By Nicole Caron
Greg Tariff: Master of the Pivot
We recently caught up with Greg Tariff, Graphic Design ’09, to discuss corporate career success, coming back from fires (literally!), and the power of “going small.”
On pivoting during challenging times:
Personally, my wife and I recently experienced a major house fire. We were sitting in our living room and the roof caught on fire due to a faulty gas fireplace! Our first priority was to grab our two dogs and get out. Thankfully, everyone is safe and we’re in temporary quarters while our house is being rebuilt.
Professionally, I manage a team of nine and we use everything from Figma to Zoom. As a designer, using the right collaborative tools is essential. Nurturing culture is key in building a successful team. Intuit has an amazing design community: “D for D: Design for Delight” is our approach for solving customer problems. Every team member has input; good management checks in on the team’s mental and physical well-being and ensures the team stays connected. That was especially important in 2020.
On preparation for success:
I learned to network my butt off at Ringling. General Motors (GM) found a Facebook group I created about classic cars and invited a friend and me to visit GM headquarters to attend a big auto show. I brought my portfolio and grabbed every business card I could. Staying in touch with those people led to an internship my junior year in 2008. I worked with Career Services and the GM college representative to lock in that internship.
In 2009 the economy crashed and you were lucky to find an internship, let alone a job. I sent out dozens of applications after graduation while freelancing in New York City and landed an opportunity with BFG, an interactive agency in Hilton Head, SC. Our clients included Warner Bros. and Coca-Cola, among others, and I learned a lot from those team members.
For fun on weekends, a colleague and I created a site that aggregated free online contests and giveaways. In the first eight months, we had about 55,000 user-entered contests. Silicon Valley began reaching out to us about expanding, and then eBay invited me to California. I went out for an interview and the next day had an offer. During those leaps of faith, from New York to South Carolina to California, I kept my mind open, not wanting to rule out any possibilities. I focused on building my career.
Personal Design Philosophy:
After quite some time of learning, I realized that not everything matters equally. Not everything is top priority. There’s an imaginary shelf: If there’s something not affecting you in the moment, it can go on the shelf. As a start-up, you try a gazillion things, but you just need to do one thing really well. It’s not about blasting your customers with everything – hone in on what they need and do that one thing. Dieter Rams, who was at Braun in the 1960s, said, “Good design is as little design as possible.” I learned about him when I was at Ringling. I mold this into my own philosophy every day.
Advice for current Ringling students:
Build relationships and take risks. Learn your environment and the resources you can tap into. I was always tapping into the knowledge of my instructors and Career Services to better my learning. That was a massive help in preparing me for the real world. My class projects gave me the foundation for the best practices in building brand identity and user experiences, which is key in the professional world. Don’t be picky about location: Take opportunities to build that portfolio. Swallow your pride, travel, get experience, then later on you can be picky when you’re a mature designer. Stay open-minded and embrace the unknown.
Resides: San Francisco Bay
Works: Head of Design, DIFM Quickbooks Live at Intuit
Serves: Advisory boards: Throtl, Fuzzy Pet Health, BrickBuilt
Experience: Led innovation teams at eBay, Visa, Groupon, Oak Labs (acquired by Zivelo), and General Motors
Founder: Fetch Labs (acquired by Fuzzy Pet Health) and Gwazu
“At Ringling you can navigate your own path. You’re surrounded by some of the best creators out there so you have to step up your game. You learn to hustle and create the best work you can, and you need to keep that hustle spirit and mentality in the workforce.”