Q & A 

A LITTLE MORE CONVERSATION

Interviews can be tough to know someone’s personality, portfolio and skill level plus their background and capabilities all in 45 minutes or less. Let’s get to brass tacks. I’m interested in working full time or remote freelance, with potential for joining a studio or company. Alas, I know time is precious for many creative directors, so here are some things I enjoy chatting about if we had hours to talk and went out for a long lunch. 

 

What sparks your fire?

I like to make things. Printed things, web things, app things… a lot of things. But not only just things, producing ideas from concept to completion. I am a big fan of small studios and intimate design teams who value the principles of good design above all else. Quick to market, or agencies that talk a lot of talk, don’t thrill me as much. Sure, I like to talk and think and strategize with research and intent, but I love to see studios who work on beautiful executions of objects, products and communications materials that have core design principles as a foundation. Being amongst a dynamic team of producers, developers, artists, writers and researchers that can adapt to the shifting needs of client initiatives and resources gets me up out of bed in the morning.

So, what’s your story?

Fifteen years as a graphic designer is a long story. Maybe chatting over a few cups of coffee could cover it, but I can summarize.

I love what I do, and I thrive on working with other creative minds, whether they are in science, tech, fashion, beauty, arts, healthcare, social justice, sustainability... Creative energy is palpable.

After 100" of snowfall in Boston one winter, I hit a wall in a creative rut, quite possibly with seasonal affective disorder. I was indeed very SAD. I knew it was time to move on from the beloved studio job I had been with for 8 years, but didn’t know how or what to do. At the same time, my relationship was also stagnant and frustrating on many levels. I didn’t feel like I was fully myself—doing, feeling, or acting in a way that I could reach my full potential. For many reasons my personal and work-life unravelled before me, so I sought help. I got a career coach, a therapist, a nutritionist, a trainer and began asking myself.. “why?” It was the best and worst year of my life. I went freelance officially and my life changed drastically. I ended a relationship, I moved out of collective work space, I travelled as much as I could, and set my sights on the West coast for new opportunities to grow as a designer and as a human. This lead me here, this fuels my design drive, this was a gift of freedom that allowed me to harness what many people shy away from—change. I can only hope to be open and share this with anyone who struggles with the same doubts of their own potential.

 

What can you bring to a team with your expertise and background?

Consulting: I've gained a lot of insight into guiding people in the right direction and asking the right kind of questions that dig deep about what the client wants and needs, even if they don’t know what they’re looking for.

Print and packaging: Years knowing about the physical development of an object and design for space, tactile elements, printing methods, printing oversight, material specs, production timelines, etc.

Analysis: Deep comprehension of a subject, research, being over prepared to anticipate design challenges while problem-solving and asking questions even if they are dumb.

Recruiting, managing and delegating with people to get the job done with impeccable standards and expertise... expecting the best.

Being humble, kind, understanding and allowing the creative process to grow and be nurtured in a positive environment. I know I’m not the best designer in the world, but I try my best—9 times out of 10 that's better than most.

Name some qualifiers that make you desirable. If we were going to date—but professionally

Organized chaos. I design from a place of informed intuition and perspective. Looking future forward to what or how a design initiative can deliver the needs for a client right now and most importantly for the future state of a company or brand... or movement.

I would say I'm introspective, an analyzer, thinker, always curious, kind-hearted, work-focused but maintain life balance. I'm dedicated, driven, sweet, empowered, fluid, experimental, interested, passionate, an explorer, diligent, friendly, a team player, highly independent, able to collaborate and exchange ideas. Date me, I swear I'll sweep you off your feet!

How do you handle high-pressure situations?

When I feel pressure mounting, especially with a deadline, or presentation.. or with a client... I try to gain some quick perspective, and realize, these are moments in time that will pass—they always will. Looking to push through the hard ones is like riding a bike up a steep hill. You got your gears maxed out and your quads are burning, you breathe, you grind your teeth a little, you grunt and buck up... you are growing stronger and capable with every push. As hard as it is you can see the top, but you just have to keep going. The hard parts and stressful parts in work situations are really not that big a deal (compared to riding up 5,000 ft hill climb). Having the grace and eloquence to calmly look at an issue or snafu, and being able to correct it or mitigate things with tact and compassion. Everyone wins when you are calm, clear, direct and just want to help make things better. Being a team player is essential and effective for working through other peoples needs, and voicing your own in the process. Non-violent communication tactics work.

What field is most interesting or curious about right now?

I've personally love researching and exploring challenging concepts with no immediate answer, so I'm excited about the combination of science and design. The Biotech industry has some amazing things coming along. I've worked with researchers and labs in at universities, climate change and sustainability organizations, and healthcare initiatives. Anything promoting environmental, health and social thought shifts our country needs to pay attention to I'm all for supporting and contributing to. I'm also forever curious about space and time, philosophy, and physics to name a few.  If I wasn't a designer I would probably be a research scientist or writer.

Clients you have worked with you were excited about?

I love working with non-profits and organizations that empower communities or people to grow and spread knowledge.

