Maker Feature: Paige Pera
Eight years ago, Paige Pera was on track to become a cosmetic dermatologist. She was pre-med at DePaul University in Chicago and figured she’d express her natural-born creativity on the side — as her nurse-by-day, illustrator-by-night father does. But something didn’t feel quite right.
Pera, who is petite, golden haired and gives off a boho-chic vibe, has always been artsy.
“Painting and drawing were sort of my thing growing up,” she says. She even won several art contests as a child.
So at that juncture — not a dermatologist, not yet a designer — Pera toured the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago the summer after her sophomore year of college. She applied that same day. Something clicked. She was accepted and attended for the next three years, graduating with a bachelor’s in visual communications.
Today, Pera is the art director at agencyEA, the brand experience agency co-owned by Savage Smyth co-founder, Gabrielle Martinez. So when it came to creating Savage’s branding — its look, feel, logo and the overall visual vibe of the space — Pera was a natural choice.
“My design background that is the strongest is branding and identity,” she says. “It’s nice to be able to help build a brand and help curate what it’s going to look like.”
She started working on Savage’s branding in January 2015. At that time, the venue had yet to be built so her challenge was creating without much context. Pera had the brand vision statement, Savage Smyth’s origin story, and a mood board that embodied the space and the events to be held there.
So she concepted. And concepted and concepted.
“We ended up narrowing it down to the logo you see today, and what’s unique about it are those A’s that are angled,” Pera explains, referring to the two A’s in ‘Savage Smyth.’
She got the idea from the arrow of a compass, a nod to Savage Smyth’s Dublin roots and the journey the spirit of the brand took from Ireland to Chicago. The design is purposefully subtle.
“We definitely wanted to keep the vibe mysterious,” she says, which design-wise meant monochromatic colors and pops of industrial and textural elements throughout the space. It also meant a secondary hexagon logo that serves as a Bat Symbol of sorts.
A large, gold hexagon is mounted above Savage Smyth’s rooftop. It’s the first thing you see on the building as you ride the ‘L’ from the Sedgwick to Chicago stops. A fact that elicited the phrase ‘Hex marks the spot,’ which was used to promote the venue’s opening events.
“After doing research on various shapes throughout my design process, I discovered that the hexagon — having six sides — represents union, equality and communication,” Pera explains. “All things that relate to the Savage mission.”
Overall, the mysterious branding is meant to make the viewer wonder, “What is Savage Smyth?” This is the question Pera often has posed to her when she promotes the venue on social media.
“To some designers, you would think of that as a failure in identity, but to me, that was exactly what I wanted to hear,” she says. “The vibe is supposed to keep you guessing, and I’m glad I achieved that reaction.”
Pera and Martinez along with venue photographer Jon Shaft worked hard to create a look and feel that was beautiful, long-lasting, versatile and overall a blank canvas for those who will use the space. An audience Pera connects with.
“I felt like I could relate to this brand and the type of thought leadership or programs that they want to bring to it,” Pera says, so creating the branding “was a very fun, laid-back process.”
Martinez echoes that sentiment. “It was inspiring in itself to work with Paige on this project,” she says. “She brought her own unique perspective to who and what Savage could be.”
“Together, we were able to create the amount of depth and edge necessary to really make the imagery and the space stand on its own,” Martinez adds.
So where does Pera find her inspiration for such projects? And for the painting and hand lettering she does on the side? She cites the work of artists and designers like Tim Cantor, Dana Tanamachi, Jessica Walsh and Pamela Gallegos. Plus, she reads a lot of design books and blogs and says she’s inspired by her fellow designers at agencyEA who all come from different backgrounds and bring unique strengths to the table.
Similarly, Pera has a number of friends in Chicago’s vibrant arts community and is an active member herself.
“I love going to little community gatherings and learning about local artists,” she says. “Those are the types of programs I would love to see at Savage.”
She has no doubt these events will come to be and cites the venue’s location as a particular draw.
“What’s cool about Savage is it’s kind of in the middle of everything,” she says, and its ability to serve as a place where artists can gather and work together.
“It’s a very inspiring space.”