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Stephanie Orma

The world has enough interviews of rock star designers, so I’m interviewing everyone else–designers who are happy, without the fame.

Let’s start Stephanie Orma, a former student from my alma mater, the California College of the Arts. I first met her when I was a TA for Jim Faris’s information design class.

I recently caught up with Stephanie and asked her a few questions about her struggles, inspirations, and future:

1. First, tell us a little about yourself

I’m the founder and artist of She’s SO Creative, a brand new line of outrageously clever and devilishly adorable greeting cards. I do everything: conceptualizing the ideas, drawing the illustrations, designing the cards, writing the copy, marketing and pr, answering emails, and fulfilling and shipping orders.

My professional career ran the gamut from graphic designer for award-winning design firms to marketing account manager & creative marketing consultant for major Fortune 500 accounts.

I studied creative writing at the University of Michigan, and graphic design at Parsons School of Design in New York City and California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

2. Wow, that’s a handful. How do you balance it all?

That is definitely a struggle. I’m so excited about my new business, I want to work on it all the time! I keep a pad and pen right next to my bed, so I can write down all the ideas that pop into my head at 2am.

But I just try make sure to take breaks throughout the day, whether it’s going for a run or hike outside or to a yoga class. I’ve learned over the years how essential breaks are for refueling, recharging, and keeping the ideas coming!

3. When was the moment you decided to quit your job and start your own business?

It wasn’t just one moment. The strong, growing desire to devote 100% to pursuing something that would truly fulfill and make me happy came to a head around the time I turned 30. It’s a pivotal and reflective age for all of us. And it gave me the much needed push to go off on my own. Plus, I think I had finally had enough confidence in my skills and talent.

4. What were some of the early struggles?

I struggled for a long time to find my creative voice. I have a very unique and quirky sense of humor, which is pretty obvious in my work now. Scott Metzger, a brilliant illustrator and comedic writer whom I admire very much, said the first time he saw my cards, they –”oozed with personality. Right there on the table––they were oozing.–

But when I was in design school, I definitely struggled to bring personality to my designs. It wasn’t until I fully embraced this part of me and felt confident enough to express it, did my work really come alive.

5. What’s it like not being famous?

When I was twelve, I wore a pin that read –”I can’t understand why I’m not rich and famous.– I still don’t get it–¦

6. What was your most dramatic design school moment?

It was when I first began the graphic design program at Parsons. Everything was so new to me: using a Mac, all the Adobe design programs, communicating through typography, imagery, and page design. It opened up this whole new and exciting world to me–especially living in NYC at the time.

I remember walking through Times Square after one of my graphic design classes. It was like seeing the city for the very first time. I focused on the kerning of the type in the billboards, the signs on the buses, the posters on the building facades. It was a very inspiring time in my life.

7. Would you have done anything differently in school?

I struggled with self-doubt, and was really hard on myself in design school. But all my past experiences and how I perceive the world influence my work and ideas today. It was a long process to get here. But I learned a tremendous amount and gained confidence in all my endeavors along the way. So in a nutshell, I wouldn’t change a thing.

8. Who do you draw inspiration from?

I was really into watching Donny Deutsch’s TV show, The Big Idea, on CNBC for a while. He interviews ordinary, everyday people who had the courage to follow their dreams and start their own businesses. He’s interviewed everyone from the person who created the Cranium board games to the person who started Spanks.

I’m also constantly inspired by the brilliant artists and designers gracing the pages of Communication Arts Magazine. In terms of inspiration for my own work, everything inspires me. It could be something I see, hear, or remember, and I’ll be off and running with an idea for a greeting card.

9. What’s next for you?

Growing my business, of course! She’s SO Creative greeting cards are already in over 35 stores, 9 states, and both coasts in less then 4 months! Future plans include, increasing retail outlets across the country, branching out into other products such as tote bags, notebooks, and prints, as well as, designing many, many more greeting cards!

10. Your best tip for new designers leaving school?

Follow your passion, believe in yourself, work hard, and pursue your dreams.

Photo by Herman Privette


  • Derek

    gravatarJun 2, 2008
    7:38 am

    Very interesting… but the best thing is the concept of interviewing real life designers. Good job!

  • Ed Reif

    gravatarJun 2, 2008
    6:45 pm

    Nice Blog– I used Picknik today–It works well!! Ed

  • Alex Charchar

    gravatarJun 4, 2008
    3:31 am

    What a nice little interview and a great idea.. reminds of me a fantastic talk-show host we have here in Australia, Andrew Denton. He makes you realise that most people have interesting things to say and you find yourself as enthralled in his interview with musicians and actors as you do the random person in the audience he talks to at the end of the show.

    Point is – great interview! Good on you for not taking the easy route and asking someone everyone already knows for an interview.

  • Eduardo

    gravatarJun 5, 2008
    1:34 am

    Very compliment to your idea, good luck!!