Interested in being on the show? Applications are now open.

Apply now

Emily Eibs: Designing to the Mountains and Back

Dec 10, 2020

Caitlyn Hoffmann

Season 1 Episode 3

We end our first season of Design Atlas with graphic designer Emily Eibs from Menomonie, Wisconsin. We take a trip with Emily to Switzerland, learn about her current design projects at MLM, and her endless love of nature and how it inspires her work.

Emily graduated in 2019 from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where she received her B.F.A. in Graphic Design. Emily is a hardcore rock climber, and her style is inspired through the touch nature has on her life. She often finds unique ways to incorporate natural elements in her designs to solve her clients most challenging problems.

This is our final episode of season one. But don’t worry, because we will begin season two in early 2021. Thanks for joining us on this podcast journey!

<iframe style="border-radius:12px" src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/episode/6RJoRghctnkVmNO3GbPUMD?utm_source=generator" width="100%" height="352" frameBorder="0" allowfullscreen="" allow="autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; fullscreen; picture-in-picture" loading="lazy"></iframe>

Jens Bringsjord

You are listening to Design Atlas with Jens Bringsjord and Megan Luedke.



Jens Bringsjord

As designers, we each make decisions in our careers that reflect who we are. Some designers prefer large teams in corporate environments, while others prefer small teams in a medium sized town full of historical wonder. Others prefer startups, while even more prefer freelancing no matter what your team size or work environment. We all know that if we have the right mix of team members and the right mindset, we can produce something great.



Jens Bringsjord

Good design usually doesn't just come from one genius designer or one brilliant mind. It takes a collective effort of creativity and collaboration to achieve great design. When the right mix of individuals are working together, everything goes from impossible to possible.



Megan Luedke

This is our 3rd episode on Design Atlas. Through lots of hard work and dedication behind the scenes, we're so happy to have achieved this milestone. We learned a lot over the past months and are so happy to have you come along in our journey in this podcast adventure. In early 2021, we will be launching our second season of episodes.



Megan Luedke

We can't wait to share everything we have planned with you.



Megan Luedke

In today's episode, we meet Emily Ives, a super creative designer and meticulously detail oriented problem solver from Menominee, Wisconsin. She's an avid rock climber and an outdoor enthusiast, and these qualities certainly come through her design work both hands. And I got to know Emily during our graphic design courses at the University of Wisconsin Stowe.



Jens Bringsjord

So without further ado, let's open up our design atlas and head over to Menominee, Wisconsin. We were greeted by Emily Ives.



Emily Eibs

Hi, my name is Emily Eibs. I'm a creative problem solver and both a digital and analog designer in particular. I love elevating people, brands and ideas through great visual design. I currently live in Menominee, Wisconsin, and work as a graphic designer at Studio MLM.



Emily Eibs

My design or artistic background began when I was pretty young. Like a lot of designers, I started with a creative foundation, like in painting and drawing. My style was very light controlled. I loved to do like, hyper realistic drawings. I loved to take photographs and make them into drawings. And I actually did that for a while. For People's Pets portraits.



Emily Eibs

And that was probably the first clue that I belonged in graphic design because graphic design was very much a little more controlled when I was deciding between being in studio art or like a more general artistic field versus graphic design. I realised that I kind of needed to be in graphic design because I've always been very meticulous and very detail oriented and a little bit OCD too.



Megan Luedke

Emily works as a graphic designer. Studio MLM in Menominee, Wisconsin, which is a full service design studio producing everything from motion graphics and brand identities to web design and marketing services.



Jens Bringsjord

The studio prides themselves in pushing the limits for innovative solutions, while at the same time providing an optimal balance of form and function. The studio was launched by Micah Moriah, who had a background in industrial design.



Emily Eibs

He launched a company called Docs, which is centred around this very simple invention that was the solution for record and cable chaos, working in the industry and working for different distributors. He discovered a need for design. So what company? As he was working with them, they realised that they needed what he had done for docs. And that was because Mike, as a designer, developed a very clear system with very powerful branding and brand strategy to kind of take their products to the next level.



Emily Eibs

So he started offering that to companies as a studio, and that was kind of how Studio MLM came to be and to become what it's grown into today, because we have a small team. It's pretty common for us to outsource some of our work to an industrial design student or to a mechanical engineer. That's the connection and a close connection with Micah.



Emily Eibs

So because of that, we actually have a very large team and we have all of these different connections, this whole network of people that offer different things. There's only four of us. I work full time, so it's fairly small and it's a very all hands on deck kind of place too.



Jens Bringsjord

A lot of our inspiration as designers can come from the working environments we're in for Emily. She loves the building that MLM is located in because of its historical grandeur, open bright spaces and warm and welcoming interiors.



