Voices: Insights into a Creative
Winnie is a freelance designer, art director and graphic designer for Mented Cosmetics. “I’ve always been creative, it was just a matter of plugging my creativity into something that could flourish into a career.” Winnie began honing her professional interest in design as an Advertising major at Howard University, she gravitated more towards the creative strategy and process behind campaigns. “I was so inspired. My senior year a group of women came to speak in one of my graphic design classes. They were all creative leads from various agencies in Washington and New York. They were bosses, they were creative, and they were black women; I knew that’s what I wanted to be.”
An eye opening experience happened for Winnie when it was time for her to enter the workforce. It was 2008 and companies weren’t hiring, especially young creatives with little to show in their portfolio. Being resourceful, Winnie began reaching out to local businesses and fulfilling their graphic design needs, whether it was business cards, logos, or posters. This gave Winnie the practice she wanted, but it wasn’t leading her to the agency experience she so desired. Winnie left Washington, D.C shortly after graduation to live in Atlanta. Savannah College of Art and Design had opened an Atlanta campus a few years before and Winnie decided it was worth a shot to see if she had what it took to get in.
I’ve always been creative, it was just a matter of plugging my creativity into something that could flourish into a career.
“I took a total leap of faith,” says Winnie. “I applied to a Master’s program at Savannah College of Art and Design. I met a few people who had graduated from there with soaring design careers. I knew this was the next step that would take me in the direction that I wanted to be."
A few months later Winnie got her acceptance letter and began her program. It was challenging but offered new insight and experiences. After an intense 2 years in their Master’s program, Winnie came out on the other side feeling confident and ready to hop back into the workforce with new eyes. She was offered a position at an ad agency in Brooklyn from a creative director she had previously interned with. She quickly jumped on the opportunity. However, things weren’t smooth sailing from there. "Life hands you curve balls, you just have to be ready for them. I thought I was on my way to the pie in the sky dream job I always imagined myself to have."
Unfortunately, once Winnie relocated to New York, the job she was so excited to start was no longer available. With a broken heart, but not a broken spirit, Winnie knew she was in the city that would offer her every experience she could ever want. She picked up freelance work quickly and shortly after picked up working as an in-house designer for the marketing team at a safari tour operator. It wasn’t quite the advertising dream job she had imagined but it was growing her portfolio. “You have to be resourceful, as cliché as it sounds, there’s no straight path to success, even for the lucky ones.” says Winnie. “When you get knocked down, you must get up, dust off and be resourceful!”
Life hands you curve balls, you just have to be ready for them. I thought I was on my way to the pie in the sky dream job I always imagined myself to have.
Winnie still kept her eyes open for opportunities and one day an opportunity came knocking! A past freelance client of Winnie’s sent an email saying she knew of an agency that was looking for a designer. This was the role she had been looking for. She hopped on the job immediately and thrived there. She knew this agency experience was what she both wanted and needed. After 3 years, Winnie was promoted to Art Director and oversaw projects for major brands in the beauty industry such as Maybelline, Sally Hansen, and Dark and Lovely. Winnie loved the experience, yet she was yearning for more. “I realized I had so much creative responsibility, but little creative power.” says Winnie. “I trusted my creative talent and I knew there was more out there, but this time I wanted to call the shots.”
Again, taking a leap of faith, Winnie decided to leave her role as Art Director to freelance on her own. This time with a roster of clients under her belt and a whole lot more experience. Winnie knew leaving her full-time job was risky, but she knew if she played her cards right, many doors would open for her. “I had a good rapport with the agency I was working at,” says Winnie. I knew that it was all about the manner in which I left. I didn’t want to burn a bridge, but I wanted to let them know it was time for me to move on.” Leaving with her respect and high regard, Winnie to this day has been asked to come back and do some work with her former agency; but freelancing has opened many doors to various opportunities. Making connections anywhere possible, Winnie has been able to design for big brands such as IBM, Target and several cosmetic companies. Winnie’s work this year has brought her to places such as Paris, London, Dubai and Las Vegas designing for top brands.
“Every project is a little different, it’s what’s exciting, thrilling and rewarding about my job. I don’t know where my work will take me next year nor what I will be doing, but nothing is better than knowing you create your own destiny.”