100 Creatives

Phoenix Designer Liz Magura on Why Grade Schools Need the Arts — And How AIGA Arizona Is Helping

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 50. Liz Magura.

Liz Magura wanted both.

The Arizona native remembers hunting for colleges after spending her high school years swimming competitively and excelling in such artsy elective courses as still-life drawing and digital architecture. Though she was a strong math student, Magura knew what she wanted. "I would pursue some type of creative field," she says, "although I know my parents were a bit questioning of it."

Magura, however, was not one to waver. Still isn't, in fact.

"I wanted to swim and I wanted to be successful at a university, graduating in four years," she recalls. But finding the right fit posed a challenge — until she found Loyola Marymount, a college with both a Division-One swim team and an animation program. She earned a scholarship, accepted, and instantly felt the animation program was a bad fit. "Something told me this wasn’t it," she says. "And somehow I knew it wasn’t the place for me." Somewhat deterred but not defeated, she sought another outlet for her creativity and found the school's studio art program, in which she completed her degree.

Ever since, Magura has been a designer. "I think it’s safe to say that I dance to the beat of my own drum," she says. "I am not a giver-upper, and I always want to be better. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing to always want the next best thing, but nothing will ever happen if you just sit around and wait for something to land in your lap."

And her achievements are reflective of that attitude, one that's inextricably linked to her athletic past. She's worked on the creative team for the Phoenix Suns and as an art director at Sitewire. Currently, she holds a senior-level user experience, user interface (UX/UI) design lead position at University of Phoenix, freelances, and serves as president of AIGA Arizona, the state chapter of the professional design association. 

"I feel like I have quite a few accomplishments at 30 years old," she says. "It comes down to attitude and dedication."

Magura thinks back on something she remembers her mom saying, "You know what they say about bored people … you’re boring.” It's stuck with her — and kept her schedule full. "So really, not a dull day goes by and each day is different," Magura says. "Some great, some not so great, but that’s life, and all I can do is try."

I came to Phoenix with a pink blanket at St. Joe’s Hospital. A true native. However, I went away to LA for college (far, I know), but returned after I graduated in 2008.

I design because I have a passion for helping people and businesses by solving problems creatively. By definition, design is, “purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object (source, Google).” I strive to create what is useful and functional.

I'm most productive when I’m listening to music or sitting in a noisy environment. While that may seem challenging to focus, it allows me to pay attention to the task at hand. Silence makes for wandering ears …and I can tell you that I definitely have those ...

My inspiration wall is full of bright colors, fun sayings, photos of my boxer pups, beautifully designed stickers, buttons and photo-booth photo strips from events like Phoenix Design Week, family pics, funky patterns, beautifully designed invitations that I can’t part with. In a word, LIFE .

I've learned most from many different people depending on the circumstances. My parents, sister, and family have all been huge influences in my life. The people I’ve worked closely with (career-wise and through AIGA) or worked out with – colleagues and teammates. There have been instances of success and failure on all fronts, and as an athlete, this has driven my work ethic and furthered my desire to maintain a team atmosphere. I have a collaborative hunger for just about anything, and truly believe we’re only better together.

Good work should always have collaboration and the ability to improve over time. From there, a purpose with defined goals, a problem to solve – an opportunity to uncover the untold story.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more … Hmm, I feel like this community has come so far over the past many years, and it’s honestly looked upon by other creative communities across the country as a true model of a creative community. Great things can always become better and better. I just can’t put my finger on what that would be right now. I think overall sharing great things and celebrating people that make this place awesome, as this Phoenix New Times series does, is a valid approach. One important idea would be to push creative professions into the grade school and high school curriculums. This is an effort specifically by AIGA Arizona, and we have plans statewide and potentially nationwide to make this happen. There are other organizations and individuals around town that are focusing on youth, and it only makes sense that the design community push more into this space.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski