A career as sweet as candy

Published 02.11.2020

Joe Gasparetti

by Joe Gasparetti

Graphic Design graduate, '01


Joe Gasparetti, a 2001 graphic design graduate, is the design manager for Mars Wrigley (They’re the people who make M&Ms!).

He recently answered a few questions about his current position, the role Penn College played in his career and gave advice for current students. See what Joe had to say.

What type of work do you do?

I introduce design as a strategic and functional tool to elevate Mars Wrigley’s brands in the retail environment through our displays and POS (point of sale). A large part of my job is to ensure the distinctive look, tone and feel that is reflected in our in-store expression. I act as brand steward working directly with brand teams to elevate execution and provide strategic recommendations to brand teams and senior management in exploration of design and business initiatives.

What is a typical day like?

For the front half of the year, my days are largely spent immersing myself into creative initiatives, learning strategies and vision, and reviewing creative exploratory with our design agencies. I also oversee execution of our range of displays and POS deliverables across our portfolio of brands for the following year. The back half of the year, my days are primarily spent creating comprehensive decks to showcase potential design optimizations, efficiencies, category audits and competitive set analysis. This work is used to envision the outlook of strategic alterations to optimize, enhance and promote collaborative discussions around design potential for displays, POS and packaging.

What is the most compelling creative job you’ve worked on?

In late 2018 I put forth a design proposal to optimize our existing SNICKERS® brand beacon displays. I enhanced the design by altering the hierarchy and providing emphasis on taste appeal and significantly larger branding. At the point of purchase, individually wrapped bars/packs for our brands are primarily impulse purchases. Looking to sway someone’s path to purchase in just a few seconds led me to evaluate the existing design hierarchy of the display architecture and optimize it to highlight the brand’s product cross-section accompanied by a more impactful use of the brand’s most distinctive asset: the parallelogram logo.

The positive reception by SNICKERS® led me to take a similar approach to its core packaging, providing a cohesive look and feel between pack and display. I was able to collaborate with our U.S. brand team, senior management, and our global design teams to align on design and strategy. For the first time in the brand’s 90-year history, we will feature our iconic product cross-section on our primary bar to drive taste appeal. This six-month design exploratory afforded me the opportunity to learn from significant minds in our business, harness strategic recommendations by key stakeholders, and ultimately provide the solution. Both the primary packs and displays will be launched in 2020 and will be based on my influence and design execution.

Any advice for graphic design students?

Complete the four-year program if the opportunity affords itself to you. I developed the most in the last two years of the program, and this changed my outlook, not just on design, but solidifying the way I think as a whole and provided the foundation for where a career in graphic design was going to take me. I didn’t begin to “hit my stride” until years 3 and 4, and the benefit has positively impacted my entire professional career. Utilize the resources you have to put the most into your design efforts and challenge yourself to put the most into every opportunity you get.

Why do you like being a graphic designer?

My time spent as a graphic designer was short, but my time in the design business and environment is nearing 20 years. The first agency I worked for I held the role of designer for almost two years. Electing to take the path of opportunity, I chose to take on roles away from designing in order to grow my career. To date I’ve spent time as a Designer, Account Manager, Production Manager, Creative Supervisor, and now the culmination of all of those roles has led to my current position as Design Manager. What I like about my current role is I get to harness my creative and technical backgrounds as well as design expertise in a more holistic capacity for big, powerful brands. Seeing designs in the market that I’ve contributed to never gets old.

How do you think Penn College helped prepare you to be a graphic designer?

Penn College is where I developed how to think. Design is subjective. Penn College and the curriculum challenged me to be prepared as a designer, to be critical of my concepts, to appreciate the pursuit of the end goal. Senior Project challenged me to think beyond and not to settle, to push when I thought I already had the answer and ultimately advocate that I should be able to justify why I did what I did and be able to make others believe in it. I utilize these behaviors every day. Always have sound reasoning – believe in your design work and be able stand behind it; it’s a reflection of you.