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10 Questions with Seaberry Senior Designer Emily Hu

Photo of Graphic Designer Monica Seaberry on her graphic design Studio

By Nicole Arias

Emily Hu is a lover of art, a master of layout design, and an integral part of the Seaberry Design team. 

Seaberry Design is all about colors, culture and creativity and they have a team that represents just that. I sat down with Emily to learn a bit more about her role as a senior designer for Seaberry, how she got her start in the industry, and what really motivates her as a creator. Here are 10 questions with designer Emily Hu.

What made you decide to be a designer?

Well, growing up in Taiwan my childhood dream was to be an artist or illustrator or a cartoonist. I love to draw and doodle. When I looked at books, it wasn’t about reading like it is for most people. For me it was about the pictures and how they designed it. When I came to the US for college and to start my career, I thought of what I could do to make my hobby a job and I came across graphic design. So I started studying graphic design and became a designer. I know it's not the same as my childhood dream, but it is close enough and I like it — A LOT. 

In your opinion, what makes a good designer? 

Hmm, a good designer designs for their clients and not just themselves. 

You are known among the team as a master of layout design. Talk to me about some of the elements of layout design?

So the elements of layout design can be color, text, graphics, and consistency. Color is hard because you can draw black and white on paper really well, but when you include color, your work can become totally different. The lighting, the contrast and the shading can change how everything looks. It's one thing I'm still learning. But I think you just keep looking at other people’s work to train your eyes, so then you know what colors you’ve been using, and what colors you can use to make your work better.

What about text as an element? 

Text can be typeface and typography. I do really like typography; all the different fonts have different feelings to them. Fonts can make people see the world and your work differently. Some fonts can be more serious and some can be more fun and modern. Each font is different and each can impact how your audience feels looking at your work.  

How do you arrange all the various elements and make sure your work is balanced and not too busy?

When I design I usually focus on the audience. Layout design is meant to help the viewer read things more easily and smoothly. So, if a lot of information is given to us, then we need to determine what the most important things are and the focus of the project. Then maybe we can use a shape, or change the colors, or make things bold, so people will focus on the information that is most important — what we need them to focus on. 

Walk me through your design process.

First, I learn about our client and what our client is looking for. The more we know about the project and the client, the more we can provide to them. Once I know the project and the client's vision, I then do research. I look at other designers' work and find inspiration. For example when I make a logo, I write out all the keywords that the client used for the company. I think about the feeling they are going for — it could be fun or serious. I look at who their audience is, and what they want the audience to feel when they see the work. I do the same with fonts — do they want serious, or happy? And colors, like fun can be yellow, or serious can be dark blue. Those keywords really help me to create a design. 



What do you do to improve your design skills?

I look at other designers’ work and get inspired by them. I'm not saying I copy their work. But you find some cool stuff you like and then you make it your style. You add your own touch to it. Once you've been exploring different types of work for a long time then you figure out what's good and you’re able to create your own style. 

What is a simple tip designers can use to better their work?

Focus on your audience. Make sure you know what the client wants and that the viewer  can get to the important information when they read it. I have friends who aren't professional designers and they'll show me their work to get my advice. And for example, they may put text on top of a picture, but the picture is so busy you can't really read the text or focus on the words. It might look cool, but if the reader can't read it, then what's the purpose of the work?

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My hobby is my job and I don't get tired of it. Some people would think having your hobby as your job would make you grow tired or bored of it, but that's not the case for me. I still like it and I like it even more the more work I do.

What is your advice for junior designers? 

You have to really like your job. Not just a little bit, a lot. I do think most designers who are starting out or are studying design like it. You know, you major in art or design or music because you like it! Before I started this job I wasn't sure if I really liked design.  But after I started I knew I loved it and wanted to do more. So my advice is love your job, train your eyes, look at a lot of art, and keep learning. Don't stop learning!


Bold, Unfiltered, Excellence: A Profile in Creativity

Photo of Graphic Designer Monica Seaberry on her graphic design Studio

Monica Seaberry has always communicated with the world through color. 

