Keith Venkiteswaran (BFA '01)

Keith Venkiteswaran's Portrait

I learned to love work at Queen's.

I don't mean "work" as in "clocking in," "getting your hands dirty," or making "artful product." I mean figuring out what it is that really turns you on, and relentlessly exploring it. Then when you think you're done, you start again. Queen's gave me a new way to think about the creative process: a different, better approach to working.

That's not to dismiss the technical stuff. I remember the a-ha moment when I realized you can change the feeling of the lines you draw by changing the way you hold your conté. And the invaluable insights I learned about composition and symbolism. And the ritual of using rosin and talc in stone litho. But what's mattered most to me is the conversations.

What I learned from those is that if you look at what you're doing (big picture) with the same critical eye that you evaluate your work (smaller picture), you'll find limitless ways to make yourself—and, in turn, your work—better. I learned that what you're able to make has everything to do with your approach, and everything that happens within you, to you and around you is valuable source material. "Head down" has its place, but a "head up," self-critical approach is what will keep you moving forward. If you can do this honestly at least some of the time, in my experience you have a pretty good shot at being happy and feeling like you've never worked a day in your life.

I started a commercial design business with a focus on digital before I got to Queen's. As a sophomore, stocking up on supplies at the store in Ontario Hall, I befriended a fantastically energetic Art History major and told him about the work I was doing in the evening. A few months later he came onboard, and we landed our first big clients in New York. At the end of third year we opened a small office on the Upper East Side. It was a tiny, barely furnished place, so we never invited clients over. Instead we took them to lunches, overdressed, and always picked up the bill. After graduating from Queen's, I won a scholarship to study Communications Design at Pratt in New York. The school had what was at the time a pretty unique offering—a curriculum that touched upon Branding, Identity Design, Packaging, and Advertising. Out of grad school, with good timing and luck (it's not to be underestimated), I talked my way into some great projects, the AT&T global rebrand amongst them. It was, and still is, a lot of fun, and it couldn't have happened without those most talented, generous people at Queen's who helped me to learn to love work.

Photo of branded packaging.
CooperVision packaging and brand identity,
creative direction,
Photo of branded advertisements.
Bloomberg Businessweek global brand campaign,
creative direction,