Emma Steinhobel is a visual designer (UX/UI) with Brightspot. Find out here how Emma combines her inspirations from both the physical and virtual worlds to design experiences that delight our customers, our prospects and our employees.
You started at Brightspot after graduating from college. What convinced you to come here and start your career?
The pandemic started right as I was finishing my degree, which threw a bit of a wrench in my career plans! I ended up moving back in with my parents, and after about a year of freelancing decided to look for something a little more stable. Living in my childhood home again and trying to figure out what it would look like to start my career during a pandemic was difficult, to say the least. I ended up reaching out to a friend from school who I knew worked at Brightspot—a year or so prior he had mentioned that they might have open design positions, and they did! I thought that it might be a great way to learn something new and dive into UI and UX, all this despite it being in the middle of a pandemic.
What inspired you to become a web/graphic designer?
I’ve loved art and design my whole life. My dad is really creative—he builds furniture, paints, sketches, etc.—so I just grew up doing all sorts of arts and crafts. I’ve always loved to make things, and as soon as I learned that graphic design was a career option, it was all I was interested in. I’m super interested in all the different facets of design—web design being one of those—and it’s been really cool to learn so much more about that specific niche during my time here at Brightspot. To me, the best part of creating is getting to make things for people to use, and I love how inherent that is to my job here at Brightspot.
Can you talk about the current project you are working on?
One of the main things that has been taking up my time is our marketing deliverables. Our new CMO, Adrianna Nowell, has been building out a much more robust marketing team and approach for the company, and with that have come lots of new marketing needs. It’s been a super-exciting and fast-paced time. With the help of Jenny Daly, I’ve been creating everything from slide deck templates to display ad sets. They’re growing so quickly and it’s been a great experience to support all the new asks coming in to help grow our business! Most recently, I’ve been designing several pieces of print collateral for an in-person event happening here at the Brightspot office in April, as well as working to redesign our emails (part of our migration to a new marketing automation platform).
Looking at your portfolio, is there a particular design project that you are most proud of?
One thing I’m really proud of is the User Conference branding that we did last year. That was a really fun project because I got to take our existing company logo and then create a whole brand around it. It was like a puzzle making all the pieces feel harmonious; we ended up doing a lot of cool things with gradients and animations to tie everything together. We then applied the color/pattern system to all the collateral—everything from the daily agenda to the individual speakers’ presentation decks had to look like it belonged! At the end of the day, it was just a really cool way to practice applying a brand in a bunch of different ways. Then personally, in my free time, I’ve been learning how to make fonts! The last font that I made, called Verre, is something I’m really proud of, too.
What are some of your biggest design inspirations?
Oh goodness, there are so many. In general, I really love design/art history, so I draw a lot of inspiration from things people have made in the past. This is related to my last response, but one of my inspirations is an architect named Pierre Chareau. He was a furniture designer by trade, but was commissioned by a friend to create the most beautiful house. It’s called La Maison de Verre (or "The Glass House," because its outside walls are made of these cool square glass bricks). He managed to design a really small space to fit several very different needs of the family living there and meticulously planned everything from the building materials to the way the windows opened. I could go on and on about that house... it’s really so cool! So cool that I based my font on its glass and metalwork.
Another of my favorite fine artists is Alexander Calder. When I was little I would go to the National Art Gallery in Washington, D.C., with my family a lot, and I was obsessed with a giant mobile he created for the atrium of the East Building there. It’s made out of giant metal shapes but moves so gently. I love that Calder was able to make such playful structures out of the most heavy and rigid materials. Graphic design-wise, I really look up to an agency called Collins. They’re based in New York City and just consistently create the most thoughtful brand systems! It’s really impressive to me that they’re able to give every single decision meaning, always tying it all back to the purpose of the particular project.
Do you have any piece of advice for college students or those who are starting their careers in design?
It’s hard just given how COVID-19 affected everything... I think the kids that are graduating now had a very different college experience from the one that I had. But just in terms of what I’ve learned over the last years jumping into the workforce, I think it’s really important to focus on place as well as position. Don't just look at companies and the job you want, but also consider where you want to live, and how that work environment in the office is going to be. I wasn’t expecting to care so much about the type of people I’d be working and living with, but now can say how much of an effect things like that have on my quality of life. Good people make all the difference!
Besides the people, what is your favorite part about working at Brightspot?
Firstly, I would say my team’s dynamic! I really appreciate how much I’ve been able to learn from them all in the last two years. I think a lot of that is due to their openness and willingness to teach me. Besides that, it’s honestly just a really cool experience to work at a company where most of the people I interact with are not designers, not on my team, and who have very different jobs than mine. I’ve learned a lot just by having my desk next to the content team, grabbing lunch with a bunch of developers and chatting with project managers at the coffee station. So, definitely just the fact that I get to interact with people who are doing such different things from what I do every day.
If you could pick another role to try within Brightspot for one week, which would it be and why?
OK, this role doesn’t really exist, but I would love to help Anne Ulrich (Brightspot’s Director of Details) for a week. I think it would be really cool just to follow her around and help with all the things she plans and hosts for us. They add so much to the culture here at Brightspot, allowing us to bond as colleagues, and I think it’d be really special to help out with that and experience it from her point of view!
What are your activities or hobbies to do outside of the office?
These days I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction—books about art history and geography mostly. I’ve always got a lot of crafts going at once. Right now, I’m teaching myself Blackletter calligraphy (like the kind Gutenberg’s printing press was made with!). I’ve also kind of been in a bit of an embroidering phase, making patches for shirts and sweatshirts. Oh, and I’ve been painting a lot! I drew and painted bunch of art for the wall above my cat Diane’s food and water bowls. They’re mini replicas of famous art pieces, doodles and paintings my friends have done. I just really like making little things in my free time.
If you could have any superpower, which one would you like to have? Why?
I think I’d like to fly. I know a lot of people say that, but I just love being super high up. I’ve always thought that it’d be so cool to be able to just zoom up into the air whenever I wanted. It’d be great to get some peace up there—and not needing a car would be wonderful!