The ‘Meet Our Members’ series offers a chance for the community to network beyond The Tara Building. Earlier, we enjoyed a Q&A with Dara O’Donnell who is looking to return to The Tara Building in April….
Q: Hi Dara, can you give us a little background on your job and the company you work for?
A: I am currently the Graphic Designer & Communications Executive for Offbeat Donut Co, an Irish donut bakery based in Dublin. I started with Offbeat in 2016 as a Barista/Sales Assistant in their first store in Pearse Street Station. Knowing I wanted to contribute more to the company than just my amazing latte art skills, I started on my plan to infiltrate the marketing team so that I could have a hand in developing the brand. Wearing a couple of hats in Offbeat’s Head Office, I eventually succeeded in earning the position of Graphic Designer & Communications Exec for the company. As Graphic Designer I work closely with the Marketing Manager and Company Directors to produce in-store visual displays, posters, billboards, menus, flyers, website designs and digital advertisements for Offbeat. As Communications Exec I work on our campaigns as a copywriter and social media manager while also dealing with any general public relations.
Q: How do you use Social Media to promote your business, which channels and why?
A: Social media is an amazing way to promote yourself or a business. At Offbeat we run sponsored ads on Facebook and Instagram, which would be our main channels, but our organic reach is pretty good! We use social media for both brand awareness and selling products. It’s also a hub for customers to communicate with us and we can directly engage with them. Our business is best promoted with a visual so using Facebook and Instagram makes sense, and it also covers our target demographics.
Q: Have you found any challenges in the current climate? And how have you pivoted? Any advice?
A: I have found a million and one challenges during this pandemic! I finished my degree last summer at the height of our first lockdown. We barely had an hour of Zoom classes each week, so I spent a lot of time on YouTube and LinkedIn Learning. Being away from your tutors and peers while trying to finish a creative degree is tough but being able to stay in contact with my classmates through our group chat was key to my sanity! I also wasn’t afraid to get in touch with my tutor if I needed any help and of course they were as accommodating as possible.
When I started working from home full time for Offbeat, I knew pretty quickly that it wasn’t suiting me. I am someone who thrives on being part of a collaborative team and not being able to bounce ideas off my colleagues was a huge creative block. Being a content creator for our social media channels meant that being off-site made things really difficult. I hope the Offbeat team who are on-site will look back and laugh at my demands for pictures and videos (I was even sending them hand-drawn diagrams so that I could get my idea across for the content we needed!).
When the lockdown restrictions eased, I made the decision to become a part-time member of the Tara Building co-working space. It’s located just around the corner from Offbeat, so I was able to have a space to work that was out of my house and be within throwing distance of an Offbeat store. To say this was a God send would be an understatement! I was only able to go for a short while but having those 2-3 days where I was able to work somewhere other than home was an ease on my mental health as well as my creative block. I look forward to going back as soon as restrictions are eased again!
(And we look forward to welcoming you back!’)
Q: What led you to a career in digital? What kind of skills do you need to be successful?
A: Digital Marketing was something I accidentally fell into as my main priority was to just get the word out there that I AM IN A PLAY! I was part of a musical and drama society in Galway and was voted onto the committee as Public Relations Officer because I was just that enthusiastic. This is where I discovered my interest in graphic design and marketing. After not knowing for years what job I wanted, suddenly things just clicked in my head and I was able to make career goals I was actually excited about and felt realistic (Broadway will call one day, I’m sure…).
To be successful at creating digital content you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Relate to your target audience and serve them content they would enjoy engaging with without saturating them. Don’t be afraid to be informal. A brand voice doesn’t have to sound like you’re giving a philosophy lecture just because you want to sound ‘professional’. Your goal is to make the content as easy as possible for your target audience to consume and complicated language isn’t always appropriate. Shaking off the learned phrases of a higher-level English student trying to reach a word count was a tough one for me, but I picked up that sounding formal didn’t always have to be the case and that’s a skill in itself!
Q: Ireland has announced new work-from-home coming into effect – how do you think we avoid ‘working-from-home’ burn out?
A: Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to have a designated workspace that’s away from a living space, but this is what has helped me the most. Moving my desk out of my bedroom instantly helped me sleep better! Being able to walk away and close the door to a make-shift office helped me ‘end’ the workday in my head. Boundaries are hard to maintain when you’re in a job that you love. Burn out was a huge issue for me at the beginning because I would be at my computer for like 10 hours and not think anything of it because I was doing work that I enjoyed. I’d then be surprised when I feel exhausted not realising mental exhaustion is the issue.
I see a lot of benefits of working from home, but doing it full time, long term isn’t for me. I hope to have a mixed working from home/working in an office situation!
Q: Who do you turn to for inspiration and why?
A: Instagram is amazing! It gives us immediate access to people we admire and the possibility of engaging with them. You could find me scrolling for hours through my carefully curated feed full of accounts that inspire me. I really enjoy watching graphic designers who live stream or record their process of designing and as soon as I see someone else designing, I want to design. I always tune into Hoodzpah’s Adobe Lives and Kel Lauren’s YouTube videos. Meg Lewis (@yourbuddymeg) is a huge inspiration as she creates work that embodies fun and positivity which is something I like to consider for my own work. I also love looking at Annie Atkins’ work as inspiration for my own goals to create designs for stage and screen.
Q: What is your favourite Instagram page and why?
A: This is a tough one because I could list so many, but I’m going to say an account that’s a little closer to home than the American creators I’ve already mentioned. Stephen Heffernan’s account, @hephee always has a post that makes me laugh or relate to but with such simple visuals!
Connect: LinkedIn — Dara Denise O’Donnell: Graphic Designer
Thank you Dara, and we look forward to your energy, buzz and enthusiasm coming back into The Tara Building soon.