Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Say Hello to the Best Graphic Designer I know

Mary Kay Edwards, stationary and graphic designer extraordinaire, is a funny, engaging and super interesting woman. Her work is extraordinary, fast and well-priced. I met her through her fantastic and funny child Sydney, who makes me laugh every time I talk to her. I want to share MK's work and ideas with you.

She agreed to an interview via Facebook. Transcript of our discussion below. An important note, her last sentence is a good one for us all to remember. My asides, because I can't shut my mouth, are in italics.

Do you have a design background?
Not really. I've always liked doing it though --I just didn't call it that.

How did you decide to start doing design? How long have you been at this?
I've always liked doing my own "projects," but didn't really take myself seriously. When I was younger, I would often "hide" how much I worked on something because I thought people would laugh at me like "You need to get OUT more, girl!" all the while secretly spending hours enjoying working on creative projects for school or home. Eventually, friends would say "Hey, make me one a those things you made..." and I'd do projects for friends. Once I got married and had kids it was even MORE fun because kids are such visual learners -- I would make little charts for chores or star charts to earn privileges. Pretty basic stuff, but looking back it all helped me learn. If I came upon something I didn't know how to do I'd just fiddle with it till I figured it all out.
How many of us do this with the thing we love, the thing that drives us. Quit making excuses and go get it!

How would you describe your work?
Most of the money I make comes from specific paper projects such as stationary, birthday invitations, note cards, wedding invitations, birth announcements, programs, etc. Those are the projects that I do as my "paying job," if such a thing exists. But as far as my life's calling, I just love to make things cool! Whether it's a labeling system for my closet drawers or name tags for the kid's backpacks or whatever, I just like to make things funky and fun. I've "designed" scavenger hunts for birthday parties, theme ideas for events, table decorations, etc. I'm currently working on a slideshow for my big kid's 8th grade graduation. It's too much fun!
MK is totally fun and funky. Her house's design lends itself to that, as well as her expert hands-off parenting. (She designed much of the house herself. Yes, that is how cool she is). I admire so much about her. Her work room is glorious and so smart. Can you tell I like her?

What is your favorite project?
Good question.... Hard question! I like anything that requires me to learn something new. I also like helping people out, so it's really fun when someone in a jam calls and says "I need 20 birthday invitations for a mermaid swimming party -- Just HANDLE IT!". I like it when people trust me to take their general idea, and run with it.

How did you learn to do what you do?
I'm self taught, so trial and error is a great teacher.

Where are your products available?
I've been fortunate to have friends who support my need to express my creativity. I don't advertise -- most people just hear about me by word of mouth.

How do you balance your family and your creativity?
Baaaahahahaha! Balance. That's a good one! No, my family always comes first. Ok, usually... if I'm not busy playing computer. The joy of it is that I can work late at night or when the kids are at school. The nature of my "business" is that it is, at it's most fundamental nature, my hobby! And I squeeze it in whenever I can. It's also fun because my kids like what I do, and like to learn about it. They sometimes surprise me with their projects, too.

Is your family involved in your biz?
Yes. They are free labor, and I'll use them! My husband is SO supportive and proud of anything I do. He's great at cheering me on. And my kids are a terrific resource of what's hip and current. Plus they're just the right height to load the printer!

Where do you get customers?
Friends, word of mouth, people who have received something I've done as an invitation or as a gift.

What tips do you have for others wanting to pursue this?
Well, philosophically , keep doing WHAT YOU LOVE. Even if you don't get paid for it. On a more concrete level, I always try to give my customer a tiny bit more than what they order. Sometimes this is in the form of a few extra notes than they ordered, or coming in a tiny bit under budget, or delivering their job a few days before deadline. I just try to go above and beyond what is expected.
This is so true of her. She designed my logo with just a tiny bit of thought from me. Then when I decided I was ready for business cards, she placed the order and got me some cute stickers too. When the package arrived, it was beautifully wrapped and the extra goodies were legion. I got a huge magnet for my car, a pen, and a key chain. All with my little logo. I felt so important.

What have you learned?
Great satisfaction comes from doing an excellent job at something you love!

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