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Spotlight — Spotlight

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

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Spotlight: Erin Rabbitt

We had the pleasure of meeting and reviewing some of the work of graphic designer Erin Rabbitt. She is a young designer with a strong point of view that  is unique and individual, but still holds a retro/vintage pop art vibe. Erin currently lives in Raleigh, NC where she owns conejocouture.com and designs everything from wedding invitations, to logos, circulars, and websites. Erin has an uncanning ability to bring whatever brand she is designing for to life with vivid imagery and a sense of humor. Erin grew up in Tampa Florida and started her design education at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL however, she decided to transfer to North Carolina State University (NC State) for a more prestigeous design program. During her run at NC State and after Rabbitt became a student of the world traveling around taking in amazing images and life in Austrailia, New Zealand, Thailand, and across the US.

Erin Rabbit’s company Conejocouture’s name is derived from a little word play with her last name and work ethic. “Conejo is Spanish for Rabbit. Growing up in Tampa I was heavily influenced by the Cuban community…that and it just goes so well with couture right! Couture is about designing with the client in mind and making something that fits them like a sparkly dress or tailored blazer.” We expect to see a lot from this designer in the future. Rabbitt understands that graphic design is about finding a balance between yourself as an artist and your client. Erin also takes her time to build a rapport with her clients to ensure gorgeous results. Conejocouture sets the mood for many couples special day with her really cool wedding invitations. Erin talks to the bride and groom about their life,  how and where they met, and what kind of people they are to come up with ideas for their design. Erin enjoys being part of the couples special day because it’s the first thing the guests receive to get them excited about what is to come.

Q: When did you start designing?

A: I feel like I have been designing and making things ever since I can remember. I used to go to work with my Dad and fiddle with his Apple “Lisa” and the original Mac paint program. Technically I have been doing graphic design since 1999.

Q: What was your first design?

A: Thinking back to school and my first projects the one that comes to mind was a typography research project and poster design on the font Interstate by Tobias Frere-Jones.

Q: What makes your designs unique?

A: My approach starts by researching the subject matter. I am always striving to come up with a smart and appropriate solution. I feel knowing as much as you can about the subject or client is essential. Whenever possible my work has an underlying story or idea that might not be obvious on first glance but presents itself to those who choose to take a closer look.

Q: What are some things that inspire you?

A: Pretty much everything! Travel, nature, graffiti, food, friends, music, magazines, and fashion, you name it.

Q: What was the last book you read?

A: What Is the What by Dave Eggers. A must read for all designers is The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd!

Q: What is easiest for you when it comes to design?

A: Concepting and vector illustration.

Q: What is your favorite color? What color story describes you and why?

A: My favorite color is Orange with Pantone Warm Gray 8 coming in at a close second. Put the two together and that is my story: Warm bright and muddy.

Q: Do you collect anything?

A: I have over 40 KidRobot Dunnies. I am trying to quit! Works of art on mini rabbit forms how could I not collect them.

Q: Tell me about one of the most stressful times in your design career?

A: I once lost all my work right before a deadline in a computer glitch. I stayed up all night recreating it for the deadline.

Q: Most exciting?

A: Using the programs for the first time was so exciting. Finally getting what was in my head out!

Q: Describe an evolution in your work from your first project to today?

A: My technical skills have been fine-tuned. I understand the importance of style sheets, file organization etc… its only when you start doing big projects that you realize doing it right the first time will save you hours later.

Q: Do you have any Graphic Design Role Models?

A: Shepard Fairey has great concepts and a gorilla marketing style I totally admire.

Q: What is the best moment of the day?

A: Morning coffee in the sunshine.

Q: What kind of music to you listen to at the moment?

A: I can’t get enough of The Kills.

Q: Do you read design magazines?

A: I read Juxtapose and National Geographic.

Q: Where do you get your news from?

A: Mostly NPR and BBC.

Q: Do you have any pets?

A: Yes I have the most awesome dog ever! 5lb apricot toy poodle boy named Ludwig.

