5 minutes with Brandi Ferree


Meet Brandi Ferree! We also met at good ole Harrington. We slowly grew to be good friends, although we are so very different from one another. Brandi is quiet, calm, and a bit timid. Whereas I’m the obnoxious, loud type. At the end of the day we share the same passion and core values, and that is where we connect!

Brandi clearly cares so much about the world and what she can do to help it, through her passion of design. Sustainable design was a main focus of hers through college and still is in her everyday life! Whether she’s planting a garden on her patio or using recycled metal to built a side able for her apartment, she always seems to live her life with the environment in mind.

Doing this interview definitely made her step outside of her comfort zone, because she “hates being in the spotlight” (her words), BUT I am so proud to highlight her and her accomplishments today on Chic I Toro! After Harrington, Brandi’s career took her to Wisconsin, but she still holds Chicago near and dear to her heart. She is constantly replying to my texts with, “That makes me miss living in Chicago!” Chicago misses you too, Brandi!!!

1. What do you do?
I work for The Metal Shop,LLC as a 3d CAD Designer/ Detailer. We specialize in fabricating trade show booths and my duties include creating construction prints and drawing parts to cut on the laser and bend on the press brake. I work with the shop guys in order to plan a project for fabrication, and after all the planning is done, I hand the files off to be cut, formed and welded. We make a great team, and do amazing work together. It is so rewarding to have a client send us pictures of the end result installed on the show floor.
3m  MAGPhoto
2. What’s the best part of your job?
Being Innovative! It’s a small company, so we are able to make changes to work flow and process that would take months to implement at a larger company. If a client needs something build, we are limber enough to accommodate brainstorming, prototyping and testing in order to create their vision. We are currently the only fabrication company that, through our own self-developed process, are able to create curved 6″x6″ beams for framing out a booth or banner. Creating this is impossible without wrinkling the material using the traditional machines. I love a challenge from our clients!

We also recently bought a 3d printer. It has been a blast learning how to use the machine and discovering everything we can do with it.

3. What are some of the perks of your job?
One major perk is that we are allowed to use the equipment for personal projects after hours. The guys and I trade CAD work and fabrication. A lot of the furniture in my apartment is my own design.
4. How did you get your current job?
My boyfriend was a fabricator at the time for the company, and after I graduated I was looking to do some freelance work.  I called up my boyfriends boss (I had met him at their Christmas party previously) and told him I want to do a sample set of construction drawings (free of charge) to show my skill set, with the hopes that I could get some paid contact work from them in the future. They had a client designing a security gate for the Hermes NYC flagship store at the time. The client had hand sketches, but needed the CAD work done to plan the project for fabrication. They gave me the job of translating the hand sketches to a full construction set. At the end of the project, they were happy to see a set of drawings they could actually build off of, and ended up paying me for my time. Long story short, about six months later I started working for The Metal Shop as a full time employee. I never would have landed this job without the connection my boyfriend provided, however.

5. A piece of advice for designers?

I really like the advice that Ira Glass has for young designers, that my dad shared with me after graduating:

“Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But yourtaste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean?

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit. And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short, it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.

And the thing I would say to you is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase — you gotta know it’s totally normal.

And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. It takes a while, it’s gonna take you a while — it’s normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that, okay?”

6. What is your guilty pleasure?

Reading in the bathtub
7. Describe your personal design style in 5 words.
 Modern, minimalist, natural, subtle, sustainable
8. Current design trend that you love?
I love that houseplants are “cool” again.
9. Who/What inspires you?
Lena Dunham, personally. She is a writer, director, and actress. She’s ambitious, and says exactly what she wants and doesn’t apologize. I like that about her, she is very honest and relatable.
10. How did your education help you get where you are in your career?
Studying design in college gave me the understanding of the aesthetic our clients are looking for with the finished product. Everything has to be perfect. Even though it is only on display for a few days, the quality of the booth speaks volumes about the company it represents. The designer in me fights fiercely to protect the design integrity of a project, even when the actual fabrication of it proves very difficult to get the result imagined by the designer.
My college education also gave me the base knowledge of construction, construction drawings and CAD,  that I built off of and honed for the construction drawings I do for metal fabrication now.
 When you tell people you have and Interior Design Degree, there is always the struggle of trying to explain that designers capable of much more than picking out a paint color or hanging a few drapes. Our education prepared us to do very technical architectural work, while also working out our artistic minds and enabling us to identify our own personal aesthetic.  I hope that these interviews have given people an idea of some of the places one’s design degree can take them!
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