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HOW I STARTED MY DESIGN CAREER AND WHERE I AM AT TODAY.

Updated: Jan 16



I am putting down the coffee cup and diving right into this topic because this post will be longer than I like to write. I started my path as a designer a long time ago. I didn't set out to be a designer. In fact, I fought the advice of my family and friends. I always enjoyed art and I am decent with charcoal. That is my favorite drawing medium, but drawing was a very enjoyable hobby. Originally, I wanted to be in Hotel, Bar, and Restaurant Management. The reasoning behind this potential area of interest was simple. I was a DJ and enjoyed the lifestyle and promoting my nights with flyers that I worked on. When I was enrolled in college classes something felt wrong. I didn't understand why I didn't enjoy the classes. I was doing well in my classes, but something just didn't feel right.

I spoke to a friend and he was working on his teaching degree. I always had an interest in history. I thought that I would switch my major and work on becoming a history teacher. Let me tell you this, it didn't take long for me to realize that this was not something I really wanted to do. The act of teaching is fulfilling, but I really couldn't see myself in school for the rest of my life talking about the past. Once again, the potential career choice didn't feel like the right fit. Now I needed to find another career path.


My next area of study came to me while I was at my computer using Photoshop and working on a flyer design. I was staring at the user interface and thought to myself I would like to become a software developer. I had a friend who worked as a developer and I wanted to know more about his job and what it was like during college. After we had a nice chat over dinner, and he told me about the starting salary he was making I decided to change my major again. Computer science here I come!


I enjoyed my classes in the computer science program. I even enjoyed writing code. The math classes were interesting. Honestly, I was pretty good at writing code and problem solving. Initially this felt like the right path for me. It wasn't until my second year of classes that I got the feeling that something wasn't right. It hit me one late night in the computer lab. I was working on a project and I looked up from my screen to glance around the room. I was starting to go crazy from the sound of CPU fans. The constant buzz was a low whirl noise that made me cringe. I started to hear a dental drill and I really don't like that sound. Who honestly likes that sound? The other thing I noticed was the amount of caffeinated drinks at the computers. The room looked like it was sponsored by Red Bull and Mountain Dew. It hit me that I needed to find something that I truly enjoyed, and I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.

I just didn't know what I wanted to do. I pondered my next move while I was working on a flyer design for my DJ career. I sat at the computer with my mouse in hand staring at the concept drawing wondering what I was going to do. I couldn't just quit college. I needed to obtain my degree, but I didn't know what I wanted to do.


I was wandering the halls of the college looking at the posters trying to find something that would inspire me. I was really lost and didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't want to obtain my computer science degree because I really found it difficult to continue going to classes. In fact, I had started skipping the lab portion of one of my classes. It was during one of the times I left my lab to go to my favorite restaurant along the river that I discovered my next move.


I was working on another flyer design. It was the early stage and I was drawing a concept in my sketch pad and I finally realized that I should really consider taking my hobby that paid well to the next level. During my time as a DJ I started working on more flyers for the nightclubs I worked at and for the DJ's that I worked with. I had established a nice little clientele and honestly, I really enjoyed working on these flyers. It was time to move forward as a designer. I enrolled in the school of art and started my journey.


Now during this time, I had gotten married and my wife and I were expecting our first child. This put a halt to my college courses. I needed to get a job because my DJ income combined with my flyer work wasn't going to make ends meet with our son on the way. I pushed pause on college to find a job. I found a job in a factory building hydraulic pumps. Let me tell you it didn't take long before I realized that I needed to get back into school and finish my degree. Unfortunately, the hours didn't allow me to go back to school. One of my required courses was only offered in the morning and my job wouldn't let me off to take that class. I needed the job, so I had to find another way to complete my degree.


The answer hit me one night while I was surfing the internet. I would finish my degree online. I enrolled at an online university and started classes in 2008. After work, I would spend time with my family and when my son was asleep, I would start my class work. The online classes went well. In fact, it was a great fit. I was on the Dean's list every semester with the exception of my first and my professors were asking me if they could use my assignments as examples of how they should look. I felt really good about the decision I made and in the summer of 2009 one semester before graduation I found an internship that validated my career choice.

I spent the summer at my Aunt and Uncle's home in Arlington Virginia. Working at the small design studio I discovered my passion in the industry. I worked with emerging brands. Of course, I did some work on simple projects. I also had a couple of clients that I did branding work for. This internship was not the typical internship. I was not treated like a “go for” intern. The owner showed me respect and help guide me down the path of becoming a brand designer. To this day I consider her a mentor and friend. I try to see her whenever I get back to the D.C. metro area. After the end of the internship period I needed to find something to help fill the gap until I graduated the next semester.


I found myself next job working as an ad designer for the local newspaper. One of my duties included working on creative ads for potential advertisers. I took a different approach to building ads than the other designers. They liked to put a lot of graphics in the background where I took more of a minimalistic approach. The pitfall of working for the newspaper I would not be considered a serious brand designer while I was working at a newspaper. The key benefits of the job were; I learned how to be proficient with the software, learned to work under stressful deadlines of a few hours and I gained important knowledge on preparing files for print.


I found my next job in a suburb of Chicago. There isn't a lot of things I want to say about this job. It was a bad job in a hostile environment. The company had an extremely high turn-over rate. I should have done a little more research before accepting the position. Every job teaches you a lesson and I learned a couple of lessons from this job. I learned how to take criticism and never I say again NEVER accept a position solely based on money. It will not end well. In fact, the day that I decided to quit my commute was cold, overcast and rainy for June. I arrived at work and started to set my day up. After reading my first email and seeing the owner of the company tear a design, I worked on with her at my desk apart the night before I decided that was enough. She left the night before pleased with the design and all I needed to do was get it ready for deployment. Then I read this email that ripped everything I did apart. I needed to leave the toxic culture. I grabbed a box and started to pack up my desk. I wrote my letter of resignation and waited for the HR manager to come in for the day. Once he arrived, I asked if I could have a few minutes of his time when he got settled. I then went to his office presented him with my letter of resignation and the key to the building. I took my box to my car and started my commute home.

I didn't know what I was going to do. I left a job without another one. I had never done this before. I started to get nervous and wonder if I had made the right decision. It didn't take long before I realized I did. My commute into work was bad but when I left the sun was starting to come out from behind the clouds and the rain had stopped. I had a feeling that everything was going to be fine. In fact, later that week while I was looking for a new job, I found a potential fit and I submitted my resume. I heard back from the company the next week and I was hired after two interviews. I was employed again a month after leaving my previous job.

This new job provided a me some great opportunities. One of the first projects I started was rebranding their packaging. Eventually, I started rebranding their sub-brands. Things were going well, but the company was then acquired by another company. This was an unsettling time but, later it turned out to be a good thing. The company that acquired us was starting go through a global rebranding. I played a crucial role and was in charge of rebranding all of the packaging for the Americas region. I am currently the Senior Graphic Designer for the Americas and I started planning the launch of my studio in 2017.


Black Creative Studio is my planned next move. I am not looking to move from my current role until I have met some attainable goals for my studio. I started the studio because of the passion I have for building brands. The studio was originally meant to be my old freelance business rebranded. However, I wanted a fresh start and I still had a lot of freelance business left over from my DJ days. I want to focus my efforts on building relationships with small and medium sized businesses and to do so properly I would need to let my current client list go. I decided that was the best way to operate. I sent my clients notification that I was ending my freelance studio effective October 2017. If anyone would like to continue using my services, it would be through my new studio. Rebuilding a client list has been challenging but fun and I am excited to see what the future has in store for me and the studio.




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