May 11, 2016

Alumni Spotlight: Emily Ventker

Alumni Spotlight: Emily Ventker

In early February, I had the chance to speak with Pratt Alumna Emily Ventker. Emily graduated in 2011 with a BFA in Writing for Performance, Publication, and Media and is now working as Manager of Motion Graphics at NBC Sports. We had the opportunity to really focus on her personal professional development and how she handled the transition out of Pratt and into the workplace as a creative. A sports fanatic myself, it was thrilling to speak to someone with the same enthusiasm and knowledge of the sports world, and to consider all the career possibilities that await. Her advice is insightful and invaluable. I hope you all enjoy.

Tell us a little about yourself and your time at Pratt.


I am originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. On campus, I was involved with the Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity for 4 years. I was a member of the Inter-Greek Council and Program Board, worked at the Library, and was on Orientation Staff, even serving as the coordinator in the fall of 2010.


How do you think your experience at Pratt helped shape you as the artist/creative professional you are now?


At Pratt, I think the creative critiquing process was a massive help. Learning how to cope and deal with other people's thoughts, how to learn from critiques quickly and how to manage your time. It means that all nighters aren't scary - and I deal with a lot of those at my job now. But nothing can really prepare you for the real world, you just go out and use what you learned.


What were some of the challenges you faced while at Pratt and how did you overcome them?


The biggest challenge I faced was the isolation within the majors. I constantly saw the same people, was in classes with the same people.  It was hard to find new inspiration when I was consistently around similar people. I think you need to see outside yourself in order to grow as an artist. So I joined Greek Life, got involved on campus, and through that I was able to meet people from other majors and reach outside that bubble to gain different perspectives.


Did you have any internships while at Pratt? How did this influence or shape your career path?


During my Senior year, I was a Nickelodeon production intern from 2010 to 2011. It was a fantastic experience, I learned so much and actually got experience as a scriptwriter. I didn’t go run errands or get coffee, but I got to sit at the writers table and bounce ideas off of the showrunners and other, older writers. During my internship, I began to write and doctor animated shows for preschool age kids. From that, I was asked by a head showrunner to write for The Wix, they just took a chance on me and it was amazing. It’s an example of how a cold application can work. I applied to that first internship online without knowing anybody in the company, so no inside connections, but my resume was strong and I got called. There is hope!


Can you tell us how you began working at your current job?


Right now I am working as a Producing Manager of Motion Graphics for NBC Sports. It was another cold application process. After working with Nickelodeon, I  worked with MTV and VH1, producing the 100 greatest shows and short sketch comedies until they laid off the entire production team. So from there I floated around and worked in politics and other things, really anywhere I could find a job. But my dream was to work in sports television. And this was all about timing, because a few years ago NBC got the rights to the Barclays Premier League and,  again, I did a cold application. But for this one, I wrote a complete love letter about how much it would mean to have the opportunity to work with soccer. I wanted to show that I was one of the people who actually understood sports and especially soccer, which isn’t huge in the States. It took four months to hear back, I had applied in May and didn't get the job until September. And it's still a baby network; it has only been around for about three years, but it is protected under the parent company.


What does a normal day look like at NBC Sports?


There isn’t really a normal day at work. Because I do Sunday Night Football, I work Monday through Friday and Sundays. Like with the Super Bowl, there is a constant need to pay attention to the athletes, who is injured, and to the producer of the brand. It is my job to see the promotion created from start to finish, and be knowledgeable on the brand. Some of my projects are the new promotions for the NHL, the major push to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, and I did the promotions for the Sochi Olympics in 2014. That experience was 18 days of living at the office. It’s a 24 hour network, so if the Kings win a game at 10 pacific time, I have to go in at 1 in the morning to create the promotions that are shown on the morning news. We have four creative directors who we have to get approval from and who decide what the tone of the spot will be. Then we have a team of maybe 12 designers whose job it is to figure out how to translate and create spots within the vision of the brand and the directors. We have to think about what face NBC wants to have. And there is so much that goes into this process, and so much that I have learned from it. I studied design theory and typography, I learned about software color correction and the differences between paper color and digital color. Those were all basic things that were completely out of my major at Pratt but I was willing to learn and I did quickly. Design is a different type of story telling, and I had to learn in order to navigate what creative directors wanted and how to handle all the different creative ideas. Now, I know how to write and create presentations for the designers, how to articulate storyboards, and how to work in short form for under-30 seconds promotion spots. And the content I get to work with is a dream come true.

How did you transition from attending an art school to being in a professional workplace?


Well the benefit of being in television is that it’s professional to an extent. We like to joke that we are all like Liz Lemon, wearing jeans and sweatshirts. Of course, all the people in administration show up in their suits, but the kids in production are creating all the work and we like to be comfortable. I go to work at 10 in the morning, but I usually work late into the night. The only really big change I experienced was having the client in the building. That is the boss; the client that is paying for a service that I am creating. It’s a good mentality to have. There is a difference in working for yourself versus working for a client. You have to learn to serve the purpose of the client, regardless of what your personal creative opinion is. You have to fulfill the need of the client.
Where do you hope to see your career in ten years?


