Kathleen Ruhl, Commercial Art 1974

Name: Kathleen Ruhl
Graduation Year: 1974
Program: Advertising Art & Design
Current Employer: Bourgeau Design
Current Position: Owner and Creative Director
Plans After SUN:
I was fortunate to leave SUN ACTC with an existing job at SEDA-Council of Governments on the Furnace Road outside of Lewisburg. Don't laugh but I was drawing topographical maps with pen & ink rapidiograph pens and art tape on mylar. NO COMPUTERS! Accuracy was required, everyday. I was the only female there.
I studied briefly at Kutztown University and then moved to Denver, CO and received a degree in Advertising Design at the Art Institute of Colorado (1980). I worked at Neuwirth-Koller advertising agency as an intern in the art dept, Titsch Publishing as a graphic designer and also working at many freelance jobs at agencies and small design studios.
I moved to Boston, MA and worked at Cahners Publishing where I was an Assistant Art Director for Chemical Purchasing magazine and then a Senior Art Director for Electronic Design News magazine. I had a staff of 3 people and I was responsible for designing the look and feel of each issue, going on photo shoots, drawing electrical schematics (by hand) and keylining/cutting rubylith for screen overlays. I was also very fortunate to have access to the in-house paste-up and typography depts. It was a time when my career really took off and I won industry awards that I am proud of.
Then I moved to Detroit, MI to which many asked "why Detroit???". Now, 25 years later, I say "why not Detroit?". I had a job waiting for me as Art Director at The Publications Company and they paid for me to relocate. The publication I worked on was the GM (General Motors) Management Journal and I loved that one of my duties was to hire illustrators from all over the U.S. I would collaborate with the illustrators, editors and GM marketing team to create a fun publication. I was responsible for design, layout, and production along with press checks for print quality assurance.
After that, I worked at Gale Research (now called Gale Cengage) a world leader in e-research and educational publishing for libraries, schools and businesses. I was an Art Director in the Direct Response dept. where I was responsible for design, layout, production and press checks of catalogs, direct mail, tradeshow banners and more. It was the first art job that I used Mac computers, which made life so much easier. I was also fortunate to be part of a team that won an award that was presented at The National Press Club in Washington DC.
Campbell Ewald Advertising was where I became an Art Director for the Continental Airlines One-Pass Statement Program, creating newsletters and statement print materials. I was responsible for design, layout and production, press checks and trips to Houston where the client was based. The markets were Europe, mid-Pacific and Latin America which required layouts going to translators and then back for fine tuning. The job also required stock photography choices specific to those markets as well as different story content. The deadlines were fierce and work seemed never ending. This also was a very demanding client. I also was part of the team that won Direct Marketing Association of Detroit Target awards.
I worked at Adayana as a Creative Services Specialist marketing Learning & Development, Management Consulting, and Performance Technologies. I was responsible for newly branding all the designs/layouts of the previous company after the Adayana merger. Required materials I created were market specific one sheets, pocket folders, e-mail blasts and more. I worked with all 5 markets: agribusiness, healthcare, automotive, government, food & beverage. I also created some websites for local political candidates as well as political e-learning. And I created a website for the owner of our office building in Detroit. The owner also had property in Pasadena, CA and I designed and worked with a developer to create the showcase website of the retail spaces within that property.
I decided to pursue freelance by starting my own graphics business as well as pursuing other interests outside of graphics. It's also been a time of learning and renewal as I continue to take time to learn software skills. Web design is something I've wanted to learn and I've created several websites.
Amway Nutrilite became a client when they were celebrating their 75th anniversary of founder Carl F. Rehnborg - The Nutrilite Story. I was the designer and layout person for this large, hard cover textbook which was written by the founders son,  Dr. Sam Rehnborg. The book was also translated into Chinese for the 75th anniversary celebration which took place in China.
Moosejaw Mountaineering was a client that I created website photos for. Thousands of brands are on their website and I worked in Photoshop to retouch and size photos for their web developer.
Herbal Lodge is a current client that I am designing their herbal product brand. I'm creating the product labels as typography and illustration to go on the tops of tins and around jars. Each of the products has a name that is created by hand, in a designed logo type style. Also designing branded wooden signs and display signage. At the moment, I'm designing and creating a 4/C product brochure with an order form.
