What was I thinking!?
In 1987 I left my creative agency job and started freelance graphic designing full time.
Just so you know, I had tried to quit my job a couple months prior but they gave me a better assignment so I stayed. But it wasn’t a fit — the work, the process and the environment. I loved the people, though. They helped me to become who I am today.
While I was working on the creative for accounts like Mr. Hero, Cellular ONE of Ohio, Huntington Bank, Travelers Shops of America and US Merchandise I wondered whether I could do it better. Typical of my generation, I was sure I could do everything better - the design, the message and the rationale. Even if I did not do it myself, I knew I could build a resourceful, meaningful team of professionals.
The agency stuck us creatives in the back room, never exposed to the clients. We never heard them talk about what they were trying to do or be. I could not get my arms around how to really help them if I did not get to know them. I believed that, as designers, we could do great work if we worked with clients in a collaborative environment.
The account executives used to come to our back room and try to explain what the client needed. I don’t know exactly what I needed when I left, but I knew I could make as much money on my own as I did on the job and I believed in my heart of hearts I could do better work. I was very resourceful and not afraid to call on other key talent.
Better Work, Better Process, Better Environment – all of this meant freedom to me, because I would be in charge of creating all of those things and I could see how to do it better. Better in my mind, at least.
I was attracted to B-2-B, working with tough sales directors or VP’s. It was fun. And being involved in the process and responsible for the results was freeing to me. I did not have a family then, but I knew I wanted one. So, while growing the business I anchored it in a few of my guiding values - passion, freedom and fun.
I think back and wonder, “How the hell did I do this?”
- Built an award-winning design studio
- Sent two of our designers to Milan for Fashion Week
- Flexed our service offerings to fit an ever-changing market place
- Survived the dot com bust
- Survived the great recession (so far)
- Raised a family (my son is actually graduating from high school this year)
- Stayed married
My vision was simply to create an environment in which professionals could collaborate, challenge each other and create for our clients to help them accomplish their goals. And have fun in the process. I always thought that the clients, the work and the talent would come.
Twenty years later, the reasons I started my business still hold true. Better work, environment and process. Passion, freedom and fun. We’re still not a typical agency. We see things differently. We hold true to our uniqueness and our core values.
What about you… what inspired (or uninspired) thinking started you on your professional path? I’d love to hear your stories, your inspirations and how you stay the course, when things are good and when they’re not so good.