Demonstrating an equal balance of creativity & strategy, our Senior Art Director Robin Wasteney knows how to solve problems. She is an expert in branding, graphic design, print & digital design, and communication strategy, and we recently celebrated 19 years with Robin as a leader on the Cooper Smith & Company team. Robin is a graduate of Iowa State University, and continues to support students as a mentor with the Art Directors Association of Iowa. Outside of the office, Robin is an avid cyclist and yoga practitioner, plus teaches at the YMCA.
What’s your favorite color palette to work with?
I work with a lot of “green” businesses—landscapers, vegetation management, natural cleaning products, etc. Since most forms of greens are my favorite, I find working with color palettes that work well for them super enjoyable, and (finally) Pantone backed me up with this year’s color of the year.
No matter what the actual colors, the best color palettes are ones that work for the brand. I love a color palette that can be flexible and can morph to feel fresh just by using it differently. You need those core colors that your customers recognize from your logo, but then you have that next level of companion colors in your arsenal to give you depth and grab attention.
What is your favorite typeface and why?
I have always had an obsession with typographic design in general, especially hand-drawn and custom typography. My Instagram feed is full of type designers. Jessica Hische is an amazing type designer I love to follow, and I really enjoyed her daily drop cap project.
As for choosing just one typeface, ask anybody in the office past or present, and they’ll tell you how much I love Mrs. Eaves from Emigré. I was super excited when they came out with Mr. Eaves, a companion sans serif version. I fell in love with it when I first saw it used in a magazine for body copy. I love that the x-height is just a little shorter, and it’s just such a thoughtfully designed font with a friendly, almost feminine feel to it. Outside of a couple of current brands I work on where I’m still using it, I’m trying to take a hiatus from using it in anything else, but I love it.
Where do you find design inspiration?
Nature is my favorite design inspiration. I love to go hiking and grab photos of interesting colors, textures, lighting, shapes, you name it. And there’s nothing better than fresh air, sunshine, and movement to help your brain start thinking more creatively. When I have a lot of projects at a conceptual stage or I’m just feeling a little stuck on something, I’m lucky enough to have the trail to Gray’s Lake right across the street from our office.
Tell us about your most memorable project.
One of my all-time favorite projects is still the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market Posters. We presented a variety of different options to convey all the excitement and offerings of one of the biggest markets around, andmy favorite of the options was the one I got to bring to life. I created a kaleidoscope of all the types of fare available at each of the three seasonal markets, and it was great fun to illustrate! It’s not often that I get a chance to really dive in and “illustrate” something myself, and I love projects that have an element of a puzzle to them—this had both all wrapped up in to one. Not to mention, it’s always a bit of a thrill to work on something that has such a big public presence, so it’s always an honor to get those!
Who are your favorite artists or designers?
Choosing favorite artists or designers is like asking me who my favorite band is: there are too many to narrow down, and it depends on the day, the mood and the weather. 🙂 I recently saw and loved the Women of Abstract Expressionism exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The energy, freedom and emotion in that kind of work is so powerful. Then just a few weeks ago I went to see a Hindu artist exhibiting at Plymouth church with the rest of our office. Instead of standing back to take it all in, you had to get up close to see the intricacies and tiny details, and storytelling that goes along with it. I love design that’s like that. Some of the best logos out there have a little detail in them that doesn’t often register until the third or forty-third time you see them.
What are your favorite well-executed brands?
My favorite brands don’t take themselves too seriously, and engage me with humor. We’ve expressed our office love for MailChimp on our blog and I would have to say it’s one of my personal favorites also. I read every MailChimp email that comes into my inbox — they’re usually visually fresh and well designed, but they’re almost always entertaining at the same time. Not always easy to do. Duluth Trading Company is one of my more recent favorites too. They took a really utilitarian product, and made the function fun. It’s appealing to everyone but gets right to the heart of the functionality of their product with these ridiculous “how-to” style line art illustrations. I love the little shot of color on the product and the graphic type treatments. Just advertising pants without showing the real pants for most, if not all of their ads, is a sales feat from a design perspective too.