Kathie Baptista, Bigeye Designer

Creative advertising agency Bigeye interviews visual designer Kathie Baptista, who discusses her inspiration and how her Hispanic heritage influences her work.

IN CLEAR FOCUS: This week, we’re talking to tattooed, lipstick-wearing, letter-loving Latina designer, Kathie Baptista. An integral part of Bigeye’s creative team, Kathie explains her creative process and shares her favorite projects. She discusses her personal career journey and why it’s important to keep exploring creative avenues throughout life. Kathie also shares her sources of inspiration and offers practical advice to students considering careers in graphic design and advertising.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Kathie Baptista: Because I am Latina, my family consists of a lot of Latina women, and I think that they all inspire me, in different ways – Latina women who are trying to find their own path and be entrepreneurs. It’s very inspiring to be a part of a community that’s all trying to fight for, you know, our place in the world.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. It’s my pleasure today to introduce you to a visual designer who describes herself as a tattooed, lipstick-wearing, letter-loving Latina: Kathie Baptista is a designer here at Bigeye and an integral part of the agency’s creative team. Kathie, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Kathie Baptista: Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: So Kathie, when did you first realize you might be interested in pursuing a career in art and design?

Kathie Baptista: I was always a creative kid growing up. And I think my mom noticed that very early on. She always put me in a lot of creative classes, like art class and chorus, and I did a couple of drama lessons and stuff. But I’d say probably around middle school, MySpace was kind of a thing and I really enjoyed taking photos and editing photos and curating my page to make it look very much like me. And I think that when the time came to go to college, I spoke with the college counselor and I was telling them my interest and I really wanted to become a photographer. And the college counselor asked me if I prefer taking photos or editing photos. And I remember I said, I preferred editing photos. And she was like, “Well, maybe you should consider graphic design instead.” And I haven’t turned back since.

Adrian Tennant: Can you tell us a little about your early family life growing up in South Florida?

Kathie Baptista: My family immigrated from Nicaragua in 1985. And they, I think, were able to acclimate a little bit better to the United States because the community that we lived in in Miami was very Hispanic, a lot of Spanish speakers. So I think that the transition was a little easier for them. Growing up in Miami, it was really unique. You know, Miami is really beautiful. There’s a lot of different people, a lot of different cultures. There are definitely some problem areas with the traffic and just being really overpopulated, but it’s home and it’s unlike anything else.  

Adrian Tennant: Growing up, were there any aspects of Nicaraguan culture present in your home life?

Kathie Baptista: Well, definitely the food I’d say. I think my parents still eat gallo pinto, which is rice and beans almost every day still to this day. But they definitely transitioned to American culture really well. By the time I came along, my parents had already been in the United States for about six years. So they really were adapting and they had teenage daughters who were going to an American school. So it was either adapt or bust. But they definitely tried to maintain the Spanish language in our home. So I think that was really important because, you know, as I’ve grown up, being bilingual has been helpful in so many ways.

Adrian Tennant: Would you say that has influenced your work?

Kathie Baptista: I feel like I am very much inspired by very colorful design. And I feel like that probably comes a lot from my culture and just seeing, you know, colorful design, just within Hispanic communities and you know, in American art. So I do think that that plays a little bit of an influence.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, before pursuing design as a career, did you know anyone that worked in the creative industries?

Kathie Baptista: The only person I really knew was my sister, when I was growing up, she was going to Parsons in New York and she was studying to become an interior designer. So that was the first time I ever heard of design as a career. And she would tell me about the things she’s doing in school. And it sounded really cool. So I knew I wanted to be involved in something like that.

Adrian Tennant: What kind of age differences between you?

Kathie Baptista: She is 11 years older than me. And she’s actually the one closest to my age. My other sister is 15 years older than me. So there’s a bit of an age gap there.

Adrian Tennant: Now you left South Florida for undergrad studies at the University of Central Florida. What was that experience like?

Kathie Baptista: Well, to be honest, I feel like it was a little bit of a culture shock. The town that I grew up in back in South Florida is about 96 percent Hispanic. And there were a lot of Spanish speakers. So I remember I would get kind of surprised faces when I went through sorority recruitment, for example, and they were surprised to see that I was bilingual and that I spoke Spanish fluently. It was so strange to me. I was like, “Doesn’t everybody know Spanish?” So that was a bit of a transition, but I will say I had the best time at UCF. I loved it. I loved being in Orlando. I met a lot of my friends that I still know to this day that I’m really close to. I got really involved with the design community. Overall, it was a really good experience and I love it.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, what was your first paid job after graduating?

