Agency Life 101: Sarah Muscarella, Senior Graphic Designer

From time to time, we like to open a window into what life is like here at SHIFT. We pride ourselves on our smart, dedicated culture. This week, we check in with Sarah Muscarella, a senior graphic designer in our Boston office. Sarah offers insight into some of her favorite design projects, how she got started in graphic design, and some of the best advice she’s received in her career. 

You started your graphic design career as a freelancer. What made you make the jump into Agency life?
There are so many enticing benefits of moving from freelance work to agency life: from the obvious (regular vacation and health insurance) to working with big name clients like T-Mobile and McDonald’s, to the feeling of being part of a team. The biggest motivator for me however was the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of my creative director and creative team coworkers. As a new freelance designer, I could only develop so far in a bubble. I wanted to continue to grow and I couldn’t do it without the eye of an expert. (Plus, it’s exciting when John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, tweets out your designs!)

From helping clients send trash (yes, like garbage) to reporters to animating gifs from scratch, your day-to-day work varies greatly. What are some of your favorite projects to work on here at SHIFT?

My job includes working on many internal projects, which may not sound super glamorous, but it allows me help shape the visual language of our company, which is cool. There are no rigid brand guidelines when I design for SHIFT – it’s very freeing. The poster of our company values is an example of an uninhibited project I did that had resonating effects on other assets like our website and internal communications.

Ever get in a creative rut? As a graphic designer (and illustrator!), how do you keep the creative juices flowing day-in and day-out?

The best way to get out of a rut is to learn something new. I feel totally empowered by teaching myself a new skill or program, and that opens up the types of projects I can work on. Before coming to SHIFT, I hadn’t touched a DSLR camera, opened After Effects, or even printed anything larger than an 18×24 inch poster. SHIFT encourages creative learning by investing in programs, materials and training tools we need. I created this looping cinemagraph of my coworker, Jenny last week for fun. Now I know I can recreate this effect for a client project:

Of course, there are also so many great designers in the world producing incredible work to be inspired by. Five designers/agencies that blow my mind:
Sagmeister & Walsh
James Victore
Chip Kidd
Adam and Company

What advice would you give other designers just getting started?

I still feel like I am that new designer, so it feels a little strange to give out advice… Here’s some advice someone else gave me:

I once met an established photographer who was in Boston for an exhibit of his work. At the time I was in night school for design. We were both killing time at a bar before meeting friends later. When he asked what I did, I told him I was a legal assistant who wanted to be a designer. He told me that for artists, “you are what you say you are.” There’s no official stamp of approval for artists. If you design things, call yourself a designer. That’s it. You don’t need permission from anyone or an agency gig for your work to be valid.

Think you have what it takes to be a SHIFTer? We’re hiring in several offices across the country. Learn more here!

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