We had the good fortune of connecting with Kate Gilman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kate, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Being creative through design has always found a home in my life, from early Christmas card design when I was 8 to being the go-to t-shirt designer for friends. I discovered Adobe’s photoshop and illustrator in early high school and was hooked. There was so much to learn in these programs, creating digitally was so accessible and it was a ton of fun to see my work off-screen. In late college, I stumbled into Experiential Graphic Design (architectural signage or wayfinding design). The creative challenges and problem solving within the field just resonated with me. I love working with clients to develop story driven wayfinding design systems, and guiding fabricators through the development of those systems into memorable experiences for the developer’s guests. I love to research and learn the history of a project or destination and incorporate that story into the final designs. Plus, it’s thrilling to see my work at such a large and public scale.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Getting to this point has absolutely had its struggles. I don’t often share this, but I was let go from my first design job out of school for being a terrible designer. I struggled a lot with my identity as a designer and what I really wanted out of a career, or if I even wanted to continue designing. After a year of some serious introspection and odd design jobs, I was finally hired as an Experiential Graphic Designer here in California. It was such a huge change from Georgia to California, but I’m so glad I took the risk. I’ve since grown so much as a designer and as a person. If I gave advice to anyone I would emphasize the value of developing a list of goals, dreams or personal motto. I took notes of what I wanted in a career during my year off and it really helped me get an incredible job, with a fantastic team because I knew exactly what I wanted out of a working environment and team. Now, I’ve reached all those goals that I listed and have been developing new ones this past year. I love learning, growing and challenging myself so these goals and aspirations keep me from becoming complacent. My latest goal is to get more people interested and knowledgeable about Signage and Wayfinding design so I’ve joined the AIGA OC community and have been speaking with different schools about the field!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If traffic and Covid didn’t exist I’d make a whirlwind tour of LA, OC and SD. We’d check out LACMA, wander the Huntington Gardens and eat sashimi from a tiny Japanese grocery in Duarte. Our mornings would start with coffee from BlkDot and in San Diego we’d go brewery hopping near Belching Beaver in North Park and go axe throwing next door. If we could we’d eat like 4 meals a day. In Orange County we’d enjoy Curry from Mongkut Thai in San Clemente, Shabu-shabu or ramen from Shinsengumi, or Poke from Wow Poki in SJC. I’m also a huge fan of Basile Studio’s restaurant design in San Diego and would hit up Born and Raised, Soda & Swine, Morning Glory, and False Idol. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Thanks goes out to my mom and dad for introducing me to design and engineering. They have always supported my creative endeavors, independence, and desire to never stop learning. Thank you to my partner Ross for keeping me on my toes and being a huge source of creative inspiration. Plus a huge shoutout to RSM Design for being there through some of the hardest parts of my creative journey. They have helped me grow so much and are always encouraging me to be my best.
Allison Richter – Photographer RSM Design – Design Firm