Kathie Baptista: Um, My first paid job after graduating, I worked at a local stationery store in Charlotte, North Carolina. I really loved paper and print and lettering, and I felt like that was a good place to start.  I learned a lot about printing processes and all that stuff, paper types, but unfortunately, it didn’t really last long.

Adrian Tennant: Tell us about some of the places you’ve lived and worked in before joining Bigeye.

Kathie Baptista: Wow. Um, well, after I graduated, I moved – like I said – to Charlotte, North Carolina. And, I worked in the stationery store. I really enjoyed paper and print and traditional design. So I kind of tried to stay in that industry. I worked at Shutterfly for a while and was reviewing invitations and holiday cards. And that was really interesting. I learned a lot about invitation etiquette. I also worked at a screen printing shop. And that was really cool because I got to learn about how to set up files for print and color separation and things like that. And the shop that I worked for was very involved in the creative and music scene. So it was really fun to be a part of that. I wanted to become a lettering artist and I got to work with some really amazing clients. One of my first jobs and my favorite, I would say was probably my first freelance job. I had just moved to Charlotte and I got a freelance gig working for Charlotte Magazine. And I got to do all the lettering for their article. That was, “Fifty Things Every Charlottean Should Do.” So it was perfect because I had just moved to the city and I didn’t know anything about Charlotte and I got to learn so much and both with the freelance job and about the city that I had just moved into.

Adrian Tennant: That sounds like a dream assignment. Now, I’m just curious, thinking back to that project, did you do the lettering by hand, or did you use a computer? What did that look like?

Kathie Baptista: It was a mix. It’s funny. There are so many things now. I like Procreate. That just makes the lettering process easier, but I would do it all by hand. I still have them to this day because it was my first freelance project. I wanted to keep all the memories of it, but I would draw it all by hand in my sketchbook. And then I would go over it with a marker and tracing paper. And then I would scan that and then, you know, just make any adjustments on the computer.

Adrian Tennant: On your personal website, you express that love for lettering as you did a lot of typography early in your career. Now you’re focused more on design and branding. How have lettering and typography influenced your overall approach to graphic design?

Kathie Baptista: I think being a lettering artist, I grew this huge appreciation for typography and lettering. It’s funny because there are so many unique nuances in type, to the point where, you know, type almost has its own personality, they all become like little people almost. So just having that appreciation for letters and typography, I was always constantly taking photos of typography that I saw outside or keeping references on Instagram or on my phone. And I think that because I have this large arsenal of references, it makes it a lot easier in the design process and in the branding process, to find typography that’s appropriate for the client. Typography can make such a huge difference in the mood and in the tone for a brand. So I definitely feel like I have a big arsenal of resources that I’ve been able to go to.

Adrian Tennant: If you see something interesting, you snap her right there and then.

Kathie Baptista: Definitely. Just usually while I’m out on the street, it’s so funny, I’ll just be going to a restaurant and I’ll see typography in a menu that I really like or ghost type, which is sometimes when type has been painted on a building but has been weathered away through the years. I always try to photograph that because it’s just so interesting and unique, usually hand-lettered type specifically is unique to the person who made it.  So I always try to keep records of that.

Adrian Tennant: I think it’s so interesting you talk about the personality of type and you almost see them as characters.

Kathie Baptista: Yeah. They can be quirky or they can be serious. It really changes the tone of a project. So I really try to spend a lot of time making sure that I’m finding the right type for the right client or for the right project.

Adrian Tennant: Do you feel that South American countries have a different approach to typography than American design, for example?

Kathie Baptista: I feel like back in the day in America, let’s say there was a lot of hand-painted type. And I still feel like that’s very common in our culture today, and especially in Latin American culture, just probably because of lack of resources and, you know, sign painting it’s just what they’ve always done. I know that there is a popular form of lettering in Argentina called fileteado – it’s really beautiful and I used to always reference that kind of typography and that kind of art whenever I was doing lettering a lot.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any designers or artists who you particularly admire – and do you feel that they’ve influenced your work or your creative process?

