Interview with Design Student

Meg

Good morning Jodi

Jodi

Hello there

Meg

Again, thank you so much for doing this for me. There's a few questions I have to ask for my paper but I would just like to start off by asking how you became interested in design?

Jodi

Of course.I guess I would say I got interested in design when I was at college at Miami of Ohio. I originally thought I wanted to go into accounting because I loved numbers and money but as soon as I started taking accounting classes I realized I hated them while simultaneously I was taking my first art classes and I was loving them. I was falling in love with painting by my sophomore year and knew I needed to find something that would actually pay the bills. So,I started taking design classes. I realized quickly that it for filled my need for creativity and problem-solving.

Meg

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into the industry after you graduated?

Jodi

Sure. After I graduated I was living at home and knew I needed to get out as soon as possible. I opened the Yellow Pages and flipped to advertising agencies. I went down the list and called each one letting them know that I had just graduated and I was looking for an entry-level position as a graphic designer. It wasn't until I got down to the Rs that someone actually said, "Sure I would love to talk to you, come on in and we can see if we would be a good match". Turns out it was. He was a solo entrepreneur running his own design studio. He trusted my skills and just started handing me work, completely believing in me. I started out doing mostly newsletters, logo designs, brochures and some annual report design. He really gave me an incredible opportunity not only to design interesting pieces of but also to learn how to run a business and understand how the computer was shaping the industry. I worked for him for three years Learning everything I could. We are still great friends to this day.

Meg

That's amazing how it worked out like that. That's something I'll have to keep in mind after I graduate... did you immediately make the jump from Ohio to DC, or did you work in Ohio for a bit?

Jodi

I'm from DC so when I graduated I just came back here.

Meg

Oh I see, that makes sense. I Googled your name the other day and noticed your website is mostly artwork. The Schwa Design Group website is separate. From my understanding from what I read on the site you paint five days a week? Has design taken the back burner or do you fit both of these into your life?

Jodi

I'm definitely juggling both at this time. I got awarded an artist in residence last March and after that I knew I needed to paint as often as I could. So, my schedule is this: I work on graphic design in the mornings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday until I am finished which is usually around noon and then I get the paint for a couple hours before I need to go home to my family. Tuesdays are solely dedicated to graphic design and Thursdays are solely dedicated to painting. It's definitely a juggling act but it really makes me appreciate both disciplines more.

Jodi

Does that make sense? I was awarded another artist in residence at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts in southern Virginia, so I will actually be dedicating to two weeks to painting in March. I'm sure I will have to appease some graphic design clients while I'm there as well, but my intent is to paint as much as possible for two weeks.

Meg

Haha yes it does, it seems crazy but it's wonderful that you're doing both things you enjoy. It's what I strive to do someday once I get myself settled somewhere. Wow, that's incredible. Your life is pretty much creating all the time.

Jodi

I would recommend it. It's a good balance to have both. Yes, it seems I am creating a lot these days. There was a time when my creativity was really just focused on raising children so it's really nice to have these outlets again. I took about three years off of design and was intimidated to get back into the field because everything changes so quickly, but it was one of those things where I just acted like I knew what I was doing and it wasn't long before I did. I guess I'm lucky because I absolutely love technology and you need that if you're going to be a designer these days

Meg

Do you find that there is more digital work to be done than print these days? + a follow-up to that is where do you see the industry headed in the future?

Jodi

I definitely see more digital work, and even print tends to be produced as a PDF so people can use it for marketing purposes on their website and perhaps email campaigns. I do feel that everybody thinks they are OK graphic designer these days and so there's some seriously bad design out there. That said, there is some absolutely amazing design as well. I don't really know or have a guess on where the industry is headed in the future. I just don't think I'm the person to ask because I just am very pragmatic and I'm happy to solve our clients marketing challenges. I'm not really out to be any amazing designer. My main focus is to just help people and companies. The thing that brings me the biggest joy is having happy clients who are so proud of their materials and the image we have achieve for them.

Meg

Looking at the Schwa website there are two of you working, correct?

Jodi

Correct, my husband and myself. And sometimes we hire other artists to help my husband with production and installation.

Meg

What are the typical clients found locally/regionally? What industries? Are they from the DC area mainly?

Jodi

Good question. A lot of the work I do is for the signage part of our business which tends to be in DC Maryland and Virginia. Lots of signage for restaurants, also architecture firms hiring us for interior spaces, school signage, law firms. I also have other clients who are specifically design clients that are in this area as well. They tend to be smaller companies who need logos or website design. I am also currently working with a nonprofit designing their curriculum for peaceful conflict resolution in elementary schools, which has been quite rewarding. It has also been fun working for a local restaurant designing menus, posters, table tents, & email marketing campaigns. 

Meg

Since we're running on close to an hour here I just need a couple more questions answered and I think we'll be good. How has your business been able to thrive in this area? And how do you think your work measures up to your competitors, if you see a lot of competition that is.

Jodi

I think our business has been able to thrive in this area because there's a lot of money. The work we do helps maintain an upscale appearance that keeps businesses attractive. I'm specifically thinking of the signs and the custom painting work and I say that. In regard to the graphics I think are able to thrive because there are so many entrepreneurs, businesses and nonprofits needing marketing materials. We are able to provide not only beautiful and professional work but being a small business, they also get personal attention. I have worked with clients who thought they could get what they wanted by using something like 99 designs but realized they needed their hand a little bit more in the design process. My husband and myself are not only good problem solvers but kind people. I think sometimes there is a stereotype that working with artists is difficult because they're unreliable and will not be professional. We take our business very seriously and are always extremely professional, creative and trustworthy. And I think because of that, people are grateful and happy to pass our name along which is how we have stayed in business for 22 years.

Meg

This is a great answer. I feel like I need to tell this to people that say "oh some kid in his dad's basement could do what you do." Ugh. But I think that about wraps it up! I've said this a million times but again, I really appreciate you taking an hour out of your day, especially since now I know how busy you are.

Jodi

It's interesting for me to even see how it all evolved! Thank YOU!

Meg

Thank you so much! And likewise, you gave me much more than I was hoping for.