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MICHELLE UNDERWOOD

Michelle graduated from The Art Institute of Seattle in 2003 with an applied degree in graphic design. Within a month of graduation, she was hired as an in-house graphic designer for The Alaska Club, the most popular (alright, ONLY) fitness chain in Alaska. And has been working there ever since. She currently lives in Wasilla, Alaska and spends her free-time dreaming of warmer climates.


When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I was 14 I think, flipping through the pages of a Transworld Snowboarding magazine, and I found myself looking more at the ads than the rest of the magazine.. realized that someone actually gets PAID to do that. Was always drawn to interesting layout and typography. So it just fit. That's where I wanted to go for my career.


Who or what inspires you?
Nature, music, other people.. Anything can be inspiration, just depends on what you have to accomplish and how open you are to everything around you, I guess. As for other designers, I like Sagmeister a lot. He pushes boundaries a little bit, tries to stay away from designing on the computer until he HAS to use it. I feel like in some ways we think alike, except he's way more advanced than I am of course, and has great ideas that make you think: "Why didn't I think of that?" And he keeps a great sense of humor.


Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
Sadly enough, The Art Institute of Seattle. Bleh. (so pretty much self taught you could say).


How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
Try angles that haven't been tried before. Add experimental elements. Keep my eyes open to new things.


What are some of your current projects?
Schedules for the gyms and pools (swim lessons, etc.), flyers, posters... We are getting ready for our "Open House" season, where each one of the 10 local clubs have a big event and live coverage from local radio stations, so there's all kinds of fun stuff going on with those. Direct mail pieces, offer inserts in the member billing.. There's so many things.


Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I just gave our member handbooks a HUGE makeover, and I'm pretty proud of how it looks now. Received a bunch of compliments on it as well. Unfortunately, just our old handbook is featured on the website at the moment. Most of my work is just printed and distributed. I don't know of anything that is on our website that I'm responsible for.


Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I REALLY want to get into screenprinting shirts. Not really sure where to start with it though. Books I guess, right? :) Not many shops are willing to just let me stop in and see how it works. I think they are afraid I'm going to steal business from them or something.


Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Try interning for a while first. Never stop learning or searching for inspiration. Learn from your mistakes. Try to stay positive. Accept constructive criticism from other designers, and thank them - even if you don't agree.


What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
Depends on what kind of market you're in. At my job, the more compliments you hear from members or other employees, the better the piece is. Word makes it's way up the ladder, and does nothing but good.


What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Take a break to breath or work out. Enjoy the weekends and stay organized. Frequent visits to the HOW forum. :)


And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Like I have time to watch TV. :P


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