EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ACORDA THERAPEUTICS, ARDSLEY NY
Maria has always had two competing loves: a love of art and a love of science. When her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, her interest in science was intensified. Watching this strong man lose so much function was devastating. And at age 15 she began a quest to help people with Parkinson’s. She embraced math and science, and embarked on a pre-med path. Along the way, she realized this wasn’t the contribution she wanted to make. It was her father who told her she had do work that she loved. Graphic design became that work. Maria joined Acorda Therapeutics as employee number eleven, drawn by the founder’s promise to make a difference in the lives of those with neurological diseases. The promise held true when the company brought Ampyra to people with multiple sclerosis in 2010. Currently, Maria runs an award-winning internal agency for Acorda. Her team is responsible for creating the experiences that people have with the company ‒ from product campaigns, to interactive exhibit environments, to the look and feel of the campus. Her greatest responsibility is establishing and fostering relationships with the communities they serve. Her greatest joy is her team, and she works hard to foster a vibrant environment that breeds creativity and is unafraid of failure.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
Born in Queens and now live in Westchester NY
DID YOU GO TO DESIGN SCHOOL?
LEFTY OR RIGHTY?
MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL?
Both. I do sleep somewhere between night and the morning.
FICTIONAL OR HISTORICAL CHARACTER YOU’VE ALWAYS IDENTIFIED WITH?
Coco Chanel. She said: “My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”
ARE YOU MUSICAL AND/OR DO YOU PLAY AN INSTRUMENT?
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD TV SHOW?
The Facts of Life. There was a diversity of girlhood, and each character was free to be who she was.
LAST BOOK YOU READ?
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight Do you have
WHAT LANGUAGES ARE YOU FLUENT IN?
Spanish and English
Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle
FAVORITE FINE ARTIST?
No Kid Hungry connects kids in need with healthy foods in classrooms and at kitchen tables, and teaches families to cook healthy affordable meals.
FAVORITE FREE TIME ACTIVITY?
Hanging with my 3-year-old godchild Sophia. She’s my BFF.
WHAT’S THE LAST COMPLIMENT YOU GOT?
Someone introduced me at a party as: This is Maria, the director of all things beautiful.
DO YOU COLLECT ANYTHING?
I collect cookbooks. It’s a problem. Cookbooks are huge… and I don’t cook … They are an art form.
COLOR USED MOST OFTEN IN YOUR DESIGN?
TYPEFACE USED MOST OFTEN?
DO YOU HAVE A DESIGN MENTOR OR INSPIRATION?
Our CEO, Ron Cohen, is an inspiration. His background is in medicine, not design, but he fully supports the idea of design as a business strategy. There’s a lot of trust between us because we’re working through different mediums towards the same goal.
GREATEST STRENGTH/WEAKNESS AS A DESIGNER?
Strength is the ability to make decisions. Weakness is the desire for endless exploration.
ADVICE TO A YOUNG DESIGNER JUST STARTING OUT?
Three things: (1) Live life. Get out there. You are only as good as your experiences. (2) Don’t be afraid of failure. Learn to be in an uncomfortable situation and lean into it ‑ you’ll never know how good you can be unless you try. (3) Love what you do and everything else will follow.
IF YOU WERE NOT A DESIGNER, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?
A MANTRA OR SAYING YOU LIVE BY?
People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel ‑ Maya Angelou