Erin Pine is a Senior Art Director at BatesMeron Sweet Design. In that role, she both develops her own creative designs and nurtures the work of the other designers on the BMSD team. She’s also our Head Coke Zero Drinker and Most Talented Bowler.
I interviewed Erin as part of our 6 Questions feature: a series of one-on-one interviews with people we work with who’ve made us proud. In addition to speaking with our clients to see how they’re rocking their brands, I also like to put BMSDers on the hot seat so you can find out what each of our team members brings to the table.
Read on to learn about Erin’s path to a design career, her must-haves for making beautiful work and her cartoon alter ego.
1. BatesMeron is filled with creative minds that each play their own role in producing great work. As Senior Art Director, where do you fit in as a leader, teammate and designer?
In my role as art director at BatesMeron, my background in print and marketing allows me to help craft and develop design concepts, as well as guide projects along the way. I really enjoy the variety of creative projects that I get to work on at BatesMeron. I have the opportunity to get my hands into a lot of different types of design work with our diverse client roster. It’s great to be able to work on illustrations and logo designs one day, but then organize and direct a photoshoot the next.
I also enjoy being able to to offer feedback from a visual and strategic standpoint—working closely with the BMSD team to bring ideas to life.
2. We know that you’ve got impressive creative skills. Can you tell us how your love for art began and how you got into design?
I have always loved to draw. When I was in grade school, I would spend hours with my best friend covering huge pieces of kraft paper with all sorts of characters that we would invent and create stories about.
Moving into junior high and high school, art was my thing. I didn’t play sports or join many clubs—ALL of my extra time went to art classes. I filled my schedule with as many as I could. And I was lucky—my school had a great art program that kept me engaged and focused on following an artistic career path.
When I started college at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, I wasn’t sure how my artistic skills would translate into a paying job—I was only beginning to think about whether I was better suited to fine art or design. But after two years in the program, with both fine art and design courses under my belt, I recognized that I was better suited to the type of problem-solving and structure that comes with design. I felt like I had the best of both worlds—the ability to be creative and craft solutions with a specific goal in mind.
Fast forward to present day and I have no doubt that designing and art directing is where I belong. I have to give a shoutout and a BIG “thank you” to my wonderfully supportive parents who never pressured me into a “less risky” career path. I feel very fortunate to be doing what I grew up loving, and continue to love.
3. With eight years of experience under your belt and three years as an Art Director, what principles and methods have you developed to ensure the creative process runs smoothly from start to finish?
My experience has taught me that one of the biggest ways to ensure that the process goes smoothly is to get as familiar and close to your client and/or the challenge as possible. In order to have a successful outcome, you have to really understand the problem, and that’s not always easy. Everyone has a different method for doing this, but what’s important is that you have drilled down to the core of what you’re trying to achieve.
Then, the next step is to make sure that you don’t get so immersed in the idea that you lose your ability to reach really out of the box creatively. Never underestimate the power of collaboration. I hesitate to use the word “brainstorm” because it’s not about having an obligatory kick-off process—it’s about finding a balance between researching and beginning to grow your ideas alone but then knowing when it’s time to collaborate in order to identify the strong ideas and help push them even further.
Essentially, one of the simplest but hardest things I have learned that has helped my process is to know when (and who) to ask for help. The fact is, there are often times in the creative process when you get stuck. Rather than sitting and waiting for the creative fog to pass, I share it with a colleague. I’ve found that sometimes I am already halfway to the solution, but it just took talking through it for me to recognize it.
4. What are three things you could not work and create beautiful designs without?
1. Clif Bars—it’s hard to be creative when I can’t hear anything over my angry stomach grumbling.
2. My Wacom Tablet—when I first tried using one it felt like I was trying to work with my feet instead of my hands. But once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t imagine working another way. It’s just so much more natural and fluid to use—especially when I am working on more illustrative designs in Photoshop or Illustrator.
3. My coworkers—for so many reasons, but one very important reason is the social aspect. I can be pretty quiet, so my coworkers may be surprised to hear me say this, but I couldn’t work without having them around to chat with or to provide random comic relief.
5. BatesMeron has a lot of brainstorms and collaborative meetings to help our creatives come up with fresh ideas for our clients. From these discussions, how do you pull out the duds from the ideas with potential?
I have found that during brainstorms it can be tempting to quickly write off ideas as “done before,” overused or cliché before giving them a chance to blossom into a bigger idea. I think that the best way to get to a good idea is by feeling comfortable with throwing out all the bad ones too—it helps to get them all out there in order to start to see some patterns in the kinds of things that would be expected so that you see opportunities to veer toward the more unexpected.
It’s also important to continue to measure the idea against the goal. In some cases I might have an idea that I think is really exciting and creative, but if it doesn’t align with the goal you have to know when it’s time to put it on the shelf.
6. You’re a child of the 80s and 90s. If you had to choose, which old-school TV character would you say you’re the most like?
Well, I don’t know that I am most like her, but I had a minor obsession with She-Ra—yes, the awesome cartoon character from He-Man and She-Ra. I used to craft her tiara and cuffs out of cereal boxes and tinfoil. When I ran in a race in Milwaukee I thought it was the perfect opportunity to revisit my childhood.
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