Connecticut Creatives | Pamela Howard, Firebrick Design
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Pamela Howard, Firebrick Design

What do you do and where do you do it?

I’m a graphic designer based in West Hartford, Connecticut. I run a small firm, Firebrick Design, that specializes in communicating through design; strategy, branding, and print publication work that often also have digital components.

What inspired you to choose this profession, and what makes you stay in it?

I knew that I wanted to do something in the arts… but I had no idea if there were any careers in the arts! In school I tried lots of different art forms; sculpture, painting, printmaking. I liked the three dimensionality of all of these, but it was in a core graphic design course where I realized that graphic design let may play in all these different fields. I loved writing, too, so I liked the idea of building or painting something, making an image of it and integrating it and explaining it via a print layout. What makes me stay in this profession is that I still love what I do!

What is your career highlight so far?

Oh, I don’t know. Generally it’s the most recent thing that has happened! I’m pretty thrilled to be one of Print magazine’s Regional Design Annual Winners. I remember just poring over any Print magazines that I could get my hands on in school. They were expensive for a student budget so time with a borrowed copy was pretty precious. It’s cool to think of what my 18-year-old self would think if she only knew that she’d get to be included in those pages some day! Any CADC award is special for that same reason. And being accepted into Milton Glaser’s Design & Personality class years ago nearly made my head explode.

What do you want to accomplish before you retire?

Just to keep the collaborations coming; I love working with people in and out of my field, finding solutions and creating. Keeping up the good work and having fun along the way seems like a pretty darn good goal.

Who/What are your biggest influences?

I came to graphic design in a circuitous way, so my early influences tend to be people outside the field; artists and architects and illustrators — Alexander Calder, Romare Beardon, Joseph Cornell, Helen Frankenthaler, Corbusier, Eero Saarinen, Maurice Sendak. The people responsible for Spy magazine in the late 80s/early 90s! Paula Scher’s work for the Public Theater identity in the 90s was what sealed the deal for me in terms of graphic design. Her print work for Bring in ’da Noise Bring in ’da Funk mixed cut out photos and exploded type and color and energy and I couldn’t love it more!

Who are the best creatives you’ve worked with?

I’ve worked with some talented people, but because I’ve worked from my own studio for a while now, some of my best collaborations have been with other illustrators or photographers… or the cherished client who really gets it — when that happens, my design job is so great and so fulfilling. And I can’t give enough credit to the printers I work with on some of my projects. I like to slip in some pop-up work or a simple fold that generates a big impact so the printers and press operators are vital collaborators to have onboard early in the process.

What cause means the most to you?

The cause that means the most to me is Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. The foundation does amazing work raising and granting funds for pediatric cancer research and establishing programs to support families with children with cancer. Alex was my niece and she asked me to illustrate a book for her to hand out at her upcoming lemonade stand. I thought that it was so cute that she wanted a little xeroxed book for her stand — but my niece had other thoughts and three months later we had a full-color hardcover book! The book went on to receive some accolades and even broke into Amazons Top 100 — unheard of at that time for an independent book with no marketing whatsoever. But that stuff is just a nice bonus… I’m just beyond grateful that I was able to help my niece in such a personal and specific way.

I can’t give enough credit to the printers I work with on some of my projects. I like to slip in some pop-up work or a simple fold that generates a big impact, so the printers and press operators are vital collaborators to have onboard early in the process.

Why Connecticut?

1. Why not Connecticut? It’s a great state! and 2. I grew up here and, after a seven-year stint in NYC and with a young family, I was ready to come back and force my parents into providing us with free babysitting.

What are your loves/passions outside of this field?

Give me a googled list and a cup of hot coffee and I can explore the heck out of any city I visit! I love finding design treasures from flea markets and junk stores. (Full disclosure: other people in my family are less thrilled with this passion.)

What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

That most people are happy to be approached; ask questions, speak up!