Job Duties: I wear many hats as the owner of my own business. I must do my own marketing, selling and learning. If I don't know how to do a particular task, I find tutorials that show me as well as ask colleagues. Besides being a passionate artist and also a fine artist, I need to know all the Adobe products, Microsoft, Web Design, Social Media, E-mail blasts, FTP sites, Fonts (all on Mac and PC). First and foremost, I must be flexible with all types of clients and willing to bounce back when I don't always get the gig. I keep a positive attitude and I often go above and beyond what I get paid for to ensure that client comes back and tells others what a great service I offered. Organization is key to everything when I'm following up on many conversations with clients and projects evolve, sometimes for many months. Good graphic design sense is crucial and even after being a designer for 40 years. Watching trends come and go and come again in every product that is out there. Even if it's tractor trends and you are designing for a jewelry company. You just never know where the stimulation and the ah haaaa moment is going to come from. Online searching...has saved my hide more then anything. You can find anything on the internet and I use it as one of my most valuable research tools. I still rely on pencil and paper to flush out ideas and show a client before spending hours on what I think they are looking for. I do a lot of drawing in Illustrator and I also use InDesign and Photoshop no a regular basis. I've created product labels, textbooks, tradeshow materials, advertising and more. It's important to keep up with current software and that is something I wish I could be more proactive about even if it's expensive. What I can do now with software has so advanced over the years. When I have a project that is brand new with it's marketing, I need to be saavy and explore what competitors are doing. What I like that I think is working and what I don't like. Meshing my expertise with my clients strong opinions or lack of opinion...I must be a leader and have good reasons why I am designing something the way that I do. Branding, huge, even if I'm not designing for a big brand...I treat my clients like their product IS a big brand. Who knows, they might just be because of my hard work. Negotiator, in all aspects whether it's getting the job in the first place, holding a clients respect so that more work keeps coming, and keeping them happy with the costs as things evolve. Negotiating costs is still one of my toughest challenges and especially now that the economy is rough. Can I afford to have a client walk away because they only want to spend $100 but they want hundreds of hours of my time? I may have to design something that looks like a million bucks but in reality, it fits the $100 budget. Intuition is my best ally. Guaranteed, everytime my gut instinct says to do something different or that I'm on the right track...I listen. And that may mean 15 versions worth of gut instinct. Listening to my clients, more then JUST listening, might mean hearing important keys to what they want in their project. Asking questions no matter how silly they may seem. Saying thank you for their time, everytime, and remembering to add some small talk to the conversation from time to time. Let's a client know she's not just a paycheck and vice versa.
Positive Career Points: The diverse nature of topics that I am asked to convey through my design work. I've designed for computer parts, airline statement programs, chemical purchasing, student and business libraries, herbal healing products, retouching photos for a small film, mountaineering products and much more. I'm always amazed what I'll be doing next. I like interacting with individuals that I become a team with while working on projects. It may be just the business owner or it may be a whole team (copywriters, editors, account coordinators etc.). I love that it forces me to be flexible while I learn about the topic and convey it to a visual. It's been great living in 4 different states and being able to design anything, anywhere. And with the internet, remote work is a blessing.
Comments for Current Students: Be very flexible throughout your career. Learn as much as you can, whenever you can. Even if you do not learn about hand lettering and hand drawing in school these days...don't rely on the computer. Practice it on your own and really get a feel for positive and negative space...how objects work with each other and create balance or designed chaos. Best rule I learned long ago was to design in a 1, 2, 3 method of priority. When you look at your design, what do you want to notice first, second and then third. Squint when you look at your designs and see what pops out at you. It might be what you don't want to see first. It might tell you that you need to bump up the size of a border or a font etc. Look at designs from a distance as well as the closeup of the computer screen. Walk away from a project for an hour or more, even in the last hours of a deadline. Coming back fresh, can give you a whole different perspective to problem solving. Sometimes when you get frustrated and think your work isn't good enough, you might just be in the midst of something good but you're just not seeing it. Respect older designers who have been where you are now. We have much we can teach each other. Go back to school and/or take classes to stay current. Volunteer, give back, be a sustainable designer...the Universe will thank you for that.