“To be able to participate in the next generation of skylines in this country, as an immigrant, it’s a real honor and an amazing privilege,” says Varda Albert, VP of creative services with AECOM’s Construction Management business, as she shares a few of her biggest design inspirations, how she got her start in construction, and why she’s passionate about the industry. Click here to tune into Varda’s episode of At the Core, Construction Management’s video series.

I am the vice president of creative services with AECOM’s Construction Management business, overseeing all creative design projects, translating marketing objectives into creative strategies, and advancing the firm’s brand identity. I lead and direct a team of designers and production artists in the development of high-profile proposals, presentations and marketing materials.

Finding my inspiration

I was born in Paris, France, and as a teenager, was really into American culture. I loved the automobile industry, especially the cars from the 50s to the 70s. I loved the seaside motels and their architecture.

I remember enjoying the film title sequences designed by Saul Bass. He designed all the great credits for Hitchcock and Kubrick movies. That was my inspiration.

Opening up a world of opportunities

My first experience in construction was when I was hired as a production artist by Lehrer McGovern Bovis. I just could not believe the projects that were landing on my desk. It was the renovation of The Statue of Liberty, the renovation of Grand Central Station, Canary Wharf in London. It was just this opportunity that opened, and I was right in the midst of new building and old building construction. And then I could walk in the street and see that building being built, in the process of being built.

My purpose and passion

To be able to participate in the building of next generation of skylines, of vertical towers — in this country, as an immigrant, it’s a real honor and an amazing privilege.

An everlasting legacy for the community

Whether people realize it or not, AECOM’s work is embedded in the fabric of New York City. I think the most impactful project for me is our work at the World Trade Center. For many New Yorkers the Twin Towers didn’t just dominate the skyline, they were the skyline, which was part of why their absence was felt so viscerally. The new World Trade Center is perfectly fitted for the community. The vertical towers standing tall is a visual representation of our rebound as a nation; we get our freedom of movement back with the Transportation Hub; and a calming oasis for reflection at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza and Liberty Park.

Lessons for new graphic designers

First, fall in love with a range of great designers. You need to study the classics and pay attention. Design is everywhere — Paul Rand’s collection of visual identities, Charlotte Perriand and Ray Eames’ furniture, Milton Glaser’s “I love NY” ad campaign, even album covers like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. This is your framework, recognizing what works.

Then you can move on to architects, builders, and their iconic creations — the Sheats Golden Stein residence, the Shard, the United Nations Headquarters, the Gateway Arch, the Sidney Opera House and so many more! Challenge yourself to ask questions and find the answers. Why was it designed this way? What were the solutions to obstacles and challenges? Observe the details, like the Chrysler Building’s sunburst pattern of the stainless-steel cladding.

With love comes curiosity, research, knowledge and understanding. Graphic design is an integral tool in successful marketing departments. The craft of creating visual content to communicate is like learning a new language. Stay open-minded, listen to unexpected sources, accept criticism and directions to improve your work, be patient to let ideas develop, try new technology, never stop learning and enjoy the problem solving!

Originally published 06.9.2020

Author: Varda Albert