute to conversations or apply to your work either immediately or in the future.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were in school? You don’t have to start your career knowing the exact path you want to take. I was introduced to the work I do now when I interviewed for my 2nd job, three years out of school. Even now I realize there are a lot of possibilities for how I can grow my career in the future, and that’s really exciting if you open yourself to potential. 

“Even now I realize there are a lot of possibilities for how I can grow my career in the future, and that’s really exciting if you open yourself to potential.”

What should a young designer avoid doing when applying for jobs in the design field? I think it’s important to be genuine and professional. Dress in a way that makes you look like a designer with a bit of polish, you want to represent that you care about the position. Don’t be too cool, people like to interview candidates that are excited about their team and the potential role. I would also avoid a one-size fits all approach in an interview, be present for the interview you’re having and be engaged - always ask a few good questions.

Design Samples

Designer responded to questions in 2016 via email.