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Career Stories: Tori Baisden, BFA ’17

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At SMFA, Tori’s projects touched on a broad range of disciplines—fashion design, graphic arts, publication, jewelry making, performance, video, sculpture—and took the form of sprawling projects like a feminist gameshow installation and a fake fraternity.

We recently spoke with Tori, and she shared the latest on her art practice, inspiration, and recent work:

I've always thought of design as world building, which is essentially what I think my work at school was about. How do we create a world using design and all of the touchpoints that you can access? It’s the same way I think about branding or telling stories through digital platforms—you have to establish a world that has its own set of rules and principles that guide it.

Right after school I got a job as a Production Assistant at the Museum of Ice Cream, which is this kind of giant playground for adults, also known as a selfie museum. I quickly discovered that it was a really small team and they didn't have anyone doing graphic design, and so I volunteered to do all of the graphic design too. It all started from there. I moved to New York and became the Design Lead. It was very much a baptized-by-fire-situation because I just dove in and did everything from environmental design and installation design, to social design and all the graphic design for the communiqué. I made the brand book for the Museum of Ice Cream. So, literally everything. When we were launching our ice cream pints through Target, I actually built an entire faux-grocery store and designed all the products that were in the store. From the store signage to the packaging design. It was a really wild experience! And it really did test all of the skills I'd dipped my toes in at SMFA.

Something that's a little less tangible was having such a strong ability to communicate my ideas and talk through them without feeling embarrassed or shy, which I think a lot of people that I worked with who didn't have an art school education struggled with. The ability to give and take feedback and critique work has been a major asset in all my roles to this day. I learned that in art school.

Tori recently began a new adventure as Design Director at Utendahl Creative, a female focused, branding, social media and content strategy agency. 

It’s really exciting to build a design studio and think about what it means to work with other designers and develop systems. Also, working with a wide variety of clients means you get to learn the codes and languages of these different industries and really get an overhead view of niche pockets around the world.

I feel like I got so much heat from my parents and different people for deciding to pursue an art education. And what I've come to realize is, I've been incredibly lucky, but I've also felt very prepared for the careers I've taken on, even though they’ve been surprising and challenging and felt completely new. This ability to adapt and make a situation work for myself came from my education at SMFA. I just don't know how else you get that unless you're given the responsibility to advocate for yourself which is a big part of SMFA. It's up to you to make the most out of your work. I think that's a valuable lesson to learn. And I'm really thankful. You don't understand how much power you have when you're young and how it really is up to you to make your dreams come true. You have to do the work. But also, more people are willing to help you than you ever realized. A big lesson I've learned is that you just have to ask for it.

Image courtesy of Tori Baisden.