Deep inside the Melvin Municipal Office Building’s Lower Ground level is the studio of one of Greensboro’s most-published artists. Municipal employees regularly see her designs in printed and digital formats. Residents can find her handiwork splashed on the City’s website and social media pages, posted on electronic kiosks downtown, and on various City vehicles, including a Greensboro Transit Authority bus.
You won’t find this prolific and versatile artist featured in a local gallery or museum. Her collections aren’t for sale and you probably wouldn’t decorate your home or office with the majority of her masterpieces. But thanks to Mary Brookshire’s graphic design work, thousands of residents have been informed and engaged by her volumes of City newsletters, logos, brochures, flyers, business cards, and other creations.
“I work on all different kinds of things, which is what’s really cool about my job,” Brookshire said. “It’s something different every day. It’s a different piece that you work on every day and a different department. Sometimes it’s for (Guilford) County, sometimes the City.”
Brookshire also serves as the assistant manager of the City’s Graphic Services Division, which is housed in the Communications and Marketing Department. Since 2012 she has worked as the City’s lone graphic design specialist, which means nearly all of the City’s publications work lands in her crowded email box. Her work is critical to publicizing different City events and initiatives, which helps residents interact with City government, officials, and resources. Brookshire also serves as an informal gatekeeper of the City’s marks and logos, which adds consistency and familiarity to the organization’s brand.
“You want [the audience] to know that it is the City of Greensboro,” Brookshire explained. “You want to know when you see a piece that it is clearly a City piece. So we try to make sure there’s a logo on every piece to show this is a City initiative or business.”
As a one-person shop in a large and dynamic organization, the work can get hectic, even stressful at times. Brookshire says she must be very organized to accommodate the myriad of requests from across the City’s different departments and some Guilford County offices. And that’s to say nothing of last-minute requests and emergency edits.
“You never know what’s coming,” Brookshire said. “I have this list of what I think I’m going to work on, but I don’t know when the City Manager’s office is going to need something [immediately], so you just have to be ready to switch gears at any time.”
Brookshire knows her work as the designer is often part of a greater process. She minds not only her lists but is careful to consider her co-workers’ loads. “I have to be thinking ahead to about what other people have to do to the project in order to get it finished because it doesn’t always end at my desk.”
Brookshire didn’t grow up dreaming of the high-paced and creative world of graphic design. The lifelong Summerfield, NC, resident had her sights set on an accounting career after she graduated from Northwest Guilford High School and followed in her father’s footsteps to UNC Chapel Hill. In time she realized the business world wasn’t for her so she took a resident advisor’s advice to pursue graphic design. Brookshire enjoyed designing posters for her dormitory government group, so she decided to give it a shot. She switched her major to journalism, worked a summer with the Daily Tar Heel student newspaper, and eventually secured a design position with a local company a couple of years after graduation.
As she looks back, Brookshire points to her mother’s influence in developing her creative spirit. Her mom worked as a home economics teacher before leaving the school to raise a family. Mary and her siblings spent a lot of time drawing, painting, crafting, and sewing, hobbies she still enjoys outside of the office.
“I like that I get to be creative,” she said. “I like to have some kind of creative outlet during the day. There’s almost always something new that I can do.”
In addition to exploring and expressing her creativity, Brookshire enjoys the diversity of people and projects on which she works. But it’s the family atmosphere of the Graphic Services Division she appreciates the most. Whether in a daily production meeting or while preparing one of the division’s well-regarded office holiday decoration extravaganzas (left), Brookshire says her co-workers’ support and encouragement make her work enjoyable.
“I really like the people that I work with in Graphic Services,” Brookshire said. “It’s really family-oriented down here. We’re family and that makes a big difference.”