TJA Team Talent: Hallie Bolonkin

What we do isn’t about following the rules. It’s not about playing it safe. It’s about who we are – and you don’t need auto-tune when you’ve got genuine, rock star talent (but without the attitude, infighting and bad fashion sense). Every person at The James Agency brings his or her own unique genius and personality to every project we do. When you put us all together, you have pure awesomeness.

Get to know TJA’s  production manager, Hallie Bolonkin!

What college did you graduate from? Major?

The University of Arizona, BFA in visual communications with an emphasis in graphic design.

Where did you grow up?

The beautiful bluegrass state – Louisville, Kentucky.

What got you interested in the marketing/advertising agency?

I was always interested in art growing up. From painting my bedroom door with doodles, to going on weekend photography adventures, I knew I wanted to attend art school for something. When it was time to decide on a major, graphic design was something my parents suggested to me. It’s a structured art profession that incorporates creativity but would lead me away from being that typical ‘starving artist’ trying to sell doodled bedroom doors on the street. I figured they knew what was best for me and decided to give it a try. It was kind of a shot in the dark, but luckily I ended up loving design and was very happy with my decision to try new things and trust my inner creativity.

What are some challenges you face in your role at TJA?

A challenge that I am faced with as a production manger is trying to utilize out-of-the-box printing techniques such as a funky die-cuts, embossing or even printing on materials other than paper, but often times these concepts don’t align with the client’s budget. It’s always a challenge to present unique ideas to the client that will have an impact on their target audience, but still stay within the numbers.

What success have you had in your role at TJA?

As an employee of 3 years, I have gone from being a graphic design intern to a junior production designer to production designer to my current role as production manager. I have gradually gained responsibility over the years, but most importantly I have learned many new skills along the way.

What is your favorite part about your job?

No two days are the same. There are always new projects to be started, new ideas to be expressed, and new things to learn. Being able to watch an idea grow from a list of key words and raw sketches into a tangible finished product is really rewarding. Being surrounded by such an amazing, talented, and interesting group of people makes coming to work everyday a treat.

What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?

Limitations aren’t always a bad thing. When I first started working at TJA, I was straight out of college where most design projects gave students complete creative freedom to do what they pleased. No one to impress but themselves, their peers and their professors. When working for clients in the real world, there are restrictions when starting a project such as budgets, visions, and outside opinions. It can be challenging to design a project with very specific limitations and guidelines, but working within those circumstances can teach you to push the boundaries, look outside of your comfort zone, and can strengthen your ability to problem solve.

What are some tools you use everyday that are specific to your role at TJA?

I always have a sketch book and pen at hand. Jotting down ideas, notes, and sketches is the easiest way to stay on track and ensures you don’t forget about that awesome split second idea that popped into your head at the most random of times. My team members are also a very important tool. Each person has a different perspective and can provide constructive criticism, answer questions, or help solve a problem.      

What’s trending now in your department? What do you see happening in the future?

Digital and interactive advertising is something that has become more prominent the past few years. Digital advertisements are animated more often than not, and even logos are being animated to create a new type of brand expression. While digital marketing is becoming more aggressive and prominent, the world of print continues to be a necessary counterpart to branding and advertising. A wide variety of printed techniques can be used to enhance your work. Subtle things such as raised clear ink, embossing, or textured paper can make your printed pieces have just the right amount of character. The world of promo items has also kept up with the times, and you can pretty much brand anything from portable speakers to wine aerators, so you can represent while you drink and boogie!

What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?

This is my first real-world job after graduating from college, but while in school I worked at Campus Health at the University of Arizona as a graphic designer and was also a photographer for the Daily Wildcat, U of A’s on campus newspaper.

What would you tell someone who wants to start a career as a production designer?

Learn to work as a team, be willing to give and receive criticism, be prepared to communicate with a wide variety of people, make friends with vendors, always ask questions, be able to justify your decisions, be thorough and detail oriented, pay attention to quality, and speak up if something didn’t come out as promised. If you’ve got an eye for design, passion, and a positive attitude, you can do anything!

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