Ed Grenier, Art and Photo Director at Beckindale Born
Ed Grenier Art/Photo Director at Beckindale Born in Seattle
Where do you work and what is your current title?
I currently work for a small design firm in Seattle called Beckindale Born. Me and my business partner left Nordstrom to work on our own clients on our own terms. I am the Art/Photo Director and I cover a lot of things in between/outside that.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
I grew up on a farm in Maryland just outside Washington, DC. Both of my parents were involved with the raising, training, and racing of horses. I was one of those kids that actually had a pony growing up. After high school I hung out in community college for a few years before enrolling in art school for graphic design. I graduated in 2003 and spend the next 3 years working at various freelance and salaried design gigs around the DC area before I decided to head out to Seattle for a fresh start. I landed my first job out here contracting for Microsoft and since then I have spent time building a good reputation as a solid multi-discipline creative. Before my current role I was at Nordstrom as a web designer for their website and email marketing program.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
As a child i was always extremely interested in computers and how they worked. Growing up in the 80s was great for nurturing this curiosity because computers were on the rise at public schools all over the country. My first “layout” was a ghost story that I wrote in a word processing app, and added various clip art to. In high school they had a graphic design class the last 2 years I attended, and I signed up. The teacher was a bit younger and more casual than the rest of my teachers, so i think i was a bit more receptive to what he was putting down. I also shot photos and did layout for the yearbook my senior year and it helped me zero in on what I wanted to do.
What was your first design job? Any interesting stories about how you broke into the field?
My first job as a designer was at the National Park Foundation in Washington DC. It was a paid internship, creating collateral and ads for the fundraising arm of the National Park service. It was an overall great experience and left me with a few new hobbies after it was over. Nothing extremely interesting on how I broke in, just took grunt work for a while until something better came along. Had to pay those dues!
Please describe a normal day at your current job. What’s the workflow like? What are your primary responsibilities?
As a primarily remote freelancer, my days can be a little less structured than most people’s. Usually I wake up in the morning, check my task checklist, stack the tickets based on priority and timeline, work until lunch, then I leave and find a remote place to work for the rest of the day. Once a week my partner and I meet at our shared studio space to go over client feedback and next steps. My workflow is usually determined by my Creative Lead as far a major priorities go, if nothing has been called out specifically, it is left up to my best judgment.
Since we are a small firm, we all wear many hats when it comes to responsibilities. Most days I am either doing wireframes, final polish comps, photo retouches, shooting photos, editing copy, stylizing CSS styles, digging through PHP triggers, setting up WordPress sites, and optimizing EVERYTHING for mobile. Lately we’ve decided to try our hand and creating content instead of just enabling it, so we are working on some video interviews of local entrepreneurs in the Seattle area. This has allowed me gain some more experience in film/video editing, which is something I have always dabbled in, but is now flourishing with this content effort.
Are there any memorable war stories, client interactions or close calls that have taught you something important about how things work?
In my experience most client interactions go smoothly, but there have been some instances where differences in the overall vision or cost has created some tense situations. Over the years I have gotten more in tune with seeing things from the client’s possible perspectives in advance to be able to have counter-points ready or possibly pre-adjust timelines and cost in anticipation of client feedback/concerns. It cuts down on the back and forth and shows that you are understanding of their needs, creating stronger trust and respect for your decision making process.
What’s a common mistake you often see entry level designers make? What are some tips to avoid or overcome it?
I often see more entry-level people try to come into and agency or in-house design team and start making a ruckus because they think they are the hot new shit on the block. This usually ends up with them getting sidelined for larger projects due to the inability to compromise with client needs and their own egos. There will always be another project on another day, pick your battles carefully and try not to alienate people around you.
Any industry sites or blogs you read on a regular basis, or anything else you read for inspiration?
I am a pretty big fan of Trendland, it provides me with a good stream of varied design/art related content. I like to watch Chase Jarvis LIVE sometimes when I am working at home, the guests are pretty varied and the conversations tend to be geared more towards different ways to enable the creative process. I like browsing bookstores and absorbing random bits of information and inspiration as I walk around. It’s a much more organic and free flowing way to absorb things vs just browsing online. I usually spend a few hours in there.
There’s something new and amazing coming out every day. What’s something awesome you’ve seen recently that you’re dying to share, or something you’re excited about?
I am really interested in enhanced reality projects like the Microsoft Hololens, that superimpose your interactions in the physical space, and react to changes in location and situations. I find that more useful than a full VR experience. The capabilities of filming with drones and getting interesting pans and tracks is pretty damn cool. I have a friend that builds and designs his own and sometimes he lets me tag along with my own set of goggles and it’s probably as close to flying as you can get.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
Don’t get disheartened and don’t go in with any expectations. Most of places I have been over the years have very different ways of working and you need to keep yourself receptive if you want to flourish. Ask lots of questions, most people are happy to help as they had to learn at some point as well.
What do you think is the future of your industry?
Web is already the future of the industry if you ask me. I went from a kid in design school thinking my whole world would be mainly print focused, and here i am 15 years later having done more web and digital work than anything else. Its really interesting to watch as the technical hurdles become less of a drag what people come up with. When I started at Nordstrom over 5 years ago, UX|UI was just coming into focus for the company and many others, but today it’s an vital part of most e-commerce sites because they can’t afford to launch elements in a haphazard way and cost themselves any traffic or sales.