From setting up photography labs on college campuses to raising chickens at her homestead farm, Laura Bell has accumulated a multitude of skills and experiences that led her directly into our 8th-floor office. As our new Art Director, she’ll be contributing to Werkbot’s video, photo, and graphic content creation. With the sticktoitiveness of a freelancer, skill of a classic artist, and super-chill 'tude of a Werkbot team member, Laura encompasses exactly what we’ve been looking for, and we’re excited to have her on board.
WB: Can you tell us about your past experience, work history and education?
LB: I went to the Cleveland Institute of Art, and my degree was in photography and videography. I started with fine art and then transitioned into commercial work around 2010. After graduating, I was an art director for a nonprofit called Startup Incubator in Edinboro, which provided business training and production facilities for artists. The idea was to try to retain graduates from Edinboro because they had a major art department.
While at Startup Incubator, I was doing product photography and packaging design for one of their grant recipients, Karen Rzepecki of reCAP. It eventually grew into so much work that she hired me as her first Brand Leader, where I created her brand standards, style guide, packaging design and strategy, trade show displays, and some website content.
Meanwhile, I was freelancing as Bell Jar Creative, and once I got several steady clients, I went out on my own. It made sense at the time because my husband was traveling to Buffalo every day and my son was not yet in school. Freelancing gave me the flexibility I needed for about a year and a half, which is how I started contracting with Werkbot.
WB: Is that how you met Brian, from working out of Radius CoWork as a freelancer?
LB: I originally met him at Startup. I was introduced to him through Startup’s interim Executive Director, who recommended me to Brian. The first contract job through Werkbot would have been around 2012.
WB: You mentioned your husband and son. What’s home life with Laura look like?
LB: I have a five year old, and a homesteady-old-farmhouse-thing in Ripley, NY. We’ve got chickens, we like to forage for stuff in our woods, and I’ve definitely got the monopoly on providing eggs for people Werkbot.
WB: What are some of your design pet peeves?
LB: Too much copy is a pet peeve. Not when it’s supposed to be copy, but you’ve got to have a hierarchy. A lot of people want to throw as much copy as possible on the front panel of their package, and it’s just too much. You’ve got to give people just enough to digest in about five seconds. I’m always talking people down from how much copy they have on their design.
I actually have one client who was not being picked up by any distributors or mom and pop shops at a trade show. Then, after he had me do the packaging, he went back to the same trade show, to the same people who he had approached last year, and ended up selling product and getting a very positive response. And he told me, “this is all due to the packaging!”
WB: What specifically drew you to Werkbot?
LB: I think it’s just a really good group of people who care about doing things well and getting results for their clients. I was also really drawn to the culture. It’s very chill and they do incredible work.
People are really working hard and they’re having fun. It feels like a very functional team. People get along, people respect each other, and it’s calm. I feel like Brian brought that because he sort of picked the team in a way. He’s curated the people around that, so it seems like no drama.
Some of us were joking about how he has this two-year hiring process. He might have his eye on somebody and talk to them about it, and then after two years he’ll make the offer. He’s really gotta vet somebody.
WB: You’re dabbling in photography, videography, graphic design—where did it all start? How’d you get into all of this?
LB: I did some work for a place in Scotland while my husband finished his Master’s degree in painting. The organization was kind of like an incubator, but for photographers. They had business and technical classes. It wasn’t supposed to be a permanent position, but once I came on full time, I ended up getting a bunch of my own clients.
It’s sort of an odd thing, doing both photography and design. But it’s helpful to understand that the end goal isn’t the image, it’s where the image is going to be living within a design.
WB: What brought you back from Scotland?
LB: We never planned on staying in Scotland, or even in this area. We stayed until my husband finished his degree, and when we came back, some friends of ours gave us a place to stay while we figured out what we wanted to do. It sounds really luxurious, but this place was actually the finished upper half of a barn!
WB: Having a husband that’s also an artist and a designer, do so many of your conversations revolve around the aesthetics of everything?
LB: Yeah, like everything. Actually, sometimes I wonder about people who are married and they’re not in the same field. We collaborate so much.
WB: Was it weird to transition from freelancing to a more structured position, or is it a welcomed change?
LB: I think it will be welcomed, but I’m still finishing some projects, so I’m in transition. But I think it will be nice having a set schedule—when you’re a freelancer, you think you can just not work today and go do something, but that rarely ever happens. Structure will be good.
Showing Love for Our Team
We’ve worked hard to build an organization that can take on any marketing and development venture out there. With Laura onboard, our creative team is brimming with brand-building strategies. Whether it’s her keen eye for framing up a photograph or her knack for eye-popping graphic design, one thing's for sure, the creative energy at Werkbot is off the charts.
We’re so happy you joined our team, Laura. Welcome to Werkbot.