Name: Jennifer Blanco
Place of Employment: Spindletop Design & Product Superior
Job Title: Co-owner/Creative Director/Designer at each
How long have you been an AIGA member?
From 2004-6 in the New York chapter during my last years of school, and in the Houston chapter a few months.
What is your take on the creative industry in Houston? How do you think we can make it different?
While there is an amazing sense of energy and encouraging interest in art & design in Houston, I think that the creative industry here could stand to take itself more seriously.
For one, why don’t we as a design community have a dedicated space which serves has a home for speaking events, design exhibits, etc? As of now, we gather at bars and while those may be trendy venues to visit, it does not offer our community any strength or validity. Creating an environment for productive or critical discussion in our field would be a great way to start. One small change such as this could potentially offer a whole new chance at engaging not just with other designers, but artists, architects, writers, and the general public. While Unity within the creative industry remains missing, so is recognition from the public itself – design related exhibits could help to inform and bring people from various backgrounds together.
What inspired you to become a designer?
Before I ever knew what graphic design was, I made paper things for my family and friends. I painted or illustrated mini posters of my favorite bands. When we got our first desktop computer at home as a teenager, an early version of Photoshop came with it and I taught myself how to use it. Not long after, when I’d begun studying fine art, I eventually used Photoshop to create compositions, choosing from fonts available to set messages in them. Even my essays for Political Science would get typeset. My eyes weren’t opened wide until I learned from a good friend and mentor still today – Jenny Conte – that it was something that could be pursued – that it was someone’s job to make those amazing movie titles I was seeing in Seven. Beyond that, growing up, I spent quite a bit of time at my grandfather’s business, which etches and anodizes plaques for architectural signage and more (he worked on the ADC Houston’s awards many years ago). I do believe in the time I was there, masking off and inspecting the cleanly etched typography, map graphics, and other artwork for paint fill, that my future interest in design was greatly influenced.
What other creative/art events do you attend?
I occasionally watch films at the Museum of Fine Arts (recently saw Metropolis and Seven Samurai – I’ll be back for more Kurosawa). I may attend a book reading or design lecture, or digital photography seminar, and sometimes attend Houston photographer meet-ups.
When you aren’t working, what are you doing?
When not working, which is almost rare, I go on photo walks around Houston or as far as driving can get me to and from in a day. I try to post frequently on Le Clique Foto, a collaborative photoblog run with my partner John Earles, and have occasional date nights on the xBox, the ONLY game system, with friends back in NYC/NJ. Or I may wander for the day at my grandfather’s farm outside of Hempstead. I’m also a huge fan of nature/wildlife parks; and hiking/biking/camping whenever possible.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date as a design professional?
Not being afraid of risk and the chance to learn something new, as exhibited below.
Choosing to start my own projects, beginning with Product Superior (we currently design, illustrate and manage production of eco-friendly products like greetings and limited edition prints).
Co-creating Le Clique Foto (a place where friends, family, and strangers meet to share one common interest: photography)
And now Spindletop Design (firm with a focus on logo & identity design, packaging, and other printed matter for businesses in the restaurant, specialty food, product, and creative industries).
Doing my duty to preserve a portion of history while being conscious of material, energy, and waste: Acquiring and spending months restoring 2 Chandler & Price presses to print limited editions of our own letterpress paper goods, as well as offer services to the public. Our inks are soy based, solvents are biodegradable and we are 100% Texas Wind powered.
Giving back to the community: This semester, I am teaching a college course in graphic design for the first time.
Who are your design heroes or mentors?
Louise Fili (whom I had the pleasure of learning and working under), Chad Roberts, Charles & Ray Eames, Agnes Martin, Katsushika Hokusai, I can never remember them all when asked.
Where can we find you?
In the physical: At my studio on the edge of Magnolia, Texas. In cyberspace: spindletopdesign.com (@spindletopllc), productsuperior.com, lecliquefoto.com
About Jennifer Blanco:
Originally from Houston, I moved to New York City in 2001, where I studied and received a BFA in Graphic Design at the School of Visual Arts in 2005. After working for the in-house teams at JPMorgan Chase and The Museum of Modern Art; and small boutique firms such as Louise Fili Ltd and Goodesign (which was based out of Brooklyn where I lived), Product Superior was founded. Our product line debuted shortly thereafter at the National Stationery Show NYC in 2009 and our work has been featured in various blogs online which include Design*Sponge and Oh So Beautiful Paper; in trade publications such as Stationery Trends; and in book compilations as “1000 More Graphic Elements” (Rockport), “Reinventing Letterpress” (Rotovision), “Impressive” (Gestalten), and “The Little Book of Letterpress” (Chronicle Books).
After much time living, working, playing, and even mountain biking in Brooklyn/New York for many years, we recently relocated back to the Houston area to further expand our horizons in both business and ideas; and to further foster my never-ending curiosity to learn and be challenged.