Katie Heater Interview

This is the continuation of a new series of posts highlighting former commonvision student designers and animators. The work that commonvision alums create is remarkable. We want to share what they have been up to since graduating from UMBC. 


commonvision: When were you working with commonvision and what was your role?

Katie Heater: I worked at commonvision from October 2006 - May 2013. I started as an office assistant but transitioned to a full time role and then a graduate assistant. I did a little bit of anything and everything!

 cv: What skills and experiences did you gain at commonvision that has helped you out in the "real world"?KH: I learned a lot of practical customer service and design skills (I had never even used a Mac before starting at commonvision!), but mostly I learned how to be a competent and productive adult. A lot of that has to do with all the incredible people I had the pleasure of working with who pushed me to be better and work harder.


cv: Are there any projects that you are particularly fond of having created while working at commonvision?KH: One of the most exciting and surprising things to have happened was the development of our screen-printing demos. I had no idea if it would work and was a totally crazy idea, but people ended up loving it. I'm happy to see that it's still going strong!


cv: What have you been up to since you left UMBC?

KH: I just celebrated my one-year anniversary in Brighton, England. My husband was offered a job here in October 2012 as a Lead Character Artist for a video game company. We spent 8 months apart and I moved out here to be with him after I completed my MFA. Brighton is great, and actually reminds me a lot of Baltimore at times. It's crazy quirky and has a small town feel with all of the benefits of city life.

 Since moving here, I spent 9 months managing a contemporary art gallery with an environmental focus, and have recently started working for a print and design company based in the city centre -- can you believe it!?


cv: What differences have you noticed between the designs worlds of the USA and the UK?

KH: Centimeters! I still have a hard time with the metric system. The print sizes are similar, but just a little bit bigger or smaller. For the most part though, things are pretty similar.


cv: Is the food in the UK as bad as its reputation?

KH: It’s been a challenge and a thrill to try all the new food and find substitutes for American favorites. My husband and I cook a lot, and the produce and meat over here is much better quality. I do miss Mexican food a lot though!


 cv: Is there any one thing that has surprised you about living and working in Bristol?

KH: Snails! They're literally everywhere and I love them.


 cv: How would you describe your "style"? How did you come to working this way? And who are some other artists/designers that inspire you?

KH: I started out as a printmaker and painter so I'm really precious when it comes to my materials, and rejected digital for so long! There's always a thread of this approach when I'm working on a project.

 I always appreciate artist’s stretch the boundaries of their disciplines.


cv: What do you feel has been the most successful project of yours? Or, which one do you think speaks most to your ideas and concepts?

KH: A few years ago I drew each of my 800+ Facebook friend's profile pictures. It started out as a fun exercise but ended up informing a lot of future work.


 cv: What advice would you give the current commonvision student staff and UMBC students that are about graduate and leave the comfortable academic environment?

KH: OOF! The real world is REAL! Pay your bills on time, always say 'Thank You', never expect the world to do you any favors, and never settle!


cv: What is the one thing graduating students need to know?

KH: No one knows what they are doing, just find your own weird little comfort in the unknown and you'll be OK.


Stephanie Palinkas Interview

This is the continuation of a new series of posts highlighting former commonvision student designers and animators. The work that commonvision alums create is remarkable. We want to share what they have been up to since graduating from UMBC. 


Stephanie Palinkas graduated from UMBC in 2006 with a BA in Graphic Design. In 2011, she received her MFA from the University of Baltimore in Publications Design. She held several important positions at commonvision during her time here. She is currently employed at the Department of Defense and will not tell us what she does! She was kind enough to answer some questions about her design work, her interest in photography, and the honor of having our mascot named after her. 


commonvision: When were you at commonvision and what was your role?

Stephanie Palinkas: I worked at commonvision from 2004-2012. 8 years, wow what a great journey I had!

I started out as a student employee where I worked in the wonderful world of printing. In 2006, I accepted the position of Copy Center Supervisor. This position allowed me to be involved in the creation of the 3rd floor production room that housed all the large production equipment. At that time I became a full-time operator on the color production printer, wide-format printer, and finishing equipment. I served as the lead on training student employees to operate the equipment in the production room. In 2011, I became the Coordinator of commonvision, which allowed me to be more involved with the design process and helping student employees refine their artwork. It was the best of both worlds; I still got to be involved with the printing side of the office, but was able to develop my own skills as a Graphic Designer. I couldn't have asked for a better experience from commonvision and UMBC.

cv: How important of an honor is it that our office mascot is named after you?

