Graphic Design & The Commercial World

By: Bryan Cargill

Jefferson Westside Neighbors is host to many graphic artists, some work from home while others own growing design shops. Their work ranges from making shirts for University of Oregon intramural teams to supporting local companies like Ninkasi.

Jefferson Westside Neighbors Streetview

Jefferson Westside Neighbors Street View

EUGENE, Ore. – There is a fine line between graphic artists and graphic designers as they often get placed in the same category. The difference according to graphic and web designer Tony Figoli, “Design is functional, art is dysfunctional.”

The US Department of Labor website says, “Graphic designers produce visual products through computer software or by hand, communicating concepts that inform, inspire and captivate consumers. Their objective is to develop overall layout and production design for their clients.”

Essentially designers are creating a visual representation that serves a functional purpose, it garners awareness of a company’s image and ultimately helps generate revenue.

Graphic designers play a very important role for companies as they have the task of utilizing colors, design, and typography to create a cohesive eye-catching visual representation. However, as designer often draw from an artist aesthetic, they have the constant battle with implementing their own ideas into a project, potentially drifting away from the client’s original proposal.

“There is a little voice in the back of my head that says, ‘Are you working for you right now or are you working for the client?,’” says Figoli.


Tony Figoli: Graphic and Web Designer

Graphic designer and illustrator, Jesse Springer uses the example, “You’re digging a ditch for them and they have the final say on how and where you dig it.”

Many designers often have a four-year degree in graphic design and understand that their work must solve a contextual issue whether that is branding, awareness, or content.

They live by the mantra that form must follow function. This means that every aspect of the design must work in synchronicity, while also tackling an overarching issue. Colors, textures, and style must all work together for a visual concept to be successful.

At the end of the day the project belongs to the client, so it is important as a graphic designer to not get too attached. Springer says, “Have good reasons for why you do things and be able to articulate them, but be able to let it go if the client takes it in a different direction.”

Tony Figoli, an experienced designer who has worked for Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewing Company, has been a graphic designer for the brewing company for the past five years. He is very detail-oriented as his articulation with design can be traced all the way down to the micro level. Without a trained eye, a magnifying glass is needed to see the detail in color printing techniques in Figoli’s Ninkasi box label designs.


The field of graphic design is more than being skilled at the craft, but it also an amount of cooperation and personability. Designers have the opportunity to work with a vast array of clientele on any project that they are asked to execute and feel comfortable tackling.

Hien Williams, owner of the Graphic Shop says, “I get to meet a lot of people coming through that door.” As an owner for about six years he understands that maintaining good relations with your clients is essential to thriving in this business.

“The more people I meet, it helps the business,” says Williams. Williams meets many people as his shop brings in various Eugene business owners, U of O athletes, students, and various local personnel.

“The clients I have, most of them I have had for years,” says Christine Beneda, owner of Beneda Design. It is important in this field to not only be skilled at your craft, but to be a person that can create lasting friendships and good rapport with clients.

Rapport and chemistry is essential in creating a work base as well as being able to execute an impactful design. Springer says, “I did a logo and some product design for a woman here in Eugene who manufactures lunchbox systems and that was a fun project. We had good chemistry and ultimately came up with a good design.”

Many designers study at universities to master their craft, however it is a field that can be learned through self practice and motivation. To be a successful designer in the field it takes a great amount of self learning as software updates and the need for graphic designers constantly evolves. One of the most challenging aspects of graphic design is “keeping up with the technology is definitely a challenge and can get expensive,” says Springer. However continuous improvement of artistic skill, style, and software is essential to being marketable and being successful.

Williams recalls, “It’s kind of funny, in the beginning there I was getting instruction from a little kid online.” Doing whatever it takes to learn the material, the internet has been a great help to designers not only in terms of learning but for displaying their work.

