12 Questions: Meet Jamie Vijayaraghavan (Indiana, USA)

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we 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.

We’re very proud to feature Jamie Vijayaraghavan, (crowdSPRING username: jmarfurt) today. Jamie lives and works in Indiana, USA.

1. Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Jamie Vijayaraghavan. I am 28 years old and live in South Bend, Indiana — home to corn fields, Notre Dame, and more lake effect snow than anyone could ever want! I live with my incredibly patient husband Nivas, four adorable dogs, and one very brave cat. A house full of unruly animals definitely keeps us on our toes!

I am an idealist, a vegetarian, a recycling fiend, and a foosball enthusiast, among other things.

2. How did you start out doing graphic design?

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for graphic design. My first love was packaging design, but over the years I’ve realized that logos are my true calling. I think it’s amazing that one simple icon can say so much about a company or an individual.

Once in awhile, I also enjoy some of the more monotonous and tedious work such as large catalogs and price lists. The math geek in me just loves to organize information, work with formulas, create hierarchies of information through formatting, and do all sorts of calculations to ensure that everything is aligned just right. (I’m also a perfectionist, so I do love to torture myself with all the details being just right!)

I think graphic design is a great way to use both sides of your brain. It pairs the logical, detail-oriented side with the creative, risk-taking side. That is what has always drawn me to design – my creativity and inner math-geek can co-exist in harmony!

3. You’ve said that your two passions in life are graphic design and animal rescue. Why is it so important to have passion about something?

Passion is what keeps me going each and every day! If I’m passionate about something, it doesn’t matter how hard I have to work, how many hours I have to put in, how much stress I have to endure, or how many sacrifices I have to make to accomplish my goals.

I love graphic design and animal rescue more than anything in the world — they are both challenging, but very rewarding. I truly hope that 2009 will be my year to escape the office cubicle environment, and work full-time on my freelance career and animal rescue.

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

I find inspiration in all the little things we see in everyday life — billboards, signs for local businesses, food packaging at the grocery store, fliers hanging in the local coffee shop, etc. I am constantly soaking in the world around me – you never know where inspiration may find you!

I also enjoy looking at the work of other designers on crowdSPRING, especially in areas where I do not feel I am particularly strong (like illustration). Doing this definitely challenges me to think outside of my comfort zone!

5. How do you come up with ideas for concepts after you read a buyer’s creative brief?

I typically browse through the projects once a week and bookmark a handful that I find interesting (either because I feel strongly about what the company stands for, or because the project brief presents a unique creative challenge).

My  creative process then depends on each individual project. If it calls for a text-only logo design, I just jump right in with sketching – both on paper and in Illustrator. I’ll play with the letterforms until I eventually come up with something visually interesting. From there, I’ll continue to fine tune the concept, adding color last.

If the project calls for a logo with an icon, then I typically take a few days to let the project stew in my head. An idea will eventually come to me at some point during the day (whether at work or laying in bed trying to sleep). I’ll sketch down the idea so I don’t forget it, and then I’ll work on executing the concept later in Illustrator. Sometimes I will have projects that I find very interesting, but if I an idea doesn’t present itself in the first few days, then I just move onto the next project.

Depending on the project, I may also spend some time researching similar companies to determine what has been done before so I can ensure that I come up with a unique concept.

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

One of my favorites would have to be a series of magazine ads that I designed when I was working for Conn-Selmer. The company was introducing a series of new clarinets and they wanted the ads to focus on the artistry of each model’s construction. As I look back on these ads now, I am still happy with the overall concept — the use of white space, the lack of images other than the product shot, and the focus on a specific word (and dictionary definition) that described each model.

I created these ads when I was fresh out of school, and although I am still proud of them, I can definitely think of a few things I would change in the execution if I had to do it all over again (hey, designers are always their own worst critics, right?)

