Name: Adam Kurtz
Job Title: Studio Designer for Ad Agency
Grad year & Major: 2009, Visual Arts (Graphic Design) with a minor in art history and certificate in media & communications
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background with graphic design?
I’m originally from Toronto and moved to D.C. with my family in my teens. I came to Baltimore to attend UMBC and stayed for a few years before moving to Brooklyn. As a teen, I would build websites, teaching myself code and design as I went. It wasn’t always pretty! It was my way to connect online, create something entirely myself, and communicate my passions. I knew that was what I wanted to study, and have worked in related industries since graduation: at a film production studio, an internet marketing firm, and now, a big-name ad agency in Manhattan.
Q: What drew you to UMBC for your studies?
UMBC was recommended as a state school that had a true graphic design program. Truthfully, I was new to Maryland and didn’t do very much research. I wish I could say I came to UMBC because of its great X or amazing Y, but the truth is I came in blind. I am so lucky and grateful that UMBC turned out to be as amazing for me as it was. I could not have anticipated any of that. UMBC gave me a solid education and myriad experiences on campus, from student events and life to on-campus jobs that taught me real-world skills.
Q: Were there any particular influences in your life that contributed to your blog and book?
Everything I make is influenced by life. These are not great literary works. I’m not doing anything particularly unique. I’m complaining and oversharing just like everyone else online. The difference is that I make something out of it. I put feelings into words and words onto objects and then I hold them and never let them go. The book is a hybrid activity book, workbook, journal, and more. It’s sort of my process, the introspection, the collecting, the preserving memories and feelings for later. It’s also about fighting the overwhelming nature of the internet. Slowing down, pacing yourself, counting your way through a year, and exploring creativity every single day, so that you can “make” it through.
Q: Can you recall any UMBC professors who inspired you?
I had a lot of great professors, but I think the single most inspiring teacher I had was Laura Schraven, a coordinator in The Commons who I worked with at commonvision, the campus design and print center. I worked on projects for student groups, learned about production as well as communicating abstract ideas and concepts with people who aren’t as “design-minded.” As a mentor, Laura gave her all, far beyond basic design instruction. My book is loosely based on a calendar series that I self-publish annually, the first of which was printed and bound there. I think I honestly didn’t understand that I can literally make anything I need with the tools at hand before that experience. It was a very empowering thing to realize. When I visit campus as an alumni I always try to visit… commonvision gave me a whole lot.
Of course the Visual Arts department is wonderful as well. I loved design classes with Peggy Re, was lucky enough to have artist Laure Drogoul as a professor when she taught a few courses, and I think Sandra Abbott at the CADVC is a wonderful human being. And Jason Loviglio in the Media Studies department, who is very smart and awesome (you can quote me).
Q: You have created a strong fan base for your online blog. Can you explain the purpose of it and how it got started?
There is absolutely no purpose. My blog is entirely personal and I simply post visual scraps I make and things I like. I refer to it as my “scrapbook, soapbox, diary, and jukebox,” because that’s really all it is. It surprises me how much people like what I do, and I never expected that. It was just a way to share and it grew slowly into whatever it is today.
An editor from Penguin reached out and basically said “what if you do the things you are already doing with your ‘Unsolicited Advice’ calendars, but make them a book?” and I said “okay yeah that sounds cool.” Essentially. I never sought out to make a book.
a. Why do you think it’s important for creative people to seek out constant inspiration in their daily lives?
I don’t know if I would make that statement. I think creative people already find inspiration in everything. But I also don’t like the distinction of “creative people.” That is limiting. My book is not for “creatives.” My book is for human beings, for anyone with a pulse. We’re all creative in some way, that’s maybe what makes us human at all. It’s not quite for children, it’s not quite for teens. It’s just exploring yourself and your own little world. Writing and drawing however you can. Taping scraps of things to pages, sharing content online with others who have the book using the provided hashtags…. This isn’t so much about being inspired as much as realizing that if you just do one thing every single day, it will grow from nothing into SOMETHING. I guess you could say that’s a lesson I learned myself, as I was posting scraps and watching them build, not realizing what I was making.
Q: What exactly does this book entail and what do you hope it accomplishes?
The book is a daily exercise, a quiet moment for yourself, and a diary that kicks your ass a little bit. I’m not a bully necessarily, but I do encourage you… strongly. “Drink water,” “take a nap,” “go back and do that page you skipped.” I think this could be really great for anyone who needs a little help moving along, someone who has maybe abandoned journals in the past. This is a fun, weird, silly book, but it’s not a coincidence that the title sounds a little bit like a recovery slogan. All of us internet-age cellphone brains need to chill out.
Q: What does your future look like with your website? Do you plan on writing more books?
I am still actually coming to terms with the fact that I am a published author, in multiple languages (with more on the way). It feels crazy. I really did not dream of being an author, though to others, a book seems like an obvious progression of what I’ve been doing online. I have a full-time job, and this isn’t it. I am just happy to keep making nice things, and it’s exciting that people have noticed. I’m working on a product collaboration for a pretty major brand due out next year, plus plenty more self-released items. A Kickstarter campaign for my 2015 weekly planner, which I enjoy handling personally as a year-end tradition. I’m just going to keep creating tangible feelings in my own little ways, turning pages until there aren’t any left.