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August Member of the Month:
Mary Kunnath

Written by
AIGA Saint Louis
Published
July 29, 2016

Meet our August member of the month, Mary Kunnath!
(Photo by: Paper Antler)

Mary joined the Cheree Berry Paper team in 2013 with six years of print design experience. Prior to starting at CBP, Mary worked as a Senior Print Designer at TOKY Branding + Design and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Washington University in St. Louis. Mary’s work has been honored in national and international design publications including PRINT Magazine, Communication Arts, Graphis, and The Type Directors Club.

Please tell us about your current position. What’s a typical day like for you?
Currently, I am an Associate Creative Director at Cheree Berry Paper.

Every day is different. On any typical day I might have headphones in, nose to the grindstone, working on a custom invitation that’s due by the end of the day, or I might be styling a photo shoot, or in a meeting brainstorming ideas for a corporate client, or setting up files for eight different print vendors all across the country, or reviewing the work of a junior or senior designer. Or more likely, all of those! It’s fast paced and fun. I go home feeling totally exhausted — I love it!

How do you feel about working in St. Louis and the Midwest?
To me, the midwest is home. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.

What’s the most satisfying part of any design project?
I think all parts can be satisfying. It can be satisfying to do that initial sketch and realize you’ve got it — an idea so clever and perfect that you can’t wait to execute it. Or it can be satisfying to really put the time in and see a design slowly evolve from blah to awesome after steady, meticulous effort. And it can be satisfying to just do your best and have a client say thank you and mean it.

Tell us about one project you remember the most, good or bad.
I’ve been lucky enough to work on many, many fun projects over the years and only a handful of bad ones. However, my FIRST professional design project, when I was interning at Bernstein-Rein in Kansas City, was creating a translight for McDonald’s drive-thrus — not the most glamorous project, that’s for sure. My copywriter and I brainstormed several cute and catchy phrases to go on the sign, none of which made it past the copyright department. In the end, it was just a picture of a breakfast burrito with the price and the words “Good Morning”. But I was so excited to see something I’d done produced that after it was installed, I drove out to the nearest McDonalds with my mother and stood underneath the sign in the drive thru line, so she could take a picture of me next to it. I’ll never forget that breakfast burrito translight, never.

When was the first time you knew you wanted to work in design?
I didn’t know I wanted to be a designer until I was halfway through undergrad. I enjoyed art and thought that since I was doing so well in my math and physics classes that maybe I would go on to do architecture. But I took one architecture class and knew it wasn’t for me. Halfway through my sophomore year, I took an intro to graphic design course to fulfill an art minor requirement, and I loved it so much I decided to switch to the major.

What advice would you give clients?
Be kind.

What skill sets will be required of a creative in 2016?
It’s not exactly a skill set, but I think adaptability is an attribute that is continuously required of creatives. With software and technology changing so quickly, we have to keep learning new skills and new tools. I think someone who is willing to take the initiative to figure out those new tools or learn new skills on their own will be increasingly valuable.

What roles are part of the ideal creative team?
I don’t think enough can be said for a positive attitude. This field can often mean long hours, difficult deadlines, and frustrating clients. Working with people who can shake that off and still be excited that we get to make beautiful, useful things for a living makes all the difference. Ideally, every member of a creative team fills that role.

What kind of music do you listen to?
Honestly, sometimes it’s hard for me to listen to music while I’m working. It’s too hard to not sing along! When I am in the mood to listen to something, I’ll usually throw on a Tim Keller podcast or tune into Air1.

What would you like to tell future designers?
Make a lot of stuff. My biggest hurdle when I started working in the design field was confidence; I was petrified of failing. One of my professors in college told me that once you embraced failure, it’s really quite liberating. It took me a long time to figure out what that meant. But what helped me the most was just making A LOT of stuff and not worrying about it being perfect. Make and make and make and make. Don’t linger too long on a failure. Move on to making the next thing.

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