A Q&A with Patricia Palao, promotions designer


This week we met with one of our in-house designers, Patricia Palao.  Here she explains her role as an in-house designer and what sort of things she designs for Cambridge and what she has learned during her years in the book industry and at Cambridge.

What is your educational background and how do you feel it has helped prepare you for the publishing industry?
I graduated from Fordham University with a degree in Business Administration and a concentration on Marketing. I was drawn to Marketing because it’s a field that focuses on communication between organizations and the general public. Because of my interest in the design aspect of Marketing, I began taking Graphic Design courses at The School of Visual Arts in 2004. I think both marketing and design play a significant role in publishing. While nothing can replace a book’s valuable content, proper marketing and strong design can raise a book’s profile.

How long have you been working here?
Five years.

What does your job entail?
I design printed material such as catalogs, brochures, and postcards. I create the images for promotional giveaways such as notepads, mugs, and pens. I prepare web and e-mail graphics such as banners, buttons, and headers.

Can you describe the basic day-to-day responsibilities of a promotions designer?
Because of the different items I design, my days vary depending on deadlines. Some days are focused on time-sensitive e-mails revolving around a current event. Some days are focused on meeting ad deadlines. Most days involve a back and forth between myself and the marketing associates regarding the progress of their different projects.

Which is more important: selling a design or design skills? Why?
I think they go hand in hand. Being able to “sell a design” means having well-executed strong concepts. Being able to fully realize these concepts stems from design skills.

What is your process for conceptualizing an idea and developing a design out of it?
First I think of the target audience and what message we want to send. After that, it’s a matter of brainstorming and piecing together visual elements to properly convey the message.

Where do you find your inspiration? What are some models that you use as a guide?
Visual inspiration can be found everywhere — even in non-visual things. I find mine in books, films, music, concerts, art exhibitions, illustrations, images I see in magazines and websites, blogs, old photos, day trips, and on and on.

What has been your favorite project or type of project?
My favorite type of project is one that involves strong collaboration and focused ideas. For Darwin’s 200th birthday, I worked with a team of marketers to create a Darwin-centric campaign. This allowed for a lot of creativity and fun designs.

What does Cambridge mean/signify for you and what is the message that you try to put across through your work?
I support Cambridge’s mission of advancing learning. It’s a distinguished company that remains relevant today and I hope that my work properly conveys this image.

For a person wanting a career in promotional design, how would you recommend they proceed?
Always be learning. Take design courses. The Internet is a valuable source of information — full of great design blogs and on-line tutorials. Give yourself projects to brush up your skills. Read books. Talk to people and learn from your friends.

Is there anyone that you look up to and model yourself on?
I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong, confident, and savvy women in my family. Professionally, I hope to emulate my Aunt Debbie’s career path. Having started out as a business major herself (Accounting), she eventually turned her attention to developing her design skills and now runs her own business. She creates gorgeous pieces of furniture, travels to seek inspiration, gives her time and skills to charitable organizations, and speaks at various learning institutions to guide budding designers.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Don’t over-think. Also, my dad reminds me from time to time that as long as you’re constantly moving, learning, and growing, then you’re OK. It’s not unlike an old Chinese proverb I once read: “Do not fear going forward slowly; only fear standing still.”

Do you have any thoughts on how to re-invigorate the design community to improve our general visual environment?
I think there’s a great sense of learning and collaboration within the design community. There’s a mutual respect and a consciousness of what others are doing. I very much admire the current movement of design for social change and hope one day to contribute in an even bigger way to this industry.

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