4 minutes read

If you work in the digital marketing industry and you are interested in content marketing, you should know about the Content Marketing Institute. Today, we’ll talk to Joseph Kalinowski, the Creative Director of CMI.

You might remember him from our previews articles like “What do specialists think about the importance of design in content marketing?” or “Designers opinion about working for free

You will find about his first steps in his career, what values are important to him when his designing and some juicy answers for some juicy questions.

Twitter: @ringo66

Can you please tell us briefly about your background?

I grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. From a young age, I had a knack for drawing and imaginative play. I was always sketching or creating something throughout my childhood into my teens, and to no surprise to my family, I wanted to attend college to pursue an education in art. I graduated from Edinboro University of PA with a BFA in Applied Media Arts/Graphic Design (the one major on which my loving parents and I agreed).

What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?

At that time (and in my neck of the woods), there were little to no jobs available for someone in the arts. I had to work numerous part-time jobs to start to gain experience.
I worked for screen printing companies, newspapers, and was the resident designer at a copy and print shop. Although at the time they could be very frustrating and certainly made me question my career choice, they were actually wonderful experiences where I was able to hone my skills.

You worked 18 years in the advertising and publishing industry, can you tell us three lessons that you’ve learned?
Only three? LOL! Over the years in the advertising and publishing industry, I have learned so many exceptional lessons about design, business, and people. I think some the best lessons are a combination of those three factors:

1. Not everything you design is a masterpiece, although you think it might be. 

Be prepared to get some really strong ideas shot down. Every designer knows or will share with you stories of some really strong ideas being discarded within mere seconds of the presentation. I compare it to buying a large ice cream cone and dropping it on the sidewalk as soon as you turn to walk away from the ice cream vendor! Even after all of these years, when ideas I think are home runs turn out to be strikeouts, it still stings a little!

2. Be open to constructive criticism and listen to it.

Designers are very attached to their work and can sometimes take offense to criticism thrown their way. That’s completely understandable, but always be aware that constructive criticism will not only help your designs but also forge a better working relationship with your client and your teammates. Be open and engage with what your client is saying as it will certainly help you in the long run.

3. Stick to your guns (most of the time).

Sometimes clients present you with some incredible cringe-worthy ideas they have (I once had a client ask me to use Comic Sans in their logo). Designers have to take on the role of being a “visual therapist” and steer the client into a new vision (away from Comic Sans!). Stick to your guns when it comes to refusing some horribly bad ideas, but also be prepared to make some concessions.

What values are important to you when you’re designing? 

Some values that I hold near and dear when I am designing are: Brand recognition, aesthetics (is it pleasant to look at?) and does the design communicate the message well?

What do you enjoy the most regarding your job as a Creative Director? 

That’s a great question as there are so many things that I enjoy about my job. First, I get to do what I love for people that I love. I am extremely lucky to have a staff that is very supportive of the ideas that the creative team whips up. I am a firm believer in the old adage: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Nowadays, I don’t consider my role at CMI a job, it’s more of a lifestyle.

Where do you think CMI will be in 2025? 

Our mission statement at the Content Marketing Institute is to advance the practice of content marketing. We do that job extremely well, yet there are some out there that still do not grasp the whole idea of content marketing.

By 2025, I predict that the practice of ‘content marketing’ will be just be considered marketing; people and brands embrace and utilize the concepts of consistent and valuable content… and CMI will be a cornerstone to a new marketing era, still offering education and content wisdom, operating from somewhere tropical!

What should designers and creatives learn from the CMI brand?  

One way I think we set a good example is brand recognition. You know us by our lovely orange hue (PMS 144). CMI has grown in the past 5 years, but all of our family of products, all which have their own unique aspects, are still recognizable as a CMI product.

Can you recommend 3 or more resources for designers that are reading our blog? 

I really like Creative Market. They have resources (fonts, imagery, etc.) for designers created by designers.
For design news and inspiration, I visit HOW Design. There are some great blogs and tutorials for creatives. I also enjoy portfolio sites like Behance to see what other artists are up to!

Pulizzi or Rose? 


Now that’s an unfair question! That’s like asking me to choose between my kids! Joe and Robert are not only two people that I really look up to, they are truly close friends of mine. We talk Star Wars, music, and football as much as we talk content… most of the time in the same conversations! I am blessed to have two great marketing minds as two of my pals.

Coffee or Tea? 

Both! I am a morning coffee guy and then iced tea for the rest of the day. I have an unhealthy addiction to Sweet Tea.

Robert Katai
Robert Katai is the Product Marketing Specialist at Creatopy. His work was featured on Adweek, Entrepreneur, Marketing Profs, Content Marketing Institute and other places.

1 Comment

  1. Hello there. I believe you made various good points. Take care.

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