Writing by Design President Awarded Highest Alumni Honor from Alma Mater

Writing by Design's Patti Purcell earned a 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Writing by Design President Awarded Highest Alumni Honor from Alma Mater

headshot of patti purcell

Patti Purcell, President of Appleton-based full-service marketing agency Writing by Design, was named one of University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients. Through determination and hard work, Purcell has grown her company over the last 14 years and has established herself as a respected business owner.

After starting her studies in English at Lawrence University, Purcell transferred to UW Oshkosh, seeking a degree in journalism. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in business administration and later returned to UWO for graduate coursework in marketing and finance.

Purcell worked in marketing, communications and advertising for companies including Kimberly-Clark, Grant Thornton and Community First Credit Union before deciding to start a business of her own. She paired her passion for strong writing with delivering great work for quality clients to launch Writing by Design LLC in 2006.

Writing by Design operated as an independent consultancy until 2015, which is when the company’s positive reputation throughout the U.S. and increasing workload allowed Purcell to add staff to continue building the company’s client list and capabilities.  

As an Oshkosh native, Purcell finds great joy in giving back to the community she calls home. She donates time as a board member and marketing and communications services to local schools, nonprofits and churches. Purcell served as a founding member of the local nonprofit Learn 2 Fish With Us, an organization that has already helped teach more than 20,000 youth and families how to fish. A fishing enthusiast herself, Purcell and Writing by Design donated hundreds of hours of marketing support to the organization for several years. She has also remained an active supporter of UWO, serving as speaker and sponsor at the Department of Journalism’s 50th Anniversary in 2018.

“She really energizes others through her ongoing efforts to give back to our journalism community as well as to the broader community with her generous time and support,” said UWO Journalism Chair Sara Hansen. “She is very deserving of this honor.”

Purcell said she hopes to inspire students and alumni to achieve their goals by stepping outside their comfort zone.

“Push yourself outside of your boundaries; don’t just sit in your comfort zone,” Purcell said. She encourages students and alumni alike to take some calculated risks from time to time. “When you do that, you will find growth, development and confidence follow very quickly.”

Purcell says she still challenges herself to do these things today by doing things like competing in golf tournaments, trying out new sports like scuba diving and ziplining.

“When you can overcome your fear of some of these things that make you uncomfortable, that’s when you can look back and say ‘wow, that wasn’t so hard and I did it!’,” she said.

Purcell fondly remembers one of the first times she pushed herself outside of her own comfort zone as a sophomore in the UWO Journalism program by traveling to New York for an Ad Club event.

“Not having traveled much by this time in my life and coming from a small town like Oshkosh, taking a trip to New York with a few students I barely knew to a large city was very intimidating,” Purcell remembers. “I could have stayed home and missed all that, but instead I forced myself to go and proved to myself that I could overcome some really basic fears in those key transition years between teenager and grownup.”

With 14 years of Writing by Design under her belt, Purcell said she is confident that the best is yet to come. While quality writing is at the heart of Writing by Design, adding staff with diverse skills and continuing to expand the services the company provides has allowed Purcell to further develop Writing by Design’s capabilities. As the company’s abilities continue to grow, Purcell says, “Our next step for the company will be to change the name. We need to move beyond writing in the name because we do so much more now.”

Purcell will receive her award at UWO on Friday, Oct. 23 during the university’s homecoming celebrations