Nice to meet you!
Call me V
Most of my career has been centered around generating hype, creating and maintaining an image or perception about a brand, and creating experiences that keep people coming back. Over time I have successfully maintained internal marketing departments, designed for and managed marketing agency projects, and lead art and design classrooms.
As a Creative and an Educator, my focus is to create more seamless, meaningful, and engaging experiences and processes, all as a means to make it easier for us to reach our full potential as individuals and as a human collective. The best means of doing this is to evaluate what we're doing and the reasons why to make informed choices. With an adaptable frame of mind and human-centric objectives, we can achieve the best outcomes for ourselves. When you question the status quo, challenge assumptions, and reframe questions you can see where new problems and solutions lie.
For me, I apply this to organize my life, organize projects, and accomplish my own art and design tasks. Over time I have successfully maintained internal marketing department projects, marketing agency projects, and art and design classrooms. My past roles have allowed me to provide creative direction to graphic designers, marketers, and children alike.
I am Veronica Star Kerr. Most people just call me V or VK, and you can too! This helps avoid that awkward moment when you realize I'm not a Victoria or a Valerie, plus four syllables is too much. But my students call me Ms. Kerr.
I’m from Howell, MI – Born and raised in the mitten. Growing up in Howell, going to school in Detroit, marketing and designing in Flint during the Water Crisis, to Ypsilanti to teach. I've been all over Michigan, having lived and worked in diverse communities; Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Howell, Novi, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Taylor, Allen Park, Walled Lake, White Lake, Waterford...
I've been called tenacious, passionate, wise, and jovial. Learning about complex processes of creation and various fields of study and industry are my jam. Knowing a little bit about everything helps me understand more perspectives and ask questions to generate new ideas. You'll often find me driving, seeking the experiences that inspire me; Performances, Museums, Galleries, Camping, Fishing, Arcades, or just visiting friends and family. I enjoy both big pictures and small details.
What do I believe? That Mental Health is critical, Education Access is critical, Differentiated Education is critical, Hunger is a pandemic, Black Lives Matter, Feminism is for everyone, Climate Change is real, the earth isn't flat, Autism is a spectrum, Gender and Sexual Identity is a spectrum, and that Compassion can save the world.
I'm a watcher, a planner, a questioner, and a doer. Often my principles guide my path, my productivity, how I treat others, and what people I keep in my company. I believe that everyone deserves to be seen, understood, has something more to learn, and should be open to discovery. Everyone has a sincere drive to seek happiness, explore, and learn, but I've found that it becomes lost in the mundane and lack of craft in our world.
When we accept complacency in our lives, wanting and striving for nothing, our personal growth ceases. There is more to life than simply being alive; To really live is something more, and I endeavor to hold that feeling and share it with others.
What is Design Thinking?
I'm currently working on a UX Course offered by Google.
Design Thinking has always been a part of my curriculum. So what is it?
An iterative process that drives human-centric solutions with specific phases.
To meet the needs of the user we challenge what we assume about them and their needs, reframe what the user’s needs really are, and build continuously revisited and revised products and tools. This process is not linear and employs repeatable methods to reevaluate what we’re doing, and why. Thinking of how you go through your life and your projects, this strategy and way of thinking can be applied to nearly anything. Think of Agile, EOS, Project lifecycles... all of these are mechanisms that we use to drive measurable, optimized, successful outcomes.
This is all in a means to create more intuitive products and tools in ever-changing and growing world.
Design is Everything, it's everywhere. It can change landscapes and attitudes.
More than you ever wanted to know about my background…
Junior Graphic Designer & On to College
2005 - 2006
While in High School, my first Graphic Design role was after school junior year and over the summer with the Marketing/Art Department at Centurion Medical Products. This is where I learned the fundamentals of photo editing, layouts, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I graduated from Howell High School in June 2006 and moved to Detroit, MI to attend the College for Creative Studies to earn my BFA in Graphic Design.
