12 Questions: Meet Chrissy Richards (USA)

This is the third in what will be a regular series in our blog where we’ll feature interviews with someone (a creative and/or a buyer) from the crowdSPRING community.

We’ll pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice. Really.

We’re very proud to feature Chrissy Richards (crowdSPRING username: lightbox) today. Chrissy lives and works in Eugene, Oregon (USA).

1. Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Chrissy Richards. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am now 27, living and working in Eugene, OR while my husband of three years pursues his masters degree in music composition at the University of Oregon (two artists married – its scary, I know). I’m the mother of a 16-month old boy named Holland – that’s him in the drawing – crying quite loudly, I might add. After I graduated college, I worked full time as a designer for a clothing and gift retailer, but after my son was born I wanted something more flexible because I didn’t want to miss him growing up. That’s when I started Lightbox Graphic Design, which I run from my home office (otherwise known as the desk in the kitchen).  Drop by www.lightboxgraphicdesign.com if you have a chance.  Between trying to keep my son from eating too many crayons and cleaning handi-snack cheese out of the carpet, I find moments to pursue my business and other design work.

2. How did you start out as a designer?

I started out the way many designers do – drawing. My dad always told me growing up that the key to having a successful and happy career was to figure out what you love to do, and then figure out a way to get paid for doing it. I loved to draw, and that led me to major in illustration and then graphic design at BYU, where I received my bachelor of arts. My plan was to have a career that would allow me to work when and where I wanted, and it actually worked.

3. What great design(s) have you seen recently that you love?

Apple is always superb. I’ve enjoyed watching them create so many of the looks that inevitably become staples of the design world. They master-minded the white-dominant ultra-clean look, then continued on to develop what I call the burst-collage (it probably has a real name – drop me a line if you know it), where type and graphic elements radiate out from a central point. With the introduction of the i-pod, their commercials originated the silhouette trend.

4. Who/what are some of the biggest influences on your design work?

Because I now work alone most of the time, I have to actively seek out the interaction and inspiration that comes by being surrounded by creatives. Getting feedback from designer friends through email, design sites like crowdspring, and art scenes like museums and concerts all provide me with tons of ideas to stay fresh.

5. What’s the very first thing you do when approaching a new design?

Especially with logos, I try to spend a while thinking before I do any research or sketching. If I have the luxury of time before a deadline, I try to read a project request or description and then sleep on it overnight. I find that if I let a new project incubate in my brain a while before starting work on it, I often have ideas come to me while drifting in and out of sleep or showering.

6. Which of your designs are your favorites and why?

Right now my favorites are a couple logo designs I’ve done on crowdspring. Handpicking projects that interest you is a great benefit of this type of site. I guess I like recent work because I haven’t had time to grow tired of it yet.

7. When designing a logo, what do you think are the biggest mistakes a designer can make?

A common problem is adding too many elements. My husband calls them “list logos”. We’ve all had that kind of client who says “I want a dog, riding a wave on a surfboard, wearing sunglasses and swimtrunks, holding a bone that says our company name on it”. Being too literal is another pitfall. People too often focus on depicting objects or products, instead of conveying a concept, which is usually more effective. Check out my site for a list of  tips to avoid the big mistakes: http://www.lightboxgraphicdesign.com/lightbox/GreatLogo.html

8. How has technology affected your work?

I work on a PowerBook G4, which allows me to bring my work anywhere in the house, or on trips and vacations (much to my husband’s dismay). I use Adobe Illustrator CS3 for logos and most layout projects. I dabble in Flash and Dreamweaver, but find I like spending my time designing rather than pouring over flash-help forums looking for answers to the millions of problems I inevitably encounter doing any kind of coding. Thankfully I have a developer who handles that know. But I digress… I guess technology hasn’t necessarily changed my work because I came of age when it was already in full swing. Sure, I used Iomega Zip disks in college, which now seem archaic, but its not like I handset type by picking the letters out of a drawer or anything.

9. When working online, how do you decide whether to participate in a project?

To put it simply, if it inspires me, I’ll do it.  I usually take on a project because it excites me, and I can’t stop thinking about it. If I care about the business behind the project, that helps too. I love doing work for environmental businesses, childrens’ causes, outdoor companies, and non-profits. A huge award doesn’t hurt either.

10. What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a graphic designer?

For me, there is nothing like the feeling of expressing an idea through visual media. I love the thrill of pursuing solutions when there are no obvious ones. I grew up playing competitive sports, and I love the growth I experience as a designer when I am forced to improve my work through competition. The first client I had after starting my business said the logo I created for him looked like clip art. It was the most crushing experience I’ve ever had as a designer, and I cried my eyes out. Although it’s extremely difficult, I now try not to take rejection personally, but learn from it instead.

11. What advice would you give a young designer just starting out?

My best advice would be to get a solid art education. Anyone can learn how to use a piece of software  through practice, but being a good designer means much more than being comfortable in  a certain computer program. Mastering design concepts like typography, balance, scale, color, contrast, and composition usually require training and study and are what will set you apart from the crowd.

12. What do you do with your free time?

Taking care of and playing with my baby and husband is a major part of my life. I also love backpacking and camping, gardening, thrift store shopping, cooking, music, sewing, soccer, and doing projects.

Thanks so much, Chrissy.