This Designer Insider is with Brooke McKaig, an Illustrator, Graphic Designer, and Teacher based around Thornton, Colorado. She has made her way well through the Design industry by networking a lot and meeting people in various industries at a young age. By 19 she became a freelance illustrator and has been in the design industry for the past 27 years.
1. How did you get started in your design career and how did that lead you to where you are today?
It all started for me, really, in high school at Bollman (in the very class I now teach). I had taken every art class offered and knew I wanted to pursue something in a creative field. During this time I made a lot of my own clothes and though about a career in fashion design. Then I took the Graphic Design class and fell in love with design. Making posters and Logos was very staffing for me. I did a few actual projects for a salon and some local promotors. I was very fortunate to know a lot of people in the music business by the time I was 16. I graduated high school and went right into college for Visual Communications. During this time the internet was just becoming a thing and we had AOL dialup. I would spend too much time in music tribal rooms and met a lot of cool people including my friend Duane who at the time was a producer for Dateline NBC and had a lot of connections in different industries. He knew I did a lot of Pin-up illustration and connected me with a friend of his that was starting a new magazine and needed a spot illustrator. So at 19 I was doing freelance illustration and it was all due to constantly networking. I had made a lot of connection through the music industry and people would recommend me to different musicians. I have managed to maintain an active freelance career in Graphic Design for 27 years now all due to word of mouth and networking.
2. What has your favorite project been and how did you come across receiving it?
I don't know that I could ever really answer this because I have don 100's of projects over the years. Just Wolfpack posters I have done well over 300 in 10 years. I did all the original design work for Cousins Maine Lobster before they were on Shark Tank. After their Shark Tank success I have done window designs for restataunts across the country including Time Square and have seen my truck designs on HBO films. I really love seeing t-shirts for bands I have designed on fans and in videos from all over the world. But to name one would be impossible.
3. What are the most challenging situations you have come across and how have you overcome them?
Time management can be an issue because clients are not always as cooperative as we would like them to be or they can be indecisive. Most of the time I would say Budget and billing are the most challenging aspects. Especially, for a new or young designer trying to get started. All I can say is DO NOT undervalue yourself. Consider how much education, skill and knowledge You have and how much time / effort will go into completing a project. Also factor in all the extras, personal insurance, taxes etc... They wouldn't be coming to you to do it if they could do it themselves. I learned the hard way when I first started but then started asking questions of peers and fellow designers. Looking at averages and using AQUENT to get a better idea of what I should be charging for my service.
4. Most designers are just that, designers, but in the freelance world you have to know business as well. How did you approach the business side of being a designer and what did you learn the most about?
My undergraduate is actually a double major for Graphic Design and Business marketing. Honestly, I asked A LOT of questions of the people I knew that were business owners. I think you need to be organized, keep good records, save everything. Document work (in and out), invoices and all expenses. Take a least a couple business classes. Now days with YouTube you have a lot more resources to do things right or with the least amount of flaw.
5. What advice would you give to a young designer just starting out or looking to start in this industry?
NETWORK! Join professional organizations. You are your best cheerleader. Tell everyone what you do, hand out your card, offer your services. Remember plenty of people will say "No". Who cares!? Its business, not personal... Move on to the next. Remember it just takes one project or one client to help set you up for everything you want.
You can find her on her instagram @vampvisualls or on her website www.vampvisuals.com