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College of Information and Communications

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Makeup for Manhattan

Top photo: Manhattan skyline, by Adam Collins

Adam Collins knows what he wants.

Although born in South Carolina, Collins planned for years to move to New York City after graduating from USC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications in 2016. “I remember thinking that I had to move to New York,” he says. “I was ready to fight for my spot.”

With little more than a suitcase and some big city grit, Collins flew to New York to meet with a professional recruiting agency. Because of his creative versatility and strong background in visual communications, he was able to land an entry-level design job at MAC Cosmetics before he even found an apartment.

That meant living out of an Airbnb for his first few weeks as a New Yorker, but it was a small sacrifice for Collins, whose sights were set on bigger things. Many apartments and promotions later, he is the global senior digital designer at MAC. So far, he has led cosmetic collaborations with Disney, Keith Haring, BLACKPINK, Rosalia and countless other pop culture brands.

“My favorite project has been our recent Cruella collaboration. I am obsessed with how it turned out,” says Collins. “The collection itself is captivating and, for me, it was a crazy experience to be on the phone with Disney’s creative team.”

Although the role comes with glamorous perks, Collins’ favorite part is mentoring his own team of digital designers. He uses leadership tactics learned at an internship with Charleston Magazine to optimize and problem solve. “Mentoring my team at MAC has made me feel as though I am doing something for a payoff that is bigger than any project, bigger than myself,” he says.

The South Carolina native felt an initial shock when he traded southern hospitality for the fast-paced atmosphere of Manhattan, but after just a few months, he had gained respect in the industry. He credits his time at SJMC with giving him the confidence and hustle to make it in a highly competitive industry.

“You are a creator when you leave SJMC,” says Collins. “You learn what resonates with audiences, how to tell a story that’s engaging, creative and consumer-based, and that time builds confidence.”

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.