An Interview with Graphic Designer Meg Willoughby

My friendship with today's bitch begins where a lot of my friendships begin - East Nasty Running Club. I think I started running with East Nasty in 2010, so I've probably known Meg six years, but I really got to know her when I started doing triathlons. The year I decided to do a 70.3, Meg was training for a 140.6. And she had just been hit by a car in a pretty traumatic cycling accident. We started talking more while she was injured, then she healed, finished her 140.6, and helped me start training for my 70.3.

There are two qualities I am always attracted to in other people:  kindness and courage. Last summer when I started opening up about my 9/11 trauma, Meg took me to dinner and asked me to tell her my 9/11 story. I hadn't practiced telling it, I didn't know how to tell it, and I didn't know how to cry in front of other people. Meg listened, shared some of her own stuff and made me feel, not only normal, but supported. It takes courage to show empathy and vulnerability. What Meg did for me that night helped so much, and was the beginning of my understanding that I was going to be okay. Also, when I started my business two years ago, Meg made my logo, which I get complimented on EVERY TIME I hand someone one of my business cards. Meet today's bitch, Meg Willoughby!

What is your job title and where do you work?

I am a Senior Graphic/Web Designer at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I didn’t really get into graphic design until starting at Ringling College of Art & Design. I had been a “traditional” artist (painting, drawing, etc.) from a very early age. For a long time I thought I wanted to be an architect, but I realized I enjoyed the drawing and design part more than the engineering. The summer before my senior year of high school, my art teachers encouraged me to try out a “pre-college” program at an art school to see if it was a good fit. I loved it! AND it proved to my parents that art school wasn’t full of crazy weirdos and I could have a career as an artist.

Side note:  I am very thankful to have supportive parents that always encouraged me to become an artist and to make a career out of it. That being said, I was under STRICT rules to not come home from art school with piercings, tattoos and/or dyed hair. 

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

The pre-college program at Ringling let me try out a few things and graphic design was the perfect fit for me. I have never NOT wanted to be an artist. I've known since I was really little that I would do something in a creative field. (Except for that time I told my mom I wanted to work at Hardee’s when I grew up so that I could eat all the sausage biscuits I wanted.)

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

When I first moved to Nashville, I worked at a company that mainly built websites for NFL teams, like the Titans, Texans, 49ers, etc. I also helped create materials for Hammer Bowling Balls. So… I can talk your ear off about the cores of bowling balls.

The company went under and I took a job with Sony Music Nashville as a Junior Art Director. Coolest job, hands-down. I also met so many woman I am still friends with today, including my best friend. I worked there almost two years before Sony merged with BMG and most of the Sony staff was let go. 

I had to find a job quickly, saw a PR firm that was hiring, and that’s how I ended up at MP&F. I've been here almost ten years.

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

Know when to step up and be a leader; know when to step back and let someone else lead; know when to fight for something, and know when to walk away and let it go. I feel like I do all of these every day.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

I think anyone can agree that age and experience makes you more confident. I’m a pretty outspoken person already, but now I don’t hesitate to give my opinion, good or bad. 

People have asked me if I ever get offended when my designs get ripped apart by a client -- not really. At Ringling, I built a thick skin pretty quickly because every class was a critique by your peers. People have different tastes in music, art, style, etc., so it makes sense that not everyone is going to have the same taste in design. 

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Probably work-out more, or sleep more - two of my favorite things.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

I don’t have one main thing I’m proud of. I feel like I’ve had some amazing opportunities and I’ve been able to design some pretty high-profile projects. It’s always fun to see a billboard I created or have my friends wearing a race shirt I designed.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

Usually when I get to work I start checking email. If I have time I’ll read through the headlines of CNN and the Tennessean, check FB and Instagram. I usually hit up Gawker and Jezebel at some point during the day.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

I hit the gym after work. It keeps me from having to get into rush hour traffic and it helps me blow off steam. 

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

Dealing with the client. That is the hardest part hands-down. Sometimes clients trust me and let me do exactly what I think is best. Many times, however, clients art-direct a project to the point where I am embarrassed to attach my name to it. I don’t take it personal, I just hold onto my original design for my portfolio. 

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

That anyone who has Adobe Photoshop on their computer can design something. Just because you have the “design” software doesn’t mean you should use it. I have Word, but that doesn’t mean I’m qualified to write a novel.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I have a lot of shows I like. Favorite of all time? Lost. Favorite this week? The Bachelor. Don’t judge. My favorite snack is probably Gummy Bears.

All photos courtesy of Meg Willoughby

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Exercise Coach, Kathy Mead!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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