As a Merit Award winner of AIGA’s The 100 Show, MarkieAnn Gardner takes local and national packaging design to newer heights.

When Local Design Meets Project Management: MarkieAnn Gardner

Interviews & Features

When she’s not hiking or deep in her garden, MarkieAnn Gardner, a Merit Award winner of 2021’s The 100 Show, is out there making an impression on Salt Lake City’s graphic design world. Her interests take after the dichotomy of her father’s love for illustration and her mom’s passion for organization. Therefore, it’s no surprise that one design class at Salt Lake City Community College was the trigger for her to change her previous plans and pursue her path in design at Utah Valley University. Gardner now has about 12 years of experience in design work and recently crested her 10-year mark with Wicked Audio, a local headphone company.

Gardner began working for Wicked Audio soon after achieving her BFA in Art and Communications. A year later, she accelerated her experience as she took on the position of Creative Director and has stayed in that role ever since. Her artistic work with Wicked Audio varies, and so does the pursuit of each design project. The development of Gardner’s projects comprises different tools such as overviews, creative briefs, Adobe Illustrator and more, differing depending on her client and what they are asking for. “When anyone starts with a design, the designer either talks with their client or the designer starts to develop their internal feelings on what message they want going forward,” she says.

An array of MarkieAnn Gardner's designs for Camel and Quail.
Photo courtesy of MarkieAnn Gardner

“Gardner now has about 12 years of experience in design work and recently crested her 10-year mark with Wicked Audio, a local headphone company.”

Gardner explains that it can be fine to move forward without a creative brief (a tool to capture project details), but when you sit down and write one, it solidifies all of the points you need. This is helpful when a designer is working on a project with multiple parties providing input. “The creative brief is a way to ground yourself and ensure the team is on the same page with shared goals,” she says.

Gardner’s strategies going into a project also differ depending on the stage at which the brand requests work. In her work with Utah Protection Sports, a club that had already developed their mission and brand, Gardner’s work mostly involved newer projects that needed graphic design support. With Camel and Quail, she works directly with the main point person to develop ideas and projects as a package, combining the images they have in their minds.

Her tactics for working on multiple, diverse projects are born from her high skill level in project management and her “form follows function” mentality. Half of her responsibilities are general design, and the other half are managing the brand and the people working in the brand. “I always put efficiency and solution ahead of the grid design or the visual presentation because the company needs solutions that help them perform and save money,” Gardner says. Her priority in approaching a project with efficiency in the beginning smoothes the process down for the whole design. Though it may not sound as fun as launching into a project with creative ideas, it saves time for both her and the brand.

One of Gardner’s packaging designs for Wicked Audio headphones.
Photo courtesy of MarkieAnn Gardner

“I always put efficiency and solution ahead of the grid design or the visual presentation.”

Gardner’s vision for her work within our community is to accept the challenge of combining her passion for graphic design with her passion for sustainability and a low-waste mindset. She loves in-house design and therefore does not usually take on side projects. However, she’ll sometimes take on projects she finds interesting. Examples of this could include brands that need her artistic and problem-solving design skills but aren’t in the consumer marketplace.

MarkieAnn explains that to prep for a consultation, the brand needs to balance questions for which they don’t have answers with what they firmly know about their ideal packaging design. If the organization has experience in their market of what works well, that can launch the designer into a better creative zone. “A great designer will have the knowledge and ability to communicate to help reach this middle ground,” Gardner says. This middle ground is where Gardner thrives and the space from which her unique designs stem. You can find more of MarkieAnn Gardner’s local packaging and other design projects at