News articles from the 1980’s praised her work as “brash, bouncy, bold,” and “submersed in a sea of color.” At that time she was fresh out of grad school, with a master’s degree in fine art, and on a mission to discover what she called “the truth”. “I wanted to get the essence of things,” she says. It was the very beginning of her career, but her innate understanding of color was already the driving force in her work.

Today, Seaberry Design, the award-winning creative agency Monica founded in 2008, is a reflection of her style. The company’s tagline is “Colorful. Cultured. Creative.” Three simple words that have always been at the heart of Monica’s design philosophy are now an integral part of the company’s culture. “I like to bring the color into it,” she says. “I think that comes from the fine art background that you know, the sky’s the limit.”

Every day Monica leads her team of designers on an exploration of hues and shades, vivid and unfiltered. Her journey has unlocked a unique understanding  —  communication is most successful and impactful, when done with bold colors, unconstrained creativity, and a true respect for how beautiful diversity is in all its forms — from colors to thought to people. That is the fuel that drives Seaberry Design’s success.

“It’s exciting work,” Monica says. “We get to take what we learn about our clients and mold it into something like a painting, something that communicates who they are. What colors will we use? What image will that give audiences? And how will it make them feel?” 

40 years since the start of her career and Monica is still “submersed in a sea of color,” communicating with the world the way she always has.


The New Market Flavor for Designers

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The key to success for every industry, whether private or public, government, nonprofit or retail, is the ability to adapt to the constantly changing market. At no time in history has that been more evident than it is today.

 Since the dawn of commercial design, graphic artists have been tasked with illustrating products and services in ways that reflect the character, tastes, and the look of the marketplace.

 As a designer, if you haven’t seen the changing flavor of the market, now may be a good time to look. Yes, there has been a sea change — resulting from the growth in number and buying power of ethnic populations and changes in cultural influences. According to University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, between 2010 and 2020, Asian American buying power grew by 111%; the buying power for those of Hispanic ethnicity grew by 87%, Native American buying power grew by 67%, and African American buying power grew by 61%, equaling and estimated the buying power of $3 trillion in 2020.

 For designers, this represents both a challenge and an opportunity. Graphic designers are on the front lines of market evolution. Whether laying out brochures or designing logos and ads, what we design is often a critical touchpoint for our clients. We help keep them connected to their market, even as it is changing. So, designing for today’s multicultural audiences is mission critical.

As a multicultural firm, diverse and inclusive approaches to design are core values. We know that approach is important. The change is real, and it calls for our industry to evolve.

From the 1950s through most of the 90s and even into the 2000s, the approach to multicultural design has been to make the new audience look a lot like the old one. The aspirational message was, “you want to look and feel like these people, so buy this product to treat your hair or use this service in your home.” Even the images, though used sparingly, were of those who most closely resembled the old market.

 Well, not today. This market is “not the one” for that approach. Today’s market is confident, fully independent, and financially capable. Its aspiration is to see and serve itself, fulfilling its own needs, and that requires a different approach to design.

Designers need to become well versed in new cultures and trends, from color and pattern, to imagery, language, and artistic attitude. Diversity and inclusion in design are no longer buzz phrases for a half-hearted effort to recognize that “other” people exist in the marketplace. These are now demands for recognition of full scale, social, cultural and economic change.

Clients have always depended on designers to stay abreast of the kinds of changes that influence the success or failure of products and services in the marketplace. While this time in history is no different, the challenge to our firms is certainly more intense and immediate.

For some of us the shift is critical - challenging core beliefs and forcing new approaches to graphic design. For those whose agencies are easily adapting to the new cultural design space, it’s a chance to breathe new air and bring new energy to what we love to do.

Graphic Art in Times of Protest

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“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”  Dr. Martin Luther King

Every January the nation pauses to remember the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., as a transformative leader and brilliant strategist who led cutting edge campaigns to ensure human and civil rights are at the heart of a civil society. Let’s consider how art, specifically protest art, played a supporting role in his mission.

In Memphis on February 1,1968, sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker were crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck. The public works department refused to compensate their families. Eleven days after the garbage collectors’ deaths, 1,300 black sanitation workers walked off the job, calling for their union to be recognized for better wages, and for safer equipment.

The strike won the support of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On March 28, King led a march where police treated the strikers brutally. Despite being confronted with 4,000 National Guard troops, more than 200 protesters marched carrying the now iconic posters that said “I Am a Man.”

