Alex Harris // PSU Grad

Posted on Nov 6th, 2008 by Command Save


Sweet gifs, dude. Unicorn in Motion by Alex Harris


Poster by Alex Harris for the local band AU  – see more of his work after the jump!

What is your position/title, group and place of work? How long have you been working there?
I am a designer/animator at sticky, a small studio here in Portland with an office in Amsterdam. I worked for 6 months as an intern, and I am just about to finish up my first year as a full time employee.

How did you find your current design position?
I heard about sticky through one of my brothers friends. I figured since I hadn't heard of them before that it was because they did boring work or just did lame advertising. I figured I give it a shot, so I emailed them, setup an interview and the rest was history. As soon as I stepped in to the studio I knew it was a good fit. It didn't feel awkward at all. I started as a graphic designer, but the work we do is so varied that I ended up learning AfterEffects and since Ive done an animated commercial, process animation, and 3D animation assets for a gigantic touch screen interactive.

What projects are you working on currently?
I am currently working on a website for a international foundation based here in Portland. At the start of the project it was supposed to be a fairly straight forward website, but now it has transformed into a full on 3D website based on Papervision. I am pretty excited about it, and it goes with our tradition of having to learn new programs for every project we do.

Outside of work, I do a lot of stop-motion work and some live action, interactive, print and other random things. I just finished a music video with Bryan Dalton (another PSU grad) for local band AU.

What do you like best about your position or projects?
What I like best about working at sticky is how different every project is. Even if we are doing one website after another, the approach is totally unique to the previous one. My boss is totally open to whatever crazy ideas we come up with and he encourages learning and exploring. Another benefit is travel, I am just about to make my second trip to Amsterdam in early November for a couple weeks. Amsterdam is the prefect complement to Portland.

In what ways (faculty, program, projects, classes, etc) was PSU-GD successful in preparing you for being a professional designer?
It's hard to point out any specific aspects about the Graphic Design program that were helpful in preparing me for the professional world. But I think the senior classes were most helpful for me. Classes were more one on one, and it was in my final year, that I started to venture outside of print work. I love print, but I never really knew what was outside of it. I started using a little program called Processing. It started with simple microphone input, then it moved to more advanced things like live video input mixed with live sound input and seeing what you can do with those values.

Another valuable aspect would be the Typography classes. Since almost every project a graphic designer will work on has type, it is so important to know how to set type. Anyone can pick a font and lay it down, but when type is properly kerned and line spacing is balanced it just really makes the work that much more polished. Although, when I was in my type classes I tried to use Helvetica as much as I could. Now I try to use a variety of fonts, and its good to get comfortable with at least a couple different sans-serifs and serifs because it makes you a more valuable designer.

One more thing, learning how to critique work is so very important. Whether its good or bad, you should have something to say about it. Practicing this really helps you develop your own ideas and aesthetic. Just try to look at everyday things and say what you think about it.

What suggestions to have for PSU-GD to improve upon or information/content that you should have had in school but did not get?
Team projects and projects that are not just posters.

What recommendations do you have for any current students and/or students graduating?
As generic as it sounds, try new things. If your working on a project, think about how you can make it better. If your setting type, think about how you can make it look sexier. Don't be afraid to learn a new skill to complete just one project, it will be frustrating at first but it will make it that much different than the rest.

Team work is something that is super important. If your going to work in a studio, you need to be able to work with people. You need to be open to others thoughts, even its that your work sucks. If you dont agree with someone, be constructive not defensive.

Look at magazines, books and blogs. There are a lot of design magazines out there with bad design and there are a lot of non-design magazines out there that have awesome design. Books are awesome too but sometimes by the time they are printed, the work is dated. Books with type fundamentals and design theory are good and should last a while. Blogs are a good way to keep up on the latest work. Whatever you do make sure you make time to make your own work and think about your own ideas.

Any other thoughts about being a designer that you would like to share (things you wish you had known or just any thing of interest to you?)
Personally, I have to work on my own personal projects to be satisfied with design. I need to be able to do whatever I want sometimes. Plus you can learn skills on your own that you can bring in to bigger project that you are doing at work, or if your looking for work, its just another asset that you will have.

Get your own studio space with some friends, it will help you become a better designer and push you more that it would just working by yourself all the time. But if working by yourself is your thing, than do it. Just do your thing.

Would you share a link to a site or a book or a site that you frequent for inspiration?
I look at ffffound a lot just because its quick and really random. Manystuff, ItsNiceThat, and Newstoday are a few good ones out there that update frequently.


DAG by Alex Harris

From music video

Still from a music video for local band AU by Alex Harris

Secret vantage point

Secret Vantage Point, by Alex Harris