As partners and founders in a Los Angeles-based entertainment design studio, Keystone graduates Reneé Lawter ’90 and James Valinski ’91 will readily tell you the success they have enjoyed over the years is, to a large extent, due to their Keystone College roots.
As principals at Eyerus, Reneé and James generate creative solutions with their team for some of the nation’s biggest entertainment properties such as Trolls, Jurassic World, Pets, and some of the largest games and toy brands such as Monopoly, Playdoh, and Elmo. Their clients include industry giants like Lucas Films, Universal Studios, Netflix, Hasbro, and many others. They love their work and have added to their creativity and business skills over the years in becoming one of the top firms in their industry.
While they have many mentors, colleagues, and clients to thank, Reneé and James point with pride to their days as art students at Keystone as the foundation for their success.
“At Keystone, we really learned what the creative process was all about. That helped us as we furthered our education and developed our careers,” Reneé said. “Art professors Cliff Prokop, Karl Neuroth, and Bill Tersteeg really helped to expand our horizons and develop creative solutions unique to the issues. That way of design ‘thinking’ is indispensable. It’s the thing we are really known for in this industry, thoughtful creativity.”
“We were instilled with a sense of curiosity and confidence,” added James. “We learned how to problem solve using that experience of working with each other to be better at our greater craft. That foundational thinking came from Keystone and it is invaluable as we build our legacy.”
Reneé, from Taylor, Pa., and James, from Nicholson, Pa., became good friends at Keystone and then continued their respective educations at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. They stayed in touch with each other as they pursued their creative careers in the toy industry with such companies as Tyco and Mattel, which eventually took them to Los Angeles. They founded Eyerus in 1999 with a third partner, Matthew Brady, and gradually gained the reputation as being one of the top innovative creative design firms in the nation.
“We absolutely love what we do,” Reneé said. “Of course, we’re very busy but we prefer it that way. In so many ways, we owe so much of our success to our time at Keystone and the fine art program.”