Kathie Baptista: Oh my gosh, there’s so many. I mean, I can go on and on. There’s Clark Gore and Meg Lewis, Dana Tanamochi, Lauren Odom and Jessica Heesh, and the Hood sisters over at Chutzpah. But I think definitely the one that’s had the biggest influence on me has probably been Anna Bond from Rifle Paper Company. She started her company here in Orlando, and I remember when I was in college, I would go and listen to her talks and her journey. It was just so inspiring, just how she’s able to mesh this love for paper and print and design. I found it really inspiring and I’ve always admired her work.

Adrian Tennant: Today you’re working as a member of the creative team here at Bigeye. Kathie, as a designer, what questions do you feel it’s most important to have answered before you begin an assignment?

Kathie Baptista: I usually like to ask why we’re doing this. You know, what is the goal behind the piece? What are we trying to achieve? What is the purpose? Where will this live? I try to understand a lot about the target audience. That’s why a lot of the things that you do, Adrian, it’s always so interesting to me. And I feel like it helps the design process a lot because it helps me figure out who the target audience is and you know, who we’re talking to and what are their goals? And what are they looking for? And I think that that plays a crucial role in the design process.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, you’ve been at Bigeye for six months already. Prior to joining us, what were some of the projects that you were proudest of and why?

Kathie Baptista: I’m very proud of a lot of the freelance projects that I’ve worked with because it was a big learning process. But definitely, I’d say one of the biggest pieces that I loved the most was I got to do some hand lettering for a mural at a Google Fiber building in Charlotte. And that was really fun because I was working with Google and that in itself was just shocking. But it was a lot of fun. They gave me a lot of creative freedom and it’s nice to know that it still lives there. So if I ever wanted to go visit, I can always still see it. And I almost feel like I left a little piece of me there in the city.

Adrian Tennant: And what was that experience of working with Google like – what kinds of parameters did they set for you?

Kathie Baptista: They didn’t set much. They mostly wanted me to stay within a specific color palette.  And they showed me the space, which was still under construction. They definitely wanted it to bring attention and they wanted to include something that was very Charlotte in there. And I know one of the things that Charlotte is very proud of is their skyline. They love their buildings. There’s a lot of history in them. So I definitely tried to incorporate that in the piece. But it was a lot of fun and it was a lot of work and I’m really proud of that project.

Adrian Tennant: So Kathie you’ve recently been working on the launch of bSerene, a new line of cat calming products for Bigeye’s client, H&C Animal Health. Could you tell us a little bit more about that project?

Kathie Baptista: It’s been quite the journey. It’s been very interesting to develop different elements of that campaign into a lot of major parts like the website and advertising. So that’s been really fun. And it’s also been really interesting to see that there is more than enough cat content on the internet to refer to! So that’s been a fun journey. I love animals, honestly, I’m vegetarian because I love animals and I have both a cat and a dog. I did love cats very early on when I was a kid. Um, I used to have a couple of cats that grew up in the neighborhood and I was very much a cat kid. I feel like the personalities of cat and dog owners are so different. So having that hybrid is really interesting.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: How do you identify?

Voices: Female, male, genderfluid, cisgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, transfeminine.

Adrian Tennant: Society is constantly changing and evolving. To understand how Americans feel about gender identity and expression, Bigeye undertook a national study involving over 2000 adult consumers. Over half of those aged 18 to 39 believe that traditional binary labels of male and female are outdated and instead see gender as a spectrum. Our exclusive report, Gender: Beyond The Binary reveals how beliefs across different generations influence the purchase of toys, clothes, and consumer packaged goods. To download the full report, go to bigeye.agency/gender.  

Voices: Nonconforming, transgender, two-spirit, transmasculine, genderfluid.

Adrian Tennant: Gender: Beyond The Binary.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking to Bigeye designer, Kathie Baptista. Kathie, I know you mentor students and belong to AIGA. How long have you been involved in the organization?

