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the designer

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"The best way to accomplish serious design...

is to be totally and completely unqualified for the job.”


— Paula Scher

I have been "totally and completely unqualified" for every design task I have ever taken on.  Sure, I have experience, a skill set, and a natural ability to see things in a way others do not, but I do not fool myself into believing that I know what I am doing. Every design piece is different. Every client is unique. No two intended audiences are ever exactly the same. It is the responsibility of the designer to take a step back before beginning every new project. This must be done so that the task can be seen with new eyes, not those clouded by the tasks that have come before it. This is what I love about being a designer. With every project, I get to start over with new eyes. I am free to design something different. Something unlike anything I have ever done before. While it may end up similar to something that came before it, it will still be uniquely its own because the process of creation is always a distinctive journey.

I don't know how you got here, but I'm glad you're here!  I will try my best not to bore you, but I have been in this business a long time, so my story is kind of long.  I will try to make it as quick and painless as possible.

Where to begin...

My high school art teacher pushed me to apply to art school. My father believed it was a waste of time and money, so we compromised. I applied to the Commercial Art and Advertising program at Texas State Technical College in Waco. It was there that I learned how art could be used to communicate; how the right font and the right colors could convince someone to try something new or make them fall in love with something all over again. I fell head over heels in love with graphic design, and that was before I ever touched a design program. While I loved drawing by hand, I was ecstatic to discover Adobe Illustrator. Drawing on the computer was so much cleaner. I could create something tiny and then turn it into something HUGE. To this day, Illustrator is my favorite design program.  

I learned how to manipulate photos with Photoshop and how to create something both beautiful and informative with InDesign. Adobe became my best friend. With it I could create things I would have never been able to do with a pencil and paper.  Even now, 22 years later, there isn't a single day that goes by that I don't open an Adobe program. They are a part of me in the same way my hand is a part of me.

After college I went to work for a real estate agency in Victoria, Texas. Technically I was the Receptionist, but it didn't take long to discover that I hated talking on the phone and was terrible at taking messages. The broker, being the intelligent woman she was, put me to work in a different way. She had me manage and edit the company website (my first experience with web design), as well as design sales material for the brokerage and its agents. I created booklets and newsletters. I designed ads for the newspaper and area magazines. I even got my first taste of digital photography. I learned a lot about design and marketing during my time there.

I eventually left the company and went back to school. I thought I would work on my teaching degree, since design jobs in my area were scarce. While working on my degree, I found myself drifting back to graphic design. In Speech class, I wrote my speeches about graphic design. In Art, my professor had me give a lecture on graphic design. I quickly changed my major and began working on my Bachelors in Applied Science.

As you may know my dear visitor, life has a way of getting in the way of your plans. While I wanted to finish my bachelor's degree, I had to stop so that I could work full time to support my son. I went to work for Office Depot as the Design and Print Manager. In this role, I learned SO much. It was my first experience managing other people. It was my first experience being on the production end of design. It was my first experience standing on my feet for 8 hours a day! I got to work with many different people on very different projects. Everything from holiday cards to business proposals. I learned a lot about printing and the different types of paper. I learned that choosing the right binding makes all the difference.

It was while helping one of these customers that I discovered the next chapter in my book of life. I met a woman who sold ads for a local real estate magazine. I learned that the magazine had lost its designer and I quickly offered my services. I quit my job at Office Depot and became a freelance artist. During this time I worked on a couple of different real estate magazines in both Victoria and Rockport. I did all of the ad design and magazine layout for each. Eventually I began my own magazine. A local entertainment guide called GoodTimez. I designed all of the ads, did the magazine layout, wrote most of the content, managed the sales people, created the website and social media page (anyone remember MySpace?). I did it all! The local newspaper had a similar magazine and I thought creating one of my own might make them notice me.

It worked! I applied for a job as a graphic designer with the Victoria Advocate and got the job. The Creative Director, now a big shot at the Boston Globe, told me he had been impressed with my work...but also wanted to cut out the competition. My little magazine had been competition to the big bad newspaper! I was thrilled! My first real, paying graphic design job.

I worked in the Creative Department designing print and web ads for clients. I worked closely with 12 different sales reps, designing ads for hundreds of different local businesses on tight deadlines. Because of my real estate experience, I became the primary real estate designer, responsible for all ads and publications related to real estate for the entire paper and it's other publications. I also became the primary designer for the Advocate's Marketing Department. In this role, I worked closely with the Marketing Manager to create all of the advertising for the newspaper itself. I won quite a few awards in this role, not to toot my own horn.  

After a year, maybe a little more, in the Creative Department, I transferred to the Web Department. I wanted to learn more about designing for the web, seeing how it was quickly becoming the future of advertising (it was the early 2000s, after all). I went in with the task of teaching myself to code WHILE working on real projects for the newspaper. It was terrifying, and miserable! Luckily, it didn't last too long. Soon a real web developer was hired and I became the web designer. I created mock-ups and wire frames for new sites and redesigns. I learned Adobe Flash and created animated ads for the newspaper and clients. I presented projects to board members and managed other designers. I learned some HTML, CSS and JQuery, although I did not fall in love with them.

