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Episode #

1

Caitlyn Hoffmann: Why You Should Join AIGA

Caitlyn Hoffmann

November 25, 2020

Episode Show Notes

November 25, 2020

Have you ever wondered how to meet like-minded designers? Have you heard of AIGA? In this episode, we meet Caitlyn Hoffmann, a graphic designer from Appleton, Wisconsin. She has earned her design degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2018 and loves building identity systems to help small businesses reach their true potential.

Caitlyn also loves listening to podcasts and is an avid listener to Design Atlas, which is why we are so grateful to her for taking the time to speak with us. Both Megan and Jens are great friends with Caitlyn, as they all studied at the University of Wisconsin-Stout together.

Caitlyn has also been an avid AIGA leader. AIGA is the internationally known American Institute of Graphic Arts. She participated as president of the local University of Wisconsin-Stout chapter where she organised design events from speakers to design-focused field trips. In this episode, we’ll hear Caitlyn’s story and learn where she gathers her creative inspiration, and how AIGA has positively shaped her life as a designer.

Featured in this episode

Jens Bringsjord

Co-Host

Megan Luedke

Co-Host

Episode Transcript

Jens Bringsjord

You're listening to Design Atlas with Jens Bringsjord and Meghan Luedke. We all know that the importance of staying active in the design community is both for personal and professional growth, whether it's to make lasting connections with fellow designers, get peer reviewed feedback on your own work, or to be inspired by someone else's project. It's critical to connect with others and continue to improve as a designer during this pandemic, it's more critical than ever that we stay connected with one another, no matter how virtual or digital things become. It's one of the reasons why we initially began this podcast.



Megan Luedke

But it's not just Jens and I that know the importance of staying involved and engaging with our fellow designers. Today we bring on a special guest graphic designer, Caitlyn Hoffman, who knows a thing or two about getting involved with the American Institute of Graphic Arts or more commonly known as AIGA. Today we'll be talking about where Caitlyn gathers her creative inspiration and how yoga has positively shaped her design life through the countless experiences inspired fashion and connections she made.



Jens Bringsjord

So let's climb aboard and navigate using our design atlas heading over to Appleton, Wisconsin, where we're greeted by Caitlyn Hoffman.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Hi, I'm Caitlyn Hoffman. I'm a graphic designer living in Appleton, Wisconsin. I work as an in-house designer for a company which provides design and marketing services to independent promotional product distributors. I've always been a creative person, and I've always had this desire to make a good impact with the things I'm doing while also being able to solve problems and help other people.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

I think becoming a graphic designer was kind of a natural fit for me because it was the best of both of those worlds. When I was in high school, that was kind of when I first took my steps into graphic design. I didn't really know a lot about it or that it existed. But I got connected with a former designer at a local agency in Green Bay through a connection, and I did a job shadowing with him.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

So I think I ended up sitting down with somebody who worked on vector illustrations, somebody who did copywriting, somebody who did coding, which I had no idea. That's what I was looking at at the time. So I got to sit in and see everything that all these designers got to do, and that's kind of when I really knew, like, that's something I can do that's tangible, I can do with my creativity.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

So I was kind of how I dove into design.



Megan Luedke

Once Caitlyn knew what she wanted to pursue and study further, she looked into a variety of universities that had a reputable program within graphic design.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

I worked at UW, so first also UW Milwaukee because they had a pretty strong program and then also the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, which is a private school. After touring them all, I ended up liking the small town feel of UW so better even though it was super far away and a really long drive, the campus just felt really homey.



Jens Bringsjord

You've got to.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Draw my concentration too. I did both the print communication and then also the interactive communication so I could experience traditional design experience and always have a little bit of an analytical side going in addition to making something creative and beautiful. So I think my design process is just a meshing of those two concentrations. I initially declared right away I was thinking ahead to after graduation.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

I thought that it would be a really good marketability piece for myself trying to find a job if I had both areas of expertise. And when I decided that I hadn't had any coding experience prior to declaring my double concentration. But when I took that first class, I ended up falling in love with it. When I continue to grow in my career, I want to push that UI route more so than the traditional design.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

When I was in my last semester at Stanford, I decided to prioritise my senior thesis show over trying to find a job after school. I didn't do any applications for probably the first couple of weeks out of school just because I wanted to update my portfolio, update my resume and get all that stuff set. And I ended up moving back to Green Bay.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Most people tend to move away from home. I moved back home and I think the most difficult thing about finding a job and doing all the job searches was finding a healthy balance between applying for something within my expertise level and then also not settling for something that was just like a quick local design job. I wanted to hold myself to a little bit higher of a standard that wasn't just going to settle for something, that wasn't going to be fulfilling.



