A Day in the Life: Q+A with Melissa Jackson

In the latest installment of our Columbus Creatives: A Day in the Life series, we talk with Melissa Jackson, designer by day and a teacher by night who enjoys spending time with her family and going to CSCA events! 


Hi ya! I am Melissa Jackson, I design at Root Insurance by day and teach at Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) by night.

Originally from a small town near Cleveland, I moved to Columbus in the late 90's. After spending many years downtown in a fantastic loft, my husband Joel and I packed up and now live in a mid-century ranch in Upper Arlington. Our family grew to five with the addition of our kids Tilly (6), Duke (2) and pup Kiley.


My mornings always start with coffee and podcasts, usually Up First from NPR. Then I walk my daughter to school and head downtown to the Root office. Breakfast is usually on the go from my house, but worst case the office is always stocked with bagels! On my way into the office from the parking garage, I can be found on my phone playing Pokémon Go or Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. Then more coffee as soon as I get to my desk!


Afternoons at Root start with a catered lunch on the first floor of the office. Then it is time for our creative showdowns where we share our work with the entire creative team. We share feedback and then get back to work making kick-ass work. I will usually throw on a podcast like My Brother, My Brother and Me or Reply All.



My evenings are family time, we keep our kids busy with activities like Girl Scouts, crafts, gymnastics and playing dinos. If we go out to eat Northstar Cafe, Tai's Asian Bistro or Hound Dog's are top of the list.

Two evenings out of the week I teach a course to Ad/Graph students at CCAD. The class is all about networking, preparing portfolios and taking the students to industry related events. One of my favorite nights is when we go to the Columbus Society of Communication Arts (CSCA) events. As a past president and current board member, I love sharing CSCA with the students. I gain so much inspiration from my students, local events, and my design peers. I am ridiculously lucky!

Follow Melissa! 

Instagram | Behance | LinkedIn  


Design Army = Inspiration!

CSCA had another great speaker last night, Jake Lefebure from Design Army. The work was conceptual, exciting and effective--they are a team that is clearly obsessed with the details. But beyond the incredible work there were a few things Jake said that really struck me.

  • when looking for new talent to add to their team the most important thing is concepts and ideas--they can teach you how to execute
  • everyone on their team has to be really strong with typography or illustration (although no one ever seems to be equally good at both)
  • they look for an inherent sense for typography--they'll help you refine, but can't teach someone to have a sensitivity to type
  • they are really productive--their team of about seven people handles a consistent workload of 50+ ongoing creative projects!
  • how do they produce that much? they work hard, but are also efficient and systematic in their work
  • the firm does a certain amount of corporate work to pay the bills, then a lot of non-profit, editorial and fashion work for fun (all their work is excellent, but some clients just lend themselves to more open creativity and pushing boundaries)
  • nothing is ever good enough or just okay, they push the limits and sweat every single detail on every project

Regardless of the work you do, these principles stand true. Do good work that you believe in. Thanks for the inspiration, Design Army!

Mikey Burton - On Creating the Your Own Opportunities

In January CSCA brought in Mikey Burton to speak, his presentation was fantastic. One thing that struck us was how, rather than waiting for someone to give him an opportunity, he really made a point to create the kind of work he wanted to do and find a way to get paid for it. Intrigued, we asked Mikey a few questions to dig a little deeper into this idea. Read on!

Portfolio: From the very beginning of your career it seems that you’ve created your own opportunities, rather than waiting for “dream projects” to come to you. What was the catalyst that got you started?

Mikey: I'm not sure there was a specific plan where I was like, "I'm going to make money doing X", It was a little more organic. While I was in grad school two of my friends and I were very interested in the resurgence of handmade gig-poster art. We were fascinated by this, and were eager to try our hand at it. Also, there was a lack of poster art happening in Northeast Ohio, so we took it upon ourselves to fill this void. We taught ourselves how to (poorly) screen-print and gave ourself the moniker, Little Jacket (taken from an LCD Soundsystem song "...little jackets and borrowed nostalgia from the unremembered eighties"). Our goal was never to make money off it, it was just something we were passionate about. You just have to figure out what you like, and start making it.

Portfolio:  How do you decide what to work on? Do you give yourself assignments, or does it come from a point of inspiration?

Mikey:  In the case of Little Jacket, we would just pick concerts that we liked, contact the venue and/or band, and ask if we could do free promotion for them (people hardly say no to this proposal). Or it would just come out of us sitting around drinking a few beers and coming up with weird ideas.

Portfolio: Doing your own work has brought you clients with great projects. How did that transition happen? How did your personal work get exposure to the point that clients started contacting you?

Mikey:  While with Little Jacket, we had done about 3 posters for local venues around Cleveland. After that, one of the same venues asked us to do a poster for the upcoming Modest Mouse show. From there we started getting calls from people about doing 'real work'. It wasn't a floodgate or anything, but we started getting little jobs from that point on... whether it be another poster, or a logo. We would do these and it would result in getting more work after that.

Portfolio:  Does doing work you care about also mean not doing work you don’t care about? Do you ever turn down clients?

Mikey: I usually try to take on everything. If I turn something down, it usually just has to do with availability. When I was preparing for my lecture [at CSCA], I had to turn down a large shoe company for some t-shirt designs... it was hard, but I knew I couldn't do everything. It's especially hard when you have a 9 to 5 and want  to do fun stuff on top of it. It's hard to juggle everything. On the other hand, it allows me to really pick and choose what I'm taking on.