SP: I was so surprised at my going away party that we finally had an office pet and it was a fish named after me. Unfortunately, "Stephanie" didn't last too long and now you have "Hemling". That one seems sturdy! Although, I did get married this past November so I think "Hemling" should have a friend named "Palinkas"...just saying! :-)

cv: What projects are you particularly fond of having created and/or worked on while at commonvision?

SP: Wow, there are so many! The ones that stand out to me are: Art Week has to be my number one, I remember when it was just one evening called Visual Aid and now it has developed into an entire week. The entire UMBC community is a part of it, which is awesome! Leave Your Mark, which happens during Welcome Week, I was involved with starting up that great tradition for the incoming freshmen. The design work that I am most proud of is the refresh of the commonvision logo and the complete re-brand of Off-Campus Student Services (OCSS). It's so cool when I visit The Commons and see the icons I created lit up in the light boxes.

cv: What are you currently up to?

SP: I have been working for the Department of Defense for almost two years now. It really has been an awesome experience and I am looking forward to seeing where this new challenge takes me. I got married on November 2, 2013, so that was a pretty awesome personal accomplishment. Shout out to Jen Dress for officiating our ceremony! It was fun because I got to create our wedding logo and all print related items. My whole vision came together that day! I have been experimenting with CrossFit, it is really fun, but intimidating/challenging at the same time. I am also planning on training for the Tough Mudder. We shall see how that goes, haha!

cv: How would you describe your style? What are your motivations and influences?

SP: Simple would be one word to describe my style. I am not an illustrator, but I feel like I have gotten better over the years with simple/cute designs. Always keep learning and developing your skills. I love typography, one day I will create my own typeface! Eric Gill has always been an inspiration. Graphic Design USA is a free publication that I look at all the time for inspiration. I also love paper sample books; they are beautifully designed and at the same time a complex print piece.

cv: What do you think is the most important/influential advertising and design campaign? Why?

SP: A historical advertising campaign that sticks out to me is the De Beers "A Diamond Is Forever". Expressing the characteristics of a diamond, "A diamond is forever", is a slogan that is still said today. It is really cool to see something that was trending in the past and is still said today. That is what good design and marketing can do. A current design campaign would be Nike's "Just Do It". I like how their logo is simple and primarily typographic. The "Just Do It" slogan just makes wanna go workout!

cv: In a constant and ever increasing digital world, what do you think is the role of traditional print media?

SP: Print had a huge role in my wedding. I did have an accompanying website, but print initially got the word out! I still think print has a role; it is not a dying art form in my opinion. I think it is to good look and hold something that is not always backlit and plugged in.

cv: You also have an interest in photography. What type of photos do you like to take? How does the photography influence your design work and vice versa?

SP: I love photography! That is how I started. One semester at CCBC Catonsville I decided that it would be cool to take a black and white photo class. Wait for it...with actual film! The rest is history. That is what I ended up majoring in and then transferred over to UMBC. It has really been a long time since I have taken photos, I really need to get back into it. I like the photo journalistic approach to photography. Capturing that special moment without the subject even realizing. I also enjoy portrait photography. I did this series in Grad School where I took photographs of existing graffiti around Maryland. I then added my own style to it by "tagging" each photograph with my name. That was not my intention at first, but then the idea came to me once I was editing. Design inspiration can come from all forms of art!

cv: Who are some photographers that you admire?

SP: Ansel Adams has to be my favorite. Just the tones in his black and whites are just amazing. To me landscape photography is so hard to capture, his landscapes just give off that sense of peace. I remember going to Special Collections at UMBC when I was taking that black and white photo class at Catonsville. We passed around real Ansel Adams photographs, I remember holding my breath. That was an experience I will never forget.


cv: What advice would you give current commonvision and UMBC students that are about to enter the "real world"? 

SP: My advice would be is to never stop learning. The more diverse your resume is the better you look to future employers. The same goes with your portfolio, keep updating it and creating new pieces.


cv: What is the one thing that commonvision staff absolutely needs to know?

SP: This is a great question. I would say learn everything that the office offers. Whether it's learning a new printer or sitting with an I-Net Animator to see how the process is done. If you have the opportunity, present at ACUI. There are so many cutting edge things that the office does, share it with other schools in the region. I know that the office has changed so much in the 2 years that I have been gone. I can't wait to visit and maybe get the latest awesome t-shirt...wink wink! ;-)


You can chweck out more about her work and projects on her website.