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Life and Work with Sam Gwozdek

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Gwozdek.

Sam, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve always had a passion for all things creative. My parents saw this from a young age and were always super supportive and encouraging. Growing up, I would spend hours in the basement my childhood home drawing, painting, and sculpting. From then, I knew I wanted to pursue art and started my design journey at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis where I majored in Communication Design. I later went on to receive my MFA in Computer Art from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

My first job was as a freelance graphic designer for a children’s snack company in NYC. The company was just starting out, so their marketing team leaned on me for most of their creative needs. I was pretty much just thrown into it. I started working on packaging designs for new products they were launching, social assets, campaign elements. You name it. I kind of got a crash course in what it was like to be a creative in the business world and a lot of insight into how marketing, sales, innovation and supply chain teams work together and lean on their creative department. It was an awesome experience that really jump-started my career path in graphic design.

After that, I worked at multiple companies in both freelance and full-time capacities. I moved between animation, 3D sculpting, illustration, and packaging design. It wasn’t a straight forward path, but I got to experience working in a lot of different mediums for different types of companies. I eventually made the move from New York City to Denver with my husband. We were tired of our cramped East Village studio apartment and wanted easier access to the outdoors and the mountains, plus more room for lots of future pets (we now have a dog and two cats). A year after the move, I quit my full-time design job and opened up my own freelance business, Phillips Lane Creative (a nod to the place where it all started).

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s definitely been a road with some bumps and turns along the way, especially when it has come to setting out on my own with Phillips Lane Creative. I’ve had some challenges, but every one of those has taught me something.

When I started Phillips Lane Creative, I had the tendency to jump at every opportunity that came my way. It felt counterproductive to say “no” to new work. I didn’t feel like I was even allowed to! With this mindset, I found myself overworked, overwhelmed and sometimes working on projects that didn’t align with the bigger picture I had for my business. I realized that every time I was saying ‘yes’ to one thing, I was saying ‘no’ to another. This realization pushed me to become more deliberate about my choices. By focusing on the right opportunities, I started taking control and steering my career in the direction I set out to. My advice: take the time to figure out what is right for you and try to hold yourself to it as you make decisions along the way.

Another thing I want to mention is the importance of community. When I first set out on my own, I quickly realized that I couldn’t do it in a vacuum. As an introvert, I usually have my head down in my work and can find it tough to reach out to others, especially when asking for help. Over the last year, I’ve made it a priority to surround myself with passionate people, including fellow designers and those with analogous skills and interests. I started by having conversations with fellow creatives, joining local design organizations (shout out to AIGA Colorado!), participating in networking events and becoming more active on social platforms. Getting out into the community has not only connected me with some amazing people but has increased my confidence and encouraged me to try new things. My advice: just get out there! Building a community takes effort, but it is so rewarding. Start with a simple reach out, inviting someone out to coffee. If you’re craving new experiences, interactions, and community, there’s a really good chance others are too.

Please tell us about Phillips Lane Creative.
I am currently a freelance art director and designer working under my company, Phillips Lane Creative. Phillips Lane Creative is a full-service design shop specializing in branding, packaging, and motion design. I work with a variety of clients and brands in the food, beverage, fitness, retail and services industries. I’m most proud of the variety of projects I get to work on and the awesome clients I get to help.

One of my favorite projects was creating the brand identity and packaging design for a non-profit organization called PridePads Africa. PridePads Africa’s mission is to provide biodegradable sanitary pads, menstrual health education, and livelihood empowerment for girls and women in Africa. I met with the PridePads Africa team during one of their very first meetings that I was invited to while working on a completely different project. Upon hearing their mission and seeing their passion, I jumped at the opportunity to help them visually bring their organization to light. Together, we created a full brand identity, sanitary pad packaging, an educational guidebook and fundraising collateral that is currently being used in the organization’s first facility in Cameroon. It’s been an awesome ride and it’s just the beginning for this very special group.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
Podcasts: The Quickie Podcast, How I Built This with Guy Raz, Skimm’d from The Couch, Slow Burn, Stuff You Should Know.

Apps: Behance, Dribble, Quickbooks, Instagram, Pinterest
Websites/Newsletters: Brand New, The Dieline, Eye on Design, Grits & Grids, Typewolf
Organizations: AIGA Colorado, Naturally Boulder, Creative Mornings Denver, Ad Club Colorado, Art Student League of Denver

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Soona & Sam Gwozdek

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