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ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT – Eric Doctor

Senior Designer, The Unemployed Philosophers Guild

#AlumniSpotlight The Creative Circus graduates the most sought after creatives in the industry. Take a moment to read about the lives, careers & personal stories of some of our fantastic alumni.

Eric Doctor – Senior Designer, The Unemployed Philosophers Guild

Design – September 2012

Alumni_Spotlight_Eric_Doctor

What does the Circus mean to you?

Before I went to the Circus making a living as a graphic designer seemed like an unattainable pipe dream. Since I graduated from the Circus I’ve been able to not just survive but thrive. Attending the Circus is probably the single best decision I’ve made in my life.

What advice would you give to our incoming classes making their pathway into the Industry?

Do good work, show it to good people, and the rest will follow.

Describe a monumental, light bulb moment for yourself while you were at The Circus:

In my second quarter, I had brought in a dozen potential logos for a vinegar brand that were lovingly crafted and colored. My teacher, Sylvia Gaffney, was unimpressed by all of them, and said, “let me see your thumbnails.” She pointed to where I had hastily scribbled the brand name in loose cursive and said, “that’s the one.” I wound up winning gold in the logos category at the student awards show that quarter. It taught me that good design is what resonates deeply, not what impresses with its craft.

What are you working on/doing now? Any cool things you are working on?

For the past year I’ve been working as design director on my friend Aleda Gagarin’s New York City Council campaign. Election Day was this past Tuesday and it’ll be another few weeks before all of the absentee ballots and ranked-choice votes have been counted, but we think we have a pretty good shot at winning. What I’m most proud of is that Aleda ran on the strength of her ideals and didn’t try to soften herself or her message for the sake of seeming more “safe“ to voters. For example, we sent a mail piece directly to likely voters making a persuasive, pragmatic case for significantly reducing NYPD’s budget so that we can better fund the things that actually make our city safer and healthier: housing, healthcare, schools, and jobs. I also worked on Aleda’s husband Mel’s unsuccessful Congressional primary challenge in 2020, as design director and deputy campaign manager. Being able to use design to sell a better future, not just commercial goods and services, has been endlessly challenging and rewarding.


I’ve also been a design educator for the past seven years, teaching at Miami Ad School New York, Parsons School of Design, and most recently remote learning’s given me the opportunity to teach at the Circus.


In my free time I design fonts, and I hope to release at least one or two of them for sale this year.

What do you wish you knew in school?

I don’t know that there‘s anything I wish I knew — naïveté can be an asset — but if I have to say one thing, it’s that I wish I knew more about the diversity of career options that would be available to me coming out of school. The advertising agency model tends to dominate the understanding at the Circus (or at least it did when I was a student) of what a successful creative career looks like and what makes work good and effective, but there are so many other possibilities for making a living as a creative professional, and knowing that would have given me some more clarity of purpose as a student.

How is what you do now different than you thought it would be when at the Circus?

I thought I’d be working at a big design firm on big, important corporate identities; that kind of work has limited appeal to me now. I remember in one of my first jobs out of the Circus I was working on a website for Coca-Cola, and another Circus designer I was working with asked me, “Are you excited to be working on Coke??” And I just thought, “Not really.” I really enjoy doing work for smaller organizations and individuals, for whom my work will make a bigger impact.

If you had a billboard to post a single message to the world, what would it say? 

Spend more time elevating the things you love and less time tearing down the things you hate.

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