Emily Eibs

Oh my God. This building is beautiful. Like, I'm not sure if you know this, but the location is downtown Menominee, right above the acoustic cafe. And that building used to be the old Masonic Temple. So it has a lot of quirky characters, but it is. It is one of the coolest buildings that I've ever worked in. And it kind of surprises me that it's in Menominee.



Emily Eibs

Once you get upstairs, it's this huge open space. And we obviously work in the upper area. There's two floors above acoustics. There's pretty much just this beautiful open space. There's huge windows and exposed brick and it looks very much like metropolitans when you're in there, especially because we've designed it and there's a lot of clean, white, lots of IKEA furniture and it's just a very beautiful creative space.



Jens Bringsjord

While the pandemic has caused a lot of us to work in new and remote ways, Emily has also noticed a change due to the relatively small team she's been working with at MLM.



Emily Eibs

There's four of us that are full time and I think having that small of a team allows us to to really be very loose with the creative process. When you have a lot of people, you can't have everyone in the meeting. But because we're very small, we're still very flexible, it's crucial to know each other's strengths and weaknesses.



Emily Eibs

We know each other's strengths, and we can give each other those projects that we think, Yeah, this project you would really do well in this is like something for you. And then we can kind of divide up the work from there. We've all kind of found our niche, like our favourite thing to do. Instead of having creative titles we wanted to give ourselves.



Emily Eibs

Like, I don't really call them descriptors. So under our names we have like the collaborator, somebody who likes to collaborate on everything. That's Dan and we have my, my title is The Communicator because I really love to talk, but also because that's kind of my starting place. I guess when I'm designing it is always how can I communicate those?



Emily Eibs

I never really thought I would hear myself say this, but I'm definitely a digital designer. And it's strange because I didn't start that way.



Emily Eibs

I consider myself to be a very holistic, natural approach to everything that would fit with analog design. But I don't think that I could consider myself an analog designer with the amount of time that I spend actually using a pen and paper. It's not that much.



Emily Eibs

I think there are some connections, like if I had to try to break this down, I think the first piece would probably be simplicity because I'm not really drawn to the frills and the extravagance kind of things. I really like things to be neat and clean and unobstructed, and I know that I can achieve that digitally.



Emily Eibs

And then imagery would probably be another thing. I could have probably been a photographer in another life. I love photography and it's probably connected to travel somehow. I've just loved to take photos while I was travelling so that I could share that experience with other people. And I think both photo and video are so integrated into the way that I design.



Emily Eibs

It's a huge part of the reason I call myself a digital designer. Being able to like pick each of those images that you're showing people and you can manipulate the mood, you can manipulate the content, and you can make that image like capture a certain moment. And that allows you to give someone like this a window to perceive your message.



Emily Eibs

And I think people are very moved by photos and especially video. Yeah. So I would say that I'm very, very passionate about powerful imagery as a tool for design, and that's such a big part of digital design.



Megan Luedke

And travel has been an integral part of Emily's life. She's gathered inspiration from her rock climbing adventures in the Rockies and other parts of the US to hiking in Switzerland and travelling Europe. Discovering the world has helped her discover herself as a designer and so much more. Here's her story.



Emily Eibs

I think travel definitely sparked a lot of things for me as both a designer and just a creative person in general. And it might be because of the time in my life that I travelled. I started travelling when I was 17. The first time I went abroad alone. And I think that was probably the beginning of me figuring out where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to do.



Emily Eibs

When I left, I thought I wanted to be an art teacher, actually. I thought, you know, I like communicating, I like teaching and I like art. I could do that. But then I went abroad and I was like, There's so many more things I could do. There's so much more experiencing different cultures and different designs and it definitely made me realise that there's, there's a lot to and I'm very interested in design.



Emily Eibs

I spent some time dating a Swiss guy and he was the one that brought me to the Alps for the first time. And I fell in love with the Alps. Not the person he was not, he was not the one. When I saw the Alps for the first time, it was kind of fun because we drove up like we drove around and through the foothills, which I thought were the Alps.



Emily Eibs

And so when we were driving, we were like, I was, I was amazed by these beautiful green hills and mountains, which I thought were mountains in my brain. And I remember his mom telling me, Oh, these aren't the Alps yet. I was like, What, are you kidding me? It was a very special trip that I took to kind of build up to these incredible and I mean, they're so much taller and closer together than the Rockies.



Emily Eibs

I had been to the Rockies before, but this is like something else. So, yeah, Switzerland gave that to me. I felt like a foreign exchange student in a way, because I did get to live with the family. I got to spend time with people that were very much locals. It wasn't like I was touring around and it wasn't a short amount of time either.