Megan Luedke

During Caitlyn's job search, she focused on companies that she felt would provide her with the confidence she wanted in her work, while at the same time making her happy with what she was putting out there in the world.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

I didn't really find this application for my current job until maybe February, so I was like two months after school, but I was okay with just kind of holding out a little bit. I actually ended up getting the job through a mutual friend who was also at Stoute and she worked there. So I was lucky to see that pop up on my Facebook feed.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Like other companies hiring.



Jens Bringsjord

After an intense round of applications and interviews, Caitlyn ended up landing a job at AIAA, which is a corporation in the Appleton, Wisconsin, area that partners with promotional product distributors and provides them with the professional services they need to run efficient and profitable businesses. What's even more interesting is she began there as an intern, which later turned into a full time position.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

So if there's a company that's hiring and you're not totally short on your experience and you think you need a little bit more, don't be afraid to get an internship too, because it might be your foot in the door to the company full time, which is the route I ended up taking. So I have a client base of probably over 200 distributors that are affiliated with us.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

So I could touch anywhere from like 10 to 20 different logos and brands a different day, which is really exciting. Work is never boring, it's really challenging and also a good way to switch between one colour system to another identity system every day and create something that looks better for them to help improve their business. They sell all these sorts of promotional items to different companies.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

It's this crazy, really niche industry that I didn't even realise happened, but at the same time, we always include promotional products in our design mockups without even realising it. You know, put your design on that t-shirt, put it on that coffee mug like that. All promotional products that businesses need.



Jens Bringsjord

Caitlyn really wanted to study abroad during her time at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She was super interested to travel to Italy, where the university offered her an art history and photography course while she was unfortunately unable to attend, she has had her fair share of travelling through her current job. Before the pandemic started.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

I looked into studying abroad. I so badly wanted to go, but it didn't end up working out timing wise because I ended up pursuing getting a summer job instead at my first job right now, travel is actually a big part of that, which I did not know going into my job. We travelled to a couple different big promotional product trade shows to support our services there for other promotional product distributors.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

The best place I travelled with right before the shutdown was in January. I went to Vegas for the first time and that was quite an experience. It was really awesome. I didn't think I was going to like it, but just walking around the strip that night and seeing all of the lights and the art deco kind of inspired signs, when we went to, I think it was like the old Vegas Strip that was super cool.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

And I want to go back there for sure.



Megan Luedke

It can be difficult for each and every one of us during this global pandemic. It affects our concentration as we work, our social interactions with others, and can change our overall mood and wellbeing. Like myself and most designers today, Caitlyn has been working remotely since the initial shutdown. When the pandemic began.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

I have been 100% remote since early March, during that first initial shutdown for office shut down, everybody worked from home. And that happened till about mid-September when the office opened back up again. We were able to go in for like about ten months. Most people still prefer to work from home, but they were allowing people back in and I chose to work remotely most of the time. The biggest challenge has been communication.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Fortunately, our company did have a few remote people, so we were really good at using Google meetings for when we were in the office. But transitioning to total remote, it was hard not to be inundated with Google meetings like every hour of the day because everybody wanted to touch base at certain times.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Having boundaries for communication. I'm like, okay, I'm going to send this as an email versus a meeting versus a Google Hangout. I feel like I noticed a lot of weak points in how I was communicating with people. So making sure to be really clear in writing like what you're trying to get people to change, I feel like I have to get better at communicating my thoughts clearly, but that will continue to grow with the rest of my career.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

It's just been a real challenge that way.



Jens Bringsjord

Most aspiring and professional designers in the United States and around the world have heard of AIGA through their high schools and universities. It's the largest graphic design institute for professional designers in North America. The members of the organisation practise all forms of communication from typography, interaction design to user experience and branding identities. Caitlyn was an avid member of her local university chapter.



Jens Bringsjord

She started out looking for ways to get connected with others and later ended up becoming president of the organisation.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

All the chapters they have across the United States, they provide design members with the community for professional development. That includes networking, continuing education. They both have national and local chapters, which a local chapter, for example, would be like UW style or college campus. They offer a variety of benefits, including conferences with COVID 19, a lot of webinars and virtual events, and then a website full of access to design resources.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

It's really just a great opportunity to get involved in a community with people and other designers that think like you. They do occasionally post opportunities to join the board of your local chapter, and that would be a great way to kind of boost your résumé and get involved. If you want more leadership experience.



