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 Lewis Agrell (crowdSPRING username: lagrell) today. Lewis lives and works in Prescott, Arizona.
1. Please tell us about yourself.
I was born in Minnesota, but wanderlust struck after graduating from the University of Minnesota. I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Florida and currently live in Arizona (my favorite spot of them all). I live at 5,280 feet with my wife and our cat, Ellie. We get four seasons. If it gets too cold, we can zip down to Phoenix. If it gets too hot, we can zip up to Flagstaff (7,000 feet). It’s great! I was a double major in college: Theater and Art. Theater won, for five years, then I went back to art, and never looked back. I think that my theater experience makes some of my work a bit “theatrical.” Sometimes this works great, sometimes it works against me. “Less is more,” as they say.
I worked as the Chief Artist for the New York Times Company in Sarasota, Florida, for ten years, and had the opportunity to work as both an illustrator and a designer. Great experience! After a decade of the daily news cycle, I knew it was time to move on. It was too cozy. What I thought was the dream job of a lifetime, turned out to be just another cubicle trap. I needed more freedom. I packed up the family and moved to Arizona. My wife, Kathryn, (a professional writer) and I started The Agrell Group, and we worked primarily with the locals. When the Internet was born, it was the perfect vehicle to start to branch out, nationally and internationally. I currently work pretty steadily with two publishing houses, designing covers. CrowdSpring was a wonderful discovery. Not only have I been blown away by the talent, but it is my new college education. I learn something from every competition. It’s humbling!
2. Which of your designs are your favorites and why?
The Frankenstein Motorworks logo design is one of my favorites. What a great name for a business! How often does something like that come along? The Hollywood Farms project was fun. I didn’t win this competition, but I really like the way the rooster came out. Maybe it will be used later, in some other competition. Note the theatrical quality in both logo designs. These types of projects are the most fun for me.
3. Are you inspired at all by pop culture?
Pop culture is unavoidable. A lot of it is very harsh and ugly, and that doesn’t do much for me, although I will confess to doing some “grunge” work now and then. In this business, you have to keep your eyes and mind open to everything that exists.
4. Who/what are some of the biggest influences on your design work?
Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser were way up there. They always create spectacular stuff.
5. How do you come up with ideas for concepts after you read a buyer’s creative brief?
I have three sketch pads to my left at my work station. That’s the quickest and best way. I also have a sketch pad next to my bed. I’m sure that it drives my wife crazy. It’s dangerous to sketch right before bed, because the brain can keep working. There have been lots of times that I have gotten out of bed at 5:00 in the morning to work out a concept.
100% Mac, all the way. Fantastic computer!
7. How has technology affected your work?
Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are the tools of the trade. Couldn’t live without these two. I used to work entirely on the board. Now it’s 95 percent on the computer, and 5% on the board. I subscribe to “HOW” magazine.
8. What are your favorite websites for inspiration or learning about graphic design?
Actually, the Brits have some great magazines that provide plenty of inspiration. I need to get away from the computer, once in a while! “Computer Arts,” “Advanced Photoshop,” and “Photoshop Creative” are three of my favorites. I grab a handful of design magazines from Barnes and Noble, sit in the corner, and soak up the articles.
Normally, I’m at the computer at 6:00 in the morning. CrowdSpring takes up most of my morning time. The late morning and afternoon are for my regular freelance work. Sometimes I’ll come down in the evening and work a bit on some CrowdSpring projects.
10. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a graphic designer?
What’s better than being creative? It makes life a much more interesting experience. The most challenging aspect is trying to top yourself. Trying to reach for greater imagination and perfection. It’s a long climb up that mountain! Complacency, ego and vanity are the worst traps in the world.
Go to art school. A good one. Learn every bit of information that you can from your instructors and from your talented friends. Try to work with the best people in the business, if you can. Never stop learning.
12. What do you do with your free time?
Northern Arizona is the perfect place to escape into Nature. With Sedona and Flagstaff short drives away, it’s easy to take mini-vacations. These mini-trips are essential to avoid computer burn-out. The beauty of these areas are food for the soul, and will have some effect on my work.
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