Sandra Picco attributes success to creative risk-taking, the Minted community, and evolving with the Digital Age

With a graphic design degree from Montclair State University in hand, Sandra Picco ignited her career on the production side of things and spent many hours in press rooms before actually focusing on design. She even walked the famous halls of Vogue magazine, working as a production manager for a spell. “It was humbling but also made me question every fashion choice I ever made,” the New Jersey Minted designer says with a smirk.

Sandra Picco works on her Minted designs at home in Barnegat, New Jersey, a small shore town located on the Barnegat inlet off the coast of New Jersey. “My husband and I just built our home here and moved in about six months ago,” she says. “The best thing about this area of New Jersey is that we can be at the beach in minutes or get in the car and be in New York City or Philadelphia in under two hours.” Portraits by Born Rival Cinema.

In addition to those humbling moments, Sandra attributes much of what she learned in her early production days to her refined skills as a designer and typographer. Ultimately, I discovered I was not cut out for magazine publishing and chose to pursue design over continuing in print production,” she says. “I did learn a lot about the inner workings of magazine publishing—and maybe a thing or two about what not to wear.”

Sandra also attributes her growth as a designer to Minted. She joined the Minted artist community of independent artists in 2010, when the company was only two years old. Eight years later, Sandra says she looks to Minted to provide room for creativity that her day job as a corporate designer doesn’t always provide. “Stationery design and being a part of the Minted community have given me reasons to push myself to take more risks and try new things creatively,” she says. “The support of the community cheering me on has also saved me from design burnout on a few occasions. It’s been pretty amazing to watch other designers, who I now call friends, grow alongside me as well.”

“Subtle Statement” save the date card by Sandra Picco

Though Sandra can’t quite put her finger on her design style, we call it “cheerful classics with a twist.” “I tend to have ‘shiny object syndrome’ when it comes to sticking to one look, but I usually favor a clean, modern aesthetic, and I love using type as the main focal point in my work,” she says.  

Here Sandra talks about her creative evolution, the art of being receptive to constructive criticism, and more.

“Burst of Happy” holiday photo card by Sandra Picco

How have you continued to learn about graphic design since college?
I’m going to date myself big time here, but I studied graphic design before computers were commonplace. It’s hard to even imagine that now. I was taught how to “copy and paste” the old-fashioned way—with a blade and adhesive! I didn’t really learn how to design via the computer until I started my first job after graduation, and with the pace of technology, I feel like I’ve been learning ever since. Needless to say, a lot has changed over the years, but I’m happy that I entered the field when I did because it gave me valuable insight into both worlds.

By day, Sandra works full time as a graphic designer for a small design and print company in New Jersey, where she designs everything from logos and brochures for small businesses to banners hanging in professional sports arenas. “It’s never the same from one day to the next, which keeps things interesting,” she says. “Stationery is my ‘side hustle.’”

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about design?
Although I dreaded critique day in my college design courses, I have to admit they taught me how to take constructive criticism without being offended or hurt and that has proved to be an invaluable skill over the years. Anyone who puts themselves out there creatively also leaves themselves open for criticism—sometimes harsh—from peers, bosses, clients, etc., and it’s important to have a thick skin and learn to take it in stride. You will burn out quickly if you take it all to heart.

Sandra Picco says her “Bold Type” notebook is one of the most memorable designs she’s created for Minted because it was the first time she used her hand-lettering in a challenge. “It won an editor’s pick as well as the Great Type award for that challenge—a proud Minted moment for me!,” she says.

How do you become open to constructive criticism?
As a designer, it’s easy to become totally consumed in what you are creating, but I think the most important thing is to not be so attached to your work that you can’t be open to making it better. There’s usually always room for improvement—how ever small. And try to remember it’s not personal! Whether it’s for a client or for Minted, most of the time people are just trying to help your design succeed.

We’ve heard you have a healthy obsession with your iPad Pro. What do you create on it?
I do have an obsession—the jury is still out on the healthy part. I do a ton of lettering on it, but I’m also using it to draw and “paint” more. Oddly enough, working on it has inspired me to pull out the real paintbrushes and art supplies again.

I’ve always loved calligraphy and lettering, but I didn’t practice and work at it enough and I was way too intimidated by all the amazing artists whose work I admired to put my own lettering out there. The iPad gives me the ability to draw and practice daily which in turn has upped my skills as well as my confidence.

Sandra recently completed her office in her new house. “It’s the first time I’ve had a dedicated workspace, so I took my time planning it and really considered my workflow and what would make my life easier in terms of organization,” she says. “I ended up with a space that is very ‘me’ and one that I’m so excited to start creating in.”

How do you describe your creative process?
I begin almost every creative endeavor with quick thumbnail sketches and then choose the ideas I feel are worth pursuing. Depending on the design, I will either sketch further or go straight to the computer and attempt to bring it to life. There are usually many, many versions floating around the pasteboard!

“Simple Joys, Squeaky Toys” holiday photo card by Sandra Picco

How often would you say you get frustrated with a creative project you’re working on, and how do you work around it?
I tend to get frustrated when I have an idea in my mind that I struggle to get “on paper” or when I don’t flesh out sketches or some sort of framework before I go to the computer. Staring at a blank screen with no ideas is the most daunting thing imaginable for me. Usually walking away for a beat helps or picking up a different creative project to get the juices flowing.  

Where Sandra Picco finds Inspiration: “Living near the ocean is an endless source of inspiration,” Sandra says of living on the Jersey shore. “I will also pull out my old graphic design and art history books from time to time and just browse the work of the all-time greats.”

What’s one of your favorite Minted designs that another artist created and why?
I’m a huge fan of anything Katie Craig creates. My husband and I have been trying to narrow down and pick one of her prints for our living room for a few weeks now, but we can’t decide which one because they are all so beautiful.

Sandra Picco sits outside her new home with her husband, Henry, and their dog, Gretchen.

What do you love most about the new home that you and your husband moved into in 2017?
I love that we had it built and it was ours to make any way we wanted. It’s been a designer’s dream to decorate a home completely from scratch. My favorite part by far, though, is that we can see the Barnegat Bay and the Barnegat Lighthouse in the distance from our upstairs windows. We didn’t even realize we had that view until we climbed the stairs during the build!

More about Sandra Picco
Sandra Picco’s Minted Artist Store
On Instagram @sandrapiccodesign

About the author: Amy Schroeder, Minted’s Community Content Manager, founded Venus, the magazine about women in the arts and DIY culture, and has written for Etsy, West Elm, Pitchfork, and NYLON. Connect on Instagram @thevenuslady.

Published May 7, 2018

  1. Sandra

    Thank you, Minted, for the feature! XO

  2. Maria

    Beautiful feature Sandy!

  3. Sandra

    Thanks, Maria!

  4. Oma N. Ramkhelawan

    Such a lovely feature Sandra . . . beautiful work, home and all round Mintie!

    • Sandra

      Thank you so much, Oma!

  5. Well, you made this haven hope you’re not an angel haha just kidding nice work anyways.

  6. Jill Means

    My favorite mintie! Lovely in every way.

  7. Sandra

    Thank you, Jill! xo

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