Hey there, Giuliano
It’s here! The big blog assignment that’s been looming over us since September… hard to believe that the naive, unassuming graphic designers (and token marketing kid) have finally reached the halfway point in this marathon of a program. From what we (being Sam and I) have heard, we’ll need our stamina through the second half. But enough about us… let’s get to the good stuff: Giuliano.
Giuliano first came to our attention through Alexandar Younger (of Design Lab/great taste in music fame)’s presentation in our Pro Topics class. Not only did Alexander speak highly of this mysterious designer alumnus, but the general consensus among Sheridan staff seemed to reflect this opinion. Next came the lurking (oh, the lurking!). Looking up past grads portfolios and independent projects had become a bit of a fun way to procrastinate – and Giuliano’s portfolio (while, as he told us multiple times, was outdated) did not disappoint. Finally came the moment of truth – finding a subject to interview for this assignment.
Giuliano was my first choice for three reasons:
- His portfolio and reputation as a designer/human being preceded him
- He works at Design Lab (one of my top-picks for post-grad employment)
- He wore a Star Trek badge in his portfolio picture while smoking a pipe.
There was really no way to go wrong.
The Sheridan Alumni
Where should we start?!
How about at the beginning…
What was your favourite & least favourite classes at school?
If you talk to Gillian or anyone, they’ll tell you that I was a pretty big keener. The only class, well I guess the least favourite one, is Gillian’s technology class – not anything against Gillian (and I actually did enjoy that class too). It’s just to rank them, that would be at the bottom. It had it’s purpose. It’s just that was the one, non-related design class.
Who is your favourite professor and why?
At Sheridan? Hmm… I don’t know, which kid is your favourite?! That’s like that question.
Ok ok, who do you love a little bit more?
I have a soft spot for all of them… they all had their pluses. The one I didn’t get the most time with was Sheila. Just put Gillian for any of those questions. She’s the boss, right? She’s like a mom.
What kind of challenges did you face?
I guess being one of the project coordinators, it was myself and Abby for the end of the year. You all have your own roles for the grad show but there’s one or two people who are sort of at the top who make sure everything goes smoothly. That was the most challenging part of the program, just keeping everyone in line. It’s very hard to sort of manage a group of people democratically – sometimes you have to pull a Ricktatorship and say this is the way it is, or we won’t get anything done.
That was the toughest part of the program – everything else was a cake walk.
How do you think going to Sheridan helped you grow as a person?
So, to go back a little bit, before Sheridan I was working a very unsatisfying job. The people there were great but I just wasn’t enjoying the work (well, some of the people there weren’t that great but whatever). Anyways, I needed a really big change and I decided to go re-educate myself with web. I think Sheridan brought a lot more confidence, a lot more skill – and it really helped me to define what I really wanted. Before I was just kinda of willing to see what would happen, but Sheridan set me on a path that I really wanted to go down.
Do you have a favourite piece of work from your school portfolio?
We’ve had lots of talks about this.
Yes we have.
I really need to update my portfolio. I’ve done a lot more stuff now, but I guess with Sheridan my favourite piece… they’re all like my babies so it’s hard to pick. I really liked the independent project (which was the big one) – it has a ton of process work and that’s the most like working in the field. I also liked [the Flash Program]’s animation project; mine was called the “Saddest Movie Ever”. It starred this guy who was bothered by all of these things that shouldn’t really bother you but they bother him. I was really into the design side of things and just having fun with the projects.
This is my first ever interview by the way.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
Grade 10 was when I knew. I took a comm tech course and thought “oh, this is kinda of fun”. In high school you’re not really thinking that far into the future, but I could see myself doing it and having fun. I was more focused on my spare or going out for lunch – so this was just sort of a decision I made.
What motivated you?
I like the social science of it all. An artist will create something emotional, and it can be interpreted a million different ways. Good design will create something and send you in a specific direction.
