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2020 SEGD Distinguished Member Award | Anthony Ferrara, Owner/Creative Director, Design Ferrara
The SEGD Distinguished Member Award recognizes an individual for demonstrating outstanding volunteer efforts while significantly contributing to the direction, growth, and excellence of SEGD programs. Recipients of the award have been instrumental in cultivating university programs, advancing accessible and green design, and promoting cultural agendas through design. Past winners include Don Kiel, Amy Lukas, Kelly Kolar, Alexandra Wood, and Wayne Hunt.
Award-winning experiential graphic designer Anthony Ferrara has been an invaluable contributor to SEGD, and his dedication to serving as a New York Chapter Chair has enriched the local community as well. Ferrara has over 30 years of experience across identity, wayfinding, exhibition, and environmental graphic design. Before starting his own business, worked at prestigious New York firms including Two Twelve, Chermayeff & Geismar, and Whitehouse & Company. His work has appeared in many publications, including “The Wayfinding Handbook: Information Design for Public Spaces.”
We recently caught up with Ferrara and asked questions about himself and his work with SEGD.
When did you know a career in design was for you?
At an early age, I was drawn to a number of identities; the logo and typeface on my father’s 1965 Chevrolet Impala, the logo and package design of the Lucky Strike cigarettes my grandmother smoked, and the yellow oval with the simple black bat graphic of the Batman logo. I also had a fascination with NFL and MLB team logos, and in third grade, I drew the team logos on helmets and sold them for 25¢ a piece. But my first design venture came to an end when I was called to the Principal’s office because of complaints about me taking people’s lunch money.
What are a few projects that have shaped your career or practice, and why?
Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with a number of great designers/firms and every one of them has greatly influenced me and my work. Oceanário de Lisboa was one of the first projects that provided me the opportunity to work on all design aspects for a single project – from the exterior building mural wall to the exterior/interior signage and the exhibit graphics, as well as designing the components for two languages. This experience really taught me about versatility.
Radio City Music Hall afforded me an opportunity to work on a historic renovation project and the creation of a sign system with a custom typeface/pictograms that was based on an existing original sign. Through this experience, I gained an appreciation for preserving existing structures and incorporating the use of various materials, such as etch glass and brass.
Citifield was one of the first new major league stadium projects in the New York metro area since the 1970s. We were able to work directly with the Mets owners, as well as with Rachel Robinson and the Jackie Robinson Foundation in the creation of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. It was incredibly inspiring to collaborate with people that were so personally invested and passionate about this project to create a special place, to not only honor a baseball icon but an American hero.
If you could design or redesign any one space/logo/object/service, what would you choose?
I would choose to design a program for the Olympics. When I worked at Two Twelve our office designed the bid books for New York City’s bid to host the 2012 summer Olympics but lost to London. We created all of our materials around the look and feel of the NYC2012 logo which was designed by another firm.
I led a design team that designed and produced the experiential graphics for all venue renderings for inclusion in the bid books. Just doing this was probably a once in a lifetime experience, but if I had the chance, it would be great to be involved in the design process from the very beginning and see it through to the final implementation of graphics throughout the host city.
What advice would you give young designers?
When working in EGD you need to be willing to work with a team and be flexible because there are a lot of different tasks involved in completing a project, so it’s good to know how to do a little of everything and play well with others. Also, when I’m looking at portfolios I like to tell young designers to show some of their process work (sketches, models, etc.). It’s always helpful to see some of the steps that got them to their end result.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I'm a good listener, team player, and hard worker, but also someone who likes to have fun while working – you know what they say, all work and no play…
What's the best part about working for yourself/as an independent contractor?
Being an independent contractor allows me to work on a lot of different projects with designers/firms and as well as my own projects. I can work independently from home, but also commute into New York City to collaborate with others.
What advice can you offer designers thinking about working for themselves?
One thing I find is that you need to be disciplined with your time when you work from a home office - there tends to be a lot of distractions that need your attention. I would also recommend collaborating with other designers/firms when possible, it’s inspiring to be around other like-minded people and not be designed in a bubble all the time, plus it gives you a reason to get out of your pajamas.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working with a friend on the signage for a new Native American museum (First Americans Museum, FAM) in Oklahoma City, OK. I'm also working on an identity for a small construction company, and when some of the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in NYC, there’s a hospital, city park, and subway project that should be starting up again.
How did your relationship with SEGD begin?
When I first started working in NYC in the early ’90s, I worked at Whitehouse & Company and Roger Whitehouse was a very active member of SEGD. At that time, SEGD relied on many of the design firms to help them produce some of their printed collateral and our office helped with that work. It was also during that time that the U.S. government issued its first federal guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I, along with other staff members, worked with Roger and a team of EGD industry leaders on interpreting those guidelines and producing SEGD's original ADA White Paper.
This led to Whitehouse & Company collaborating with the Lighthouse for the Blind in New York to understand how the blind and visually impaired navigate spaces, what information is needed to assist with navigation, and how that information is processed. We worked with clients testing raised lettering, braille, mapping, and text legibility. This experience had a great impact and made me realize how important SEGD is to our profession and to society in general.
What role does participation in, or volunteering with SEGD play in your practice?
Through my involvement with SEGD, I have built some great relationships with people/designers. I have met locally, nationally, and globally and some of these relationships have led to rewarding collaborations on various projects.
What was the best memory you have from your time as an SEGD Chapter Chair?
After the President’s Reception at the Miami Conference, I went out with a few chapter chairs and other members to a club that played alternative ’80’s music. We danced and drank like there was no tomorrow until the club closed.
>>> More about Anthony Ferrara.
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