Welcome to the first installment of Life After Design School – a series of interviews with graphic design school alumni!
In some ways, the inspiration for this series has been brewing since we first stepped foot into design school. As bright-eyed students, we looked at the careers of legendary designers and wanted to emulate them. But what if we don’t land that nine-to-five at the award-winning agency as soon as we graduate?
We hope this series of interviews not only introduces you to some talented and inspiring people, but also shows how saying ‘yes’ to things outside of our comfort zones or planned trajectories helps us nurture and explore all channels of our creativity.
Adriana Koc-Spadaro is a fellow Capilano IDEA graduate. She is currently an art director and self-described community initiator – passionate about connecting creativity and intuition.
This past August, Adriana co-organized the third annual Dinner on the Pier, an event driven by the kindness and connection in North Vancouver. Every summer, 300 guests are invited to experience an evening that features North Vancouver businesses – sharing a delicious dinner at sunset and enjoying live music under the lights with a beautiful community.
You’ve worn many hats since graduating. Can you give a run-down of some of the things you’ve worked on that weren’t strictly graphic-design related?
I’ve worked on several projects that light me up in the last few years. I have always felt passionate about connection, community, and empowerment. When I focus on these themes, amazing people and opportunities show up. I’ve spoken at PechaKucha, volunteered with Girlvana Yoga, hosted wellness workshops, mentored an event in Barcelona, and created Dinner on the Pier.
How did you get started with Dinner on the Pier? How did the idea come about?
Dinner on the Pier is a project that started in 2015. The idea came soon after I met Alex Troll (co-founder). Our conversations revolved around inspiration and energy in the North Vancouver community. After chatting about a few ideas, we decided to start planning our first community long table dinner which launched 6 weeks after committing to it. It is now a yearly event, with other ideas brewing ;).
How do you think your graphic design and illustration background helped with organizing Dinner on the Pier?
Graphic design is more than just design. My time in the industry has trained my brain to coordinate details to execute a vision. A good designer follows their intuition and does the work to understand different point-of-views. My role at Dinner on the Pier is Creative Director, which means I’m in charge of the guest experience. I am constantly playing the event in my imagination to predict the reaction of the guests while keeping multiple behind-the-scenes factors in mind. This visualization helps with big and small decisions. It is a practice I use to relate with graphic design when thinking about the end consumer.
You recently jetted off to Barcelona for three months – what drove you to take this trip?
Life is about living your dreams on a day to day basis. After deciding to not wait for retirement, I quit my job to move to a place that I had always dreamt of. I was definitely following a gut feeling.
While you were there, how did you channel your creative energy? And what were your biggest takeaways from this experience?
Spain is a place of inspiration. The city is filled with a deep history of arts and culture and is a magnet for incredible energy. Being inspired was a way of life. The food, culture, art, people, music… all have a story to connect with. This feeling created space for ideas to pour in, and my eyes were wide open. My creativity was channeled by my awareness to when something lit me up.
The biggest takeaway comes from a combination of two things; to have found the courage to go to Spain, and a feeling that I experienced over and over. The courage came from listening to my gut. Whenever I’ve done this, life rewards me. It’s subtle, but the reward comes in a feeling that is hard to describe. It is a moment that stops me in my tracks and feels like the universe touches down, taps me on the head with a happy wand, and my heart responds by looking up to scream thank you! With that, a rush of immense gratitude, happiness, connection, and magic flows through me. These moments happen when I was completely present and acting like my truest self. They felt effortless and would come often while living in Barcelona.
The most powerful moments of happiness are when you do exactly what your heart wants you to do. We often torture ourselves with negative talk, unnecessary struggles or comparison. These get in the way of following our path. Going after our dreams isn’t as complicated as we think. That is my takeaway.
What advice do you have for current design students or recent graduates?
To work on your intuition. Being creative has everything to do with it. It is a way of tapping into how you manifest an idea or a gut instinct on how to make an idea really impactful. It will guide your career, and lead you to the projects and a life that lights you up.
How can people connect with you and where can they find you online?
I would love to connect with creative minds that are interested in the power of subtle energy.
Instagram: @adri.lovesyou or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org