The passion and commitment of designers on IA’s Experiential Graphic Design (EGD) team goes well beyond professional engagement and spills into the community as a personal pursuit. To illustrate that point, we asked three IA designers to share with us their relationship to the city they call home and how they take design to the community.
Tina Columbus, an EGD designer in IA’s New York studio, grew up in Athens, Greece, and lived in different European cities before settling in New York City in 2018 to work on a master’s degree. Eager to experience more of her new home and move beyond the comfort of the academic community, Tina started interacting with city residents of different backgrounds to understand the city's rhythms and diverse population. She believes design can create a social and safe space for human interaction and has often used a class assignment as an excuse to talk with and survey locals. Tina notes a similarity of experience among newcomers adjusting to the city, as well as strong reactions, to the Big Apple. In 2019, with two friends she further explored how design can bring strangers together by creating an interactive online map that documents location-specific memories, further confirming how much those new to the city have in common, as well as the city’s emotional, human dimension.
Joining IA in March 2020 and now just beginning to come out of the pandemic lockdown, working from home has made the need for community even more real to her, as well as the fact that people crave collective social moments whether experienced in the community, on a commuter train, or at the workplace. For Tina, professionally crafting experiential graphic designs for IA clients that tap into human needs with spontaneity and a sense of play, sparking human connection, is key to creating immersive workplace experiences where community happens as well as work.
Melanie Tiongson is an EGD designer in the IA San Francisco studio. When not working on a professional assignment, she enjoys personal artistic pursuits. During the pandemic, Melanie enjoyed the opportunity of working as an artist alongside her six-year-old daughter. The two learned a lot from each other and exchanged techniques. She learned to paint with abandon (the messier the better), stop overthinking composition, and experiment with different materials, colors, and textures while having a lot of fun. Allowing the brush to lead, she discovered hidden stories and unraveled a whimsical journey of positivity and love.
As a painter and creator, Melanie is connected with the San Francisco Bay Area art community. She is a member of Artspan, an organization that enriches the lives of others by showcasing the works of diverse artists, supporting inclusive art experiences, and helping emerging artists get started in their fine arts careers. The organization also nurtures and informs a diverse audience of art lovers. Melanie’s connection to the art community inspires and enables her to see outside the box. She keeps informed of local activities and recently participated (pictured below) in a live painting event hosted by IIDA to benefit Creativity Explored, an art community that supports artists with disabilities. The influence of the community and its artwork affects her professional work in a variety of ways depending on the project. Different types of murals in the city, for instance, might inspire how she graphically tells a story, suggesting techniques and visual forms to express client culture, core values, or brand.
Madison Gowins, born and raised in Alabama, is an alumnus of Auburn University, where she earned a degree in interior design following a semester at The American University in Dubai as the recipient of a William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship. The inspiration of that city, its architecture and diversity, made it clear that post-graduation she would seek the excitement and stimulation of a big city.
Joining IA’s Dallas studio as a designer, Madison is strongly attracted to the abstract graffiti murals in Deep Ellum, the city’s iconic entertainment district known for its arts, experimental theater, restaurants, and as a concert venue for indie and blues. Recently taking a booth at one of Deep Ellum’s outdoor markets, she’s been able to meet numerous people within the community as well as collaborate with local artisans and vendors. Through her love of Surrealism, Madison creates conceptual digital artwork inspired by the surrounding city. With a strong social media presence and connecting through Instagram, she enjoys engaging and collaborating with total strangers and artists. Madison has worked with numerous musicians throughout Dallas and beyond, creating custom album artwork and posters.
From periodic sales on her website of prints, postcards, and stickers, she donates 100% of the profit to For Love and Art, a non-profit organization that partners with community outreach programs and museums to create art experiences for children and seniors with limited mobility—the goal is to transform fear, loneliness, and boredom into beauty, joy, and the magic of life.
All of these interactions and avenues of artistic production contribute to Madison’s overall approach to her design work at IA, keeping it fresh, connected to users’ needs, and anticipating new visual and experiential trends.
The strong connection to the community and the variety of experience of these three designers is typical of the IA EGD team, which significantly enriches and adds value to projects for IA clients. Working with the community inspires the sensitivity and enhances the expertise they bring to designing the human experience at the workplace.