Yr02, Ep15 :: Krista Fredericks on merging passions with design

Krista Fredericks

by This is Design School

On this episode, Krista Fredricks, a Seattle-based web designer, talks about the importance of internships, finding your dream job by merging your passion with design and the concept of designer as curator.


JP:

Krista Fredricks, thank you for being on This is Design School with us today. We are excited to see you and it’s always good to see you whenever we can.

KRISTA:

Thank you. It’s been a long time.

JP:

It has been. So, I would love to start the conversation by giving us some feedback on what you’re doing now.

KRISTA:

Alright. So, I have been at Nordstrom Corporate in Seattle for about two and a half years now. And, I’m doing web design. So, that means I’m working purely on the eCommerce side, which is the website for Nordstrom.

JP:

And, how did you get to that?

KRISTA:

Well, I did an internship when I was still in college at PLU (Pacific Lutheran University). I worked on the user experience side of web design at Nordstrom during my summer between junior and senior year. I did that for three months and it really helped me get my foot in the door at Nordstrom and also doing several client work pieces while I was a senior at PLU, that really helped, too. I did stuff for the City of Tacoma and things for PLU around the campus. That sort of helped me, progression-wise. I did the internship at Nordstrom, stayed in touch with them during my senior year and then got hired on two months before graduation. So, it was pretty fast.

CHAD:

You are so lucky.

KRISTA:

(laughs) Yes, and I definitely recognize that. But, it took a lot of work to get there.

CHAD:

No, that’s true.

JP:

Yeah, and you sort of brushed over a lot of the work. What were some of the things that took a lot of work, in order to get into either the internship or the position after the internship?

KRISTA:

I think the most important parts were the things leading up to the internship. Just kind of prepping a resumé, getting a website together, getting experience under my belt. So, when I went to an interview for the internship, it was kind of all laid out there. Like, “Hey, this is what I’ve done, this is what I want to know, this is where I want to grow.” And, just kind of showing them the best of the best and having a wide variety of stuff. Because when I worked for the City of Tacoma, I did a website and different brochures. So, it was a mix of print and online. So, all of those things helped come together when I was ready to apply for this position that I really didn’t know a lot about. Because I knew I wanted to do web design, but I didn’t know how that was going to fit in to the Nordstrom circle. User experience design was something that I’d never done before.

JP:

If I can pick a piece from there that you had just mentioned. You had just said something about you telling people about what you want to grow in and how you can achieve that there. Is that a common practice? Or, have you seen other people use that kind of technique saying, “Here’s why I’m coming here, because of these things. And, this is where I want to grow.”

KRISTA:

Well, personally I feel like I’ve always taken that—and it’s kind of a form of being humble, you know, you don’t know everything. There were things I was very strong, and I knew how to do this and I knew how to do that. But, then it’s like, you know, user experience is something I’ve never done before and I’m going to be open about that and say I want to learn about it because it would make me strong, you know, with all of these different pieces of design; the front-end, the back-end, how you connect those. So, that’s why I kind of felt like it was good coming to the table with, “I’m strong with this, I’m strong with this part of design, but I’m not so strong with this part of design, and this is why I want to be here.”

CHAD:

Do you feel like you would have been able to be that open with them right off of the bat if you wouldn’t have done an internship and had that relationship with them previously?

KRISTA:

No. And, I think that’s why it’s so important to have experience in an internship. And, kind of take that leap of faith. Because it is more of an exposed part. Because you’re like, “Look! I’m new and I don’t know what exactly is going on all of the time.” But, I think it’s that willingness to learn that is the biggest part that you can take from an internship and really run with. That was really great for me. Again, because it’s really important to show that you’re enthusiastic about learning new things.

JP:

And, now that you’ve been there for a while do you still have that enthusiasm?

KRISTA:

Yeah, absolutely. So, coming off of the internship, one of the most important things I did while I was doing the internship—I kind of owned a couple of projects and would really be like, “Hey! I want to jump in here and help you do a wireframe for something.” Or, “Hey, I want to go see when you”—one of the things we do with the site is we’ll test two different versions of something and we’ll bring people in to do these tests. And, it was like, I want to see, I want to watch that happen and see where we can learn from those mistakes and where we would do different tests. All of those aspects, it was like, “Show me what goes on here. Show me the 360.”

