Water Cooler
Back to All Articles

Element Designer Series: Q&A with Art Director Aaron Graff


We’re on month No. 11 of the year 2016, and it’s time to dive inside the mind of another one of Element’s talented designers.

This time, we’re seeing the work of Art Director, Aaron Graff.

Creative people are rarely ever limited to one creative outlet, and Aaron is no exception. When he’s not skateboarding down the halls of our Neenah office to refill his coffee mug, or working on a project with his kids, you might catch Aaron making music.

That’s what inspired his design for this month’s Element Facebook cover image. Keep reading to take a look and find out more about Aaron’s creative process.

Aaron’s Facebook Cover Image

Q: Tell us about the technique you used to create this image and why you chose it.

Aaron Graff: I chose this style because it felt natural. Photography is one of the most powerful elements we use when building images in our design and altering these photos allows us to tell the perfect story.

Photo manipulation is such a large part of what we do as designers every day.

Q: You chose a music-themed design. Are there any similarities to making music and creating designs for clients? Any big differences?

AG: Oh, definitely. When creating any art—music, writing, design—you aspire to compose a balanced piece that evokes a certain mood or tells a certain story. And, you’ve got several similar elements at hand to achieve this: rhythm, tone, contrast, etc.

The biggest difference is that one makes your head nod and your hips sway … the other one you can actually hear.

Q: You obviously play guitar. What other instruments can you play, and have you ever considered starting an Element band?

AG: Music has always been a big part of my life. I started playing brass instruments when I was 10, I picked up guitar when I was 13, and I had a garage punk band throughout high school.

Just this month we lugged an old free piano into our house so my kiddos can start learning (and me too). Dang those things are heavy! Shoutout to Jess and Ben for helping me out there!

As for an Element band, well … that sounds kinda awesome. Who’s in?!

The Graff family's piano, moved with help from Element employees Jess Brisson and Ben Fascitelli.
The Graff family’s piano, moved with help from Element employees Jess Brisson and Ben Fascitelli.

Q: Tell us about what kind of music you listen to when you need to get creative juices flowing. What’s on your playlist?

AG: I’m all over the board. Sometimes I listen to my happy classics like Weezer or Deathcab, sometimes I listen to really aggressive stuff (deadlines, y’know?), but most often I find myself listening to instrumental post-rock that can drift into the background like Mogwai or Balmorhea.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton that I’ll regret not mentioning though.

<takes a big breath> Fugazi, Radiohead, Postal Service, Decemberists, Baroness, Wonder Years, Cloudkicker, Pelican, Obsequiae, Mike Doughty, Silversun Pickups, Sohn, Pixies, Beastie Boys, Manchester Orchestra … </passes out>

Q: Are you okay?


AG: …

More Creative Insight from Aaron Graff

While we’re trying to find some smelling salts, or maybe a defibrillator, you should check out another awesome blog post and infographic from Aaron.

His piece, Auto-Type, is all about the similarities between different types of cars and different typefaces.

We’ll leave you with a pick from Aaron’s playlist … one of his favorite “happy classics,” a ’90s flashback from Weezer. Aaron says it simultaneously makes him feel old and warm inside.



Be the most enlightened person around the water cooler.