Alexandra Aviv ('12), currently a junior strategist at the Rockwell Group, talks to us about the most valuable lessons she learned at SC – which play a huge role in her creative career as a professional storyteller.
At the Rockwell Group (where she works), Alex Aviv is a professional storyteller. As a junior strategist, she plays an integral role in creating and shaping narratives that the firm produces. However, Aviv began flexing her creative muscles far before post-grad life – she learned the value of voicing her opinions, honed her photography skills, and reinforced her love of writing all at Sierra Canyon School. Alex took these values with her to Wesleyan University, where she graduated in 2016 with a degree in American Studies.
What led you to the Rockwell Group, and can you tell us more about what you do there?
After my second year of college I knew I wanted to start living in NYC over the summers. As I started researching what kind of jobs were there that interested me, a family friend of mine told me about the Rockwell Group. After looking them up I quickly became very inspired by the incredible work they did and the kinds of projects they pursued. The Rockwell Group is an atypical Architecture and Interior Design firm. They design hotels and restaurants, sets for Broadway shows, and pop-ups and other forms of temporary architecture, and they have created everything from custom wallpapers and furniture collections to the Imagination Playground blocks.
I had always been interested in architecture and design but had never thought about pursuing it professionally. Therefore, once I found out about the Rockwell Group, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of if given the opportunity.
I was lucky enough to get an internship for the summer of 2014 with the LAB at Rockwell Group, an interactive design studio within the larger firm that uses technology, strategy and architecture to create beautiful spectacles and experiences… and the rest is history!
I interned there again the summer of 2015 and started as a full-time employee after I graduated from Wesleyan in the spring of 2016. The LAB develops brands and brand experiences, programs immersive environments, and designs experiences such as pop-ups, marketing centers, and exhibitions. I work as a strategist, helping to position the projects, acquire a visual language that supports the overall intended design (including the look and feel), and most importantly I work with others to develop a strong narrative for these spaces.
Storytelling is a key component of the work that we do. A strong narrative is ultimately what will help create, support, and propel a design to be translated into a memorable experience for the user. I also help with new business for the LAB and run the @labatrockwellgroup Instagram (so go follow it if you like cool design, funky kaleidoscopes, & awesome prototypes!).
Can you tell us more about your major at Wesleyan (American Studies)? What propelled you to pick that major?
I was an American Studies major with a concentration in Visual and Cultural Studies. The American Studies major combines Anthropology, Sociology, History, English, and Religion, as well as interdisciplinary programs such as Latin American Studies, African American Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
During my freshman year, I took a range of classes in an attempt to figure out what I wanted to major in. American Studies thus became the perfect fit, offering multiple disciplines in one. It pushed me to sign up for classes that I may not have tried otherwise, taking anything from a class on visual culture and violence, to a class on post-quake Haiti, and a class on the ethics of captivity. A concentration in Visual and Cultural studies allowed me to continue my passion for film, digital media, various cultural theories, art and photography.
Were there any classes, teachers, or extracurricular activities at SC that you can say informed your current professional endeavors?
The English class I took with Professor Schrode informed my love of English and writing. Professor Schrode’s passion for what he taught was palpable, and it was hard not to fall in love with the books we read and the process we went through to read them. This class inspired me to take the kinds of English classes that I did in college, and ultimately I believe that this trajectory has been instrumental in my career thus far by making me a stronger writer.
In addition, my interest in photography pushed me to take AP Studio Art with Mr. Knepper my senior year. It was an incredibly valuable class and ultimately it was the reason why I applied to Wesleyan under the Art Studio major. Fall of my sophomore year, I chose to take a film photography class. While this was one of the most challenging classes that I took during my college career, it was also the most rewarding, solidifying my desire to work in the creative field.
Your LinkedIn also says that you’re interested in photography! What’s your favorite subject to capture, and how did you get into photography?
As I mentioned above, my first structured photography class was the AP Studio Art class I took my senior year with Mr. Knepper. However, before that, I had always been taking photos and messing around with the medium on my own. Both of my parents are very creative-minded and they are ultimately the ones that got me interested in photography. The everyday, seemingly insignificant moments are my favorite to capture. Our lives move and change so fast that I take solace in finding moments such as these to capture and hold onto.
I think that is also why the film photography class I took at Wesleyan was so rewarding to me. I spent most of my hours in the dark room, working on my prints and being both challenged and inspired by my teacher and fellow classmates. Beyond the new techniques that I learned, I learned what subjects I liked to capture and I fell in love with the process and power of photography. Photography has thus become this creative venue that I am able pursue and enjoy at my own pace.
If you were to pick out a single experience at Sierra Canyon that impacted you the most, what would that be?
I guess I would have to say that the small class size and openness of Sierra Canyon impacted me the most. The small class sizes of Sierra Canyon are ultimately what drew me to Wesleyan and gave me the confidence to speak up and participate in that setting. The interactions that I had in these small classes and the opportunities that unfolded because of them are irreplaceable.
In addition, Sierra Canyon always encouraged us to voice our opinions, something I think you don’t often find in other schools. Again, I believe that this structure made me realize the power one has as an individual to make change—no matter the size or circumstance. I took that ideology with me to college, becoming part of the first and only sorority on campus and advocating for more spaces and rights for women on campus, and I continue to take that with me into my professional life.
Working in a studio that is the youngest at the firm has allowed me to see, and be a part of, so much growth and change in the past couple of years. I am lucky enough to work somewhere that allows me to wear more than one hat and to initiate change.