Kimberly FitzSimons spent a decade working in investor relations and product management for leading Fortune 500 companies before becoming who she is today: a successful designer and parent of two girls. Like many of Minted artists’ success stories, Kimberly’s career transition didn’t happen overnight. As a self-taught designer, she built her creative path from the ground up and got her hands dirty with her own letterpress company before focusing solely on the design side of stationery. In this interview, Kimberly shares the wisdom she’s gained from working on Wall Street, connecting with the Minted artist community, and “learning how to fly” as a designer.
Kimberly’s style is timeless and refined with eye-catching type.
Minted: What did you study in school?
Kimberly FitzSimons: Finance. I spent 10 years working as an investor relations consultant for several public companies and then led a product management team for a large financial technology company before giving it up to be a full-time mom and part-time graphic designer.
While I was planning my wedding in 2007, I fell in love with the letterpress printing method. Not long after my wedding, I enrolled in letterpress printing classes at the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College in Chicago. It was letterpress printing that ultimately jump-started my passion for design. I taught myself Illustrator so that I could have something to letterpress print in those classes. Eventually, in 2010, I bought a restored Vandercook (letterpress printing machine) and started a design and printing business for wedding stationery. My business grew very fast, and ultimately, I had to outsource the printing work to my commercial printing partner (Rohner Letterpress) and focus on design. My old Vandercook is still a workhorse and is now owned by Steel Petal Press in Chicago. I had a few very crazy but good years offering custom letterpress wedding stationery, but I closed my business in 2014 to focus on my family and concentrate on designs for Minted.
“Fresh Christmas Wishes” holiday card by Kimberly FitzSimons
How has your former career in finance and tech shaped you as a designer?
All of my jobs within the finance and technology industries helped shape who I am today and how I think about my business. As an investor relations consultant, I worked with management teams of Fortune 500 companies and interacted with their large institutional shareholders. I learned so much about the financial markets and Wall Street, but I also learned very quickly how to ask questions, build relationships, and creatively spin a “story.” It was not always the easiest job, but it had it’s thrilling moments, like interacting with well-respected executives and helping companies plan their IPOs.
When I moved into product management for a financial technology company, I was able to use some of my previous market knowledge and relationship skills to help build and implement products for a web-based asset management and trading platform. One of my favorite parts of the job was brainstorming new product features with our engineering team in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale, California). There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes to brainstorm, build, test, implement, and launch new products. It makes me truly appreciate all that the Minted Engineering and Product teams do for artists and their customers.
How did you learn graphic design?
When I had my first daughter, Maddie, I knew that I wanted to be very involved at home and that I wanted a job with more flexibility. With my husband’s support, I was able to test the waters of stationery design. I had already started to explore letterpress printing and was trying to teach myself as much Adobe Illustrator as I could during Maddie’s nap time. I wish I could say that I had a master plan before I transitioned into design, but it was a very quick change, especially with a newborn at home. But, there is a point where you just have to jump out of the tree and learn to fly.
It took me several years to call myself a “graphic designer” because I am not formally trained and I felt silly when I referred to myself in this way. There are so many amazing designers and artists — especially in the Minted Community — who have skills far beyond my own. My success in custom stationery and at Minted came after several years of hard work and I am just recently starting to feel more confident about calling myself a designer. To be honest, many of my acquaintances think I am just a stay-at-home mom, and I am OK with that because I work super hard to be a good one. I think my best years as a designer are ahead of me, and I’m looking forward to developing my style and exploring new creative avenues.
“Joy to All” holiday card by Kimberly FitzSimons
How many hours per week do you usually work work, and what does “work” mean for you?
My “design work” hours vary depending on the season. I spend 15-20 hours designing per week during off-peak periods and up to 40-50 hours per week during busy seasonal periods.
What’s a typical day in the life for you?
I am a full-time mom to two daughters, ages 3 and 5. It is the best and hardest job. Outside of their school hours, I do not have childcare, so my mornings and afternoons are filled with lots of lunch making, school runs, and after-school activities. When my girls are both in school in the mornings, I try to get as much design work done as possible. Then, a lot of my work is done after they go to bed at night.
How do you balance personal life with work?
I feel incredibly lucky to be able to stay at home with my girls and still have an exciting design job that I love that works around their schedules. This is something that is so rare to find. My main job in life to make sure my girls grow up to be generous and kind. But, I also need an outlet that lets me use my greatest gifts. It really is a happy medium — to be able to raise my kids to be thoughtful people but not lose sight of how to care for myself. I think I summed up my feelings best in a note I recently wrote to Minted CEO and Founder Mariam Naficy: Minted has made my life better by being in it.