Portfolio:  You work for a creative firm and seem to really like it, but you still do your own projects as well. Why is that? What keeps you motivated to continue doing your own work?

Mikey:  I really like the work I do at 160over90, but I still like doing my own stuff. Mostly the kind of stuff we don't do at 160over90. I like doing things that are more illustrative; I want to get more work doing editorial illustration. So I try to take on things that will perpetuate more of this work. -- Most of all, I have a letterpress, and I want to get it set up so I can start making stuff all the time.
Portfolio:  Any advice for fellow creatives about creating or finding work they care about too?


1) Figure out what kind of work you would love doing.
2) Do self-initiated work catered toward that goal
3) Take on any opportunity
4) Stay Frustrated - Don't be happy with the work you made, and always strive to make something better
5) Love what you do.

(Thanks Mikey!)

Positive Economic Indicator?

In looking for my own indicators that the economy is headed in a more positive direction, I've noticed one recent trend--more job postings. On the CSCA job board it seemed that we were suddenly having A LOT more postings. More employers are looking for help, both freelance and full-time, which (presumably) means their business is picking up as well. June and July had an equal number of postings, but in August we've already had that same number of postings and it's not even mid-month. I like this trend, let's keep it going!

Julia Hoffman at CSCA July 16th

Between designing a new brand identity for The Metropolitan Opera and her current gig as Creative Director of The Museum of Modern Art, Julia Hoffmann taught us how to Simpsonize ourselves – and brought us to the brink of Whopper freakout. She also helped Jon Stewart tutor us in civics with America (The Book). Frankfurt-born Julia has worked with Pentagram on brand identity projects for clients including The Criterion Collection, and was art and interactive design director at Colorado-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky, where she created interactive experiences for Burger King and Volkswagen. In her spare time, she illustrates for The New York Times and teach at the School of Visual Arts. Join us July 16th at CSCA welcomes Julia to Ohio State's Knowlton Hall for an evening of insight and interaction. 

Tim Bruce to speak at CSCA

Tim Bruce, founder of LOWERCASE, Inc. will speak at The Columbus Society of Communicating Arts on Thursday, April 16th at 7:30. Everything about his work is unexpected. Even the all caps representation of LOWERCASE — the firm he founded in Chicago in 1998. Tim Bruce’s work has been recognized in every major national and international design competition, featured in leading graphics publications, and is on display as part of museum collections in Denver, New York and Hamburg, Germany. Tim lends his expertise as a judge of design competitions, as the president of AIGA Chicago, and soon, as a guest speaker at CSCA. Come Early...a pre-event social hour (starting at 6:30) includes one complementary drink, hors d'oeuvres, and a chance to win one of several special door prizes. See you there!

CSCA February Event

The Columbus Society of Communicating Arts will feature Wink, a serious Minneapolis-based design firm that never takes itself too seriously. Its homepage is about as lo-fi as it gets. Its blog is woefully out of date. Its corporate story is retold with handheld KISS action figures. But Wink’s work — that’s another story. The agency’s identity, packaging, poster, and environment design has been embraced by some of the biggest brands around (Nike, Target, MTV, to name a few). Wink delivers colorful, breakthrough work (whimsical and serious) that’s been celebrated in all the major design books, including CA, How, and ID. Join us to hear Wink founders, Richard Boynton & Scott Thares on Thursday, February 19th in Knowlton Hall on the OSU campus.

CSCA Speaker, Armin Vit--New Location!

Renowned graphic designer, Armin Vit, will be the guest speaker at the January 15th CSCA meeting. To learn more about Armin, check out this interesting in-depth interview. Mingle with the best creatives in the region, and learn from the best creatives in the world. It happens at every CSCA Meeting. Sip some wine, trade some business cards, learn something new. And feel more connected to your profession. Please note the new location for this meeting: January event will be held at Knowlton Hall, 275 West Woodruff Ave, on the campus of The Ohio State University. Parking can be found south of Knowlton Hall in the Tuttle Park Place Parking Garage, 2050 Tuttle Park Place. Maps and directions can found on the CSCA site.

CSCA January Speaker - Armin Vit

Renowned graphic designer, Armin Vit, will be the guest speaker at the January 15th CSCA meeting. To learn more about Armin, check out this interesting in-depth interview. Mingle with the best creatives in the region, and learn from the best creatives in the world. It happens at every CSCA Meeting. Sip some wine, trade some business cards, learn something new. And feel more connected to your profession.

Congrats to CSCA Creative Best Winners

Congratulations to all of the 2008 winners in the CSCA Creative Best competition. We were very excited to see a few of our associates among the winners. Alan McClelland, designer/photographer/illustrator on two pieces that won Packaging awards. Check out more work at eye.lyft Jason Spinks, designer on a Cleveland Clinic invitation winning a Print award. Lovely piece! Jason Sweazy, designer winning a Student and Judge's Choice award for his senior thesis project (this guy is good, someone needs to hire him pronto!) And congrats to our High Street neighbors at Element, for awards in the Identity, Packaging and Campaign categories. We're lucky enough to have some of those wine bottles in our lobby. Here's to another year of great Central Ohio creative work!