When the Nisqually Valley News caught up with Robyn Fisher via email last week she was lounging on the beach in Maui … while the rest of us, well, weren’t.
But that’s OK.
As it turns out, Maui’s home to both of Fisher’s siblings, so the 56-year-old divides her time between the island paradise and the Pacific Northwest where her three children reside.
And it’s the youngest of her trio of kids around whom this tale spins.
Her name is Jamie Jones.
Jones, 26, graduated from Yelm High School in 2012 and is now a senior graphic designer at Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle. In a roundabout, but pretty substantial way, Jones can thank Mom for her current position and her unbridled passion for graphic design.
Fisher, you see, taught English-related courses at Yelm High School from 2004 to 2016 — and for three years supervised her daughter in the school’s yearbook class, for which Jones was design editor.
So who better than Mom to offer a bit of insight about her design-wizard daughter?
Recalled Fisher: “Jamie was very driven, and I could always count on her and the class could always count on her. Maybe she worked harder because I was her mom, but I doubt it. She cared about the book being excellent.”
Jones remembers it a little differently: “It was kind of weird and fun at the same time in her class. I could get away with goofing off sometimes because I was the design editor and I worked really hard. She kind of got me first interested in the yearbook class.”
Before her yearbook catharsis, Jones had set her eyes on becoming a pediatrician, though she struggled through her science classes. So along came yearbook, and her yearning for the medical profession vanished like a snowman in Palm Springs.
“Once I got on the yearbook staff and recognized I was good at it, I realized that there were job opportunities in design and art as a profession which I hadn’t thought of before as a viable career path,” Jones said last week in a phone interview.
And when the yearbook class’s first hard-copy book appeared, it cemented Jones’ immediate career aspirations.
“I could see all the skill we had put into creating this book, and it was a magical moment for me,” Jones said. “I realized I had this specific skill that could open a career path for me, and it was something I really, really enjoyed — which was a bonus.”
After completing the Running Start program at Sound Puget Sound Community College during her junior and senior years at YHS — while managing to play soccer and remain on the yearbook staff — Jones set her sights on earning a university design degree.
That landed her at Western Washington University in Bellingham where in 2015 she emerged with her coveted bachelor’s of fine arts degree in graphic design. And though she’d gained a broad breadth of design knowledge at the university, her confidence at that point had yet to catch up with her diploma.
“I felt like I had an imposter syndrome after WWU, because I just didn’t really feel like I could own the title of being a designer yet,” she said.
So she did what seemed most logical: She moved to Seattle.
“I knew there were not a lot of design jobs outside of big cities, and I wanted the opportunity to live in Seattle,” she said.
Before long she’d landed her first honest-to-goodness graphic design job at Electric Pen, a small Seattle firm specializing in branding, website design and marketing. She stayed there for two years until June 2017 when she took a big gulp and knocked on the Big Kahuna’s door: Starbucks Coffee Company.
And lo and behold, she was hired — and suddenly became a tiny cog in a huge, international machine. She was thrilled.
“I was so excited when I got the job at Starbucks,” Jones said. “It was a very affirming moment for me, because I would be working on high-visibility projects. I’d always looked up to the work Starbucks was doing, and it just felt like a really big deal at the time.”
Jones began her Starbucks career as a merchandise designer, branched out into social media digital design and before long was involved in all sorts of projects. Then, in December 2019, the company promoted her to senior designer. Now she’s more involved with film, television commercials, and this time of year seasonal promotions for which she helps create visual concepts. It’s a complex process.
“There are just just a million little pieces that need to be designed that the whole team does,” she explained.
Starbucks designer Taylor Mattson is among Jones’ colleagues and has been working on the company’s holiday campaign with her. Over the three years she and Jones have collaborated, the pair have also worked together on social media, gift cards and a variety of smaller studio projects.
Mattson lauds Jones’ talent and camaraderie.
“Jamie is such a talented designer and artist, and both in and out of our day job she creates such beautiful work,” said Mattson, 27, who has worked at Starbucks for four years. “Being great friends outside of work and collaborating with her in the studio is such a fun opportunity. She’s really passionate about her career, and it shows in her work.”
These days, Jones’ passion often focuses on the film side of her job, though she’s also been digitally illustrating for the past couple of years.
“I really enjoy film,” she said, noting the process requires much conceptualization and story-boarding. “Creating the film is always a really exciting and rewarding process.”
But though she loves her job, it’s not all hearts and flowers. The Kahuna’s cogs turn slowly at times.
“There are always challenges working with such a big corporation regarding art,” Jones said. “There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and there are a lot of different levels the design work has to go through to get approved.”
Typically, Jones said, a project can easily take a month to six months from initial design to finished project before it’s ready to roll out to the public.
“It definitely gets frustrating going through that many edits and having to re-concept a lot,” she said. “I have learned to really pick my battles now, because in the beginning of my career I got heavily affected because I took everything personally. Now I can separate myself from it if I get feedback that’s not positive.”
Fisher has watched these traits develop in her daughter over the years, but they may have begun germinating during YHS yearbook class.
“Yearbook class was more like a job than a class,” said Fisher, who left YHS in 2016 to care for her ailing husband, who died of Lewy Body Dementia in 2017. “I cared deeply about all of my students, and I pushed them to be as professional and skilled as possible … and they learned they were capable of so much more than they knew.”
Those attributes have no doubt been tested anew over the past 10 months as the coronavirus pandemic plunged the world into chaos.
Jones — who has been working from home since March — feels “very blessed” to still have a job, but has struggled with the deprivations the pandemic has obliged, such as not being able to see her co-workers in person.
“I definitely have struggled with my fair share of feeling depressed and anxious through this whole situation,” she said. “Living in Seattle you see more of the effects of it just because there are more people around you and it makes it easier to be nervous and scared. I feel like I’ve adjusted to it pretty well, though at this point I’m just ready for it to be over.”
The pandemic, though, has offered Jones “a lot of time for reflection” about what her future might hold.
“I want to be a creative director in some capacity,” said Jones, who lives with her boyfriend, a Starbucks photographer. “I’ve been learning more about film and doing my own projects, so right now my dream is to be a film director for music videos or commercials.”
But when she’s not head over heels inside a design project, Jones has a few ways to unwind. She loves to cook, practice Yoga and do some of her own illustrations.
And maybe by the time the pandemic ends she’ll plan a little trip to Maui.