Alumni Update: Interview with Elaine Korenich
For more work and information: elainemariek.com
After graduating in 2005 with university honors, cum laude, and a BFA in graphic design and a glass minor, Elaine Korenich worked at a couple of different businesses to find out what she wanted to do with her creative design skills. She worked hard to get in a comfortable place in her life and has large plans for her future.
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
I started my Design career with an internship at the MetroParks of the Toledo Area and moved into a job as a Graphic Designer at Cooper Tire and Rubber Company after briefly entertaining the idea of going to grad school for Glass.
I think the most difficult thing I found all those years ago was how to get started. I applied to loads of jobs (and even grad school) across the spectrum of print design work without focusing on something I was passionate about. I needed a job and a job of any kind was priority number one. I took a corporate gig in a location that didn’t quite feel great once I got into it because it offered stability and an answer right now. I got an offer in a better location a few days after I started at the corporate job, but I didn’t jump at that.
The difficulty is all in perspective, I suppose, as I had an embarrassment of riches thinking on it now, but if I had been more patient, LOTS in my life would be very different now.
How did you become a designer?
I tried out a lot of different things in high school (where I was lucky enough to have opportunities in a wide variety of areas like writing, photography, sculpture, theater, and more), but my multimedia art class [now, I think it would probably be considered something like a web-basics class] was where I wanted to be. It felt like there was much to discover and decide, all visually, to communicate what I wanted. I also really loved drawing type when I was younger, so I think it’s been a pretty steady progression towards this career/life.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
Most of my work is in page layout. I really try to sketch something on paper before moving to the screen. I’ve found I’m a little free-er on paper.
I also have a Spotify subscription, with a variety of different kinds of playlists. A lot of times, if I’m stuck on a project, I ask the client what their piece would sound like, and that helps. Working in an open office, having headphones also really helps me focus.
How do you approach a new project?
My first question is almost always “who is the audience?” Knowing who we are communicating with is key. In my current role at Root, it’s also helpful to know a bit more about the way in which what I’m designing will be experienced: is it part of a big workshop? A standalone one-pager? Something they’re running by as they come through the door late to their morning meeting? Hopefully, somewhere in there, I get the idea about how close to a company’s brand standards we need to be or any other parameters I need to know about, and then I get to work, usually a quick sketch in my notebook.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
Knowing that I’m pretty resilient would have been good. Really, I think being patient for the right thing would have been a good lesson.
The other thing I think I would tell my younger self is that every person you encounter can teach you something. One of my first coworkers had been a graphic designer for over 40 years! To think of the industry when he started (dark rooms, physically cutting and pasting, shelves of type, etc.), it would have been really interesting to ask how he kept up with technology advancing at the speed it had.
When do you know a design is complete?
I usually know it’s done when I have to turn it in. Haha. I think the classic “design is never done” is probably true, so nothing ever feels truly finished. The nice thing about most work is that there are deadlines and that’s what causes you to stop working on a piece. I find open-ended stuff to be most difficult for that reason.
What advice would you give for students currently in the program?
I think the biggest advice I can give to students of any variety is to find what keeps you curious and play to that as a strength. If you’re interested in the latest and greatest technology, maybe UX or website work is for you. If you like to do tons of research, branding can be a great specialty. One of my favorite things about design, in general, is that I get to learn a little about a lot.
Why did you choose BGSU to study design?
I’m afraid my answer to this is slightly anti-climactic. I applied to a couple of colleges and got into both. They were equidistant from my parents’ home, but I decided to actually visit BGSU so I could present my portfolio in person. After Lori laughed at me little, I fell in love with the campus and the area, so BG was it for me. Lucky, too, that I was accepted into the school of art and the design program. While I was attending, I became enthralled with the sense of community that permeated the fine arts building and I rarely left. It still feels like a home away from home, if I’m honest.
Interviewed by: Shelby Frysinger