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Cate White: Command X Contestant #6

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{By Donovan Beery} To demonstrate that there is a lot more to the design world than the Left and Right Coasts, this year I want to bring to the attention of Against the Grain readers some of the best who live in my own back yard, Omaha, NB.

Last month, we spoke with the irrepressible  Steve Gordon. We now want to share the story of Cate White. Cate’s star rose this past October when she we selected to be Command X’s Contestant #6 at AIGA Head, Heart, Hand Conference in Minneapolis. Command X is a popular real-time talent showcase pitting contestants around the country against one another with the same assignment. The audience votes contestants off the contest until the final round between the two standing. Emily Potts of Rock Paper Ink did a great feature did a nice feature on the eventual winner Joey Cofone. But Cate, being from Omaha captured my interest. After the event, I sat down and talked to her.




Cate being introduced for the first time on Command X by host Matteo Bologna.

Cate, we saw you on the stage at Command X earlier this month, but now that it’s all over and you’ve had a little time to reflect, how was the overall being a contestant on Command X experience?

It was exhausting and amazing. The more time that has passed the more I have appreciated just how invaluable and memorable the experience really was.

This year brought about having mentors assigned to each of the contestants. Did you have any input on choosing Rick Valicenti, and what was it like to work with an AIGA Medalist for three days? Did you meet or talk with Rick before arriving in Minneapolis?

We chose our mentors at random, and since I was last to g,o I knew I was going to be paired up with the only mentor that had anything bad to say about everyone’s first project (including mine). I loved discussing concepts and ideas with him, but we did have some difference when it came down to actual execution. I found myself questioning if I should push back, and how much. He had more of a director approach rather than a guide after we made it past the concepting stage. I am thankful that I got paired up with such a great thinker and I also appreciate now that I got matched with the ‘he may or may not show up’ guy.

Well, something must have worked, as you did make it to the final three. But that also means we didn’t see you much outside of the competition while in Minneapolis. What is the schedule like for a contestant?

Spend a couple hours backstage, fret about getting kicked off, present, get next assignment, work until you can stay up any longer, wake up as early as you can, work all day — repeat.

And the whole time you’re working it’s in a roped off area with everyone in the conference walking by. Did this pose any issues or challenges?

I think we were all a little thrown when we got the work station and saw that it was actually roped off. It was a little bazaar — like being a really tame side show. I did got to talk to so many people that I know I normally wouldn’t have. Being in a chained-off display is definitely an ice-breaker.

I’ll try to remember that. Before we go, I need to ask, Outside of Command X, what do you do as a designer?

I am a designer at Hayneedle. I work on a lot of promotional pieces, corporate communications, developing our in-house brands and all sorts of stuff.



A sample project of Cate’s from Hayneedle. More of her work can be seen at catewhite.me.


What was it that originally brought you into design?

I don’t really know to be honest. I feel like I’ve always been drawn to it in some regard. I remember reading about it in a college catalog and thinking ‘that seems right.’ So far I still trust that gut feeling.

Well, we’re glad you did, and it seems to be working out well. Have you had the opportunity to work on something you’re really proud of yet?

I love that I’ve been able help friends with their businesses. I know so many talented people outside of the design field and it’s so great to be a part of what they do. One personal project that I’m excited to get back to focusing on is my ‘baby care and maintenance’ charts.  I originally made one for my son but got quite a few requests. I’m looking forward to developing the concept further.




I’m actually shocked I don’t have one of these cool charts for my kid. What a great idea.

And finally, do you have that “dream project” you’d love to work on if you can?

That’s something I’m struggling to define — I feel like there is a dream client or project out there, but I’m torn between it being something within the arts or humanitarian. Maybe it’s some combination of the two?

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