Today we’d like to introduce you to Katherine DePaolo.
Katherine, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started my career in Entertainment Advertising, but it wasn’t very fulfilling for me. One day I had an old colleague reach out with an opportunity to be a Design Director at an L.A. fashion startup and I jumped at the opportunity! I thrive in the fast-paced, small working environments that startups provide.
I continued to work for e-commerce brands because I developed expertise in that niche, but also because I’m a bit of a shopaholic. I find that the best designers are the ones that know and understand the target customer and when you are that target customer…well, it can be easier.
After spending a few years working in fashion, I made a pivot to health and wellness when I got another unique opportunity to join a new startup called Thrive Market. I have celiac disease––so again, I was the customer eager for a new company to provide affordable healthy foods, including gluten-free options. I joined Thrive as the 8th hire and became the Sr. Director of Brand within two years. I was also the first creative employee at Thrive, so during my tenure there I ended up building out and leading a team of 16.
Together with my team, we tackled all creative efforts including creative for Thrive’s popular blog, UI/UX for mobile and web, creative for marketing, and packaging for over 100 SKUs. After several years at Thrive Market, I grew into a more senior leadership role. I was thankful for the professional growth but I missed doing the actual design work. I left Thrive to pursue other opportunities and started a successful consulting career under KDP Creative. Today, I continue to work primarily for e-commerce companies that are in that early stage with small eager teams––that sweet spot that I love and know so well after nearly ten years in this space. You can read more about my work here: http://katherinedepaolo.com/about.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Generally, it has been an easy journey for me. In high school I pursued painting and shifted my creative pursuit to graphic design when I discovered Photoshop.
My parents always encourage this creativity but I was also expected to pursue more traditional education paths as both my parents are attorneys and I don’t think they had an understanding of how I could build a creative career.
I think that my traditional education paired with my creative instincts is the reason I grew to where I am now. Graphic design consulting requires problem solving, client management, and business etiquette, not just creativity.
Outside of that relatively easy path, I’ve had a few struggles but those are more related to my chosen path of following startups. Startups can be volatile and change rapidly and it can be hard to follow those shifts. I quit one startup because they shifted from D2C to B2B ––that’s a huge strategic shift and it was not the role I signed up for. One of my favorite stories relating to unexpected challenges was when one of the startups I was at was preparing for its series B. I was supporting senior leadership with the series deck design and content organization. I was in the office until midnight for a week and it happened to be the week before my wedding! I love the hustle and sometimes you get wrapped up in it. Fortunately, the deck did not impact my wedding and I had a wonderful honeymoon that immediately followed. That was a much-needed break…
So, as you know, we’re impressed with KDP Creative – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I think what sets me apart is that I’m a full-time creative consultant that specializes in multiple design disciplines. Not many designers have the varied print and digital experience I have. It tends to help early stage startups that have those varied needs but don’t have the luxury to hire 2 or 3 different designers.
I also embed myself within small startup teams as a strategic voice. I help build early-stage start-ups from scratch, supporting with brand guides, positioning, and marketing strategy. I also help existing companies refine their current visuals, establish creative objectives, and deliver design collateral to support brand and marketing.
I think I’m often seen as both an advisor and an executor. The duality of the role excites me and I think my clients also appreciate the support.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Unfortunately, I haven’t been thinking much about the future during these times. I have a good stable business and I love my clients. Any changes that occur are simply related to clients or project work. I enjoy being embedded in teams and providing that creative guidance or work when needed. But I’m always open to big plans or something new.
Martha Kirby, Paul Delmont, Gem, Extra Hours