DESIGN JOURNEY | SHAYLA GRACE
Good morning friends! I’m here to introduce you to a truly wonderful human named Shayla. I got to know this fellow designer on Twitter and we got to emailing a bit. After encountering a few hiccups in my design process, I reached out to Shayla (who has been freelancing for 5 years) for advice. We ended up chatting on the phone for over an hour about clients, work and being a freelance designer! I have to say, it’s people like Shayla who make me love the internet and the opportunities it gives us. I could go on and on about her kind heart and giving spirit (she just sent me a lovely package with some beautiful prints from her shop!!) as well as her interesting journey to being a designer (she was a business major in college & born in Jamaica!) but I’ll let her take it from here!
Hi All, I’m Shayla!
I’m a designer and photographer. I also really love to draw and I’m currently teaching myself to paint with watercolors. Whether I’m using adobe creative suites, a camera, a paint brush or actual pen and paper I feel most alive when I can bring a vision I have in my head to life.
On the personal side, I’m originally from Jamaica, since moving to the states when I was 5 I’ve lived in Miami FL, Arizona, Pennsylvania and I’m now happily residing in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington DC, I LOVE it here; I can honestly say there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather live right now. I also recently got married to a super awesome guy who I first fell in love with when I was just 15 years old (it’s a long story you can read it here if you’re interested).
When did you decide you wanted to be a graphic designer?
I always liked to draw and color and when I was child for some reason I also used to like using my ruler, pencil and school lined paper to draw very neat boxy houses (which may be why I still very much like neat boxy design). My first love of something design related was when my Grandmother took an interior design course when I was 15 years old; I’ve seriously considered that career path many times in my life.
Graphic design however never even crossed my mind until after I had graduated college and was working in the corporate world of marketing, but once I realized that this was something I could actually do for a living, that I could get paid to be creative and do what I love, there was no turning back!
A lot of people have told me that I should choose just one thing but I don’t agree. Everything I do creatively lives within me and to give one up would be like killing a part of me. Besides some of the most successful people in the world do much more than one thing and in other industries like the entertainment industry being what they call a “Triple Threat” is a good thing, so why can’t it be the same in the creative industry?
How did you transition from being a student in school to being a designer in the “real world”?
I didn’t go to school for design, I have a BA in Business with a minor in Marketing (I also did a fair amount of studies in Psychology, English Literature and Theology; all career paths I considered at one time or another). My first corporate job was working for a commercial real estate company in Arizona that manages and markets the largest shopping malls in the state and throughout the entire United States.
That’s where I got lucky because my boss asked me one day if I could help the web team with some updates on one of the malls websites’ and I said sure not realizing then that that would lead to a lifelong love affair with graphic design and a whole new career path.
My boss was a wonderfully supportive lady and she quickly realized that I had a natural affinity for design and so she convinced the company to pay for me to take some design classes. Within the first hour of my first class I literally found myself thinking, “Oh design, where have you been all my life?” I knew it was a true passion but I also knew that there was no way I could afford to take the time or money to go back to school to get a degree in design so I taught myself all the things the classes I took didn’t or couldn’t teach me. I spent countless hours reading every design book I could get my hands, I would look up what books were used in the college classes and get them on Amazon and work my way through them. I also watched TONS of youtube videos and have found many helpful hints on a variety of different blog tutorials.
I used to have a lot of insecurities about not having a “degree” in design, but I’m completely over that now. I appreciate every step I’ve taken on my life path and believe I am exactly where I need to be when I am supposed to be there. It bothers me when I hear degreed Graphic Designers say that you have to have a degree to do this because it would be like me saying to them that they should not be freelancers running their own business because they don’t have a business “degree”. They have taught or are teaching themselves the business skills they need to run their business successfully so why can’t someone teach themselves the skills they need to be a successful designer? This may be even more true on the design side than the business side because in my humble opinion so much of what makes someone a good designer is simply the gifts that God gave them at birth and not at all something that you can learn in school. I also think that time and practice is key, in the book The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains that studies have shown that it takes 10,000 hours to be a master at anything, given this reasoning it’s easy to see that if someone wants to be a great designer (or a great anything) all they need is some innate talent and lots of time and practice.
The truth is there are many paths to same end and I truly believe that we are all of us simply trying to find a way to live life more fully and do the things we love as much as we can, as best as we can.
What was your first paid design job?
Well I guess my first paid design job was while working in the corporate world, I spent several years working for two different commercial real estate companies, a non-profit organization and an advertising agency.
But I really consider my first paid design job to be when I decided to go out on my own and do freelance work because that’s when I really had the freedom to design the way I wanted to and to work for the kind of clients that I am most passionate about.
How have you been able to make a name for yourself in the design community?
Hmmm… I don’t know if I have and that may be because if I’m honest making a name for myself in the design community isn’t something I’ve ever given much thought to. When I started freelancing my only goal was to deliver quality work designed with lots of love and passion. I left the corporate world because I didn’t like the clawing and backstabbing that goes on as people try to make their way to the top so investing energy into that kind of thing as a freelancer was definitely not something I was interested in. I’m not saying that the design industry is filled with a bunch of backstabbers, in fact I’ve come to learn that there is a great deal of support amongst fellow designers, which is so lovely; but I think we all need to individually define what success means to us and for me, making a name for myself is not at that the top of that list.
I like living (and designing) quietly from home and making a name for myself (if that’s what I’m doing in anyway) amongst my clients so that they will continue to refer new clients my way and I will be able to continue to do what I love. In the end the only thing that matters to me is that I am a good person in the eyes of God, that I always do my best work and above all that I keep in mind and value the things that really matter in life, like love and grace, and compassion.
What is one quality you think all designers should have?
Always be willing to challenge yourself and don’t box yourself into one style.
I’ve been told by many designers and photographers that to be really successful, you should have a “style”. I don’t agree, again if we look at the entertainment industry the best actors are those that can morph into many different characters; so why can’t I do that in design?
I do recognize however that much of my work has at the least a feeling of me, I’m not sure I can or should fully escape that but I try as much as I can to stretch myself and do things that I wouldn’t normally do because even if I’m not completely successful, it helps me grow as a creative.
So I say learn a new skill, create a font or pattern, trying drawing or painting; if you normally do modern design try something artistic or whimsical or vice versa. Don’t just stick to what you already know and never stop exercising your creative brain because it is like every other muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it and to the same end, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes and you might be surprised at just how much you can create if you just try.
What advice would you give to a new graphic designer?
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS OR THEIR WORK.
I truly believe that each person is created by God to be uniquely themselves and the worse thing you could do is to compare yourself or your work to someone else; or worse yet try to be someone else or mimic their work.
Some great words, Shayla! Thank you for sharing your unique perspective and advice with us all!
You can see more of Shayla’s work here:
design website: www.shaylagrace.com
paper website: www.todayandalwayspaperie.com
photography website: www.keephotographers.com
my personal photography work: http://www.flickr.com/photos/
Though I’ve used Facebook for years personally and have been on Pinterest since the beginning, I only recently started blogging regularly this year and just two months ago I finally created Facebook business pages, joined Twitter and created a Flickr account. If I’m honest I think about cancelling my accounts daily and I’m still not sure if I’m doing any of it “right” but it seems to be a good way to connect with like minded people and though I like my alone time, the life of a freelance designer can be a bit a little too reclusive even for my taste. So if you’d like to be social media buddies you can find me here.