Emily Eibs

I dated this guy so often and got to know this country and Switzerland, especially in that way, where it's like a mix of a lot of different places because they are so influenced by France and Germany and Italy. So it was a very mixing pot. You could go to one part of the country and have this very German experience, and then you could also go to the other side and have French or Italian or even these isolated little mountain villages.



Emily Eibs

They have such a different culture. It was a cultural immersion for me. I think getting to travel to Switzerland and see and learn about Swiss design was probably a really big factor in developing my own personal style. Swiss design, as you guys know, it's like this very clean and systematic symbol, and I loved that. I was really drawn to that.



Emily Eibs

And it fascinated me that this culture, this group of people that is very much a unique and progressive group of people with this very, very rich history would be the birthplace of this, very like a seemingly kind of constricted design. And I thought, this must be intentional. There must be some reason that those things are connected. And I think that it's very simple.



Emily Eibs

That's the best match for something so unique, like nature, something so wild is something simple that allows it to kind of speak for itself. And so I'm very drawn to and I think my personal style developed into something kind of like that. And that is the contrast between something really wild and natural and something very minimal and modern, and that I think is maybe not the definition of Swiss design, but it is a big part of it.



Emily Eibs

And it's beautiful. And probably one of my favourite things.



Jens Bringsjord

Emily's love for nature and Mountains is very much ingrained in her through her family background and story.



Emily Eibs

My interest in the mountains probably was influenced greatly by my grandmother, and she was a huge lover of the Rockies and the Tetons. She still does love them. She was also a painter and so was my great grandmother. I guess that just missed my mom somehow. But she and Barbara's taught me how to paint so that was a very, very big part of my creativity growing up too.



Emily Eibs

But hearing her talk about the Rockies and the Tetons was inspiring.



Jens Bringsjord

Once Emily began studying at the University of Wisconsin Stout, she joined the organisation known as Stout and Ventures because of its large comprehensive outdoor recreation program, which included rock climbing obstacle courses and outdoor adventure trips throughout the U.S..



Emily Eibs

I decided to take advantage of this free climbing week and start adventures. And I climbed and I. I loved it. And I climbed until I couldn't feel my fingers anymore. And I was like, this is great. I need to be part of this. And so I applied for a job because I was like, I want to be here, but I worked there for four years and that was how I got the opportunity to travel within the U.S. on many different kinds of adventures.



Emily Eibs

We did rock climbing and sea kayaking and hiking, backpacking, canoeing, like all of these crazy adventure skills that I never would have gotten the opportunity to do if I hadn't found this sort of venture and then gave that opportunity to other students. So we got to travel to places like Utah, Colorado, the boundary waters like all over. And, I just kept getting all of this saturated with beautiful places and nature and finding like that.



Emily Eibs

I really, really liked being outside and being in nature. And that nature was a painter and an artist itself. So that was a really beautiful experience. And even though I'm no longer starting Ventures, it's obviously carried on through my personal life because I still do that and actually my fiance and I are converting a van so that we can drive around the U.S. and see more national parks and stuff.



Emily Eibs

So, yeah, I would start.



Megan Luedke

Like a studio. The pandemic tested the problem solving skills while they navigated the ever evolving situation facing their clients and adapting their own work environment. While the team was relatively small, they had some difficulty at the beginning meeting with clients face to face.



Emily Eibs

I was the first one to go working from home. I kind of saw the projection of where things were going and decided that I needed to take myself out of the office. And that was probably one of the most challenging decisions to make because we're a very small team and when one of us is missing, you can feel it.



Emily Eibs

It's very different around the office. It's not like we don't see each other all the time. We're so used to just turning around and saying like, Hey, what is this? What do you think of it? It's like, Look, look at this. Tell me what you think. Give me your feedback so quick and so simple, but it's not that simple when you're working online.



Emily Eibs

Obviously, that was a huge change and for an agency that works that way, that's how we work, is just constantly getting feedback from each other. We took a hit for that. Not being as reachable made it really hard to get creative feedback. That was tough. Yeah, we got pretty good at doing Zoom calls and we got pretty good at sending emails and texting.



Emily Eibs

We've got a group chat and everything, so it's pretty easy communication now. But I think it was, I mean, it was pretty challenging at the beginning. Our clients themselves are all over the place. We have a lot of local clients in Menominee, but then we also have some that we've never met in person. So we were familiar with working completely remotely with a client, but a lot of those clients that we work remotely with are larger companies, and so they're also familiar with doing this whole remote thing.



Emily Eibs

I think it's the local companies that had the biggest that were struggling the most because a lot of those local companies were very small businesses. So for that one business owner to just stop by MLM and come in for a meeting or to come pick up their business cards we ordered, but some didn't feel comfortable doing that.



