Art Director Lisa May

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Lisa May is a very talented designer I met on Twitter a while back. She’s an art director at Nelson in Philadelphia and is programming co-chair for the Philly AIGA. Check out her passion, her inspiration and her words of wisdom for those who want to one day make design their career. Thanks Lisa  for the interview.

I saw in a past Twitter profile of yours that you’re a mom to two boy dogs. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Coming in at about 100lbs each, my two Catahoula Leopard dogs keep me busy as well as entertained. My younger one is quite the chatterbox–constantly verbalizing his thoughts on the world and our activities. The older one is–as brothers usually are–very much the opposite and keeps quite most of the time and is very well behaved.

I also read you hate liars and deceitful people. Did any certain event bring you to list that on your Twitter profile?

Unfortunately,there have been several times that I’ve been the recipient of such loathsome behavior. There was one particular incident that prompted that tweet but–as I try to not induldge in the types of behaviors that I abhor the most–I will not name names as they know who they are.

Onto your job…what is your job title and can you tell us a little about your employer?

I hold the Art Director position at an international architecture and interior design firm headquartered in Philadelphia. For the most part I really do like going to work each and every day–some a little more than others though 😉

How long have you dabbled in art? What is the oldest drawing or painting of yours still in existence?

The first part of the question is easy–always. Since the moment I could hold a marking instrument! The second part might be a bit tougher to answer… I’d need to enlist my moms help with that one but I’m sure he still has something I made in kindergarten!

Who has been the biggest encourager in your life?

Quite honestly, I have been my own best (and most frequent) encourager. I always push myself to do more than I already am or to learn something new. I can’t see going thorugh ife any other way.

Have you always wanted to be an art director?

Since I’ve been an artist–yes, I have always wanted to art direct. I do remember a time when I wanted to be an architect though–I actually went through almost 3 years of architecture school before changing my major to Graphic Design. I suppose it’s more than coincidence that I now art direct at an architecture firm.

Can you tell a little bit about the road you traveled to get to your current position?

I’ve risen to the position of Art Director a bit more quickly than is traditional in this field. I was quite fortunate to have fallen into a wonderful job straight out of school and had the opportunity to gain a great amount of experience in a short number of years. From then, my career seems to rapidly expand from Graphic Designer to Website Manager to Art Director. I was also lucky enough to own my own design business for a few years and accumulate several awards with my business partner. Ideally, I’d love to work as a Creative Director one day for a large agency dealing with several clients or even re-open my design business.

What have been some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on in your career in graphic design?

Most of my favorite projects have been those that I have had the most fun with the people involved with the project. That’s what really makes the design process and outcome the most enjoyable. Sure, being able to use quality paper or unique printing processes are every designers dream, but if the business of getting the work produced or changes approved is torture it puts the whole project in a terrible light.

Have you ever used social media in your graphic design work? Either finding a design job, finding or staying in contact with clients? Or have you used it in some other way?

I mostly use social media with my involvement with the Philadelphia Chapter of AIGA. I am the Programming Director for AIGA Philadelphia and therefor plan and coordinate the chapters’ large programming efforts. Social media has been an invaluable tool in spreading the word not only about or upcoming events but other design related news as well.

Can you describe a typical day on the job?

Nope, can’t do it. You could basically say that I’m always overseeing the consistency of the NELSON brand but as far as daily activities there is quite a range. Some days I spend most of my time dealing with photoshoots and others I’m sorting through mounds of data in order to creatively and effectively orgaize the information into an information graphic. On other days I assist in creating dynamic RFP responces for desirable projects. At least I can’t say that it’s boring.

There are many students either in high school or college, that would like to have a career in graphic design, what words of wisdom would you offer them?

Choose wisely. If you work in-house you are less likely to get the truly creative jobs I’m sure you are seeking, but it’s a steady paycheck. Working for an agency will likely mean long hours and a stressful life but you should see more interesting accounts. Working freelance is the toughest by far as you will be at the mercy of price undercutting and constantly having to seek out your next job. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But, if you are like me, you won’t be able to work in a job that doesn’t allow you to express your crative side so be certain to always be on the lookout for the position that really fits you.

If for some reason, you were forced to change careers, what would you choose to do?

Based on my experience with AIGA I know that I’d be an amazing event planner. I’m super organized, detail oriented and not afraid to be assertive. Plus, it’s fun! In fact I might decide to do that one day…

One last question, can you share something that no one else knows about you, not even your mom?

Ha ha 🙂 Some secrets are ok to keep….