« Head Back to All Creatives

Gretchen Potts, Designer

Durango, CO


I have been a designer for about three years now. I began this as a "third" career. My two previous careers were massage therapist, and helicopter pilot (but those stories are for another time). I've been a lifelong sewist, and was drawn to developing my own fabric designs. That's how I came to become a designer. Since then, I have become more of a generalist working in web design, print and digital media, content strategy, accessibility, and user experience research.


Hi, everybody, welcome to Denver Design Week. And thanks for asking me to participate. My name is Gretchen Potts, and I am one of the newest members of AIGA, Colorado. I’m the Community Relations Chair. And just a little bit about myself… this is my dog, Otter. She apparently needs some attention right now. She usually does that, especially when I’m on a video call. Um, anyway… a little bit about myself. I actually live in Durango, Colorado. And yeah, I’ve been doing design for about three years now. So I started this a little later in life. 

So just to answer a couple of these questions. 

What’s your favorite creative place in Colorado? And why? You know, like, the first thing that comes to mind is Red Rocks Amphitheatre. You know, I’ve not gone there to create anything, but the atmosphere there is just so inspiring. And the music is always great. And I leave feeling recharged, you know? So I think, to me, that’s part of being creative is getting that recharge and inspiration from something outside of your wheelhouse, so to speak. Since I’m not a musician, that makes sense. 

Let’s see, which new project or skills did you start or learn in 2020?

Well, I did start a new project in response to COVID. And that was, I had a lot of community and business members, clients in Durango that had to stay open, but they didn’t have masks. So I started making them. And so I developed a, you know, way to make a ton of masks in a really short amount of time. And so here’s like, a couple of the masks that I made. Nice coverage, covers your nose. Here’s another cutesy one. Yeah, polka dots, you got it. So anyway, I made hundreds of those. And they’ve all been donated to folks that need them. And, and that was like, really fun to do. 

And I’m also starting a couple other projects. I started another project with the COVID friend, um, he… he was having some struggles. And his way to… to cope was to doodle. And these were all just like, kind of things that he was planning on throwing away. And I asked him to share them with me. And I just thought they were beautiful. So I asked, why don’t we collaborate. And so what I would do is take his doodles and then digitize them and color them and turn them into like, brand new images, I guess. I’m a surface designer, by preference. I love pattern design. And so these ones really resonated with me. And there’s a couple pictures on my website. 

And the other one is, I have a friend who has stage four breast cancer, and she’s fighting the fight. And she wanted help recording her life as she went through this process, and not only for herself, but for her children and her family. Because she realized that there was… there wasn’t a book for anybody to read, and there are no instructions. And so she thought we could collaborate on something like this to help, maybe, somebody in the future. So my role is to illustrate and capture everyday life in a comic book. And that is something completely outside of my wheelhouse, but it’s exciting and hard and rewarding all at the same time. 

Let’s see, how has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success? And I guess one of the ones that comes to mind was, I did a sprint competition with a couple folks. Um, and I did it while I was still in design school. And, so it was just a team of three of us, probably should have been a lot more. And we came up with this great concept, and sort of won the first round to get into the final competition, you know, which was like a pretty big, you know, money prize. And, then the team kind of fell apart. It turned out that we were all…we didn’t have enough diversity in our skill sets to make it work. And so I think what I learned from that was really to, first of all, like, know when to say no. And secondly, I realized the incredible value of being part of a cohesive team that has an overlapping, but diversity of skill sets that kind of enhance each other, rather than impair them. So I would say that answers that question. 

What are your favorite creative resources to get inspired? So, anytime I have a block, I pull out my collages or I pull out, like, collage material. And there’s something awesome and meditative about like cutting out like little pictures, and imagining them in a different setting. And crashing two very different ideas together. I love that. And yeah, that’s how I get inspired sometimes. I’d say the other thing is my garden. I grow a garden, and I make sure there’s flowers to look at. Those are inspiring, too.

Let’s see… Who is an artist or designer that you admire and why? And the first person that comes to mind is Jessica Hische. The thing that I admire about her most, not only is her creative prowess and her skill in her trade, but how generous she is with her knowledge. She loves to share that with everyone and it just seems to be this part of her genuine nature. Anytime I hear her talk, anytime I go on her website, I feel invited and welcome there. And I really like that. 

So I think that’s it. Have a great time, talk to you later. Bye!