I have two places I would hope to see myself in ten years. Either I would be working in promotional design and marketing still, but as the Creative Director. I would be able to dictate the mass idea and control the project. And I would still be focused in sports. Or, my other hope would be to work as a feature story producer within the soccer team.


Do you have any advice for current Pratt students?

Don’t be afraid to defend your work. It is deflating when you get told that your work isn’t the best, but you need to have the guts to defend your work and the vision you have for it. If you can justify why you make certain creative choices, then you will gain respect from the teachers. Have the conviction to stand up for yourself, while still being open to ideas on how to improve. Two separate approaches to creative visions with an open creative dialogue will produce the best work.


Written by: Taylor Rasnick

May 9, 2016

Gotham Tours: The CementBloc






Health, wellness, and pharmaceuticals are a far cry from the usual answers of media and entertainment you expect to hear as an industry of choice for an upcoming creative. On Monday, March 21st, on our trip to CementBloc their employees shared the same sentiment (with the exception of one copy-writer). Despite never having thought that healthcare advertising would be where they ended up, the creatives at CementBloc love what they do and working in an industry that allows them the chance to try new things.

CementBloc, or The Bloc as it’s more commonly referred, recently moved into their 2 floor space in the Financial District. Despite initial concerns about the location, they have fallen in love with the amazing East River view and really enjoyed the chance to design an office to embrace their industrial aesthetic and create one of the most inviting open office setups I have ever seen (plus they allow dogs which is always a plus).

Our visit started out with a short Q&A session with an Art Director and 2 Copywriters about what working for The Bloc is really like. This allowed for a great chance to be walked through the conception of a current project. The thing about the wellness industry, they explained, is that it’s a place where new ideas are constantly being embraced. We have all seen the magazine ads that do more to turn you off of a product then sell it —that’s not CementBloc. They take those outdated, scary ads and make them amazing! Just like any other advertising agency, they go through all the stages. Sometimes, there’s the added challenge of having to update one of those outdated concepts to look modern, and sometimes it’s about coming up with something completely new.

The next portion of our visit was the office tour. As somebody who finds a lot of fault with most open office plans, I found theirs truly enjoyable. There were plenty of spaces that allowed for collaboration and appreciation of the view without getting too close into the desk spaces. The noise level was at a minimum on both floors (though apparently the 2nd floor is the quieter space). As mentioned earlier, they got to design this space and that allowed them to make it as open as possible. The main offices are situated in the center area and have glass walls to the outer office which creates transparency both physically and mentally. The idea to put offices at the center allows the outer part of the office and best views to be open for everybody to share, which really helps with the sense of community within the space. 

As a final piece of our tour, our guide introduced us to The Bloc’s internship program, and as somebody who has been a design intern and currently works with students looking to intern, I can tell you that their program is high quality. Interns at The Bloc become their own mini team. They hire intern Art Directors, Copywriters, Account Managers, Data Analysts, etc., and as a team you get to work together on actual client projects with the opportunity to pitch to the client at the end of the experience! Isn’t that amazing? Along with the projects there are numerous professional development opportunities built in throughout the summer to really help make the experience worthwhile. 

The Bloc was a great place to visit. They were really open to making it a great learning experience for students and showed us the great design work taking place there!

Written by: Samantha Harvey
Images from individual company website, not for reuse

May 3, 2016

EACH Jewels

Abby Dubois, a Pratt Institute Alumna and entrepreneur, leads us through her journey that began while she was working with accessories and handbags during her Junior year. She discovered her love for jewelry design while working for Juicy Couture. Although she graduated with a Fashion Design degree and participated in the department’s show, most of her jobs have been in jewelry. She talks about how one's major doesn’t define a career path and the launch of her new company.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?

I recently launched my own company, EACH Jewels (www.eachjewels.com) , which focuses on minimalist design and maximum function.  EACH is best known for its Channel Stud earrings that hold earbuds in for working out, traveling, and day-to-day activities.  These earrings are at the intersection of athleisure, activewear, and tech, which are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in fashion.  The Channel Stud has a pending utility patent, so they can only be purchased from EACH, which has given us complete market share in a major growth category within fashion.  As of right now, I am working on expanding our assortment of earrings and branching out into other related products.

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How would you describe your average day?

There isn't necessarily an average day when you run your own company.  I do all of the design and build all of the models myself in Rhino (3D modeling software), so I spend a good portion of my day working on that. Research and development is also important as all of our earrings must withstand the rigors of exercise and daily wear.  Some days I go into Manhattan to visit my caster and polisher.  All of our product is Made in America, which is incredibly important to me.  Additionally, I spend time doing direct outreach to our customers through social media.