And, I think, for me at least, also doing informational interviews with anybody that I could sit down with. I think over the course of the three month I did 15 or 16 different informational interviews with people from senior designers to UX designers to the VP of eCommerce. I sort of wanted to meet everybody just to get a feel for different people’s views on Nordstrom and how it all works.

CHAD:

So, you did those informational while you were interning.

KRISTA:

Correct. Yes.

CHAD:

What we didn’t cover was why Nordstrom? How did you find Nordstrom? And, how did you decide that’s where you wanted to work. Because, obviously you interned there, and then you decided to work there. And, you’d been very conscious about maintaining that relationship in-between those two.

KRISTA:

Well, I have been a lover of fashion forever. I think Jp could definitely back me on this. I would come into the art studio wearing my heels. So, it was always just kind of a part of my life that I was really interested in ever since high school.

It was kind of like, “Well, I want to stay local, I love the Pacific Northwest.” And, also thinking in terms of, “Okay, what do I like? I love fashion. Nordstrom is in Seattle! That would be the ultimate cool thing.” And, I feel like it just was a natural progression. I always kept it in the back of my mind like, “This is where I want to be.” Not really knowing full well how it was going to turn out, or what the job would entail. I just didn’t know. And, then when it got closer and the doors finally opened up, and I walked into that internship, I was like, “Yeah, absolutely. This is where I want to be.”

So, it was just kind of always there. But, I didn’t know where it was going to go after that.

CHAD:

Mmmhmmm. Because I know that’s something I’ve always struggled with is the exact opposite of that; is knowing that I love design but not knowing where or what kind of design you want to do and what environment that is. So, I’m a little bit jealous that you were able to find that so early and sort of meld design with that passion of fashion.

KRISTA:

Yes, exactly. And, that was something that I always look back on and go, “Gosh, I do feel very fortunate that the cards just sort of all fell the right way.” Because I got the internship, I got hired in a field doing something with design that I love.

CHAD:

So, it sounds like everything for you, at least the way we’ve talked about it, you make it sound so easy and everything is going so well. But, I imagine that hasn’t always necessarily been the case.

KRISTA:

I think it’s been more, ummm, trying to have a positive outlook on it. And, also realizing that there are definitely high stress days. I think a lot of it turned to dedication and working the extra hours in school. And, spending lots of time were it might have been more like maybe my peers who were just kind of hanging out. Where I was really trying to figure out how I was going to make this work and how I was going to push myself. And, I think, like I said, the internship and then going back to school was definitely hard because I knew I was going to be away from that environment. But yeah, there are ups and downs to it all, definitely. But, I think it was always knowing the ultimate goal helped me continue and be determined and stay determined.

”I think a lot of it turned to dedication and working the extra hours in school. And, spending lots of time were it might have been more like maybe my peers who were just kind of hanging out. Where I was really trying to figure out how I was going to make this work and how I was going to push myself.”

 

CHAD:

One other thing I wanted to ask you about was what do you do on the side. I mean, most designers have side projects they work on for fun. What is that for you?

KRISTA:

Well, for a while it was nothing, to be honest. Because I was kind of learning to do that nine-to-five type of job. And, realizing sitting at a computer all day was kind of exhausting. So, I kind of wanted to do anything but that. But, then I realized I also suffered in the area of getting influence from different places and getting inspiration from other places. So, I realized I needed to fit that back in.

For me, photography is an escape. You can go on an adventure, you can go outside. And, so I take a lot of nature and landscape photographs. But, I also am a guess poster on my friend’s blog and I do different fashion posts. It’s a mixture of, kind of, lifestyle stuff. And, I try and keep up with my Instagram posts and different fashion, interior design things like that. But, also helping her out with her blog, taking pictures for her blog. During the last Christmas, we did a twelve days of cocktails post. So, I helped photograph all of those. So, it’s just, kind of, staying busy and there’s different areas where it just sort of lands in my lap. And, I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Sure. I’d love to do that for you.” I do engagement photos for friends and just kind of random stuff to stay busy.

