Shelby Spears

BFAGraphic Design, 2007
New York City, NY


What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work? 'Design thinking' as it relates to upfront innovation. I love the challenge of solving 'wicked problems' within the Oral and Wound Care categories (i.e. Adherence: approx 50% of patients do not take their medications as prescribed – CDC). 

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking? While maybe not the most influential, organizations like the Taproot Foundation gave me the opportunity to build my portfolio, gain new skills, and meet others in my industry at a time when I was seeking new job opportunities. 

What project or design problem have you faced (in the past or recently) that seemed to be a “failure” but was perhaps an extremely valuable learning experience? One of the global brands I'm working on is going through a packaging upgrade/re-design. We have yet to nail the final design (despite multiple attempts!), but are learning a lot along the way – co-creating with consumers and designing toward ideality despite some shorter-term production constraints. I've found that global re-stages are the most challenging – especially when current perceptions of the brand and how it should evolve range globally. 

While you were in school at Auburn, do you remember a specific project that challenged you the most? As digital design was evolving, I'd say some of my website projects. I've always been more interested in print. 


You are currently a Senior Manager of Consumer Solutions at Johnson & Johnson in New York, correct? What are some of the roles the Senior Manager plays in your division of the company? I work out of the JnJ Global Strategic Design Office (GSDO) in NYC. The Consumer Solutions team works closely with cross-functional partners to identify opportunities where design can add value. Through subject-matter expertise, we shape and drive business insights, innovation, strategies and meaningful solutions for all of our patients, consumers, customers and employees – and in my case, specifically for Oral and Wound Care. 

Has your design background served you well in your current position? Without a doubt – and while I no longer design firsthand, I oversee design projects as a key part of my role. 

Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently? Don't try to jump ahead to the end of the book. Get to learn the brand, build a storyboard behind it, find themes to explore, and let that guide you to the destination. Also, always build empathy with your target consumer – this will help you re-frame the problem to find some unexpected solutions! 

Do you believe that it is more challenging for women to become successful in certain aspects of the design field? Is there a difference between working with women or with men in your field? Moving up the ranks as a woman in NYC has not an additional burden in my experience. 

What do you do to try to maintain a good work/life/family balance? I haven't fully mastered this balance yet, but realize the importance of activities/interests outside of work. My involvement in the New York Junior League, Ocular Melanoma Foundation, and local church keep me grounded and provide opportunities for growth and leadership that in turn, make me better in my role at JnJ.


“Through subject-matter expertise, we shape and drive business insights, innovation, strategies and meaningful solutions for all of our patients, consumers, customers and employees...”

Would you recommend some resources that recent graduates/young designers might find useful? (books, websites, podcasts, etc.) Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were in school? Business strategy – it's not only about good design.

What should a recent graduate/young designer avoid doing when applying for jobs in the design field? Don't show too much work – only your best pieces that are the most relevant for that interview. 

Design Samples

Designer responded to questions in 2016 via email.