Monday, January 17, 2011

Paul Berkbigler, Guest Designer Extraordinaire from AIGA Nebraska

Mr. Paul Berkbigler makes one of his points during the Q and A session with Dordt students.

Last Wednesday, January 12, the AIGA Dordt College Student Group had a wonderful time gathered around Paul Berkbigler who came as a guest graphic designer. In addition to serving AIGA Nebraska as Director of Education Paul is owner of P.Berkbigler Design and Illustration, which is based in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Our colleague Matt Van Rys graciously took the following notes highlighting Paul’s insights —here they are:

Some notes on Paul Berkbigler: A fount of knowledge for budding designers and freelancers.

After studying, working and teaching, Paul has returned to the wild world of freelance graphic design.

His design passions include, but are not limited to:
  1. An illustrative spirit; loving simple visual elements and complex ideas.
  2. A deep love and respect for typography; not only figuring out how to fit a bunch of letters into a small space, Paul enjoys the richness of content and shape when using typography Paul emphasizes that when he designs, combining words and images, he likes to ask the question: how does this photo or text enhance the text or photo around it? How is the communication improved by this element? He follows a similar mentality with interactive work, asking how each animation, motion or interaction will enhance the viewer’s experience and improve the communication.
His freelance clientele includes many Christian organizations and non-profit organizations (about 2/3 of total client mix) and the additional 1/3 is standard commercial for-profit clients. Paul acknowledges being a bit OCD about typography, being able to needle with type in a design for hours. However, he mentions that not every project will be a gem and budget or client taste can limit a design.

A little bit about Paul’s networking. Networking and meeting people can be and often is a powerful tool for a freelance designer. Paul acquires much of his work through a contact that runs a PR firm. He also mentions that if you are specifically seeking to work for Christian organizations, you may need to start networking within or in sister organizations. It is often not a direct contact, but an acquaintance that will need work done. Your good reputation as a designer and businessperson is important; if you really prove yourself on the first design, you can often get full creative freedom on subsequent projects.

When asked about seeking internships, Paul suggests that if you find a company or group that you feel strongly about and be a polite nuisance. Without wasting time, perhaps request a portfolio review or ask for a lunch meeting to discuss how you really like a new addition they made to their body of work. Overall, if you are passionate about something, try to become a part of that world and make connections.

A few students were curious about collaboration. Paul strongly endorses designer collaboration, suggesting that several great ideas will make for a superb finished product. He also noted that the challenge in collaboration is personal ego. If everyone checks their ego at the door, ideas and responsibilities will flow freely, allowing the best candidates for each portion of the project to be utilized. In conjunction with collaboration, Paul mentions something I have called “digital organization”. When preparing your artwork for another designer, try to be as organized and clear as possible. Provide a simple and well-named file/folder structure and in layered Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign files, name and order the layers so anyone can interpret what you’re thinking, even yourself. Several years down the line when you have to update the project, you may not remember you original structures.

Some tips Paul has for freelancers are particularly helpful. For time use, Paul is flexible with how he uses his time, but strict about keeping track of time on a job. He prioritizes his work based on the expected completion date from the customer. He creates milestones when he starts the project so there will be deadlines throughout; basically scheduling in reverse. Some additional recommendations for freelancers include: don’t be an awful boss to yourself, keep fairly normal hours and if you do rush work, be sure to charge extra. When asked about should all designers have an online presence, Paul suggests determining the need for an online portfolio based on your intended clientele and how best to reach them.

Paul’s advice is concise and spot on…I lost count of how many times I was nodding as he described experiences I have also had. His work is excellent and inspiring; I suggest taking a look at his online portfolio (which he hosts using the AIGA Behance network) at

1 comment:

  1. It's good to see the art lounge full of students listening. With my current job search, I'm already applying things I heard listening to guest speakers at Dordt. You guys have a great resource.


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