The HoosNetwork team connected with Kate Carmack (CLAS ’09) and Designer at The Coca-Cola Company. Kate explains what it’s like to work at Coca-Cola, the difference between agency life and a corporate job, and for ‘Hoos considering a career as a creative, how to get a job like hers one day.
HoosNetwork: What is a day in your work life like at Coca-Cola? What are some of your job responsibilities?
Kate: I am part of Coca-Cola’s internal creative team. As a graphic designer, I help conceptualize and design graphics for marketing materials like packaging, point-of-sale displays, and out-of-home advertising for Coke’s sparkling brands. A day at work consists of using programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to create artwork for promotional campaigns and sustaining programs. I also meet with clients, design directors, and brand managers to ensure that the designs are fulfilling business and brand objectives. I work primarily on material for Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero.
HoosNetwork: You worked for an agency called Artagrafik, and now for a large corporation. What are the plusses and minuses about working in each environment?
Kate: In a word, the biggest difference between agency work and in-house design is “variety.” Agencies design for a wide portfolio of clients, which keeps the projects fresh and interesting, but can prevent designers from achieving optimal familiarity with each brand. In-house designers have a smaller breadth of work but develop an intimate understanding of their company’s brands and products. One isn’t better than the other, just different, and I’m happy to experience both. At Coke, I’m enjoying learning the ins-and-outs of current and past campaigns, and getting a feel for where each brand is headed. An obvious advantage of working for an in-house design team is that there’s a strong sense of community among my colleagues and a feeling of pride for Coca-Cola, which naturally comes from having a vested interest in the success of the brand.
HoosNetwork: You are also an entrepreneur and have your own photography business. If another alum wanted to follow in your footsteps, what would you advise?
Kate: Be open minded. You probably shouldn’t have your entire career plan all figured out by graduation. Majoring in psychology at UVA, I never would have thought I would become a photographer or a graphic designer. Your tastes and your passions can change, so learn a little about everything that interests you. Learn a little bit about things that don’t interest you at all. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself, and say yes to everything (within reason, of course). When you think you’ve figured it out, keep going. I think we’re all constantly evolving.
HoosNetwork: What was your experience at the Portfolio Center like? Should someone who wants a job like yours at Coca-Cola be sure to obtain a similar degree?
Kate: Portfolio Center (PC) is a two-year-long, very intensive program for the creative communication arts. It was invaluable to my career as a designer, as I learned design from industry professionals while building a strong portfolio—which, in the creative world, is what gets you hired. I started at PC having had no previous design schooling, which was pretty daunting, but the experience was character-building and I’ve never looked back! I’d encourage anyone with an interest in a design career to enroll in a similar program. Ambition and hard work will get you through it (you’re a Hoo, after all!).
HoosNetwork: What do you miss the most about U.Va. and/or Charlottesville?
Kate: Autumn. I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than fall in the Shenandoah Valley. I miss the Grounds, of course, and I miss the feeling of solidarity among students that comes from a mutual appreciation the University. Also, Bodo’s Bagels.
Recommended for You
The views and opinions expressed within the pages of the HoosNetwork are those of UVA alumni bloggers and are not necessarily representative of, or approved by, the University of Virginia. Posting an article to HoosNetwork is not an endorsement.
The University of Virginia prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, or any classification protected by local, state, or federal law.