3 Successful Career Paths Powered by Promo Design

Promotion design can take many forms. It might be an identity that you created for a paying client. It might be something you designed to promote your own firm. Or it can even be something personal—an invitation, perhaps, that you created for your annual birthday bash.

A great promotion design can do many things, as well. It can send a message. Inform. Convert.

In the case of self-promotion, it can propel a career forward.

The judges of the 2017 HOW Promotion Design Awards—Charles S. Anderson, Maurice Cherry and Yo Santosa—can attest to that. They’ve all used some form of promotion design to help fuel their journey.

Here’s a look at the career paths each of them took, and the roles that promotion design played for them. If you’re a student, consider how you might replicate a successful career path. Or even if you’re not a student, but simply looking for a change—be open to finding inspiration in how these design leaders made it where they are. And no matter where you are in your career, always look for ways in which you might wield the power of promotion design.

On that note, if you’re already churning out the kind of promotion design that turns heads—whether you’re a student or a seasoned professional—consider entering it into HOW’s Promotion & Marketing Design Awards for Anderson, Cherry and Santosa to take a look at. The Early-Bird savings ends March 13, 2017, so don’t wait.

successful designers and their career paths

Q+A with Successful Designers Anderson, Cherry and Santosa

HOW: All three of you have such interesting and successful careers in the design industry. You’ve had the sorts of career paths that those just getting started in the industry—regardless of age—want to replicate.

Anderson, you attended Minneapolis College of Art and Design and studied under Peter Seitz, who was educated at the New Bauhaus and later became your first employer. You then became the first designer recruited to join the Duffy Design Group, where you later became a partner. Now, you’re the founder and chief creative officer of both CSA images and Charles S. Anderson Design—and have been for more than 27 years.

What did you learn in your early years in the design world—whether from your mentors or through your own experience—that helped build the strong foundation on which your career has been built?

Anderson: I learned that hard work is as important as talent. Perhaps more important. I learned to design for the audience that actually uses or interacts with a product or brand rather than the client. And that design is a process, but could also be a digital object that can be owned and licensed indefinitely.

Cherry, you initially studied mathematics and held a medley of positions while still in college—campus representative, ticket agent, robotics education intern and human factors engineering intern at NASA. You later worked as a dealer concierge, an electronic media specialist and finally a junior web designer at AT&T. That seems to have led to your becoming a web services developer for WebMD, a freelance designer, then senior web designer at AT&T, chief strategy officer at Relate Media Group, and finally, principal of Lunch, a multidisciplinary studio in Atlanta.

Not to mention, you’ve created several side projects, including Revision Path—an award-winning, one-of-a-kind podcast featuring insightful interviews with Black graphic designers, web designers and web developers from all over the world. Phew! I can only imagine that with such wide-ranging experiences, you picked up so many vital skills that help you still today.

What do you think other creatives can learn from your career path? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Cherry: I hope that other creatives can learn that creative passion is a mutable force. Although I’ve worked across a number of different industries, my creative passion has been the key sustaining thread linking these experiences together. Don’t think that just because you’re in a particular job that you can’t find a way to use your creative passion in an interesting way! The variety of different experiences I’ve had throughout my career allow me to come to the table with an extremely diverse range of viewpoints and considerations. Sometimes doing something a bit off the beaten path can help you discover what’s most important to you and teach you how to use your skills to solve unique problems. If there’s anything I think I would have done differently, I would have gone into business for myself much, much sooner.

Santosa, you attended school for graphic design, and afterward you became an art director at yU+co. Soon after that, you became a member of the faculty at Art Center College of Design. You then became founder and creative director of the renowned Ferroconcrete. And in addition to all of that, you’re cofounder and creative director of startup früute, cofounder and board of director member of startup Commodity, and founder and editor-in-chief of the publication LA Downtowner.

And through all of this you’ve acquired three Emmy Award nominations. Seriously impressive stuff. What did you do in college or post-graduation that helped you land your first career and get started in all of this?

Santosa: In college, I did projects that interested me. It was natural that I started looking for companies who [had] a similar point of view to apply to. I think chemistry between their work and mine was very important. I wanted to work at a place where I [would] be inspired and [could] learn a lot. 

Did you create any self-promotional work as a student? If so, what was it and what sort of impact did it have on your career?

Anderson: I considered every project that I designed in college as a self-promotion. Today, every design project that my company works on not only address the clients’ needs, but also needs to be good enough to use as a self-promotion for CSA Design.

Work from CSA Design:


Cherry: I didn’t study design or go to a design school—my undergrad degree is in math and my graduate degree is in telecommunications management. Because of this, a lot of the work I have is basically theses, proofs and case studies. This has actually helped in my career when it comes to creating case studies and other copy for my projects or for clients. You would be surprised how much the logical procedure of a mathematical proof and the storytelling of a creative proposal have in common!

Santosa: Haha yes. I created a book to showcase all of my student work. As well as a promo piece that I sent out to companies to get interviews.

I had a line, “I’m unlabelled, label me.” I am not even sure now what I was trying to do, but I wanted to communicate that I want[ed] to be branded as a part of “your agency.” The promo piece was six pages. It had a few of my favorite projects condensed, and the whole thing was in black and white. On the last page it said, “see it in color” and my contact prompting them for an interview.

During interviews, I had the big book in a pizza box that I inverted (so it [was] showing the kraft material). I also had a tag around my neck with the same line: “I’m unlabelled, label me.” I can’t believe how naive I was, haha. But the whole thing made everyone laugh, and at the very least it was memorable.

Jump to page 2 to hear about their turning points,
the results of their self-promotion work and more.