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Check Out Isa D’Aniello’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Isa D’Aniello.

Hi Isa, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Growing up, I always wanted to be an artist. My parents are creative – both jewelers who met in art school – and they always gave me a gentle warning that a career path as an artist isn’t an easy one. I think they were mostly concerned with me struggling to find work or get paid enough money to thrive. I got into the art school at The University of Texas at Austin but quickly realized that a curriculum filled with only art classes wouldn’t be fulfilling to me. Yes, I like art, but I also like Science and English, and anything else that isn’t math. I switched to the Communications school to study Advertising, with a focus on Art Direction. After a handful of internships and small jobs related to design and advertising, I got hired at BuzzFeed in New York after graduation. I was a designer for the sponsored content team for three years and got to create some awesome design work for really cool, big brands.

Unfortunately, New York wasn’t the place for me long term, so I moved back to Austin to figure out my next move. My first job back home in Austin turned out to be a “bait-and-switch” situation. Being back home was the right move for me, but I had serious trouble finding a job that was the right fit. I worked as a temp at an ad agency, an art director at an ad agency, and as the lead designer at a tech startup. It seemed like any company hiring for design only wanted to hire temporary or project-based designers, and startup life had no job security. To make sure I had my own back, I started my own freelance design business and started taking on small, medium, and big projects of my own. When I was laid off from the job in tech with no kind of severance, freelancing had my back. I did a lot of soul-searching during these years of job turmoil… I realized I loved design and not advertising, I crave structure and stability with work, I love collaborating, I enjoy being challenged by different projects, I need work to feel somewhat “fun’,” and that I actually *do* know what I’m doing. As fate or timing would have it, my connection from the “bait-and-switch” situation was working at Alamo Drafthouse, and they were hiring for a full-time designer. I got the job and have been there for almost three years now.

No job will ever be perfect, but I definitely feel creatively fulfilled by what I do. I’m allowed time and space to experiment and grow, and it helps that I love movies. Things are a bit different working through COVID – most of our 40 theaters are shut down, a huge portion of the staff was laid off, and my team of eight or so was stripped down to the bones. We’ve definitely had to pivot and think of creative ways to survive. I’ve had to do this as well on the personal front and ramped up my freelance business. I took on some challenging projects – like painting a mural for the first time and taking on bigger branding projects. I’m still figuring out how to balance everything, how to prevent burnout, and what my next steps are, but it finally feels like I’m in a good place until then.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. I think in college, we expect to pick a major, and then it’s as simple as doing that job from then on. Over time, I’ve realized that’s absolutely not the case. Sometimes you end up at the wrong job, or are laid off, or are in the wrong city. Or you as a person change, and what you want isn’t the same as before. In particular, this year has made me realize that life is more of a roller coaster, and a career, or relationships, or anything, will always have its ups and downs.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I think the overarching theme in all of my work is trying to blend art and design- I definitely think this sets me apart. I prefer a handmade aesthetic to something cold and clean and want my work to look like an actual human made it. I often draw things by hand and then finish them digitally. I like incorporating hand lettering into my designs and taught workshops around Austin for a while. I’m also super into cooking, so I get super jazzed up about food-related design projects – whether making a font out of pizza, art directing a menu photoshoot for Alamo, or branding a restaurant.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
My parents were always taking us on adventures growing up – fossil hunting, hikes, day trips, museums, vacations, etc. – we were always learning and experiencing new things. We also cooked and did lots of art projects together!

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