Minted artist Eric Clegg navigates the changing landscape of graphic design

Written by Jenny Griffin

Really good music, chocolate, and a Coke. That magic combo gets the creative juices flowing for Minted artist Eric Clegg. Current Spotify favorites: The National, Natalie Prass, Washed Out, and Yumi Zuma. The Smiths are always in the mix. Eric clearly has a soft spot for independent artists. No surprise there.

Eric works at night at home after he’s put in a full day as an art director, managing the in-house creative team for the Utah-based company Chalk Couture. His limited time availability concentrates his focus. At the moment his work space is neat and spare, but it wasn’t always that way; it’s evolved as his family has. “I’ve shared the space with my wife’s and kids’ crafting supplies, and it’s doubled as a storage room at times,” Eric laughs. “We’ll see how long the grown-up look lasts before one of the kids comes home and asks if they can store a few boxes in my office for ‘a while.’”

Eric’s first exposure to graphic design came in high school. “I had the opportunity to take a commercial art class at a vocational center. “It was the first time I’d heard the term graphic designer. When I learned you could actually get a job being one, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

That impulse drew the SoCal native to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he had the good fortune to meet his wife Elissa. Eric graduated with an BFA in graphic design and was ready to hit the pavement. Or the beach as it turned out. Right out of school, Eric landed a sweet job working for the graphic design firm Clarence Lee Design in Honolulu, Hawaii. “My wife and I had the best 6-year honeymoon there!” Eric enthuses.

The birth of their son Palmer and the desire to be closer to their families drew them back the mainland. The trio returned to Utah, settling in Pleasant Grove near Salt Lake City. “The Wasatch Front has been an awesome place to raise our kids,” Eric says. “We can be up in the mountains within 15 minutes from our home with skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and hiking in the summer. It’s an all-around great outdoor environment.”

We asked Eric some questions about his creative approach, his influences, and his experience working within the Minted artist community.

“Aspen Ridge” wedding invitation by Eric Clegg

Minted: You got your BFA in the days before the Mac hit the scene. What were you learning in the BYU program as an aspiring graphic designer? And how did you adjust to changing times and tech?
Eric Clegg: I learned the traditional tools of the trade: using a t-square and rapidograph pens, comping projects by hand, and methodically doing mechanical paste-up. But as the Mac and everything digital became the norm, it was sink or swim, and I had to learn on the fly. On the job I learned how to use a Mac and several now-obsolete page layout programs. The computers made it quicker and easier to explore multiple design directions at a time, and there’s so much more good training out there than I had access to right out of college. Skillshare is a great resource as are all the available webinars and online tutorials.

Who are your top design influences?
Kit and Linda Hinrichs, Michael Vanderbyl, Michael Mabry, McRay Magleby, Paula Scher, Clarence Lee, James Cross. These are the designers that inspired me to stick with graphic design throughout college. I suppose this is where I honed my sense of typography. Back then it was all about swiss design—modular, clean, lots of grids. Helvetica and Futura ruled.

One of the cool things about you is that you’ve navigated a changing landscape within the field of graphic design. You’ve seen styles and preferences change and have witnessed new technologies impacting the creative process. How do you describe your aesthetic today?
Very pared down—clean, minimal, lots of white space, very orderly and structured. I really just like cool stuff, whether that’s a printed brochure, package design, or even a storefront. I’m always checking out type wherever I find it.

How did you first discover Minted and why did the concept resonate to you?
I saw a full-page ad for Minted in Martha Stewart Living around 2012. It was a holiday ad, and I was impressed with the ad design as well as the featured cards. I checked out the website and read about the business model, but didn’t go beyond that. For the next two years Minted was always in the back of my mind. But it wasn’t until 2014—after a particularly challenging day at work—that I resolved to look into it further. The holiday challenge was underway, so I submitted a few designs. I ended up with an Editor’s Pick for “I Ate the Fruitcake.”

At that point in my career, the Minted challenges were therapeutic in a sense. I was able to be my own client, designing the way I wanted without being designed by committee as often happens to in-house creatives.

“I Ate the Fruitcake” holiday card was Eric Clegg’s first win for Minted.

When you’re creating something new for Minted, what are the first questions or issues you consider? I’ll start by reading the challenge brief. I pay attention to the special prize categories. I usually pick two or three categories and let those be my focus. If I have any time left before the deadline, I’ll shift my attention elsewhere. Since illustration isn’t my strong point, I tend to spend most of my time with the photo challenges. First I look through the photos. I feel like a strong photo helps sell the design, so I download the photos that I’m drawn to. From there I just stare at the photos to see what kind of emotion or feeling I get from them.