There are a lot of different fields that branch off design, like user experience, that translate to the real world. If you look at this store for example, we have signage around to aid the customer – soup and sandwich pick up, beverage pickup, order here… even if the typeface kind of sucks. It’s a pretty good user experience because now I know exactly where to get my beverages or soup and sandwiches and I know where to order. Everything is brightly illuminated. I suppose all designs benefits people’s lives in some way.
That’s what really keeps me going. I like how design is challenging and makes you flex your brain – it always makes me think. The industry is constantly evolving which gives you room to grow and adapt. A lot of people will say that finding a job with graphic design or design in general is difficult, but I would say its actually quite easy because let’s say “knock on wood, I loose my job tomorrow” I still have a very great sort of set of skills that I can translate into freelance work, I could build websites for people, I could do print work, I could market myself and with design everyone needs a designer. I’d say it’s a very safe industry for people to be into.
Do you have any design heroes or anyone in particular that you look to at design laB for design itself?
People will choose names like Saul Bass or something. I don’t want to idolize those sorts of people or try to copy their methods/work because with design, everything is changing and growing. One of the things I’ve learned is that it’s sort of like Fight Club: the 1st rule of graphic design is… I know at Seneca, we were shown a document that listed a bunch of rules and the final rule was to break the rules. I don’t want to base my work of someone else’s so I try not to have heroes. There is really great design that I appreciate, and there’s lots of great work coming out of Toronto firms. I just use them as inspiration to push myself further.
My hero’s are silly boy heroes like The Rock and Captain Picard – those are my heroes.
At Design Lab, Alexander is who I probably look up to. He comes from a creative background as well; he’s done painting and he knows so much about design. Sometimes, I’ll be struggling with something and he’s always available to bounce an idea off of and give feedback. I wouldn’t say there’s anyone that I hold on a beautiful pedestal; I just try to draw inspiration from as many sources as possible.
Saul Bass is pretty good actually, so let’s just say him.
Steve Krug is definitely an inspiration as well. You probably read his book in class. At Design Lab we take a lot of what he says in the book into consideration – it’s pretty important. You can use his work in everything you do.
Pick your poison: print or web?
I like web, but print will always hold a special place in my heart. You can’t replace holding a physical copy of what you made in your own hands. Now, the industry is moving towards being digital; it’s cost effective. Mistakes are so much easier to replace or just fix. I did some freelance for a magazine once; it went to print and we had printed the wrong barcodes on them. It cost $5000 dollars to put replacement stickers on all those issues with a new bar code. Had that been an online magazine? We would’ve reuploaded the file. There’s a lot more flexibility with the digital medium. Print is more absolute. Once you print you can’t go back. And it’s bad for the environment and harder; there’s a lot to remember.
What inspires you as a designer or in life in general?
Traveling can be so inspiring. Sometimes sobering, despite all the drinking you do on trips. Especially Germany.
I find a lot of scientific stuff very inspiring – learning about where we come from, or space and the cosmos. It helps to put life in perspective. I also draw a lot of inspiration from my everyday surroundings. I love seeing what other people are doing and what’s going on. Right now I’m looking at how [the Tim Hortons cash register/ordering area] is shaped like a cup. That’s clever, right?
Architecture & Interior Design are inspiring as well because it’s an entirely different field. They’re not really all that different – well, the materials that we work with are but it’s the same processes. We make wireframes and sitemaps and define information architecture while they use blueprints and floor plans. Forcing yourself to look at design from a different point of view can be really helpful.
I dunno, its sort of like a lot of inspiration everywhere you just have to keep your eyes open.
The Design Lab Employee
Let’s talk about Design Lab.
What are your favourite office jams at Design Lab?
So, we’re super collaborative, right? And we work a lot with Sarah’s team as well… so some of her girls come to work upstairs too. They need a quieter environment, so we can’t play a lot of hardcore music when they’re around. I guess my favourite Design Lab jams are when we put on any Zeppelin, the Black Keys. When we get a chance I’ll put on Queens of the Stone Age (that doesn’t fly well with Sarah’s team). I love putting on some old soul music – we pick any station and throw on soul. We tried jazz once. It didn’t fly.
Rdio isn’t the greatest, I would prefer a better streaming service.