Junior Graphic Designer & Student
2007 - 2009
During breaks in college I interned with Centurion’s Label Sales Department, gaining more experience with sales support, label production design, and large documents like catalogs. During this time I also moved to Taylor, MI
Graduation & Wake of the Recession
I earned my BFA in Graphic Design from the College for Creative Studies, moved to Allen Park, MI, and had a short stay with Staples Copy Center. That’s where I got my customer service chops and learned about multifunction laser printers, large format printers, and UPS transactions.
Back to Howell, Freelance, and Quality Control
In 2010 my Grandmother passed away and I felt it was best to be with my family, so I moved back home and got a job doing Quality Control in Manufacturing. I did more freelance work during this timeframe, doing work for a few political campaigns in Livingston County, MI; signage, print collateral, websites, and a few small projects for Livingston County’s website as well.
The agency job that changed everything
Late 2011 – Mid 2016
IMS was the first agency-type job I’d ever been a part of; Very fast-paced, everything with tight deadlines and tight budgets. I took on multiple roles in graphic design, project management, marketing strategy development and tactics, website development, and even IT. It felt like a startup but in reality, we just didn't have a lot of money to start I learned. A few times I had to catch squirrels and snakes in the office too (ask me about it sometime!)
I assisted regularly with billing, proposals, research, and internal process development. The President and Creative Director of IMS worked with me closely to develop my skills and provide endless opportunities for my growth. I ate up every chance I had to learn how to run our company. Many clients were happy with IMS, balancing turn-key marketing solutions with good design, with short funds and short timeframes. These clients often commented that I was a pleasure to work with, am very responsive, felt that I genuinely care about their success, and they often called me directly. They still do to this very day! I moved from Howell to White Lake, MI, then to Walled Lake, MI during this time as well.
The Flint Startup & Evolution
Late 2016 – Late 2017
As a part of the #FlintFWD initiative during the Flint Water Crisis, C3 was an investment opportunity to revitalize a city that was struggling to make a comeback. C3 was born out of a grant from the MEDC to bring 500 jobs to the City of Flint. It seemed insurmountable to do with just 7 people, a couple of Mac computers, and a box truck.
Unfortunately the Creative Director suffered major health troubles during this time, and the full responsibility of running the Marketing Department fell on my shoulders. I became a decision maker and point person for all of the marketing strategies and tactics used for each subsidiary and the main brand. All of my duties that I maintained while with IMS were carried through to C3 and grew out of necessity for the startup. It became apparent that I alone couldn't both manage the IMS client projects and all of the promotions and strategic development assets we needed to generate for C3. With the help of our new HR Manager, we hired a new graphic designer, a social media coordinator, a property manager, an HR generalist, a 3D printing tech, and others.
We were the company on everyone's lips in Flint and beyond. We organized press conferences and community meetings, cleaned up several industrial properties, acquired 6 businesses, and developed City, County, and State-level partnerships to bring employment opportunities to Flint.
It was a wild time and we survived as one of the few sustainable subsidiaries of the organization.
The writing on the wall - Beginnings of becoming an educator
Late 2017 – Mid 2018
As time grew on, it became apparent that C3 bit off more than it could chew; Grant deadlines were missed, the company as a whole suffered major scope creep... everyone could see the writing on the wall. In addition to that, my personal life deteriorated with a separation from my spouse in early 2018 and a PCOS diagnosis.
With all of these factors surrounding C3 and my personal life, I returned to Howell and returned to college at the College for Creative Studies in the pursuit of a teaching certification as a commuter student. I managed to lose over 100lbs during this time and began really trying to live better for myself.
Teaching had always been something I wanted to try and this was my shot. My time at the College for Creative Studies when I earned my BFA was always precious to me, so I relived it through their Art Education program to rediscover my footing in life. The professional educators at CCS were extremely knowledgeable and sagely. They really believed in me at a time in my life when I needed the reassurance and guidance.
Though I maintained work with C3, I grew more freedom to take on work that is more meaningful to me and formed my own company, VStar Design Group, LLC. C3 inevitably dissolved and the initiative failed. I often return to Flint imagining what could have been.
Camp Art Director & Counselor
During the summer with no coursework and C3 all but gone, worked with Sherman Lake YMCA as their Art Director and as a Cabin Counselor. This fulfilled a portion of my teaching certification requirements as a philanthropic effort -- and let me tell you I had no idea what I was signing up for.