Q: Where do you work on projects?

A: I prefer coffee shops or the library.

Q: Do you discuss projects with other designers?

A: Yes. I am always bouncing ideas of other people designers and non-designers alike. Feedback only makes my work better.

Q: What advise do you have for young aspiring designers?

A: Get a good foundation in many art mediums and art history before you start clicking your mouse.

Q: What are your favorite hardware/software programs to use?  Mac hardware of course.

A: Illustrator and Indesign software.

I see you do a lot of wedding invitations…tell me about your process…I talk to the bride and groom about their life and how they met etc where the wedding will be and the general ideas they have. Then I work up an idea or a few ideas get their feedback and go from there.

Do you enjoy being a part of the couples special day? I do. Ha! The invitations set the theme for the day. It’s the first thing the guests receive to get them excited about what is to come.

Conejo Couture – http://www.conejocouture.com/

Let us know what you think about Erin’s designs below.

Spotlight: Creig B. Hoskins


Creig B. Hoskins was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a town in the Mississippi Delta.  Throughout his childhood, he loved to draw and sketch.  When Creig was in high school, his parents allowed him to live with his uncle in Michigan to be more educationally challenged.  Since his uncle worked for General Motors, Creig assumed he’d go on to college to become an automobile designer for GM.  As fate would have it, GM entered a downturn, and Creig returned to Mississippi, where he graduated high school and was accepted into Mississippi State University’s School of Architecture to begin his career of designing buildings instead of cars.

After graduation from MSU in 1985, Creig relocated to Birmingham, Alabama where he was recruited by a prestigious firm now-named Giattina Aycock Architecture Studio (GA).  As he took on more responsibility and obtained professional licensure, Creig proved to be vital to the firm family and was named an Associate Partner in 1995.  His continued success as a designer, project manager, and role model helped him earn the MSU Alumni of the Year award in 2000. By 2005, he was made Senior Vice-President, the first African-American to be named a managing principal and owner in an Alabama majority-owned architectural firm.

As Senior Vice-President, Creig had the opportunity to design a variety of commercial and residential projects.   He led the firm’s involvement in designing multi-unit elderly housing for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Through this work, he became an expert in designing accessible spaces and passionate about building high-quality and cost-effective spaces.  In the past 5 years alone, he has designed and managed 18 HUD-funded projects across the southeast, ranging from new construction to renovations, all totaling over $75M.  He was a member of the project team for Homewood Middle School (180,000sf, $23M), the nation’s first LEED Silver-certified middle school in 2003.  As project architect and principal in charge, Creig was instrumental in the design of George Washington Carver High School for Health Professions, Engineering and Technology (304,000sf; $43M), which included 96 classrooms, clinical and nursing laboratories, a Disney-inspired animation studio, a television broadcasting area, fine arts auditorium, and cosmetology laboratory.   From designing rock displays for the Birmingham Children’s Zoo to multi-million dollar schools, civic and office buildings, Creig’s diverse design career has spanned nearly 3 decades.  And he’s not done yet.

Despite the nationwide economy and the declining construction industry, in 2009 Creig decided to step down as Senior Vice-President and Principal of GA, to create his own firm called HOSKINS Architecture.   The decision was difficult, but one he doesn’t regret.  He left GA with the support of his fellow partners, as well as the blessing of founding partner, and Creig’s mentor, Joe Giattina.  Creig truly values his years of experience, contributions, and investment in GA, which in turn gave him the tools needed to create his own company.

Not only does Creig strive to further the profession by creating innovative designs, he firmly believes in improving the community as well.  Creig is an active member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and served as the Southern Region Vice-President for 8 years until 2009.  He is a founding member of the Birmingham chapter of NOMA, where he served as President for three 2-year terms and was the Treasurer for 6 years.   He sat on the MSU Architectural Advisory Board from 1997-2000 and 2005-2009 and currently he serves on the Executive Board of Girls Inc., the Children’s Aid Society Foundation Board, and the City of Birmingham Design Review Committee.   Creig also created and continues to fund an annual scholarship to MSU’s College of Architecture, Art +Design, for students from the Mississippi Delta Region.

