Interview with Charlie Cooper from Birchbox

Sunday, December 2, 2012

For my seminar class one part of our final is to interview someone in the field you would like to soon join who works outside of the university. It took me awhile to figure out who I wanted to interview because I wasn't very familiar with many graphic designers. About a week after being assigned the project I received my birchbox in the mail, and thats when I got the idea of interviewing a graphic designer from birchbox! I emailed birchbox's customer support asking if I could have an email of one of their graphic designers, they kindly responded and said that they weren't allowed to hand their emails out which I completely understood. They told me to check out linkedin to look at some of their employees pages. The first name I saw on the linkedin page was Charlie Cooper, I saw that her title changed from graphic designer to graphic designer and creative producer. I knew she was going to be the right person to interview. After doing some research I was able to email her. It was extremely kind of her to respond as quickly as she did because I emailed her right after hurricane Sandy hit the east coast and so I knew birchbox was probably going through a lot. After reading some of her responses I was inspired by her drive. I was hoping it would do the same to my followers so I hope that you guys will be as inspired as I was. I am only going to use a few of the question from the interview questions.

Would you share with me what were some of your initial experiences with art?
I was always creative as a kid. I had a wild imagination and my first connection with "art" was probably disney movies. When I was 8 years old, I told everyone I was gong to be an animator for disney. It wasn't until I was older that I started to discover what real art was.

When did you decide to be an artist, and how did you know?
My path in art was a bit odd. I went to a private school with a very small budget allotted for the art department. My art education was very minimal. When I was 13 I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer and that i had to go to FIT to make that happen. At 17 I worked for Steve Madden and discovered that there was something called Visual Merchandising. I went to FIT for Display and Exhibition Design and from there I stumbled into Graphic Design. Because of this, I have no drawing abilities (which luckily has not hindered me haha). I never took traditional drawing or painting classes, my passion for art always came from a more product driven direction. 

What was the most important thing you learned in school?
Honestly school taught me a lot of technical things but I learned more outside of school. I took two years off between FIT and Parsons to figure out what I wanted. When I was at FIT I just wanted to get through my program, I didn't understand what was really important. When I got to Parsons I knew exactly what I wanted or at least I thought I did. I wanted to work for a magazine, that was my whole focus during college. I made sure I took the appropriate internships, and built relationships w/ my professors that would last after I graduated. The most important part of college is networking.

Do you have mentors or other working artists who influence you today?
I work with some amazing people. If you take a look at our site, we recently launched two new projects, our holiday tab and our home tab. I am really proud of these projects because we all inspired each other and were able to come together to make something really amazing. When you work at a startup you often do not have the resources that you would normally have at a big company and every day i am amazed by what we are able to accomplish.

I also keep in touch with one of the girls I interned for at Seventeen magazine, and some of the interns that worked there. They helped review my resume and portfolio after I had graduated and gave me great insight into what people look for when I was hunting for a job.

Were there any gatekeepers in the art world for you, people who either let you
in or barred the way as you were coming through?
In my last semester of school I went to something called Advertising Week here in NYC. It's kind've like Fashion Week but for the advertising world. During one of the panels Robin Domeniconi the SVP for Elle magazine (her name used to be at the very top of the credits in Elle) gave a very compelling talk about the future of digital vs. print in todays world. After the panel I built up as much courage as I could find to go speak to her. I didn't know what to say but I knew I had to say something. i introduced my self and Robin was so impressed that I had the guts to come up and introduce my self, she invited me to come meet with her at Elle. She introduced me to a lot of people and made me realize that I could be her some day if I tried really hard. It was a very "magical" moment for me (as cheesy as that may sound).

Is there any professional organization that you joined that you found particularly
helpful to your career?
I never joined anything specific but i loved hunting for jobs on and i also utlized during college.

What are you own criteria for success as an artist?
Never stop learning. I am always trying to make my self better and explore new areas in design. When you stop challenging your self, that is when you will go stale and no longer have forward momentum. 

What advice would you give someone who wanted to be an artist today, as
opposed to when you started?
I only started 2 years ago but my advice is do not limit your self. I was determined to work at a magazine but that is not where I found success. Keep your options open, be willing to explore the newest things in the industry. And never under estimate the age old technique of networking, the people you meet in the industry can be so valuable to your future.

[picture of charlie via birchbox]

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