Abe Garcia

Abe lives in Charleston, SC and is the co-founder of Workhorse in Washington, DC. At the time of applying to school, he was living in Washington, DC working as a communications associate at a nonprofit clinic and freelancing as a designer.

The computer I worked on was old, virus infected and the software was ancient. The programs kept shutting down on me, I had to recreate the file about five times over and it didn’t help that I had no idea what print resolution was. Despite the ragged edges, somebody saw my posters and people came to my event - I figured I was not a total failure as a graphic designer. Everything I know about design I’ve taught myself or have learned by working with other designers, art directors and creative directors. I first spent my time mastering software, later I began teaching myself about advertising, public relations, graphic design, photography, and some simple web programming in order to improve on my ideas. I’ve been working for a few years now as a designer, but I feel like it’s time to learn more than I can teach myself in order to continue improving and growing.

Around the same time I started designing, I was finishing up my Bachelor of Science in Biology, so when I wasn’t writing research papers I was creating posters and album artwork for independent musicians in Austin. Working directly with independent artists taught me a lot about their process, inspiration, what to listen for, what works and what doesn’t. Taking a drum break from one record, re-interpolating a melody, writing, recording and execution. Taking influences from different sources, processing it and creating something new is very often my process as a designer as it is for some of the musicians I’ve worked with. I was influenced by the culture that surrounded me at the time graffiti, street culture and hip hop music, but also from what I learned in class. I try to not only make things that reflect culture but also create culture, so my exposure to anthropology, psychology, human behavior and evolution is still part of the framework for my design process.

It was in one of my upper level Human Biology courses at the University of Texas that I learned about social marketing. Social marketing is the public health practice of applying traditional marketing techniques to social and behavioral change, and I felt that with my science background and skills in advertising and design I could research, conceptualize and execute any number of campaigns, programs and curricula. I found a public health program in Austin through the University of Texas Health Science Center and enrolled in graduate level courses. After my first semester I worked as a graduate assistant for Dr. Alfred McAlister, a researcher who’s research interests include health promotion through mass media and grassroots organization.

I still wanted to learn more about design, so outside of class I prepared my portfolio, built a website and started sending emails to all the advertising and design firms in Austin that I felt I could learn from. I found a summer internship at a small design studio in Austin and later worked part time at an advertising agency. I learned a lot by working with great people and when I was not working directly on a project, I explored and researched their collection of books, annuals and collections to continue improving. In class learned about epidemiology, social marketing and public policy and It helped me build a framework of how social marketing is practiced. However, one of most important things I learned as a student and as a graduate assistant was that public health was not what I wanted to do at a graduate level.

I moved to DC in 2007 and for most of a year and a half I worked about sixty-plus hours a week, forty or more as a graphic designer in social marketing and after hours helping out a non-profit community clinic as a communications associate and graphic designer. I have continued my work with independent artists as well, and some of my other projects also involve consulting for online strategy, social media marketing and creative direction. I have been able to apply many of the principles of behavioral change to many of the projects I’ve been a part of and also apply my knowledge of design, advertising, marketing and branding. My background has helped me contribute to many projects and I have formed a unique combination of talent, skills and ideas that have made my work stand out.

I try to carry a camera wherever I go, mostly for the purposes of collecting textures - a dilapidated wall, a cloudy sky, a wooden entryway, anything that I can later look to give my designs an organic texture. For inspiration I like visiting thrift stores and thumbing through old books, vinyl records, clothes and housewares. Vinyl record sleeves have always been a source of inspiration and I looked to that every early when I began designing, even if I was designing for a much smaller format in compact discs. Music related projects are always fun for me and music also serves as an influence. I played the trumpet for a while while growing up and my dad introduced me to jazz and when I began working with musicians, a lot of original sampled work like soul, funk and R&B also influenced me.

I’m a quick learner, I’m self motivated and I am constantly trying to make my work and myself better. As a designer people have taken a chance on me based on my portfolio and despite having what turns out to be a general undergrad degree, I have made the most of my talents and interests and I have done good work. If I were to continue on my own I know my work will continue to improve but I also know there is more to learn, not just from books but from more experienced people, mentors and teachers. I am seeking a program that will challenge me and allow me to grow and become a better designer. MICA is on the very top of the list of graduate programs I am applying to and I hope that my ambitions and plans are in accordance with MICA’s standards and philosophy. I know that a large part the program’s focus is on writing and I would like to be able to use the research skills I learned from science and public health to further explore and explain graphic design. I hope to continue to apply public health and social marketing to my work and improve the practice of social marketing through design and I think that the graduate graphic design program at MICA can be the place where I can explore, learn, grow and improve my body of work.