Freelance designer Kristen Brown gave Stephens students an up-close look at the fast-paced world of graphic design today, encouraging them to get experience at agencies before attempting to launch their own businesses.
Brown owns and operates Hoot Design Co., where she designs logos, custom prints, cards and other products. She started the firm when she returned to Columbia in 2010 after working at a large ad agency in Chicago for five years.
Brown, also an adjunct at Stephens, kicked off the Professional Lecture Series for Creative Ink, the student-run public relations firm at Stephens. The series brings in women working in marketing and design to give practical advice and share real-world scenarios. Brown also talked about the challenges of starting a family while staying active in the workforce. She has two children, a 2-year-old and an infant, whom she brought to the lecture with her. The baby slept through class, but Brown joked that that wasn't always the case and bringing children to meetings isn't always a positive experience.
Brown wasn’t looking to start her own business when she began doing freelance work in Chicago. She had created a poster for a nephew and started receiving requests from others for reprints. Shortly after, she snagged additional work on the side helping a city department create brochures. It wasn’t a glamorous gig, she acknowledged, but it helped her build a client base.
She warned students that their first advertising or design job might not be a dream job but is necessary to get to the next position.
That said, Creative Ink students have an edge, she noted. Most designers do not get to work with clients early in their careers, and it’s even more unusual to get that experience while in college.
Creative Ink, now in its sixth year, works with professional clients to come up with custom promotional materials. Current community clients and partners include the Men’s Minority Network and Columbia Public Schools.
“That interaction with clients and your strong portfolios are invaluable,” Brown said. “I love how Stephens teaches this program.”
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