PRINT’s Designer of the Week Kate Manos spent her first year out of college as an independent freelancer, refining her design chops as she created work for nonprofits, academic institutions and small design firms. Afterward, she built a diverse body of work at GOOD magazine, and then went on to become verynice‘s first employee in 2013. About to pursue her MFA at Otis College of Art and Design, Manos currently resides in the Arts District of Downtown with her husband, two black cats and a puppy named Charlie.
Name: Kate Manos
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Design school attended: UCLA (undergrad), OTIS College of Art & Design (MFA, current)
How would you describe your work?
I enjoy creating clean, typographic designs, incorporating hand-drawn elements (handwriting, doodles) and photography when I can. I don’t illustrate a lot, but when I do, it tends to be either flat or doodles. I am also a self-described street photographer, capturing hidden parts of LA.
Where do you find inspiration?
I collect ephemera, especially anything that is related to my hometown of LA. I like to dig through sites like designspiration.net, siteinspire.com and even Pinterest to collect anything that catches my eye. I like getting lost in rabbit holes of stories of the past or the obscure.
In the real world, I’ll take a walk around my neighborhood (the Arts District in Downtown LA) with my camera and photograph compositions that are either highlighting [both] the decay and layering my surroundings are experiencing, or scenes that seem mundane and ordinary and capturing the interactions that are going on around me.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
Artists like Maira Kalman have taught me that classical training isn’t necessary to feel validated in creating. Maira Kalman’s work is unrefined, playful (or serious, if she feels like it), and deeply personal. Her collections of ephemera inspire my own.
[Related: Enjoy bits bits of advice, inspiration and anecdotes from Maira Kalman.]
Louise Sandhaus’ design and historical curiosity (check out her book Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936-1986) brought her into my consciousness. I love that her design work expands to museum exhibitions, books, installations—proving to me that design doesn’t have to end on the screen or at the printer.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
I’ve always had a soft spot for dynamic identities. Branding the Pasadena Museum of California Art was successful because they fully understood and loved the idea! Since PMCA is a small museum with no standing permanent collection, they switch up their galleries on a regular basis. We wanted to reflect that in their logo: every new exhibition is highlighted by a frame created by their logomark. We also recreated their website, making sure photographs took up the most real estate on the screen, as well as making it easier to navigate and see what exhibits are up. The best part … besides being a member of their museum before working together, is that they’ve really used the brand guidelines to expand their brand, which is every designer’s dream.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
The most comprehensive project I’ve worked on as a professional designer was the rebranding of verynice.co, my husband’s company where I worked for several years before deciding to pursue my MFA. It’s rare to be in charge of rebranding a brand that is so personally connected to me—I felt a huge responsibility in interpreting Matthew’s personality and brand as well as the amazing people and work that make up verynice. As brand director, I pared down the color scheme to two bright colors that, to me, reflected the playfulness and boldness that I know verynice embodies, as well as the professionalism of seriousness of the work they do. I incorporated handwriting and drawings into the brand as well, which can be seen in many of the graphics on the site and social media.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I’m starting my MFA in graphic design this coming June at Otis College of Art and Design, which is an accomplishment in itself! Being out of school for the past seven years has given me “real world experience,” and I’m ready to get my hands dirty and really figure out what it is I’m passionate about. So, in that vein, I hope to zero in on what I love to do and how I can use design to turn that into a full-time job, either at an institution or my own endeavor.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
Explore. Keep your portfolio up to date. Explain your work, understand yourself and your goals. Learn all that you can, try new things. Try to remember that the work you create, for yourself or otherwise, is worth bragging about.
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