Appalachian State University have alumni in incredibly diverse vocations. To celebrate homecoming week, The Appalachian spoke with with two alumni, Boone-based graphic designer Derek Wycoff and Stephanie Beard, the founder of a fashion brand called “Esby.”
The Appalachian: Describe your career as a graphic designer and experiences as an entrepreneur.
Derek Wycoff: “My career is just beginning, I have been a designer for five or six years. I face creative challenges on a daily basis and I am always learning new skills, while remaining experimental and open to new opportunities. When I started, I didn’t have any specific goal in mind. I just enjoyed making posters and being involved in shows around town. I did not go to art school and I’ve never taken a graphic design class. I’m proud of that. Art school can be a really beneficial experience for a lot of people, but I knew it wasn’t for me because I like to learn at my own pace and research slowly and methodically. Everything I’ve learned is through trial and error. Friends would ask me to make posters for music shows, images for books, websites, and I ended up doing a lot of graphic design work for my band, Naked Gods, as well. After a while, it all starts to add up, making a decent body of work. At some point, you can look at what you’ve made and start to see a pattern. That pattern becomes your style and aesthetic. It’s really organic and awesome when it happens. In the future, I’d like to make more album art, gallery work and even magazine illustration to allow my work to be viewed by a wider audience. I have a long way to get to where I want to be, but I’m always discovering new things that inspire me.”
TA: What does graphic design mean to you?
DW: “I think it’s just another art form. It’s a way of refining and visualizing ideas and figuring out what works best; finding the right combination of colors, lines, pictures, etc. to create an image that perfectly encapsulates the mood you’re trying to convey. It feels like a puzzle to me.”
TA: Can you describe your style and aesthetic?
DW: “It’s always changing depending on what I’m working on. Sometimes it’s really playful and sometimes it’s really stark, or maybe a combination of both. Generally, I like to keep chopping things up so my stuff tends to look fragmented. I have hard time leaving things alone. I use repetition and I like cleaner typography, but I want to explore messier and unconventional letterforms at some point. I’d say there is a fair amount of psychedelia in my stuff. Having a sense of humor and playfulness are important to me.”
TA: What, in particular, inspires you?
DW: “I’m digging vintage Olympic posters and graphics. The sweet spot is 1964-1976. They’re incredible and often very simple. I like a lot of pop art/ design stuff: Paul Rand, Tanaami Keiichi, Barney Bubbles, Corita Kent. I love album art of all kinds. I’m always looking at record covers and sleeves and gaining a lot of inspiration. A few that I’ve been enjoying lately are Stevie Wonder ‘Innervisions,’ Robert Flynn’s stuff for Impulse Records, and albums designed by Robert Beatty.”
TA: What was your favorite design piece?
DW: “I just the did album art for my band’s new album, ‘Naked Gods.’ It’s probably my favorite piece right now. I spent a lot of time on it and wanted to make it very cohesive. I’m proud of how that turned out. All the elements work well together and fit the music. It reuses a lot of the same elements in creative ways. The aesthetic feels solid and well thought out.”
TA: How has your time at ASU prepared you for life after graduation?
DW: “I think Appalachian fosters creativity and openness to explore new avenues and possibilities. There are a lot of open-minded folks that are more concerned with the experience you gain rather than always having the right answer. I think that’s an important quality in education. I learned to keep refining and building my interests. It’s a small town/university, so it’s the perfect place to explore your own creative voice without a lot of pressure.”
Stephanie Beard is the owner and founder of esby apparel. Her clothing line is designed in Austin, Texas, and produced in New Orleans, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas.
The Appalachian: Describe your career as the founder of an apparel line and your experiences as an entrepreneur.
Stephanie Beard: “Prior to starting my clothing line, esby apparel, I worked in New York City in the fashion industry. It was with my fashion degree plus 10 years of industry experience that I felt ready to tackle being an entrepreneur. I have had success by being a planner and I learn new things every day. The biggest challenge has been the financial side, but my best advice is to ‘fake it till you make it’ and get everything to work on paper before spending the money. Make sure numbers work or you will spin your wheels instead of being profitable.”
TA: How has your time at App prepared you for life after graduation?
SB: “My experience at Appalachian prepared me for these roles because of my clothing and textiles major and marketing minor. I wouldn’t feel confident having a clothing business if I didn’t have the background I received in pattern making, draping, sketching and more.”
TA: What advice do you have for any current students looking to follow in your footsteps or who are simply trying to find a path in life?
SB: “Whatever you do, follow your dreams. Don’t take on a job or a major for the money. Hard work can pay off and you can have the life you want if you go after your dreams. Working takes up so much of our time in life you want to make sure you have a job that leaves you fulfilled.”
Story by: Matthias Kramer, Intern A&E Reporter