Curalate designer Melissa Ivone on being able to ‘jump in and figure it out’

What it's like being a graphic designer at a fast-growing startup (and other advice).

Curalate lead designer Melissa Ivone in the startup's Center City offices.

(Photo by Marcus McCarthy)

Melissa Morris Ivone is the design overlord at Curalate, a Philadelphia startup that focuses on optimizing marketing on visual social media platforms.
Ivone, 34, who has been with the company since 2012, said working at a startup has been a unique experience with some less-than-typical work memories.


What was your biggest challenge when you first started at Curalate?
At Curalate, it was like, “here design this platform.” So I had to do a lot of fake it till you make it kind of stuff where it’s like, “I’m just going to jump in and figure it out.”
We always talk about how my quintessential startup experience was that we needed to make a one-minute animated video for our website before we launched, and I had never done that before. So, I downloaded a trial version of Adobe After Effects and spent a weekend learning how to do it and I recorded the audio in my earbuds. It was so thrown together at the last minute, but I feel like that’s what you have to do at a startup.
How do you work on that skill of being able to improvise?
I think it’s just no fear. You have to realize that, What’s the alternative?
The stuff I learned in college, I don’t use today, right? No one’s asking me to draw nudes. I took a class on that but never once in my career has anyone asked me to draw a nude. But it’s all about other stuff; learning how to use a new piece of software that you’ve never touched before or trying out a different design technique because it’s called for in a certain situation. That’s the stuff that’s really important. Being able to be flexible like that, I think, is really useful.
What is your workflow like? How does your brainstorming process begin?
I feel like that changes all the time and we’re still kind of figuring the best way to work together. I have the idea of what I would like to do. Getting a new project and drawing on the white boards and coming up with the million ideas and getting feedback and iterating, all of that.
But a lot of the times it can’t go that way because of timelines or because of the way the project is being run. So, we have this whole process of what we would like to do as far as the product design of things goes or even the marketing side of design. But I think we’re still trying to find the best way to work. There’s no one right way to approach a project.
What are some of the favorite projects that you’re currently working on?
My current projects really revolve around creating a team and building out a team. I guess it was like eight or nine months ago I hired a few designers and now there’s a team of four of us. So, trying to figure out what our processes are and how to efficiently work with other departments in the company. Those sort of things. It’s been less focused on actually designing things and more about designing the team.
Do you have any advice for young graphic design artists?
I would say to pack your calendar. Do as much stuff as possible. Get out there and go to meetup groups, participate in events.
Back when I was working at my last job and I wasn’t totally happy with the work that I was doing there. I decided to go out there and really start getting myself out there. I feel like when you’re out there it’s not really networking when you’re participating in events. There is so much more to what you’re doing. But it’s like a sideways networking. You’re learning new skills, opening your mind and also meeting really great people who you can learn from.


Companies: Curalate
People: Melissa Ivone
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