Sol Snapshot: A Q&A with Creative Director Scott Zettergren

March 22, 2024

Sol Snapshot: A Q&A with Creative Director Scott Zettergren

Scott’s passion for design started at a young age, fueled by childhood trips to New York airports and an innate fascination with airline branding. After ten years at Sol, he branched off to create The Bureau, an agency specializing in design, branding, and boutique travel services. There, he crafted unique brand experiences for clients that focused on intuitive, honest design principles.

In 2023, Scott returned his strategic and personable approach to Sol as a Partner and our Creative Director. Here, he continues to use good design to tell impactful brand stories while drawing on his lifelong love of design and travel to lead the creative vision. To learn more about what drives Scott’s aesthetic and what he finds inspiring these days, Becca sat down with him for an illuminating discussion about his roots and passions.


How did you first become interested in graphic design?

I didn’t have any concept of graphic design when I was young. My interest started with a childhood fascination with the different experiences of flying various airlines out of New York airports.

Jon Proctor, via Wikimedia Commons

The fact that I could fly TWA out of Eero Saarinen‘s Flight Center and arrive through Pan Am’s Worldport at JFK has always stuck with my aesthetic sensibilities. 


However, I didn’t connect this innate fascination with branding to graphic design until later. I just loved how each airline had its unique terminal aesthetic, branding, uniforms, carpeting, seats, etc. To me, even as a kid, it was about crafting a holistic brand experience. I even designed my own imaginary airline called Imperial North when I was little, with a logo, route map, ticket jackets, all of it. 


Did you study traditional art before pursuing graphic design?

Growing up, I took some drawing classes on portrait drawing and still lifes. But I only really got into more expressive, interpretive art after college when I had more free time. During that period, I did a lot of mixed-media painting and collage work. I find the ceramic arts engaging and have always appreciated that tactile aspect across different mediums.

Brutalist Ceramic Multi-Spouted Vase.
Artist Unknown


From the Core Collection
Casey Zablocki


My own art style has always been clean, balanced, modern, minimalistic, and Swiss-inspired, even before I formally studied design. 

The photo above is of Calder in 1957 inspecting the installation of his work originally titled .125, after the gauge of the aluminum elements in Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (then Idlewild Airport). The piece was later redubbed Flight.


I also dabbled in kinetic art in the vein of Alexander Calder when I was younger. I still do, in fact, though I rarely have any real free time these days. I think of it more as a practice than anything else.


How would you describe your artistic approach?

I take a very strategic yet intuitive approach. I use core design principles like proportion, weight, and composition to craft logical solutions. But, obviously, I also tap into my creative instincts to add that extra flair and differentiation. At my core, I’m both analytical and artistic. I care deeply about the details while wanting to create an emotional spark. Effective design requires balancing rigorous strategy with moments of whimsy and serendipity. I aim to honor design history while pushing aesthetics forward.


What are some favorite Sol projects you’ve worked on that allowed you to tap into design history?

Rebranding Synq Solutions allowed me to touch every aspect of their brand experience, which I loved. I was able to design full systems there and ensure everything fit together logically and perfectly, which appeals to my tendency towards visual organization. I also enjoyed working on the website design for online clothing retailer Les Nouvelles, where I could push a high-design aesthetic, and the website for the Nathan Cummings Foundation allowed me to flex higher-design principles. 

Nathan Cummings Foundation Website Design



Synq Solutions Identity Design – Circa 2009/10


Les Nouvelles Website Design while serving as Senior Graphic Designer  – Circa 2009


What do you find most rewarding or challenging about managing and overseeing projects?

I have always had a desire for organization in design, so I like being able to design comprehensive systems where I can think through how each element touches the next in a thoughtful way. It was a learning experience for me to let go of some control and allow others to work on designs, but that collaboration ultimately led to growth. I aim to find the right balance between guiding the creative vision and empowering others.


Where do you find inspiration and engage with art and design outside of work nowadays?

Travel is a massive source of creative inspiration for me. Being immersed in new places and cultures exposes me to fresh aesthetics, art, architecture, and perspectives. When I’m traveling, I make a point of really taking in the sights, sounds, tastes, and vibes of a place. Wandering through local galleries, cafes, and shops fuels my artistic spirit. Seeing how color, texture, and design motifs differ around the world pushes me creatively. Travel guides my eye and opens me up to new ways of thinking about art and design. It’s about stepping outside my comfort zone. Whether it’s Copenhagen, Milan, or some tiny village somewhere, soaking in the energy of different destinations always sparks new ideas and directions for me.


What advice would you give someone interested in a creative career?

My advice would be to let your natural interests guide you, even if they seem unrelated to design. For me, it was air travel and aviation branding. Look for common threads that point to your strengths. Always keep your inner childlike curiosity alive through observation and new experiences. Immerse yourself in the broader arts like music, film, fashion, and culture. Stay hungry to learn both formally and informally. 

Give yourself time to create work just for you, where you control every element. Finding your voice takes patience and practice, and your first design is rarely going to be your best design. It can take countless drafts and iterations before you get your piece where it needs to be. 

Most importantly, remember that creativity is a muscle you must continuously practice, flex, and challenge.


Get to know more about the Sol Design Co. team over on our website


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