an interview with terra deal, graphic designer and photographer

Deal Design is a family-owned agency. Our principals, David and Nancy Deal, welcomed their daughter, Terra, to the business as a Graphic Designer. Since then, she has grown into her role and developed a deeper understanding of what it takes to help the agency thrive. In this interview, Terra discusses the power of creativity in her life and the role her parents have played in shaping her career.

What attracted you to the world of graphic design?

I had an interesting relationship with creativity growing up because I was surrounded by creative people. Both of my parents are creatives, my uncles are creative, and I was very much encouraged to pursue something that stimulated me creatively. I grew up as a ballet dancer and got my Bachelor of Fine Arts from UC Irvine. While doing that, I also was pursuing photography on the side, and I think all roads led me to pursue something creative as a career. 

What is it like working alongside your parents?

Honestly, I couldn’t have imagined a better scenario for my relationship with them. I’ve always looked up to them. I definitely have a newfound appreciation for what they do from working together. 

Even as a child, going into the office and watching David paint on his breaks or seeing both of them on business calls, debating the direction of a new brand design — that was normal to me. We’re very close. We have a deep relationship, and I feel like they’ve always accepted me for the kind of creative person I am. There is a mutual respect there. Now that I’m a working professional, I do feel like I’m treated as someone who can bring something new to the table. Even just my age brings a new light to Deal Design and the vision of the brand.

What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on at Deal Design?

I think my biggest project right out the gate was learning the ins and outs of Reef, one of the most recognizable brands in sandals, and work with them to create their seasonal catalogs. With that came a lot of project management. I learned to coordinate between our agency, the photography studio, Reef Marketing and Product Management. Many people don’t realize how much project management time goes into the creative process. Sometimes, project management takes as much time as design.

One of my favorite things to do, though, is to work on logo development for startups. I have the opportunity to create wildly different logos to present to a company and waiting to see which route they want to take. I like being able to do that for startups. 

One of my first logo projects was for Spawn Fitness, and this was one of the first entry-level graphic designer jobs I was given. They ended up loving my first draft of a specific logo, and that was really cool because now they use the work that I got to produce. Being able to create something that other people like is really validating. 

Along with graphic design, you also do a lot of product photography for our clients. How did you get started taking photos professionally?

If it weren’t for David’s DSLR that he passed off to me when I was 15 or 16, I feel like I would’ve eventually found my way to photography, but that was really my kickstart. 

In high school, I took my first photography class, but I honestly didn’t learn much in it. I was watching lots of videos online and was very much self-taught. I loved taking photos of friends, and that turned into me taking people’s senior photos in high school. That carried into college — freshman year I was taking senior grad photos and headshots for people in the dance department. Now I’m our agency’s chief photographer, working with models, product stylists, and emerging brands. It is very fulfilling.

Where do you tend to draw creative inspiration from?

I actually draw a lot of creative inspiration from fashion and music. 

I spend a lot of time listening to music, which I feel like a lot of creative people do. This probably comes from my dance background — I have time that I put aside to intentionally listen to music with my eyes closed. I see music in color and movement, and I think that’s something that benefits me when it comes to working on a creative project. I’m able to visualize how instruments would work together — it’s like making ideas flow and work together. 

With fashion, I really love being able to pick up on trends that are coming back from different decades. Like right now, a lot of 90s style is coming back, and you can see that in graphic design as well. I like to see the parallel between fashion statements that are in trend and how graphic design mimics that in a way.

Who are your greatest role models?

Well, to be frank, David and Nancy Deal. I’m genuinely not just saying that because they have given me so much opportunity and taught me so much.

When I was pursuing dance professionally, I felt like I didn’t really have any role models. I had some teachers that had an impact on my life, but no one has really believed in me as much as my parents have, and that’s something I do not take for granted. I love them and cherish their guidance deeply. 

quote no one has really believed in me as much as my parents have, and that is something I do not take for granted.

What is the most exciting or fulfilling aspect of your role at Deal Design?

I would say it’s being able to feel like I’m carrying on a vision that my parents set for themselves — wanting to create a full-service branding agency. They wanted to be able to art-direct and to make an impact on the area they were living in. I feel like I have seen where they started and I’ve seen the business flourish and grow. Now, being a part of it, it’s very humbling for me. 

I have memories of coming into the design studio as a young girl and seeing all the interns that were my age now or younger. Now, in the position of being a full-time employee, I’m kind of in that role. Recently, we had an old employee come to visit, and we all sat down and were talking to him. Deal Design launched his career in the direction it’s currently in, and he has a family. It’s so sweet because everyone who’s thankful for my parents’ guidance always references where it all started, which was Deal Design at its very beginning. 

It’s really cool to see how much the business has grown, and it makes me excited for the future.


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