VMSD Selects Laura Back for 2022 Designer Dozen

VMSD Selects Laura Back for 2022 Designer Dozen

VMSD Selects Laura Back for 2022 Designer Dozen 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

The design industry is full of young, inspiring talent, and there is nothing better than to watch one of our own emerge as a rising star. We are proud to announce that Chute Gerdeman’s Senior Environments Designer, Laura Back, has been chosen by VMSD to be part of the magazine’s eleventh annual Designer Dozen awards. Each member of this group has the talent, drive, and innovation necessary to move this industry forward. The twelve up-and-coming designers recognized this year come from leading design firms and brands across the country.

As a Senior Environments Designer, Laura plays a pivotal role in helping to develop comprehensive retail design solutions for retailers, restaurants, and c-stores. Laura’s forward-thinking approach and creative design skills have allowed her to bring fresh, new ideas to clients, including MAPCO, El Pollo Loco, FAO Schwarz, and Xfinity.

We recently sat down with Laura to learn more about the creative mind that earned her a prestigious spot on this year’s Designer Dozen list.

What encouraged you to get into this field?

From childhood, there were some early signs that I was going to go into this sort of profession. Drawing and coloring were some of my favorite things and I even scooped up a Michael’s coloring contest award when I was eight. I liked building with Legos and Lincoln Logs and would rather play with doll houses than actual dolls. I’m grateful for my parent’s patience, too, as my childhood bedroom went through so many makeovers.

Once I got into high school and started seriously thinking more about my career, I began to put the pieces together from my childhood and looked into pursuing something in the creative field. I took an interiors class and a SketchUp class and thought, okay, this is interesting. So, that’s how I became aware of it as a profession. When I started looking at colleges, I discovered retail design, and that’s what sparked my interest in the field.

Where do you get inspiration?

I get inspiration from all over. I travel as a hobby and try to visit a place I’ve never been at least once a year. I really like to explore; whether it’s going to an entirely new city and checking out the scene or even locally, there’s always something new in Columbus. It’s a great retail hub, so I try to get out there as much as possible. Having my own experiences as a consumer helps to inform my work as a designer.

I’m definitely inspired by my co-workers and peers in the industry too. I’m fortunate to have worked with a lot of really amazing creatives in the field over the past five years. Working on project teams and getting a lot of different perspectives and feedback on my work has been really valuable.

Headshot of Laura Back

How do you hone your craft and continue to stretch your creative skills?

I really love the profession because every project is a learning opportunity. I’ve never worked on the same thing twice. Each project has its own unique set of challenges, and I always look for opportunities to learn and expand my skills as I navigate different situations and discover new solutions for clients. The insights I’ve gained from working on a variety of projects in multiple retail categories has helped me to develop my creative process.

I also take note of the things that I can improve on. For the past few years, I’ve been a member of Toastmasters to tighten up my presentation skills, and I continue to work to amplify my technical competency with the specific programs I use for design.

Discuss a project you were involved in and what you found personally rewarding during the process.  

We recently completed a prototype design for MAPCO with the goal of providing customers with “A Better Break.” They wanted to have a fresh take the traditional c-store experience leaves customers feeling good about their choices. I enjoy projects like this, ones that elevate people’s everyday experiences. It’s one of the things I find most fulfilling – taking an ordinary aspect of a person’s day and making it special to them.

In this situation, we were working pretty fast. We went directly from loose conceptual sketches into 3D modeling. We worked with our digital design team and translated the design into a walkthrough model where the client could self-navigate through the space. This tool had a lot of benefits – it helped us to dig into the little details that didn’t show up in the concept sketches and gave the client the clearest possible visual of the design intent, while getting them excited about the new concept.

Any industry trends that you’re particularly fascinated with right now?

We’re coming out of the pandemic, and a lot of consumers are looking for extra stimulation in retail. People are excited to have new experiences after spending so much time at home. I’m looking forward to seeing how retailers will respond and considering aspects that aren’t just driven by sales or converting someone into making a purchase, which is something that customers can easily do online.  I think there’s going to be an increased focus on creating sensory, immersive experiences in-store that enhance brands in ways that can’t solely be done online.

If your life took a different career path where might you be today? Or were you always destined to be a designer?

No, I had a few career considerations growing up. I think if I wasn’t a designer I’d be doing something travel related. I like the idea of being a travel photographer. I take thousands of photos every time I go somewhere new anyway, so getting paid to do that sounds wonderful.

This is the sixth time a Chute Gerdeman associate has been included in this prestigious list. Profiles of the Designer Dozen can be viewed online in VMSD’s April issue. Congratulations to Laura and the 2022 Designer Dozen.

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