You Should try Spotify?
Right?! Or Apple Music. I think Spotify would be better, but we just put on whatever. I like the Police a lot too.
This is the main reason why I’m interested in Design Lab now… you all take turns picking the music!
Although Alexander’s music taste is crazy huge, he’s got a few years on me (that’s why)… Paul on the other hand, he’s into more techno stuff and Sarah likes the old stuff. Whenever I ask anyone else, they normally don’t mind so it’s just us three that pick.
One thing that’s interesting though is I’ll put on the Clash (my favourite band) but Rdio will throw in the PIstols or some other serious punk rock and we have to turn it off because it needs to stay office appropriate. We can take a little bit, but… yeah. Usually when Alexander puts stuff on it’s crazy and out of nowhere, like that band Nightmares On Wax. There’s a lot of exposure to new music I’ve never heard before.
The speakers are pretty cool too, they’re all throughout the office ceilings and three zones where you can turn the music up. If someone’s in the far end, they can turn it off (and then we can crank it up in the zone beside them).
Who’s your favourite Design Lab client?
We have more clients than what you’ve probably seen on the website. It’s hard to pick favourites. When you put a lot of passion into everything you can’t choose. I really love working with Revera and the Hospitality Network (they’re a newer client as well), and I’m really liking Diamond right now, they’re a lot of fun. My favourite clients are the ones you can get along with really well, that understand life is short and it’s not all deadlines.We did a lot of UX stuff for [a large Canadian online retailer] – they’ve only implemented half of it but it was really fun. The clients that you become friends with, those are my favourites.
What are your thoughts on Alexander Younger?
Guy’s a dick. Oh my god, he made me stay late today! (Editors Note: Giuliano would REALLY like me to stress that he is joking. He loves Alexander deeply).
Oh geez… when Alexander came to speak to my class, I found him to be very inspirational. He’s a very intelligent man (and that’s kind of tricky), because sometimes I don’t know if he’s playing games with me or not (trying to see if we’re on the same level). He started Design Lab when he was younger than I am now – he was 22 I believe. He’s a very inspirational person and someone that I look up to, and I try to learn as much from him as possible. I’m not kissing ass because I know he’ll see this, but he’s a great boss. It’s like going from dark to light in terms of bosses – when you have a previous boss who treats you poorly and going to a boss who’s genuinely interested in your opinions, speaks to you on a personal level and is interested in who you are… he’s a genuinely great person. No ego. You learn a lot from him.
He’s still a total dick though. It’s a big front. He’s a jerk.
Broad set of skills as well.
How is environmental sustainability incorporated into your job?
When I first started Design Lab, it used to be a huge thing. There were recycling bins at every table. It’s not as crazy now – we’re still pro-recycling but we just have the one bin now. I love the fact that we’re all solar-powered; that was pretty interesting too. The building was powered by two large panels – we’re still plugged into the grid (we have to be by law) but all of the power is supplied through those panels. We print with an old black and white laser printer and reuse paper. We try to do our absolute best to not be wasteful… we are a digital agency so we don’t print that much. I really like the fact that we’re more green.
Alexander is more in that sort of scene. I know his cottage [featured on one of Sarah’s shows] – they’ve set up a solar shed there so that cottage is powered by solar as well. He’s got a solar company as well. A lot of the thing that bothered me about the print industry is that it’s an incredibly wasteful industry and is hard on the environment. If there’s a misprint on a flyer, they’ll chuck whatever’s been printed out.
Are you happy with your job?
Hate it. It’s the worst.
(Everyone Giggles). Alright, tell us about the culture and the workflow.
Design Lab is a very ego-free, collaborative environment I’d say. We don’t just work with ourselves, we work with freelancers as well. We’ll bring in WordPress people or other agencies. We try to find the best tool for the best job. If there’s something we know isn’t in our wheelhouse, we’ll find the best people to get that job done the right way. The environment itself… when I first started day, everyone has been very friendly and accepting since day one. I’ve been in other workplaces where that wasn’t the place, and I guess I just fit in culturally here from the get-go. What I’m saying is everyone is different when they come through the door, and we’re really accepting of everyone. That’s what I like about Design Lab. You don’t feel out of place.
