Call for entries: The HOW International Design Awards closes next month.
Designer of the Week Ashley Webelhuth is a true learner. Beyond her BFA in graphic design, she continues her pursuit of knowledge still today, through every design project she takes on and every new opportunity she explores. Here, she gives us a look into her process, projects and experiences.
Name: Ashley Webelhuth
Company: Momentum Worldwide
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Design school attended: Webster University
How would you describe your work?
My work is highly detailed, structured and obsessive through the use of line, texture, and repetition of elements. I enjoy utilizing various materials and processes; working across print, digital and web platforms; and finding ways to increase user engagement and interaction. Although my work is a mix of art and design with varying purposes, the heart of it explores and responds to the relationship between man and machine, the illusion and beauty of advancing technology, and how our use and perception of it will change over time.
Early on as a design student, I had some setbacks and struggled to figure out my identity as a designer. Some artists and designers have a distinct, instantly recognizable style that really defines who they are as an individual. As my work developed, I discovered that I personally didn’t find it satisfying or challenging to design in a fixed style or use the same medium multiple times over, nor was it necessary to do so in order to be successful. Fortunately around that time of realization, one of my design professors introduced me to Paula Scher’s work. In an interview, Scher stated, “If you get good at something and become known for it, then it’s time to change it. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck and people will get tired of it. You’ve got to grow. Sometimes that means putting yourself in a position where you might fail or do bad work for a while because you’re still finding yourself …”
From that point forward, continuing to explore unfamiliar territory is exciting, freeing, uncomfortable and ultimately where I feel the most challenged. I look forward to the mistakes and failures that are yet to come; it’s the only way to measure growth.
America Is Really The Beautiful | wood, copper wire, light | 11.25” x 6’ | photo credit: Johnny Pelhank
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in everything I read, things that occur worldwide and in my personal life, having curiosity of the unknown, and thinking ahead about what’s yet to come as we continue making technological advancements as a society. The range of work created by designers and artists around the world is inspiring as well, in respect to its influence on society and styles that haven’t personally been applied. Being involved in the AIGA community locally and nationally also provides a great way to stay on top of what’s current, find ways to push the envelope for design, and become more disciplined.
More specific to the process, I find inspiration in materials that I haven’t yet utilized. Overcoming each challenge that involves unfamiliar mediums and techniques fuels my determination to continue growing and discover my fullest potential. Stumbling upon Fred Eerdekens’ shadow sculptures (figuratively, not literally), my initial thought was that his wonderfully executed pieces looked nearly impossible to produce; however, I was determined to figure out how he wrote with shadows. After studying his work, I created America Is Really The Beautiful. If the light wasn’t positioned in the correct spot or wasn’t on at all, you’d only see wire in disarrangement. It’s all about perspective, and there’s more to the piece than what initially meets the eye.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
A few of my favorite designers include Paula Scher, Michael Bierut, John Maeda, and Stefan Sagmeister. Collectively, they’ve influenced my mindset, process, style and execution as I continue to grow and gain experience. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet Michael last year at the national AIGA Design Conference in Las Vegas. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to meet Paula, John and Stefan sometime in the future as well.
The Evolution of Here and Now (TEHN) | BFA Exhibition | acrylic boxes, animation, envelopes, iPad, pens, response cards, vinyl lettering, website, wristbands | photo credit: Johnny Pelhank
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
Among all the projects I’ve worked on, The Evolution of Here and Now (TEHN) is my favorite, as it pulls engagement and execution inspiration from Milton Glaser’s Road to Hell and Stefan Sagmeister’s The Happy Show. With more than 300 participants and a little over eight and a half more years until its completion, TEHN was (and still is) quite an undertaking. Proving to be the most challenging project to produce on my own, this piece examines how our relationship, morals and limits with technology will transform over time both individually and as a society over a 10-year time span. Having strongly expressed my thoughts on the relationship between humanity and technology in pieces that preceded this one, I found it imperative to invite others to share their thoughts on this topic as well and see first-hand how things will change over time.
To describe what this piece involved, TEHN requires participants to identify any fears they may have with technology and determine how far they are willing to go in regards to its advancements. They’re also encouraged to handwrite a letter to themselves, describing their current relationship with technology in addition to what they like and dislike most about it. As the final element, I designed a website (www.tehn-journey.com) that will eventually serve as a way to connect only those who participated entirely with the piece to reflect upon and recognize the transformative role technology had in their life and society. Once the year 2026 arrives, the participants’ letters will be mailed back to them along with the password to the website. Although 10 years is only a fragment in time, my hopes with this piece are that people will begin to analyze more closely their relationship with technology, recognize how its role has transformed over time, and figure out where their limits with it exist as it continues to quickly evolve.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
The work currently being developed for a Top Fuel vehicle program stands out as the biggest challenge of my career thus far. Unfortunately, I cannot provide images of this project since the work won’t be released until early 2018.
However, I can tell you that my concept wouldn’t be able to come to life without all of the help and support of my team. In a general sense, it’s such a rewarding feeling when you’re operating within firm brand guidelines and you’re able to take the client past their comfort zone. Although this particular project is quite an undertaking, I believed in it and my team believed in it. Without their support (and of course client approval), it would be nonexistent.
Mumbo | mobile and interactive billboard app
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
In the future, I hope to keep solving problems with design, finding ways to bring people together through the use of technology, and improving user interaction and experience with a combination of analog and digital elements. I also hope to keep pushing the limits of what I’m familiar with and just have fun making things. At this stage in my life, I realize that I have quite a ways to go in terms of gaining knowledge and experience. As a larger goal, I hope to someday reach the level of some of my design heroes (previously listed) and positively influence the design community just as they have by continuing to raise the standards, motivate designers to push further, and design for the betterment of society.
Despite spending a majority of time creating work digitally due to the nature of my job, I also hope to maintain and improve my drawing skills. There are far too many designers and art directors I’ve spoken with who weren’t able to keep up with their fine art skills, eventually losing that ability.
As a final note, the opportunity to share my work with a much larger audience like this is truly humbling and gratifying. Hopefully there will be more opportunities like this throughout my career. (Many thanks to all who have supported me and helped me get where I am today!)
Untitled (in-progress series) | digital illustration
What’s your best advice for designers today?
- Have mentors. It’s so incredibly important to have people you can trust to ask questions and provide guidance as you continue to learn, grow and go through various transitions in life.
- Always be reading something. Whether or not it’s related to design or the focus of your work, there’s a lot of information to absorb out there. Be a sponge. Those outside sources greatly influence your thought and work processes, flex your imagination muscles, and also help you develop empathy. The more research you do and knowledge you acquire, the more substance your designs will have and the more thoughtful they will be.
- Care about what you’re designing. Otherwise, you’re not providing a reason for anyone else to.
- Make time. Unless things are truly a cluster, “I didn’t have time” is an overused excuse that manifests lack of commitment and accountability, both with respect to meeting deadlines and life occurrences in general. Everyone is working with the same amount of minutes in a day. Prioritize and use them wisely.
Untitled (commission) | pencil | 11” x17”