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. 


Adam J Kurtz Interview

This is the first in 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. 

Adam J. Kurtz graduated in 2009. He currently is a graphic designer and artist living in NYC. He is interested in the ephemera of daily life and describes his work as , "really, really, personal." He was kind enough to answer some questions about his work, time at commonvision and thoughts about the future of print media. 


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

Adam J Kurtz: I joined commonvision in January of 2008 as a designer. By the time I graduated two years later, I was the design manager.

cv: What skills and experiences did you gain at commonvision that has helped you out in the "real world"?

AJK: I think the majority of my UMBC education actually came from my time at commonvision. From practical design ideas and tools, to production methods, everything has a part, and we had to communicate it to each other and with the customers. We had to think not just about aesthetics but how to actually make things – an important lesson that many classmates often missed when we’d scramble to print course assignments.

One thing I took away in particular is how to do a lot with a little. We found creative ways to use black and white copying to maximize budgets for customers and ourselves, using different paper stocks and different tones. A lot of my personal work today still invokes those aesthetics, though I have a color printer, I find myself gravitating to the basics.

cv: Are there any projects you are particularly fond of having created while working at commonvision?

 AJK: I designed the 2009-2010 UMBC Student Handbook, a weekly planner that also contains the university policies and resources. It was an important project that needed to be functional and legible, and thousands of copies were distributed to all new students, with more on sale at the bookstore. UMBC often represents itself with tokens and ideas, but I chose to let the student body speak for itself by capturing students in a makeshift photo booth. The true diversity represented, not just defined by ethnicity, but in personal interests, from slogan tees to skateboards, is something I am really proud of. 

I’m in there, disguised in a wrestling hoodie.

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

 AJK: After graduation I rested my eyes for just one second and accidentally slept until yesterday.

Juuuuuust kidding! I’ve been with a few studios/agencies (video production, web development/marketing, traditional advertising) and done a whole mess of fun freelance work for clients like Urban Outfitters and The New York Times.

I’ve kept busy with personal projects, including my “internet gift shop” items, self-published paper goods like my popular “Unsolicited Advice” weekly planners, and subscription-based annual art clubs. I recently completed a sarcastic, self-aware creative journal, “1 Page at a Time,” to be released by Penguin Random House’s Perigee Books imprint later this year. I’m always sort of surprised by the response to the things I am pulling out of my brain and putting into the world. 

cv: You are currently based in NYC. Is this somewhere you knew you wanted to be?

AJK: When I was a student, I would go to NYC for weekends to go to parties, and it felt like the only place to be. Over time, the excitement wore off, and I lived in Baltimore for three years. I love Baltimore so much. I love the people. I love how possible everything feels. But I hit a point when I needed to change my living situation, and instead of moving to a new apartment, I moved to a new city.

I don’t go to a lot of parties anymore, but the potential here is incredible. It’s not the city, it’s everyone in it. You don’t really stay unless you’re excited about something, or too stubborn to leave. Either way, that’s a whole lot of motivated people.

cv: Regardless of the medium, commentary or subject matter of your work, it all seems to be text-based, at least a majority of it is text. Is this because you started out as a graphic designer?

AJK: I was an incredibly gifted illustrator but an evil witch cursed me at birth and I lost that ability when the clock struck twelve. I’m hoping to trade my voice for some sculpting abilities soon. Design Rules Everything Around Me (#DREAM). Sorry, I’ll stop.

cv: How do you come up with the projects that you create? 

AJK: Out of accident and necessity. Sometimes I just wish something would exist, such as a “SORRY I AM SUCH AN ASSHOLE” balloon, or an “AT LEAST YOU’RE STILL TRYING” ribbon, and I make it. Others, like the weekly planners, start with someone else, as a gift idea.

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?

AJK: The balloons were the first to blow up, and they keep the operation afloat. They sell well enough that I don’t need to always get it right every time. The weekly planners feel the most significant though. I’m very interested in actual paper, in holding things, creating memories, and the passing of time. The planners are full of my humor and encouragement, but they’re also completely changed by whoever uses them. That’s the best part for me. I just want to make things that make other people feel good.

cv: You recently participated in the Brooklyn Zine Fest. How was that experience and how did you first get into making zines? 

AJK: Brooklyn Zine Fest, and events like it, is awesome because you interact with so many people online and then you get to actually meet them in person! I love connecting the dots between those worlds. I started making zines around the time I started with postcards – I just wanted to take all my Internet postings and make them tangible. Put feelings on paper and give them away, either to say something or just to get rid of them!

cv: What were some of the other zines that caught your eye?

AJK: I really love well-designed zines that bridge the gap a little. My own zines have so far been very rough, but I admire those that feel closer to professionally published goods. Those are the people who could be doing it for someone else and choose to make it themselves, and I love that so much. My favorite publication was SALT zine, a single page fold-out newsprint that collects stories about hurt and injury in food culture.

cv: What do you think of the future of print media? With more and more people relying on digital media and smart phones for information, how will print fit in? 

AJK: People say “print is dead,” but I think they mean, “sales are down.” News media is all about speed, so of course the shift to digital makes sense. We’re also more environmentally conscious and this shift is a good thing in the long run. That said, there are tons and tons of specialty publications, art books, quarterlies, journals… print media just needs to stop being disposable. The focus should be on quality and purpose, and that’s happening.

cv: Since you left commonvision you have been able to make a career doing what you want to do. What advice would you give the current commonvision student staff and UMBC students that are hoping to do the same?

AJK: Things are what you make of them! Take what you have, take what you know, and use it. One day you have a job and the next day you might not. All you really have is yourself, so learn what you can, make good friends, and remember what matters the most to you. That’s the thing to focus on as you figure the rest out for yourself.

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

AJK: We accept payment via Campus Card, Department Card, or authorized Chartstring Number.

You can check out more of Adam's projects by visiting his website,



Paint It! Ellicott City 2014

Ellicott City's annual plein air paint-out event and exhibit will take place July 11-14, 2014, presented in partnership with Howard County Tourism and Howard County Public School System. Enjoy a summer weekend in Historic Ellicott City, strolling the streets of the picturesque mill town as you watch dozens of Paint It! artists at work.

Paint It! Ellicott City 2014 Juried Artists: 

Lissa Abrams

Brian Gray

Alison Leigh Menke

Karl Avellar

Catherine Hillis

Mary Jo Messenger

Jaye Ayres

Stephen Hollis

Debra Moffitt

Bruno Baran

Greg Johannesen

Karen Pindzola

Joanna Barnum

Janice Kirsh

Duane Sabiston

David Brosch

Kathleen Kotarba

Charles Snell

Mark Coates

Michael Kotarba

Steve Stannard

Ann Crostic

Heather Leatherman

Lida Stifel

David Diaz

Carol Leo

Ed Williams

Maria A. Gonzalez

Maria Marino

Mick Williams

Open Paint-Out
Even if you weren't juried in to Paint It!, you can still set up your easel and paint one, two, or all three days alongside other artists during the paint-out! Your work will be exhibited in HCCA's lobby during the reception and through the summer at the Howard County Welcome Center in Ellicott City. 

Reception & Open Paint-Out Exhibit: July 14, 6–8pm
The opening reception will feature the presentation of awards by Paint It! juror Michael Bare as well as a special one-night exhibit of work created during the Open Paint-Out.

Open Paint Artist Registration Form or go here to register and pay by credit card.