Jessica Meoni is the art director at SUNY Broome Community College, Binghamton, New York, and an event coordinator in the Scranton area who had previously worked as a graphic designer at Marywood University. Meoni is a graduate of West Scranton High School and Marywood, where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees and studied graphic design, art history, world history, publications and print-making. She lives in West Scranton.
Meet Jessica Meoni…

When did you first discover that you had an interest in graphic design?
In high school, though my high school didn’t actually have a graphic design program. I took art and things like that, but it was really traditional. I did a lot of painting. It didn’t really hit me until my senior year, when I was trying to seriously think about what I wanted to do. A representative from a college came to our school and told me, “If you go to a supermarket, and you go down any aisle, you’ll see everything that has to be designed. The store signage. The cereal boxes. The soup cans.” It’s kind of funny, because it’s right in front of your face, and you didn’t realize it. So I thought I would go toward commercial art. I didn’t really have any computer art classes, so I self-trained and figured out how to do some things. And when I went to Marywood, I learned a lot more.

So, you’ve now been doing it for a long time.
It’s about 10 years now. I do freelance graphic design, social media and publicity. I help a few local businesses make their promotional flyers and pretty much anything they need. It’s a personal business that I run. Even as I was starting, in high school, I would run downtown and go into businesses and ask if they needed a flyer or a business card, because I knew I needed to build my portfolio even to get in to college. I really didn’t have anything other than traditional art, and I knew I needed some good print pieces and maybe even some web stuff. I was doing all of this work pro bono, because they judged you on your portfolio, and if I didn’t have anything, I wasn’t going to get into school.

So, even as a teenager, you really hustled. After 10 years, what do you still enjoy about it?
I just love the ability to communicate with images in the best way possible and just create something really eye-catching. I also like communicating with a client about the best way that they can make their look be super distinct from other places, in a business sense, with a more creative graphic design. Take shapes, for instance. As a graphic designer, I don’t always look at typography and fonts as typography and fonts. I look at them as shapes. And you can play around with them on a canvas or an art board and just turn it into art. You can set a mood and set a theme.

Can you tell us a little about your work as an event coordinator?
I like providing things for Scranton to do, and they are usually music- and art-based. One is Grrrls Night, which are sporadically run events featuring an all-female lineup of musicians, comedians and poets. These are held at Ale Mary’s, and the next one is Sept. 15. Another is Hallowfest, which is usually held at Nay Aug Park. It’s a Halloween-themed music festival featuring several different local acts as well as vendors. This year’s festival will actually be held at the Irish Wolf Pub on Oct. 27. We usually have a variety of punk and metal bands play. And another is the Scranton Zine Fest, which is a celebration of handmade publications and artwork. People come in from the tri-state area as well as from NEPA. It occurs every June, and next year will be our eighth year.

What do you enjoy in your free time?

I manage a local metal band, Earthmouth, and make promotional material for them, like shirts and patches. And I do that for a lot of the local bands. My long-term goal is to create a design studio that provides band merchandise for local bands. Growing up here, the music scene was super important to me. Venues that allowed the under-21 (crowd) really shaped my outlook, and my parents were really musical people, too.

Who are some of your all-time favorite musical artists?
Joy Division, the Smiths, the Adicts, the Ramones, the Misfits, Bauhaus, Van Halen and Pink Floyd. Typically, I like ’60s and ’70s type of stuff. Back in the ’80s, my uncle was also in a local band, so I’ve also grown up around hair metal.

Favorite city?
Philly.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
There’s so much I love. The small-business culture, and how people really try to start things. I get inspired when people try, on their own, to do things. I like that new bands are always being formed and trying to put on shows for young people. Once, in high school, I did a project on all of the different architecture in Scranton. I love the history.

All-time favorite movie?
“Sybil ” and “Annie Hall.”

All-time favorite TV show?
“Seinfeld.”

Favorite holiday?
Halloween.

Favorite food?
Falafel. It’s a vegetarian dish.

Favorite book or author?
William Faulkner and Willa Cather.

Any pets?
A cat, Sadie.

Biggest pet peeve?
People that complain about things but don’t do anything about it.

Guilty pleasure?
Gin and tonic. But I’m not guilty about it. (Laughs)

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I have social anxiety. I don’t have a problem with public speaking or anything like that, but I do get really nervous about being in crowds. It’s claustrophobic type stuff. I get a little antsy and want to get out of there.

Who, if anyone, helped guide you toward a career in art and graphic design?
I was really touched by my art teacher from middle school, Robert Boland, who passed away a few years ago. He was actually my mom’s art teacher, too. He was such an eccentric character and was really compassionate, and he always told me I was going to go far. There was a certain sincerity to him. He really had an impact on me, and often, at my daily job, I think about him.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net

Photos by Emma Black