Behind the Design: Vanessa King

Pittsburgh’s Favorite Creative Director Works Here at Sparq Designs!

Hi! I’m Vanessa King and I’m the new Creative Director at Sparq Designs. I’m a Pittsburgh native, and a graduate of Duquesne University. My career thus far has enabled me to wear many different hats, ranging from graphic designer to email coder to marketing strategist. This role at Sparq Designs is my first time working at a creative agency, and I’m really excited to get to apply all of the skills I’ve learned to help our amazing clients grow their businesses through online marketing.

Q: Give us some insight into your morning routine!

A: My morning routine is pretty standard. Wake up, cuddle the dog, get ready for work and head into the office. Coffee, work, repeat. Since I started working at Sparq, my morning routine also includes being thankful that I don’t have to fight traffic in downtown Pittsburgh for the first time in my career!

Q: Three apps that help with your work…ready go!

A: As both a marketer and a designer, I’ve learned to rely on apps that keep me both organized and inspired. At Sparq, most projects begin with a kick-off meeting, so I rely on Evernote for note-taking and brainstorming. I use Pinterest and Dribbble for visual research and to gather inspiration. I keep all my research, photos, presentations and spreadsheets organized on Google Drive. Using Drive enables me to search for any file I need quickly. A huge pet peeve of mine is knowing that I have something, but not being able to find it! I’m also not a paper person, so I’m thankful that these apps have enabled me to digitize my entire workflow.

Q: What music do you listen to while you’re working?

A: When I really need to focus on something, classical is my go-to genre. I also use an app called Coffitivity in the background of my music. Research has shown that ambient background noise improves creative thinking, and I find it to be very relaxing! For lighter projects, I pretty much listen to anything. My most listened to Spotify playlists cover a lot of genres ranging from “Pop Rising” to “Mellow Beats” to “Country Coffeehouse.” 90’s pop/alternative will always be my guilty pleasure, whether I’m working or not.

Q: What’s your dream job (besides working at Sparq =])

A: My “dream job” has evolved quite a bit throughout my lifetime. When I was little, I wanted to be a marine biologist (swim with dolphins for a living? Yes, please!) When I first got into design, I wanted to work for a record label. I’ve always been really into music, and the thought of creating a brand, posters and album art for a band or artist is what motivated me to pursue design. Nine years into my career, I realize that my dream job would involve many more aspects that my college self would have ever thought possible. So, in the meantime, I’m just learning and growing as much as I can. I like to think that if I keep doing that, my dream job will find me!

Q: If you could sit down and have an hour-long conversation with any person alive or deceased who would it be?

A: *Nerd Alert* I would absolutely LOVE to have an hour-long conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson. A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I am a total space nerd. “Interstellar” “Gravity and “Contact” are some of my all-time favorite movies. A coworker and I got sucked into Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talks on YouTube a few years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I also love that he communicates theories that we aren’t used to thinking about in a unique style that’s informative and engaging.

Q: Who is your idol in the business world? Why?

A: Sheryl Sandberg is definitely someone that I look up to. She has been through so much in her life, both personally and professionally. I read her book “Lean In” when I was going through a very challenging period in my career, and it changed the way I think about many things. One of my favorite quotes from this book is: “There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.” I am extremely fortunate to have many strong, successful women in my life, like Sheryl, who are both great learners and great leaders. They have taken risks, asked questions and encouraged me to do the same. It’s a goal of mine to continue learning from people like Sheryl Sandberg, with the hope to make a positive influence on others throughout my career.


How to Achieve Sustainable Growth

Like many companies who are in a fast growth period of their business, employees wear many hats and there is constant cross over in their roles. As a founder in a start up company, I have found “structured” growth to be one of the most challenging tasks to accomplish. In business there are always new things to learn and skills to develop. I have identified three keys that have helped and will continue to help me grow in the future.

Trusting Your People

The team in 2015/16. Since this photo has been taken, we have added 10 new employees.

Growth is without a doubt one of the most difficult items to tackle in business. Though overwhelming, it is a great problem to be faced with as it means that the company is moving in the right direction. Managing growth has become a daily item for myself and has allowed me to think in ways that I didn’t think possible.

In our organization one of the most important pieces to growth is to find a team of hardworking and vision-sharing individuals who can be trusted. As an entrepreneur and “doer” it is often difficult to let go of certain tasks and delegate them to others. Sourcing and trusting the right employees allows growth and the scaling of a business to occur.

When you find people you trust to take on an important role within your organization it is important to put them in positions where they can make mistakes and learn from them. Failures teach people important lessons and helps to develop a maturity. Put your team members in positions where they can be successful and trust that they can handle the success.

Being Self Aware

Many people think that GROWTH = SUCCESS. This is just not the case. Growth in the right way will lead to success, but doing it the right way is the key. Being naive and self absorbed is a characteristic that inhibits both personal growth and company growth.

I personally believe that both self assessment and self awareness have helped me better understand where both my personal and my company’s pain points lie. Being self-aware of both myself and our company has allowed me to understand our core competencies, allowing us to continue developing those to get better. Being able to address paint points while growing allows room for improvement, which is crucial in a growth phase. Being self-aware from a personal standpoint means being honest with yourself. If we can be honest and hard on ourselves, we will help alleviate pain points and address them before they get worse.

Keep Your Clients Happy

In an attempt to grow, many businesses focus on the goal of obtaining new client accounts, sales, product development, etc. in order to grow their businesses. Obviously this is a key to growth. But the ability to keep clients and customers happy and feeling valued is the thought behind strategic growth. Clients or customers are the lifeline to any business or organization’s success.

An emphasis must be placed on the ability to keep customers satisfied and valued so that growth can be attained. If a company is very good at landing new accounts with great pitches and presentations but cannot retain a core client base, then growth is going to be very difficult to attain.

Sustainable growth will come with client and customer retention. Keeping clients satisfied will lead to client retention which helps to build infrastructure for growth. If you have a proper infrastructure in place it will allow for growth to happen at a sustainable level.

Growth is definitely something that takes time to achieve. Developing a trust in your people, being self aware and retaining your clients will help to create a framework where success is achievable and scaled at a high level.