Create & Cultivate 100: Art & Design: Magdalena Kokoszynska

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When Magdalena Kokoszynska found her path, she stuck to it. With nearly 12 years under her belt on the creative team at Chevrolet, she’s risen the ranks from creative designer all the way to lead color and trim designer and cites seeing her overall vision come to fruition as a constant source of inspiration in her role.

Magdalena has an eye for detail and sees opportunity in every challenge. In her words, she does “everything, whether big or small, with integrity and honest passion”—and for that reason, we’re honored to share her story below.

You’re the lead creative designer at Chevy. Tell us a bit about what your day-to-day life looks like on the job.

A color & trim designer’s average work week is never dull. Each day holds something new and exciting. The most important thing for me to remember is to keep focused on the overall design vision and take small steps everyday towards creating that captivating and enticing design that will speak to the customer. One of the things I enjoy most about each day is that I get to work cross-functionally and collaboratively with my counterparts in engineering and marketing to find the best design solutions that not only push innovation but that are production feasible.

You moved to the United States from Poland when you were just six years old. How has your past influenced your work?

My life started in Poland where I was born and raised. At the age of 6 my family and I moved to the United States to New York City. I spent my childhood and my early adult life in New York. Adjusting to NYC life was both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. New York City is known as the capital of the world and a melting pot of all diverse cultures, living there has given me a greater appreciation and acceptance of different cultures and people, which is important when designing vehicles for our diverse customers. What’s special about New York City is its vibrancy and energy, its unapologetic qualities and ruggedness which give it its character.

If you weren’t a designer, what career path would you choose?

I would probably be a lawyer. The investigative part in me the curious part and my inquisitive side always wants to go beyond what I know and what I see to understand the whole picture and come to the best most holistic solution. For example, as a designer I love investigating and understanding not only the hows but the whys, understanding the way things are engineered a certain way, what types of processes there are and why they are most efficient but I also enjoy the analytical aspect and the process of coming to one concrete plan or solution.

What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?

I was honored to be a part of the Southeastern Michigan Girl Scout event this past year that was sponsored by GM. It gave me an opportunity to speak about my experience and career here at GM and to inspire young girls to pursue a future in automotive design.

From where do you draw inspiration for your work?

For me creative or artistic inspiration is a sensory experience that it is shaped by our life experiences, it is a feeling inside, the catalyst that ignites a creative fire. I tend to get inspired by things that surround me, whether it is something tactile, music or spoken words, or a surrounding environment, for me it always comes back to the senses, those memories remain in my mind in almost a poetic way. Most importantly when it comes to inspiration I try to keep my mind open to be inspired when I least expect it, in moments that might seem mundane, ordinary or everyday it is in those moments of silence and monotony that some of my biggest inspirations come.

It is important not be fearful, and to know who you are, and trust your instincts.

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When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find new roads + switch gears to find success?

I’ve learned in my life that patience is truly a virtue, so I try my best to be patient. They say, if at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again, and I firmly live that every day. A bump or hurdle might just be what you need to grow and to move outside of your comfort zone, so I have learned to accept these bumps as small opportunities. It is important not be fearful, and to know who you are, and trust your instincts. And most importantly to dream big, because only you can create the dream within yourself. I didn’t always know where the roads would lead but I always met people along the way who helped me in the right direction, be thankful for those people and seize those opportunities.

What advice would you give to young artists and designers just starting out in their career?

Be yourself! Be true to who you are and believe in yourself, your talents and strengths. One thing that I have learned is that there will always be obstacles; but as long as you are true to yourself, maintain your integrity and work hard, you can be successful. Perseverance and passion for what you do can truly move mountains and there cannot be success without hard work. And most importantly be humble because you never know what you might learn from others.

What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?

I have a true passion for learning. I have been with GM almost 12 years and every day I learn something new. Every day I strive to learn more and more about all aspects of the business to reach the goals that I have set for the future. I have been fortunate to have so many great experiences as a designer at GM. It’s always exciting for me when I can see my ideas and creative vision come to fruition.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

A professor in college once told me “The way you do anything, is the way you do everything, have heart.” Meaning, do everything whether big or small with integrity and honest passion.

What are you most excited for in 2019?

I am most excited for the unexpected surprises that will come, and the uncertainties that turn into delights, that inspire us to grow. And most importantly to continue to learn and grow in all aspects, as a designer and an individual and inspire others along the way.