Aside from the music, we like to have a lot of fun. We’ll have retreats – this year we went to Alexander’s cottage (an island up in Georgian Bay). Alexander and I flew there, and we took out the boat and stayed over. There was a lot of strategizing going on but I also played croquet for the first time there.
What’s the rest of the question? I forgot.
What’s your workflow like?
I come in. I sit down. Check my emails, talk to Paul or Jennifer for a bit… slack off for about two hours…
I know there are some agencies only do one client – I worked at one that only did Dell (so very corporate) or government oriented. Design Lab is so broad – one minute I’m working on the private aircraft sector, and the next I’m working on the largest chain of retirement homes in Canada. A typical day is hard to define because it’s so fast paced; it does expose you to a broad set of skills and gives you a chance to wear a lot of hats. All of the skills can grow at the same time. I’ll do websites, big UX projects, print design… I’d like to get more into apps. We’ve only done the Beer Store but I’d like to grow more in that area.
Do you actually still get to code?
Surprisingly yes! But not that much. Are you a fan of the code?
I come from the code.
A good thing about Design Lab is that Alexander instills in his employees that when you work for Design Lab, he wants you to grow in the way that’s most natural to you. I started with another classmate named Fatima who was more code based, and the goal was to get Fatima to learn more WordPress/Front-End Developer position. The learning environment is great at Design Lab for that.
I’ve coded the Design Lab site and a simple site for a client. Some beta testing. We had one client who uses us for the UX design and another for development. It was good to know code when looking over the development company’s code, so I could point out what was wrong and rewrite for it.
If I wanted to pursue more code and code based things, there would be room for that. Right now my heart is in User Experience, as well as design, and I’m going to continue down that path. There’s plenty of ways to grow at Design Lab – we’re like a tree. You just decide which branch you want to take.
So, does Design Lab turn up their noses at WordPress Development?
The last three sites we’ve done are all WordPress builds. We’re moving into more WordPress stuff because the CMS is so user friendly. For [a client], the woman I trained was an older woman (and I don’t been to be agist) that I trained had a lot of trouble with her previous site. I taught her how to use this site and she’s been great with it! I think it could be taught for all ages – even a 10 year old could use it.
Paul was doing some WordPress stuff for me in the past, but now he’s more backend and we get more freelancers to fill that role.
Where do you see yourself in five, ten or twenty years? I get that they’re all different goals.
That’s an interesting question… and I’ve been told that it’s not a very good question (no offense). Where I see myself in five to ten years could be lying on a beach drunk in the middle of the tropics. It’s a hard question because life is so different for everybody, and it can change in a minute. It’s hard to say.
Where I would like to see myself, to answer your question without being an ass… I would still like to be at Design Lab, I think it’s a great career path for me. A lot of designers like to jump ship and go to a different place, move up and come back; it’s a weird industry. I want to plant my seeds and grow my roots out with Design Lab. I guess maybe running the company in 5 to 10 years would be really sweet.
In 10 years? Married with kids hopefully. In 20 years? Retired. That’d be nice. Retired at 46. That’d be good, right? That’s where I see myself. The future is unwritten so it’s hard to say. I just want to be successful and happy.
We’ve heard that you like backpacking?
How did you hear that?
We heard it on your website.
I really need to update that site.
The first backpacking trip I guess was very eye opening for me, because I didn’t originally intend to go backpacking. All of the other trips I’d been on were staying in a hotel (like Cuba or Florida) – but the first backpacking trip was in Japan with a friend. I went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fuji and we stayed in a 100 year old Japanese temple in Koyasan. We went all over and did whatever we wanted. The best part was grabbing your pack off the plane and just walking out of the airport, no waiting. I felt free – like this is truly traveling. On other trips, you just worry about getting to your hotel and the beach. In Japan, I did and tried and saw so much.
