Street Plants book with illustrations
cat illustration
Mi Selva book with botanical photo
Zulu Time book with art detail
Melissa Gorman on rooftop

Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Gorman

Feb 21 2019

Julia Marsh

What are you doing professionally?

I’m an art director at Love & War, a branding agency in NYC with a focus on hospitality projects.

What are some of your recent, favorite, most challenging, or most interesting projects?

I feel fortunate to have landed at a studio where I really enjoy the work and all the challenges that come with it. I can happily say that all of the projects I’ve been involved in lately are interesting! I recently completed the branding and visual identity for a new women’s club called Maison on the UES, a beer hall and fried chicken spot set to open in Detroit in March within the Shinola Hotel complex, and am about to kick off a restaurant project in a historical building in Madison, WI. Outside of commercial work, I love collaborating with artists on publications and making books in general. Discovering the Risolab here at SVA was pretty life-changing as far as self-publishing efforts go. In another life I would have been a printmaker. 

Which designers do you admire most nowadays?

At the risk of sounding obvious and cliché, Collins has been doing some really incredible work lately. I admire how the studio has grown so much since I had the pleasure (and pain) of studying with Brian but still seems to remain firmly rooted in its ideals and intention. I look at a lot of designers who also work in the hospitality space, too: LMNOP, OMFGCO, Land…. They all do great work that stands out and has emotional impact as well as being good functional design.

How do you stay inspired?

By constantly observing. New York is a great place to never be bored. Everywhere you go, you can notice something new, or strange, or silly, or whatever…. I think staying curious and engaging with things outside of our normal bubbles is a good way to find inspiration. 

What design trends do you love? Which trends make you cringe?

Currently loving all the funky, wonky typography I’m seeing around. I love simplicity and minimalism, but I’m glad to see that being countered with a call for unabashed Maximalism. Not just in type, but in interiors, fashion, editorial, photo styles… There’s a sense of personal expression happening that I’m happy to see. We don’t have to be so pared down and neutral all the time. 

What advice would you give incoming MFA Design students?

Let your guard down and make mistakes! This is a stellar opportunity to grow and learn from some amazing people, so be open to not having all the answers.

What is your favorite part of the MFA Design program?

The exposure to so many great teachers, guest lecturers, fellow students, and new ways of thinking. And freedom to experiment without worrying about a client.  

What impact has SVA MFA Design had on your career?

A lot, though perhaps not in as direct a way as it would seem. The most valuable thing the program taught me was how to present and pitch my ideas, which can be applied to any practice, design or otherwise. 

How has the program’s multidisciplinary approach helped you?

It helped me in that I’m not bound by a ‘field’ that I happen to be working in now. I can apply what I’ve practiced and studied as a designer to lots of disciplines. Whether I’m designing a logo or conceptualizing a campaign or thinking about brand experiences, it can all be considered ‘creative problem solving’, which I think SVA helped me see a little more clearly. It’s ok to be and do more than one thing.
Even when I graduated and immediately opened a restaurant — I wasn’t practicing ‘design’ in the traditional sense, but I was able to adapt my experience as a designer to ‘design’ for very practical things: the placement of a trash can and how it affects workflow, how a menu unfolds and is read, how a POS system is set up… etc.  I didn’t come from a single discipline prior to attending MFA Design, and I didn’t leave that way either. But I have a different level of confidence knowing I can apply the methods of thinking to pretty much any creative problem, and with hard work, obtain a solid outcome. 

If you could choose a thesis topic today, what would you pick?

That’s a tough one. I think I’ve had at least 2 dozen ideas since I graduated, and even today there are times when I think ’that would make a great thesis project’. Probably would be something that tries to simplify a bureaucratic process, or spread awareness and shift public opinion about an environmental topic like municipal composting. 

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