PSU Alumna Shawnee Fleenor (Photo by Gregg Smith)Shawnee Fleenor, Branding Administrator

Deskey Integrated Branding, Cincinnati, Ohio
2002 M.A. in Professional Writing and Rhetoric
(photo by Gregg Smith)

Driving through beams of sunlight as I enter the parking lot on Monday morning, I can't help glancing up. The six-story mural on the side of my downtown Cincinnati building is a field of black with giant blue hands and white thumbprints scattered across it, a work of art among otherwise stodgy skyscrapers. Behind the painted wall lies Deskey Integrated Branding, as much a laboratory of discovery and innovation as a design firm.

Once a piano factory, the loft-style building is unique inside and out and is full of creative energy. Original artwork lines curved walls in the reception area. The elevator, a gathering place for cutting-edge articles and humor only an insider would appreciate, boasts a glass side revealing old brick walls. Throughout the building, black carpet offers up those same hands and thumbprints from the mural outside. They represent the work of Donald Deskey, our company's founder and a leader in the original Art Deco movement.

Stepping onto third floor's offbeat reception area (even the brightly checkered couch seems to echo a phrase from our brand statement, “We are an acquired taste”), I see displays of products our company has served, representing Fortune 500 companies such as Starbucks, U.S. Air, DeWalt, Campbell-Hausfeld, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble. I see products like Crest or Tide and feel proud that our company designed their familiar logos more than sixty years ago and continues to keep the products' packaging fresh in the consumer's eye.

My office is just a few feet away, and already I feel an energy about my week's work as a branding administrator.

Communication is central to my role at Deskey and is one of my favorite responsibilities. This Monday morning launches me directly into a familiar e-mail extravaganza, connecting people with ideas, information, and meetings, many of which I will attend.

Mid-morning, I receive an editing request for a written presentation to a client. The editing skills I gained through PSU's technical writing program come in handy, more for issues of punctuation or layout than style or content. The written word at Deskey is often rhythmic, evocative, not copy but finesse, so that my editing experiences are both a great pleasure and an opportunity to learn from skilled communicators.

The editing done, I read the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, and a variety of other high-end publications that impact our business in some way. Serving as an acquisitions editor, I gather the most pertinent articles and organize them into personalized packets for nearly a dozen co-workers.

After lunch, which I usually spend in some narrow, Greek café or the four-story research library nearby, I return to Deskey and collect the mail for my department, stopping to pet a few of the dogs who often spend a day at Deskey in their owners' offices--child gates across doorways are not uncommon. There's Lucy, who recently won first place in the Ohio dachshund races, and Luna, a sleek, dignified greyhound whose professional racing days are over. Then there's Bailey: all puppy, all the time. I've heard it rumored the CEO keeps doggy treats under his desk.

Monday afternoon brings an opportunity to learn about Deskey's innovative consumer research program; I see the time more as an experience session than a training session. Chances are I'll never participate in this particular research process, but Deskey is big on global thinking, and every employee receives the training.

After the experience session, I head for the Internet to conduct a different kind of research. A co-worker needs to know which companies have used a variety of ethnic models to advertise the same product. I'm new to the design world, and every research task becomes a learning event, but research makes up the bulk of my role at Deskey. I devote three hours to the Internet and find a selection of narrowly-focused articles, each offering a different insight, then deliver some articles as hardcopy, others as annotated e-mail links.

In late afternoon, I spend a few minutes on first floor at the 80-line switchboard while the receptionist takes a break. I head upstairs to fourth floor to distribute a box of freebies (products used in photo-shoots and no longer needed), and in the stairwell discuss a database problem with an I.T. specialist. A passing co-worker asks if I can make travel arrangements for her team's trip to New York next month, and another co-worker wants to know if I can edit his letter to a client in San Francisco. In a matter of moments, the final hour of the day fills with small tasks, but I'm glad to be busy in the midst of these creative, energetic people.

Just before I head home, I receive an e-mail requesting participation in an upcoming Polaroid scavenger hunt in downtown Cincinnati, men against the women, the final points leading toward a paid day off for the winners. That's Deskey: work hard, play hard.

I love the constantly changing nature of my job, variations in the pattern that keep me running from one floor to the next, interacting with nearly 70 people who openly appreciate my efforts, get along well with one another, and feel great about what they do. I love working for a company known internationally and around town for cutting-edge design, so that casual acquaintances at a neighborhood picnic take on a look of instant recognition when I mention Deskey. I love seeing our work in stores, in national magazines, and on billboards. Most of all, I love being my own boss, having almost complete freedom to plan my day and organize my tasks. The gift of a full, active day keeps me coming back for more.