How did you get your first clients/customers?

Our first customers have been family and friends, as well as people who have found us through social media and on our e-commerce site.

There is a theme in your work. How would you describe your design aesthetic?

My aesthetic is very geometry/shape driven.  The function has to be built into the design of every piece.  As EACH expands into new earring styles and other categories, this will continue to be a huge part of my work.  For the Channel Studs, my biggest priority after functionality, is that the earrings have to look as good with the headphones in as they do without. By taking this into account it allows me to apply functionality to versatile shapes in a unique and modern way.

How was the idea of the Channel Stud born?

I was running at the gym after work one night and I was really stressed out. I was blowing off steam, and I saw a girl a couple treadmills over wearing pyramid studs, which were big a couple years ago. I thought they were a pair that I designed, because every jewelry designer has designed a pair of pyramid studs at some point.  I kept looking over and it looked like her earbuds were covered by her pyramid studs.  From the angle I was looking at them, I thought they were clipped into her earrings.  I thought to myself “that’s such a cool idea, I want her earrings.”  After a few more seconds, I could tell her earbuds where not attached to her earrings.  It was just in that quick moment that I thought I saw something that wasn't actually there.  I realized that the earrings that I wanted did not actually exist, but what if I could create them?  I did not know what to do with the idea at first, so I asked my dad (who is also a runner).  He loved the idea and suggested applying for a patent.  He came up with lots of new ideas to make the concept even better and we built 3D models.  After a month of me iterating and revising technical drawings, and him drafting claims and coming up with alternative solutions and broader applications, we filed a provisional patent.


How do you think your experience at Pratt helped shape you to be the artist you are today?

It made me think more out of the box within a technical framework, because from a fashion perspective Pratt is a lot of sewing, draping and flat pattern making. That translated into me thinking three dimensionally, by starting with something flat and making it into something 3D.  This process also made an easy transition from apparel to jewelry. As a fashion design major thinking about how people wear things is intuitive to me. Most jewelry designers think about the object; which is just as important, but I think my background allows me to understand what people are going to wear, as opposed to what people are going to look at.

Can you tell us a little about your internships?

My first internship was the summer after my Freshman year at threeASFOUR, which is a conceptual fashion house.  I learned a lot about draping and pattern making, which gave me a leg up before my sophomore year.  After sophomore year I interned at Catherine Malandrino, which I loved. I started off working on embellishments for apparel, which then turned into jewelry.  This was the inception of her first jewelry launch so my timing was perfect.  The following summer, I interned at Juicy Couture where I really immersed myself in learning Adobe Illustrator for jewelry.  When I learned Illustrator for apparel I learned one very specific portion of the program, whereas with jewelry I learned a completely different application for the program, allowing me to think more three-dimensionally in a technical way.  This new approach to my design process and creativity really resonated with me, and has directly determined my career path ever since.

Right after graduation I freelanced for a month and a half; then I worked at Coach.  Jewelry was not the focus there, so then I switched to Eddie Borgo, which was a bit more creative.  Afterwards I worked at Miriam Haskell, then BaubleBar followed by BCBG. I moved around a lot, which was crucial to my growth and development as a designer.  All of my experiences and exposure at these companies helped lay the foundation to starting my own company.  If I started a company right after Pratt, it would have been a steep learning curve.  After over half a decade of experience, I now know my next steps and can strategically plan and execute each step of the process – it is far more than sitting in front of a computer and drawing all day!  No designer can go into starting their own company being fully prepared, but I truly feel that my experiences have contributed tremendously to my comfort level in splitting off on my own.

What are your future goals for the company?

Steady growth and financial stability while still maintaining a steady stream of new development and ethical production in America.  One thing that I learned while working in other companies is that you do not know what goes on in overseas factories.  With local production I can see every facility, and better understand and impact each step of the process.  I can make sure there is proper ventilation and working conditions for everyone who has a hand in my product.  This is important to me, because I believe my fabricators are a direct extension of my company.  At Pratt I was used to being the maker, so when I got out into the industry, it felt counter intuitive not seeing where things were made and being part of the process.

Do you have any advice for current students?

I would advise every student to not be afraid to intern in fields outside of their major if it is a company they are really excited about.  I loved Juicy Couture as a consumer, so I was so excited to work there regardless of what department it was in.  There are plenty of successful designers that have grown from their initial major in school into a completely different area in the industry just by being open to new opportunities.  Sometimes, even if you don't intend to go into a specific area of a company, it can happen naturally and often be the best fit.  Don't always choose to do what you are best at.  Choose to do what you enjoy the most and what you are the most passionate about because the skills will come through experience and practice.


Don't always choose to do what you are best at.  Choose to do what you enjoy the most and what you are the most passionate about because the skills will come through experience and practice.
Be sure to check out EACH for some very cool jewelry pieces! 
Written by: Jazz Seijii