In the 20th century, from major wars to political battles, using art to provoke change was nothing new. Art and artists have played fundamental roles in the advancement of revolutions since the 16th century when Martin Luther and members of the Protestant Reformation posted Luther’s 95 Theses on the church doors.

Whether it’s music, poetry, or visual, art gives us an outlook on how we feel during movements and periods of change. Today—addressing issues like gentrification, racism, police violence, and homelessness to organized resistance—protest, or ­activist art addresses socio-political issues to encourage community and public participation as a means of bringing about social change.

Now, protest art is thriving as some of the most innovative art created. Using art as a form of protest can be extremely effective. The big takeaway – If you want to cause a revolution or change minds, consider using art to do it.

Want to dig deeper? Below are some links on the history and effectiveness of protest art.

The Most Iconic Protest Posters From History

The Most Influential Protest Art

A Brief History of Protest Art

Protest Art

The Truth About Black and White

It's All There in Black and White

Truth: Black and white is a timeless duo. If there’s anything that all creative agencies can agree on, it’s the fact that black and white is versatile and effective. Nothing conveys sophistication better than black and white patterns. Why? Because sophistication often lies in simplicity. The black and white color scheme has stood the test of time for use in everything from movie styles to decorative pillows. Predictably, we continue to associate the two colors with good taste.

When it comes to keeping things minimal, yet appealing, black and white contrast each other so well that this combination is revered in almost every division of art— from painting, graphic design, illustration and sculpture to photography, architecture, theater and fashion, black and white themes create memorable experiences for the audiences that view them.

In graphic design, the black and white color combination is most often used when there is text or imagery that needs to be the focal point of the design. White text on a black background is a great example. Black backgrounds imply power, and with white text, the design becomes modern, confident, and noticeable. While opposite in value, these two can be vital elements to use in marketing materials and campaigns.

Black and white design is striking enough alone, but when used in conjunction with other design strategies, its flexibility goes even further. Adding just one additional color to the scheme leads to powerful messaging and adds visual punch. This is a great strategy for drawing attention to a specific object or creating a visual explosion.

When you have a need for high impact, consider a black and white design scheme. Using the visual balance of a black and white color scheme is by no means playing it safe, but in the end, these two divergent colors communicate more powerfully together than they do on their own.

Can You Make it Pop?

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Looking to get the best work from your design team? Here's what to know when you say:

“Can you make it pop?”

There's a lot more to the word "pop" than most people think. In fact "pop" is most often used when we can't quite figure out how to express what we are looking for in a design.

To a designer, “pop” can mean a whole lot of things, so try using more explicit phrases like; use high color contrast, include bright colors, use exotic fonts, draw lots of graphics, add shadows or make it 3-dimensional.

Your designer will work with you — digging deeper into your request by asking questions and providing mockups that result in just the right look for your project.

Once you are done with the design, I can have unlimited revisions, right?”

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Get the best design work from Seaberry. What to know when you say:

“Once you are done with the design, I can have unlimited revisions, right?”

Nope. Two to three rounds of revisions are standard. Designers charge more for additional rounds. Be sure to check your working agreement for the allotted number changes to your project. If you want to keep revisions to a minimum, try getting changes from all parties involved at one time and combining them into a single round. Doing so will save time and money, helping you to stay within your budget and project deadline.

Additionally, revisions submitted after the project has been approved and finalized are out of project scope.

Can I Get You to do Something Really Quick?

small business online image illustration by Seaberry Design

Do you want to get the best design work from your graphic design team? Here's what to know when you say:

“Can I get you to do something really quick?”

All client projects are completed on a schedule. It's the only way graphic design teams can keep up with what's due and when, even if the project is on a tight deadline. If your design team doesn’t know that a quick turnaround project or request is coming, it’s hard to prepare for it and to guarantee the time necessary to produce great results. An early warning is a powerful tool in helping your designers respond to emergency requests.

We'll need as much information as possible too. How big is the project? When is the project due? The answers to these questions will help us develop a schedule of when you need to get materials, text or comments to us and when we will get them back to you, to meet your deadline.

