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Emma Phillips: Published Children’s Book Illustrator

Name: Emma PhillipsYear: JuniorHometown: San Mateo, California

HC: What were your interests growing up?

EP: I always was focused on singing, drawing, and crafting. When my friends wanted to play house with Barbies, I was the one who wanted to make clothes for the dolls or skip the dolls entirely and just sketch. One year, my mom bought yards of sparkly fabric, and I made my own Halloween costume.

HC: In high school, what were your dream jobs?

In high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I just loved singing and art and spent my free time pursuing those activities. During my senior year in high school, I learned about graphic design and immediately felt drawn to it. I love how there is an end goal with graphic design work. I also enjoy working with clients to meet their needs and help solve their problems.

HC: What made you choose to be a graphic design major at Cal Poly?

EP: Even in middle school, I knew about Cal Poly and how respected they are for their graphic design program. During high school, while weighing my options, I decided to tour Cal Poly and immediately was reminded of all the reasons why Cal Poly is known as such an amazing school to attend. The student body seemed warm and welcoming, and the whole community was so nice to me, even though I was just a visiting high school student at the time.

HC: What is it like being a graphic design major?

EP: The way we learn and study is quite different from other majors. Tests and studying are not the focus. Instead, we have lots of hands-on projects, which prepare us for our future careers. There are plenty of late nights staying up to finish projects. In this major, you have to be passionate about what you are doing. You don’t get the degree to do something else. Classmates are also a huge support network. You constantly pull late nights together and help each other with work. Critiques are an important part of our progress. There’s no competitive vibes; it’s not about criticizing each other’s work to bring them down, but about identifying ways to make the work better. It’s about building people up and helping you and your peers grow as artists.

HC: What’s one project you’ve really enjoyed so far in your classes?

EP: The project I’m working on now is creating an identity system for an upcoming business in the SLO area, which includes the logo, website, packaging, and every font, color, and shape that might be used in the future for the company. It’s a really interesting project because we are now working with a company and experiencing what it will be like working in the real world. I get to see exactly what I’m signing up for. In the end, the owner of the business wants to choose one of our solutions, which is the graphic design term for designs.  

HC: Have you had any freelance jobs in college?

EP: Yes! I finished a children’s book this past summer, which was outside of my comfort zone. The book was about werewolves, and I was able to seek help through my professor. He was able to help me with the wolves’ body shape and conceive various concepts for each of the werewolf characters. It took me a long time to complete, because I had to be in contact with the author and the publisher. Being a full-time student and having two part-time jobs made it difficult to balance everything and fit illustrating into my workload. But I pushed on and never gave up, and was able to finish the illustrations. The book was published on Nov 20, and I’m excited to finally get to share it with family and friends!


Stephanie enjoys cats, crafts, and carrots when she's feeling healthy. She believes that the best writers were first avid readers. Consequently, her love for the two run deep! A third-year English major, she aspires to one day work in a publishing company editing manuscripts and helping writers achieve their literary goals.
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