For our next AIGA Vermont Member Spotlight, we are excited to feature Northfield, Vermont member, Colin Bright— former landscape designer, versatile creative, fast-learner, and currently a designer at The McBride Company. Colin was also the first artist to be a part of [HAS HEART], a national project across 50 states that pairs veterans with artists and designers to tell their story. Colin was paired with U.S. Army Veteran and Norwich University staff member, Rachel Putney. Read more about that inspiring act of collaboration and Colin’s other work here in Vermont.
What do you do for a living?
I’ve recently joined The McBride Company, a design firm based in Manchester, Vermont as a Creative Signage and Brand Designer. My work is a pleasant blend of concepting creative ways to help people navigate and interact with spaces, and the technical work necessary to make the sketches real. We’re a full service design firm, so there’s often a branding component to my projects, and the work I’m doing lands on everything from 30 feet wide neon signs to one-off runs of silk-screened custom pillows. It’s three-dimensional, fast-paced, and fun. In my spare time, I work with some great small businesses around Central Vermont that bring their passion to the table. That’s mostly branding, package design, and event promotion, but you never know what’s going to come knocking next.
How long have you been in the field?
I’ve been working in design for the last ten years, seven of them in-house, though I always maintained a side-hustle. I’ve had a really eclectic mix of work responsibilities through a few positions, and get a kick out of the unexpected ways the lessons from each overlap.
Why did you get involved with AIGA? Why should someone become a member?
I joined AIGA to meet more people in the creative community, both to connect with folks that do things I don’t, and to talk shop with the ones that do. Being a designer can be lonely, especially in such a rural state. I’m remote for my 9-to-5 and don’t live someplace with a huge design community, so AIGA Vermont events are a great way to connect with actual humans that get the struggle and might even care about kerning. On a more philosophical level, with the current state of public discourse and world events, being part of an organization that supports clearer communication, civic engagement, and free expression seems really important.
What advice would you give your past self?
If a project or job is exciting, don’t be afraid to accept it just because you have no idea how to do it. I went to school for landscape design, so when I interviewed for my first production artist position I only knew CAD and some rudimentary Photoshop. In the years since, I’ve picked up literally everything else on the fly. Mildly stressful? Yes. Get paid to learn with real projects? Absolutely! Also, use the sketchbook. Having it isn’t enough. Use it for notes and lists too. The more it’s incorporated into your daily life they more you’ll get out of it.
Describe your creative process. What are the major steps?
I bounce back and forth between digital and manual pretty frequently, taking advantage of the strengths of both, but pretty much every project starts in the sketchbook. For conceptual work I try to stay loose, and not let my hand stop moving until I’ve got a solid page or two filled up. At this point, I stick to pen so that I don’t waste time trying to correct things with an eraser. This step is kind of a “dump it all out and sort for the treasures” process, so it’s usually pretty messy.
I usually go another round or two refining by hand before I digitize, maybe in pencil the last time around if I’m feeling really fussy. After I build out the vectors I print at scale and redraw anything that isn’t working quite right, rescan, and adjust the vectors accordingly.
What gets you through a rough day?
Drawing can help, unless that’s what’s making it rough. I run a lot, and that can definitely help to shake loose some ideas, or at least shake off a funk. If I still feel too frustrated with a project or a weird client interaction, I like to try to step back and focus on the fact that there are a lot of days that I’m literally getting paid to draw from wherever I decide to sit down. That’s worth some frustration.
Also, coffee, though that’s in no way exclusive to rough days.
Where can we find your work?
I post a lot of my sketch pages to Instagram (@colindrawz), and keep some of my more polished stuff at colindraws.com. My work with McBride is all over the place, but you can get a sense of the scope and scale of our projects at McBrideDesign.com.
Any projects you want to highlight?
Last summer, I worked with [HAS HEART], a Michigan based non-profit, to create a design to inspire more communication around the disconnect between the veteran and civilian communities in our country. [HAS HEART] is traveling the country pairing a veteran and artist in all 50 states, and they kicked it off here in Vermont. Over the course of two days, Rachel Putney, a Vermont veteran who served as an Army air medic shared an incredible story of service, sacrifice, and healing that inspired more creative drive in 48 hours than I’d ever experienced, and more gratitude for the comfort and liberty that I take for granted than I knew what to do with. The project is a year in now, and they’ve made it to 28 states bringing another untold story to the light of day everyplace that they stop. Go check them out.
More recently, I put together a tee shirt design for the Northfield Conservation Commission to use as a fundraiser in their efforts to purchase the summit of Paine Mountain. We hit the fundraising deadline, but shirts are still for sale at Good Measure Brewing in downtown Northfield, with all the proceeds going to support ongoing trail maintenance.
Learn more about Colin’s work with [HAS HEART] in our featured article.
View other AIGA Vermont Member Profiles.