Dig Baton Rouge

Success by Design: Award winning designer calls Louisiana home

In today’s age, marketing and branding for a business is crucial. A well-thought-out website or a sleek-looking Instagram feed can really help take a business to the next level, and can help people pay attention to what that business is doing. A large part of building this online presence is having an appropriate logo or website design. That’s where graphic designers come in.
Matt Dawson is a Baton Rouge-based graphic designer. He’s been working in the field of design at varying capacities for around 10 years, and he’s won awards, such as a Louisiana Press Association award, for his work. He’s worked for agencies and design companies in those 10 years, but he’s also been doing his own work for clients for about five years. Studio Gray was started by Dawson and his wife, Ariadne, to provide logos, branding packages and other media to a variety of clients.
When Dawson started out as a student at LSU, graphic design was not his original plan, but something he found a love for by accident. He started out as a landscape architecture major, but as he was nearing the end of the program, he said he realized that wasn’t where his passion lied.
“As I was in that program, I started paying more attention to how my projects were presented,” Dawson said. “I had a talk with some teachers and expressed my concerns. I was encouraged to pursue learning more about graphic design, so I went over to the art building and spoke with the design department. I pretty much started from scratch, but I never looked back and I’ve loved it since the beginning.”
Not only does Dawson create beautiful work, but he encourages and helps other artists to create as well. In addition to traveling and speaking at various schools and graphic design conferences, he started Louisiana’s first and only graphic design conference this year.
Dawson, along with a team of other designers and creators, put together a design conference called CROP. It took place at the Shaw Center for the Arts in April.
Planning for CROP began at the beginning of 2015. The two-day conference consisted of workshops and keynote speakers from all over the country. The workshops included motion graphics and animation, icon design, screen-printing and hand lettering.
Dawson said he started CROP because he wanted to do something for the creative people of Louisiana.
“I’ve gone to and spoken at a few of these conferences,” Dawson said. “But they’re always here or there, and there isn’t one in Louisiana. With the love and home state pride I have for this place, I wanted there to be something like that for the creators in our state.”
Dawson hopes to make the conference an annual event. Plans have already been made for CROP 2017, which will be held April 20 and 21.
“Baton Rouge means a lot to me,” Dawson said. “All of the experiences I’ve had here have made me who and where I am, so I wanted to give back. And there’s so much talent here.”
Community building is fundamental in any field, but especially any art-related profession. It is immensely important that artists support each other in their endeavors, and people like Dawson who facilitate that support are crucial. Dawson said that the sense of community they built at CROP was strong, and that the artists that attended still keep in touch.
“We had a whole lot of people from the state,” Dawson said, “but we also had people from eight other states come in for it, and those people realized ‘Wow, Baton Rouge is pretty rad!’ Now you see them talking back and forth on Instagram from across the country.”

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