Robin Terra's Terra Studio Designs for Paper and Pixels

Birmingham . . . or San Francisco?

Robin Terra (Graphic Design 1985) never had any intention of starting her own business, but in 2001 when her employer announced the office's impending relocation to Alabama, well . . .

"San Francisco is just hard to beat," says Terra, "and it was the push I needed to start my own thing. Having my own business has turned out to be one of the best and hardest things I've ever done. In life and career, the easiest path is not always the best. Anything worth your time, takes your time! Growing as a creative person is essential. Learning is a lifelong opportunity for growth and discovery. Change is a guarantee. My advice to students is to stay open to possibilities, and when you fall, brush yourself off and start all over again."

Her multidisciplinary design firm is called Terra Studio. The firm creates communication messaging and design for a wide variety of clients, from entrepreneurial startups looking to capture an initial audience to established businesses taking a new look at how they tell their stories.

Her artist, designer, writer, and corporate clients have included the artist Lava Thomas (a CCA alum), Random House, and the first all-digital magazine, Greenlight Digital. She is the art director for BrightCity Books in Miami Beach, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Las Vegas. She has created numerous book covers for educational publishers, and she is currently working on a book project called Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resources for AlterNet.org, an award-winning news magazine and online company. The book features writings by Barbara Kingsolver, Bill McKibben, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tina Rosenberg, and Maude Barlow, plus some of the world's best photojournalists and fine artists.

"I have a talented and vibrant network of professional teammates. We combine our expertise: design, writing, editing, marketing, and web production. We strive for creative growth and excellence, cultural relevance, and energizing and surprising solutions. And earth-friendly solutions, which are an essential component of 21st century business, not simply a trend." She has a commitment to integrating sustainability into her design practice. She and her colleagues have been recipients of numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award for General Excellence and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Award.

Terra attributes her love of media and the arts to her American journalist father and her British travel agent and poet mother. At CCA, she says, she acquired an essential foundation in the fundamentals of problem solving through design. "I learned typography, layout, pacing, storytelling, scale, perspective, and an appreciation of their classic vernacular," said Terra. "CCA kicked my conceptual and technical skills up several levels. My teachers encouraged excellence, and there was a very friendly but fierce competition among the students."

From dressing up as an Andy Warholesque soup can for a History of Design assignment to drinking a 1976 bottle of Dom Perignon after graduation with her family—her mother had been saving it for the occasion—Terra's wonderful memories of her years at the college are too numerous to count. "I am still friends with many of my classmates. They become a part of your tribe. In fact, most of my first professional design opportunities came about through my CCA teachers, friends, and colleagues. It is invaluable and generous to create this sort of network."