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Staff Spotlight: Colin Bright

Published on: 09 / 15 / 2020


What is your role at McBride?

My title is Creative Signage and Graphics Designer, and in that role I’m responsible for creating custom signs for our projects, along with one-off graphics for everything from wall coverings to pillows. I also assemble a lot of our client presentations and style guides, nudging margins and tweaking type styles to collect this amazing team’s individual work into cohesive decks. Because of my background in branding and identity design I get brought into a lot of those projects too.

Where are you based?

I live in Northfield, VT, in the heart of the Green Mountains. I’m three blocks from a vibrant downtown with a great coffee shop, brewery, a few restaurants and a bunch of thriving local businesses, but can walk 500’ out my back door and be in woods with some of the best backcountry skiing and trail running I could hope for. Truly, the best of both worlds.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m usually up a little before 5, and use those first quiet couple of hours of the day to draw before the family is up and running. My sketchbook pages tend to be detail heavy, and come together best when I can work on them uninterrupted. From 7-8 I help get the kids ready for the day, and then sit down at my desk to get started on work. I usually get out for a run around 2, which can really help to shake out some ideas or work through something I’m stuck on. I wrap up work around 5, hang with the family until 8ish, then read for a while and head to bed around 10.

What is your favorite project you have worked on?

Product design for the Coral Reefer vaporizers. I’ve designed a lot of packaging for consumer goods in my career, but never the thing that goes inside. Having the creative license and budgetary flexibility to call out quality material finishes like driftwood textures and sea-glass let me pull the whole brand aesthetic into a flagship product that everybody was excited about.

How did you get into the industry?

I went to school for landscape design, and used that portfolio to get a job as a production artist with a local company that publishes illustrated maps of tourist destinations around the country. I was counting on my minimal experience with CAD and Photoshop to get me started in a fast-paced production environment; thank goodness Google doesn’t charge for answers.

After a couple years building up my Adobe chops and dipping my toes into the waters of identity design, I took a new position with a holding company in the beverage industry working on branding, packaging, and national ad campaigns for some of the most iconic craft and macro breweries in the market.

I initially started working with McBride on graphic design and illustration projects as an independent contractor. It pretty quickly became evident that McBride’s projects could combine my experience in spatial planning and branding in some pretty exciting ways, and after a little less than two years I came on board full-time; that was a little less than three years ago, and the time has flown.

What’s the coolest (or most important) trend you see today?

The iPad pro/Apple Pencil combination has finally bridged the gap between traditional and digital illustration in a way that no other stylus/tablet has to date, and is letting artists’ individual styles shine in a way that’s been really hard to capture digitally. The DIY/craft trend has been on the rise for years, and as an artist, being able to bring that aesthetic, mindset, and traditional process to my work more efficiently has been tremendously empowering. I think we’re seeing that trend towards breaking down the technology barrier between ideation and execution on a bunch of fronts, and it’s exciting to imagine where my creativity could take me if I didn’t have to swear at a new software interface for six months to get there.

What inspires you outside of work? Do you have any other creative outlets?

I pull a lot of inspiration from hand painted signs, architectural details, and logos and branding from when design was a trade still practiced by shirt-sleeved professionals working at drafting tables. When I can find them, I spend hours poring over old designers’ layout sketches and rejected concepts; there’s just so much to learn there.

Living in Vermont, there’s also inspiration staring me in the face every time I step outside. The natural color palette and organic shapes are a good counterpoint to the geometric precision and stark contrast that I love in all of those built and designed forms.

Drawing is my main outlet, largely because it’s the practice that’s easiest to take with me wherever I go. I also take a lot of photos with weird vintage film lenses on a digital camera body and dabble in screen printing. I’ve recently started working with spray paint, and am having a lot of fun working in fluid color. I’m working on a technique that uses cut masking tape for stencils on wood to combine the bold gradients of spray paint with the precision of my drawn linework. It’s kind of like a one-off screenprint, but with paint fumes.


What inspires your sketches?

I’m constantly inspired by the patterns, type, and embellishments that are hiding in the built environment around us. I use my sketchbooks as a record of all the great examples I find in “the wild” on everything from logos on old thermostats and vintage snowmobiles to carved stone and cast metal architectural details. It’s a bit of a running joke in my circle of friends that I’ve been known to lose the group I’m travelling with because I’m distracted by a cast manufacturer’s stamp on a fire hydrant.

When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?

What is this free-time you speak of? Seriously though, if I’m left to my own devices for half an hour I’m probably checking some task off the endless list of improvements to make the house and home studio more comfortable or efficient. I spend most of my time at home, so when something isn’t perfect I notice. The house is 200 years old, so there’s plenty to notice.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Professionally, I’d love to get into animation. I think there’s a lot of potential fun to be had pulling the contents of my sketchbook onto the screen and seeing how I can bring it to life with motion.

If we’re talking anything, really anything, I’d love to learn whatever the verb is for going into space as an astronaut. Astronauting? Space piloting? Whatever it takes to get to the international space station and get my little grubbies on that unlimited supply of freeze-dried ice cream.

What are you currently binge watching or what movie have you seen recently?

I recently got sucked into Stranger Things, and can’t believe that I waited as long as I did. I don’t consume a lot of TV or movies, and it’s pretty infrequent that anything in that medium really captivates me, but I’m hooked. The visual cues to the era are spot on to the last detail, and really bring me back to my own geeky childhood.

What have you been listening to recently or who are your top three favorite artists?

I don’t know what pulled me back into my teenage anthems, but I’ve been on an early/mid 90’s kick lately, dipping into hip hop like Tribe Called Quest, Black Star, Bone Thugs, Nas, Wyclef, and Tupac, balanced with some classic ska/punk from groups like Rancid, Spring Heeled Jack, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, The Offspring, and Bad Religion. Are they all considered oldies yet?

What are your top three favorite books?

Ooph… it’s hard to pick just three favorites, so how about what I’ve read most recently?

Right now, I’m reading Michael Bierut’s How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World because with a title like that, what graphic designer could resist? The whole list is worthwhile, but I’m really working on that last one…

I just finished The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, a record of how government policies of the last 200 years have systematically shaped segregation in our communities nationwide. It turned a lot of the planning and policy history I was taught on its head, explains a lot of how we got to where we are today as a nation, and outlines a pretty clear (if ambitious) path for how we can shift towards more inclusive and integrated communities.

Being a designer legitimizes reading lots of picture books as a grown-up, and one that’s on my desk right now is Francis D.K. Ching’s Architecture: Form, Space, and Order. I originally purchased it for one of my introductory design courses in school, and it’s survived a decade of culling less loved books from the shelves to make room for more. While it’s focused on architecture, Ching’s diagrams and analysis prove over and over again that design is design is design, regardless of medium.

You’re happiest when?

...I’m lounging on the beach listening to my kids play in the sand, sketching sailboats cruising by.