The Balance of Design

By: Sarah Byrd in Get to Know Us

The reddish-brown dirt clod would crumble in Sunny’s hands when she was a child as she would carefully select a piece to continue to draw. Her family had settled in Alaska and, after living there awhile, decided to build a solar house. Many of her days were spent outside playing amongst the exposed dirt walls that were left after leveling areas from the mountainside or using leftover scrap wood to make things.

“My grandfather calls us a family of cobblers, in that we can put anything together one way or another. No guarantee that it’s pretty, but we can make it happen.”

It was in those days where Sunny discovered her love of architecture and drawing energy from the sun, those clean lines that make beautiful spaces for people to enjoy. Whether drawing floor plans as a teenager, or even building her own art booth to sell artwork in as an industrious adult, she was filled by the satisfaction of making something simple or sometimes intricate, functional, and pleasing to the eye.

“I made design and organization a part of my work. I was always redesigning registration forms, making flyers, doing magazine layout, organizing something, developing better systems, programming, you name it.”

Sunny spent years in high-tech corporate security in Silicon Valley programming access badges and being the friendly gatekeeper, in government (township parks department), and doing database development. Yes, you read that right: design isn’t the only thing in her wheelhouse; she used to freelance code in Access and Visual Basic for Applications.

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One day, RTC saw her portfolio as a freelance artist and recognized her talent.

“The designer who brought me in didn’t have a love for prose book layout, and everyone thought it was just a necessity of the grander goal to tell someone’s story that no one loved doing. At least, that’s how Corey tells the story. Not so! I love working with page after page of text! And I’ve been here ever since.”

Her behind-the-scenes brilliance can be seen with her skills in organization of process. “Now is always the time to do it thoroughly” is her motto when asked about her creating systems. She has taken the structure of the file directories and simplified it so you can decipher what happened or was decided on years ago.

She has set up countless guidelines within RTC such as formatting and proofreading guides, welcome packets, and guidelines for sourcing stock graphics and fonts with appropriate licensing. She created these and many more because she saw the need and sought to find the solution to help.

“They set everyone up for success. We then iterate as time goes on, as better methods are realized.”

It is no surprise that Sunny has been shifting in the direction of minimalism over recent years, and sees this lifestyle as a process but one that is worth it. For her, it is a huge undertaking to purge a lifetime of items. But when the clutter was swept away, she felt freer and noticed that everything was less chaotic. Even if she still loses her car keys.

“It’s a design aesthetic. I like to look at things that are well designed, and when things are cluttered, that is not well designed!” she laughs.

“Every bit of text, every element, has a home, and you have to work to find it on the page.”

Sunny, who is now the director of publishing and visual design and in charge of art walls and our publishing team and process, takes that same idea into her workspace, using the clean lines and well thought-out spacing for any project she undertakes.

“Every bit of text, every element, has a home, and you have to work to find it on the page.”

Sunny believes that there is a sense of balance when you are designing something. The point is to find that balance and make it happen. She sees it this way: Whether it’s an advertisement, a cover, or page after page of words, you are given set parameters, and you must find the best outcome that you can without going bananas—we all have budgets! The end result is a product that looks professional and has been given your TLC.

When asked how she finds a sense of balance when she is working on the page, she simply replies, “I’m sure I could go find some design rules to quote, but the honest truth is that I feel it out.”

Sunny does just that when working on smaller spaces such as the pages of a book or larger spaces that can reach eight or more feet high. You know those art walls? It was Corey’s vision, but Sunny made it happen logistically. As participants would contribute their answers anonymously to a question posed at the conference, she and other artists drew those answers out: like mini artworks on a larger-scale canvas.

“That was my big introduction to Conscious Capitalism, how I came to love the movement and the people.”

She even built a 3D book for an art installation at Conscious Capitalism.

When asked how she decides how to make the written answers into visual art, she says that it was difficult in the beginning.

“But honestly, it taught me to let go more because you have to do it on the fly, you have to make a design right then, pick a spot, and go with it.”

As she forms each participant’s answer into its own unique typography, she sketches it out on paper first to look for the visual element of the words or meaning to stand out. Then she surveys the wall because her instinct tells her that you must have variety, good texture—meaning, the art must vary from big to small to heavy to light and airy.

The energy of the room, as people come to watch the artists’ bold lines or swift wisps of ones, is often quiet contemplation. To see their peers’ answers in visual art form can be a payoff for all of the artists working on the wall. Many times, passersby will comment, “Oh, great work!” or “Oh, that is so good!”

“It’s definitely a side bonus,” she laughs. “People are constantly complimenting your work!”

Sunny uses her superpower of seeing the intricate details to help her create those interior layouts that not many of us think about when we crack open a book. Within the book is typography: the spacing of the elements, the sizing of text and its relationship to other text. She has an eye for how these things should fit neatly onto the pages.

For her, a book should look like a cohesive whole. In other words, the cover should match the interior pages and look like they were designed with the same thematic thread. She will take the fonts or even the spacing and use that as a jumping-off point for the interior pages.

But Sunny isn’t the only one who does this. She leads a team of designers that follow this same method. Elevate to Brilliance is the RTC core value that would best describe Sunny in the quality of her work and her leadership view. She holds tightly to the saying “Set up your colleagues to shine.”

Sunny uses her desire for clean aesthetics and her cohesive eye to make sure that all of our work here at RTC elevates all of our clients to brilliance.

When asked if there are any rules to live by, Sunny answers, “Slow down and breathe. Notice the beautiful things around you. The sunlight patterns on the floor, the cool air on your skin, the colors of nature and human-designed things.”

Because she believes that it brings you peace when you experience the beauty of life.

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