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Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls—STOP. Hmm ok that’s a bit much. I’m Sheri and I’m a graphic designer with over 15 years experience (sound like an AA meeting?). My career began in Anchorage, Alaska then to Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California and here I am back in the igloo (oh wait mLu has that spot, I’m out here on the damn iceberg). I’ve worked in industries from rock stars to realty and now I’m the Senior Graphic Designer at The Alaska Club, Alaska’s largest fitness club. I love to cook and the look and feel of great paper. I paint and make a mess when I do it, only way to really feel what you are painting. I have a tendancy to be lippy, but in a fun non-abusive way. I live here in Anchorage, Alaska with my two daughters, our dog, cat, and koi.

When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I believe the decision was made when I was still in diapers­—one day I took mine off, smeared the contents on the wall and proceeded to draw... what other pivotal moment do you need! I’ve always been a magnet to some facet of design. Whether it be fashion, architecture, interior, typography... you name it I loved the visual aspect and was hungry for the backstage drama. When I was young I created posters and signage for a lot of things and I painted also. When I was 12 I went to NY—talk about true love, I thought I would go to fashion design school there but that didn’t happen. Over the years when I “grew up” I continued doing things for others and then got into creating logos, signage and graphics on clothing for local bands. Friends and family were always raving and told me I needed to step up. It took a horrific situation for me to break out and go to art school.

Who or what inspires you?
Life. I’m inspired by the images in the stucco ceilings and the clouds. I’m inspired by the different character of people I pass. I’m inspired by the blood that gushes from a cut to the color and texture of dinner. Life is a true inspiration. You can learn from a text book but experience is THE teacher. I put myself in situations that are out of my personality comfort area and taste so that I can experience what others feel and see. You can gather references from books etc. but to really live that reference brings you so much a step further when you design.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
Before attending the Art Institute of Seattle I dived into Illustrator, Photoshop & Pagemaker head first and never looked back. I was asked to help create a local newspaper here in Alaska to which I had no clue what to do but I just figured it out and did it, that made me learn about printing specs as well as layout, type, etc. Again life=experience.

How do you keep “fresh” within your industry?
Fresh, she’s so fresh. I can’t say this enough—look around, above and below. Experience what you NEVER normally would do (not too freaky now!) Yes I look at the industry mags, sites, books and the work of my peers. What keeps my mind fresh is expanding my horizons, living outside of the box. Sometimes I feel that we as designers limit ourselves and just keep within the design community and view what is going on there rather than the rest of the world. I know I am guilty of that and I have to shake it off and remember there’s more to life than just us designers.

What are some of your current projects?
At work— schedules up the a** which get color/some style changes season to season, directing the others in our department to maintain our companys identity. Evolving the oh so clean identity of The Alaska Club without disturbing the upper hand bubble too much. I also maintain the companies website which I redesigned (the old one was peach & teal, you can imagine).Personal side— I have this thing goin’ on, it’s a 3’ x 4’ painting, even at the stage it’s in it’s beautiful but it has taken longer to complete that I would have liked, it’s for someone very special so the time is worth it. I also freelance on projects on my own and with someone out of TX - designing logos and identities for various small businesses.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I’m very proud to be a contributor in the re-birth of The Alaska Clubs identity. We took the company from “whatever the mood was at the time” to “this is us”. The flow isn’t quite throughout the company yet (have to train those admins!) Re-designing The Alaska Clubs website with nearly no site design/technical experience is/was a great accomplishment—which again made me learn by experience, trial & error and the programs necessary.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I have been very fortunate to design for many mediums and industries. I would love to do some great packaging, the type you just have to save just because you love it. Painting more is something that really makes me warm and tingly. Aside from the painting I’m working on I have sketches for a series of paintings that I want to get going on and complete in this lifetime.

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Free your mind. Your personal taste may bring a niche to your design but never limit yourself. AND... you will fail - it happens - don’t let it bring you down, learn and grow from the failure and never think there isn’t anyone better than you.

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
The damn process. The blood, sweat and tears of it, and then that ONE second of fame with the final product.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Burn-out is a given, no way around it. I step back or just stop, drop and roll. You have to give yourself a break. If your mind gets overloaded then you’ll just spin and start sketching/designing the same concept a million ways, sure that may sound great but it’s one concept. I really have to remove myself and as I said before, put ME in a strange place. Oh yea and a drink or two or a few help as well!

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Oh hell — don’t laugh — alright already.... uuuummmm I like American’s Top Model and R U the Girl. Also COPS & CSI.... I just got cable so I flip. LOVE my HGtv and the Food Network.... but when I really can’t sleep I watch the Gastineau Girls (at least it’s not Jerry!) - I don’t really watch much of these shows just here and there when I get a break sometimes.

The End or Just the Beginning...the choice will always be yours.

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