"To win the respect of intelligent people... this is the meaning of success."
Maureen Healy's venture into art began early, but she never faltered. Through trips to the zoo and teaching herself Adobe programs, she honed graphic design skills young and carried them through her career.
Now an art director, Healy shares the personal projects she's proud of, how she finds inspiration in her daily life, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that motivates her in her career.
DesignRush: What inspired you to become a designer?
Maureen Healy: For as long as I can remember, art has always been a part of my life. When I started school, art class was always my favorite. In fourth grade, my teacher Mr. MacAfee held contests every month or so to decorate his bulletin board outside the classroom. Students would send in their designs, and he would pick the winner. It turned out that I would be spending many class periods creating the bulletin boards of my dreams. At the end of the year, Mr. MacAfee asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I responded, "I want to be a doctor!" which he then asked, "Oh, nothing with art?" I still remember this conversation to this day. Now I look back and laugh because here I am as an art director in pharmaceutical advertising -- combining the best of both worlds.
My art journey started at a young age, but I continued those adventures in high school. On a whim, I decided to go to the vocational school connected to my high school to take a two-year course on commercial art and advertising. This is where my love for graphic design was formed (shout out to Mrs. Diaz!). We studied everything from the basics of color and design, taking field trips to the Philadelphia Zoo to draw the animals, to moving on to learning the ins and outs of the Adobe Creative Suite, holding an annual job fair where we took on projects for local businesses.
I knew from the beginning I wanted to pursue something in art -- I just needed the right people to guide me down the path I was meant to travel.
DR: What are some designs of your own that you are particularly proud of?
MH: I'm a young art director in the industry, and I'm so proud of all the work I've created since working full-time. Being an art director in pharma, I'm proud to have the opportunity to work on some top pharma accounts within my agency, FCB Health.
Before agency life, I worked at a local sports apparel store where I would assist in designing t-shirts and team logos. One morning in March, I got word that my friend Kevin had gotten into a car accident and suffered severe brain trauma. He did not survive the crash, but luckily doctors were able to donate his organs. To remember him, I decided I would take my skills and turn a very negative situation into a positive one. So I designed t-shirts and sold them on an online store with proceeds going towards Kevin's scholarship fund. I raised over $3,000 which has helped high school students live out their dreams the way Kevin would have wanted to live out his. In the scheme of things, this project wasn't huge. It wasn't glamorous. But it allowed me to create art with a purpose. That is what I am particularly proud of.
DR: Take us through your creative process.
MH: First, I study the creative brief or any direction I've been given. I'm a huge fan of lists, so I usually try to jot down whatever words or phrases come to mind. This helps me weed out the good ideas from the bad. Then I usually take a few ideas I think are working the best and build on them to make them even better. It's definitely easy for me to overthink things, but I try my hardest to let go and let whatever come to mind -- no matter how crazy the idea may be. Where there's a will -- and a great idea -- there's a way.
DR: Where do you find inspiration in your day-to-day life?
MH: For me, there isn't just one place I go to find inspiration. I think life itself is an inspiration -- anything can spark an idea, you just have to be on the lookout for it. I tend to find that ideas come the most natural to me when I'm doing something completely unrelated to the task at hand like taking a walk or riding home from work on the train. I make sure to jot notes down on my phone so ideas don't slip away.
DR: What designers speak to you, and which projects of theirs are your favorites?
MH: I love Marina Willer's work. She's a master of simplicity and bright bold colors - something I'd love to bring to my work whenever possible. Most recently, I fell in love with her "Overlooked" exhibition from this past year's London Design Festival. She took etchings of street covers right from the streets of London, overlaid them on top of each other and made them fluorescent colors to bring out the beauty hidden right before our eyes. She made something so simple and industrial be so eye-catching. I even bought one of her prints to hang on my wall.
DR: What items do you always keep on your desk and why?
MH: These aren't technically on my desk, but I always keep green tea bags in my desk. Green tea keeps me calm, healthy and hydrated throughout the day without overloading on the caffeine. You can always find me sipping on my tea.
DR: Is there anything that helps you beat “designer’s block”?
MH: I think the best way to beat designer's block is to get up and change your surroundings. A change of scenery is always a good idea. A cocktail or glass of wine doesn't hurt either.
DR: What quote motivates you in your work?
MH: I have always loved this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success."
In this fast-paced industry, you have to have a positive mindset going into it. You aren't always going to be working on the most interesting or "sexy" projects -- and that's okay. In pharma, our goal is to create work that has the ability to affect people on a greater level than just selling a bag of chips. If we have created work that has improved the life of just one person, we'll call that a success.
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