Beth Mickalonis is that super cool, punk rock chick that you don’t know if you can—but really want to—talk to in high school. Her hair is purple, her clothes are stylishly hip, and she’s got an eye for art. Luckily for us, she’s also one of the sweetest (though sometimes saltiest) ladies in the office. As Associate Creative Director of Brand, she oversees and helps shape creative’s look, tone, and feel. She took a few minutes to put down her beloved wireless mouse (she really, really loves that thing) and explain what it’s like to be her.
You’ve been working in marketing for 16 years. And while higher ed has been your baby the last few years, your background is heavily in health care and financial advertising. What’s the most interesting thing about higher ed to you?
It’s such a different audience. You don’t have as many restrictions. When designing in those other verticals, your initial concepts and ideas tend to get watered down by the time they go to market. What I love about higher ed is it tends to be a younger audience; they’re open to more progressive designs when done correctly.
How has the marketing landscape changed since you started?
When I started, it was a lot more print-focused. Now, digital is the first touch of most brands. If you hear about something somewhere, you’re initial introduction is most likely through an ad that pushes you to an online experience. Print pieces are now supplements. Since everything is online now, print is more tangible, so it’s still important to have both.
What’s one of your favorite projects at CCA?
Well, I love the Niagara viewbook [which we won a few awards for]. I also really like going on photoshoots. It helps me shape the brands even more because I don’t have to translate from my mind through another photographer’s eye, since I’m actually taking the photos and not directing it.
Let’s get serious a moment. In the past few months alone, you’ve changed your hair color three times. What’s the shade you like the most?
My favorite was blue—cobalt blue. I’ve had the same haircut for a long time, when I change the color it helps me feel like I’m changing something more.
Okay. Let’s talk art. You take amazing photos—and a lot of the CCA staff during non-working hours. Why do you like being behind the camera?
I never initially loved photography. I took it in college and didn’t mind it, but I didn’t want to do graphic design. I wanted to be a printmaker and a painter. I got my degree in printmaking and design because it’s like, “How am I going to pay for my life?” I didn’t get into taking photos until I had kids. Before them I was doing silkscreens and printmaking, which are very time-consuming art forms. Once I had children it wasn’t as easy to do those things. I picked up the camera and I could create something in an hour or two. I was taking some film photos pre-kids, but not as much. I was into Lomography—dedicated to analog, experimental photography—and used a 35 mm Russian camera to shoot film. That’s where I was like, “Oh, photography is fun.” You can capture things you don’t necessarily see right away.
You’re a mom of two—Stella and JJ. What do you like best about being a mom?
I like that I can see the world again through their eyes. You get to do things you haven’t done since you were a kid. You get to go to the zoo. Take them places out of the way—places you may not go to as an adult—and experience it with them. Lately, I love taking my kids to Mass MoCA. It’s very interesting how they see art.
You’re known in the office as a punk rocker. What do you love most about punk?
Well, I just love music in general. Obviously, my favorite band is the Ramones. But I do like hearing new stuff all the time. It helps me stay fresh even with my designs. You have to keep up with new music for art. I like punk because it brings back emotions for me, but if I don’t listen to other things I’ll be too narrow-minded.
It’s the fall of 1997. What are you doing?
I’m 17, going to Alfred University, and playing volleyball as an outside hitter. That’s where I met some of my best friends.
Speaking of Alfred—we’ve just started working with them. How was your experience there?
Oh, it was awesome. I’m so excited we get to work with them on branding. It was probably some of the best times of my life. Even though it was a small school, I still felt like I got to meet people and come out of my shell. I was pretty shy in high school, so being on my own helped me be more comfortable with who I was.
This may come as a shock to our readers, but you don’t like coffee. What’d the bean do to you? What do you drink instead?
I hate the taste and how it makes my breath smell. I don’t understand why people think they need to have coffee, or how they need it to wake up. I don’t even eat coffee ice cream—or Kahlúa. So, I drink tea.
Noted: Tea it is. Speaking of tea, we have a few different flavors in our office. We’ll make you a cup during your interview. But first, check out our job listings. We might have just the spot for you…