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Meet Laura Coe Wright of COE Design in La Jolla

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Coe Wright.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Laura. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Reflecting back, it seems I always had a crayon or pencil in my hand. Originally from the Midwest & the youngest of five kids, I spent most of my childhood drawing, painting or making things I could not buy. Ironically, I recently found a box in my parent’s attic with some of these handcrafted objects using egg cartons, tape and leftover materials. It seems my life has come full circle as I am doing much of the same today.

Even though I loved creating art, I thought the only art career was to teach, so I decided to become a social worker. My dad was the one who talked me into majoring in art at Kent State University. I picked jewelry design for a lack of knowing what else to do.

Luckily the first two years were overlapping design & typography classes and I found something I not only loved but also seemed to have talent.

After I received my BFA in Graphic Design from KSU, I was accepted into a joint Kent/Yale design program in Switzerland. This was an eye-opening experience and I longed to work in Italy. Instead, I returned to Ohio and my first job out of college was as a graphic designer for Huffy Bicycles. We designed bike color palettes, graphics, names, product lines and collateral for Huffy, Raleigh and a host of private labels.

This was a great introduction to working with industrial designers, graphic designers, photographers as well as marketing and sales teams. This experience gave me the multidisciplinary background I use today for my clients. After 2 years, I wanted to try something different. I was contemplating between moving to New York, and become a career woman, or San Diego and have some fun for a few years. Well, I chose San Diego because I had family & friends here. So with some savings and what fit in my car, I drove across the country. At the time I moved, I had only meant to stay 2 years and then move to Milan. But after an unfortunate injury, my plans changed and I stayed in San Diego.

Looking back now, I realize I did not set out to “start a business”. During my first year of freelancing, I had a back injury that needed surgery. Soon after surgery, I had re-injured my back so I had to work lying down. This was in the early ’80s and before Apple products. There were no jobs available that allowed you to lie down & work. So I opened an office in Point Loma with a chaise lounge on the patio overlooking San Diego Bay. My projects continued and my client list grew and after a few years, I needed help to keep up with the deadlines. I grew in that office for 30 years with dozens of employees over time.

In the early ’90s, I was very fortunate to be invited to an annual hands-on participatory training, co-sponsored by Adobe and Apple and started at Stanford University. The Stanford Art Directors Invitational first began with a core group of five art directors which grew to twelve, then twenty by the time I was invited. I attended or sent employees to this event for twenty years allowing us to be on the cutting edge of technology. It was an invaluable resource and we learned a lot. All knowledge is good and I usually tell my designers when you stop learning or doing good work, it is time to move on.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Running a business can be complicated, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time.

Especially in the beginning because you wear every hat from sales, design, production, accounting, advertising and human resources. Being an organized and methodical person really helped me grow.

Starting out in San Diego as a 25-yr-old freelancer with a consumer/sporting goods portfolio had a few challenges in itself. In a predominately male sports world, I had to prove myself. Maybe having three brothers helped, but I often felt the laid-back California designers took a back seat to my Midwest/East Coast work ethic. My portfolio and attitude seemed to make my point for me.

Today the challenge is that everyone considers themselves a designer. And there truly are many talented people out there, some with self-taught skills and others with good taste.

But our challenge as trained designers is how we are perceived and valued by our clients.

We are not only designers but strategist and business partners who analyze problems and define goals for our clients. We care about their bottom line and getting results from the work we do.

Please tell us about COE DESIGN.
At COE Design, we are known for our branding and packaging design solutions. But we also provide a brand strategy for our clients across all touchpoints. As a multi-disciplinary design firm, we offer a strategic, integrated approach to our projects using graphics and structural design for packaging, collateral and product development.

We are an organization that cares first and foremost about our clients and how they spend their money. Our process for all solutions begins with discovery, concept development and includes a cohesive strategy and identity across the company, product, packaging, print/digital communications and environments.

I am most proud of the longevity and volume of great work we have produced over the years. During these years, I have been fortunate to work with very talented designers, photographers, printers, fabricators and a long list of great long-term clients.

Throughout the years I have had the pleasure of working with large and small businesses including Dennis Conner and America’s Cup, TaylorMade Golf, Adidas, Cobra Golf, Titleist, ScubaPro, Hang Ten, HP, Microsoft, SeaWorld, Nestle as well as education and research facilities like Salk Institute and The Scripps Research Institute.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I’ve learned possibilities and opportunities are endless if you want them to be. I don’t regret much along my journey, but I realize if I started my business today how different it would look.

Because of technology, my current business model is changing. I love to travel and life for a digital nomad is a very common practice today. We work with clients and contractors all over the world and that opens doors today that were not possible when I first started my business.

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1 Comment

  1. Robbie Adkins

    September 3, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    Great background Laura. I never knew you wanted to move to Italy! It was a joy sharing studio space with you.

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