Ali Tomek

Graphic Designer + Copywriter
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I’m Ali, a graphic designer and writer. I primarily design printed matter that I author, but I have also worked on a wider range of design projects, including exhibitions, identities, websites, and typefaces. I’ve taken a relatively winding path to get to this place: I started my undergrad as a journalism major at Northwestern University, transferred to History, then graduated and began a Post-Baccalaureate program in Visual Communication Design at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Now, three years later, I’ve earned my MFA. For my graduate thesis, I wrote, designed, and produced a book titled When Something Solid Collapses Under Itself that represents the culmination of my circuitous path. It’s a science 􀃕ction novel that’s part dystopia, part social commentary, and part product of my quirky imagination. It brings back the interests I left behind along the way—journalism, history, that short-lived foray into hip hop dancing—in a way that makes my diverse experiences add up to this moment.

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Work Experience
Spudnik Press Cooperative
Intern
May 2018 – Aug 2018
Chicago, IL
School of Visual Arts
TypeLab Residency
Jun 2018
New York, NY
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Teaching Assistant
May 2018 – Aug 2018
Chicago, IL
University
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Skills
Print Design and Production, Copywriting and Editing, Design Research Methodologies, Adobe Creative Suite, RoboFont, HTML5 and CSS, Wordpress
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Featured work
You should select me because

I am the best candidate because:1. I have a diverse skillset. I am a journalist, turned historian, turned designer, turned writer again. These experiences are grounded by a strong background in typography: last summer, I spent two weeks conceptualizing a typeface and began executing its design at the School of Visual Arts TypeLab. This experience cemented all the prior knowledge I had accrued as a student in Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Typography, and then as a Teaching Assistant for two of these courses. The ability to work with type translates to a wide range of design projects, making me a versatile candidate. I am also adept at research and ideation, as I’ve conceptualized all the projects in my current portfolio.2. I pride myself in my attitude. I want to learn and grow, while also contributing my unique perspective. I work hard, and I am resilient.3. Design and writing are my life, and at the same time, they are not. I am passionate about so many things outside of these two fields. I love photographing my city, Chicago. I am an avid sports fan, and I’ve traveled across the country to support my hometown Nebraska Cornhuskers. I run, and I’ve hiked Rocky Mountain National Park. I crave more adventures.

1. Why are you interested in wgi?

I was initially drawn in by the call for hybrid creatives. I’ve been searching for opportunities to integrate design and writing into my professional practice, and the World's Greatest Internship provides the chance to explore that. I don’t feel fully ready to settle into a single, defined position, and I’m curious about what possibilities exist. I am also excited by the possibility of working at several creative studios in a short time frame. I’ve lived in Chicago for seven years now and while I love the city, I’m ready to experience new communities and contribute to more collaborative projects. The WGI is unconventional, and I identify with that desire to create something that does not yet exist in the world.

2. What are you looking to gain from an experience such as WGI?

I want to gain tangible, meaningful, real-world experience at creative firms. I want to be part of the research process, the strategy meetings, and the exhaustive iterations. I hope to develop my voice and take a giant step towards discovering where I fit into the design world. I have mostly worked on print design in the past, but want to engage with digital and interactive, and push the boundaries of my comfort zone. I’m hoping to embrace change and uncertainty, because these are hard things to embrace, but they are also the core of real transformation into a better designer and writer.

3. What would be your goals after completing WGI if you were selected?

After WGI, my goal is to use what I’ve learned as a catalyst for my career. I want to find a position where I can channel myself into design work that supports positive social and civic outcomes. One of my major goals is to be an active participant in cultural discourse. I am so inspired by designers who also write and speak at various events to fellow creatives. I hope to start a design blog or journal as an extension of my practice, one that reflects upon the state of design and encourages dialogue. I have also worked as a Teaching Assistant and Writing Tutor for the past two years, and would love to continue teaching in some capacity. My ultimate dream is to someday open my own studio that champions young designers and serves as a hub for these various, but interconnected, activities.

4. How did you hear about wgi?

I heard about WGI through Instagram.

