A few years back I spoke at the Parenting Publishers of America Conference in Nashville and had the opportunity to meet Stephanie Hoare, the creative muscle behind “New Jersey Family” magazine. I was really intrigued with her story. Like most in-house creatives, Stephanie wears many hats. She provides a boatload of services too—including design for three magazines, advertising, corporate branding, marketing, web creative, production, press communication and printer bids—and works directly with the sales team, publishers and editorial departments. But what makes her truly unique is that she is the only on-staff creative at her company — a department of one! I had the opportunity to interview Stephanie to gain a better understanding of just how she does it.
What types of services do you provide?
Magazine design, ad design, marketing, company branding, web creative direction, production, page maps, press communication for the magazines, printer bids and communication for projects outside of the magazine, and managing communication from the sales team, my publishers, the editorial department and anyone else in the office with an opinion on design.
Is that all? Only kidding. That’s quite a list! On average, how many stakeholders do you support on a regular basis?
Three bosses that manage completely different areas of the business.
What are some of the challenges you face in your role as the sole designer supporting your organization? And how do you address those challenges?
Multi-tasking! We’re now publishing three magazines and keeping deadlines, requests, ideas, and my creativity unique to the specific project can be quite a challenge. Being extremely organized helps. It calms the chaos. For instance, I can easily jump from designing an article to answering a sales rep’s question on a deadline or an ad placement and get back to my design, by knowing where everything is around me. When I do get overwhelmed I’ll take a break and either wander a book store, visit a favorite website, or read a magazine in order to keep the creativity flowing. Also, I collect just about every magazine, clothing tag, postcard, etc., that I find interesting and surround myself with my favorites for constant inspiration.
How do you manage the workload? Do you have the option of outsourcing certain projects?
Due to budget constraints, I rarely have the opportunity to outsource any projects. I’m extremely mindful of deadlines and others around me meeting the deadlines I have requested. I budget my time carefully to get the amount of work done and on time and ask my coworkers to respect my deadlines, as well.
What about creative staffing agencies?
I have worked with the New Jersey branch of the Creative Group to maintain some sanity (or what is left of it at least) at especially high stress times in the year. I do like the option of not having to sift through the level of design expertise, but it definitely comes at a price. Also, in working for a small company, we have a small budget, and you do get what you pay for.
As the only designer, do you find there’s a general lack of opportunity for career growth at your organization?
In fact, I actually feel the opposite. I feel that my skill in creatively dodging bullets has grown significantly! I have really developed a “full picture” view of the company that I would rarely be exposed to in larger companies that I’ve worked for in the past. Also, the amount of different creative tasks that I have taken on (or have been thrown at me) has made me more valuable to my company and any company I work for in the future.
How do you provide coverage when you’re out sick or on vacation?
Vacation? What’s that? Vacations are very difficult to fit in, and I have to work extra hard to get things in order before I leave. But even when I do manage to get away, the umbilical cord is always connected via my cell phone in the event any problems arise at the office.
Do you find value in networking with designers from other companies?
I have found that since I started working in New Jersey it has been increasingly difficult to find designers who work for small companies and can relate to my every day challenges. When I worked in Manhattan, it seemed like there were designers everywhere that were in similar situations.
Since we met at the Parenting Publishers Conference, I’m assuming you have the opportunity to attend other industry conferences like HOW Conference, AIGA and DMI.
I had previously been attending a niche publication conference, but I often come away very frustrated by the lack of creativity and the negative, outdated views of many of the attendees. But I’m definitely looking forward to the HOW Conference this year!
What about industry organizations like the AIGA and InSource?
I love visiting these websites for ideas and inspiration, but I find I often don’t have the time to leave the office for seminars. And as nice as it is that there are so many networking events offered in my area, again I find it difficult to muster the energy to network after running around like a lunatic all day.
What is the strangest request you’ve ever received from a client?
I don’t know about strange, but I’m constantly amazed at how many clients feel that the more copy you add to a piece, the greater impact it will have on its audience. Less is more, people!
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