Member Spotlight: Basia Coulter


Name: Basia Coulter
Professional Discipline(s): Graphic Design, Web Design, Digital Strategy, Photography
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What is your overriding professional goal?

I’d like for my design work to make a difference—not necessarily in a big way (although that would be nice too), but in a lasting way. It is my belief that as designers we have a role to play in affecting change in the world. We have unique access to a visual language that can be very powerful and persuasive. I want to become really skilled and proficient at implementing this form of visual communication, and would like to have opportunities to articulate ideas that will shape the future of our global society.

How do you explain what you do to ‘regular people?’

People can relate to ads, brochures, flyers, websites etc., and so I tell them that I design such things. I occasionally venture into an explanation of the problem-solving aspect of the design work as its primary purpose. If we speak about design as a language, then it is easier to explain that the goal of what we do is to communicate concepts and ideas in a visual manner; not merely to create pretty pictures.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

Last year I was part of a creative team that developed a branding campaign for the 50th anniversary of SUNY Ulster, a community college in Stone Ridge, New York. I contributed a concept and design for the appearance of the number 50 in the logo; together with the Creative Director, Robert Johnson, and the Marketing Director, Deborah Kaufman, I worked on the selection of archival images for the campaign; brainstormed ideas for web implementation of the campaign elements; collaborated on the design for the wall calendar and vertical banners; and did production design for print for some of the campaign collateral. The campaign was entered into a number of competitions including State University of New York Council for University Advancement (SUNYCUAD) Awards for Excellence, Higher Ed Marketing Awards, and National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR) Awards, and it was granted Best of Category, Gold, Silver, and Bronze in various categories. I am proud to have been instrumental in the development of that campaign.

What is your non-work creative outlet?

Having a strong analytical propensity, I was rather surprised to find enjoyment in abstract painting. While taking a class in abstract painting at the Woodstock School of Art in upstate New York, I immediately connected with this art form, even though letting go of intellectual control over design does not come naturally to me. Perhaps it is the liberating aspect of abstract painting that I find so appealing; it’s a way to get me out of my head. I just wish I had more time to devote to it.

What’s your biggest design-related pet peeve?

Sometimes clients hire us only to tell us how to design their piece. There is a part of me that relates to that—it is their piece and they want to have creative control over it. Unfortunately if the client does not have sufficient understanding of user experience (especially in the case of web design), or typography, or color theory, or limitations of the medium etc., then their creative direction will most likely not result in a successful design. I would like for the clients to have more confidence that my goal as a designer is to maximize their success and to help them promote their mission; that my creative decisions are not arbitrary; and that they go beyond mere aesthetics.

What is the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

A New Yorker, Escher Cartoon from a couple of years ago that has recently resurfaced on Facebook.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one ability or quality, what would it be?

Genuine kindness. I truly believe that generating genuine concern for others is the best recipe for a satisfying life, and that includes professional life. Interestingly, the concept of shifting attention from oneself to others has found its way even into modern-day marketing. After all, what is content marketing if not reversing the brand-centered or product-centered approach to consumer-centered approach? I think that we can take this idea to the next level and develop a genuine interest in the needs of others, an interest that transcends being a mere means to an end. As humans we are capable of sincere empathy and kindness. Those are the qualities I’d like to wake up with, if not tomorrow, then at least some day.

Who is your favorite cartoon character?

I grew up in Poland, so my favorite cartoon character will not be familiar to the American audience. It is Reksio the dog.

Why are you involved with AIGA Raleigh?

I grew tired of professional isolation. Being a freelance designer has its perks, but it is a lonely endeavor. I had a taste of being a part of an inspiring creative team while working for the Graphics and Printing Office at SUNY Ulster, and I developed a strong desire not only to be around other designers, but also to seek opportunities to work together, to exchange ideas, and to share experience. I think we do better work if we work as a team and I wanted to become a part of a team. So when I moved to North Carolina from upstate New York earlier this year, I sought organizations that would help me grow my professional network and support my professional goals in the new environment. That’s exactly what I have found at AIGA Raleigh. It is a very open and welcoming organization that makes it extremely easy to get involved, to work and to learn together, to unite around a common goal. And it does offer excellent networking opportunities. I feel very fortunate to have found this community.

What led you to volunteer or join the board?

I am not a member of the board at AIGA Raleigh, but I started attending board meetings (which are open to anyone to attend) in order to gain more insight into the organization, learn more about its activities, and develop a better understanding of where and how I could fit in. I quickly discovered that I could apply my existing skills and expand my potential while participating in an organization that is fun, progressive, and that has a strong and unique voice. It’s been a very rewarding experience.

What have you done as a board member or volunteer that you are most proud of?

I am proud for having stepped up to co-chair the planning committee for the AIGA Centennial celebration at AIGA Raleigh. I only moved to the Triangle, North Carolina, about three months ago, and so am new to the area. While I had in the past been on planning committees for large events (including a visit from the Dalai Lama for about 500 participants), and headed planning of a small-size conference a couple of times, I find that co-leading efforts toward an important event in an unfamiliar territory is a little scary. I feel very fortunate to work with a very competent co-chairwoman, Caryn Sterling, and an eager and talented group of volunteers. With the support, encouragement, and help we are getting from the board, I am confident that this will be a very successful event.

What goals do you have for the future of the chapter?

I hope to help establish a stronger presence for AIGA Raleigh in Durham. I live in Durham and I see the richness that lies in the creative community in this town. The chapter has been making efforts to include all of the Triangle area in its events. I think the creative community in Durham would be interested in taking on a more active role.



By Amy Lyons
Published June 1, 2014