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Life & Work with Kimberly Russo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kimberly Russo.

Hi Kimberly, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in Syracuse, NY loving crafts and creating art, so I took semi-private art classes outside of school to foster and develop my fine art skills as I loved to draw and paint and showcase my artwork at my parent’s house growing up.

My parents were originally from the Bronx and Westchester outside of NYC, I grew up visiting family and my Aunt in New York City and knew very early on I wanted to go to school and move to the big city. The only passion and skills that I felt could give me a career was my art, but I didn’t want to be a “starving artist” and came across advertising design in a movie and decided that’s how I was going to combine the two.

I went on a college tour to NYC with my mom bringing my portfolio with me and on the FIT college day I was accepted into the communications design program on the spot, bypassing the at-home test required of most to get in. This made me feel excited and proud so I only applied and went to FIT. I later found packaging design as an option to receive my bachelor’s in fine arts degree after getting my associate’s in communications design.

The program was very competitive to get into as it only took roughly 20 students a year and was the only BFA of its kind in the country. The exclusivity made me more intrigued. This time I didn’t get in so easily, some students were admitted on GPA rather than skill, but I didn’t take NO for an answer and proved myself to be worthy by asking what I could do to get in and fulfilling the extra work needed.

It paid off as I ended up being a strong student and learning so much. This led me to work for various New York City packaging design agencies. I worked with some big-name brands and remember the joy of walking into a grocery store or Duane Reade and seeing the work I created. I worked under and alongside many talented designers teaching me so many design skills.

With the skills I learned there after working in corporate for over 10 years, I went on to run all design and production for a print shop doing more than just packaging design but branding and graphic design teaching myself web design to round out my design skills.

In September of 2018, I left NYC and started On Brand Designs. Inc. I wanted to take my passion and all the skills I had learned through design and business and start my own agency.

The company was formed while living for a brief time outside of Dallas, TX, and then moved to Illinois for a few months and ultimately ended up in Charleston, SC in January of 2020. Moving and On Brand Designs to Charleston, SC has been the best decision ever made and is my permanent home.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Getting into the FIT Packaging Program I felt like I needed to prove myself, transitioning from a fine arts artist where I shined, to a digital artist back when I was really just learning computers was a learning curve and a little blow to my ego as the first time around was much the opposite.

But it made me stronger and I was proud of myself in the end for pushing myself to do better and not take no for an answer, which helped me succeed and be a part of the program. When working at a corporation there were many highs and lows.

One reason why I decided to start my own small design agency was that working in such large agencies your work was being worked on by so many others that it was really hard to use my creative skills. I felt like I wanted to have a bigger impact on a smaller scale working more closely with brands and broader scope of design.

I had challenges all along the way to learn new skills like web design and new apps to keep up with the ever-advancing world. There were also personal relationships that affected my growth in some ways but everything has paved the way to where I am today.

As a business owner and a creative person, there are always challenges combining the left and right sides of the brain to achieve success.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I focus on a cohesive look for a brand. I do a deep dive into a brand strategy by asking questions about clients and their brands and conducting intensive research into the market and its competitors. I then create a vision board to make sure I capture the brand before I begin designing the brand mark/logo.

I then work on brand guidelines, which include brand colors, fonts, image style, logo, icon usage, brand collateral including stationery, flyers, ads and signage, marketing materials, and promo/merch items.

We create packaging designs. and ultimately website design, and e-commerce design. We also have a partner agency called the Social Collective where we do all social media management for our clients.

What sets me apart from other design agencies or brand designers is I really get to know my clients and treat them like friends which allows me to really capture what they envision for their brand and beyond.

I love my clients and make them overjoyed and in awe of their designs and ultimately help them create their dream and success with my designs.

On Brand Designs is a boutique design studio that’s devoted to transforming ideas while keeping you “on brand”. We believe that behind every great luxury brand is a story that has been brought to life by design.

Whether you are newly launching or looking to rebrand, we can help you create high-end branding, websites, packaging, or supporting brand elements that will connect with and convert your ideal customers.

Risk-taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
I think I would consider myself a semi-risk taker starting with going off to a school in New York City by myself as an 18-year-old not knowing anyone.

9/11 happened during my second week in NYC. The towers fell not too far from my school and dorm and I stayed in NY despite many students not returning after.

I lived in NYC for 17 years building my career to eventually leave the comfort of just doing my portion to starting my own company with few clients and growing and building from scratch.

I again repeated the same risk from my 18-year-old self and at age 37 moved to Charleston, SC not knowing a single soul to grow and restructure my business. I’ve networked and put myself out there in this city.

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