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Conversations with Zoe Zaiss

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zoe Zaiss.

Hi Zoe, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was born & raised in the heart of the Midwest in St. Louis, Missouri. My passion for art and design started at 14 when I started my freelance business taking senior portraits. ZoeZPhotography is where I built my first website, designed my first business cards, and managed my first clients. I continued to find new opportunities while furthering my education at Truman State University with internships, multiple design positions, and advancing my freelance. May 2017, I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications, a Bachelor of Arts in Public Communication, and a minor in Photography.

After graduation, I moved to Toronto, Ontario, where I was the Lead Designer for Nutcracker Sweet Gifting Company. I managed social accounts and websites, designed the annual catalog, rebranded internal brands, redesigned their packaging, and more.

Now, back in the Lou, I work as a Production Graphic Designer for Central Station Toronto, where I am the Lead Designer on Hudson’s Bay Company and assist with clients such as Nike, Deciem, Dior, Coach, Levi’s, Topshop, Lindt Chocolates, IKO, Two Bears, Canada Goose and much more. I am always on the hunt for new and exciting projects and opportunities! I have many hobbies such as watercolor painting, macrame, crochet, illustration, etc. I take on as much freelance work as my spare time will allow, and I also teach yoga a few times a week.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
No, being an artist comes with lots of struggles. People don’t always appreciate your style when you pour your heart and soul into your art. You learn a lot about yourself and why you create what you create. I didn’t pass my proficiency showcase the first time, which is when you take a couple of drawing classes and have to be judged on your work to be able to take higher-level classes, which is silly in my mind since art is so subjective. I didn’t pass the first time because my style wasn’t realistic enough. A professor also told me in university that I should pick a different major. But how could I, when I always knew, ever since I was little, that I wanted to be an artist? I worked hard and got 3 design jobs to keep practicing. When graduation came, I applied for over 200 jobs in Toronto. Only one responded, and that’s how I got myself into Toronto. It was a terrible job where I was mistreated and spent 12-hour days doing things other than design. After 8 months, I went on another job hunt and applied to a bunch of agencies in Toronto, even if they weren’t advertising that they were hiring. That’s how I found Central Station; I’ve been with them ever since! My decision to move back home after about 5 years in Toronto was really driven by COVID. I did my best to stay busy during the multiple lockdowns by sewing masks, rollerskating, anything. But after 2 years of being unable to travel home to see my family and being stuck in a 700 sq ft apartment, I decided it was time to move back home to be closer to my family, and I’m so happy to be back in the Lou!!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Design is my main passion, but I dabble in many other crafts like macrame, watercolor painting, crocheting, wedding invites & packages, and stickers. I am a graphic designer, so I design anything from logos, websites, murals, social media, and beyond. The current agency that I am with specializes in retail displays. We design and produce everything you see in the window displays and in-store for clients like Nike, Lindt, Hudson’s Bay, Dior, and more. I bring this knowledge of large-scale design into my freelance business. I help my clients see all the possibilities of design and how to elevate their brand into experiences. I am passionate about creating, which is the driving force behind Zealous Design. To create with passion, whatever it is, even if it’s a new experience.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts, or blogs that help you do your best?
I love books and reading about people’s inspirations but mostly listen to podcasts while I work. My two go-to podcasts are spooky ones; Morbid: A True Crime Podcast and Two Girls One Ghost: The most haunted podcast in America. To get inspired at the start of my day, I usually hit up Pinterest, Behance, Dribbble, Creative Market, or other design blogs to get those juices flowing.

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