When I was 5 years old, I was caught drawing on my bed sheets with a ballpoint pen. My mom had to explain that not all surfaces were made for drawing. As a tween, I folded paper into handmade cards and drew a little crown on the back, like Hallmark, signing each one “Hagopian Productions.” It all started then. Christina Hagopian
What a wild ride the last 20 years has been. I started the business with just a phone and laptop after the dot.com layoffs ran across the agency world after 9/11. It was a turbulent time to be an agency designer with so many unemployed creatives in the field – the market was precarious. The world was spinning, e-commerce was just budding and I set my sights on taking one job at time. What I realized quickly is that the clients that I wanted to work with at a high level needed more than design – they needed strategy, imagery, messaging, development and a complete marketing ecosystem. I started building teams and creating a virtual agency before it was the thing to do. It was a result of being forward-thinking and nimble that catapulted Hagopian Ink through.
When I founded the company, the industry was a very different place. The internet was just budding. Since then, I’ve gone from Web 1.0 to 3.0 and seen print change from a ubiquitous default to a luxurious touch for compelling brand storytelling. Our first client was a global cosmetics corporation and we collaborated with the in-house marketing team to update one of their first websites – when e-commerce was just starting out and mobile devices were not even smart. Our main challenge was assuring new online shoppers to trust the color and texture of the makeup. That trust in the buying process is equally pivotal to brands today. It’s remarkable to witness what has evolved since then and what formats we are designing for now in comparison.
I remember the advice of my professors at Carnegie Mellon: never get stuck in the same software or application; design as a practice will continue to evolve while the thought process and problem solving will remain constant. And that is true. The industry’s evolution moves in an instant, and it was essential to progress along with it or risk fading away into antiquity. What has continued is the love and respect for design and the relationships in both business and life that have carried me through the past two decades.
Where has design been and where is it going in the next 20 years?
While I have witnessed a drastic shift from print design to more digital design over the last 20 years of business, I believe print is getting more specialized in its application. I see design is heading into more responsible applications with more sustainable paper and plastic production with recycled and biodegradable materials. It’s not as disposable and more thoughtful.
From a high level industry perspective, I believe the consumer is getting more savvy and more influenced by the full immersion of social media. The speed at which we are consuming design and media is rapidly increasing, which in turn means that the amount of content a brand needs to produce to sustain the level of consumer consumption is increasing. It’s both exciting and overwhelming at the same time.
I believe good design is not to simply beautify, but to visually problem solve by adding meaning, value and function. We ask every client, “What lasting impression will you leave on the world?” Now we are asking ourselves this same question, “How do we as a brand, designer, artist, maker or visionary leave our own mark?” What will our legacy be in what we leave behind? After 20 years in business, the mark is indelible.