Megan Luedke

SGA is also a great resource if you're looking for help from the design community.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

When COVID hit, they started posting tons of resources for designers who maybe potentially have lost their job during this or who were freelancing, and they still needed to get work to come in. They had a ton of different Facebook Live things going, a bunch of resources that they are posting on their websites and sharing out via social.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

I had not heard of AIGA at all. I heard about a lot every time we had our semester wide like department meetings, professors are always plugging it like joining AIGA. It's a great opportunity to get involved. And so it didn't really stick until my freshman year. Second semester is like, oh, they keep talking about it like maybe I shouldn't need to do this.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

So I really become a more successful designer because it's like all you cared about when you were young, like, I got to be successful. So I ended up going to like the first meeting that year and it was super eye opening because I remember being a freshman and you guys probably do too. You hardly had any design classes.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

It was just drawing and painting and more drawing and painting. And Jane ends and you're like, Oh my God, what am I going to get to, like designing something? It was really cool to go to that meeting as a freshman and Ginny's upperclassmen and talk about their project and what they're doing. And I remember feeling it was really exciting.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Going back to my dorm room, I was like, Oh, that's like an actual graphic design thing. And meeting with other designers. And then we also had this game called What's Your Type, which is like the most nerdy sounding design game ever, but you basically had to hold up a typeface on your forehead. You didn't know what it was.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

And then someone had to describe the font to you and you had to guess who the person was. I was like, I only know like three fonts and making it a point to go back because I knew I could kind of grow and learn more things. There. Before I got started on the board, I really only attended meetings that were more speaker based.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

It was really like my freshman year. This is a super awesome thing. But our current president had pulled a couple strings and made connections and they were able to get in. Juliet's designer, who is the president of AIG, New York, at the time, I'm delighted to share what is for me just a really exciting topic with you guys.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

I became a Type A history fan about five or six years ago, so a lot of that was like the biggest event that I went to that year. So before I was president, I was on the board as a multimedia designer, which meant updating the website and keeping people informed via social media. The way I became president was the current president and vice president, and all those other roles were moving on into their senior show, and so they were going to be really involved in that, and it was going to be a huge time commitment for them.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

So I was kind of at the time for the next role of admin people to step up and President. At that point, we really didn't have a lot of involvement in the club or a lot of interest from our members to get involved on the board. I remember seeing myself as like, okay, well I really loved it when I joined it.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

I would hate for no one to continue that role and have the club kind of disappear for a year. If nobody was interested. I ran unopposed, interestingly, due to a little interest. So yeah, I ended up putting together an awesome team and I kind of talked to some other designers who were on the previous board about why it's important to continue this.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

And so we ended up keeping the chapter going for other students to get involved.



Jens Bringsjord

While a lot of the AIGA events took place on campus, there was one event that Caitlyn looked especially forward to each year. It was AIG, a Minnesota design camp, a weekend retreat in the Northwoods of Minnesota.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Yeah, it was always the first week of October, and it's a really great conference that brings in big name designers and has workshops all weekend and keynote speakers and just a way to bring people together. So everybody would have to put forth a little bit of money to pull together for a large cabin that we rented. We'd plan one or two meals that we would all cook together, people would bring their homework with, and we'd head up early Friday morning and get there about like mid-morning for registration.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

And then the first day was usually a keynote speaker, your designated breakout group, which you would sign up for ahead of time based on what you wanted to learn at networking events at night. They think they have a bonfire where if you go and meet people and hang out and then the other night they had trivia. The next night.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

So each day kind of was the same set up where it was keynote speaker, breakout sessions, and then a social event at night.



Jens Bringsjord

After networking and the variety of social events, they still had to get their homework done.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

And even that was a really great experience too, because you were all at different levels in the program. You had some people sophomore year, some people junior, some people even in their senior year. So it was really nice to get feedback from them on projects that you normally wouldn't get when you're in your class with all your classmates because they're at the same level as you.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

So that was kind of one of those things that you can't replace, like you just have to experience that. And that's where most of the friendships were made. So being a part of AIGA kind of exposed me to so many different designers and types of designers in the industry that I normally wouldn't have found if I didn't like those searching for them.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

It got me out of my bubble, essentially, about my narrow view of what graphic design was, and it allowed me to experience so many more things and then draw on that as I continue to progress in the program. So it just really helped me evolve and then it gave me more confidence in myself and like my abilities as a graphic designer because I had those other things to draw on and talk from.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

And it looks better to potential employers that you're more involved in your community and you understand what's trending and everything rather than just staying in one place and doing the same thing over and over again.



Jens Bringsjord

So Caitlyn, is there any last minute advice you like to give to our fellow listeners?



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Yeah, I'm just going to give a plug, look up your local chapters, see what they're doing, get involved. If you're a student, find out if your campus has a chapter, and then if they don't, maybe that's your chance to start working.



Jens Bringsjord

Thank you so much Caitlyn for being on design outlets today. We really appreciate it. And we know everybody loved hearing your story.



Megan Luedke

It's also just been really great reconnecting with you during these crazy times and having you on the show today.



Caitlyn Hoffmann

Thank you, guys. It was my pleasure to talk with you all.



Megan Luedke

To find out more about Caitlyn Hoffman, we've included her Instagram and website links in the show notes. We definitely recommend that you check them out.



Jens Bringsjord

One to get in touch with us or have a topic idea for our next episode. Feel free to email us at 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 into 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.



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

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

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

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

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

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