What has been the best thing about 2016 for you so far, and what do you look forward to in 2017?
In 2016, I had a little bit more time to explore new creative pursuits and studies. I started to learn calligraphy and really sharpened my photography skills. In 2017, I hope to refine these skills even further and be able to share them more often via social media and in design challenges.
What’s an interesting thing about you that most people don’t know?
I feel like I come across as super feminine and simple with my pale pinks, script fonts, and loads of white space. A few lesser-known facts: I love working out, especially at my local crossfit gym. I do my best design work after I’ve had a chance to release any ugly thoughts that’s running around in my head or body. My save the date design “White Space” was probably designed just after a grueling crossfit session. Ugly out, pretty in.
“White Space” save the date card by Kimberly FitzSimons
Also, I can sing the words to almost every Beatles song, thanks to my dad, who listened to “Breakfast with the Beatles” every Sunday in the car on the way to church. During college, I took a year off from college to work for the Sydney Olympic Committee and trek through the hill tribes of Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). My husband and I are partners in a private Napa-based wine label. I am a serial learner. I am learning how to play the violin with my 5-year-old. I am terribly afraid of getting older because there is so much more I want to do and learn.
On your Minted Artist Store, you say that you have a “weakness for script fonts, white space, and subtle pinks.” Has this always been your style, or has it evolved?
My design style leans toward clean and timeless with minimal colors and a lot of white space. This absolutely stems from my start as a letterpress printer learning how best to design for my medium. Often, in letterpress, the less type and color the better so that the printed elements really jump off of the page. I am starting to branch out a little bit in my design work and relax my obsession over perfect symmetry and clean lines. You will notice some understated hand drawn florals in some of my recent wedding submissions. My goal for 2017 is to try and experiment and sketch a little more and continue to practice calligraphy and perhaps watercolor.
As a member of Minted’s prestigious CMYK artist program, Kimberly (pictured here, in the bottom row, on the far right) visited the Minted office in San Francisco in October 2016.
KIMBERLY’S MINTED EXPERIENCE
Which Minted design are you most proud of and why?
Wedding stationery is my strong suit. My two favorite wedding invitation designs are “Eloquence” and “Chic Monogram.” They really represent my design style: timeless and refined with eye-catching type.
How did you discover Minted back in 2009?
I remember reading a blog written by someone that had submitted a design to Minted. I wish I could remember who it was!
“Chic Monogram” wedding invitation by Kimberly FitzSimons
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Minted community?
The Minted community is so unique because designers and artists compete with each other but also support each other to make the community better as a whole. I love being part of a community that shares a strong common bond over design and all of its challenges (literally and figuratively)! I also love meeting and catching up with designers at Minted events. My Minted friends always motivate me to reach outside of my comfort zone and do my best design work.
What have you learned from being part of the Minted community?
I have learned so much from participating in my first challenge in 2009. Minted is where I learned how to execute good type, create eye-appealing layouts and most importantly, self edit my own work. It has taken years for me to learn what I know now and I feel like I have so, so, so much more to learn.
“Rush Hour” limited edition art by Lulaloo
What’s your favorite Minted design or art (that someone else created) and why?
That is so hard! I just walked around my house and counted 14 framed pieces of Minted art! In my office, I have the a 40″ x 30″ of Rush Hour hanging on a wall. I like the juxtaposition between my quiet office and the artistic city scene. As for stationery, every year I am blown away by Jennifer Wick’s birthday party invitations. One of my favorites is Details Details.
What’s your most memorable Minted community experience?
I love meeting with other Minted artists and look forward to NSS in the Spring every year. But, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Minted on the CMYK fall trip this year. It was such an honor to be invited and so fun to get to know other artists and designers and meet with the Minted Artists and Management teams.
What’s your advice to up-and-coming artists and designers?
Do you. Keep practicing. Success doesn’t happen overnight. You might not notice that your work is evolving, but it absolutely will if you stick with it and your heart is in it. The hills and valleys are all part of the journey.
Creative turnoffs: Out-of-date font choices
Favorite recent discoveries: Soulcycle and Adobe Lightroom
Favorite place in the world: Wine country, anywhere
Favorite movie: Love, Actually
Favorite music: Currently, The Original Hamilton soundtrack
Favorite blog or website: Minted.com!
Favorite design resources: Skillshare
Favorite something else: Cold caffeine.
“Eloquence” foil-pressed wedding invitation by Kimberly FitzSimons
Kimberly FitzSimon’s family photography is by The Life In Your Years Photography