Amy Graver is the president and creative director of Elements, a graphic design and
marketing communications firm based in Greater New Haven, Connecticut. Prior to founding Elements over ten years ago, Amy’s work for high-profile accounts including Mercury Marine earned her a reputation as a talented designer.
Her work has been cited for excellence nationally and internationally, winning numerous
awards from the Connecticut Art Directors Club, The Public Relations Society of America, Neenah Paper, Graphic Design USA and Print magazine. Amy’s work has also been widely published in graphic design publications, including Package Design magazine. Amy is also a contributing writer to several publications and regularly gives seminars on the power of social media and how to integrate the technology into marketing strategies.
Capturing, Sorting, Merging, Storing and Connecting
If you have a degree in what field is it? Journalism, with minors in both photography and African studies.
Which designer (or design studio), other than yours, do you most admire? Milton Glaser and Louise Fili.
What’s the strangest request you've received from a client? Actually, I’ve had more than one single, female client of ours ask me to set them up on dates with the single men I know. Awkward.
If you weren’t working as a designer what would you be doing? Clearly, a dating coach! I also think my staff would agree that I may have a second career as a pastry chef, but at some point I’d like to follow in my family footsteps and teach.
I started my career as a photojournalist at the Boston Globe. I would still be there if it wasn’t for my editor, who became my mentor and dear friend; he kicked me out of the nest and told me I was wasting my talent on a profession based on technical skills, not artistic passion. He passed away suddenly over ten years ago and I miss his encouragement, wisdom, humor and friendship everyday.
What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? Uncle Ben’s or Aunt Jemima.
From where do your best ideas originate? When I have a span of time to turn everything off—usually when I’m baking, riding my bike, drawing, running or doing yoga. I also have several journals to write, draw, cut-and-paste things in. It allows my brain to capture—then sort, merge, store, reference and connect—all sorts of ideas.
How do you overcome a creative block? I get out of the environment I’m in and go somewhere else where I can feel inspired. Sometimes, that’s a long run by the shoreline or a quiet walk in the woods. Other times, it’s sculpting Play-doh with my kids, collecting shells, visiting a gallery alone and just sitting—anywhere I can just “be” and allow my subconscious to take over. There are also days when all that's required is good night’s sleep.
What’s your dream project (not client, but project)? Two are being realized: writing a book and starting a second company (“Goods,” is a group of products I’ve designed along with some designed by the Elements staff). I’m also working on a series of children’s party kits which we’re getting ready to launch in some Connecticut stores (to start) and online this year.
Do you have creative outlets other than graphic design? Photography and photo direction, styling, writing, party-planning, baking and drawing. I’ve also found that I'm a fairly creative mom and have fun inventing crafts, forts built from blankets, clay sculptures and introducing my children to museums, music, artists, cooking, fashion, poetry and every other form of art imagineable. It’s a second chance at an art education and I love that I can share my passion for creativity with them.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? One day at a time. Sometimes, one hour at a time or one deep breath at a time. I no longer strive to be perfectly balanced or to reach perfection, I just do the best I can. Some nights, that means chicken nuggets and microwaved peas for dinner; I’ve learned that some days, that’s good enough. It was a very liberating epiphany for me. As my wise dad would say, “It will keep you alive until morning.”
What product/gadget can you not live without? My Apple computer, my Nike Sportband and my iPod.
What’s your favorite quote? “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” —Sir Winston Churchill
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Take as many business classes as possible; you’ll need to know how to run one. Learn to speak in public; you'll need to present your work and will be judged as much on the creative execution as on how its presented. Practice taking criticism well and listening; it’s not necessary to accept every remark, but you shouldn’t reject any until you’ve honestly assessed all of them. Know how to write well and always proofread before hitting send. Buy a box of thank-you notes; keep them on your desk and handwrite a card right after meeting or speaking with anyone (from the printer who did an exceptional job to the a client for whom you just finished a project).
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? If someone had told me that by starting and running my own studio I would be mostly responsible for sales, I may have chosen a different path. That said, I have no regrets. Starting a studio is not for the faint of heart, but well worth it in the end. I enjoy coming to the studio each day where we work really hard, laugh and enjoy each other's company while collaborating and producing great work. Life is good.