New instructor brings advertising design to SOJC

portrait of Kym Rohman
Photo by Jeremy Parker.

Kym Rohman

Instructor of Advertising and Design

Primary Interests: digital media, web design, brand management, creative coaching

Hometown: Keizer, Oregon

Say “hello!”: Connect with Kym on LinkedIn

Like many communication students, new instructor of advertising and design Kym Rohman tried a few things before she found her true passion.

Upon graduating from Western Oregon University in 2002 with a BA in communications, Rohman moved to New York City to work in music publishing. After years of working on the analytical side of music publishing for MTV, she realized that legal contracts were just not her thing. At the time, she was working closely with the MTV producers that were pushing out online content, and she realized she enjoyed the creative side of the industry more.

That’s when Rohman took what she calls her “leap of faith.” She went back to school for design, finishing a degree at The New School’s Parsons School of Design before landing an internship at Cosmopolitan magazine.

Since then, Rohman has racked up over 13 years of experience, working on design for big public relations firms like Weber Shandwick and in-house companies like Mondo. She has worked on digital campaigns for companies like Aetna, Excedrin and Unilever and for nonprofits like the Clinton Foundation and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. She has done social media and website design, art-directed photoshoots, created apps and graphics, and designed various print media. And she started teaching in 2020, first in New York City and then in London.

When the London school she taught for went fully online, a desire to teach in-person again brought Rohman back to her home state of Oregon and the UO School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). She’s kicked off her first term working with students to create a seasonal branding campaign for a festival in her Top Design Studio course and helping them navigate the concept development process in Writing Design Concepts.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Rohman to talk about her design experience and how she will use her skills at the SOJC.

SOJC: You've spent a good amount of time in all parts of the design industry, from in-house teams to big agencies, nonprofits and freelancing. What did you like the best?

Kym Rohman: I like them all for different reasons. It really depends on your personality and what you enjoy working on.

I think it's good to stay in a company for two years because you really get to know that company. But if you're not on some kind of a career path with them and they haven't set one up for you, you should start looking to work at a different company because then you can make more money and expose yourself to more people. In-house, you kind of have to wear a lot of hats, but I think there's more opportunity to do bold and different things.

At an agency, you'll just be on a team, and you'll get to experience working with other teams. But it's a little bit more focused on: "I'm in this department. This is my team. I'm on this account." So you have to advocate for yourself to get more opportunities sometimes.

When I was running a marketing team as a design manager, we would try different ideas because we had the budget. We had room to try something new.

I really like working in-house because you have a lot of ownership over the brand but also the message. I've worked on marketing teams. I've worked on design teams. I've reported to COOs and had meetings with CEOs. You just get exposed to all different kinds of business, which I think is really interesting. Whereas if you're on the agency side, sometimes those new ideas have to be specific to what the brief is because you're billing hours to your clients.

SOJC: What would you describe as your passion or your purpose? How do you use design to fulfill it?

KR: I think having the ability to make something is important to me. One of my values is that I want my work to be meaningful, and I think there's something meaningful about design that I didn't find when I was in other careers.

There's always a reason behind what I design. There's always a reason I've chosen the colors that I chose. There's always a reason I choose a typeface or a layout. There's a lot of thought and intention that goes behind that.

That ticks a lot of boxes because it's meaningful for me to create things that I put a lot of purpose into, and then I can explain it to someone. There's this whole storytelling process, which I find really rewarding as well. And I think creating that story is why I find it really interesting, like, "I chose red because it's a hot color. It has a lot of intensity. I want people to feel uncomfortable." There are connotations and a story behind the design, and it takes a lot of practice to get there.

SOJC: What are some personal projects you are working on right now?

KR: I really have started enjoying typeface design. I've been on computers for two decades now. I'm trying to get off-screen, and I'm doing a lot more drawing and playing with pens and paper and paintbrush. I've been into practicing calligraphy.

The thing about calligraphy: It all kind of follows the brush stroke — where there's thickness, where there's thinness, where the pen curves. There's an element of technical finesse there that makes my brain happy because there are limitations, but it's also very creative. I find it challenging because I need to build on top of the foundation.

typeface and pattern design by Kym Rohman
In her free time, advertising and design instructor Kym Rohman enjoys creating her own typefaces and patterns, including the pattern and typeface pictured. She likes how typefaces and patterns appeal to both sides of her brain. “It's creative. It's also kind of technical,” she said. “I like the aspect of laying out something and trying to make sure that it communicates well.”

SOJC: What do you hope students will take away from your teaching?

KR: I want them to have fun. I'm mostly teaching juniors and seniors right now, so they're about to graduate. Some of them are nervous. I think some of them are tired, and I just want them to enjoy it.

It's not easy because a lot of them are learning Adobe for the first time or relearning it again. I want them to be challenged, but I also want them to have those happy accidents where they do something in InDesign and they think it looks good. And then be able to talk about their work a little bit and to create that story, that narrative of: I did all of this research.

They have an idea. Now they just have to make the software work for them.

SOJC: What would you say to designers finding their way through the SOJC, looking to forge a path of creativity like your own? Are there any words of advice or tips you can give them?

KR: I would say that creativity is a muscle, and you have to exercise that muscle.

It can get discouraging, but I think it’s necessary to spend time outside of class watching tutorials and looking at design, because you're not going to be creating great work unless you're looking at great work.

If you're just doing the schoolwork to get the grade, you're going to get that, and that's going to be good. But if you want to push yourself as a creative, you constantly need to be seeking inspiration and pushing yourself to try new things.

And that comes from inside. If you want to be a better designer, you need to try new things. And in order to try new things, you need to be inspired. And to be inspired, you need to be looking at everything, everywhere.

—By Kaia Mikulka, class of '26

Kaia Mikulka is an advertising major, a member of the School of Journalism and Communication direct-admit program, and a member of Clark Honors College. Her passions include design and art direction and their intersection with technology and psychology. She is also a designer for Allen Hall Advertising.