A week or two ago, Grace and I had an interview with Synaxis’ Creative Director, Cristina Montesinos. Since the two of us had the privilege of interviewing Cristina, I’ll try not to repeat Grace’s words too closely. You can read Grace’s thorough interview here.
To backtrack a little, Grace and I are both very introverted people and are not overly enthused with the idea of interviewing strangers who might be very busy people. We both also struggle with the idea of networking and are new to the idea of “design heroes”. Mason, our Media Arts instructor who pushed us to find someone in the design industry, gave us the nudge. Grace and I both jumped at the chance to do an interview together, and epically with a recommended source.
However, when the time came for the interview, I was still a little apprehensive. I researched as much about Synaxis as possible, as Mason mentioned Cristina was an introvert also and I was slightly worried about awkward silences. He also kept stressing to me that Cristina was a vegetarian – perhaps I have a false reputation for keeping beefsteaks in my bag and he just wanted to forewarn me. Either way, once we were digitally introduced, everything started rolling along. Cristina even suggested a great lunching spot, Fritti, which had wonderful Italian items for vegetarians and carnivores alike.
Though Grace and I wondered how we would identify Cristina since introverted vegetarians rarely wear badges, everything fell into place and we somehow knew it was Cristina as soon as she entered the restaurant. Almost immediately our worries diminished, and we could see that there would be plenty to talk about and no room for awkward silences. Perhaps when three introverts gather, an extroverted conversation is born.
We started with the basic background information, though I was surprised that Cristina was interested in ours as well. Though she received a BFA in Visual Communications from Jacksonville University, she spoke frankly on how she learned more outside of school and the difficult transition from there to the working world. In addition, she spoke of how different things were back in 1993, when the computer was not the primary took. She learned things the “old fashioned way” with rapidograph pens and t-squares, and despite modern techonlogy still has an appreciation for this process.
Cristina came to Atlanta for an internship and eventually went to IBM to learn about interactive and the internet. By learning interactive, Cristina felt print was made better. The experience also changed her attitude about design, echoing Mason in that it is a two way conversation rather than one.
Cristina is currently one of three people at the small design firm Synaxis. Though she feels this is a dream job, Cristina explains “the only reason I’m happy is because I make sure I’m happy.” In her ambitious journey to her dream job, she has had to be aware of what she wanted and then go for it. “I’ve controlled my experiences in the industry, not the other way around,” Cristina explained.
Before her current job, she was at Razorfish spending countless hours in meetings rather than being involved in the “fun stuff”. It was this experience that helped her decide she wanted to work in a small firm. A small firm, she explains, allows more hand-on activities, a wider variety of work and a chance for personal marketing for the company.
As a female interested in interactive design, I took the opportunity to ask Cristina how she felt the gender roles acted in this new, emerging field. From her perspective, the industry is still male dominated, and it can be difficult being a woman, especially the higher up in a business. The sexes tend to deal with business differently, she has observed, as men want to show dominance, and women want to share ideas but can be passive aggressive meanwhile. She also feels men are better negotiators and therefore tend to get paid more. Women in return often have to overcompensate and strive to be better.
We spent the rest of the lunch discussing portfolio tips, AIGA, books and other sources for inspiration. The conversation flowed without the need for scripted questions, and Grace recorded many of these other details in her interview. Cristina, like many voices I’ve heard lately, stated that the design community is small and tight in Atlanta and it felt good to meet a friendly face from the inside. I finished the interview feeling a little more knowledgeable about the design world and a little less apprehensive about jumping in. I wish all designer could all be as friendly and helpful as Cristina…and who knows, this is just the beginning, maybe I’ll find out that many are…