Q & A with Cynthia K. Knighton

Answers on graphic design, production, working together, and more.

Why graphic design?
Ultimately graphic design is about problem solving – and there’s nothing that sparks my creativity more than having a problem to solve! Graphic design encompasses visual problems (like page layout or logo design) and persuasion problems (eliciting a response to a call to action). This is only the beginning for me! Solving problems with workflow processes, file organization, or software techniques also lights my fire. Designing solutions is really what motivates me, whether that’s creating a beautifully printed page, inventing something that meets a need, or helping an entire team get their work done faster and better.

What’s the difference between design and production? Does it matter?
Design and production are two very different things, and each is crucial to a well-run project. Design sets a direction – whether this is designing the branding for an entire company or deciding whether a logo should appear at the left or right side of a page footer. Production is about applying this direction and ensuring that the technical underpinnings of the project are executed perfectly. Without a design direction, a production artist won’t have crucial guidelines for consistent layout and application. Without a good production artist, the best design on earth won’t print correctly on press or render properly in a browser. Extensive experience in both areas makes it easy for me to work from concept to completion, delivering top-notch results at every phase.

How’d you learn all this?
I have a degree in design, plus more than two decades of practical experience. During that time I’ve worked freelance, worked on several corporate teams, worked as the only artist handling design and production for an entire company, and everything in between. I’ve overseen domestic production for a design center that printed their books overseas, and coordinated a team of artists all preflighting chapters in an 800-page textbook. Sometimes my job has been to simply assist while others run the show. Everything adds to one’s experience, and I have learned valuable lessons from every situation I’ve worked in.

I’ve never worked with a graphic designer before. Is that a problem?
Not at all! Just tell me what you have in mind. You don’t have to know any industry lingo and if something I say doesn’t make sense, I’ll be happy to explain it. Chances are, whatever you need, there’s a way to get it done. We’ll work out that solution together and you’ll know exactly what the project will entail, before we begin.

fine art gallery
Sketch Kit

There’s a lot of work here. Which is your favorite?
Definitely the Compass Case. Art supplies go everywhere with me; I needed the right kit. Nothing on the market quite fit the bill, though. Obvious answer: do it myself!

This project scratched a lot of itches for me: designing things, building things; drawing things; and above all the design is a personal thing – it’s very “me.” That’s a lot of problems solved in one elegant little case. Plus it turned out even better than I imagined it would. Who wouldn’t love that?

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever worked on?
I worked at a sign shop in college. The boss called and asked if I had time to place some vinyl letters on a blimp. I pictured a large, flat blimp shape spread out on the shop floor. He told me to move all the cars out of the parking lot. I did so, curious why he would want me to spread the customer’s advertising blimp all over a dirty driveway.

Shortly after that the customer arrived with a long trailer, opened the ramp, and there was the blimp, inflated and bouncing gently on the end of its tether. Vinyl lettering has to be burnished on with pressure, and now I had to install it on a soft, yielding surface that was not only in perpetual motion, it was in perpetual danger of floating away if I accidentally untied the rope! I was able to work carefully and place all the vinyl, the customer was happy, and I got to see my “Sale Now” blimp floating above some local buildings for a few weeks.

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