December 7, 2015

Alumni Update: All Things Elsa Vogel

Posted in Alumni, Featured.

Elsa L. Vogel Education | Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic (Spring 15′)
Creative Director/ President | Elsa Leigh Designs LLC | Engage Studio | Pieces of Me

Elsa Leigh Vogel is a powerhouse. Coming off her Senior Thesis project at BGSU, her BFA show showcased patterned products with the masthead of The Me In Coffee. This project dovetailed nicely with her acceptance into the shark-tank style investor competition The Hatch, where the BFA graphic design grad pitched her idea on stage in front of a packed crowd at The Stroh Center. Elsa not only won the enthusiastic backing of multiple judges at The Hatch, she then went on to develop her business plan featuring her user generated custom products to the 5×5 competition and took home a cool $5000.00 for her efforts. We caught up with this busy woman and asked her to fill us in on the details of her post graduation journey.

Why did you choose BGSU to study design?

I first heard of Bowling Green State University from one of my friends in high school who was attending a college visit day for the education program. While I was at a portfolio review day in Detroit a few months later I noticed that BGSU had a table. Originally I decided to check it out just for the fun of it. BGSU provided one of the most helpful portfolio reviews of the day which sparked my interest to  pursue the program further.

The first thing I noticed when I visited the School of Art was all of the work hanging on the walls. What impressed me most about the design program was the caliber of the faculty and their accomplishments. The chair was particularly inspiring to me and I knew BGSU overall would be a great place for me to get a design education.

How long have you been working in the field?

I knew design was where I was called when I started at BGSU and haven’t changed my studies or work since. I interned at LPK in the summer of 2014 and have continued to work at a local design agency, Candour Studio, as well as my personal ventures since I graduated this past May.

What drew you to design?

I have always been drawn to design starting when I was young. I was always an artist at heart, but through my art classes that I took in high school I discovered I was a designer. The best part about art to me is the ability to convey a message through visual representation. I’ve been more interested in communicating an objective message through the medium, versus sharing my personal voice, which I believe is a key difference between designers and artists. Through these classes I discovered my view of the world–through the eye of a designer. Perhaps I wasn’t drawn to design, but instead design provided the ability to see the world the way it has always been for me.

Do you have a specific voice, or ethos when designing?

For a long time I didn’t think I had a “specific voice” or “ethos” in my design. After reflection I realize I most certainly do. First is my passion for participatory design and engaging the audience in the design process. My second passion is spreading a positive message. I want to create work that puts a smile on people’s faces, when they engage with my work.

What’s your ideal dream position, client, or project?

I’ve already started pursuing my dream project– Pieces of Me. I started Pieces of Me this past spring as an entrepreneurial venture. I’ve put my heart and soul into the business so far and will do whatever it takes to make the business a success. Pieces of Me will be a web-based program that allows individuals to select personality traits from a list provided, and allow their friends and family to also select traits they see in the individual as well. With pre-designed icons which represent each personality trait, unique  patterns will be generated visualizing the buyer’s personality. The final products will utilize these custom designs through printed, wearable merchandise and other accessories.

What exciting stuff have you been working on lately?

I have split most of my time since graduation between my own freelance work, contracting my services through other design organizations, and my startups. I acquired my own office in downtown Holland, MI and started a design company, Elsa Leigh Designs LLC where I develop freelance projects for a range of clients. In addition I’ve done contract work with LPK design agency, and Candour Studio.

In addition to Pieces of Me, I started another business called Engage Studio where I sell products such as custom ceramic mugs, which came directly from my senior thesis project, The Me In Coffee.  This part of my business is continuing to grow, as well as selling phone cases, Scrabble tiles, and other home living and decor products. Engage Studio focuses on connecting with others to create meaningful design transferred to standard products that people can purchase.

As for Pieces of Me, I’ve been re-working my business plan and developing the proof of concept. This entails brand development and icon designs. Next steps include fabric testing, dress design, and producing one of a kind custom dresses to support the concept of icon-based personalized merchandise. Finally, a big highlight for Pieces of Me was an opportunity to pitch the concept to a panel of judges through 5×5 Night in Grand Rapids, MI. Pieces of Me was five of nearly two dozen ideas selected during a voting round and it beat out the four other top ideas– winning the competition and walking away with the prize of $5000.

What do you feel the role of a designer is today?

Designers are problem solvers. We listen to the needs of clients or review an assigned project’s objectives. Not only do we solve the problem on how to best communicate the information visually, but also to creatively think outside the box. I feel that a true designer challenges what is presented– someone who takes a step back and talks through what a client is trying to achieve and then adjust the medium according to what is best for communication– instead of just taking the first thing handed to them.

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited to announce that my team is growing, and so is the office space! I’ve just recently taken on a couple design interns as well as an administrative assistant. I’m looking forward to working with these individuals to move Pieces of Me forward in hopes of receiving funding from investors by the end of the year, as well as growing Engage Studio as a business, and continuing to work with clients on any freelance opportunities that come along.

Thank you Elsa!

Reach out to Elsa @

Engage Studio
instagram: @buyengagestudio
Facebook: /buyengagestudio

Pieces of Me
Instagram: @buypiecesofme
Twitter: @buypiecesofme