Once I have a general feeling I want to convey, I’ll start doing thumbnails. Depending on the challenge, I might also start brainstorming copy ideas. My very first win was a Christmas card with a photo of a dog and a humorous headline. Wit works! From there I’ll take it to the computer to tighten the layout and proportions of the elements. Font choices and color selection flow out of the emotion or style I’m going for.

“With Joy” wedding invitation by Eric Clegg

Typography is almost like a language. Change the way text looks on a page through the manipulation of space or the shapes and sizes of letters and you add nuance and meaning. How do you go about capturing mood or emotion through typography?
Once I’ve determined the mood I’m after, I’ll start looking for the right font. Since Minted has the approved font list, I’ll look through it to see if something stands out. I have my go-to fonts that I tend to fall back on too. For body text, Mrs. Eaves is my favorite. It’s got good proportions and legibility. When it comes to display fonts, I might try a dozen different styles until I get the one that feels right. From there I’ll start refining things to get the point size, spacing, and line breaks right. I don’t really have a formula; it’s more intuitive. I’ll look at the overall page to see if the type feels right in relation to the photo and other elements. Is it balanced and in proportion to the overall size of the card?

One of the realities of being an artist or creative of any stripe is that sometimes that flow gets blocked or you get stuck. What do you do when you get stuck on a design or on any part of the creative process?
I’ll walk away from it and come back to it another day. If after a day or two of struggling, it’s just not coming together, I’ll scrap it completely and focus on another design. Since the deadlines are tight and I don’t have as much free time as I’d like to spend on challenges, I find it more productive to just move on than to keep forcing something that isn’t working.

What kind of Minted Challenge really gets your design juices flowing?
My favorite challenge is Save the Date and Wedding. They’ve also been my most successful categories, so that may have something to do with it. There are always great engagement photos to work with in Save the Date, and I enjoy playing around with different grids and layouts. I’d really like to break into the Little Mint categories, but I’m going to have to up my game. There are just so many fantastic illustrators in that area!

Minted is a very intentional community of connected independent creatives. It’s a big network. What does working within the Minted artist community mean to you?
I’m continually amazed at the Minted community. Everyone is so kind, encouraging, and helpful. It’s a really interesting dynamic given that everyone is basically competing for that chance to have their work selected.

The other thing that impresses me is the breadth of skill and creativity within the Minted community. There are so many talented people who either didn’t study graphic design in college or who are working or did work in entirely different industries. Yet they’re producing excellent design work that I assumed came from traditionally trained designers. It’s quite humbling actually.

“Heck Yeah” holiday card by Eric Clegg

What core insights have you learned along the way working at Minted?
Not to be so hard on myself or to judge myself against others. Everyone is at different stages in their life and has distinct talents. We all bring something different to the table. It can be easy to beat yourself up when you don’t have any success with the challenges. To me, the people who pick themselves back up and try again are successes. Just enjoy what you do.

Wise words there. At this point, what are your goals as a designer? Where do you want to go?
My goals as a designer have been changing so much over the past few years, and I think that’s partly due to the successes I’ve had with Minted. Minted has given me the confidence to pursue a freelance path that I wouldnt have thought possible a few years ago. My goal now is to exit out of the full-time corporate world within the next few years. I want to focus on my brand instead of someone else’s. I’ve always had an interest in photography, so I’d like to develop that creative side too.

Eric Clegg’s Favorite Design Resources: color palette generator moodboard creator design inspiration design inspiration, tons of helpful links and design info.

Jenny Griffin is a freelance print and broadcast journalist and the founder of Silverplume Press. An avid art lover, she’s also a museum educator at SFMOMA in San Francisco. She lives with her husband, three kids, and two cats in San Francisco. She’s hoping a dog joins the mix soon.

Published July 30, 2018

  1. Susan Brown

    Eric, What a wonderful article and beautiful work space. It was such a pleasure meeting you at NSS and I loved reading more about you. Nice pic too Eric. Best, Sue

  2. Vicki Tyler

    Great article Eric! Good luck and continued success.

  3. Michael Tyler

    Eric, i enjoyed reading about your experiences as a graphic designer, how you have learned to adapt over the years, and see your creative talent evolve, and the success you have enjoyed in your spare time working with Minted.