Running a biz is no small feat–it’s high pressure, tons of work, and often a maddening lesson in trial and error. One of our biggest take-aways? You’re only as good as your team. Having a crazy smart, talented, and motivated crew is key–not just to killing it on every level, but to maintaining your sanity while you’re at it! At Nasty Gal, we’re lucky to work with some of the coolest cats in the industry, and we felt it was high time we gave them a shout out. Starting with Scott Barry–Associate Art Director, resident design philosopher, and discerning DJ (if you’re lucky, you can catch him around town every so often). We caught up with Scott in his natural habitat to get a window into his everyday at the ‘ole Nasty Gal HQ, and to find out just what he does to keep this biz at the top of the game…
First things first–what’s your sign?
How long have you been at Nasty Gal?
A year and a half.
I co-oversee the visual consistency and style of the brand with Esther Choi, our other immensely talented Assoc. Art Director, and our graphic designer Christopher Diaz-Mihell
It’s really micro/macro. We are continually evolving and thinking about the brand, it’s high-level principles and strategies, and developing guidelines and systems to work from. Meanwhile overseeing each individual visual touchpoint from our digital real estates, our E-comm set, and printed collateral. Now that we’re brick and mortar, I also work with the stores, curating art installations, designing windows, helping to visualize our customer experience at every level, from hangtags, to packaging, to the exterior facade. It’s understanding the macro brand voice and strategy to help make all of the micro level design decisions. We’ve recently redone jewelry carding for the stores, which meant figuring out how to design a minimal amount of shapes that can hold all the various types of jewelry that we carry. It requires a very detail-orientated eye to ensure the level of quality we insist on as a brand is consistent.
I went to school at Brookes Institute to study film and photography, and learned web design in the process. Then I moved to San Francisco to work in advertising; I worked my way up from designer to art director at an agency there. And then had a life freak out, quit that, and went back to grad school at Cal Arts for their graphic design program. The program is a deep investigation into the history of design, expanding the borders of contemporary design practice, and understanding design and it’s relationship to architecture, industrial design, fashion, and fine art.
I work with all the departments. I work a lot with Sophia and our CEO Sheree, sitting in on meetings to listen and help consult on our brand direction and larger philosophic brand ideas. Different departments will call me in to get my eye on whatever project they’re working on and get my feedback on what direction to take. I think there’s always a misconception with art directors that it’s all about graphic design. It’s really about getting in touch with what the brand is and giving guidance on how people will experience it, in whatever way that might be. Making sure it feels cohesive, like it’s coming from one voice and one place. The same way an actor enters a character. You have to be objective and subjective at the same time. You have to think objectively as the consumer, but subjectively as a designer. It’s not about what my personal tastes are, it’s about what’s best for the brand, based on what I understand subjectively as a designer. So balancing those roles is really important in what I do.
The people. There’s an incredible lineage of designers that have worked at NG over the years, and I’m honored to now share a part in continuing their legacy. The creative team is really close and I learn a ton from them every day. I guess that’s the most important thing about anywhere, the people–they’re your peers and contemporaries, and you’ll work with and be friends with them the rest of your life. Also having the ability to reach out and work with artists and designers that I look up to. Often times those collaborations result in friendships. A lot of the objects in my house reflect that. I have a giant red poster from Benjamin Critton who designed Nasty Gal Grotesque (our typeface) and a cutting board from Shin at Iko Iko (he’s designed props for our e-comm set). It’s important that life and work influence one other.
Just to be kind. Honestly, I think that’s the most important thing. Work outside of yourself and your ego. Be engaged and present with everyone you encounter. Listen, and empower your team to be able to speak up and contribute honestly by creating a place where people can genuinely be collaborative, where no one’s opinion matters more than anyone else’s. It’s important to hire people who are younger and smarter than you, and to trust them–they are the future of the company. If my mantra was an object, it would be this Neragi ceramic bowl from ceramicist Sidney Dejong in Passadena. She’s in her 80’s and is still pushing the limits of tradition, craft, and her own personal style. She reads two newspapers front to back every morning, and there’s always a nice spread of news and food at her kitchen table. I think this is a nice visual mantra.
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