Self-Taught Graphics Gal Hopes to Advance Her Skills at Delta-Therm

Denise Philyaw has always learned by doing, beginning as a paste-up artist for Lakeland  Newspapers in Grayslake when she was a college freshman.

“I just learned by experience and kind of grew with the industry,” said the 45 year-old McHenry resident. “I enjoy trying to learn something new. If you stay still, you’re not doing yourself any favors.”

Though she attended College of Lake County and Illinois Central College in East Peoria for a time, she quickly found her niche as a graphic designer for a company called Graphic Partners in Zion.

“I was with them for 12 years,” she said. “Longevity with my employers is something that I pride myself on.”

Philyaw spent the next nine years with Exacto, an agricultural chemical company in Richmond where she worked as a graphic designer and marketing coordinator. After that, she spent three years running her own graphic design/marketing support business before being hired by Delta-Therm in May as its Marketing Communications Assistant.

“Everything was going really well, until the fall of the economy when things slowed down considerably. There was a significant drop in business, so I needed to look for a full time or contract-to-hire position,” she recalled. “I did a lot of searching and I contacted a lot of agencies.”

Delta-Therm, working through the Randstad Agency, identified Philyaw as the right candidate for the job. To maintain the company’s professional image, Ada Cryer needed an individual who could accurately and artfully update the annual product catalog as well as manage collateral marketing materials, such as literature, the website, product displays and other promotional pieces.

“Denise has an extensive background working for printing companies, and she has experience as a graphic designer for technical products,” said Cryer. “We hoped that her experience would help us maintain and/or improve our collateral materials while allowing me more time to work on customer support issues as I took on managing the customer support department almost two years ago.”

The catalog involved page layout templates, font styles, photos and illustrations, all of which had to be sent to a printer in digital format with proper file links.

“She proved that she not only could manage the project, but she improved the tab layout to make it easier to find the product you’re looking for,” said Cryer, adding that Philyaw also corrected layout inconsistencies and completed the project on time. “She’s currently assisting me on final production of an installation DVD for our 2FW floor warming product.”

Philyaw had a 90-day trial period before being hired permanently. It was just what she was hoping would happen since working at home, though comfortable in her fuzzy slippers, was somewhat isolating.

“When you’re on your own, you really miss water cooler conversations and interaction,” she said. “I really missed the camaraderie.”

Philyaw is excited about the challenge of adding website design to her skill set. She’s been studying a book Cryer gave her that teaches CSS and HTML, markup languages that will assist her in the process, and has also enrolled in a 6-week online class, learning Dreamweaver.

“It’s really interesting,” she said. “We’re going over Delta-Therm’s website, and I’m learning how to use administrative tools on the website for updating documents.

“It seems everybody is learning website design these days,” she added.

“It’s something that I’ve never had the opportunity or the time to learn or tackle, so I’m really glad that I’ve been given the opportunity.”

Outside of Delta-Therm, she contracts with clients to do freelance graphic design jobs. She stays abreast of current trends by enrolling in courses, or self-taught programs such as Adobe InDesign.

“I try to learn as much as I possibly can,” she said.

Philyaw’s previous employer, Exacto was a family-owned company where she enjoyed close relationships, so she felt at home right away at Delta-Therm.

“It’s very laid back, as opposed to a big corporate business,” she said.

Tending to her perennial garden beds, fishing, canoeing, and hiking are among her personal hobbies. She also loves traveling, history and archeology.

In the future, Philyaw hopes to learn more about the products at Delta-Therm, though she’s somewhat knowledgeable about cables and electricity.

“I come from a family of electricians so I’m familiar with some of the jargon that goes on around here,” she said. “It’s just a matter of getting used to a new product line.”