Megan Oiler (MFAD ’06) works for Fresh, a beauty brand known and loved for its sensorial skincare products. She also works with Joanna Buchanan, whose products inspire joy in everyday living and entertaining. We asked her a few questions about what she is currently doing, her 8 years at Martha Stewart and her experience at SVA.
Tell us about some projects you worked on?
The most challenging and rewarding part of my career has been working directly with Martha. One project I worked on with her was the branding of her flagship cafe. She loves the creative process and has extremely good taste, so when you can work with her to make something that excites her and meets her high standard, there’s nothing more thrilling. Now I’m the beauty industry, and what I find most interesting is how we connect with our customers on this idea of what is beautiful. How do we represent beauty? What makes our customers feel beautiful? Customers respond to images that reflect the best parts of themselves and their aspirations. What that looks like varies so much across populations and cultures – which is our challenge. Fresh is a global company so we’re presenting skincare to women in North America, Europe, and all across Asia. Because there is no singular representation of beauty, we try to create a feeling instead. If you can get an emotional response from your customer — make her feel cheer, excitement, hope, magic — you can connect with her in a beautiful way. Make a little rainbow shine in her heart for a second and maybe you’ve earned her affection for life.
What keeps you inspired?
It’s easy to get your head stuck in the sand when you’re busy. I try to make time every week to look up the work of classic photographers, emerging photographers, and watch indie films. I also love visiting MoMA and all these immersive experiential pop-ups all over Manhattan. I always love seeing what designers like Susan Walsh are up to.
Any interesting trends that you love?
I love the “real girls” trend in my industry : featuring people of different ages, sizes and physical characteristics instead of one outdated, standardized ideal. It’s nice to celebrate the rest of us, with imperfect skin and crooked smiles and asymmetrical bodies. At Fresh we are consciously doing less and less retouching, and in some of our biggest communications, we use employees and not models. I hope we can lead the industry in this regard. Though there is still a long way to go, we are making progress.
What advice would you give incoming students?
Cultivate the relationships you make at SVA and stay involved in the community. Design in New York is a small world and we can help each other succeed, so don’t let the relationships end after graduation.
What makes SVA MFA Design different?
The admission of students from different disciplines – it’s not just all art students like most graduate programs. It proves design thinking is not just about one idea and who does it best, but about critical thinking and an approach unburdened by industry trends. Naïveté reveals truths that may be hiding in plain sight. Anyone who’s honest, observant, and thoughtful can be a great designer/entrepreneur.
What impact has SVA had on your career?
Well, SVA brought me to New York, so it set a higher bar in general for my career aspirations. Going through the program also taught me that everything you do can be special if you let it. Even a tiny project at work you’re rushing through and you’ve done a million times before can be special and memorable. It’s your choice every time to give something a soul or just fulfill the minimum requirement. It’s just a matter of whether or not you allow yourself to be inspired.
How has the program’s multidisciplinary approach helped you?
MFA Design’s approach has shown me that we all have the capability to contribute intelligently to disciplines outside our areas of expertise, even with no formal training. Anyone with something smart or insightful or honest to say is valuable.
If you could choose a thesis topic today, what would it be?
I’ve asked myself this question many times since I graduated. There are so many things. I have 2 young children now so it would probably have something to do with making life easier for working parents.