By this time I was a nearly 30-year-old divorcee who never had much physical activity, surrounded by 100+ children from ages 6 - 16 in one of the most pure atmospheres you can imagine. Kayaking, swimming, climbing, late night talks around the campfire... as an Art Director?
As overnight counselors and Saga leaders (Arts and Crafts activity leader), we were on site Sunday night through Friday night, staying overnight with 8 campers per cabin. Sherman Lake is one of the best Summer Camps in Michigan, and their facilities and staff are proof of why. I hadn't been in such great shape in my entire life and never felt as invigorated to thrive as I did during this time by being surrounded with such positive energy.
In Arts & Crafts before the season started, we organized tiered skill level activities and achievements with coordinated crates of supplies and plans for each activity. Each camper during each Saga section would have a new activity introduced to them individually or in small groups so that each could learn and explore at their own pace. After completing one level of activities, they would receive an award for their achievements and move onto the next level of Arts and Crafts, learning new techniques and applications. They learned embroidery, leather working, the fundamentals of drawing and painting, and of course... there was a ton of tie-dye, all day every day!
As soon as the camp season was over, I began student teaching in Ann Arbor Public Schools with grades 6-12 at both Forsythe Middle School and Skyline High School. This experience was beyond valuable to developing my abilities in redirection, explaining complex tasks, and breaking down projects to make them achievable for a variety of skill levels.
My goal was to work with teens to develop critical-thinking skills and provide a safe and productive place to explore art and design. This opened my eyes to the struggles of school systems, the varying levels of rigorous coursework you can introduce to students, what tools you can instill in them to help them manage their workloads, and what joy you can experience when something finally clicks for the student. Most empowering for me, was working with students who had cognitive differences.
At Forsythe Middle School, Susan was as tough as a brillo pad and had deep knowledge of every discipline and technique within the arts. You could tell her students appreciated her tough love. I really valued her insights because I was not well-versed in all areas of art (especially pottery!). She had all of that content on-lock and taught me along side her 6th graders. When it came to their new Mac Computer lab though, I was able to pay her back with my knowledge. I assisted her in developing a thorough Graphic Design curriculum to cover Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Their ideas were WILD! They left me scratching my head on a weekly basis, at least!
Skyline was a different animal altogether with a STEAM-focused atmosphere and different tracks students could follow. The tools and access these students had was remarkable, but I felt that the coursework in the graphic design classroom was too basic. They were learning the tools out of their books, but not much else. It didn't drive engagement with the content and that's critical in an art or design classroom. If the work is boring, are they going to learn anything? I believe it was the CTE prescribed education plan, but I don't agree with it.
My Art & Design Classroom
Early 2019 – Fall 2019
After completing student teaching and completing my coursework with CCS, I passed my MTTC exam and became a fully certified Art and Design Educator! Though I interviewed and received an offer from Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies in Detroit, I accepted a position at Arbor Preparatory High School in Ypsilanti as their Art & Design Educator for grades 9-12.
It started by observing the long-term substitute for the first 2 weeks, then I was on my own. Their staff were extremely helpful in my transition mid-school year, but the classroom had fallen into serious disarray. It required every ounce of organizational and management skill I could muster.
By the end of the year the studio was clean, the students were advancing in skill, and the program had grown. The relationships between myself and other teachers, administration, and the students themselves were great. However, the expectations were very high for one teacher: Teaching Art Foundations, 2D Art & Design, 3D Art & Design, Digital Media, and AP Portfolio is a great deal to develop and manage for one educator at the High School level.
Additionally, the after school programs left a large area of concern for me. Clubs were organized to fulfill requirements for the students to graduate as extracurricular activities. However, the charter school blocked an LGBTQ+ club, while it allowed other cultural clubs to exist. As a new teacher and individual who is a proponent of inclusivity, this left a terrible taste in my mouth for the institution - I had no power to change it.
My finances were also suffering with student loan debt and an inability to afford basic living expenses. To save my sanity I had to rely on my past career experience and leave a field I had only just started and loved. At the end of the school year I announced my departure and spent part of the following summer finding a new position.