Kathie Baptista: I first joined AIGA when I was in college, I was a part of the mentorship program as a student and I feel like that was a really big game-changer for me. I knew that I really wanted to get involved and I just loved the type of events that they were hosting. So I’d say that in every city that I’ve lived in, I’ve always tried to get involved with the AIGA in any way that I can. When you move to a new city, you may or may not know some of the creatives that are there. So being involved with AIGA, you learn a little bit more about them and the creative culture that takes place in the city. As far as getting to know more people and making connections,  also just learning more about your creative community I think it’s been very crucial to that.

Adrian Tennant: Now you’ve been in Orlando for a while. How connected do you feel to the AIGA community here?

Kathie Baptista: Like to believe I do feel very connected to the AIGA community here because it was the first AIGA community I was a part of as a student. My professor, when I was in school, he’s still involved with AIGA now. So to be a part of that and to now come back and be a part of that again, and be able to mentor students like I was mentored when I was a student is a nice way to see things go full circle.

Adrian Tennant: What advice do you typically give to students who are about to graduate and are looking for their first full-time position?

Kathie Baptista: I would say, start early. Get involved with your community before you graduate and involved in organizations and clubs. Start looking for jobs before you graduate. Don’t wait until you’re done to try to find employment. I think the competition can be really tough out there. And I think if you wait, you know, it can be really difficult. I would also say to make sure that you show yourself and your work. It’s really interesting to go through a student’s work and be able to see their aesthetic and see their personality come out through their work. It shows me that they’re not just creating for the client. They’re putting a little bit of themselves in there and that’s really interesting to me. I think quality is better than quantity. I’d rather see, you know, three logos that are fully developed with their branding in their portfolio than to see ten that tell me nothing. And I would say don’t put a lot of pressure into trying to figure yourself out when you graduate school. Sometimes you think you have it all figured out. I know I did when I graduated, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew the type of industry I wanted to be in, and I think it’s important to just work hard and be open to whatever life throws at you. And just always continue to learn and try to be open to change.

Adrian Tennant: Does anybody look at physical portfolios anymore? Are we really talking about online, exclusively at this point?

Kathie Baptista: I think it’s mostly digital, but because it’s so digital now, I feel like it just makes it that more impressive if you have something physical. Definitely, I think your work should live online. You should definitely have a bit of a presence on the internet and social media platforms, but it’s always interesting if you go into an interview and you’re able to leave something physical behind something that they can remember you by. So I definitely think having a physical piece of something, even if it’s not your full portfolio, but just a little something about yourself and your work is very important.

Adrian Tennant: When I look at potential employees’ work, I’m really interested in the story behind the work. Do you share my interest in understanding how they reached the design solution that they did?

Kathie Baptista: Very much. I do like to see sketches and the thought process. That’s actually one of the reasons why I feel like I transitioned more from lettering into design and branding because I really missed the conceptual part of it. Sometimes when you’re doing lettering, you’re kind of told, this is what we need. This is what we want. With design, there’s so much thought and research that goes behind it. So seeing portfolios that go into that a little bit deeper is very interesting.

Adrian Tennant: If you hadn’t gravitated toward graphic design, what other areas might you have pursued? And of course, Kathie, it’s never too late!

Kathie Baptista: I know growing up, I really wanted to be a singer. I loved Selena and I just wanted to be just like her, Selena Quintanilla. I just wanted to be a singer and I think as I got older, I wasn’t going to be a singer, but I did want to be involved with the wedding industry. And I know I always considered possibly either being an event planner or a cake decorator or a florist, specifically for the wedding industry. What interested me about it was being able to work with couples in particular. Call me a sap, but I do love a love story. I love hearing romantic stories and I always was drawn to that. And I think that’s why I wanted to be a part of the wedding industry so that I can hear more love stories all the time.

Adrian Tennant: Now, if you had gone down the singing route, what kind of music would you be producing by now?

Kathie Baptista: Wow. I don’t know. I definitely have a Christmas album. I love Christmas music and I would for sure have a Christmas album. What kind of music? I don’t know. I really enjoy listening to rock. Do I feel like I could sing rock? I’m not sure, but, yeah, I’m not sure.

Adrian Tennant: The musical stylings of Kathie Baptista – coming to a Spotify playlist near you sometime in the future, but definitely around Christmas!

Kathie Baptista: Definitely Christmas!

Adrian Tennant: Well, listeners can’t tell unless they see a photo of you, but your right arm has quite a collection of tattoos. So Kathie, when did you get your first tattoo? And are the stories behind each one?