Another design I am particularly proud of is my thesis project for my final design course in college. We had a semester to create something – anything we would like, as long as all artwork was original and the overall project was involved enough to constitute a semester’s worth of work. I decided to create a safari-themed board game, so I had a semester to come up with the concept of the game and how it was to be played, create a set of rules/instructions, and then create all the artwork needed for the board, cards, playing pieces, instruction book, etc.

To this day, I still have not been as excited about a project as I was for that board game. I think that’s one of the main reasons I’m so proud of it – I poured myself into it and spent endless nights in the computer lab at school designing all the pieces. I still hope to someday sell my board game concept to a game manufacturer, but we’ll see what the future holds!

7. How has technology affected your work?

I grew up on computers, so I feel much more comfortable drawing with a mouse on a computer than with a pencil on paper. I do use pencil and paper for really quick sketches, but I always use the computer when developing a concept. Since I mainly do logos, I work primarily in Adobe Illustrator to create vector-based graphics.

After reading past crowdSPRING interviews, and seeing how much other designers love their Wacom tablets, I will definitely be adding one to my home office in the near future!

8. You have a BFA in graphic design from Indiana University. How important is your formal education in graphic design in your day-to-day work?

A formal education may not be able to teach you how to be creative, but it can give you the tools you will need in the design field. I am very grateful for my education at both the University of Michigan and Indiana University. Both schools taught me the basics I would need to succeed – composition and other design basics, color theory, the importance of brainstorming and sketching, and business skills needed for a freelance career, etc.

My education has created the foundation I needed for my career, and since then it has just been a matter of practicing my skills, and improving with each and every design I create.

9. Please describe your typical work day.

During the week, I work a typical 9-5 day job in the packaging department at Bayer Healthcare, Diabetes Division. I coordinate packaging artwork between our graphic design firm, color house, printers, and international clients. When I get home from work at 5pm, that’s when the day really begins for me. I spend another 5-7 hours on the computer working on freelance jobs, crowdSpring projects, and my animal rescue (Saving Shelter Pets, Inc).

I’m obsessed with being productive, so weekends are spent mainly on my animal rescue and any crowdSPRING projects I’m currently involved in. What can I say – I’m a workaholic!

10. What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a creative professional?

The most challenging aspect of being a graphic designer is when you hit those awful “creative blocks”, where no matter how many sketches you do or how long you think about a project, you just can’t seem to come up with a successful concept. From experience, I know that an idea will eventually come, but in the meantime it’s frustrating being stuck in the very initial stage of a project, unable to move forward.

The most rewarding aspect is when you finally have those creative breakthroughs! After hours of patient sketching, an idea will start standing out from the rest of the pack. That one idea then leads to another, and the design process continues to gain momentum from there. Next thing you know, you’ve got a handful of concepts that you are proud of and excited to share with the client. Nothing beats that feeling!

11. What advice would you offer to someone considering graphics design as a career?

I cannot stress enough the importance of constructive criticism in improving your design skills each and every day, especially when it comes from designers more experienced than you. It’s important to not take criticism personally, but to accept that others may have valuable insight to offer that can take you to that next level.

Additionally, the best advice I can give is to practice, practice, practice! When I look back at some of my designs from even just a year ago, I am amazed at how much my skills have improved just by constantly designing. When I have downtime between freelance jobs, I make sure to hop on crowdSPRING and enter as many projects as possible, and I try to choose jobs that will challenge me and make me a stronger designer.

12. What do you do with your free time?

Free time…what’s that? Between a full-time day job, a handful of freelance clients, crowdSPRING projects, and running a nonprofit organization, I do not have a whole lot of free time. But I do play in an indoor soccer league once a week, and I am currently trying to start a foosball league. It’s difficult to make time for myself, but now that I’ve been getting back into soccer & foosball, I’ve realized just how important it is to unwind and have a little fun once in awhile! 🙂

I also enjoy spending time with my husband and dogs, traveling, tutoring math, and doing pretty much anything outside (as long as it’s warm!)


Thanks, Jamie!