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Alison Cox, Creative Director & Designer

Denver, CO

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Alison (she/her/hers) is a Creative director and Designer at an educational consulting company, assisting the team as they partner with schools to put students at the center of their learning. She is honored to use her design talent for a team that believes in social justice and inclusion, that actively works to bring access and opportunity to students of all backgrounds, and has a track record of success. Alison had a few other careers before becoming a graphic designer. She was the Volunteer Coordinator at the Capital Area Food Bank in Austin, Texas. Before that, she taught K-6 Integrated Arts for 6 years in the Denver Public Schools. She has a Master's degree in electronic music composition and an undergraduate degree in classical piano performance, a degree put to "use" once a week playing covers of 80's music in a friend's basement. Alison lives in Denver with her partner, Tony and their adopted Border Collie, Murphy. She serves as Alliance Chair on the board of AIGA Colorado, the Professional Organization for Design.

Transcript:

Hello there, Denver Design Week viewers. I’m Alison Cox, and I’m coming to you not live, but recorded from the Villa Park neighborhood in beautiful Denver, Colorado. I am currently the creative director for a national educational consulting company, and I’m going to share my answers to five pertinent questions about my experience as a Colorado creative.

So first off, what is your favorite creative place in Colorado and why? And, you know, there are a lot of things to choose from. My first thought was the mountains at night, seeing all the stars. But then really, when I think about it, probably my favorite place for creativity in Colorado is Boettcher Concert Hall, listening to our very own Colorado Symphony Orchestra. As Music Director Brett Mitchell would say, your Colorado Symphony Orchestra. It is…It’s just great. We are so fortunate to have a World-Class Symphony Orchestra in our city. And it’s great to go there, It’s kind of actually a lot like being in the mountains at night because the air is nice and crisp and cool and everything’s quiet. Like, every sound… as you can hear everything for miles. Even though it’s in a concert hall so it’s not miles. But, it’s just what I would say is my favorite place. 

So, what new project or skills did you learn or start during 2020?  This year I started practicing mindfulness, which is kind of both a project and a skill. And for me, learning how to check in with myself has allowed me to kind of navigate a lot of the sudden changes that happened this year, and let me not, kind of, get in my head and get stressed out. And sometimes that’s just as simple as recognizing, like, hey, I’m working by myself in this home office. It’s really easy to just sit and work and work and you don’t get up and you work and you’re by yourself. You’re in your office and you’re working. You’re working and learning to recognize, man. OK. You need a little break because you’re starting to just not really think about what you’re doing or things aren’t getting as creative as normal. So sometimes it’s just taking a little break and then sometimes it’s actually practicing a little small meditation exercise to refocus your energy. 

My favorite one is the “Five, Four, Three, Two, One” exercise, and that is to go through five things that you see. So you just kind of sit and focus on five. Different things… kind of take them in…I stopped counting, I think that’s five. 

And then you do five things that you feel, so it’s like sensations. I could feel my hands on the desk. I can feel my bangs. 

Three things that you hear.

Two things that you smell. This is always the hard one. For me, anyways

And then one thing that you taste…and somehow after going through that little simple exercise, it just kind of focuses you back.  And then the side effect of developing mindfulness is that I have developed my skill of patience, which is helpful. with myself, patience with myself, patience with other people. Patience with my newly adopted border collie mix. It all helps.

So next question, What is the best advice you received for your career? And from who? I would say that the best advice I received was way back when I first started out from my first creative director, Steve Koloskus, of Extra Strength Marketing Communications. And I was sitting and working on something that in retrospect, seems like it should have been really easy. But I was new. It was really hard for me and I was just not enjoying myself. And Steve came over and said, “hey, you got to keep it fun. If you’re not having fun designing, then don’t do it.” 

In his context it was, there are plenty of designers. So if you’re not going to enjoy what you’re doing, do something else, you know. 

And I’ve kind of taken that to heart in the sense of I notice that I do my best work when I’m having fun with it. I notice that teams tend to collaborate better when everybody is having some level of fun and then outcomes are better. You come up with better or different, more kind of intriguing ideas. Things flow better. And ultimately, clients enjoy working with people who are enjoying what they’re doing. 

And then the next question, which ties in to my answer for the next question of who is an artist or designer you admire and why? I would choose Charles Carpenter. He is a local Denver designer. I had the pleasure of working with him at Wigwam Creative, his design studio here in town. There are a lot of reasons that I admire Charles. He’s talented. His work is beautiful. But I think that, you know, to  kind of tie into that “having fun” idea, he is somebody that is so optimistic and he definitely sees the positive and has fun with design and with the world, and he’s able to bring that out in other people. So I really admire in, my new role as creative director. I’m admiring and hoping and aspiring to have some of that potential to really see the best in people and see the best in their work, Maybe even before they see it, and then bring that out in other people. So building on strengths and building on possibilities. 

And that kind of brings me to the final question, which is what career advice would you give to your younger self? And my career advice to young Alison is identify what your values are and use those values to develop your professional goals. And then name your strengths, name your weaknesses, and move forward with confidence on a path that aligns with your values and your goals. And that’s all I have for you today. Thanks.

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