Kathie Baptista: My first tattoo I got when I was 20 years old. I got three little birds on my wrist to represent my sisters – that way I always have them with me. We’re really close. So I wanted to be able to have my first tattoo represent us and our relationship together. But I think after the first one, it kind of became more of a collector’s thing. I would find a lot of tattoo artists on Instagram. I knew I wanted to have pieces done by them on my arm. So I would reach out to them. And then it also became something that I would do whenever I would travel. And it kind of felt like a momento. So I have a ramen bowl on my arm and I got that while I was in Japan. And it’s one of my favorite tattoos because I get to tell people about the time that I was in Japan. And it’s a really good memory that I cherish a lot.

Adrian Tennant: So what’s the difference between folks who just go for the monochrome and people like yourself who prefer color? What’s that about do you think?

Kathie Baptista: I think it’s personal preference. I mean, most of my tattoos are in the American traditional style, so I’ve always been very drawn to that style because it’s so colorful. It’s very eye-catching and I love color. I love incorporating color in my work. So it felt like a natural place as far as a tattoo design, black and white is also very beautiful. but my skin is a little darker, so I definitely wanted to have more colorful pieces on my arm.

Adrian Tennant: Your website is very you, Kathie. On it, you describe yourself as Latina. Well, March is Women’s History Month, so are there any Latinas you particularly admire?

Kathie Baptista:  There are many. America Ferrera, Rita Moreno, Frida Kahlo, and JLo! I mean, she looks amazing and she’s killing it to this day. But also I think just Latina women in my life. Because I am Latina, my family consists of a lot of Latina women, and I think that they all inspire me, in different ways. You know, we’re all kind of fighting the same battles, from toxic masculinity within our culture, or, you know, trying to fight for our rights for equal pay. I do think that is a big part of Hispanic culture. There’s a lot of machismo, the man is the one who brings the income. He’s the one who kind of sets the rules and women just have to take care of the kids and stay home and cook and clean. And I think that when you don’t fall into that mold,  it’s easy to be criticized honestly, within our culture. So I think Latina women who are trying to find their own path and work and be entrepreneurs and do their own thing. It’s definitely being seen a little bit better now, but it’s not traditional. It’s not what’s the norm in our culture. We’re kind of all dealing with the same issues. So it’s very inspiring to be a part of a community. That’s all trying to fight for, you know, our place in the world.

Adrian Tennant: Do you know many other Latina designers?

Kathie Baptista: One of our interns, Maria, she just started working with the Luma & leaf brand. So that’s been really exciting to have her on board and to have another Latina on the team. And then while I worked in Miami, I did work with another Latina woman. She was my art director at my previous position. And she was really great. She was extremely talented. So it is inspiring to work with other Latina women.

Adrian Tennant: So outside of work, what inspires you, and how do you relax?

Kathie Baptista: Well, if I’m not working or working on my own things, I do like to tend to my home and my plants, especially because I just moved and as I mentioned my sister’s an interior designer, so I get all the perks. I love to just be able to curate pieces for my home and take care of my house plans, spend time at home and watching movies and exploring the city too. I try to, whenever I move to a new city, approach it from a new perspective, I’ve never been here before. Even when I moved back to Miami, even though I lived there, I tried to approach it like I’ve never lived there before and trying new restaurants and just explore different areas that I’ve never explored before. So I do spend my free time doing a lot of exploring.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, if IN CLEAR FOCUS, listeners would like to learn more about you and see your work, where can they find you?

Kathie Baptista: Well, you can see my work on my website, KathieBaptista.com or you can follow me on Instagram @KathieBaptista.

Adrian Tennant: Kathie, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Kathie Baptista: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Michael Solomon: There are a lot of very, very fundamental assumptions we make about the way we categorize people that no longer work in terms of how we think about customers and more importantly, how they think about us as marketers. 

Adrian Tennant: That’s an interview with Michael Solomon, author of the recently published book, The New Chameleons: How To Connect With Consumers Who Defy Categorization. That’s next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guest this week, Bigeye designer, Kathie Baptista. You’ll find a transcript of our conversation and all previous episodes on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page, at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant until next week. Goodbye.

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