Anna Palmer grew up in Evansville, Indiana, and decided to head to Memphis after high school graduation to attend the Memphis College of Art. After graduating with a BFA, she found employment as a graphic designer. Though there was nothing wrong, per se, Anna felt like something else was necessary to achieve her full career potential, so she decided to reenroll in school; she has since earned a BS in advertising management from Portland State University.
Q. Growing up, did you always know that you were going to attend college?
I knew I wanted to do something big with my life and make an impact.
My parents encouraged me to explore my options and always keep an open mind. As a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but art was really the thing I excelled at. I was lucky enough to have supportive parents who pushed me to be what I wanted to be, [and] as much as my parents wanted me to be some sort of doctor, they encouraged me to apply to art school since that's where my heart was. I wanted to know everything about every art technique and I wanted to know why the masters painted what they did.
Q. How did you decide which college to attend?
When I was a junior, I started researching different art schools and the financial aid that was available. I wanted to be close to my family, so my college search was contained to the south. I narrowed down my options to Memphis College of Art and Savannah College of Art and Design. I chose MCA because the scholarship they offered was greater and I'd be closer to my family. So I moved to Memphis, TN straight out of high school to attend art school.
I met some of the greatest, most creative people whom I still keep in touch with. It's great to see their styles grow and evolve.
Q. Did you follow any nontraditional paths throughout your education?
It took about a year to figure out which direction to take my studies, but I ended up focusing on graphic design. The design professor at MCA at the time really pushed us to think outside of the box. He challenged us and I think he is the main reason I went in that direction.
I was able to find work fairly quickly after graduation so that was a huge relief, but I still didn't feel like I was done learning; I felt like I was missing something. I worked for a few years in my field and decided to return to school as a postbaccalaureate student to study advertising. I felt if I learned more about consumer behavior it would help maximize my design skills.
I ended up attending Portland State University. The business school at PSU values diversity and [the] professors really push ethics in their curriculum. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity. While studying at PSU, I also worked in the marketing department at the business school as the graphic designer and marketing communications coordinator.
Q. What kind of extracurriculars did you enjoy?
At PSU, I took this weekend course called “the portfolio workshop.” It's offered once a term, you have to be recommended by a professor, and you get to work with a real client. (Our client was Licki Brush.) You're basically working all weekend to solve your client’s business problem, develop an advertising campaign, and then present it to them. It was a long weekend but very rewarding!
I also had the opportunity to work on a campaign for the Portland Police Department while in the advertising program at PSU. The problem we needed to solve was the disconnect between police officers and civilians. Our solution was to humanize the police officers so the community would feel they could relate to them. Community policing is now on the rise in Portland!
Q. What is your current position and how did you get into it?
After I graduated from PSU, I decided to move to New Orleans to be closer to my family… and I really just love the south. I had a part-time design job lined up, but it wasn't permanent. So of course, I kept searching for anything in marketing, advertising, and graphic design.
I saw an ad for a part-time job on LinkedIn to design socks. It sounded like a fun job—something that was refreshing and more on the creative side. After studying advertising at PSU’s business school, I realized I wanted to stay on the creative side, so I was excited about this position. That part-time job turned into a full-time position where I do graphic design work and social media coordination for CheckerBox, Royal Productions, and Student Caffé.
Q. Can you give an example of how you use graphic design and advertising skills in your everyday life?
I love to dissect advertising campaigns and try to figure out the target audience and the goal. So now I see advertising everywhere! It really is all over the place. Guerrilla marketing [in which a company with little money grabs the attention of their audience in an unconventional and memorable way] is my favorite. It's creative and you really have to work with your team to figure out the best solution.
Q. Do you have any advice for future graphic designers or future college students in general?
Take advantage of the resources at your college and network as much as possible. You never know who you'll meet or what conversations you'll have that could inspire you.