Melissa Mazza-Chiong, group art director of PRI Healthcare Solutions, has more than 15 years of design experience. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts, she began her career in publishing as a graphic designer for Forbes magazine then moved to Edgell Communications, a B2B media company, where she worked her way up to become art director of four publications.
Melissa started at Haymarket Media in July 2011 as the Art Director for Direct Marketing News. In 2013, she moved to Haymarket’s PRI Healthcare Solutions, the US-based medical communications division of Haymarket. (Haymarket also owns MM&M.)
As the group art director of PRI Healthcare Solutions, Melissa leads the team responsible for developing strategic design solutions. She has won numerous awards including Graphic Design USA, Haymarket Creative Excellence and Best Idea Awards and was nominated for a MIN Award.
Melissa’s proudest accomplishment is being the mother of two very active, fun-loving boys, Matteo and Julian. She and her husband, Gabriel, spend weekends enjoying the outdoors, trying new food and restaurants and going on adventures with their boys. Chops got Melissa to hold still long enough to answer a few questions.
So, what do you do all day?
I make things look pretty and have a blast doing it! Plus, I am responsible for managing the design process and development of creative materials for custom programs. My team and I work collaboratively with other groups which is essential in generating new ideas with effective results.
How would you describe life as a creative to someone who’s not familiar with your job?
I’m an artist; I come up with ideas and solutions to create things that people can connect to. It’s my job to constantly be inspired, know the trends and be fearless. I tell people that I went to art school to grow a back bone… because guess what? Not everyone is going to love my work and that’s okay, no hard feelings.
Did you ever think you’d be doing this? If not, what did you think you’d do?
In kindergarten, I drew an underwater scene filled with fish, a mermaid and a treasure chest. My teacher was so impressed with my drawing that she walked me to the principal’s office to show it off. I knew at five years old that I was going to be an artist.
What can you point to in your past and your education that prepared you for this career?
I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York. Freshman year, I took Graphic Design 101 with an inspirational professor and prominent designer in the industry, Frank Young.
My first assignment was to walk around the city and take 100 photos of locks: bike locks, door locks, any type of lock I came across. The following, class we taped our favorite 50 photos up on the wall. There were hundreds of pictures on the wall and my professor would walk around and select his top 10 photo compositions.
The entire semester we photographed different objects and each week critiqued them. I thought it was a bit out of the ordinary and non-traditional for Graphic Design 101 and didn’t quite understand the purpose of it.
But years later, I realized what he was doing. He wasn’t only setting me up for rounds and rounds of design edits… ha! … but he was setting me up for real life. To see things in a different light, to not hone in on one single object but to appreciate the beauty in it, including the shapes, mood and story behind it. It was also about being able to take something and reinvent how the world was viewing it.
Frank and the brilliant SVA professors have helped me to become a visual storyteller; always communicating something.
Any quirks in your career path? Odd jobs? Bad jobs? Cool jobs?
When I was 18 I got a job selling cars — a job that helped me cover the costs of an expensive art school. Most people hate buying cars and there is a stereotype associated with car salespeople, but I was very open and transparent with my customers and they trusted me.
I discovered from that experience that I needed to make my customers feel comfortable in buying a car with me. That everything I promised them — the product, the service and the overall experience, was going to happen and it would be a seamless transaction.
Years later, I applied that experience to my design career except now it’s my goal to make sure our clients feel like they can trust our service and in our creative process.
What’s the ideal office set up for you to do your best work? Quiet? Music, and if so, what? Open work space or closed door? Home or office?
I have the opportunity to work from home, but prefer to be in the office. My team and I have an amazing dynamic; we’re not just coworkers, we’re family. We play music, share ideas and laugh all day long. I’m a firm believer in having fun while you work!
Name five things that help you do your job better.
- Organized people since I’m OCD
- Good/open communication internally and with clients is KEY!
- A positive attitude and good energy
- Being a team player
- Weekend breaks!
Hoop earrings …almost every day since 1998. I’m also a shoe addict and once owned over 100 pairs!
What piece of work/project/campaign/creation are you most proud of?
I’m proud of all my work, but more recently on the branding we created for two HCP campaigns for Intersect ENT. The project was a lot of fun and our clients are awesome to work with!
What’s your favorite color right now?
Gray. It’s soothing and the perfect neutral. My whole house is gray with color accents for a pop!
Which individual has had the most influence on you as a creative?
I can’t say there is just one individual. I think all the designers I’ve worked with have made some sort of impact in my work since they’ve all brought their own unique perspectives, ideas and solutions. I always think to myself, “How would they do it?”
Do you create on your own time? If so, what do you do and why?
I went to school for graphic design, but my life is one, big Pinterest board. I create mood boards to decorate my home or style my kids.
Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that gives you the greatest pleasure.
Anything Norman Rockwell. He was a storyteller with an amazing talent of uncovering and capturing everyday life in America.
Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that leaves you thinking, I wish I had done that.
Milton Glaser’s I <3 NY logo. It’s simple and iconic.
Name a single work, in any medium, that leaves you wondering, How the hell did they do that?
Hands down the Sistine Chapel. It’s fascinating!
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I’ve always loved fashion and interior design, but my heart just wants to help people. If I didn’t have to worry about paying bills I would love to volunteer more and give back.
How do you recharge?
Recharge …what’s that? I wish I can say I take the time to recharge, but I don’t. I’m a busy worker, busy mommy and rarely take time for myself. Although, I do have a resolution that this year I will dedicate some ME time. I’m working on it!
What’s your happy place?
Home with my family, and the Amalfi Coast.
Pastel or oil? Oil
Sound or vision? Vision
Strings or horns? Strings
Clear or cluttered? Clear
Morning or night? Night
Design school or liberal arts? Design school