Sam is one of our first members and is an independent graphic designer. She is available for your graphic work, and can help with logo development. Visit her website.
How did you get started with design?
When I was 5 years old my parents, my parents got their first computer, so my dad could do CAD work and technical writing. It came with a graphics program called “Splash!” and I was hooked. I’d create cards for different occasions like birthdays and holidays, signs, messages--when we got our first color printer I was in heaven. That’s probably when my interest in graphic design sparked. About the same age, I saw an illustrator working with a light pen on an episode of “Reading Rainbow,” and I thought, “That is the coolest thing I have ever seen. I want it.” Now I have a Wacom tablet, so that’s a bit of childhood dream fulfillment.
Later in my senior year of high school I took an art class, and loved it, and was pretty good. Then I took a commercial art class and loved it even more. Until then, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but figured it would be something like being a teacher, or librarian or something--which in retrospect would be terrible for me! A friend of mine was going to the Rochester Institute of Technology and suggested I check it out, and I went into their college of imaging arts and sciences.
What does your favorite customer look like?
I love working with people that are the experts in what they do and know what message they want to send. I work best one on one with the decision maker--the owner of a small business or another sole proprietor like me. As a designer, I’m a problem solver, and I love helping people figure out solutions--it’s much more straightforward when they already know what the problem is, but I can also help figure that out. Someone I can meet and get to know, who really knows the subject area I’m working with is ideal.
How do you approach design?
I try to help people understand that design is visual communication. I’m like a translator or interpreter. Graphic design is kind of like grammar. It’s not just decoration or making things pretty. Sometimes it incorporates those, but it’s not the whole thing. As a designer for small business, I want my designs to send a clear message that’s immediately easy to understand. I use different fonts, colors, pictures, spacing, all those things to express the right vibe. I’ve talked to people who don’t think they need professional design because they don’t need something pretty, or corporate, or polished. Well, no, a punk rock band doesn’t need pretty, or polished. They need eye catching and bold. A lawyer doesn’t need pretty. They need something strong, calming, and professional.
I find that clients without a design background may not know what information I need, so I sometimes have to do a bit of coaching. It seems that there are often two extremes: at the more difficult end are those who don’t want to “stifle my creativity,” with details or ideas they might have. I have to tease out what sort of message they might want to send. On the other end of the spectrum are people who show up to the first meeting with a good idea of what they want visually, and describe it in detail. But figuring out the best visual representation is the first part of my job. Realizing it is just the second. It’s the difference between someone writing versus someone typing someone else’s handwritten work. As long as they’re willing to change their mental picture, I can work backward from that. I’ll ask questions like “Why would you prefer a bold font like Impact?” to figure out the message they are trying to communicate. Once I have that core piece, I can come up with a visual way to communicate that message or feeling to their audience.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love working with small business owners. It's more productive to work with the decision maker and I love when I really understand what message they’re going for. It’s great if I can happily surprise people. I love hearing 'Wow, I had no idea you could do this,” or “That’s exactly what I wanted,”
Why should people hire you for a job?
One of my strongest selling points as designer is that I am the responsible one. I’m a big sister, I was a girl scout, straight-As in school, that whole thing. There’s this idea floating around that creative people are irresponsible, and responsible people aren’t creative. Well, I’m a nerd for hire, and I’ll get your stuff done!
What do you like about Coworking?
Oh, my god. It's wonderful. I am an evangelist for Coworking! It's more social, less isolated than at home. At home there are just too many distractions. I can get better work done than in my home office. Of course the amenities are better and more reliable than at a library or coffee shop, too.
When I first started working from home, it was actually for the wrong reason. I was in a pretty bad place with clinical depression, and I felt quieter and safer. Through my recovery, I’ve gone through a lot of soul searching to figure out if working independently is really for me, and I really think it is. It’s important for me to get out and interact with other professionals, and the Office Junction is a great support for my routine.
I’m also an extrovert, so I get energized from having people around me working as well. For me, it’s draining to spend too much time alone. It’s great to have someone to chat with, or discuss a project with. It’s great to make professional and personal connections. Here I have all the benefits of coworkers and none of the drawbacks.
Especially for someone like me who is still building her business, and has a history of depression, having other people who are clearly competent professionals treating me as a peer is a huge confidence boost. That feeds into my professional and personal life in all kinds of positive ways. It's great to relate to other business owners, and hear them talk about how they also struggle. It's also nice to have business people in all different stages around, from just starting out, to growing, to long established.
And sometimes, it's just great to see a friendly face. On top of all that, I like the Office Junction as a business. The social events, the way you’re kind of our free business coach and facilitator. You are really a hidden benefit for the members here, Christine.
What do you want to share about your personal life?
Well, as I mentioned, I suffer from depression and I think it's good to talk about it openly. People aren’t worried about talking about their sprained ankle, or their family’s history of bad joints, and mental health problems have this terrible stigma. I want to tell people I suffered from clinical depression and I got better. It is possible. Moving to Seattle right after my diagnosis was a huge help, actually, because I love it here. I’ve found a great therapist, I’ve worked hard on meeting my own needs and comforting myself when I need it. Before I would ask myself, why would anyone want to work with me? Now I think, why wouldn't they? I know what I’m talking about. I feel very capable, and to have reached that point is amazing to me.
What do you love about Seattle?
Seattle fits my family very well. I love that it's a city made up of lots of small towns. I love West Seattle especially. It’s very residential and there are lots of young families, and there are still places like Easy Street Records that are just the absolute coolest and so very Seattle. When I saw the “We have that!” campaign, I thought “Yeah, that’s right, we DO have that!” The community supports our small businesses and independent contractors, and I want to contribute to that system. Seattle has a culture that really appreciates local businesses. It’s uplifting to walk through West Seattle and see all these small places doing well, because we appreciate them.
And coffee! I have always loved coffee, and Seattle has spoiled me.
What are your favorite local businesses?
My daughter goes to Great Start Preschool in the West Side Music Academy on SW Dakota St. Susan Wright is her teacher, and she’s just great with little ones.
A hidden gem is Play Place Kids daycare in the Admiral neighborhood. It’s home-based and run by a woman with lots of experience as a nanny, who styles herself as a “stay-at-home nanny.” It works really well for me to drop off my daughter for a few hours during the work day.
I just took a drawing class at Mind Unwind this fall, and I really enjoyed it. Their art gallery/bar space idea is great.
I love Bird On the Wire Espresso, down by the Southwest Branch Library. It’s my favorite coffee shop. The baristas are all friendly and the owner, Heidi, is always rearranging and changing things up. They’re really kid-friendly, and Heidi’s dog, Rosie, is the sweetest thing ever. Just go there to give Rosie a pet, if nothing else. Best mocha in town. Not too sweet.
What do you want to do more in the future?
I want to volunteer my design skills for non-profit and grass root campaigns in West Seattle. I also want to host a design workshop for the West Seattle Women In Charge group soon.
Thank you, Sam!
Christine and Stefan, Co-Founder