We had the good fortune of connecting with Eric Venegas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Eric, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
We have a saying in the visual communication industry, “you’re only as good as your last job.” Most designers interpret this phrase to mean that we must constantly strive to improve our artistic skills and advance the profession of graphic design. However, I see things a little differently.
What is a brand? When the average person uses the word brand, most people think of a logo, product, or packaging – specifically how it looks. While these visuals are essential to distinguishing one company and its products from another, they are not a brand.
At its core, a brand is a promise (either implicit or explicit) that a company makes to its customers. When a company fulfills that promise, the customer feels validated. An excellent example of how brands work is to make them more personal. Let’s imagine that someone we know acts in a way that conforms to our expectations; we might say that’s “on brand.” However, we feel confused and deceived if that same friend does something contrary to our expectations. Unexpected behavior might give you cause to cry, “I don’t even know you!”
Small Hat Studio was founded on the promise of treating people how I would want to be treated in return. That means we strive to be honest with clients, careful with budgets, and excellent communicators on every job. Furthermore, we set realistic expectations and own up to our mistakes (but only after we’ve figured out a solution). This simple promise has guided Small Hat Studio to success and means we’re doing something right. I can proudly say, our goal is to fulfill this promise with every completed project, and we look forward to doing it on the next one that graces our door.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
You can call me an artist, but in reality, I’m a visual communication professional. At Small Hat Studio, I wear a lot of hats – both figuratively and literally. My collection includes a design beret, an illustration cap, a writing fedora, a project manager bowler, a business development porkpie, and a finance visor. But I don’t make or sell hats.
My graphic design journey started in college. Most design students pursue a specialized four- or five-year degree in visual communication at schools such as the University of North Texas, Texas A&M University-Commerce, or Texas Tech. However, I had no idea that graphic design was a viable career. After graduating from high school, I attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas, with hopes of becoming an engineer.
My freshman year at Austin College was eye-opening, and I soon discovered that calculus and physics were not my strong suits. So I switched my major to art with a concentration on sculpture. I didn’t have a plan—I just knew that art was my passion. Along the way, I started learning Adobe Photoshop. That led to an internship at Fossil and, eventually, a full-time position after graduation.
Without the benefits of a visual communication education, I was determined to learn as much as possible from anyone willing to teach me. As a result, I became a sponge absorbing anything I could about typography, color, layout, application programs, illustration, presentation, and design history.
What I’ve learned from my professional journey is that anyone can make it as a designer, but it requires much more than talent or schooling alone. Succuss is a combination of passion, motivation, and the willingness to overcome all obstacles.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I don’t get out much these days between running Small Hat Studio, teaching at Texas A&M University-Commerce, working on a master’s degree in visual communication, and writing an MFA thesis. However, one of our favorite spots is BarNone in East Dallas. It’s inviting, casual, and the perfect place for Katie and me to split a fantastic burger and have an adult beverage – or two.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
As a graphic designer with over two decades of experience, there are too many personal and professional contacts to thank properly.
From my early days at Fossil, I’d have to thank Tim Hale, Blaine Leist, Stephen Zhang, Casey McGarr, Brad Bollinger, John Dorcas, and Brian Delaney. They all served to inspire my creative development in graphic design.
Most of my VisCom career was spent at Banowetz + Company, where I learned what it truly meant to be a graphic designer. There I met Leon Banowetz and Kris Murphy, whose tremendous skill and patience paved the way for me to become the creative professional I am today.
Others that deserve credit include educators and partners such as Virgil Scott, Lee Hackett, Raul Varela, Veronica Vaughan, Margie Bowles, Wayne Geyer, and Jeremy Sharpe.
My friends and clients deserve so much credit for trusting me with their projects and motivating me daily. They include Jamie Colvin (SimplyConnect Consulting), Jackie Powell (Spark Biomedical), Kelly Terwege (House of Jack Co.), Sachin Kukreja (DFW Bariatrics and General Surgery), Katie Tellor (Abstrakt Studio), Allen Davis (WebbMason Marketing), Candice Paddock (Studio Third), and the list goes on and on.
Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the love and support of my mother, Mary Venegas, and my dedicated wife, Katie. You know you’re my favorite person.
Portrait by Sebron Snyder and portfolio photography by Jeremy Sharp Pictures.