Tapping Into “WHY?”


2018: A year of building the blocks for Amp’d Designs.

When I decided to work for myself, I started attending as many local events as I could—from marketing workshops to presentations on business practices—to learn about how others ran their businesses and what worked for them. During Asheville’s 2018 Small Business Week, I attended a Chamber of Commerce presentation that surrounded the popular Simon Sinek “Start With ‘Why?’” Ted Talk. My business was still pretty new at this point, and this concept of finding my voice through determining my “why” was intriguing.

It was simple to look on the surface. Similarly to many designers, I’d always been artistic. (As a kid I was constantly making up stories and illustrating them, I used to make dollhouses out of cardboard, I’d save old packaging and repurpose it to package handmade clothing for my brother’s stuffed animals.) I loved design, I loved type and color, and I loved helping people create things they were proud of. Still, I felt like I was floundering around trying to find my identity as a design business. I had so many ideas when it came to building identities for others, but for myself it was the most difficult thing to do!

 

It was in September during Mountain Bizworks’ amazing Foundations Business Planning class when everything became clear. To help write a business plan and mission statement, I was prompted to really dig deep, and to think about what originally piqued my interest in graphic design and set me on this career path.

Old cringe-worthy poster I made in high school to advertise design services to local bands

Old cringe-worthy poster I made in high school to advertise design services to local bands

When I thought about it that way—thought about what made me want to be a graphic designer in the first place—the answer was so easily “music.” I actually remember the exact day that I realized this as a teenager; there had been some music award show on TV, and I know this probably sounds ridiculous, but somehow it was a turning point. My teenage brain was just mesmerized by music and its culture and this beautiful form of art, and I wanted to be involved. I was fascinated by musicians’ abilities to put themselves out there and capture audiences. This was so awesome to me because I did not have the personality of a stage performer, but I think I had a similar desire to inspire. Musicians could turn thoughts into notes & rhythms full of emotion. They possessed an amazing ability to create and share, which fed my desire to collaborate with them. So I started making album art, gig posters, and t-shirt graphics for local bands and musicians. While they they translated concepts into sounds, I could translate them into visuals.

(I promise I’m getting to how this translates to business.)

When I went to college, I never lost the passion for music, but my interests did shift when I was exposed to so many new industries and different forms of design. I found through brand design that I enjoyed the “challenge” aspect of visualizing an abstract idea. I loved the notion that one icon could express so many values of a business (not unlike the way that a song can relay so many emotions). The complexity of branding, print, and website design intrigued me; the fact that so many different pieces could come together to form a cohesive identity (in the way that a series of songs form an album) drew me in.

In my college senior show I displayed 4 large-scale branding projects, with a goal of going on to work on brand-identity design.

In my college senior show I displayed 4 large-scale branding projects, with a goal of going on to work on brand-identity design.

During college I wanted to balance the type of design work I was doing, so I started an online music magazine based in Buffalo (my hometown). This way, I could practice typography, apply my love of page layout design, and remain involved in music. My favorite part of this project was interviewing local bands. I loved hearing the stories of how they started making music, what inspired them to write songs, what their goals were, and who they were influenced by. It was so fun to try to express their values through the magazine layout designs.

After I graduated from college, I felt much more drawn to work at small design studios than large agencies. I preferred to work closely with small businesses and their owners, groups where I could make an impact, and individuals who I could meet in person, as opposed to big companies. Similarly to how I enjoyed the magazine interviews, these personal connections became important to me. Learning about other people’s business journeys was inspiring, and I loved hearing about businesses’ goals and how we could use design solutions to achieve them.

Here’s how this finally all ties together:

 

In reflection, I realized that I am inspired by creators.

A slide from my final presentation for Mountain Bizworks’ Foundations course

A slide from my final presentation for Mountain Bizworks’ Foundations course

In the same way that it takes imagination to write a song and stand on a stage, it takes an incredibly amount of creativity to start a business and carry it forward. Entrepreneurs have an amazing audacity to realize their visions. Their fearless ambition, willingness to take risks, and drive to present their ideas is spectacularly admirable, and in a sense, I love being a part of that excitement. I’ve learned so much over the past year from individuals who have worked to grow the reach of a business or spearheaded their own projects, who have become forces and influencers in the community. My goal is to be a resource for these groups and individuals to help them reach success. Why?: being a graphic designer allows me to participate, collaborate, and work together with the people who have inspired me to be creative. I’m not out to personally change the world, but if I can help a few people visualize their dreams, I think Amp’d Designs will have achieved it’s purpose.

 
What you do simply proves what you believe.
— Simon Sinek

What’s your “why”?

I love hearing stories, and I would love to hear how others were led to where they are now!