Wow, that seems like a simple question.  I could give you the simple answer… I enjoy it, I’m fairly good at it, and it pays the bills.  But, I want to give the complete answer.  A behind-the-scenes look as to why I went into graphic design and why I started my business.

The Beginning

It started 19 years ago. I was working a full-time job at an interior design firm as the office administrator.  No, real excitement there.  I made sure the office had supplies, answered the phone and did the bookkeeping. What was going on in the other side of the office was fascinating, but with a degree in history, a husband and two children, I wasn’t heading back to college to become a certified interior designer. Besides, I was more intrigued with the software than making an office or medical center look great.

I hunted around the web looking for more information about the software and what else could be done with it and found a new online school (yep, they existed way back in 1999) that was offering certificate programs in graphic design & multimedia. Signing up for both programs, I excitedly waited for my software to come in the mail.  I remember the first time I opened Photoshop & was amazed and overwhelmed by just the interface.  Looking at my husband and I ask, “Just what have I gotten myself into?”  He just laughed and told me that I asked for it, so I needed to get busy learning.

That is exactly what I did.  Each program was expected to take 6 months.  I finished them both in three, and I loved it.  I had just scratched the surface and was busy trying to find more things to learn.  Now, at this time graphics was only one of my artistic pursuits.  I was painting, doing glass etching, sewing (I can make a mean dress – as long as it’s not for me), and graphics.  I wanted to do something artistic but couldn’t settle into what I wanted that to be.

At the time I had no idea just how integral my decision to sign up for those classes was going to be to our lives.

Life Changes

In 2001, roughly two years later, I was let go during a restructuring.  life-altering like everyone was restructuring as it was just after 9-11 and the market was experiencing a major flux.  I was also 6 months pregnant, so was the easier choice to let go, as this was my third child and my return to work was questionable.

At this point I was more wrapped up with having a new baby and taking care of the two I had to spend too much time of design, but I still read a book here or there & did projects for friends and family.   When the baby was two I went back to work full time for a magazine/mortgage broker (don’t ask) as a graphic designer/receptionist. During my time with this organization, we discovered our youngest has a genetic issue. 

Finding out your three-year-old has a genetic issue is definitely a life-altering moment in your life.  Going through the behaviors for his condition (Smith Magenis Syndrome) I read about the prevalence to put things under their finger & toenails. Leaving straight pins laying around didn't seem to be a great idea with that particular propensity. That took sewing right out of my list of creative endeavors. I pretty much limit it to repairs now – mostly of things he’s ripped up.

Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS) info-graphic

His behavioral issues took painting and glass etching off the table too.  Paint is messy, and I didn’t need him throwing my paints around the house. Although, he did give daddy a wonderful backrub one day until my husband realized our little guy was using my red paints to finger-paint his back.  As for glass etching, well a Dremel and glass... need I say more?

This left me with graphics.  No dangerous or messy materials, yet I could still get my “hands” dirty.  No need for a large area for supplies or materials.  Nothing to keep little hands off of or out of, other than the computer – but that’s a whole different story.

So here I was with a special need 3-year-old son, a 7-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. And a firm commitment to pursuing graphic design. I had also had enough of the dubious behavior of my mortgage brokerage bosses & gave my notice.

New adventures

I started off 2006 by being hired on full time at a temp position with a transportation asset company, as a graphic designer in their business development department.  Here I took hold of my interest in design and started reading everything I could find, pushed the organization forward to using layout software (Adobe Creative Suite) for proposal development.  After the organization acquired new owners, I pushed again to become the design POC for the organizations North American business enterprises. I was in this position until the organization outsourced all of their designers in 2012.

At the time of the layoff I was working on my Master of Fine Arts in Media Design, which I completed in May of 2013.  As frustrating as being laid off was at the time, it was again that design showed me the way. Two months after I was laid off, my youngest was expelled from school.  The public school acknowledged that they were unable to provide sufficient services within the school to educate him appropriately. So, I ended up with him home, generally within three feet of me for four months until we were able to go through the process of getting him into a special needs school.  During this time, I officially hung out my shingle and in 2013 opened Alice Pettey Branding & Strategic Design, LLC.

My why?

So again, why did I become a graphic designer?  It has provided me the creative outlet that I need while minimizing possible dangers, allowed me to be there to care for my children – with the completely non-business approved schedules required, enabled me to continuously learn new and exciting things which I have been able to translate into new techniques and skills for my clients, opened the door to help others with their own struggles in business and beyond, and yes, I enjoy it, am fairly good at it & it pays the bills.

If I sound like someone you'd like to work with I can be contacted at
804-464-3925 or by email.