I came to realize that outside of my former employers and their vendors, I was a virtual unknown. In catalog advertising I was well respected, the go-to person, known to be a creative, knowledgeable, and loyal person. Then one day, it was all gone!
Spanning four decades (after graduating with honors in Graphic Design at Toronto’s top college), advertising was the best career I could have asked for and I loved it! It took me from the conventional layout table, the light box, the lucy, gluing, and waxing machines, the cutting board, and the photocopier, to the modern-day (all of those things in one) Mac computer.
It was fun to go to work and sometimes reinvent the same products by displaying or designing them in different ways. We often joked that the merchandisers and buyers wanted their product pages to ‘look the same… but different’. Somehow, believe it or not, the pages or ads did just that! It takes creativity to be able to do this; from book to book, year after year… and to always look fresh.
Starting out as an assembly and layout artist, I eventually got to be a creative director in the catalog sales promotion department. It was like having my very own studio. I coordinated the work going out to vendors for type, comping, photography, and printing. I directed photo studios and selected shots, conceptualized, designed and assembled ads, and chose which vendors to work with after securing their quotes. I collaborated with copywriters, editors, and translators. Those were the the best of times… but all good things must come to an end. As large companies are known to do, a restructure was in order. We got absorbed by the much larger catalog advertising department and that meant proving oneself all over again. Nuts!
Restructure upon restructure (this was the time of computers entering the workforce) eventually landed me in my favorite section of the catalog… the home section. I became the furniture specialist and backed up other home fashion departments like housewares, bedding, and draperies. Impressed with my talents, these other departments requested my presence at their hand-off meetings on a regular basis. Working in the home section for a decade taught me a lot about the construction and care of soft goods and hard goods, the importance of sizing, dimensions, ensembles, and so on. I often found cost-savings for the company. Searching for ways of doing things more efficiently, without compromising quality is who I am. It was around this time that I got the nickname of Groovy Chick.
I worked my way into an assistant manager’s role and was designing all of the home and hardline pages of a catalog, when it happened again! This time it was announced that we would be outsourced to another company. The news was devastating to some, and shocking to us all. Our security blanket was gone and uncertainty lay ahead. But all was not lost. Because of my hard work, dedication, and proven ability to manage the creative on our home/hardlines team, (moving forward) I would be rewarded with the role of catalog linear team leader. Not bad, considering some managers would be demoted.
Things were different in our new home, fun at times and busy at others, yet there was always a feeling of uneasiness. Restructuring happened more frequently and every year we seemed to lose good people from our old employer. Downsizing was becoming the new norm. The entire landscape in advertising was changing. Full time jobs were becoming a thing of the past. Competition and outsourcing to Asia was a reality. Things were not so groovy. I lasted nine years in this environment and then… I was gone!
… to be continued