Designer of the Week: Blair Culbreth
Here, we feature some of Culbreth’s best work, a look at her most challenging project and her killer advice for other designers. If you want more, we invite you to join us all at HOW Design Live in Boston. There, Culbreth will present “Illustrate a Better Web,” which features the following takeaways:
How illustration can fit tasks big and small—from communicating simple points, to being at the core of a concept
Ideas for how to adjust your illustration style to fit a site’s UI and appropriately reflect its content and audience
Find the small opportunities to start incorporating illustration into your work immediately
Name: Blair Culbreth
Name of Firm: Designer at Viget
Location: Boulder, CO
Design school attended: BA in English from University of Mary Washington, then a degree in Communication Design from Northern Virginia Community College. The English degree comes in handy more often than I would’ve imagined.
How would you describe your work? I’m primarily an interactive designer; at its core my work is about creating connections. Connecting users to content in meaningful ways, or to tools and apps so that they feel useful and intuitive, or to actual individuals like Philippe Cousteau or Brian Regan. I try to inject personality and some level of fun into all my projects to make them something you *want* to connect to and interact with.
Where do you find inspiration? A bit of everywhere! I’m obsessed with other avenues of design outside of web and interactive. Architecture, interior design, film titles, fashion. Any day I can make a site design that matches my outfit (or my outfit match a site) is a great day. I think it’s only happened twice, but both times felt like major accomplishments.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists? My first favorite artist was Drew Struzan. At 13 I wanted to be him when I grew up and design Star Wars book covers. Now that I think about it, I still want to do that when I grow up.
These days, Olly Moss and the guys at DKNG both do work that’s so witty, detailed, and lovely, it hurts. I also love what Kelli Anderson does; her work is so inventive and wholly unique for each project.
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Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on? Know Lupus is an interactive game to raise awareness about lupus that launched earlier this year. I loved working on something that was for such a good cause. It was important the game be entertaining as well as educational; balancing the two through visuals, illustrations, animations, and a card game interface was a really fun challenge.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far? Shure Design Studio has to be one of the most complicated, all-encompassing, long running projects I’ve worked on. It’s a tool for designing custom microphone handles that included a complex, unique UI that had to feel logical and simple to use, a fun and immersive design style, and branding for the tool. Then there was actually creating illustrations and designs for the tool’s library of ready-to-go microphone designs.
Working on a project over multiple years like that made me realize the importance of creating a design that you really enjoy working on, expanding, and evolving when you’re going to be tinkering with it for so long. Working with all those over-the-top neon and glass effects never got old.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future? As long as I’m still solving interesting problems, helping good clients, having fun, and every now and then creating something super cute, I’ll be happy.
What’s your best advice for designers today? Good design doesn’t actually speak for itself when you’re working with clients and a team. Be comfortable articulating and documenting every detail. I spend almost as much time writing about my work as I do actually working on it. Explain the reasoning behind every design decision you make, so everyone can understand and the conversation can be about reasons and goals, not personal preferences. Defend when you must, without sounding defensive. Compromise when you can. Stay positive. And put everything in writing.
With guidance on best practices and must-have tools for creating positive user experiences, this collection is a practical guide for mastering this niche of design work. For designers working on web projects, this value pack highlights the newest methods and tools for managing workflow, instruction on ensuring cohesiveness across platforms and more. Learn how to properly study people’s attitudes and behaviors and create user profiles to make sure all of your design projects exceed client expectations.