— by Gabi Stevenson, Communications Manager
Quynh-Mai Nguyen's Superpowers:
  1. Storytelling
  2. Seeing the glass half full
  3. Not giving up

Since graduating from Moore's Graphic Design program, Quynh-Mai Nguyen '06 has used her passion and design skills to make a difference in her community. She currently works as Director of Creative Services for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC).

"I've worn so many different hats as a designer: teacher, entrepreneur, collabortor, even community advocate," Nguyen said. "Through design, I have fought food hunger, cultivated a film festival and drove economic growth in Philadelphia."

Even with the different hats she wears, Nguyen's work is rooted in storytelling and fostering safe spaces for people of all backgrounds. Thanks to her upbringing, her meaningful work has become second nature.

"I gew up with immigrant refugee parents who fled their war-torn country and came here with nothing. The sponsorship from a kind family helped my parents get on their feet and build a home that would welcome my birth a few years later," she explained. "I have strong values tied to the idea of giving back and building communities that provide safe spaces."

Nguyen's passion for community and cultural advocacy is evident in her body of work. She's elevated fundraisers for groups like the Philadelphia Freedom Band, created awareness with rally posters for Philly Dyke March, and developed digital stories about the dispalcement of immigrant business onwers with VietLead. The most impactful work she has done to date, according to Nguyen, has been with the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF) and in her current role with PIDC.

Looking back to her graduation from Moore, Nguyen says she had no idea she would end up where she is today. She learned during the 2008 recession that the pace and culture of the advertising industry wasn't the best fit for her goals. Her decision to move on from advertising opened up a flood of new possibilities, from helping Asian small business owners navigate displacement to installing a 40-foot-long sea monster at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

"I thought I would be running an art department at a big-name ad agency. I thought advertising was the only way to be a successful designer because that's where all the cool, trending and creative projects are," she said. "I was so wrong."

Nguyen's experiences at Moore taught her that she didn't have to make sacrifices in order to stay true to herself and make a sustainable living.

"A very real problem when you come from an immigrant refugee family is that they don't see the value in art," she said. "I was fortunate to have professors who were all successful and decorated designers. We're talking about women who set brand standards for the U.S. Olympics and who have published papers on design internationally."

Throughout her career, Nguyen has develpped great advice for Moore students. She encourages them to discover who they are and to work with people they like.

"I thought I had to work in an industry with mean people in order to get to the top. I eventually found out that kind and empathetic people who are also successful exist," she said. "Not only are they much more pleasant to work with, but they will pay you what you're worth and encourage you to grow and succeed. Healthy work environments exist!"

Her second piece of guidance is all about remaining curious.

"Practice empathy and don't be afraid to ask questions," she said. "How can you create art if you don't understand what you're creating or who you're creating it for?"