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Dylan Garner on Coaching a Different Kind of Sport

From sports to design, coaching is a motivating factor for Dylan Garner, Creative Director at Cohere, a creative agency on a mission to build better cities. When Dylan mentored a team of FirstHand students through a design challenge, her coaching and design expertise helped the students create a new brand identity and logo for a startup at the Science Center. (You can read more about this history-making Project Inquiry experience in our 2018 Annual Review.

We asked Dylan a few questions to get a better sense of her mentorship experience at FirstHand. Check out the Q&A below!

How did you get involved as a mentor for FirstHand’s Project Inquiry program?

I first came in contact with the program over four years ago when the branding and marketing firm I work at was asked to create the brand for the STEAM program that eventually became FirstHand ! I was the lead designer on the project at the time and was responsible for designing the brand identity, including logo, color palette, and photography style. I also had the pleasure of designing the current website - still one of our agency’s favorite that we've ever designed and built! Fast forward to the present, the Project Inquiry student project was to create a brand for a Science Center-based start-up company. The FirstHand team thought a little outside help could inspire the students and offer some real-world advice. I was absolutely honored!

Why did you want to be involved?

Coaching! I grew up playing every sport under the sun, which led me to coach at youth camps. I had the opportunity of passing on life lessons I learned through playing the game and being on a team. The Project Inquiry program presented a fun opportunity to get involved with a team and under a different kind of sport - design. I was excited to help in some of the challenges the students were facing.

What types of things did you teach the students?

The students were surprised to learn that an agency like Cohere uses the same website they thought only their moms used -- Pinterest. "Pin your interest." I showed students how they can easily search different ideas and terms through the site to find different associations for what they were hoping to communicate through their design. A great online tool to collect all your ideas in one place too!

What was the most surprising part of the experience?

Some designs looked like they came out of an agency! Beyond that, I was extremely impressed with how the students thoughtfully presented their work and played a part of a team. The students had great stories they communicated through their branding and did a great job of owning a role in the project to make it extremely impactful.

What did you learn through your mentor experience?

Through working with the students I was reminded to play more, smile, and continue to have fun. Once a designer and now a creative director, I find design and deadlines can become more intense, but the fun doesn't have to stop. The students and teachers of the Project Inquiry program were constantly facing problems with can-do attitudes and the end results showed that. Way to go team!

What was the experience like of getting to work with FirstHand students at the Cohere offices?

Cohere was very fortunate to have the FirstHand students come in for a one-week deep dive into how an agency operates. During our week together, students met various team members and experienced their roles on our team, as well as having a front-row seat to tweaking a logo and creating a brand book, ultimately preparing their work for the world to use. Cohere's lead designer, Avery Sohn, and I led the week in teaching the students new tricks and tools in Adobe Illustrator, the meaning behind their design choices like typography and color, and how to present their work to clients. Avery and I were blown away at how quickly the students were able to pick up new skills and apply them to their work. The students possessed such tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit! All three had huge plans for the summer, working a summer job, staying active in FirstHand, and one student even already had a freelance logo job lined up! The experience was as much a learning experience for us as it was for the students. Slowing down to appreciate the small steps we work through each day made me take great pride in what the Cohere team does on a daily basis. We can't wait for the next opportunity to work with FirstHand.