SCCA teacher and alum Julia McNamara’s design work has garnered national and international accolades, including a Spring 2014 NY Times interview. With a professional career focused on poster design, McNamara’s poster for the Portland produced original play “A Small Fire” was a pick for Best of 2014 in the New York Times theater posters. A textural and simple composition, the image she created connects simply with the bare plot of the play.
McNamara shares her strategy for staying well rounded and keeping her creative process on-point. One of her side projects is a line of prints and cards that she designs under the name Pixel & Post.
“It’s important to me to have a creative outlet that is really just mine. I recently had a solo show of my prints and goods at Portage Bay Goods in Fremont.” The playful and vibrant work showcases her talents of entertaining the eye.
Power food for creating her work? “I love french fries, black licorice, and good coffee.” McNamara’s toolbox for getting in the creative spirit involves a generous heaping of inspiring jams. “For me, music is a really important part of working and getting in “the zone”. I listen to a ton of different stuff depending on my mood, or the mood I’m trying to evoke in the work I’m doing. Some random favorites at the moment are: Warpaint, THEESatisfaction, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Kishi Bashi, Washed Out, The Eagles, Chromatics, AC/DC, Pixies, and various 80s hair bands that help me recall my Eastern Washington youth.” And she can sing the entire Journey’s Greatest Hits album from start to finish to boot.
McNamara’s time as a student at SCCA proved to be the right prep for her work life post-graduation. The program created many opportunities for different types of learning but one of McNamara’s highlights was when the “the Poster Design class scared the daylights out of” her. She dug into the coursework and found the results of her efforts landed her an in-house job at The Seattle Repertory Theatre doing poster design and illustration. “The rigor of this program was a great preparation for the rest of my life post SCCA. As an in-house or freelance designer you will likely work very, very hard. It helps if you love the process. The dodge-ball like intensity of my two years at SCCA made me feel beat up and weary, but somehow I kept coming back for more. That’s either a sign of true love or stupidity. You decide.”
A focused and responsive teacher, McNamara sees the process of teaching at SCCA as “invigorating, challenging, and ultimately a thrilling ride.” Getting to be a part of and support the development of the future designers in the program is something that she takes seriously. “Meeting the amazing class of 2015 and seeing how hard they worked in the fall was inspiring and humbling.”
She is focused on teaching a poster design class that maximizes learning, using different method to achieve exciting and unexpected results. “My goal for the Poster Design class is to create a ton of opportunities for the students to: experiment, play, fail, get really frustrated, and practice perseverance. On top of turning out one poster per week, we will have some good laughs, perhaps some tears, definitely donuts, and maybe in the end I’ll be able to convince them that print really isn’t dead.”
Having learned a great deal from her years designing, her biggest lessons are ones that we can all take to heart. Being a successful designer takes: “Perseverance. The practice of not giving up even when you feel super tired and drained and unsure you have any creativity left at all. Keep showing up at the page. Practice, practice, practice. Repeat. Ask a lot of questions. Thank the people that have helped you out. Keep in touch. Don’t be a jerk.” Teaching a class that so inspired her creative and professional direction is meaningful for McNamara: “I feel like things have come full-circle and couldn’t be happier.”