Irene Scala

AVP, Executive Creative Director

AKA “Super-sparkly Scala

Irene Scala is an author, educator, and typophile, and one of the first people to join Spark451. She has since built up the creative department with teams of talented designers and writers, and helped our partner institutions to deliver innovative, effective, and beautifully designed campaigns.

Throughout her career, Irene has amassed years of industry experience at multidisciplinary design studios and publishing companies in New York City, where she created a variety of award-winning print and web communications for luxury brands, investment banks, museums and galleries, publishers, and academia. She also teamed up with designer and professor James Craig to teach typography at The Cooper Union. With him, Irene coauthored and redesigned the fifth edition of his classic textbook, Designing With Type: The Essential Guide to Typography, and founded the prestigious study-abroad award (of the same name) for talented design students. Irene holds a BFA from The Cooper Union in graphic design, where she studied under some of the greats such as Milton Glaser and Paul Rand. She also completed post-graduate study at The Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Israel.

Originally from Ukraine, Irene speaks fluent Russian, and her creativity is clearly genetic. Her grandmother was the first woman in Ukraine to earn a Ph.D. in architecture, and her three children can already draw fonts freehand.

What do you love most about working in higher education and why?

Having worked in marketing for varied industries including the arts, finance, retail, etc., I kept coming back to higher education, whether teaching or consulting partner schools. Shaping communications that help students find paths to rewarding careers has been fulfilling for my own.

How has your own college education directly translated to success at Spark451 and why?

As a senior at Cooper Union, I had the privilege of studying with Milton Glaser, (designer of the "I love NY" logo). He assigned a project that the entire class failed because we let our personal aesthetic guide us, rather than relying on the project objectives. That failure was a great teaching moment. I have learned that successful solutions vary per client. Each institution has unique needs and goals, and gaining a deep understanding of each is crucial to helping our partner schools achieve results.

What is one super power you'd want to possess and why?

Mind control, definitely. Do you know what I do for a living?

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you?

When I came to the U.S. from Kiev, Ukraine, I was four and spoke no English, but was enrolled in Kindergarten anyway. My older brother (who spoke some English) had the responsibility of bringing me into the classroom. I hung onto him until he pointed out the beautiful doll house with tiny furniture. As I ran to check out the treasure, my brother quietly slipped out. When I realized he was gone, I started to cry, but didn't have the language to explain to my teacher why. I was mortified as the other kids stared. My teacher was compassionate, and one little girl sat next to me so I calmed down, and in time adjusted to the new environment, but I still get flushed when I think about that first day.