Artfully exploring The Big Apple
22-year-old Olivia Ellis was made for a place like New York City.
The vibrant young artist exudes energy and adventure, from her fashion to her conversation to her Instagram feed.
Olivia, who moved to NYC four months ago to be a junior graphic designer at digital agency Likeable Media, has fallen in love with her new city. Her favorite restaurants in New York include The Bagel Pub, Sweet Chick, Ramini, and Don Antonio. She’s also a regular at Lincoln Station and Manhattanville, where she loves to people-watch and draw.
“I see myself in New York City for a long time,” Olivia said. “I think it will take at least a few years to really adjust. I plan to always do art and design, but I’d also love to work in fashion. There are so many opportunities here to take advantage of and I can’t wait to see where this city takes me.”
An artistic soul
Olivia decided that she wanted to work in graphic design during her senior year of high school, where she worked as the yearbook editor.
Olivia was proactive about getting hands-on experience when she was earning her B.F.A in Graphic Design at East Tennessee State University as well.
“I did multiple freelance projects and commissions through family and friend connections,” Olivia said. “I interned at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce during the summer of 2015 and was a junior designer at Ntara for two years. All these experiences set me up with invaluable experiences that contributed to my development as a designer and artists, and also gave me new connections.”
In college, Olivia was also a Roan Scholar and a Fine and Performing Arts Scholar through the university’s Honors College. Olivia’s design work has also received awards, including a Gold ADDY in the Single Illustration category at AAF of Northeast Tennessee’s 2018 American Advertising Awards.
Art is something that permeates not only Olivia’s career, but also her hobbies. She loves crafting, making Spotify playlists, and attending concerts (of which NYC has plenty).
“I also love thrift shopping and finding unique pieces of clothing,” Olivia said. “My favorite thing to do, though, is sit in a park or coffeeshop and draw for hours.”
Learning to breathe
Between classes, internships, Honors College commitments, and social activities, Olivia’s college experience was a busy one.
“The most challenging part of undergrad by far was overworking myself,” said Olivia. “I’m a very social person, so I was a member of many extracurricular groups which added to my already overwhelming school workload. I’m known to never say no to opportunities, which often results in me spreading myself too thin.”
Because of this, college taught Olivia how to relax under stress, look at the big picture, and forgive herself when she made mistakes.
“BREATHE,” Olivia emphasized. “If you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. Everything is so much more dramatic in the moment.”
Ultimately, Olivia said that upgrade was a very special time for her because she really felt like she came into her own as a person during those years.
“One of the best parts of my college experience was studying abroad in Florence, Italy during the spring semester of my junior year in 2017,” Olivia said. “I gained a new confidence as an artist and designer, gained relationships I’ll have for the rest of my life, and made too many crazy memories to count.”
The journey to Likeable
When it came to finding a full-time job, Olivia cast a wide net of applications during her senior year.
“I used LinkedIn the most,” Olivia said when asked about what online tools came in most handy in this process. “I also used Glassdoor and Indeed quite a bit as well. I probably applied to around 100 jobs. It became a daily search where I had to keep reminding myself not to get discouraged.”
Among the jobs she applied for was an open position at Likeable Media, a digital marketing firm and social media agency.
“I decided to let my friend who was already an employee there know that I was looking into a position,” Olivia said. “Little did I know that she had already told them about me before I even applied. It was definitely a moment of serendipity.”
Olivia passed all three rounds of interviews with flying colors and was hired three weeks before she graduated.
“I definitely feel lucky, but I also know that I worked so hard to make my dream of moving to New York City come true, which is extremely satisfying. What makes it even better is that Likeable is such a fun, caring, and challenging place to work.”
That dream of moving to New York City still has its challenges.
“To be completely transparent, moving away from home is hard,” Olivia said. “I went from having a solid friend group and network of people who support me emotionally, to being dropped in a huge city where people already have their lives established. I’ve realized how much relationships matter to me, but I’ve also learned to be okay being alone at times!
It’s a daily struggle to stay positive, but I’m so lucky that New York is full of inspiration. Granted, I’ve only been in the city for four months, so it’s no surprise that I’m still meeting new people and trying to adjust. I’m so lucky to work in a young workplace where my coworkers want to hang out on the weekends and are my genuine friends.”
Finding her place in the big city
Olivia gets to Likeable around 8:30 am on weekdays and starts her day by looking at her to-do list from her project manager.
“My to-do’s could be anything from editing photos from an in-house photoshoot, participating in a brainstorm meeting, or – most recently – designing and painting a mural on the wall of our office,” Olivia said.
If time allows, Olivia might also grab lunch or coffee with a co-worker as a quick break from the hectic speed of the day.
“We’re a small team, but we operate at the rate of a company twice our size,” Olivia said of Likeable. “Every day is different and causes me to think on my feet!”
That kind of fast-paced environment is where a creative thinker like Olivia thrives. It’s also given her a perspective on work – and life in New York City – that she tries to live out every day.
“Life is hard. Take it day by day and don’t get too caught up in following an exact plan. Most of the time you just have to be flexible and go with the flow.”