Works and Days

Graphic Design with Ecova Inc: Oscar Guerrero, Winter Shadow 2016

Graphic Design is something that is relatively very new to me. I officially started doing graphic design when I worked as a graphic design intern at the Center for Life Beyond Reed last summer, but I was untrained and it was very touch-and-go. I quickly discovered that I had a knack for it, and that design came naturally for me, and I worked myself really hard to be as proficient as possible. I watched YouTube videos, looked at other designers’ work, and did my own research to refine my skills. I realized I had a lot of potential, which excited me because I feel graphic design could open up a career path I had never really considered. Being a studio art major, I always had this fear in the back of my mind that I would graduate with a BA in fine arts and then would never be able to make a sustainable living just doing art. Graphic design, however, is a marketable career path that I feel extremely passionate about.

Skip forward to my Winter Shadow. I got to shadow Shawn Ingersoll and his fellow design team at Ecova Inc. Ecova is a not a household name, but it absolutely should be. The Ecova team is hired by other companies and utilities, to eliminate all forms of inefficiency in the practices of those other companies. Ecova swoops in, looks at all the company’s bills, their history, literally everything, and says, “okay, you’re bleeding money here, here, here and here, so if you want to optimize your profits, you have to make these changes.” It’s a great company, especially because it’s really environmentally friendly and focused on sustainability.

I started my Shadow on Monday, January 11th in downtown PDX. It was only a convenient half hour bus ride away. I started my day by meeting the graphic design team composed of Shawn Ingersoll (my sponsor), Kelly Saunders, and the Marketing Team (two of the teams’ members were absent that first day), to talk about current and future projects and initiatives. The teams also spent a great deal of time discussing the weekend and catching up with each other. It was great, because I got some insight into how both teams work together, and also got to see what a friendly and motivated community they are a part of. Once the meeting was over, I had a one on one meeting with Shawn, who gave me his personal history and experience with graphic design, which was really valuable.

Later, I went for lunch, and when I got back, Shawn had me start my first individual project, which was on photo editing, specifically, how to make product photographs. That was great because I had very little photo editing experience, and Shawn taught me the basics of photography and then how to edit the photos in Lightroom and Photoshop. Later, I had a one on one with Anthony from the marketing team who gave me a rundown about how the marketing team works within Ecova and in accordance with the graphic design team. Again, that was also really valuable because it gave me a look into a branch of the company that exists separately from, but works directly with, the design team. The last thing I did was have a meeting with an HR representative, who gave me an hour-long lecture about Ecova. It was a bit tedious, but I learned more about the company than even most of the employees know. That’s also how I learned about the steps the company is making to be more environmentally friendly, not just within Ecova, but for the companies and utilities that hire Ecova as well.

The second day of my shadow introduced me to Zak Eidsvoog, another member of the design team. Zak specializes in illustrative design, which is actually where my interests lie, so I spent a long time talking to him. He told me about his design and creative process and gave me great resources to seek out, like AIGA, the American Institute of Graphic Arts. I had more meetings with people from the Marketing team who talked to me about management and the relationships they have with other companies, what the hierarchy of management is, and how the work is distributed. Later, I got together with the design team and we had a portfolio and resume review, and they gave me great tips on what to include in my resume and how I should organize my portfolio and what to include. I finished my day by beginning to work on the project that Zak had provided for me, which was an illustrative diagram of my own creative process.

My last day started with a one on one with Kelly, the senior graphic designer who led the team. My meeting with her was focused on the job-finding aspect of graphic design. She told me about what she looks for in prospective employees, getting experience, and making yourself marketable. I really loved my talk with her because she said that I seemed like a wonderful person to work with, and that she was impressed with my level of skill in spite of my lack of training and experience. The rest of my day was wholly dedicated to finishing up the previous projects I had begun working on. By then, I had a firm grasp of the ins and outs of the company and what it would be like to work there.

At the very end, we critiqued my work, where I got some great feedback, and we had an exit interview. I told them that I had had an amazing experience, not only because I was able to learn so much, but also because I had made really solid connections with them. We all said how much we enjoyed working with one another, that it was a pleasure, and that we wished there was be more time. I said a bittersweet farewell to the design team, morose that my experience was over, but optimistic for the future, as I had acquired so much information and experience, and had formed really incredible connections with Shawn and the rest of the design team.

Tags: winter shadow, winter externship, art, graphic design, marketing, photoshop, digital, design