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Life & Businesswe want your job

We Want Your Job: Art Director at Barneys New York

by Sabrina Smelko

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Erica Choi is a talented NYC-based designer who I first discovered on Instagram before jumping over to her fashion and lifestyle blog, Egg Canvas (where I may have wasted an afternoon!). Her sense of style and personal aesthetic is a refined thing of beauty, which she’s currently applying to her role as the Digital Art Director at global luxury retailer, Barneys New York.

When I first asked exactly what Erica’s role was at Barneys, the list she gave was impressively endless: she works her magic in e-commerce, interactive, customer service, social media and marketing, and collaborating daily with an awesome team of innovative and creative people. Today, she’s taken time out of her busy schedule to take us behind the scenes of her daily life at Barneys and she’s sharing how she got there. Thanks so much to Erica for sharing her journey and advice with us! –Sabrina

What did you study in college? 

I studied graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). It was my dream to go there and my dreams were definitely fulfilled — it was an extraordinary experience just being amongst such talented and hardworking people, with classes taught by the best educators, lecturers, and critics in the world. I can’t deny that was it also an immensely intense experience with constant all-nighters, working well into the morning more often than not, but I can say it was well worth it. It has given me resources and an environment where I was free to refine my craft, and prepped me for the real world — especially one in New York where it is filled with the same kind of people who are extremely passionate about what they do.

How did you end up at Barneys New York? 

I spent a few years working at a number of digital agencies building up my portfolio and getting experience with working with a lot of really great clients, as well as teams of the most hardworking and talented people. Reaching out to the right people, as well as timing, allowed the perfect opportunity to present itself.

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What did you want to be when you grew up? 

As with any other child, I had a whole slew of ideas — an artist, a veterinarian, an ice cream maker (although I haven’t lost hope for this one…). Regardless, I’ve always had high hopes and dreams. I knew that it took hard work to achieve that, though, and have always been very demanding of myself.

What is the best part of your job? 

Being part of such a wonderful team and working for one of the most respected companies in the field of fashion, design, and retail. It’s also great I see so much opportunity for growth for the brand in the digital space.

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Can you describe a typical day? 

I advise on different projects, design different sections of Barneys.com, BarneysWarehouse.com, The Window, the apps, and help with the overall visual direction of these digital properties.

We recently launched redesigns of all three website properties — Barneys.com, BarneysWarehouse.com, TheWindow.Barneys.com — and it was an intense, yet extremely rewarding process. Since then, I’ve been designing new sections of the sites and advising on different digital projects for the brand. I work closely with the VP, Digital Creative Director and VP, Digital Marketing, both who I look up to very much.

What have you learned about life from your job as a Digital Art Director at Barneys NY? 

Being able to multi-task, manage my time, and represent such a renowned company. Being responsible for such a big part of the overall effort is extremely rewarding. I think these skills just become embedded in your personality after awhile, too, or maybe it has just helped bring them out over time. In my personal life, I like to keep things very organized and also do many different things at the same time. Even when traveling, I make these itineraries on Google docs that are color-coded out by that day’s activities and my friends think I am crazy. I just need everything planned out so no time is lost. I like making every second count and everything you invest in should be meaningful.

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What advice would you give someone who would love to get into art direction or digital media, especially at a large company such as Barneys? How should they get started? What should they study in school or learn about on their own? 

I think getting a formal education in graphic design is very important as it gives you a base and understanding of traditional design. Interning is also imperative as it gives you real world experience, and connects you with others in the field and allows you to learn from them. Always being curious, inspired, and researching every chance you get allows you to naturally develop an eye and sense for design. As with anything, the learning process should be gradual.

Do you think there are common characteristics amongst people working in digital media art direction for a large brand? 

I think people are hungry to learn and inspire, and be inspired by one another. This continuous energy really drives us.

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What else would you love to do in this field? 

Really influence others, whether it be with my design, photography, aesthetic, or content creation work. I really want to inspire others and be inspired by how passionate others are with their gift, no matter what that may be.

How do you stay inspired? 

On a daily basis, by seeing work on blogs, websites, and Instagram. On an ongoing basis, by visiting galleries, attending lectures and events, connecting and speaking with individuals who are devoted to their craft. I love people who appreciate refined aesthetic, have a certain sensibility, and an eye to see things differently.

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Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on? Or one that you are most proud of? 

I have to say it’s all of Barneys’ sites — Barneys.com, BarneysWarehouse.com, and TheWindow.Barneys.com. The entire process has just been so hands-on, and something I can say I have been there from the beginning to, well… whatever the future may bring.

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