Project Hello World: Promotional Book Design
Crews for a Cause: Visual Identity and Art Direction 
North Bennet Street School: Visual Identity System + Campaign
Physicians for Human Rights: AIDS Campaign Poster
IDEO.org, Health XO:  9ja Girls Brand Books

I have a love affair with paper and packaging and do my best to look for sustainable solutions or multipurpose afterlife to maximize its use, less throw-away mentality. That said, I see foil stamping is back on trend... for years I had clients that didn’t want to appear “too flashy” to look like they had large marketing spending budgets in the recession. Being savvy and purposeful in a material selection with conceptual intent is my favorite part of the process.

Morgan & Milo: Visual Identity, Retail Packaging, E-commerce responsive website
Heather McGrath: Promotional Collateral
Sidekick Socks: Visual Identity, Art Direction, Packaging

Side projects? What are they?

  • Settle: "Pay Forward" Payment App
  • Finding Trouble: Short film art direction
  • Lull: A publication series of visual and written essays from the void
  • Fringe: A 7 year photo book of working from a dusty warehouse in Somerville, MA
  • Mindless Love: A zine of notes and love letters from a broken heart
     

I love to write. I don’t necessarily like sharing my stream of thoughts on social platforms, but would much rather write for small books or memoir; aka working title; “Fortunately, I seem to have made a lot of mistakes.” 

What do you do in your free time?

I read, cycle, do squats, daydream, be with friends, cook, travel, write. Looking forward to riding my bike on more epic adventures along the Pacific coast as much as possible. I want to ride across the country and make a zine from it called “The Daily Hurt” —influenced by the book Wild by Nature by Sarah Marquis. 

What gets your head churning and engaged?

Questions! I love exploring the idea stage and brainstorming, creating mood, looking for visual directions and honing in on a big idea. Going to museums and galleries always spark something. Reading and looking at design publications or going to experimental music shows also perk me up. 

What shuts your brain down to relax?

Going for a long long bike ride. Sitting near the water, looking at the ocean. Being in the woods. Basking in the sun (not too long, I burn easily). Closing my eyes and breathing in fresh air. Being caught in the elements; wind, rain, snow can provide a good jolt of energy. Sometimes I watch something silly on Netflix.

Who are your influencers now and in the past?

Tammy Dayton / Moth Design
Adam Larson / Adam & Co.
Hein Haugland (NY mentor)
Stefan Sagmeister
Jessica Walsh

Tobias van Schneider (TY for creating Semplice and being rad!)
Joseph Albers
Paula Share
Louise Fili
Erik Spiekermann
Sol LeWitt
Paul Rand
Eliott Earls 
Nicholas Feltron 
Swoon
Basquiat 
Warhol  

Go to typeface, favorite typeface, what's in the mix right now?

Raisonne from Colophon Type is fun
Reckless from Displaay Type is my dream come true
Anything from Grilli Type..
Love you guys. <3
Go to typeface at the moment is Reader from Colophon
. It reads so good.

Books you are currently reading or on a list to read?

Heroines by Kate Zambreno  (Current)
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr 
The Women Who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin 
The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley  

Apps you use or are excited about?

Pocket— the Chrome extension
Evernote—best for organizing ideas
TeuxDeux —saved my do-do list life
Harvest — time well managed
Craft— the plugin for Sketch is a dream
Blind—for shits, giggles and dumb valley gossip
Cushion
Cash 
Robinhood 
Freehand—extension to InVision
Principle
AndCo

What do you want most for your career?
What’s your WHY?

I am a deep thinker, highly independent, curious, contemplative, a wanderer—yet my why is about the eternal discovery of stories, ideas and meaning behind what we do. It is in how to show up, do my best, nail it out, have a good time in the process. I love talking about the wonders of creativity and expression, human development and behavior, analyzing thought patterns and systems. I am always eager to look at complex problems—sorting through those puzzle pieces and mapping out the moves.

I want to be part of a larger community of thinkers that are looking to push the envelope. See what's next, what's possible... I was part of a collective of young creative entrepreneurs in Somerville that set me in motion to pursue the things I wanted to build with a diverse network. I want more of that, I want that times 1,000. I don't want to just go to a "fun" job. I have a fun job now. It's called being a totally autonomous nomadic freelance designer, and it's brought me around the world, made new friends, and expanded my way of thinking. Now, I want to use those insights and energy to focus on the things this world needs to really rally behind as a collective intelligence. I feel it is my duty to use design in a way to elevate everyday living, communication and awareness for those ideas and people who need and deserve it most. 

I am not a rockstar. But I do have a fire in my belly to do more, get out there, share, inspire, connect, create, be awesome as much as I can during my time here on earth... allowing for some great thoughts, probably some bad ideas in the process, with the support and effort of a great team.

With gratitude and sincerity, I would be totally great at any design project you fire at me.

Thanks for reading!
—Monica Greenwald

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU!

Fast paced and chaotic or slow and methodical? 

How do you lead a group of designers at the beginning of a project to launch and get the excitement/momentum up?

How do you critique? What is your approach?

Agile method? Daily Scrum? What do you prefer? if any..

Small team vs big team.. How do you see things working when there are many moving parts and people to manage?

iCal, Google Cal, Basecamp, Slack, Hangouts; How do you best manage and communicate remotely?

What's on your Spotify playlist this week?

What's for lunch is not a conversation topic. How do you engage with your team and not talk about work?

What makes your company amazing to work for?