Street: How did you get started with graphic design? Did you come to Penn knowing you would be a Fine Arts Major?
Tom McQuaid: I had no idea what I wanted to do when I got here. I’ve always loved art and computers and I kind of just started taking studio classes and really enjoying them. After a while I was like, “I think I can do this for a living.”
Street: How has your work evolved since your freshman year?
TM: So much. I think making something pretty in Photoshop is one thing, but it takes a lot of practice and hard work to develop personal style and taste. I think I’ve also learned the power of simplicity -— it’s kind of easy to go crazy when you realize how many ~*cool*~ tricks you can do on the computer.
Street: As a freelance designer, how do you mediate your own creativity with the visions of your clients?
TM: That one’s hard. The typical client has no design background, and that’s not their fault. I’ll usually present lots of different options at the beginning to gauge what the client is drawn to visually, and it’s easier to work from there. It’s a lot of compromise. But there are some clients who know what they want from the beginning and won’t be swayed. That’s when it can get frustrating — you just have to take it as par for the course. People skills are so much more important than you think!
Street: Do you have any favorite design blogs?
TM: There are three sites I always have open — Gmail, Oh No They Didn’t (the best celeb gossip site, furreal everyone), and FFFFound! (http://ffffound.com/)—it’s an image blog of random stuff from all over the Internet, but it’s always visually interesting and it’s where I go for inspiration. I’m also into Tumblr (is that embarrassing to admit?) and there are tons of good design blogs there.
Street: Oh yeah and you’re also an actor…?
TM: Yes! I’ve been doing theatre since I was little. Right now I’m in Penn Players’ production of Spring Awakening that’s running from Nov. 29–Dec. 1 at Annenberg. You know, it’s that musical about 19th century teenagers singing punk rock songs about sex. I do naughty things on stage. Come see.
Street: Have your interests in acting and graphic design ever crossed paths?
TM: Actually, one of the first design jobs I ever got was doing posters for Quadramics, the theatre group I’m chair of. Apparently it’s a job that’s always hard to fill in the theatre world so I’ve done lots and lots and lots of theatre posters. It’s great practice!
Street: Where do you see your work in either field taking you in the future?
TM: My ultimate career goal is to be an art director or open my own design studio. I don’t think you’ll see me on Broadway any time soon, but theatre and music are things I’ll always enjoy. Anybody looking to hire a graphic designer who will serenade you? But actually…