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Carissa Wesson, SSDM’s Visual Designer, has enjoyed the study of shapes all her life. In elementary school, she won a competition award for a drawing of a helicopter from the local airport in her hometown of Adrian, Michigan, which is widely used by race-car drivers coming to and from nearby Michigan International Speedway.

Shaping a portfolio of skills

Halfway through college, I was forced to reevaluate my major as a result of a recession that pretty much put the kibosh on my dreams of becoming an interior designer. But fate shaped my life, by way of a trip with the Eastern Michigan University (EMU) advertising club to tour W. B. Doner, a locally headquartered international ad agency. I was introduced to the idea of design for marketing and fell in love with my career.

Shaping brand behavior

The psychology behind good advertising totally captivated me, as smart graphic design supports messaging, and during an internship and several subsequent staff positions, I also learned to appreciate the power of social media to influence opinion. Now I’m able to motivate engagement through great design and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with so many interesting clients and campaigns.


man shaking his hand saying aha!


A recent “aha moment” occurred while reading “Creative Strategy and the Business of Design” by Douglas Davis. That book changed my perspective as it solidified the importance of presenting ideas to stakeholders with a “decision making attitude.” What a difference from college, where ideas “spoke for themselves.”

At SSDM I have a hand in shaping the visual face of the brand. It’s fun to put my personal stamp on things that are so important to our brand, and I relish the knowledge that I’ve changed our image for the better.

Shaping the customer journey

As a visual designer at SSDM, the ability to collaborate to create memorable advertising is exhilarating. Each day presents challenges through various client projects, to reach extremely specific audiences, pushing me to understand my potential and grow. With the sophisticated measurement tools available today, it’s possible to see which designs actually move the needle.

For a truly creative person, this variety offers the opportunity to stretch, to avoid becoming stale. On the other hand, being a stickler for a campaign look and feel, through color schemes, typography and other elements, I can provide the kind of consistency that assures audiences and spurs action.

“For the marketing person in me, there is probably nothing more fulfilling than the knowledge that my design contributed to the success of a campaign, as the presentation of the message resonated with audiences.”

Mom shaped my love of knowledge

My love of learning is directly attributable to my Mom, who instilled a love of reading in her children from the very start. She enjoyed word origins so much, she got to be known as a “walking dictionary.”

Throughout my formative years, I was always encouraged to explore the wide world of knowledge, including the study of art and shapes, as well as words and communication. I learned that art, design and messaging were intricately interconnected, and thanks to some excellent counseling at EMU, ended up with a BFA in Graphic Design with a marketing minor.

What I find most exciting about being SSDM’s Visual Designer is that I can feel myself growing! My level of confidence to change visual approaches is exhilarating, as I am always looking for the “sweet spot.”

cartoon brain with growth mindset text


It’s cool that, at SSDM, we are constantly encouraged to “grow ourselves to grow others.” Every day, I review briefings from design organizations and publications to learn the latest trends in branding and logo development, user interface best practices, and effective email and social media layouts, to support campaign design theories. In particular, I like to check out the art section of Medium every day for info and  inspiration.  

In an effort to support my talents with ongoing research, I’ve developed a personal reference library consisting of screenshots of email and social media designs that catch my eye and I use these to sharpen my designs for SSDM and our clients.

Fun comes in many shapes and sizes

Outside of work, my love of art and design manifests in other ways. For gifts for friends, I make hand-lettered painted signs, and I belong to Creative Things, a private art community, with a membership of four. It’s a sisterhood to support each other to get over creative roadblocks and we mentor each other with tips and tricks to make design easier and better.

Also, I have a goal to read one non-fiction book per month; currently, I’m reading about storyboarding and brainstorming.

My guilty pleasure is watching psychological thrillers by myself because theaters are distracting. However, along with pals from my intern days at Skybird Travel, we regularly schedule “movie nights,” and we do individual crafts at the same time (coloring, sketching, crocheting etc.) We love to watch really bad horror movies every Halloween, so if you have a suggestion, we’d love to hear it!