Currently, HOSKINS Architecture is providing design services for Children’s Health System and the Birmingham City School system, and has been selected for the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex’s Multipurpose Facility design team, led by Populous (formerly HOK Sport).  The office has five employees and will soon be expanding from 400sf to 1,800sf.


Q:  What do you like the most and least about being an architect?

Everything is always new and challenging.  No two problems are the same.  What I like the least is when I can’t convince an Owner to see the value in quality design.

Q:  What project(s) are you most proud of?

One that solves three basic criteria: client, quality, and community.  Birmingham Children’s Zoo ($8.8M), Gateway Family & Child Services Campus ($3.5M), George Washington Carver High School ($43M), and Children’s Hospital Data Center & Parking Deck ($16M) are some of the projects I’m most proud of.

Q: Would you have liked for your children to follow in your footsteps and become an architect?

I have always wanted them to be what they want to be.  My son LaDarius spent a lot of time with me in the office while growing up.  At one time, he thought he wanted to be an architect, but later changed his mind.  He is now a commercial diver.  My daughter, Jasmine, grew up drawing everything in the third dimension.  She attends the University of Pennsylvania and will graduate next year with degrees in Psychology and Spanish.

Q: What was your motivation to leave Giattina Aycock after decades of being a managing partner and part owner of that firm, and during a slump in the economy?  Any regrets?

Timing, and the desire to create a sustainable firm; something that seems to elude many minority firms.  No regrets.

Q: What in your opinion is the economic forecast of the construction industry in the coming years?

Up.   There’s nowhere to go but up!  I know it’s slow, but we will soon be back where we were in our glory days.  History has shown when there is a decline, there will be an upturn as well.

Q: What responsibility do you think architects and designers have to their community?

Every project undertaken should enhance the community and design profession in some form.  Does it positively impact and foster growth in the community?  Does it provide sustainable jobs or does it displace people?  Every project should strive to do what’s right for the community.

Q: What do you think students should know, who are considering architecture as their career?

It takes time; a lifetime.  A license in architecture and 5-10 years experience means you are just beginning.  Architecture is a profession developed and fine-tuned with time.  I’m still learning after 25 years.

Q: What advice do you have for designers in this economy that are struggling to find jobs?

Be patient.  Learn while you are in between jobs.  Never stop taking opportunities to learn.  Also, remember money isn’t everything.  You want to find a place that will invest in you.  Look at the big picture: Is there room for me to grow?  Where do I want to be in 5, 10, 20 years?  These are the questions you have to ask yourself.

Q: What is the last movie you watched?

Bright Star- a romantic drama based on the life of 19th Century poet, John Keats, who tragically died at age 25.  It was a good movie.

Q: What do you enjoy in your spare time?


Q: Did you watch the Oscars this year?
No, but I wanted Precious to win an award, so I was pleased and surprised to hear Mo’Nique won for her role as Best Supporting Actress.




Photo of Mr. Hoskins: The Birmingham News/Joe Songer

Photo of rock display at Birmingham Zoo: GA Studio/Lewis Kennedy



Mississippi State University College of Architecture, Art + Design

National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA)

HOSKINS Architecture

Spotlight: Arielle Bergmann


Photo By: Bob Gathany

Photo By: Bob Gathany

Arielle Bergmann is a young fashion designer making her mark on the fashion industry with Elleira Couture. Arielle is a native of Charlotte, NC and started her love affair at the tender age of 8 years old. The precocious designer began sketching and studying the works of noted fashion designers and icons in the industry. Arielle credits her high school apparel teacher Alberta “Ren” Jetton with providing an outlet for her creativity and encouraging it. She continued her education at Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia.

