Adding good design to live events with Kevin Foss ’20
Wednesday, October 19th, 2022
From Cardi B to Bon Jovi, Lizzo to Nickelback, Chris Brown, and Green Day, it’s been a busy and demanding couple of years of work and clients for Class of 2020’s Kevin Foss.
Yet the magna cum laude Graphic Design graduate of Pennsylvania College of Art & Design probably wouldn’t have it any other way.
The projects on which he’s worked, as the lead graphic designer for experience company Nimblist, go beyond those musicians to a wide range of live events. Yet it all had its start in the Nimblist internship Foss completed between his junior and senior years at PCA&D.
Internships — a requirement at PCA&D — aren’t meant to be “busy work” but, instead, give students some real-life insight into their field of choice. Foss’s experience did all that and led to the job he holds today.
Foss shared his thoughts about his PCA&D experience, what the internship process taught him, and the learning curve he’s faced at his first post-graduation job.
What did you do during your internship with Nimblist? Was it generally the same kind of thing you’re doing now … or completely different?
Kevin Foss: Most of my time was spent working as a junior graphic designer for The Emerald Cup, which is the largest cannabis-growing competition in the world. It’s a two-day event in Santa Rosa, California, with vendors, food, music, and art. I designed the festival’s map, designed print signage around the event, and created graphics for their social media accounts and website.
Now and then a side project would come up that allowed me to work in different creative roles. I had been tasked to do creative analysis and design research for the upcoming music tours of Green Day and Nickelback. I also pitched in with some supporting illustrations for Chris Brown’s set design. This was all a less intense but similar version of the job I do today.
What’s your job title now at Nimblist? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
KF: I’ve been working as the lead graphic designer for two years. I work alongside a creative team of architectural, lighting, and 3D designers. Together we produce the visual environments for shows and events of all sizes. There are all different kinds of projects that we will work on throughout the year so things are always changing and that keeps it really interesting. Most of my time is spent handling all the graphic design needs for events and producing scenic artwork for the music shows.
What have you been designing lately?
KF: I just buttoned up an event design project in NYC called Paley WKND. I created the wall art for galleries, large banners, event maps, and large entrance arches. It was a heavy lift, but overall a great opportunity to grow. Earlier this year I flew to California to work on another successful Emerald Cup event, which was an amazing experience. I’ve worked on several side projects and design pitches for music artists such as Bon Jovi, Cardi B, and Lizzo. When I’m not working with Nimblist I’m working on freelance projects and trying to keep up to date with my online presence.
What was the learning curve like after graduation?
KF: I’ve had to get used to doing a lot more math than I was planning on doing. Designing for large spaces has been a big learning curve. It’s very different than designing for a screen or for an 8.5-by-11 sheet of paper. I’m constantly having to think about the design from a different perspective. It’s definitely worth the struggle when you start to figure things out.
Can you think of a day at work when a project was really not going in the direction you wanted it to? How did you work past that?
KF: I’m learning that most projects don’t go in the direction you want. That’s part of the job. The final product is almost never 100 percent my approach. I can offer insight and help make the right choices, but there will always be clients and art directors who have their own vision in mind. I’ve learned to be less precious about my personal opinions in order to become a better visual communicator for others.
How did PCA&D prepare you for what you do every day?
KF: PCA&D taught me how to talk about art and communicate the reasoning behind my artistic decisions, which is important. Sometimes the right words to convince people of your idea are just as valuable as the idea.
Are there any faculty/staff shout-outs you’d like to make?
KF: Pam Barby taught me everything about good graphic design. The best thing she taught us was to work with a smile. Pam had a calming approach to everything. She pushed us, but also let us know that everything would be fine. And she was right!
I also learned really valuable lessons from Jeremy Waak. He was also a really solid guy. I remember him staying after class to help direct me on how to become a graphic design professor, which is one of my long-term goals in design. It was encouraging and I appreciated that he had no problem going out of his way for a student.
What’s an especially fun or weird or rewarding memory you have of your time at PCA&D?
KF: Our senior design class was a great group. They were talkative and funny, and you could always hear them from down the hall. In hindsight, I think they were my favorite part of PCA&D. They made life at school a lot of fun. Class trips, holiday parties, and a lot of lunches. I’m thankful for always having people around that were willing to participate and make the best of our time at school.
What appealed to you about PCA&D? Why did you choose to attend here?
KF: I loved being surrounded by other artists. There’s creativity everywhere and everyone benefits from being exposed to a wide variety of artistic backgrounds. Other schools had art programs that seemed like afterthoughts to the rest of the curriculum. I liked that PCA&D had a focus and an intent on setting up their students for successful careers in art. From the start, I felt very comfortable in the school’s environment.
What’s something useful that you could share with a creative person who’s considering becoming a Graphic Design major?
KF: I think learning to be a good team player is an underrated skill for creative people. Learning to communicate and doing so in a positive, cooperative way is key when working with co-workers, bosses, clients, sponsors, etc. I try my best to be friendly and to be someone that others like to work with.
Have you been assigned to a project that has excited you more than any of the others?
KF: I had the opportunity to create concepts to pitch to Bon Jovi for his anniversary tour and create screen graphics that played during his shows. Bon Jovi is a big deal in my home state of New Jersey. As a fellow Jersey Italian, this felt like completing some sort of Jersey-Italian quest.
Top image: Wall graphics designed for Paley WKND by Kevin Foss ’20, Graphic Design
See more of his work at kfoss.art