Emily Eibs

So we didn't ask them to and we did everything completely remotely that was an adjustment to make. Had actually opened up the door to becoming a little more personal with some of our clients and like just giving them a phone call when we had a question, because sometimes it's really hard to communicate things on Zoom and that's kind of what MLM likes.



Emily Eibs

The price themselves then is being very one on one and being like just an extension of their creative team and being part of their whole company. Like us, we try to be very personable with our clients. So that kind of fit well with our, with our mission.



Megan Luedke

Emily also faced some mental health issues with anxiety and burnout during the working from home phase in her work life.



Emily Eibs

I developed some pretty bad anxiety and burnout as well. There was a lot of stuff going on in my life, obviously, a lot of stuff going on in everyone's life. And I learned a lot about mental health during this time, something that I kind of neglected for most of my life because I've been lucky enough not to really experience it.



Emily Eibs

And I had to learn kind of to forgive myself a little bit, to be a little easier on myself. I'm a very critical person, which has gotten me pretty far. I mean, I'm a very motivated person. I think most designers are pretty self-critical, so that was something that I kind of had to adjust for the pandemic. And for a designer, it's very much about your mental game.



Emily Eibs

And so that was different. The feeling at home, obviously. I mean, you use your brain on a daily basis and not much of what I do is very physically tangible. And so we were doing a lot of brainstorming and conceptualising and zooming meetings and stuff all from home. And home is a very different environment and it's harder to adjust to doing all of those things at home and it doesn't feel the same.



Emily Eibs

It's not as rewarding sometimes, especially when you're seeing the same bedroom or office all day and you're not really feeling like you're doing a lot. Something about the title of Home and the title of being at work is very It Gets in your head, right? Because you're not going to work, but you're working and there's so many more distractions at home, too.



Emily Eibs

So that's something you have to deal with for sure. But I think one of the biggest obstacles, I guess, of working from home and transitioning into working from home was towards the beginning of quarantine. I kind of dreaded Zoom meetings with my team because it was very frustrating and I did get better. Obviously, I'm pretty good at the meetings now, I'd say, but because of the way that Zoom works and this is just all technology, there's a delay in technology.



Emily Eibs

And my team and the way that our brainstorm sessions go, we're very much like just putting things out there, just ideas flowing. And so when we have these meetings and we're talking over each other, I would have to talk really, really fast to gather all of my thoughts really quickly and to say it before I would get interrupted or talked over. That was very frustrating and very anxiety inducing.



Emily Eibs

It wasn't anyone's fault, like I said, like we were all just very, very eager and we had really great ideas and we talked a lot when we had good ideas. So that was kind of a painful adjustment I had to make, and it was just something that I needed to be more patient and to have more focus.



Emily Eibs

I guess, during those meetings and to write things down too. I got very good at taking notes during those meetings so that I wouldn't forget something.



Jens Bringsjord

It's been so great having you on the show, Emily. Having you tell your story is just so inspiring and also kind of gives a better sense that as designers, we're all kind of facing a bit of a difficult time during this difficult period in the history of the world. I really appreciate hearing your story and it's been great just learning more about you and everything you've just been able to inspire us with.



Jens Bringsjord

So, Emily, could you just let us briefly know how to get in touch with you if our listeners are interested in learning more about you or also Studio MLM.



Emily Eibs

You can find me on Instagram and that is at Emily Ives and you can find studio MLM on Instagram at Studio MLM or at Studio Dash MLM dot com. And then of course my personal website is Emily I Starcom. Thank you guys so much for having me on the show. It was really, really good to catch up with you guys and see that you guys are still out there and doing okay and you guys have a really cool podcast going on and I can't wait to see what else you guys come up with.



Megan Luedke

To find out more about Emily. I'm sure we've included her Instagram and website links in the show notes. We definitely recommend you check them out.



Jens Bringsjord

Want to get in touch with us or have a topic idea for our next episode? Feel free to email us at and design Atlas Farm at gmail.com or DM us on Instagram at Design Outlets POD.



Megan Luedke

Also, don't forget to sign up to our email list for updates on our upcoming episodes. You can find all the links to that and more online.



Jens Bringsjord

Thanks again for tuning in to Design Atlas and don't forget to join us for our next episode by subscribing to our show and leaving a positive review.



Megan Luedke

Thanks for listening. I'm Megan Luedke.



Jens Bringsjord

And I'm Jens Bringsjord.



Have a show topic in mind?

We’re always on the look for new and exciting ideas.

What will you bring to the show?

Sign up for our newsletter.

Join the Design Atlas newsletter for additional design resources and to stay in the loop. Don't miss out. If you don’t subscribe, you’ll never know.

©2021-2024 Design Atlas Podcast. All Rights Reserved.

Created with love in Barcelona, Spain and Los Angeles, CA.