Greg Parra // PSU Adjunct Professor and Grad – 2000

Posted on Sep 28th, 2008 by Command Save

Greg and some detail images of his work. Full size images below!

Please tell us a little about your education?
I've been to university twice in my life. First time was straight from high school in Los Angeles when I attended the University of California, San Diego and studied science and history. The second time was 11 years later, when I studied design at Portland State. In between that time I worked in pathology and cardiology research.

How did you break into the field?
Photography. I can still remember the excitement of getting a Minolta XG1 for Christmas when I was in junior high school. It was my first real camera and it made me fall in love with photography. Krista and I moved to Portland and, after my father in law gave me his Pentax 6x7medium format equipment, I started shooting more, and started to make a little money at it. For some reason I decided that design made more sense for me than photography, though I can't remember why. The decision was a little naive, actually. I didn't know very much about the field, just that it seemed better than spending my day in a windowless laboratory.

Please tell us a little about your design work history?
I interned at Sandstrom Design during my senior year at PSU and was hired before graduation. It was a great moment. I worked there for 6 years and then left to open my own studio. That was 2.5 years ago. I'm well suited to owning my own studio and would never go back, but what I experienced at Sandstrom is wholly unique and I treasure my memories there. Between PSU and Sandstrom, I owe several people there way more than they will ever know. Susan Agre Kippenhan, now at Montana State, is one. Daniel Pirofsky is another.

Where have you taught design?
Just PSU.

What is your teaching philosophy?
There are some really talented professional teachers in the art department, so I respectfully leave the philosophies to them. I feel my purpose in the art department is to come off the street and share what a full-time design experience is like. The design field is competitive and owning a studio can be difficult. I love it, though, and try to convey my experience authentically.

What classes are you teaching this year?
I'll teach the second half of Art 471 in the fall. I always give an assignment that involves dimensionality in some way, whether that's packaging, retail POS, or trade show space. I never repeat the same assignment. This fall? I've been thinking a lot about birdhouses, but who knows? You won't design a poster in my class, that's one thing I can promise.

Who inspires you?
I like that you asked about inspiration and not influences. It's more interesting to me and probably more relevant for you.

Tycho in the morning. Eating with chopsticks at lunch. Turkish coffee late at night. A conversation with Branko. Reaching the gravel road on Pumpkin Ridge. I could go on and on.

I have long lists of inspiration on my studio work site and I discuss things that inspire me on my studio blog, but I'll give this caveat. I'm a Mexican-American from Southern California. I grew up in the Los Angeles area, went to school in San Diego, and studied science and history before I studied design. I have two sisters, three kids, a wife, a black pug, and a male cat with a female name. I play classical guitar, race bicycles, and take the time to make Turkish coffee. I hope some of the things that inspire me would also inspire you, but I'm okay if they don't.

Please share some links to sites that inspire you.
The beauty of cycling at
The podcasts on
I rethink white every time I go to
The perspective of
Strangely addictive, is

Do you have a favorite typeface?
I tend towards sans serif typefaces. Trade Gothic. News Gothic. Helvetica. Franklin Gothic. Univers. I went through an Avenir period, too. Lately, I've been experimenting more with found type and deconstructing techniques. I'm discovering the more I design, the less typefaces I seek out.

Please share a favorite book (design or not design related).
Paris to the Moon my Adam Gopnik is the latest. Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell was the one before that. Monocle, while not a book, is my constant thought companion. Rouleur, while also not a book, portrays the romance of bicycle racing more honestly than anything else, other than actually being in a race.

Please share links to your web site.
Work can be found at
Thoughts can be found at
Family can befound at