- I’ve always had a creative streak, which was recognized by my high school art teacher, Mrs. Coon. I was in love with the artist Georgia O’Keefe and tried to emulate her style in my paintings. Mrs. Coon helped me assemble my paintings into a portfolio that won a Gold Key in the Iowa Scholastic Art Awards competition. My portfolio was also selected to go on to the National Scholastic Art competition which held in New York. As you can imagine, this gave my 17-year-old ego a major boost, so when Mrs. Coon suggested that I would make a great graphic designer I was horrified. I remember saying to her, “I’m going to be a painter! I would never sell out to be a graphic designer!” So after high school I did what every high school art star did – I went to a private art school. I ended up choosing the Minneapolis College of Art & Design (MCAD).
During my foundation year at MCAD, I was exposed to a wide array of artistic fields. I took a graphic design class and fell in love. Up to this point my paintings were very abstract, so it was a big shock when I started learning about grids and hierarchy. I ended up loving the rules and order of graphic design and quickly declared my major. Those feelings of “selling out” disappeared and I was finally ready to dedicate my life to what I truly loved.
The next three years I lived and breathed design. I did take the time during my junior year to study abroad at Parsons Paris. While in Paris I studied graphic design, but also went back to my fine art roots. It was in Paris that learned the value of a sketch book and how it could aid in my design work. I soaked up the Parisian lifestyle and documented my time through sketches, paintings and photographs. Paris truly changed the way I looked at the world. Everything opened up for me, and by the time I returned to Minneapolis to begin my senior year in the fall of 2000 I was ready to take on the world. Little did I know how the world would change so drastically in the next year.
While working on my senior thesis in the fall of 2000 I became a firm believer that design can change lives. Information is power, but only if that information is presented in a clear and concise manner. The Presidential election of 2000 was going on at the same time and I choose the election issues as my topic for my senior thesis. I had a difficult time that year finding information on the issues. I wanted to be an informed voter and I felt that I could only make a personal stand when I was fully educated about each side of a particular issue. We take for granted now the vast information that is available to us on the internet. At that time navigating the internet was much different, information was very fragmented. I started researching the following hot issues: Gun Control, Abortion and the Environment (specifically the United States consumption of oil). I wrote copy based on my research and then designed a poster series. I used the front and backside of each poster to show both sides of each issue as I understood them. My senior exhibition was centered on these posters, and I was fortunate to be chosen by my college to represent my major in the main gallery during the MCAD Senior Portfolio Exhibition. My poster series was also profiled in AIGA Minnesota’s publication, Issues.
I went on to graduate and received a BFA with an emphasis in graphic design in May of 2001. I immediately started interviewing for jobs and quickly realized that the design boom of the 1990’s had burst. It was hard interviewing at that time. I was going up against a lot of designers with at least 10 years experience that had recently lost their jobs. I did, however, learn very quickly that almost everyone has a great portfolio. It’s who you know and how you treat people that will get you that first job. Networking is king and fortunately for me I have a pretty outgoing personality.
Through my connections I found a Gallery Director’s position in a Minneapolis art gallery called Opening Night. It was here I truly learned about marketing. In art school it was all about the concept. We were taught to think about the client, but no matter how hard you try to make a fake student design job seem real, it just isn’t. It’s not until you get out there and begin working with real clients that you learn how to craft those beautiful concepts into something the client can use to generate sales. Over the next four years I worked in the Minneapolis fine art scene, helping artists and galleries sell art through design, marketing and PR efforts.
Then came next phase of my life. In 2005 I married my husband, who asked me if I wanted to move to Tucson, AZ. I always thought I would be a Midwest girl to the end, but this move sounded interesting. The southwest appealed to me since my high school hero Georgia O’Keefe chucked it all to move to the desert and even though I was graphic designer, that 17 year old painter was still inside me and was up for this new adventure!
When I arrived in Tucson in the fall of 2005 I didn’t know a soul. I was excited about the move, but quickly realized I was at the bottom of the heap again. So I picked myself up and started networking with the Tucson chapter of the American Advertising Federation. I quickly found out that the current board members wanted to start a local chapter of Ad2, an affiliate of AAF serving the younger demographic of advertising and marketing professionals. I was originally recruited to be the Vice President, but before the group could get off the ground the President accepted a job offer in Los Angeles. The job of starting Ad2 Tucson fell to me. I was a little nervous about taking on this challenge, but I pushed ahead and led a group of young Tucson professionals into getting the new Ad2 chapter off the ground.
I worked very hard over the next three years to launch and sustain Ad2 Tucson, and I’m proud to say that the group is still going strong. While serving on the AAF senior board as the Ad2 representative I met many of the wonderful advertising and marketing professionals of Tucson. It was through these connections that I found my next paying gig at Bolchalk FReY, a local advertising and marketing firm, as a graphic designer in 2006. While at Bolchalk FReY I worked on numerous local and non-profit accounts, including: Meritage Homes, Robson Resort Communities, United Way of Tucson & Southern Arizona, Planned Parenthood and Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.
After a three-year stint at Bolchalk FReY, I switched gears and began working as an in-house graphic designer at Canyon Ranch’s in their marketing department. Canyon Ranch is a well-known health and wellness resort which is headquartered in Tucson. I worked on a wide array of design projects including corporate brochures, marketing publications, packaging, apparel design, ads, website graphics & banners, emails, landing pages and illustrations. At this point in my career I had won numerous ADDY ® Awards for previous work, but in 2012 I won a Gold ADDY for the Gift Certificate packaging I created for Canyon Ranch. It also went on to win a Silver at the District ADDY Awards. This was year long project that I put a lot of work into and I was extremely grateful to receive this recognition! But life isn’t all about winning awards, it’s also about growing.
A new chapter in my career book has been my involvement in social media marketing. I have always loved writing and have always been a natural communicator so this move made a lot of sense to me. I’ve been extremely honored to help further Canyon Ranch’s brand by managing their social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) I manage all community engagement, social content curation and content design. It has been very rewarding spreading my wings into this new area of marketing. After three years of designing for Canyon Ranch I left my original position to focus on their social media efforts. Don’t get me wrong, graphic design will always be my first love! I have started freelancing for local Tucson business and non-profits. I’m happy to report that I have found a happy balance in my career between graphic design and social media!
To conclude with one last story in this ridiculously long bio, about 10 years after graduating from high school I ran into my old art teacher, Mrs. Coon. She was excited to see me and asked “what I was doing to make a living?” Remembering our past conversation about her insight that I would make great graphic designer I sheepishly said, “I’m a graphic designer.” She smiled, shook her head and asked if I had “sold out”? I told her “yes I sold out to my dreams and I’m good at it”.