Welcome back to our “Day in the Life” series! Today we talk with another of our new designers, Phebe Pierson. Phebe started out in non-profit communications and events, before finding her way into a design and creative field.
Hi I’m Phebe! I love visiting farmers markets, museums, and gardens, and my hobbies include cooking, running, and crocheting, among many others!
I’m a native New Yorker raised on the Upper West Side, and I’ve been living in Harlem almost ten years now. After college, I worked in the world of communications at an environmental non-profit managing farmers markets for five years. During that time, I started an AAS program at Parsons in Graphic Design, thinking I’d move on to something in the design field. But it wasn’t the right time and I put that program on the back burner. In 2018, I moved on to work in communications and events at a climate science research institute, which I did throughout the pandemic.
I decided in 2021 that it was finally time to go back to my graphic design plans of yore, so I left my job in communications and enrolled in Shillington, a graphic design training program. The program is a 3-month intensive bootcamp, full-time, 5 days a week. I loved my teachers and I learned a lot of new things while getting loads of practice. Shillington’s focus on design programs complemented the more traditional design education I had gotten from Parsons previously, and brought me up to date on digital design. I left the program with my portfolio in awesome shape and I started freelancing while I applied for jobs.
As for my interests and hobbies, I love reading fiction, looking at art, cooking, watching TV of all kinds, jogging outside very slowly, and making things. My favorite types of crafts are crochet and leather work but I also like sewing and drawing. It’s been great to learn that many of my fellow Simpaticos are also into art and crafts!
My cat’s name is Betty, but I usually call her Bettina or anything else besides Betty. I adopted her this fall after my friends in Queens took her in with her two kittens. We think she’s around 2 years old. She’s very soft, and such a sweetheart, but also a very proficient hunter––her favorite activity is playing with the cat dancer toy (a springy wire with cardboard at the end).
What’s your typical work day look like?
The first thing I do when I get up is play with my cat Betty since she’s always thrilled that I’m finally awake. I make coffee and breakfast and listen to a podcast or read while I eat. Then I sit down to get to work. Throughout the day I’ll take breaks to have lunch, take a walk in Morningside Park, or do quick errands around the neighborhood. Giving my brain and eyes a break from the screen really helps me come back to the project I’m working on feeling refreshed!
After work, I’ll head out for a walk or a run, cook dinner, or meet up with a friend. I usually wind down my day by watching TV, crocheting, and/or reading––and I make sure Betty gets some more playtime.
What drew you to web design?
I actually surprised myself by ending up in web design! When I started the program at Shillington, I was more interested in print media like book covers, posters, and magazines. Once I learned Figma and got to do a few different web projects, though, I realized how fun digital design could be. One of my favorite designs from my portfolio ended up being a microsite, so I opened up my mind and my job search to include digital design jobs.
My favorite styles right now are fun, colorful, and/or retro. I love the Fly By Jing site, which uses super bold color and patterns, and sites like the Notion marketing website or Resy’s, both of which have illustrations with tons of personality. I also love when a site successfully translates a vintage mood, era, or style to the web, without feeling dated. It’s not easy to do, and I think it’s all about breaking down the style you’re going for into its components and cherry-picking from those so that it doesn’t get overbearing.
What made you want to apply for a designer position at Studio Simpatico?
I feel super lucky to say that Simpatico found me! I was focusing my search on small, friendly design studios, because I knew I wanted to start somewhere on a team with other designers, not in-house, so I could continue learning from others. When Tamara and Bruce reached out to me, I was thrilled because Simpatico checked all the boxes! I was extra excited because my designer colleague Angela also went to Shillington, a few semesters ahead of me, so I knew they would have a good sense of what type of training I had in the program.
One thing I also love about Simpatico is that they’re really big on hiring people right out of school or, like me, doing a career change. I think most places seek out someone with experience, but even if you have experience, you’re always going to have to be trained in certain things when you get a new job. No one is a right out of the box perfect candidate, and Simpatico seems to be very aware of that! Everyone is super willing to train and teach new programs, which is wonderful. And I’d argue that past experiences that may seem irrelevant are actually a strength!
You’ve been working very closely with Bruce since you were hired, what’s it like to have a mentor?
Bruce is really good at giving feedback and happy to help whenever it’s needed. When I was searching for a job I knew I wanted to keep learning, so being on a team with someone who could mentor me was really important, and I like that Bruce has a background in print design as well. I think it’s funny that we’re almost the same age––that’s what happens when you make a career change in your 30s!
I think the best thing I’ve learned so far is how to make a website flow and not feel choppy, and how to get a site ready to pass off to the developers. Bruce has a lot of tips that he’s learned through the years, and he’s imparting his wisdom well! I’m also happy to have learned Sketch. It’s not so different from Figma, which I learned at Shillington, but having someone around who knows all the intricacies of the program has been essential.
What’s the hardest part of being a designer and working with clients? What are you looking forward to learning next?
I think the hardest part is long hours in front of a screen and staying inspired! I don’t really believe in the idea of “bad projects,” it’s all about doing your best with what you’re given. There’s a ton to learn from every client, and it’s really interesting to see people’s different working styles and preferences. I also think it’s fun to get to work on and create widely varying branding languages for different companies, and it means I get to pull from lots of different sources of inspiration.
I’m looking forward to doing more prototyping using Principle, and animation using After Effects. I have been doing some tutorials and I’m eager to use my new skills soon!