If you had told a younger Hillary Ashen that one day she would be working professionally as the creative director of one of the most prestigious event firms in Los Angeles, she may not have believed you. With a lifelong interest in exploring built spaces and a passion for studying their design and history, Hillary had her sights first set on a future as an architect.
“Do I remember a space that launched my interest in studying the structures and forms of buildings? I don’t think there’s one in particular. My parents and I made somewhat of a pastime out of open houses. We weren’t shopping for a home–we would just go to explore the homes and look around, which probably had some influence on me.”
At the age of ten, Hillary moved with her family from New Jersey to Florida, where she would then stay throughout her high school and college career. It was during her time studying at Florida Atlantic University when she recognized that her passion for architecture was what formed the center of her larger creative goals. As a student, exploring masterfully constructed structures and connecting their design to both the history and inherent qualities of the space honed Hillary’s artistic eye and aesthetic, preparing her for her coming career advancements. After two years of studying architecture, Hillary applied her artistic training toward a different medium and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design.
The interdisciplinary training that she gained throughout her education, paired with her natural talent, soon opened up a world of opportunities for Hillary. After graduation, she moved to Los Angeles and began building a portfolio of impactful, eye-catching designs. Along the way, she garnered a reputation for her positive, calm, and adaptable attitude and she developed an almost uncanny knack for deciphering precisely what her clients needed, translating that information directly into her designs.
In the earlier stages of her career, Hillary worked as a packaging designer for the nutrition industry. After five years in this role, her work caught the attention of several publications such as Variety Magazine, where she was quickly hired as an advertisement designer and Bride and Bloom, where she was responsible for designing both the publication itself as well as correlated wedding-related products.
As with many endeavors within the creative field, graphic design presented an abundance of lucrative freelance opportunities for the talented few at the top of their industry. Hillary soon found herself presented with a television producer in need of graphic design work, leading her to multiple freelancing opportunities within the entertainment industry, including logo design for the popular business reality television show Shark Tank. Today, the program still utilizes Hillary’s design.
But now, Hillary is proud to say that she has found her greatest professional success and fulfillment through her current role as creative director of Sequoia Productions.
Hillary first joined Sequoia Productions in 2013 as a graphic designer, reporting directly to the previous creative director. Two and a half years later, the baton of the creative director would be passed over to her.
“Working at Sequoia has allowed me to learn a whole new industry and take on so many territories within the production side of events, as opposed to only doing graphic design. My job includes not only designing, but sourcing the means for production, getting quotes from vendors, managing budgets, and also working on a timeline with the printers and other providers.”
In addition to supporting Sequoia’s event producers with artistic elements such as graphic design, visual marketing, and creative consulting, Hillary now produces the entirety of Sequoia’s brand activations, designing, executing and managing standalone events such as the annual L’Oreal activation at the Emmys®and the Oscars®Red Carpet Fan Experience. In her role as brand activation producer, Hillary assumes all event territories in addition to design, budget, and timeline management responsibilities.
Whether she’s supporting a producer on a large-scale installation or managing and engineering her own activation event, Hillary’s approach always starts with the client.
“Every event is different and presents its own challenges. My job is really about coming up with creative design solutions that fit the brand, the space, and the style of the event. I start every project with lots of research and spend some time seeking out inspiration. I also spend time getting to know the client so I can really understand their style, their likes, dislikes, and needs. Once I’ve gathered that information, I can start drawing up concepts and we start narrowing it down to ultimately reach the final design. It’s a very collaborative process from brainstorming all the way to fruition.”
While her wide range of Sequoia responsibilities may seem exhaustive enough, don’t expect Hillary to slow down an ounce during her days off. When she’s not working, you will often find the avid yogi out on an intense hike or training for her next marathon. Hillary is also a lifelong music lover and occasionally sings backup vocals for a local Los Angeles band.
A travel connoisseur since childhood, Hillary actively seeks out any opportunity available to explore new parts of the world with her calendar filled with as many weekend getaways, day trips, or longer adventures to Costa Rica or Bali.
“I’m absolutely obsessed with Bali. I’ve gone twice now–it’s my favorite place on Earth. I definitely plan to go back. If I had unlimited time and an unlimited budget, I would try to spend a month there. No, a year. Maybe I could work remotely?”
Today, Hillary’s work as creative director of Sequoia Productions marks a milestone in her development as a designer, an artist, and an event management professional. From her early interest in architecture to her wild success in branding and marketing, Hillary sees her work with Sequoia as a reflection of her many interests, her adventurous spirit, and her ability to express herself all while precisely delivering on the client’s needs and expectations. And while her journey has certainly taken many unexpected and exciting turns along the way, Hillary sees Sequoia Productions as her artistic home, a place where she can execute consistent work of the highest caliber, and a source for continued inspiration and fulfillment.