In 2007, she started her own line, Elleira Couture, for the everyday woman that transcends modern vintage inspired pieces. She designs everything from casual t-shirts to edgy cocktail dresses. One thing is sure; each of the garments she creates is unique and made with meticulous craftsmanship and skill. All of Arielle’s designs are produced in the United States and have a refreshing handmade quality. Elleira Couture can be currently found in 16 stores and boutiques across the southeast. When not sketching or draping, Arielle shares her love for fashion and design with high schoolers in Huntsville, AL. The fabulous young designer’s ambition and drive to create was palpable during our conversation.

Q: Where did you learn your trade?

A: I Graduated from Savannah College of Art & Design but my mentor was Ren Jetton, my fashion teacher in High School. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Q: When did you start designing?

A: I started designing when I was 8 years old. I love to watch

Bold & the Beautiful. They had these gorgeous gowns and outfits, so I started drawing dresses and making outfits for my Barbies. When I got to high school instead of art I took fashion apparel classes. I guess that’s where it all started.

Q: What was your first design?

A: In Charlotte we had this thing called the Senior Exit Project;

it was part of our graduation requirement. You had to pick a topic and write a paper. I chose women’s 20th century fashion and how it evolved overtime. For the project I was inspired to create a dress with a bell shape and backless, but it still had straps. I wore it to prom and it was great to know that I MADE my dress and it was a one of a kind design. Everyone was floored and I loved it.

Q: What are some things other than clothes that inspire you?

A: I never get inspired by clothing. I get inspiration from buildings and color schemes. One time I made a whole collection based off gold fish…well the Japanese coy. I can draw inspiration from anywhere really. My mind is always going so it’s really whatever feels good.

Q: What was a really disappointing time in your design career?

A: When I first started out people were taking advantage of me or make false promises from a business standpoint. I had a PR person make all these promises that she would get my line coverage in ELLE and COSMO; but never delivered. We even signed contracts and everything! She said that she had celebrities interested in my line and would wear them to events. It was all smoke. When you are first starting out you don’t have money to take them to court. It was disappointing because I knew my line was great but SAD that they would take advantage.

Q: Describe an evolution in your work from your first project to today?

A: In the beginning I was more focused on designing more dresses and now I’ve been making more transitional pieces…casual wear and what sells, HA.


Above Items can be purchased at Smashing Darling.

Q: What kind of music do you list to at the moment?

A: Well I just bought two CDs: OWL City and John Meyer. I’m the #1 John Meyer fan. I’ve seen him over 20 times, even before he was really famous. I liked him when his head didn’t fit his body. Now’s he’s filled out and has muscles. (giggles)

Q: Do you read fashion magazines?

A: Well I used to read W Magazine but I’m kinda disappointed that it’s ALL ads. I do really like Nylon Magazine tho.

Q: What kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?

A: I don’t avoid anything. My personal style changes from day to day. I might wear pastry tennis shoes, a neon graphic tee, or a JCrew type dress. My personal style is vintage inspired, trendy with antique jewelry. I LOVE accessories.

Q: Do you discuss your projects with other designers?

A: Not really, Sometimes I show my students so they can see the progress and gives credibility to what I’m teaching in the classroom. I do have a business team that I show my work to but not really any other designers.

Q: What advise do you have for young aspiring designers?

A: It takes time; it’s hard, and doesn’t happen overnight. It is easy to start your own business but the hard part is growing it.

elleira-editorial4elleira-editorialelleira-editorial3Above photos by Mark Durling Photography Hair and Makeup by Mod Squad.

Check out Arielle Bergmann’s Elleira Couture Spring 2010 Collection at http://www.elleiracouture.com. Just FYI –  when you go to her site you have to click in the lower left hand corner for the menu/ navigation bar to appear.

Share what you think about her collection below in the comments.

Image Source: http://www.elleiracouture.com

SpotLight Coming Soon!

Spot Light is a place where new and up and coming designers can be recognized. If you have any suggestions of some new designers just email them to suggestions@refugeedesigner.com