Audrey Pray, Jr. is the Creative Lead at International House, where she uses her design and videography skills to help enrich the experience of globally-minded graduate students in New York City. As a former resident of I-House, Audrey has a personal connection to the community.
We sat down for a chat (over Zoom, of course) about Audrey’s background in design and video, her newfound passion for travel and how she’s staying creative throughout this difficult time.
About International House
International House is a housing community for globally-minded graduate students in NYC. The organization uses Canto to manage and share their archives of event photos. Read their story here.
Hi Audrey! What do you do as International House’s creative lead, and what’s a week on the job like for you?
I work on all of our creative needs, which includes everything from designing the promotions for our day to day events to producing video shoots for end of year galas. I set all of the design parameters and the style guides for each campaign. A big part of my job is to not only design, though to also listen and strategize with departments over their creative needs. I collaborate with colleagues throughout the organization to first understand what the objective is of each campaign or initiative, and then create concepts that use our brand assets to support those objectives. For example, I work with our our development and fundraising departments to campaigns and annual reports that are both visually-exciting and speak to the mission of carrying on our operations. At the end of each year, we have a gala and choose individuals we want honor for their contributions to philanthropy or leadership . For each honoree, we create a video that I produce, shoot and edit. I enjoy the duality of design and video and I love the range of collaborators that I get to work with both in and outside of the organization.
Thankfully, on a typical day, our team is very social! Everyone makes sure to get breakfast together in the mornings and see how we’re all doing personally. On Mondays, I lead the design meeting with the Development, Alumni Relations and Communications (DARC) team. We prioritize all the projects on the docket for the week to make sure that we are all aligned on what is due. Mondays are usually for gathering projects, and then I work on delivering assignments and receiving notes/revisions on Tuesdays throughout the rest of the week.
How did you get into design and video production?
It’s funny. I feel like I’ve always had this kind of job. One of my first jobs was a day summer camp counselor, but even there, my additional responsibility was to design the event promotions. I’ve been doing event promotion for a long time and I didn’t know that I would be doing the same task for a world-wide organization like I-House, but I’m really grateful that I do. I-House has influenced my goals by being a place that’s very globally minded. I feel like I get to continue to have the I-House experience even though I’m no longer a resident. I-House and the people in I-House still enrich my life in many ways.
I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). I’ve been into graphic design since I was a little kid. I used to take people’s business cards and redesign them and then try to sell it back to them.
I’ve always viewed design as something that should call attention to people and causes. I also love design because it makes people feel more empowered about the ideas that they have. I love making people feel like their idea is more real because now there’s color and type behind it.
At SCAD, I really wanted to add a lot more dimensionality to my design. I think of myself as a storyteller, because even as we’re making a printed piece, there is a bit of a progression in how the audience sees it and how they feel: what they see in the beginning, what they are thinking and feeling during the middle, and what action do they want to do by the end. Studying motion graphics really taught me how to understand that there is a process by which information comes through to the audience. And that itself can be a story that you can carry through the use of colors and type and tone.
What’s keeping you motivated and inspired to create, especially in this difficult time?
Lately, I’ve started to try to make more personal work outside of just what I do professionally for I-House. I think that it’s important to do that as a designer because you start to learn that your art and your design are different. Design has a function to it. It’s a product. It either works or it doesn’t work. But art can work for some people and not for others. It’s been important for me to understand that there are two different places to be and I want to have both places in my life.
When I’m at work, I’m problem-solving and I’m looking at things from a very objective standpoint and understanding that it either works for our residents or it does not work for our residents. And it’s not a personal choice. It’s always what is best for them, not for me. With my art – I like cooking, making music, drawing – that is my place where I can make it about me.
I think that the most important thing for me as a designer is to always remember my audience. It’s about our residents. And it’s about understanding that the work that I do can help their experience and stay with them for years. For instance, something that keeps me motivated while producing and editing the video pieces for our annual gala is knowing that the fundraising that we receive goes towards supporting the financial needs of residents. When making the videos, I view all the details of song selection, pace, and audio as characters that are ushering people into a spirit of supporting our mission and wanting to see it continue into the future. I’m grateful to keep my eye on that end goal – no matter what is happening in the midterm.
Is travel really important to you, as someone who works with international students?
Yes! Back when I was a resident, I was a part of I-House’s language exchange program. It’s there that I grew a passion for learning Spanish. That inspired my first trip outside of the United States. I’ve gone to Colombia, Guatemala and Peru – all to learn and practice Spanish. It makes it even more special when I come back to I-House and meet a resident who’s from Colombia and I can speak with them about their culture and understand so much of what they are saying, both in terms of content and language fluency.
Travel is important to me now, but I didn’t even have a passport before I came to I-House. My family was extremely hesitant about me traveling. We just didn’t have a lot of people in my family that travel internationally. Now that I’ve gotten to do that and I’ve learned Spanish, they’re actually very proud of me. It was personally, spiritually, emotionally a very big moment for me because I felt like it broke a generational fear of stepping outside of the United States. I just thank God that I got to be a part of that barrier being broken down, and helping my family see that the world is not as scary as it may seem sometimes.