Blue Collar Marketing Specialist
Early 2019 – Early 2021
I decided to look for a position in marketing, and with the help of a recruiter, took a position with Wimsatt Building Materials as their Marketing Specialist.
My Manager at Wimsatt was able to help me grow and really see my value as a creative and as a marketer. We worked on countless projects together, from a company-ran trade show with over 20 vendors, to customer-focused seminars to teach them more about marketing their own businesses, to merchandising, completely new digital marketing campaigns, to a complete rebrand of the company including a fresh brand standards guide.
The work-life balance was a little tough, 9 hour days saved face to our blue-collar workforce. We would put in as many hours as they did; If they were on the road or on a roof, we were in the office at corporate. On top of this schedule, we worked in-office during the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was tough for me personally because I made close contact with so many individuals at work at during the pandemic, I couldn't see my family since several of them are older or immunocompromised.
I still took great pride in what we accomplished in our tiny Marketing Department. We made great many things happen and drove Wimsatt ahead of the rest in the archaic building materials industry as a team.
Switch to Marketing Management
Early 2021 – Late 2021
After nearly 15 years at Wimsatt, my much-loved Manager decided it was time for a change and left the company for new adventures. The President of Wimsatt offered me the Marketing Manager position which would mean working for him directly. I happily accepted. The weight and responsibility gave me déjà vu to my time with IMS and C3 and I was eager to dig in.
The Wind Renewables Startup
Late 2021 – Early 2022
Without looking or seeking a move, an opportunity was presented to me on LinkedIn - Marketing Operations Manager at SkySpecs Inc. I hadn't anticipated wanting the position so much, but after speaking with their recruiter and hearing about their benefits and culture, I was excited to shoot my shot to be a part of their team. Working for a company in renewables and technology would be a dream job for me! After 5 rounds of interviews and one final presentation to the CEO, VP of Sales, and the Marketing Director, I was hired and began my training.
Unfortunately, two days into my role, the hiring Marketing Director announced her departure from SkySpecs to move on to other adventures; the Graphic Designer on staff and I were then on our own. Initially I had been hired to onboard their new marketing automation software, organize their projects, manage their WordPress website, track statistics on our marketing efforts, and manage our event schedule and logistics. My responsibilities exploded from there and I took on as much as I could.
With the previous Marketing Director's guidance, I worked with an already signed 3rd party marketing consultancy for a company-wide rebrand and website rebuild, managed our entire presence at the industry's largest tradeshow (American Clean Power), regained creative control of our brand assets after the completion of the agency's work, and restructured how our processes were documented and actioned... On top of day-to-day marketing tasks.
As I and the Graphic Designer on staff were working together to keep the marketing ship on target, the new VP of Marketing was onboarded and joined our team. She had begun going through the budgeting documents I worked on with the previous Director, our projects, and spoke with several technical team leads to understand our products. We were very excited to have her on the team as with her SaaS experience. She determined that many of the responsibilities I had taken charge of would require their own positions; My experience in Marketing had not prepared me for the roles she was suggesting. This left me with very few responsibilities aside from event management. It was indicated to me that my scope would not be as large but one of the new positions would suit me: Product Marketing Manager. However, we would not be ready to have a Product Marketing Manager on board for at least a year leaving me with very little to do. Old associates from previous employment relationships were onboarded, the culture was shifting to nepotism rather than exploration of ideas.
After a very frustrating few months and the future looking bleak with SkySpecs, my employment with the company was terminated with severance pay. It absolutely broke my heart to know that I would not be participating in a company that is helping reshape our future as a society, but I still wish them all the best regardless.
Through all of my employment history I have maintained contract work and since 2017, VStar Design Group LLC. I take on a variety of marketing and design projects that mean more to me than a paycheck. Through my experience and aptitudes as a working professional, I find that the makers, the tinkerers, and the big thinkers have been my allies and feel like home. Surrounding myself with like-minded individuals is a lifelong journey.
I am currently seeking new full time opportunities while maintaining my client work.