At 24, Kelsey Parkinson has worked in a variety of industries from sports to fashion to advertising. She is now the Associate Art Director at Hour Detroit Magazine, a lifestyle publication based in Metro Detroit. Read her career insights in this week’s Q&A.
KC: What is your current position?
KP: I am the Associate Art Director at Hour Detroit Magazine.
KC: What has your career path been like?
KP: I went to Michigan State where I majored in journalism with a visual communication concentration and a graphic design minor. During my time at MSU, I interned at a local hockey magazine, and at Rent the Runway in New York City. I was also the art director for the campus fashion magazine and a designer for the MSU yearbook. Basically, I just tried to design as much as possible!
My first job out of college was freelancing at MRM//McCann doing digital/web design. I then moved over to McCann and did print advertisements, and now, I’m here at Hour. I transitioned jobs so much in the past three years due to contracts ending and layoffs, but I’m super happy with where I ended up.
KC: What do you value most about your current role?
KP: I love the creative freedom and control I have with art directing. It’s really cool to see your vision come to life when you’re on set shooting and then finally in print. Art direction is multi-faceted, especially at a company as small as mine. I concept shoots, looking at the subject we’re shooting and at what location, the lighting and mood, and ultimately the end design of the story. I often do my own prop pulling or I’ll hire out stylists, depending on the shoot. I’ll also book the photographer, hair and makeup when needed, studio, etc. Then on set, I’m literally the director: figuring out what’s going to look best, tweaking props ever so slightly so they’re perfectly positioned, instructing the model with what poses are most flattering, and so on. And then finally, I’m designing the pages, working with my editorial team to get the best finished product possible.
KC: What have you learned the most from your career path?
KP: Long story short: What I’ve learned is that it’s all about who you know. At 24, I didn’t think I was going to get laid off – it wasn’t even in the realm of possibility to me – but advertising is a fast-paced, quick turnover industry so basically, anything’s possible. When layoffs were happening, I was totally freaked out. What was I going to do? Where was I going to work? Do I stay in advertising? Do I move to a new city?
During my freakout, I reached out to some friends in the industry, and a girlfriend of mine said, “I think Hour is hiring, you should add the creative director on LinkedIn when you apply.” And I did just that. My (soon-to-be) boss reached out, told me to apply if I hadn’t already, and here we are! Then literally, a few weeks ago, I was trying to book a shoot out in Los Angeles (yes, while in Michigan) that needed to be done in about 2 days time. Again, panic mode, but I reached out to a photographer in LA that I had worked with previously, and he helped set up the whole shoot for me while I art directed from 2,000+ miles away. If I hadn’t had help from people in my network, I’m not sure where I’d be at today.
KC: If you’re looking to hire someone on your team, what is your favorite question to ask them?
KP: “Describe your dream job.” I like this one because I know that I get excited talking about where I’d like to be or what I’d like to be working on (creative director at either a large magazine or a retail brand, in case you were curious!), and I want to know that the person I’m hiring is passionate about what they do. If you don’t at least like what you’re doing, you’re not going to produce good or even great work. Like the saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”