Sr. Creative Director | ULTA BEAUTY

Cara Bonilla, Sr Creative Director, has been with Ulta Beauty since October 2013. She is a recipient of WWD Beauty Inc’s 50 Superstars Under 40 Leading the Beauty Industry Forward into New and Uncharted Territory. Previous to this, she was the Art Director at The Land of Nod, a high-end children's furniture and decor retailer. Her role was key to the company’s rebrand in 2011 where she reimagined the company’s visuals and photography within the marketing space. Other postitions have ranged from various Sr Design positions including Sg2 – a healthcare and marketing strategy company, Cushman & Wakefield – a global real estate company and various design firms. Cara began her career as the Invitation Designer at the Paper Source in Evanston, IL. She is a graduate of Ball State University with a BFA in Graphic Design. 


1. What was your very first job? 

My first job was working at Rogers, a grocery store just 10 minutes from my house. I remember coming home from school on my 16th birthday and before opening any gifts, my dad drove me directly there to apply.

2. Please describe, in your own words, what your job is and what work it entails. 

As the Sr Creative Director at Ulta Beauty, I set the vision and tone for our creative expression, from branding moments to campaign-specific execution. It starts with my art direction for seasonal photoshoots which is then interpreted through all marketing collateral including print, in-store décor, digital, social and Salon identity. I also oversaw the execution of our recent re-branding, which refreshes our brand to reflect the much-needed changes and progress within the beauty industry. I welcome the challenge of constantly evolving our look and feel to stay relevant and current, influenced by fresh ideas and trends to inspire our guests. Collaboration is a major portion of my role, where I align across all departments from our external agencies to internal marketing and merchandising partners. I love the thrill of chasing big ideas and empowering my team to do the same.

3. How did you discover that the creative world was right for you? Was there a time in your life that you credit to this discovery? 

I cannot recall a time when I was not into something artistic – dancing, drawing or painting and I’ve always be been drawn to funny and creative people who like to express themselves. I love to people watch - the way people dress, the anecdotes and stories they tell, the way they move through a crowd, 
it really amuses me. Eclectic people have always been drawn to me and in those moments, I have been inspired to create and evolve my own point of view.  

4. What was there train of events that brought you to where you are today? 

There was a time in my life, I literally thought I would never travel to New York or Los Angeles, let 
alone for work. Every design job I had was a little bit better than the last, and I remember just being 
so thankful for the opportunity. I never dreamed I’d have the confidence to creatively lead, I always 
just worked very hard where I was. Today I influence and direct a team of designers and photographers for one of the fastest growing retailers in the US. I credit my husband, also a designer, for insisting I do better and pushing me to resist mediocrity and to never be complacent. Today I never think I’m there; I never settle for good enough and my imagination will never rest. I have had a very fortunate path.

5. In your constantly growing and expanding industry, how do you find inspiration to keep your 
work fresh, innovative and relevant? 

I try to avoid obvious searches on the internet and I tirelessly search for dazzling photo reference everywhere. I love to look through all types of magazines, watch independent movies, walk through antique malls and listen to interesting and expressive music if I’m stuck. I love meaningful conversations that organically morph into brainstorms. When I laugh, I am most creative, so binge watch a lot of funny TV. I look to fashion for fresh color and patterns. There is inspiration in old buildings, bookstores, museums and flower gardens but human connections are most important to me. Talking to diverse age and backgrounds opens me up to what is going on in worlds beyond my own. 

6.  If you had to pick one piece of work or project that you are most proud of, more for the creative work and innovation it required, rather than its recognition or industry “success,” what would it be?

I am most proud of the work I have done in the evolution of our model photography approach at Ulta Beauty. Our models were once perfect, posed, photoshopped and in a studio. Today our photography is daylit, aspirational, educational and narrative. I am taking our guest somewhere they want to go through beautiful makeup, inspirational hair, unique wardrobe and locations they wish to be. It’s about telling stories and including everyone in the vision. 

7.  Which creative disciplines do you commission most, and are most interested in seeing more of and why? (i.e. photo, film, social, experiential, vr, etc)

I am interested in seeing more unique and ownable illustration and typography. 



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