Yellow Duck Marketing Art Director Kay Everatt has been a duck since 2015. Over the years she successfully grew from being a YDM intern to recently being promoted to our Art Director. If you’re wondering how she did it, we sat down with Kay to recount her experience over the years.
Can you briefly talk about your journey at YDM, including all the roles and hats you’ve worn?
I started at YDM as a graphic design intern eight years ago this March, which is wild to think it’s been that many years. When I started, I was fresh out of college and freshly fired from my first job – something I never thought would happen to me. I won’t get into that other than it was thinking I knew everything when I didn’t. But the lovely ladies at YDM welcomed me and helped build my confidence in myself and my design skills.
In those early days, I did a little bit of everything. A lot of social media content planning and scheduling, some not-so-great logos (looking back) and I even tried my hand at a landing page design, after which I very quickly decided web was NOT for me. I designed eblasts, some brochures and even worked with the team to pull together some really cool events including a 5k. It was such a great learning experience because I touched a little bit of everything and worked with so many different clients and industries.
From there I became a full-time employee at YDM as a Digital and Design Specialist. I discovered a love of video and began to explore that avenue. Right around that same time, I got married and became the first fully remote full-time employee of YDM. Learning how to navigate the world of video conferencing and how to properly communicate when you can’t just walk down the hall was a big challenge, but something I feel I excel at now.
As I continued working with video more, I navigated into the role of Motion and Graphics Designer to better sum up the range of work I was doing. From there I moved to Senior Motion and Graphics designer and then most recently into the role of Art Director.
What drew you to YDM and what about your time at YDM has helped you flourish throughout your career?
In all honestly, the main draw originally was that it was a paid internship and I had student loans. But while I needed a paying job, I wanted to work for a company that aligned with my long-term goals. YDM was much smaller then, but they had done so much cool work at that point and their portfolio was wildly impressive. I appreciated the fact that it was a woman-owned business and when I met the team I was blown away by the sense of comradery, the incredibly talented ladies that were behind all that work and knew that it would be a good fit for me to really grow and learn. I also knew I didn’t want to work in a big office or in the corporate world and YDM fell right in line with that.
One of the best things then and still is the collaboration at YDM. While we have grown, we are still a small company, so we end up touching each other’s projects. In my opinion that collaboration and group creativity or brainstorming brings multiple perspectives to each project, elevating the design and strategy to a level that sometimes just isn’t achievable with one person or designer. That mindset has created an environment that we seem to flourish in and results in gorgeous designs and intentional thought processes behind strategy and execution.
What was the biggest lesson that you learned as an intern at YDM?
Kind of bouncing off the previous answer, it was altering my perception that receiving feedback and direction wasn’t a negative thing. Receiving feedback wasn’t a criticism of my skills or my decisions. Once I realized how much better my work could be when I involved others or asked for opinions – essentially when I took out my ego of wanting to be a “perfect” designer – the level of work that I was creating increased drastically. I would like to say it was an easy lesson to learn, but you come out of college and you think your hot stuff and know everything. At that age – remember I was 22 starting at YDM – you’re trying so hard to prove that you aren’t a kid and you’re a professional who should be taken seriously. It can feel personal when you get a design back that’s covered in feedback. Tack on top of that my own insecurities about being fired and it was a challenge for a while.
Rachel Carow worked closely with me in those early months and helped explain stuff in a way that helped me grow and improve. YDM was trying to get the best design out of me, and they knew I was capable of it. Rachel taught me so much and I wouldn’t be the designer I am today or in the position I am without her and her endless patience and guidance.
We laugh about it now, but she always used to say, “All the pieces are there, I just reorganized them. You did all the hard work.” I hated that saying for a while, but I’ve used it with our Junior Designer more than once. Funny how things come full circle like that.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learned as an Art Director?
Communication. I had to learn to communicate differently when I moved into a remote role, and it was no different moving into a manager role. I think the biggest realization though was I could be the best communicator but if I was relaying information in a way that only made sense to me, things would get lost and misinterpreted. We’ve done the DISC assessment a couple of times at YDM and knowing what my communication weaknesses are but also how my team communicates has really been helpful in bridging those gaps and keeping everything balanced. I also think leading by example, which sounds so cliché but it’s true. I’m not going to ask something of my team that I’m not already doing myself.
What have been some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on during your career at YDM?
Gosh, trying to think back over the years. Some of them I would do a little differently now, but they still stand out as favorites. Like the Waverly video – that was the first video project I did, and I spent WAY too much time on it, but it was learning and figuring out how to do different things. The Vantage video too, we did some onsite footage for that and seeing that project through from start to finish was a lot of fun. The Vantage construction banners were a headache in the design process, but those designs were so vibrant and eye-catching.
Kay’s First Video Project: Throwback Thursday: Waverly Video
We did a lot of work with TreesCharlotte back in the day that resulted in some unique collateral designs. We joked that Angela and I were the tree experts from all those projects.
Recently, we’ve really been knocking out some fantastic branding projects. The Optimist Park brand was gritty and industrial but also upscale and luxurious. It was a challenge to perpetuate that style in a way that felt intentional, which was a lot of fun to work through and figure out. I also recently worked on the Revel brand, which just might be my favorite so far. The logo ended up being a nice, simple design, which allowed space for the brand to really soar and expand in a way that might not have worked with a more intricate logo.
What advice would you give to someone starting an internship?
Soak up all the information that you can. Whether you’re in the marketing world or some other industry. It can be easy to fall into the situation of trying to prove yourself and what you can offer or what you know. But think about it, this is the only time in your career that people expect you to ask questions or to not know something. It’s freeing in a way because there is no such thing as a dumb question, especially in an internship. Take advantage of every opportunity you have as an intern – sit in on the meeting, go to that onsite client visit. Watch the way your superiors conduct themselves, how they talk – both to you and to clients. Learn about roles you may not see yourself in. It may not interest you, but you might work with someone in that role one day and knowing their responsibilities and expectations will only help you both succeed.
How did your work as an intern affect your work as an art director now?
In a lot of ways starting at YDM as an intern has kept me humble as I’ve moved my way up the ladder. Most people in this office have seen my “worst” designs and know how far I’ve come, but they’ve all played a part in that journey. I don’t think I’m the best designer at YDM by a long shot and I think that helps because there is no ego. I still ask for help or opinions. I call Rachel or Cat and say, “I’m stuck, you gotta help me out here.” It goes back to the collaboration that I think makes our design department and YDM so great.
I also know what would’ve helped me as I was growing at YDM. We’ve had Art Directors before but not long-term. So, in some ways, it’s up to me to determine how the role functions and interacts with other departments. But I’ve built the respect and the trust long before I got to this role, and I think that plays a part in it too. I don’t feel like I missed out because I didn’t have an Art Director, but I do think having an advocate to watch for things like designer burn-out or foster opportunities for talent keeps everyone balanced and working their best.
What piece of advice would you give to “intern Kay”?
Be open to everything and every opportunity.
Be open to your plans changing – you thought you would job hop, but eight years later you’re still at YDM. Know that the internship with the Ducks changed your life – you’re surrounded by incredibly talented women, some of the most amazing moms who balance work, life and are generally just bad ass. You’ve made lifelong friendships and a lot of days YDM feels more like family than work.
Be open to the feedback that’s given to you and learn from the mistakes – it’ll make you a better designer and a better person.
Be open to learning opportunities and furthering your education, in whatever way that looks like. Don’t be afraid to go after those opportunities and ask the questions – the worse they can say is no.
Showcase earlier design vs one of your latest designs:
Interested in working at YDM? Reach out to us at email@example.com.