Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
My name is Shannel Wheeler and I’m a graphic designer, entrepreneur and author. I’ve been designing professionally for over 10 years, but creating since I was a little kid. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Visual Communication Design from The (pronounced “thee”) Ohio State University and also a graduate certificate in Interactive Design from The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Atlanta. I’ve also gotten a heap of design experience from corporate America and from exploring my own business ventures.
When did you discover your passion?
I’ve always been an artistic person. I’ve always liked to create. When I was a kid I faithfully watched Bob Ross on TV (80s babies and earlier will remember this), I would sit down for hours sketching pages from retail catalogues, I stayed up all night building with Legos and Kinex and I toiled all night at the kitchen table painting toy models. If it was creative, I was doing it! I don’t know If I got my imagination from being an only child, but creating was always something that I loved doing.
What made you turn your passion into a career choice versus just a hobby?
I always loved art but I didn’t know how I could make money with it. In 11th grade I took my first motion graphics class. This is where I learned the term “graphic design”. In 12th grade I attended two high schools, one in the morning for a special graphic design program and then my normal high school in the afternoon. From that point, I knew design was exactly what I wanted to do.
How do you stay motivated?
I think about why I design. I design because I love it. I love helping people through design. I love taking ideas and turning them into something tangible. I also think about all the dreams and goals that I have for my life and how I would feel if I didn’t try to accomplish them. So I try to stay motivated by working on design projects that are fun and meaningful to me (even in the midst of some of those not-so-fun projects). I also know that my faith is a huge motivator as well.
Can you share a little about your design process?
Discover: I use a creative survey to understand the initial needs of clients and/or I try to ask as many questions as possible to understand the scope, requirements, timeline, etc of the project.
Plan: Figure out the best way to approach the design, create phases of the project when necessary and set milestones for project completion
Sketch: I have a million sketchbooks! There’s value in just jotting down a few ideas (key words and/or rough sketches) before you even touch the computer
Design: The best part
Revise/refine: A very important and inevitable part of the process
Finalize/Produce/Deploy: Close out the project including providing final files, sending items to print, launching sites and/or providing any instructions or training, if necessary.
There’s always room for improvement in my design process!
What is your favorite part about having a creative business?
The freedom! The freedom to work on what you want, with whom you want, and to make as much money as you want! The sky is definitely the limit. When you have your own creative business, you can keep a diverse portfolio, connect with many people and work on the things that matter to you.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
Understanding my worth was a big challenge. I spent a lot of years complaining about clients that were cheap and didn’t value design. Even though I continued to build my skill set and grow in many ways, I still continued to devalue my services with rates that were too low and bending over backwards when I shouldn’t have. Over time, I began to mature and realize that if I wanted better clients and projects, I was going to have to do better at finding them, educating them on good design, communicating more clearly, setting boundaries and being confident that I actually do offer something valuable. I remain humble and grateful in my work…but now I’m not afraid to say “No” to projects and clients and who are not in line with the standards that I think are necessary at this point in my career.
What advice would you give to aspiring designers looking to build a successful creative business?
Build a creative business because it’s what you really want to do. Do it because you have the passion for design. If you just do it to make money, it won’t last that long. When you do it because it’s something you love, the money will come anyway.
Practice every day. Invest in your business by investing in your skills. Try different projects and don’t be afraid to expand your horizons.
Keep learning. Stay organized. Make mistakes and learn from them.
Understand that the road to success is a process. Everything won’t come overnight, but if you make a conscious effort to grow and keep an open mind, you can go as far as you want to go.
Whats next for your career?
I recently published my first book called “Awesome Design: 25 Things You Should Know Before Becoming a Graphic Designer”. I had so much fun writing it! While I still love to design for others, I’m also becoming more and more interested in design education, but in a non-conventional way. I’m looking to educate, encourage and inspire other designers and prospective designers though fun ways. I’d love to write more design books, speak to kids about design, provide design education online and offline, and create unique products that celebrate designers. Above all, I’m going to continue to learn and grow…that’s a must.
Where can we find you on the web?
Twitter : @Cre8tiveVenting
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