5. Share an example of a time you were most motivated and a time you were most demotivated.

During my sophomore year in undergrad, I enrolled in Macroeconomics. This course was notoriously grueling. I had a hard time engaging with the content, and felt overwhelmingly indifferent every time I sat down to draw yet another graph charting supply versus demand. I miraculously made it through the semester, with the newfound knowledge that I couldn’t force myself to work in a field I didn’t truly enjoy. I am most motivated when I’m excited about something. I felt that way while I was writing my novel, *When Something Solid Collapses Under Itself*. I distinctly remember all the mornings I woke up at 5 a.m. to write before class, feeling completely thrilled. Sleep-deprived, yes. But greater than that was a genuine buzz: not the kind that you get from drinking three espressos in one day, but the kind that’s radiating from somewhere within. In those moments, I didn’t care if this novel got published, if a million people read it or just a few. I simply felt grateful to work on a project that I loved, writing about the subjects that interested me most. There was no celebratory, fall-to-the-ground moment when I finished it. Instead, in its place, were dozens of little ones when I loved the process more than the outcome.

6. In your opinion, what creates a great culture at a company?

In my opinion, great company culture is built by a shared drive and purpose, and when all employees feel like they have something valuable to contribute. I experienced this last summer, as an intern at the Chicago print shop, Spudnik Press. Their small team is passionate about building access to printmaking equipment, and that shared drive felt contagious. While planning Spudnik's annual benefit, for example, every employee was empowered to share their ideas. I think healthy competition can also boost company culture. That being said, I believe in the “rising tides lift all boats” mantra: that by supporting one another and celebrating each other’s successes, everyone benefits. I further subscribe to the idea that people should take their work seriously, but not themselves—there’s always room for fun and humor, even during the most challenging projects.

7. What brands and companies do you admire and why?

I admire brands and companies that add something to the world beyond the next-best-product. I admire the casual clothing brand Madhappy, for example, because I love a quality sweatshirt and enjoy its color-driven, culturally-relevant visual approach. But most of all, I identify with the brand’s desire to destigmatize mental health through panel discussions and blog posts. I admire Reddit because it is such a simple idea—essentially a giant message board—that serves as a source of inclusive discourse in the Internet age. Its design has altered the way we communicate with one another, with is an incredibly powerful outcome. Recently, The North Face has also stood out to me. It has shifted from just that “cool” backpack to a brand that is unusually authentic. Especially in an age that is so screen-centered, the brand is admirable to me as a genuine advocate of outdoor activity and adventure. I find their sponsorship of extreme athletes compelling, as in *Meru*, a gripping documentary about professional climbers.

8. What do you do to stay sharp and improve your craft?

I am forever seeking improvement. I constantly read about and observe what other designers are doing with their practices, and reflect upon how their paths can inform my own. I listen to design podcasts while I walk to the grocery store, clean dishes, or run. (Recent favorites include Scratching the Surface and Failed Architecture.) In my daily work, I embrace iteration. I love the process of approaching a design challenge from every perspective, of trying to discover the core of the problem rather than rushing toward a solution. Aesthetically, I love the feeling of trying new typefaces or compositions that completely change the visual language of the work. I seek out ample feedback. I also know when to step away. One of my favorite design professors said that the times you are not designing are just as important as the times when you are. Design is life, and I use my experiences to inform my craft. I read, I doodle, I watch acclaimed films. I watch crappy ones. I can learn about narrative architecture from a Netflix binge, find a color palette during a trip to the botanic gardens, or discover vernacular typography during a walk around my neighborhood.

9. What’s your favorite quote?

“If your Nerve, deny you— Go above your Nerve—“ This is Emily Dickinson, quoted by Cheryl Strayed in her novel, *Wild*. I used to pull this book off my shelf during late nights in undergrad. I’d read all the underlined parts to my friends, who were likely confused by my philosophical additions to otherwise mundane conversations over greasy pizza. But this book meant a lot to me at that time. The Emily Dickinson quote, in particular, always resonated. Besides being beautifully written, it’s a declaration that our limits are only fiction. If you’re afraid to do something—do it anyway. This Michael Scott via *The Office* quote is a close second: “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence, and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” It makes me laugh and is often personally true.

10. If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

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