One Art Director’s Career Path

Amy Peck

Amy Peck is currently teaching a course on identity design for HOW Design University.

Amy Peck was Art Director for HOW magazine from 1998 to 2001. She then went on to an agency where she served as senior art director, and is now freelancing and teaching—both at the college level, and for HOW Design University. In a recent interview, she talks about her design career path, and why she loves where she’s ended up.

What was your experience as Art Director for HOW magazine like?

I absolutely had the best experience. It was one of those jobs I applied for thinking I would never get it, and was so happy when I did. Designing a magazine for designers was a little intimidating at first, but I worked with such an amazing group of editors who really inspired and pushed me to produce great work. Through my work with HOW, I was also able to meet graphic designers, photographers and illustrators from all over the country, and made some amazing friends that I still keep in touch with today.

Had you always wanted to go into publishing?

Yes. I have always been an avid reader and subscribed to many different magazines, mostly design and craft related. I previously worked at a small design studio and was very interested in learning something new, with multiple page formats, and in a subject area that I was so passionate about. Since HOW is under F+W Media umbrella, I also was exposed to many other magazines, types of publication design, and editorial teams. It was a very inspirational place to work.

How would you characterize the HOW community of designers?

The HOW community of designers is like a big, extended family for me. Even though I left the job to move to Akron in 2001, I feel like I never left and am still an honorary part of the staff through my continued involvement at HOW Conferences and through freelance opportunities. It’s truly an amazing community, and I know many designers who have benefited from the relationships they’ve formed through their involvement with HOW.

After leaving HOW, you went on to be a senior art director at an agency. What was that transition like?

The transition was a little difficult at first. Some employers don’t realize that once you’re a designer, and are flexible enough to go from one type of design to another. I feel like at first they branded me as only a publication designer, and I had to really prove to them, and to myself, that I could use the skills and talents that I learned from my previous jobs to be successful at the ad agency. It didn’t take long and I became comfortable with the agency work, even though it was a lot different than working on a large, multi-page magazine. I always tell my students to never let themselves get “branded” as one type of designer over another, and to always stay fresh and tackle multidisciplinary projects, even if it means picking up freelance work here and there.

How is your life different now that you’re teaching and freelancing?

I definitely think it’s better for me. I am able to share what I’ve learned in the 18 years that I worked in the field of graphic design, and I think that being a practicing designer helps earn my students’ trust and respect knowing that I’ve been there, and that I know what I am talking about. I try to bring a lot of “real world” projects into my classroom so that they know what to expect when they graduate. I also am able to freelance which allows me to be more selective about the work that I do, and keeps me fresh and up to date with what is happening in the work force. I want to make sure I always stay ahead of the curve so that I can keep up with what my students are exposed to as well. They bring such youth and excitement to the classroom, and it’s contagious and makes me want to stay passionate and creative as well. I love it!

Amy’s HOW U course on How to Design an Identity System will be offered this November and December. Consider registering, or check it out to learn more!

How to Design an Identity System