CHAD:

How did you end up connecting with your friend for that blog?

KRISTA:

Well, we met during the internship, as it would be! (laughs)

CHAD:

Really?

KRISTA:

We were kind of… We realized we had a lot in common during the internship. And, stayed really close that we were both got back at school. And, we both got hired on before we finished our senior year. And, we’ve been best friends ever since. And, she’s a writer and I was the design side of that. And, she was like, “Hey, I’m starting a blog, you know. I’d love to have some help with the photography or the design where you want.” And, I was like, “That’s awesome. I’d love to.”

JP:

And, how long have you guys been doing that blog for?

KRISTA:

Well, it’s her blog that she does with a friend and I just kind of help take pictures and help post whenever for fashion. But, she’s been doing it for a few years now.

JP:

Have you ever thought of doing a blog of your own?

KRISTA:

I have. Yes. It’s sort of been kind of a pipe dream. There are definitely times when I’m taking an abundance of pictures for a different outfit post and I’m like, “Gosh! I would love to have this on my own blog.” And, then I start kind of diving deeper into what that means, in the aspect of coming up with the theme and the logo and a color scheme. And, I’m very indecisive when it comes to that. So, I’m like, one day “Oh! I know this mint green looks great!” And, then I’m like, “What was I thinking? Obviously it’s going to be coral.” (laughs) And so, I go back and forth with the front end of all of it, and you know, I just want to blink and be doing posts already. But, there’s a lot of work that needs to go into it. And, recently I have found that I haven’t had the time. So…

JP:

I find that having, what Chad calls, and accountabilibuddy always helps. Someone that’s there to makes sure that you are doing it, or that is reminding you of reasons why to do it. So, maybe thinking about getting a partner in crime.

KRISTA:

Absolutely. My roommate just kicked off her blog. And, it’s kind of giving me the energy I need to start mine. Just because I look and see how she’s laying everything out and getting this following going. And, I’m like, “It wouldn’t be that hard. I could do it.” I just need to sit down and take chunks of time and go through it versus taking fifteen minutes to thinking about it. I need to dedicate one hour of my time, maybe once a week, twice a week, and follow through with it.

JP:

I think that’s one of the things that has hindered me all of these years from keeping a blog or staying consistent with it. It’s one of the things you have to continuously work on. Going back to the accountabilibuddy, but being accountable to yourself but also to your followers that you plan on having.

KRISTA:

Absolutely. I think the other part about a blog that seems daunting is that there are so many out there these days. It seems like everybody is a blogger and everybody is a photographer. If I want to do it right and I want to do it well, I want to do it in a strong way that’s going to be unique and not just another fashion blog. So, that’s the hardest part too is finding that niche. Fashion would be a huge part of it, but also different kinds of pieces of lifestyle. One of the things I’ve done in the past, since I live and work so close to Pikes Place, I’ll go down and get different bouquets during the week and go against my favorite pink wall and go take an outfit post with a bouquet. Then, I’ll use the hashtag Pike Petals (#pikepetals). And so, I’ve kind of been thinking, “Okay, well there might be something to this. I could take it with that angle.” So, it’s finding that niche.

CHAD:

But, also I think, a lot of the things you’ve been talking about are also some of the things I find debilitating. Especially for me when I am trying to do things like build a portfolio or things like that, there’s all of these tiny decisions like, “Should it be mint or, of course it should be coral.” Right? But, you keep going back and forth. Then, I can’t put it out there because it’s not perfect, yet.

KRISTA:

Yeah.

CHAD:

Or, I’m aware that it’s not right yet and that’s why I can’t do it. But, that process of debilitation actually keeps you from doing anything.

KRISTA:

Yes. I agree. And, I feel that that’s the hardest part is when to accept that, “Okay, I’m feeling comfortable with where it is now. And, it can be changed in the long run.” But, it’s that initial send off of, “This is how I’m portraying myself today.”

”I feel that that’s the hardest part is when to accept that, ‘Okay, I’m feeling comfortable with where it is now. And, it can be changed in the long run.’”

