Today, we feature Amy Schultz in our Feature Friday series. She is a graphic designer and art director currently working at Circus Maximus in NYC. She specializes in visually bringing new and established brands to life.
Jayda B. - Can you tell us who you are and what do you do?
Amy Schultz - My name is Amy, and I'm a designer at Circus Maximus.
J - Outside of Circus Maximus, do you have a specific style or process that you implement in your own work?
A - My personal work focuses a lot on parodies and mental health. I'm also interested in merch designs and making mental health feel wearable, approachable and relatable. Random musings and thoughts that I have thought the day that feel like word vomit, I’ll make into graphic slogans or into t-shirts for example.
J - Why is your mental health initiative important to you?
A - I find that a lot of designers who focus on mental health topics, use that to communicate how they are really feeling and may not be able to express that otherwise. With instagram now, it's such a flood of information but it is nice to have something relatable on your feed. I think some of my work can be considered kind of dark. For example, I made a graphic that said “Overwhelmed, but here”’. It was how I was feeling at the time and it was a way to emote how I was feeling, that didn't feel performative, but authentic to me and that moment.
I have a dark sense of humor in general and I think bringing some sort of lightness to statements that can seem super daunting, but I like to use my platforms to bring light to that.
J - How did you navigate through design school to now being a professional working at an agency?
A - I went to Parsons, which is a super high stress and competitive environment. We were taught to just produce, produce, produce all the time in school, without feeling and a lot of the time, you’ll put yourself on autopilot just to get through the day. Sometimes design work can feel montoimous and it's good to take time to pause and focus on the things that you like and the things that you are attracted to. I love corkier typefaces, and not necessarily “clean and modern”. When I was in design school, there was such an emphasis on using “clean” design and “modern” design. You don't really see a lot of those corkier illustrations or designs in brand work and I like to inject a little bit of what I don't usually get to use into my personal work.
J - How do you combat working in stressful environments as a creative person? What's the best way to navigate that for your own mental health?
A - I think there's a misconception, where we as designers think design can save the world. Within the community of designers and what I've found my role to be in the world of design is to use my work to start conversations. Around mental health, around social justice, and realistically we know just putting a pretty typeface on a colored background isn't going to change the world but what will is someone seeing that graphic, internalizing that and taking action. It may even spark someone to start having conversations with other people about heavier topics that they wouldn't necessarily have before. The state of the world right now, the reality of what Black creatives go though and how they are treated for example. In my work, humor is an entry point for starting those conversations. When I make something darker and if you see it and immediately think “oh I would never say that out loud” its that internalized thought process that can be used later to start these conversations.
J - You feel we should normalize expressing how we truly feel rather than internalizing these thoughts, thinking “is this safe to say?”
A - I think its an entryway to talking about heavier stuff and although we’re not always “in the mood” to talk about that, I think it's the repeated exposure that can make us more comfortable. I think most people are visual creatures and when they see something, they save it and they share it and they mood board it for example.
J - Are you a part of other networks specifically in alignment with mental health initiatives?
A - Yes, there is a group called Ladies who Design and Ladies Get Paid that I pay attention to, that's a broader network of women who talk about mental health, pay disparities, etc.
J - Whats something that you wish you could tell yourself even just two years ago that you know now?
A - In general, my gut is right. It's safe to trust that. Something that I've learned is that I do have an eye and I need to trust my eye and my gut in work.
J - Whats something that you live by everyday?
A - “It do be like that sometimes.” We’re in constant influx as people right now. The way that I am and feel today might not be the same or nearly the same tomorrow but that's also helped me in my work. Something that I didn't notice today, I may be able to pick up on tomorrow. Everyday is a new day and I know that sounds corney and like it should be on an embroidered pillow but it really is true. Who you are as a person is always changing. You don't have to be perfect to be a force for meaningful change. I strive for perfection in execution, composition and curation for example but you don't have to be perfect to get someone to understand the meaning of your work.