The varied career of Brittney Hippensteel ’14 burns brightly

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Monday, July 31st, 2023

Being tied to a desk wasn’t fulfilling Brittney Hippensteel’s creative drive early in her career.

The 2014 Graphic Design graduate started dreaming up a business that would fill that creative need — “I wanted something I could make with my hands and be creative in another way outside of the computer,” she says — and Hamilton Wax Co. was born. “I was so excited about being able to do the branding and packaging, photography, social media, and everything else that comes along with being a business owner. I’m a lover of beautiful home goods,” Hippensteel says, “so candles were the perfect thing to check all those creative boxes.”

Fast forward to today, and Hippensteel has found the best of both worlds: She’s now Design Director at an agency, Villain, a career path that she loves. And, on the side, she runs Hamilton Wax Co., a purveyor of hand-poured soy wax candles and other home fragrance goods.  Each, she says, uses “different parts of my creative brain — which is great because it really helps with creative burnout. If I were doing the same type of work all day and then in my free time I think I would start losing my drive. 

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with brilliant creative strategists and marketing specialists. I’m lucky enough to be able to take what I learn from them and apply that to my business. This often becomes useful in running ads for my business, creating marketing emails, and strategy around social media.”
We asked Hippensteel about what feeds her creatively now — and how PCA&D impacted what she does today. 
In a nutshell, what are your duties with Villain?
BH: At Villain, my time is split 50/50 between designing for my own client accounts such as Colossal and Beneath The Waves and art-directing a small team of senior and junior designers.
I get to mentor and teach more junior creatives to improve and push their work to the next level.
Who or what inspires you creatively now? 
BH: I’m really inspired by Southern/Americana style design. I love old, weathered hand-painted signs, vintage matchbooks, and packaging.
For some more modern inspiration I love following along with Figma, especially on Instagram. It has so many capabilities and I’m constantly mind-blown with the amount of creative work people are producing with that program.
What led you to enroll at PCA&D? Size? Location? Inspired by a visit? A specific academic program? Something else?
BH: I grew up in Mechanicsburg, about an hour away from Lancaster. I loved that it was close but just far enough to be on my own. I felt inspired and energized by the small city feel. After visiting some schools in Philly and NYC I knew the big city, dorm-living life was not for me. I actually loved that there were not housing options at the time and that I was able to get my own apartment. I was actually so sure about PCA&D that I didn’t even apply to any other schools!
What’s a lesson you learned during your time at PCA&D that you still follow today?
BH: Just keep pushing. Art school is no joke! Some days you want to quit. Some days the creative process feels emotionally draining, but once you get to the other side it’s ALWAYS worth the effort and time you put into your work. There’s something to be said about pushing through the tough times and making it out better, stronger, and wiser on the other side. It’s something to be proud of!
Who or what inspired you at PCA&D? 
BH: Wow, there’s just so many standout people that I feel thankful to have crossed paths with during my time at PCA&D. 
I was always inspired by my classmates! Being a small class we were all together all day, every day for four years. It was inspiring to watch my classmates grow, learn, and see how their styles and interests changed over the years. We pushed and challenged each other (and maybe pushed each other’s buttons like siblings at times, haha).
Tom Bejgrowicz was by far the most inspiring teacher, now friend, that I’ve ever had — both in art and in life. He’s full of practical advice and stories from landing interviews, financial advice for young adults, cautionary tales during travels, and more. He always sees more in you than you see in yourself and pushes you to reach your highest potential.
Pam Barby is the best department chair as well as instructor. She is not only a phenomenal teacher, but became like a mother figure to the crew as well. Her assignments were practical and prepared you for the real world as a designer. The amount of laughs she brought at 3 am during Designathons are some of my favorite memories from PCA&D.
Linda King Brown was a friendly face to see in those early 8 am classes. 
And I’ll never forget in a web design class with Brian Gunzenhauser the quote, “‘mo code, ‘mo problems “
What’s a tool — creative or otherwise — that you can’t do without? 
BH: Photoshop! It’s been my favorite tool since high school. I’m proud to say there’s pretty much nothing I can’t create in Photoshop and I love sharing my knowledge with others.