 

JP:

Yeah. There was something that you and I talked about last night, I think. Was, especially for me, the reason it has taken me so long is that I have no one to bounce this off of. So, I’m continuously in my mind of, “No, I can’t do this. It has to be this color. It has to be this layout. Well, let me just try something else.” Again, and again and again. And, I’m stuck in that cycle. Which just goes back to critiquing, you know, having someone to give you feedback. And, reminding you of why you’re doing it or of the process that you need to take. And, not just continuous in a circular loop.

KRISTA:

And, one of the other things that I find myself often thinking about, is sharpening up on different tools for Photoshop or Illustrator or different things that I’m using at the time. There are lots of things that pop up into my mind and I’m like, “Oh, I need to figure out how to achieve that look.” And, then it becomes, “Oh, I need to learn how to do that.” And, one of the things that I’ve been really interested in lately is calligraphy and just sharpening up those skills that go back to drawing and typesetting and all of that stuff. And, its like, “Okay, now I need to take some classes and I need to get back into different lessons for things.”

JP:

When you say classes, do you mean actual classes? Or, are you talking about a regiment for yourself of trial and error, test and retest?

KRISTA:

I think it’s a little bit of both. I would love to take some classes on specific things, like the different calligraphy styles, using the right pens and how to achieve certain looks. But, also different tools in Photoshop or Illustrator that I haven’t touched in years or that I’ve never touched. And, I’m like, “Okay, now let’s see what YouTube has to offer and I’ll just follow this little tutorial and see how it works and sometimes that does or does not work.

JP:

I’d like to take that and maybe expand a bit further on it and ask you, what were some of the practices that you used or learned in school that you can continue to expand upon or the curiosity; was the curiosity cultivated in undergrad in a way that you can still use now?

KRISTA:

Absolutely. I think Illustrator. Illustrator, Illustrator, Illustrator.

JP:

(laughs)

KRISTA:

I think it’s something that I used so much in college. And, I think that’s because I was doing so many designs for things like different logos and then taking that into InDesign. And so, the pen tool—a very important tool—that I’m still learning to play with and how to make things perfect. And, then when, you know, I went into the workforce and started using Photoshop all of the sudden, where I had never really done much with Photoshop before. Learning how to meld those two, when some people are purely just working in Photoshop and have never worked in Illustrator. So, I think that was really important to have. So, I had both sides.

JP:

And, do you feel that—taking the idea of calligraphy, which is something you didn’t do in college—do you feel that you have the resources or the mindset, the training, to find how to do it or teach yourself how to do it and to be that lifelong learner.

KRISTA:

Yes. And, kind of, again it goes back to, I learned all of those basic principles in schools, and now it’s kind of taking these different tools and infusing them into what I learned with the fundamentals. So, things with…doing the calligraphy; doing it by hand, scanning it in. Altering it in Illustrator. Like it’s that whole process until it becomes something that is purely unique to you. And, you’ve kind of made it into this perfect version that you’ve envisioned.

CHAD:

Where do you find your inspiration?

KRISTA:

Everywhere. (laughs) I think a lot of it comes with the job that I’m doing right now. I’m on the digital creative side of Nordstrom, which again is the website. And, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the digital strategy team since July. And, a lot of the stuff that we do is designing for the future and preparing for the future. That means pulling scrap, which means pulling inspiration from everywhere, and creating mood boards, like a giant Pinterest, to say. And so, a lot of it just comes from going down the rabbit hole and finding something that you like and putting in Google and putting it in Tumblr and going all of these places. Or, it could be just going outside and going down the street. Seeing the different pieces of type that are around and seeing the different pieces in windows. I think it’s a whole curation of that.

CHAD:

Is there anything that you keep going back to in particular, or any significant person or book that you keep going back to that you…

KRISTA:

Uhh, I don’t know if I could pull one off of the top of my head because it’s a lot of just random swipes from different places. And, a lot of it, I’m still learning, like photographers by first name and like, “Oh, that’s so, so-and-so.” <em(laughs) So, I think it’s really purely just brought in from random aspects. Another interesting thing for me is album covers. Which is, not necessarily albums anymore, but they’re online in places like SoundCloud. And, pulling inspiration from there, too. And, it kind of draws you into that music aspect of it, which is also a huge inspiration for me. It really sets the tone for the season or for what I’m working on. I always have to have fresh music that I’m working with.

