Ever since she was a child, Annie Stoll, ’08, says she has been given countless opportunities to express her creativity and refine her artistic talents.
Her parents filled their Amherst, N.Y. home with music and plenty of books, crayons, pencils, and drawing paper to encourage Stoll’s imagination. In high school at the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, Stoll’s teachers recognized her talents and further nurtured her creative growth. As a senior, she showed her work at the All High Art Exhibition held at Daemen College. Her visits to the campus helped influence her choice of Daemen as the college where she earned a dual bachelor’s degree in graphic design and illustration.
Currently living in New York City, Stoll has experienced a remarkable career since graduating from Daemen just a few years ago. That includes this past January being the youngest graphic designer in more than 20 years to be nominated for a Grammy Award. The nomination led to her current position as an art director for SONY Music Entertainment.
Stoll says all the opportunities she was able to take advantage of at Daemen were key to her development as an innovative young artist with a passion to create and inspire.
“Daemen is a very supportive community with so many ways for an artist to learn and try different things,” she explains. “I had amazing art professors who, rather than put me in a box by teaching just one way to draw, for example, saw how I worked and found ways to help me progress.”
Portrait of an Involved Student
As a student, Stoll was in the Daemen Honors Program and named to the Dean’s List nearly every semester, which gave her the opportunity to add extra courses toward her dual degree. She also was a work-study student, helping to create brochures, posters and other print materials for the college. She says she enjoyed the sense of community at Daemen, particularly in the art program in which graphic design students learned with theater majors and a variety of different art professors.
“I loved just about every professor I studied with at Daemen, so it’s difficult to point to one favorite faculty member,” she recalls.
In addition to her studies, Stoll helped start a Drawing Club at Daemen, and, for a period of time, was head of the Anime Club, which launched an Anime Convention and hosted a number of other campus events. An internship as a graphic artist for White Bicycle, a nationally recognized design studio based in Buffalo, established a connection with renowned artist Brian Grunert that would eventually lead to Stoll’s Grammy nomination.
Always involved in one activity or another, Stoll received a Daemen Student Leadership Award that recognizes a student who has made significant contributions to the betterment of student life at the college. She was also honored with the Daemen President’s Award conferred by the Office of the President to a student who has exhibited extraordinary dedication, care and concern for her fellow students.
Road to the Grammys
Upon graduation from Daemen, Stoll worked as a graphic designer at The Buffalo News and Terranova Active Wear in Buffalo. From there she switched gears to return to White Bicycle where she worked as a designer and illustrator on CD packaging, ad campaigns and Web design. She worked on many projects that earned Gold and Silver Awards at the annual Addy Awards sponsored by the Advertising Club of Buffalo.
Freelance projects for Lucas Films, founded by legendary filmmaker George Lucas, would lead to Stoll’s move to New York City. There, she also began doing graphic design work for Crown Publishing and for photographer Anne Geddes. Staying connected with White Bicycle back in Buffalo, Stoll worked as a freelance designer with Brian Grunert and musicians Mike Brown and Zac Decamp of the musical group Geneseo on the packaging design for the band’s album “Automatic Music Can Be Fun.” It was this work that was nominated in the best recording package category of the 2014 Grammy Awards that went up against design work by artists for David Bowie, Jay Z and Metallica.
“When Brian told me about our nomination, I was completely caught off guard,” Stoll says. “The feeling was absolutely incredible and I am very grateful.”
The White Bicycle package design included a scratch-off ticket concept with the band’s name and illustrative elements printed on a scratch-off material. Key words and phrases from the band’s songs were kept uncovered. When read together, the words and phrases create poetry, which actually inspired the band to write a new track for the album. Thus, Stoll and Brian Grunert received a songwriting credit.
While the design did not win the Grammy, Stoll did receive a bronze medal from Tiffany’s when she attended the ceremony in Los Angeles. “It was such an exciting experience and I could tell a million different stories,” Stoll says. “The red carpet is everything and nothing like you’d expect it to be.”
Shaping the Next Opportunity
Living on the Upper West Side near Central Park, Stoll is thriving on the creative energy of New York. She takes pride in the Grammy nomination but is equally proud of her recent work with Hana Doki Kira, a comics and illustration anthology showcasing more than 20 artists from around the world, each with her own distinct style but all sharing a passion for a distinct subgenre of comics for women.
As an art director, Stoll likens her role to that of a music conductor who must understand the entire piece, organize the various elements, and work with other creative minds to produce the final masterwork.
She returns to Buffalo often to visit family and friends and this fall served as Convocation speaker on behalf of the Daemen College Alumni Association. While visiting the college, she also had the opportunity to speak with students in several art classes.
“Each of you is on an adventure at Daemen this year,” said Stoll to the college’s newest students at this fall’s Convocation. “Soon, you will all have your own unique experiences, acquire new skills, knowledge, and lasting friendships. Daemen is a special place that will help you find who you are, what you love, and it will provide you with tools and opportunities to pursue your interests, whether you are an artist or called to another discipline.
“In college, I had the confidence to know I could make it as a successful artist, but I did not think it would happen so quickly,” she concludes. “I am forever thankful for all the opportunities Daemen gave me to set me on my way down this career path.”