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Meet Emily Poulin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Poulin.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I came to California back in 2012 for college to study graphic design at California Baptist University. I really was as green as they come (which a lot of people think I’m kidding). So let me give this anecdote to get rid of any doubts: on the first day of class, a professor started by saying “Okay, go ahead and open Illustrator…” to which I raised my hand and asked, “What program is that? None of these icons start with the letter I?”

In high school, I attended an academic prep academy which only required one art credit to graduate. I think I took AP Studio Art my senior year – which how is that even an AP course. I had no experience, no background and no real understanding of what designers do but I knew it’s what I wanted. It really was a shot in the dark, but as it turns out, I thankfully had design talent. Looking back, I can see hints of it – creating the display board was always my favorite part of any science fair or project.

Things took off in college after I figured out the name of the programs and what Adobe was but it was still bumpy. My freshman year, I won an ADDY for a poster design, not realizing there was a giant typo on it until I was at the award show accepting the award on stage.

Fast forward to my final year in the program and a speaker came to one of our classes to talk about this rad nonprofit in Orange County. I thought it was so cool and wanted to apply to be an intern there – thinking there’s no way I could apply for a real paying job. I went online to fill out the application and saw that it was 10+ pages of a long format written answers, so I applied for the open graphic design position instead because the application was only a couple of sentences. And just like that, I landed my first interview.

I ended up working at the nonprofit apparel company a little under a year and then moved back to Riverside to work under my friend who was an art director at a mega church. I really never wanted to do church work, but this church was incredibly artistic and forward-thinking. After three-ish years there, I jumped to an agency thinking it was the next big career move for me. An agency really felt like I had made it. As it turned out, I would be photoshopping burritos most days and laying out designs in Microsoft Word for their clients. I only lasted two months there before quitting with nothing but a few freelance gigs to my name. I’ve been freelancing full-time for the past two years now and I love it. It’s way more challenging than any job I’ve had before but I am so grateful. The range of clients and passionate people I get to work with always keeps me on my toes and inspired.

Has it been a smooth road?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road – sometimes there’s not even a road it’s just finding your way in whatever terrain you are on.

My biggest struggle has been finding the balance of work and life. For the longest time, I’ve found it so difficult to say no to new clients or shutting off work when I need to. At one point, I was working full time at the mega church, working part-time remote for an ad agency in Nashville, and freelancing at the same time. Needless to say, I was NOT sleeping and that is the fast track to burnout.

I’m still evolving what that looks like for me, especially as a freelancer and working by myself most days. It’s not like you leave the office or are taking breaks with your coworkers.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m a full-time graphic designer and creative, making ghost-copywriting appearances from time to time as well. My day to day looks like working with a range of clients from food/beverage, beauty and wellness. There are a lot of misc projects in the mix as well but those are my big categories.

I’m passionate about working with sustainable and ethical brands so that often lands me in the nonprofit or socially concise arenas. Packaging projects are what bring me the most joy, but I work on logos, branding and strategy and illustrations as well.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the connectedness and I hate the connectedness. One of my all-time favorite clients was connected to me through meeting someone who follows me on IG in a coffee shop at random – you don’t get that in other cities! But it is draining to not be able to disconnect from that aspect – conversations turn into business meetings real quick.

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