JP:

That was just something I was going to bring up, as well. I feel that you, and Chad, are people that rely heavily on the visuals, but also on the audio of the environment that you create in order to be creative. Would you say that’s true for you Chad?

CHAD:

Of course. I’m a sound hound. Yeah, I’ve always liked music. And, I’m a little bit snooty when it comes to music, but…

JP:

How so?

CHAD:

Well, there’s people that have good taste in music and people that don’t.

KRISTA:

(laughs) Some people are just good at it, and some people just aren’t.

CHAD:

You know, some people think that’s something that’s subjective, but I would think, and Krista might agree, that it’s a little more objective.

KRISTA:

Yeah. Because I’m a snooty music person, apparently.

CHAD:

No, no, no!

JP:

Why are the two of you looking at me when you’re talking about this.

CHAD:

No, all I’m saying is that Krista and I have general agreement in music taste, as far as I know.

JP:

Well, perhaps I’ll just step out and the two of you can continue this conversation.

KRISTA:

I mean, we have gone to a couple of concerts, so you know…

JP:

It’s fine. It’s fine.

KRISTA:

…we have a similar taste. And, I think it is also, for me at least, I see it as a game. I see the music that is hitting the mainstream right now, like the Weeknd for instance, and I’m just like, “I’ve been listening to him since 2010, 2011.” And, it kind of gives me a sense of, “Ha, I listened to him first. And, I think that’s my mentality when I’m looking for new music all of the time.” I’m like, “Okay, what can I find that is new and fresh and, you know, you turn it on and somebody is like, ‘I really like that. Who is that?’” You know? And, they’ve never heard of them before. And, I’m like, “One point.” (laughs)

CHAD:

But, at the same time, you’re talking about doing creative strategy work in fashion where you’re kind of doing a similar thing where you’re figuring out like, “Oh, this is what’s going to be hot,” and curating that in a way and presenting it to people. And, that’s two different realms but it’s similar in approach and mindset in the way that you’re working in.

”You can’t predict what’s going to go on in the future. But, you can help mold it.”

 

KRISTA:

Mmmhmmm. And, I totally think those two meld together. You can’t predict what’s going to go on in the future. But, you can help mold it. And, I think that’s the coolest part with strategy is really setting those parameters and saying, “This is really cool and fresh and this would be a great thing to jump off of for Spring,” or whatever the instance might be.

JP:

There’s a phrase I would like to throw out maybe to describe you, Krista. Is maybe designer as curator. Would you agree that perhaps that’s a fitting title?

KRISTA:

I could see that because I feel like I’m always looking for new projects, not necessarily finishing them. But, kind of grabbing things, bringing them together and really loving what I’ve got spread out on the table and then maybe it doesn’t get finished in the end. But, I’m also okay with that because maybe I’m going to see where it’s headed. So, I could see the curator part having a huge play in that.

JP:

Yeah. I’m trying to convince my daughter to stop listening to the same CD over and over again. So, I’ve been using your playlists and saying, “Okay, you can listen to anything off of this except for these five and these two.” (laughs)

KRISTA:

(laughs) And, we’ll skip that one. (laughs)

JP:

Yeah, exactly. So…

KRISTA:

I mean again, it’s kind of like a game. With design, with music, it’s that challenge to push yourself and kind of find what it is you’re searching for with all of these things. What do they all have in common that you can bring to the table and really experience in a sensory way?

JP:

Challenge is a good word. What challenges you these days?

KRISTA:

Well, thinking about the blog, thinking about what I want to do with my photography, it’s that challenge to, oh gosh, learn more and not get so stuck in what I’ve been doing. I kind of felt like there was a time, maybe about a year ago, that I was just kind of on a wheel. And, I was like, “I really need to find some inspiration, find something new.” I feel like I need to find new things and get inspired more. Which means taking me out of my comfort zone and, you know, go to work, come home from work, because I’m very much a homebody, and so it requires some adventure and going new places.

