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.


Limitless Creativity: Is There A Wrong Answer When It Comes To Being Creative?

Coming straight out of college and being thrown into the real world can be a daunting experience. It can be unsettling and lonely at times. Sometimes it can feel as if you lost because it is all so new; so different. But in those moments you truly find your identity. What makes you, you. What separates yourself from all the other John’s or Jack’s or Sarah’s in the world. I believe that everyone is unique and has a niche that makes them shine. I think this thinking applies to any standard in the world, just because you don’t see eye to eye with someone on does that mean your wrong? Is there even a ‘wrong’ answer when its comes to being creative?

College was a fun time. For four short years you experience something that you never realize is so incredible until you receive your diploma and realize that it’s over. You make lifelong friends, experience new things (like cracking an egg for the first time because you never learned how to cook), and gain an unmeasurable amount of knowledge that really guides you for the rest of your life.

I was very fortunate to go to an incredible school that really let you be yourself. I was even more fortunate to have graduated from that school with a degree in Visual Communication and Design. I loved everything about my program at Kent State. Even more so I loved every Professor that I was lucky enough to even be in a room with. They had so much professional experience, from designing type faces, to creating incredible and dynamic companies, to illustrating for the wall street journal. It was a ride that I’ll never forget. Don’t get me wrong there were moments where I wanted to drop the program because I didn’t think it was a good fit for me and I just didn’t think I would make it through, but those Professors pushed me to level I never thought was possible and I owe my degree to them.

Upon graduating college and starting my professional career with Sparq Designs I have been even more lucky to work with such humble group of people just as passionate about this field as I am. In working with so many diverse clients, and meeting my fellow designers from various universities I started to question my education a little bit. Thinking back on my four years there was a consistent x factor that went into designing, and it was “well will the teacher like this.” And that’s when I got to thinking, is there really a way to tell someone that their creative ideas are wrong?

via QuotesGram

via QuotesGram

Telling someone they aren’t creative is like telling Leonardo DiCaprio he isn’t a good actor, or telling Emma Watson she isn’t beautiful…..Everyone is creative in their own way and that’s what makes creativity so unique, everyone has their own take on it. That’s what I always thought was odd in school. In group critiques we would critique someone else’s design, which I though wasn’t right cause who am I to tell someone that their design was wrong. Now most of the time the critiques were for layout purposes such as alignment, and hierarchy, but sometimes a teacher wouldn’t like how a student laid something out, but then there were students that likes how that layout looked, so who was right and who was wrong, it’s all personal preference if you ask me.

I read an article written by a woman by the name of Carolyn Kaufman Psy.D. and in that article she said “One of the biggest barriers to creativity is this notion of the “right” answer. We spend our lives being taught to look for and respond with a predetermined answer some other person discovered or delineated, so of course when we want to come up with something original, we’re stymied.” I think that applies to a lot of creative programs in college, when a professor tells someone they are wrong, it’s usually not wrong it’s just different. And I think that different needs to be embraced more than shut down. There is not one right way to be creative. All of my teachers have been very successful for their own take on creativity, and they have been amazing at passing down their knowledge to us as students. I’m not criticizing them by any means, I’m just raising the question if there is a way to judge someone’s creativity.

The greatest thing I have learned from my short months in the professional world is that there is no limitations on creativity. There is no right and wrong. And I think we limit ourselves as designers by not pushing ourselves enough in school because we are always seeking to please other people rather than take a risk and try something new and exciting. I loved every moment I spent at Kent State, and am thankful for all those who pushed me and sculpted my education, but if I learned anything since I have moved on from the college lifestyle it is don’t limit yourself. Push yourself and let your creativity be what it wants to be because you are unique and you need let that uniqueness shine through.


sparqheadshots2016-5Chad Parise is a Graphic and UX Designer  at Sparq Designs, a digital marketing agency in Pittsburgh. Learn more about him, here. If you have questions about building a relationship, contact the  Sparq team today.

Connect with Chad on LinkedIn




Q&A with Jacqui Holiday

Get to know one of Sparq’s fall interns, Jacqui Holiday! 

Q: Where do you attend school and what are you studying there?
A:I am attending Westminster College. I primarily study Media Art & Design and always include marketing & social media classes in my schedule as well.

Q: What’s your dream job?
A: My dream job would be creating trailers for movies. I love going to the movie theatre… just to watch the trailers! If Hollywood doesn’t pick me up then I would love to be a travel blogger/photographer. Getting paid to not only travel but share my experiences in those places would be awesome.

Q: At which store would you like to max-out your credit card?
A: I could definitely max-out my credit card at REI, especially when they have their “garage sales”. I’d head straight for Patagonia, North Face, then the wool socks. In that order.

Jacqui Holiday

Fall Intern Jacqui Holiday

Q: Which storybook/cartoon character do you relate to?
A: That’s a tough one- I’m not sure who I relate to the most, but my all-time favorite character is Sodapop from The Outsiders. “He has a finely drawn, sensitive face that somehow manages to be reckless and thoughtful at the same time. His eyes are dark brown— lively, dancing, recklessly laughing eyes that can be gentle and sympathetic one moment and blazing with anger the next. He has Dad’s eyes, but Soda is one of a kind. He can get drunk in a drag race or dancing without ever getting near alcohol. In our neighborhood it’s rare to find a kid who doesn’t drink once in a while. But Soda never touches a drop— he doesn’t need to. He gets drunk on just plain living. And he understands everybody.”

Q: What’s your favorite part of the digital marketing industry?
A: I love the fast-paced creative atmosphere. The different projects are so diverse so there’s never a dull moment. I like how the industry has a foundation of idea generation, and from there you can run with those ideas and execute them with any visual tool so there’s never a straight line you have to walk on. Living and working “out of the box” is a dream come true.

Q: What was your favorite TV show when growing up?
A: It’s a toss-up between Full House and That 70’s Show. I definitely spent way too much time watching those after school instead of doing my homework.

Q: Do you have any strange phobias/fears?
A: I don’t think I have any “strange” fears but I am deathly afraid of heights. Last summer I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower AND looked down, so I’ve put in my time. No more heights.

Q: What is the best thing you’ve crossed off your bucket list?
A: Last summer I spent a month in Europe. I traveled through seven different countries! I did, however, definitely catch the travel bug while I was there so my bucket list has just about doubled since then. I can’t wait to go back for more European adventures.

Q: NSYNC or Backstreet Boys?
A: NSYNC- I still have their Christmas album in my Itunes!

Q: How do you take your coffee?
A: I’ve actually come a long way with my coffee. I used to have to use an absurd amount of creamer, and just the other day I had my first cup of straight black. However my ideal cup of coffee would be Seattle’s Best with a splash of Hazelnut creamer.

Q: What is your favorite part of interning at Sparq?
A: Interning at Sparq has kicked off the first chapter of my life where I actually look forward to Monday mornings. It’s hard to pick just one favorite thing, but it’s a wonderful feeling to be in a place where your passion can truly come out. I love creativity and the impact it has on the world, and it’s awesome to be in an environment where everyone’s talents, ideas and creative vibes can thrive.

At Sparq Designs we thrive on our ability to create and foster relationships; relationships between brands and consumers, and the relationships between our clients and ourselves. Internships are one of the most valuable experiences a student can gain during their undergraduate studies. While classroom work is important, real experience can help get your foot in the door when you enter the workforce. Learn about internship opportunities at Sparq Designs here.