Designer Spotlight with Chelsea Hedrick

As a Senior Designer in O+A’s Brand Studio Chelsea never knows what her workday is going to be. One day she’s creating mythical creatures for the firm’s digital holiday card, the next she’s weighing gradations of color for a corporate client’s hero wall. At O+A brand strategy is always a merging of elements. Designers know their mission is to tell the client’s story through forms, colors, spaces, imagery, feelings—it’s all about creating an experience. As in any job there are times when the work gets stressful, but all designers understand the blessings inherent in a workday that boils down to, “Is that the right blue?”

Q. What initially got you interested in design?

A. My childhood probably, but I didn’t know it at the time. I grew up with my parents and sister in Columbia, Missouri. Our house was surrounded by nature, which meant lots of outdoor time. Instead of relying on video games or television for entertainment, my sister and I used our imaginations, creating outdoor obstacle courses, writing each other letters, performing skits and working jig-saw puzzles. My mom also introduced us to arts and crafts as kids and throughout the year, but especially around the holidays, we would create elaborate homemade decorations, place settings, art and everything in between. For Easter, my parents would hide a mix of puzzle pieces and candy in the eggs for the hunt. The puzzle pieces would spell out a clue that would lead us to our basket. To this day, I still love nature, arts and crafts, puzzles.

Pictured: Chelsea in Half Moon Bay, CA

Q. Who is one of your favorite designers? 

A. While studying Animation & New Media at North Carolina State University I became very interested in the work of Saul Bass. I love his movie title sequences. He did a lot of Alfred Hitchcock movies. For one of my projects in graduate school I made a title sequence in his style for the movie “The Birds.” That’s one of my favorite movies. Through Saul Bass I think I saw that a designer can be more than one thing. He also designed some very iconic logos: AT&T, United Airlines, Warner Communications, the Girl Scouts.

Q. At NCSU you had an interesting job in branding.

A. Yeah, I worked in the university’s Research & Laboratory Support office. We were doing work providing design and branding services to small towns around North Carolina. We helped these little towns throughout the state establish a brand. We led charrettes and provided consulting to show how a small investment like a logo or a mural could enhance the town’s visibility and bring in more people.

Pictured: Original title sequence Chelsea created for “The Birds”

Q. Where do you draw inspiration from? 

A. Well, I’ve always loved to travel. After my fiancé and I finished school, we moved to Bangkok, Thailand. There, I worked with clients as diverse as a chain of seafood restaurants and a hair and skincare company developing a line of products for their growing Indian market. As different as these projects were, they helped me explore how package design, logos and environmental graphics could work together for a unified impact. Of course the inspiration was also cultural. The people, the places, the colors, the foods, all have had a lasting effect on how I approach design.

Q. You were in Thailand a long time.

A. A little shy of 8 years. Kiddee and I were looking to move back to the States, but it’s hard to go from Thailand to a full wintry environment. So we were thinking LA, Seattle, maybe San Francisco. Neither of us had jobs yet. I’m very meticulous with work stuff, but with life stuff I have an adventurous spirit.

Pictured: Chelsea on set in Thailand

Q. Which brought you to Studio O+A. What have been some of your favorite projects here? 

A. During the pandemic I was working on a brand piece for a client’s workplace that involved selecting colors to have yarn dyed for the designs. It required aligning colors with the manufacturers, the designers, the client. That can be tricky even when you’re meeting in person. Doing it all remotely was a challenge. It was definitely a first for me, but after a lot of discussion we were able to agree on using a Pantone book for textiles, and in the end the colors of the yarn made the designs successful.

For the 2020 Holiday Artist Series, the team was given free reign to embrace bizarre and kooky art, which was music to my ears. From hand-drawn illustrations created by O+A’s staff, we made an interactive gallery. Each drawing reflected a vision of architecture, nature or humanity that interacted to create a singular mythical creature. It was a fun, anything-goes project.

“A Toolkit for the Times” is another favorite as it allowed me to combine research with design thinking to envision a path forward for us all to return to work safely with a sense of joy. Everything from the wayfinding to the toolkit design was created with an artist lens and an optimistic spirit.

Q. What advice do you have for designers just starting their careers? 

A. That there is no limit to what you can do. The most important thing you can do is continue trying. Iteration in design is always a great thing. Your first idea may not be the best and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to iterate. There is no such thing as too many ideas.

Pictured: 2019 O+A Halloween party