JP:

Do you have any questions for us?

KRISTA:

Well, I didn’t know the tides were going to be turned like this!

ALL:

(laugh)

JP:

I mean, you don’t have to. We can go on. But…

KRISTA:

I’m trying to think. What inspires you throughout different podcasts that you do to keep going?

JP:

Mmm. Mine is very methodical and has not so much to do with creativity, as much as it does, I hate not finishing things. To start it, it’s because I was looking for a creative outlet. I needed something that was more about conversation more about being inspired. And, brining in interviewees, like you and our other guests for year one and year two, always leave me with a sense of, “Oh, I wish I were like that! But, I can still be like that.” I doubt that I can still be like that. But, at least it still brings me hope. And, sometimes it brings me back to the students to say, “I know you can do this because someone just said to me on a podcast that they did it.”

CHAD:

I think for me the podcast has really become this opportunity to—I think for a number of things—I think one, it’s been an opportunity to talk to people that I may not have otherwise felt like I had the license to talk to. And, the second part is, I think it’s helping younger designers, or people who are feeling challenged or stuck in some way, and letting other people tell their story so they can help those people, because we’ve all been in that situation.

But, it’s also, for me—since I’ve been in grad school—I’ve realized how much bigger the design world is than I ever knew it was before I went back to school. This podcast, I’ve felt, has given us an opportunity to talk to such a broad range of designers that do such a broad range of things that—especially young designers—when I was in school, I didn’t know design could do all of these different things…

KRISTA:

Absolutely.

CHAD:

…and if I would have known then, that would have changed or expedited that trajectory significantly.

“I think that was one of the great things about going into the field of graphic design is it can take you so many different places when you start adding different elements.”

 

KRISTA:

And, I think that was one of the great things about going into the field of graphic design is it can take you so many different places when you start adding different elements. Maybe you start bringing in motion graphics, or adding in sounds. I mean, there’s all these different areas it can take you. I think that is what people in school need to realize is that you’re going into a field that is extremely positive. You can find a huge variety of careers within it.

CHAD:

I mean it’s all of those things, but it’s also all of the different industries. For, example you doing your job in the fashion industry, if you were to go to a different industry, it would feel completely different.

KRISTA:

Yeah.

CHAD:

You’d be doing very similar things, but it would be a lot different.

KRISTA:

Exactly, it’s breaking it down into learning the fundamentals about design that will carry you into all of the different aspects, it’s multifaceted.

CHAD:

Exactly. And, it’s interesting because almost everyone we talk to talks about that same thing. It’s like, “Well, I know these same basics and that’s how I got to where I am now.” But, yet they’re using them in completely different ways.

KRISTA:

Yeah. It’s adding in your personality into the design that helps you take it and make it not just become a career but a passion.

JP:

Yeah.

KRISTA:

And, I think for me when you first asked me to do this, that was kind of what I was thinking. Was, “How can I, at least give one piece of advice that might help someone else that might be in a certain area of feeling.” Whether they’re struggling or not knowing how to get over that hurdle. So hopefully, there is something in there that you can use.

JP:

So what is that. Let’s break down that fourth wall. Listen up people.

KRISTA:

Well, I think again, going back to the internships, whether you think you need one or not, I think it is beneficial in all areas. Whether you decide you want to continue with a company, or you just want to dip your toes in and see what it’s all about, it’s super beneficial when you’re in college. I know a lot of people who’ve done them when they’re finished with college because they’re like, “Oh, I just want to get through college, and then I’ll start worrying about a job, and I’ll start worrying about an internship and all of this other stuff.” But, I think you need to be actively thinking about it while you’re in school because it creates such fluid process when you’re out of school.

CHAD:

Well Krista, as always, it’s been great catching up with you. Thank you for coming in today and being on the podcast with us and giving a great conversation.

KRISTA:

Thank you so much for having me. It’s good to see you both.

JP:

We’ll see you next time!

More Episodes