The Web Department went through a change and started in a new direction. While this was happening, I returned to the Creative Department as a Senior Designer. In this role I took on larger projects, like the annual Discover Magazine. I also returned to my role as the Marketing Department's primary designer. I worked with editorial and photography on a plethora of different projects and learned a lot about layout and preparing files for print. I managed other designers and helped in the interview, hiring, and training process.

While I was learning new aspects of designing for print, the department previously known as the Web Department grew into a digital agency, designing web ads and basic websites for clients. As their client list got to be too much for two designers, they asked me to come aboard. I saw this as a new opportunity to learn yet another side of design and accepted the offer. I started by designing Flash ads for clients and then learned to create basic websites using Concrete5. My role grew very quickly. This new branch of the newspaper became a full service agency. I had over 50 agency clients of my own, for which I managed and designed every aspect of their marketing. I designed for print, billboard, web, social media, and more. I met with clients and led brain storming sessions. I worked with photographers and videographers. I helped write scripts for tv and radio commercials. I learned SEO and social media marketing. I designed ads for Hulu and Pandora. I became familiar with designing for mobile, and then responsive. I learned SO much in what seemed like a very short amount of time. I loved my job! I loved my clients. I loved the fast pace and multiple deadlines. I was never bored. I learned to be fast, but detail oriented.  I learned to be organized, but creative.  I learned the art of decoding priority.  I learned to manage people and projects. I became a sales person in my own right, meeting with potential clients and using my vision for their marketing message to convince them to sign on.

It was this last newly learned skill that would send me into the next chapter of my career. While I LOVED my job, there was not a lot of room for growth within the company. I had gone as far as I could in the company for the time being. So, when one of my clients asked me to come work for them as their Marketing Director, I said yes. I was terrified! What did I know about managing a company's marketing? Sure, I had designed it. I had created it. I had made sure it got where it needed to go, but I had never had to make the decisions or purchase the advertising! I felt like I was in way over my head. I was totally and completely unqualified for the job...only...it turns out I wasn't. There is something freeing about being both the designer and the decision maker. I had a vision of what this company could become, and I had the freedom to make decisions to push it in that direction. When I came on board SCS Vape was a small retail company with two locations. Their branding was all over the place. They had a product that people wanted and they were the first game in town, but they were still small time. I got to come in and help make the company a brand. I helped give the company a look and feel that was unlike any other vape shop in the state. I helped the company grow to four retail locations in three different cities, becoming one of the top grossing vape shops in the state at the time.  

 

Of course, as it usually is with small family owned companies, Marketing Director wasn't to be the only hat I wore. My role grew to include IT and eventually Operations Manager. When I left the company, I managed twelve sales people across four locations. I worked with customers daily in the store where my office was located. I managed inventory, forecasted sales, ordered products, and worked with vendors. I was the company owner's second hand, doing whatever needed to be done to keep business running smoothly, while still managing every aspect of the company's marketing. I managed multiple social media platforms and kept all of our websites up-to-date and user-friendly. I was the point of contact for customer complaints and positive experiences. I worked with radio stations in two different cities, planning and writing all of our advertising. I designed and scheduled all of the digital billboards for each of the company's businesses. I planned and executed every bit of advertising for every media channel for all of the company's businesses. I was a very busy woman! Every day flew by, and it never felt like I accomplished everything on my to-do list. I had to be extremely organized and know how to prioritize. It was extremely stressful, but I loved it. A huge change in the vaping industry in 2019 caused countless vape stores to go out of business. The company I worked for was no different. It had to down size and that meant laying off many of its upper management employees. Unfortunately, I was one of those employees. The lay off allowed me to return to school to finally finish my bachelor's degree, which I completed, with honors, in 2021.

After completing my bachelor's degree, UHV wooed me into joining their Master's in Publishing degree program. I have been working towards this degree since September 2021.

On top of school, I work as a freelance designer and marketing consultant. I primarily work with non-profits, helping them with marketing and promotion. Some of my past and current clients include the Cuero ISD Education Foundation, Cuero Rotary Club, Future Sight, and Industrial ISD.

I have been blessed to be exposed to so many different aspects of design and marketing. I have learned so much over the last 20 years. While I enjoy the publishing program at UHV, I have decided to take a break from working on my master's and, instead, take certification courses through Google and Meta. Online advertising and website design change so quickly and I feel that having a better understanding of analytics and UX design will serve me better than a master's in publishing would, at least in the short term. I miss being a full time designer. I miss working in an agency environment. I miss being apart of a creative team. I miss creating something new and different every day. I miss learning new skills and technologies. I am ready for a new chapter...one that takes me back to my creative design roots. One that will take me from being a lone wolf, back to being a part of a team of inspiring creative people. I want to join a company that has room for me to grow; one that encourages continued education in this ever expanding industry. I want to become the best designer I can be, while teaching everything I have learned to others. I want to be inspired. I want to grow.

 Sincerely,

Jaclyn Ray

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