Niki Lesniak

JAX® Mice, Clinical & Research Services, Marketing

Niki Lesniak 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, family and pets… anything goes! 

I grew up in a suburb of Seattle and after college moved to Europe for four years where I did a Masters’ program. After Europe, I lived in Ithaca, NY for two years and worked at a small tech startup doing online grocery ordering (before that was popular like today). I quit that job to travel in South America for two years, after which I moved to Maine. I started working at JAX in the Marketing department in December of 2018. I manage a team of designers and we work on a wide scope of things from email announcements, event marketing, magazine advertising, webpage design, booklet design, science animations, etc.

I have too many hobbies! I enjoy rock climbing, disc golf, hiking, video games, cooking, and photography. My main hobby though is Ultimate Frisbee. I started playing in 2005 and have competed around the world. It’s a great sport with a welcoming and supportive community no matter where you are.

Tell us about someone in your life who inspired you or helped you become who you are today.

I think my junior high yearbook teacher was a very inspirational person to me. They genuinely cared about their students and worked hard to create situations where we could grow and try interesting things. They really embodied the saying “do what is right rather than what is easy.” I think they had a hand in fostering my creativity and was maybe the first adult to encourage my leadership skills.

What motivates you or helps you feel fulfilled?

I think it really boils down to experiences. I like to have experiences of value, positive or negative. Every positive experience is a new learned skill or a happy memory, every negative experience has the potential to be a captivating story. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over, and I try to avoid doing things “like they’ve always been done” unless there is a well-explained and rational reason for doing so. 

What do you do really well? Is there anything you wish you could improve?

I think one thing that I am good at is seeing everything that goes into a project from a “30,000ft view.” I like to consider why someone is interacting with something, how they are interacting with it, what will they move to next, when might they see it again, what are we really trying to tell them, how is x similar or related to y, etc.  This is really helpful at JAX because my team works on a wide variety of projects for several stakeholders, so I can find connections and patterns where others may not have insight. 

I wish I was better at just making something pretty for the sake of being pretty. My design education was based on “Swiss” or “Bauhaus” design which is very minimal and function-focused. When it comes to making a beautiful ad or layout, I struggle a lot. 

What’s an accomplishment you are really proud of? Is there something you want to do, but haven't done yet?

I’m really proud of the marketing team in general. We all really care about doing good work and aspiring to improve our processes and organization. I would really like to improve the JAX® Mice, Clinical & Research Services section of the website and we have taken steps to start that process that I’m really excited about.  

Let’s talk about your career journey. What inspired you to go into your current field? What first brought you to JAX? Has your job changed since you joined?

I never changed my major in college. I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer and I just kept focusing and finding my niche over the years. I graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s in design studies and a minor in environmental studies. I worked at an ultimate frisbee apparel company after college making artwork for screen-printing on jerseys. Then in Europe, I got a Master's in graphic design and image research. After my masters, I had an internship at a wayfinding design company in London which was really interesting to me, and I had to look at a city and figure out where signs should go and which signs should point to which landmarks. I think that flowed naturally into what I focus on now which is Experience Design. I try to focus on how people interact with JAX and how we can communicate what we offer in a way that is relevant to the user but also clearly shows the whole breadth of who we are as an institution. 

What first brought me to JAX was the area in Maine, I was looking for a job near the Lamoine area. I was happy to just be a designer for a few years and then to move on to my next adventure. Since then I have definitely taken on more leadership responsibilities and have a team of designers that are helping to communicate and grow the JAX brand. 

How do explain your current work to others? What’s your favorite thing about it?

I try to represent the science behind JAX products and services so that they are visual and easy to understand. I strive to make things easier to find on the website and to elevate the brand image. My favorite thing about it is that I am always problem solving and learning new things.