The Drum's 'Unsung Heroes' series is a celebration of the people in the industry who slog hard behind the limelight for their companies, brands, and clients. As they are seldom in the spotlight for their contribution to the success of campaigns, this is their time to shine.
Lauren Melillo wants to change about her entire job scope as a multimedia developer at MNI Targeted Media because she wants her job to continue changing and evolving as it has over the past six years. She loves that there is always more to learn, the next iteration of software to absorb and is thankful her leadership team promotes growth and pushes her to do so.
Why is your job important?
As a creative, I’m responsible for MNI Targeted Media’s visual perception in the marketplace. What I encourage and really believe in is that no matter the scale or scope, everything matters. Whether it be an email header design, presentation, banner, or website, consistency in creative builds confidence and trust.
More importantly, I’m thankful to work with such a tight-knit team. We rely heavily on each other to make sure everything we create supports the many brand initiatives for our evolving company.
What is the hardest and stressful part of your job?
As a designer, I pour such passion into my work. From a project’s inception in the brainstorming phase to pencil hitting the paper and even to its final export, a personal attachment is formed. Creativity can be flexed at any moment. That being said, I find it to be difficult at times to fall within the 9 to 5 traditional workday timeframe.
I can’t even count how many times ideas will spark over the weekend or hours before the workday even starts. Sometimes it can’t be ignited with a snap of your fingers. Spinning your wheels and staring at a blank page can be intimidating, but when you find your flow, there’s also nothing more invigorating.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Recently, I’ve experienced the most rewarding part of my career so far and it has been absolutely energizing. We’re currently launching our new rebrand that has been well over a year in the making. In my six-year career, our creative director and I have been dreaming of creating an efficient, concise design system and now, it’s a reality. After months of research and mockups to develop this design system, we have cultivated a visual brand persona that truly spans various touchpoints.
The interesting part of my job is that I design for two different audiences, one being our clients and the other our sales team. For both, materials need to visually represent our broad range of products, while also allowing our human-centric messaging to shine through. As a small design department, how can we equip everyone with the resources and tools they need to deliver our vision in the best light possible? I’m proud to say we focused on usability and efficiency first, making sure all of our templates and styles are set to embody any form.
So how has this been rewarding? Something I have invested a tremendous number of hours and dedication to is finally being used in an application, and it’s been unreal! And seeing a positive reaction from the teams outside of marketing, and having them embrace the mentality of being a brand ambassador, is incredibly rewarding!
First thing that comes to people’s minds when you tell them your job?
There is always an immense sense of pride when I share what I do. Seeing everything around you through a creative lens is one of my favorite aspects of my career. It never ends after the workday. The menu in front of you at a restaurant or the app you’ve just downloaded, I see creativity in all of it. I love being a part of this world and community. The appreciation because you know and fully understand how much work must have gone into that “what may look simple” ad you were just served.
However, there is so much that happens behind the curtain that often can be overlooked for that outside of the design realm. There are many responses along the lines of, “Oh, your job is so fun. You get to make things ‘pretty’ all day,” or “This should only take you a couple of minutes, right” or “Just design a logo, nothing too crazy.”
How would you correct/explain to them what you do then?
I absolutely love that my days are never repetitive and I am fortunate that I never fall into the comfort zone or repetitive cycles. However, my clarification would be that I can guarantee it never takes two minutes. And it’s never ‘just’ anything. The word ‘just’ might be a designer’s kryptonite.
We can’t just make something ‘pop’ (the word ‘pop’ might be a close second). There is so much more that goes into everything we create, no matter the scale or scope.
Is there anything you want to change in your job?
One of my favorite things to tackle is learning new software. I will never forget leaving my introduction to design course at Quinnipiac University and being overwhelmed by the number of tools we had to learn. Fast forward many years later, and the programs are completely different.
But, I am so fortunate my professors encouraged us to learn the principles first, to exercise our design thinking, and always put pencil to paper.
They taught me the important skill of learning how to teach yourself and to utilize training resources. So, what would I change about my job? Everything. I want it to continue changing and evolving as it has over my six years. I love that there is always more to learn, the next iteration of software to absorb. I’m thankful my leadership team promotes growth and pushes me to do so.
Which was the campaign that you worked on, that you are most proud of?
If you asked me when I was an entry-level designer if I would have developed and launched an app in my career, pinch me! Our sales enablement tool, One Voice LIVE is something I am incredibly proud of. I started my career confident in print, I found I was more comfortable with print production with its tangible nature. When I was tasked with creating a mobile app to support our national sales team with no background at the time, I was beyond eager. Every aspect of this project was outside of my comfort zone, but how exciting is that?
Over the course of a year, I taught myself the ins and outs of the Adobe Digital Publishing Solution, which has now evolved to Adobe Experience Manager Mobile and learned the important logistics of making it run on the iPad through Apple Certificates. Testing bugs in preflight, setting up the architecture, learning the principles of UX, finding a way to turn a presentation that was once 300+ slides into 16—it was a huge task.
The final product is a mobile application that allows our sales team to pivot in meetings in real time, in response to the conversation. It houses our dynamic range of products that we can update on the fly, as well as targeting tactic animations, creative examples, detailed information, and sample reports.
The difficult part is it needs to support a range of presentation styles, while also acting as a training tool for new hires. One Voice LIVE is constantly evolving and to this day remains a project I am very proud of.
Who is someone you want to emulate in your industry?
This is easy, Deva Pardue. Deva is the founder of the For All Womankind initiative and the senior creative director at The Wing, which is a work and community space designed specifically for women. The Wing’s branding is absolutely stunning. It’s intricate and bold, yet delicate and fearless.
Not only is she a powerhouse creative, but she is also making an impactful difference through her work. Very inspiring!
If you weren’t a senior designer, what would you be?
This might have been one of the hardest questions. I’ve been fortunate that I have always known what I wanted to be ‘when I grow up.’ But recently, I have found a new appreciation for event planning.
The extremely fast-paced environment, putting out fires, and paying attention to the smallest intricacies is very intriguing to me. I love the idea of solving problems no matter the size and working toward the ultimate, grand unveiling!
We have closed submissions for Unsung Heroes as the series has ended. You can read the previous feature on the data analyst, here.