Last year I did a capital city trip in Europe – Stockholm, Berlin, Bern and Rome. That was amazing too. There was a lot of drinking, more so than the Japan trip. You get a sense of freedom and exploration. I always come back inspired; it really reflects in my work. You go to a country and see how they set things up and design, and it’s reflected in your new work. You get to see that there’s more to life than you – you can experience other cultures.
Where do you want to go next?
I want to go back to Europe. Do all of Germany. Did you find my Instagram?
We weren’t that sneaky.
(Editors Note: All of the pictures from Giuliano’s trips are on there. He was not being a vapid narcissist). There’s a lot of mystery and a lot of art, especially in Berlin. I was so inspired that I’m dying to go back.
I’ve always wanted to go to Hamburg.
Yea, try the Hamburgers.
It’s crazy, Germany is so nice. One of my goals is to stay in a castle overnight. They’ve got a lot of castles there they’ve turned into resorts, but I want to stay in something creepy. Meet the Kaiser kind of thing. I’d like to forever backpack.
What’s your mantra? What keeps you going?
Yea, I’d say pride. I like doing good work that I can show off to my friends. I’m not even going to sugarcoat it, I love showing off stuff that I do. Winning awards, feeling like I make a difference… for [a large Canadian online retailer], the changes I implemented to the cart alone has substantially decreased the cart abandonment rate. And they still haven’t even finished all of the changes that we’ve done!
It may be kind of silly, but I don’t want to let anyone down. My clients or my co-workers… I shouldn’t do that, because it’s like carrying something on your chest. It’s pride and fear.
That’s what’s getting us through school right now… pride and fear.
I genuinely miss Sheridan, a lot. It’s so much fun. What we used to do is go to the LCBO and have beers in the lab after hours while we coded. The funniest was when Raf and I were in “the Pod” and I had just bought Volcan Ale… the cleaning lady came in and we tried to hide our beers. She didn’t really care. At the end of every shift, there was always a recycling bin full of empties. We also used to watch movies on the large projector in J218 – they’ve got a high-def projector and a huge bass amp at the front. I miss those days.
Interview pt. 2: the Office
Sam and I lucked out with getting to chat with Guiliano. I know it sounds like I’m sucking up, but the conversation was not only super informative but fun. Plus he has great taste in music, Sheila. You know how I geek out about that.
Anyways, following the interview we got the opportunity to take a peek at the Design Lab office. After a brisk walk through downtown Toronto, we met up with Giuliano’s friend Petula – more on that lovely lady in a bit. We headed to the Design Lab headquarters at Queen & George street (great sign… they’re located on a street named after the BEST Beatle?! score!) and walked into the most gorgeous office space I’ve ever been in. It was homey and professional all at once. I realize that exposed brick and hardware floors and big comfy armchairs and couches pander towards my hipster-esque tendencies, but it really is an incredibly beautiful space. Definitely conducive to promoting great work.
We then got to have a beer (well, more like a glass of wine – sorry if I’m getting you in shit, Giuliano) and chat with both Petula and Giuliano. Petula is such an interesting person – she has a podcast and plethora of experience in the merchandising industry. Her insights on what it means to be a woman in the workplace, knowing your worth and properly reading the environment you’re in are all things that I plan on utilizing moving forward in my professional career. I also got to look through Giuliano’s entire Instagram feed, and see some of the amazing backpacking pictures from his trip. We chatted a bit more about Design Lab, but the one thing that really stuck out to me was his story regarding Alexander’s reaction to the trip. He told me that he booked the two weeks off work to go, and that Alexander had kind of virtually followed along through Giuliano’s posts. When he got back and they were chatting about the experiences, Alexander told Giuliano: “Next time, take three weeks so you have more time to see everything”.
Whether or not I end up working for/freelancing for/stalking Design Lab upon graduation, that is now the benchmark. To have a boss that not is only willing but wants to give you an extra week to do what makes you happy. So if you’re reading this, thank you again Mr. Younger for allowing us into your office, and thank you, Giuliano, for going above and beyond just the interview. Also thank you to Sheila for assigning this project and to Gillian for accepting me into the program… I should stop now, I’m not winning a Grammy here.