People of OH: Ivan Galaz

We all have a coworker who brightens up the office, but Ivan Galaz is like a perfectly lit disco ball that makes a Monday feel like a Friday. A senior member celebrating with OH Partners, Ivan has brought a unique talent to our creative team as an art director. Ivan tells us a little bit about himself, how he managed his first experiences working in graphic design and shares some important lessons learned throughout his career.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Tijuana, Mexico, but my family left when I was five years old and moved to San Diego, California until I was nine. Then we moved back to Mexico to a little border town called San Luis Rio Colorado, where I stayed until I graduated high school.

What was high school like for you?
Oh, I loved it. I was voted most popular. I was even voted “King” of my high school for these class games we would play.

As a creative, have you always excelled in art?
I grew up very artistic. I was always very close to my mother and her side of the family, which was full of artists. She was one of eight siblings and every one of them did something artistic, whether it was interior design, painting, stained glass windows or just crafts. My grandpa would build these intricate birdhouses that looked like real houses, and my grandmother would paint them and have them all over the yard. Growing up in that atmosphere really encouraged me to be artistic. I used to really love painting on canvas and would gift paintings of cartoon characters and things to my family. When I went to school in the ‘90s, I would be the only kid who would turn in projects all designed with clip art from the computer and some of my own designs, too.

Oil on canvas by Ivan Galaz, ages 13, 14 and 12

Did you always know what you wanted to do when you finished school?
I knew it would be in commercial advertising. I didn’t know exactly what role, whether it be writing or designing, but I always knew it was the field I wanted to be in.

When did you start getting into graphic design?
I had never practiced graphic design until my last semester of high school. All seniors had to do an internship in the field we wanted to work in after school, so I chose a local “agency” to work for. I say, “agency” loosely- it was in 1998–1999 and all they did were basic wedding invitations or a logo for the restaurant down the road. The entire team was made up of the owner, his girlfriend, another person who I cannot even remember and me, Ivan, the intern.

What is the hardest part about working in graphic design?
The hardest thing is that you can put all of your effort into a project and have reasoning for every single decision you made in the design, and still some people will want to change something without any reasoning. You can explain exactly why it makes sense, but sometimes your whole idea gets pulled apart.

From all of the companies you’ve worked at, what are some of the biggest lessons learned?
I worked for a few magazines in the early 2000s. I would be the only designer to produce the magazines—front to back—and that’s where my speed comes from. But it was really bad. One time my boss tried to pay me with shrimp. First of all, I hate seafood, and second of all, I needed to pay rent. That’s when I quit and went into agencies.

What qualifies as an exciting project?
Something that takes days to do where I can use my hands—working with scissors and glue. With a lot of designing happening on the computer these days, I still love being hands on. I really love tactical design.

What have been proud moments for you professionally?
I’ve always wanted to implement stop-motion into client work, and I have had the opportunity to do that. I got to use that more hands-on element of design that I love. I’m also very patient, which makes me a great teacher. Sharing my knowledge with young designers is something I really enjoy.

What inspired you growing up?
I didn’t grow up with a lot of resources—no internet or big libraries. I lived in a very small town that was pretty closed-minded. My family was my only true inspiration, and art just came naturally to me.

If you could speak to 20-year-old you, what advice would you give yourself?
Listen to yourself. The reason I say that is because I didn’t come out until I was 25 years old and I regretted not doing it sooner. I was scared to be true to myself, especially growing up in a small town with a Latinx catholic family. If you want something, go for it. You’re young enough to make all of the mistakes and still easily get back up.

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