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Life and Work with Kira Crugnale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kira Crugnale.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I knew that I wanted to work in the commercial arts, in some capacity, by the time I was 14 years old. My high school had an incredible arts program with teachers who encouraged our practice and taught us that there were careers that existed outside of math and science, too. I remember that in 10th grade I took a darkroom class in a neighboring town, not realizing it was intended as a hobby program for adults. When the photography teacher at my school went on maternity leave the next year, I refused to sit idly by and let the program fall away, so I asked to teach the darkroom portion of the curriculum myself — and they let me!

I went on to study photography at Ryerson University and eventually began work as an editorial photographer shooting everything from events and red carpets to running a studio where I worked with a team of models and makeup artists on a day to day basis. It was really an incredible time in my life, but by the time I moved to Chicago in 2013, I was ready for a change.

I spent the next year holed up with my computer, immersing myself in the world of two-dimensional design. I created logos for friends and self-initiated projects eventually building up a large enough portfolio to shop around to agencies. I landed my first real design gig in 2014 at FCB Chicago, working on brands like Jack Daniel’s, Goose Island, Meow Mix and more. These days, I work as a freelancer based out of my studio in Humboldt Park and co-own Sidewinder Goods, a lifestyle brand with a focus on earth-friendly and American made products.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve been very fortunate to have such a supportive network throughout my life. I have a family that has always been encouraging of my less than traditional path and mentors who hold me up every step of the way. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of late nights, and a ton of perseverance. And, these are things I struggle with, even now.

It’s hard to know when you’ve made it and it’s hard to know when to quit, but if I had one piece of advice for anyone just starting out it would be this: trust your gut. If it feels right, do it. If it feels wrong, don’t. This journey is yours and yours alone so it’s important to learn to trust yourself in a way that’s free from doubt, ego, or influence.

Please tell us about The Studio of Kira Crugnale.
I refer to myself as a “commercial artist with a focus on branding and packaging design” which is really just a fancy way of saying that I work with brands to help sell their products. It’s like visual storytelling except wrapped up in a very specific purpose (which probably has something to do with my fine art education and years of real-world marketing experience).

A lot of my work incredibly types heavy and I often create custom lettering for clients as part of their logos and branding suites. I’m pretty big on the idea of “do it yourself” design which means that I rarely work with existing illustration, photography or those pre-made decorative fonts you see online. It also means that I’m learning and shifting focus constantly. Lately, I’ve been trying to integrate analog processes as much as I can; something that has led me down the road of learning traditional sign painting and hand lettering techniques.

Were there people and/or experiences you had in your childhood that you feel laid the foundation for your success?
My family has been incredibly supportive of my creativity since I was a kid. My grandpa taught me blackletter calligraphy when I was about 6 years old and my dad gave me my first SLR camera before I reached high school. My cousin used to sell his art at family dinners and my aunt lets him set up a DIY tattoo studio in her basement way before that was a cool thing to do. I think celebrating each other was just a given in our family and I’m really lucky to have had that.

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Image Credit:
Kira Crugnale

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