Rising Stars – Angela Wolak

As an alumnus of Western Michigan University, The Brand Union senior designer Angela Wolak is in good company (the company’s own Wally Krantz, for example, took the same course), and she still cites programme director Tricia Hennessy as one of her key mentors. ‘She was a driving force, not just for my style, but in my way of thinking,’ says Wolak. ‘She encouraged us to develop an intellectual curiosity, to go beyond what the client is asking for.’

Wolak has put that curiosity to good use since graduating in 2004, working for companies such as Lam and Associates, Imagination, Potion and the Piscatello Design Centre before joining The Brand Union earlier this year. What attracts Wolak to branding work is the idea of developing graphic languages and systems. ‘It appeals to my analytical, left-brained side,’ she says. ‘I enjoy the puzzle of reinterpreting a design concept across a variety of applications.’

At the The Brand Union, Wolak has worked for a variety of corporate clients, designing new identity systems for BayCare, a health care system in Florida, and Hewlett-Packard, where she is currently creating an interactive space for the company’s executive briefing centre. Working with corporate clients is not without its challenges, but it is far more likely that a design will be produced as intended, says Wolak – whether that’s building complex animations on a website or simply using a foil stamp on a brochure cover. ‘It’s also exciting to think about the possibility of developing an identity system that will be seen by people across the country or the world.’

One of Wolak’s early influences, Dutch design and typography, still affects her work. ‘A lot of Dutch work is notable for its bold, intense use of colour,’ she explains. ‘And I tend to gravitate towards vibrant colours, which is a combination of personal preference and practicality. Systems that require complicated grids or special effects can be really hard to execute consistently across different media, but colour can be really ownable.’

When embarking on a project, however, Wolak prefers to leave her design influences behind. ‘It’s really critical to get as far away from graphics as possible when I begin a project, or else it’s all too easy to start recycling ideas. I try to drop all preconceptions and be really loose,’ she says. But the needs of the client are never far from her mind. ‘A the end of the day it has to be something that works for the brief. Design is definitely grounded in reality.’

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