Brit Zerbo fell into graphic design work. Always a creative—using multimedia, painting, collaging—and a child of the internet Zerbo says “didn’t know I wanted to be a designer until school.” By the time she completed the Graphic Design program at Seattle Central in Spring 2014 she had clearly found creative home in the design world. “That was the moment when I felt like I was at the exact right place at the exact right time. You hit those moments in your life and you think this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Where the majority of my adult life I felt like I was floundering. It was so refreshing.”
Doing contracting work with Pop Agency in Seattle after graduation, Zerbo was contacted by Creative Director Strath Shephard from Nordstrom about an opening on their team. “He is fairly well known in the design industry…I didn’t think anything was going to come of it.” Hearing about her work after his other designer attended her Portfolio show, Zerbo ended up being a good fit. Working as part of a team called Creative Special Projects, a somewhat autonomous entity within the broader branding work at Nordstrom, she works with another designer to oversee the creative in the Pop-In shops; in-store and online. Pop-in shops are uniquely curated collections by companies Nordstrom collaborates with to bring the variety of styles that it is known for. But they differ from other collections in that “Our main goal is to be disruptive, we’re not the normal Nordstrom branding.”
A very fast-paced work environment, the creative department at Nordstrom is executing a concept every month. That means Zerbo is working to develop moodboards, website concept and scope of how the creative concept is likely to go based on the brand Nordstrom is collaborating with. The first pop-in shop she worked on was a community based, eco-friendly, up-cycled collection called TMRW TGTHR. Asking her what her favorite part was: “Is it wrong to say everything? When you’re new everything’s exciting regardless of what it is.”
“The best part was after spending the better part of a month in front of a computer and then walking into the store for the first time and all of the pieces I had been working on are now tangible. Working on the computer you only get so far, you understand what you are doing but you’re almost disconnected. People were walking around it and engaging with it. That was so neat.”
The Creative Special Projects team plays a particular role within the company’s overall approach to marketing, the pop-in shops are “basically Nordstrom’s way of reaching out to a different market. The millennials, gen y and so on.” Besides the core tasks of their team around branding and website, there is a lot of diversity in the day-to-day project work for Zerbo.
“Depends on whatever we come up with, whatever makes sense for that particular pop-in. Maybe we will decide we need a photo booth and then we discuss as a team how that will flow within the shop and what the creative vision looks like. It’s literally whatever you can possibly think of. We are trying to be disruptive. Trying to be loud, in your face, trippy, psychedelic. We want you to have a sensorial experience.”
Zerbo’s portfolio work is clearly that: loud, in your face, psychedelic, trippy. Establishing her individual design style, Zerbo worked to develop more commercially oriented work in her second year. “You can really tell when someone is trying to solve a problem with a client and are trying to keep their own style at the same time.” Her portfolio expresses that diversity of approach. “For the the things that I kind of put my own on it, that I kept my weirdness, those were ultimately the pieces that stuck out and ended up in my portfolio.” One project Zerbo worked on was to create complex but cohesive geometric designs for a deck of cards. With a background and interest in photography Zerbo has done work that excites the eyes, and is conceptually interesting.
A recent tattoo addition for Zerbo and long time side project, HANGIN TUFF! (((LINK))), is a dedicated creative outlet. One of the founders of the web series, the creators interview unsigned bands in a “PeeWee Herman meets old MTV beach house” style. Nautically themed, its all based around a hot tub boat in or around Seattle.
Bringing a variety of strengths to school and work helped enrich her time and help figure out what type of work to pursue after school. ““My tech background set me up for success. I worked for Apple for a hot second and then moved to Seattle to work for Microsoft for a while. My wife and I got recruited by Microsoft to help open up their retail stores. I have a solid understanding of visual merchandising from past employment and they leveraged that while they were flushing out their Visual Merchandising and Planogram team.”
With the field of graphic design centered largely around web and technology, Zerbo was well-established for that type of work.
“I worked with computers for years and got really passionate about technology. I adopted very quick—I got to a point where you could set me in front of a computer program and I could teach myself.” Observing that the web was headed the way of motion, Zerbo chose to learn After Effects and used it to complete many of those projects for her portfolio. “I created a lot of abstract pieces at first, but these were ultimately the works that caught the most attention. Or at least they saw the potential of adapting that to the web.” The design program at SCCA supported her development and initiative and worked to set up a career in the field. Zerbo is clear in what she was looking for in the program and her work life: “I need to feel appreciated, be in a creative environment, do weird things.”
See more of Zerbo’s work at http://www.britzerbo.com/