Waiting until the last minute to tell us that a  project is coming could prove disastrous for everyone. Give us enough time and we will provide you with awesome outcomes.

Call Us! Even if it’s Just to Talk

small business online image illustration by Seaberry Design

We love having conversations with people about what we do. When I explain that we are a design studio, most often people will say, “So you do logos, advertising, and design my sales stuff, right? You make my business look good?” And the answer is yes, we do that and so much more. Some of our clients have even remarked that our designers seem like magicians, making concepts appear out of nowhere that somehow are the perfect thing for their business.

But what many may not realize is, no matter how complex the project that we bring our imaginations to, for us, the journey to designing the perfect collateral for your business starts with one simple and very important thing — listening.

In many ways we are like creative psychologists. We spend a lot of time listening to the ideas, hopes, and dreams our clients have about their business and then reflect those thoughts back in innovative ways they can take to market and be successful.

Think of it this way. We’re inspired by you. And that’s where the magic is. We know having a business and coming up with ideas on how to service people is hard work that requires lots of creative energy and we feed off of that. Our creative concepts are born out of what we heard as we listened intently during your discovery session. They are the reflection of you, your business, and your ideas. Revisions are the tweaking of your dream. Delivery of the final product is the fulfillment of your ideas — the visual realization of the connection you want to create with your customer or prospect. All of the steps in our process, from discovery to delivery, go smoothly because our most important job is to listen to and understand you.

Your success depends on being able to sit on a creative couch and pour your heart out, and on trusting that when you do, you’ll get the creative answer that means your goals are realized.

Think of us as your best friend. We’re the extension of your imagination into the marketplace — the channel through which you communicate the way your products and services change peoples’ lives for the better.

We’re here for you. So, call us. Even if it’s just to talk.

In the New Normal, Do These Three Things

small business online image illustration by Seaberry Design

2020 brought a ton of changes to business environments, especially in terms of communication. Nearly all relationships, between employers and employees and between businesses and customers migrated online in one way or another.

It seems no business sector is exempt. As graphic designers, our clients span many industries including the government, education, retail, service and nonprofit sectors. Most are small businesses and each one is feeling the impact of these challenging times. But, while difficult, 2020 also ushered in a new normal, and as we look ahead to the future and the promise of relief for small businesses, perhaps it’s time to shift our focus to just what changes from this past year will stick and provide us with better ways to gain, retain and service clients. As always, we at Seaberry are happy to share anything we find that will contribute to the success of small businesses.

There are three practices that we think are “keepers” for our clients and for us, as we look forward to new ways of doing business. 

Focus on the Customers You Have
During recent times small businesses especially have struggled to bring in new customers. Don’t stop reaching out! But also try focusing more on the customers you already have — those who are still with you despite the impact of the pandemic. Keep creating new services for them, design online advertising campaigns that meet your current customers' needs. Loyal customer appreciation pays off during unstable times and beyond. You may even see an uptick in new prospects from client referrals.

Create New Social Media Campaigns
Create social media campaigns designed to reach your customers where they are. Most people are working from home at the moment and that’s likely to continue in some form in the future. So, give your customers a way to meet you and conduct business with you online. Focus more on ecommerce trends and channels. Traffic in these areas has skyrocketed since the pandemic and experts see this as a robust and continuing trend. Graphic design is important here. Use the power of well-designed ads and other visuals to increase your message impact and penetration. There are some great digital marketing tools out there. You can also find online tools to automate email and handle appointments. If there is one thing we have learned from the pandemic, it’s that there is a lot we can do online.

Use Facebook, Google Ads and YouTube
Online ads are great ways to remind people that you are still in business and that you intend to be a big part of their new normal. Facebook ads and Google ads are affordable and can help you showcase your business. And as always, good graphic design is your friend. Eye catching visuals, both graphic and video, are an important part of delivering effective messaging. You might want to take the time to give existing videos an overhaul to reflect your customers’ current priorities and interests and demonstrate how your business can help them.

Remember We Are Here to Help
Seaberry has always been a partner to small businesses. We are happy to answer your design questions and to help you have more success in the marketplace. Sign up for a free 15-minute call. We are glad to hear what you have in mind and to contribute our experience to your success.