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FIEL
2003
Tree Hair, illustration (left ) Valdez
uses her personal illustrations as
playground and laboratory, expanding
her artistic vocabulary beyond the
more mundane solutions often made
necessary by more mundane projects.
2001
Tomodachi, illustration (opposite)
Over the years Valdez has created
a growing collection of characters that
have found their way into a number
of her self-promotion items. She calls
them her Tomodachithe Japanese
word for friends.
Fiel Valdez isn’t interested
in labels or boundaries.
She is interested in things
like art and integrity.
Using her uncanny eye
for the cool and quirky,
she has created
a thriving one woman
design boutique
that allows her to do
the work that challenges
her and her clients.
VALDEZ
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I
believe that when you create, you can create in any medium.
Each medium has its own language, and I believe one
simply needs to be sensitive to the language of a particular
medium in order to create in it.” Fiel Valdez uses graphic design
as the base that allows her to reach freely into the worlds
of illustration, fashion, fine art, and product design. She doesn’t
trumpet breaking through these boundaries, because she
doesn’t perceive them in the first place. “I’m passionately inter-
ested in many things and I try to connect as many of them
with my work as I can.”
Growing up in Daly City, California, she was influenced early by
embarking on various craft projects with her mother and being
mentored by her piano teacher, Betty McNeil. She took her first
visual arts class the summer before enrolling at UCLA as an
aerospace engineering student. This led to a class schedule that
started with chemistry and calculus and ended with photography
and tool shop. Two years into her studies, she switched to Art
Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where she
received her degree in photography in 1996 and was awarded
an honors term in typography.
C
REATING NEW LANGUAGES In her last year at Art
Center, she was offered an internship at Hotwired.com,
the new online division of Wired magazine. “The com-
pany was small at the time, and there were some amazing,
creative people there who I worked with directly, specifically
Barbara Plunkett and Erik Adigard. I’ll always remember prepar-
ing images for Erik and missing the boat on the importance
of aliased edges to create the illusion of transparency in Director.
At first, he was disappointed that I had made such a big
mistake, but then he decided he liked the images better with
the sloppy edges. It was a happy mistake, so to speak,
and sort of the beginnings of my ideas about letting one’s
tools speak in the work one makes with them.
“It was also a wild, rather ungrounded experience where the
paradigms of the Internet (visual design, information architecture,
interactivity, etc.) were being invented as we were all going
along.” Her work for Hotwired.com soon led to an assignment
creating the web graphics for NASAs Jet Propulsion Labora-
tory, an unexpected chance for Valdez to tap into her early
aerospace engineering education.
Following this, Valdez returned to the Bay Area to become one
of the first employees of Circumstance, a burgeoning interactive
studio. “That was a complex experience. I came in as a very
junior graphic designer, and by the time I left, I was a senior
designer/art director. I was only there for about a year and
saw the company grow from about eight people to about 40
then back to about 20. It was slightly insane.”
Circumstance brought awards and national exposure to
Valdez’s work on James Cameron’s Titanic Explorer CD-ROM,
Neimanmarcus.com, and Artmuseum.net.
“The most valuable lessons I took away from Circumstance were
about the business of design and the politics of business,
all the things they don’t teach you in school. I started freelancing
right after that and haven’t been on staff anywhere since.”
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