Team : Work

Staff Interviews

Interview with Fred about his 30+ years in design and multimedia

April 15, 2024
Fred joined our team in 2021 with 30 years of design and multimedia experience. An avid videographer, photographer, drone pilot and self-described "tech geek", Fred has enjoyed expanding his professional work beyond the real estate industry and into public education.

Fred catching waves in Hawaii in 1985.

Were you always on a path to design? Or were there some twists and turns?

No, I started out as a computer technician in the Navy. After making more money painting surfboards part-time than I did working full-time in the Navy, I decided to look at other career options. At one point I was going to be a biology teacher.

How did you get started with design?

I’ve always loved art, and I started doing airbrush art when I was just a small boy. As I got older, I used to paint surfboards and windsurf boards. My formal education in design started in 1989 when I studied graphic design at Portland State University. I graduated in 1993 and started work as a multimedia graphic designer in Portland. I started my own multimedia business in 1999.


What prompted you to work for ESD 112?

Covid lockdown effectively shut down my freelance photography business. I had a kid in college and needed to pay the bills, so I decided it was time to give up freelancing. ESD 112 had a junior designer opening and the best benefits, so it was an easy choice. I didn’t know it at the time, but I quickly discovered that the people here are awesome!

You came to ESD 112 with 30 years of design experience. Have you grown as a designer since then?

I started my career in interactive multimedia with lots of photography, video, illustration and animation, so larger print projects are a challenge for me. I’ve got some great mentors on the team though, and it’s been awesome to push myself and keep learning about other aspects of design. I have definitely increased my skills in Adobe InDesign and WordPress. One thing I never had to deal with in the private sector was designing with ADA accessibility in mind. Now I’ve become quite proficient at it!

You’ve pretty much done it all over your long career. What kind of project do you most enjoy executing?

I love talking photos and video! There’s something very satisfying about photography. It’s not just that you have to be technically savvy but you also need to be creative. Video gives me the chance to “tell the story” more than I ever could using other mediums.

Okay, so what’s your least favorite type of communications?

My least favorite is print. It seems like such a shame to cut down beautiful forests just to print out a newsletter that could have been sent digitally.

Fred and his daughter taking photos in the mid-2000s.

How has technology evolved since you started designing?

When I was in college, they were teaching physical paste-up and hand-lettering. I remember butting heads with a professor because I wanted to use my computer for typesetting, and he said it “wouldn’t be fair” to the other students. I said, “Yeah, well when I’m a designer they will be my competition, so I’m not really interested in ‘what’s fair.'”

I’ve always loved technology and been a bit of a tech-geek. Just ask Melissa or Heidi how much I love to talk about my video equipment! Digital photography has been a game-changer. We used to have to wait weeks to get our photos back from the developer. Now we can review the screen after every shot. If the shot’s not right, no big deal, make adjustments and keep going.

What are you most excited about in the design industry?

AI is the future. It’s already changing how we work in Photoshop and Illustrator. We used to spend hours cloning and fixing photos to work within our designs and website. Now we just push a button and AI does it all for us.

What inspires you?

This may sound strange, considering the bad rap it gets, but social media! It’s allowed me to be exposed to so many creative people. Never has there been such a chance for an individual to have a voice world-wide. I’m a superfan of YouTube. It’s changed the way I view entertainment. I can’t believe how much I enjoy seeing normal people, doing normal things.

What have you done on your bucket list? What’s still left to do?

I’ve surfed the Bonzi Pipeline, windsurfed 30 foot waves, kiteboarded in 50 mile an hour wind, snowboarded off cliffs and scuba dived on small tropical islands in the middle of the ocean. #1 on my bucket list is to buy a small motorhome and travel to every state in the USA taking video and photos.

Fred flying his drone at Dougan Falls.

What are your favorite ways to unplug and decompress?

I enjoy flying my drones in beautiful settings like forests and fields. We have some truly amazing waterfalls in the area, and I have a lot of fun experimenting with waterfall photography.

If you could change one thing from your past what would it be?

I would have moved back to Hawaii after I got out of the Navy. Every day in Hawaii is like a dream come true!

Well, we are glad that you live in Washougal instead, Fred. One final question: If you had to get a tattoo, what would it be and why?

I would get a pair of butterflies on my chest, in honor of my father. He got his in the Navy before WWII. Sailors used to get tattoos of chickens and pigs because supposedly they can’t drown. It must work because he was one of the only survivors when his ship was sunk in battle.

About the TEAM Member

Fred Gunnerson

Fred Gunnerson

I love shooting video, especially when I’m flying my drone. I’ve spent the most recent part of my design career freelancing as a web designer, videographer & photographer in the Columbia River Gorge. I recently moved to Washougal to be closer to family, and I’m excited to jump into the next chapter in my career working in education for ESD 112. I want to do more than make more money for rich people–I want to make a difference!