A graphic designer is only as good as their work. Education, background, and natural ability are only a few components for designers, it is their portfolio of best works that showcases their talent and at the end of the day lands them a gig. Sandra Harder, owner of Paintworks Design says, “A portfolio represents you as an individual and shows works that you are interested in and capable of doing.

Artwork on the side of the Graphic Design Shop

Artwork on the side of the Graphic Shop

Technology has made a huge impact on the graphic design industry as communication becomes quicker and easier, and the ability to make things digitally has completely changed the field.

Springer says, “Of course technology allows us to do some amazing things when compared to graphic design before computers which I was a part of in my first few years on the job.”

Many designers use a myriad of programs to create their designs. “I primarily use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, various sign programs, Flexi-Sign, and the Microsoft Office Suite,” says Harder. With the help of computers and software, designers are able to complete projects faster, efficiently, and can massively replicate their visual designs.

The graphic design field looks hopeful as the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the demand for designers will increase by 13 percent by the year 2020. In the future more businesses will launch, meaning commerce will become ever more dependent on the internet and digital graphics where graphic designers will play a crucial role in commerce.

Graphic designers are a special kind of people as they are challenged with every project to take an idea or concept, and manipulate it that it can be understood universally and coherently. As we move into an greater digital reliance, graphic designers will always have a secure place in marketing.


Drawing, Design, and Drumsticks


Tony Figoli at his home workstation

Paintings created by friends’ hang from the walls, unused Ninkasi beer labels lay in a stack in the garage, and a soundproof shed filled with rock band instruments stand at attention in the back yard. Quality pictures of flowers and textures move across the screen as Toni Figoli uses WordPress to create a professional and interactive beta website for a landscaping architecture company.

From a young age Figoli has always been interested in art; his passion stems from music and drawing. Figoli has an impressive history as he is educated in a classic art style from Bard college in upstate New York and has taught himself how to use many of the programs that he uses to make his graphic designs and web programming.


His latest work over the past five years has been with Ninkasi Brewing Company where he programmed their first two websites and has created graphic work for various beer and box labels. Today he works for Ninkasi as a design consultant, and his main efforts are channeled into his newly launched – Figoliquinn and & Associates. The company focuses on graphic and website design.

Design Shop for Sale

Hien Williams outside the Graphic Shop

Hien Williams outside the Graphic Shop

Tan, white, green, black, orange, blue, yellow, and gray shirts sit on the shelf waiting to be pressed by any number of designs at the Graphic Design Shop. Hien Williams, owner of the shop, uses a pressurized hose to spray excess residue from the logo for a local Eugene medical company.

The Graphic Design Shop located off 11th and Chambers has not always been so successful. But through connections, self-motivated learning, and hiring a graphic design student, Williams has been able to generate some success for his company over the past six years.

From a very young age Williams has had an instinct for business. “My grandmother said I would be a business owner, because when I was a kid at the farm there in North Carolina, I would set up this yard sale stuff… I was destined to be a business owner,” says Williams.

Williams took a gamble purchasing the shop as he does not have prior experience with art or graphics. Much of what he knows about graphics comes from self-teaching of photoshop, googling information, and watching youtube tutorials.

Hien Williams spraying a medical logo

Hien Williams spraying a medical logo

The Graphic Shop is hopeful for the future as they wait for their featured beer hoodie to generate greater buzz and Williams may bring on a partner who has a background in graphic design who would allow him to disperse some of the load and even potentially expand.

About bryancargill

Bryan Cargill is a student at the University of Oregon pursuing a degree in journalism with a focus in videography, and a minor in multimedia. When not working at the University of Oregon Student Recreation Center as a graphic artist and videographer, he can be found with a camera making a short documentaries, music videos, or simply capturing the moment. He also enjoys his position as the content developer and videographer for the non-profit, SmartRoots, which focuses on the empowerment of children through sustainable education. Cargill’s hobbies include videography, photography, playing guitar, biking, digital art and learning about innovative forms of alternative energy.
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