My father was a graphic designer, although it was called “commercial art” back then. He pursued commercial art as a full-time career until he became a father. He and my mother had four children, which necessitated finding different work to provide for our family. There was no social media to promote yourself back then, so work in a creative field could be challenging financially.
Still, despite being the father of four with a full-time job, my father somehow always found time for art. Throughout my childhood, my parents gave my siblings and me creative freedom in the house. Whether that be painting on the walls, restyling our bedrooms, or landscaping our backyard, I always felt that my artistic bug was fostered and supported by my parents’. I was born with a creative gene which was both cultivated and encouraged by my parents.
My first experience in graphic design was in the hallways of my high school, East Providence High School. Glass cases lined the high school halls to display trophies and school announcements, and I was the one lucky enough to make the displays that hung inside. These weren’t your typical high school announcements though; my designs were pretty ambitious, usually based on a specific theme and created with my low-budget, go-to material, construction paper. I wish I had taken pictures of them!
In 1984 I graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in, of course, graphic design. RIC had—and still does have—a really great art program, and I found that my peers and I not only came out as great artists but also had practical skills that we could use to get jobs.
Right out of college, I found a job in an East Providence ad agency. This agency had a lot of great accounts, and before I knew it I was designing ads for GQ magazine! I was so fortunate to have landed that first job which gave me such great opportunities.
When I first started pursuing graphic design as a career in 1984, it wasn’t so much called “marketing” as it was just “advertising.” There were no computers or internet and only a few advertising publications at the time —mainly Adweek and Communications Arts. I was obsessed with these industry publications, and I absorbed what I saw and read like a sponge. What I learned from these publications opened my eyes to what the “big players” of the time were doing; pushing me to find even more creative ways to “advertise” the products my agency represented.
Since there was no internet, there was no such thing as Pinterest or Instagram. Our sources of inspiration were extremely limited, so the graphic design solutions I developed in the ’80s and ’90s are even more special to me because they were generated solely from my imagination.
After the 2008 market crash, many people lost their jobs—including myself—and it became extremely difficult to find another one. As I looked for a new job, I continued doing freelance work. I finally asked myself: Why not just embrace it?
Committing to being self-employed designer was a really scary decision, since I had grown dependent on a weekly paycheck. But I thought about my father, Henry Gordon, and became determined to make self-employment work. Thanks to my father, creativity was both nature and nurture for me. I rose above my fear of failure and embraced the freelance life.
Even though I’ve been a graphic designer for almost 40 years, I still get excited about creating something new. No matter what the project is, I’m eager for the brainstorming process and presenting my ideas to the clients.
When people work with any business, it’s because they "know, like and trust you"—which very often is more important than the cost of the service. They have a connection with you and that’s why they come back. I believe my clients keep coming back because they know that I am passionate about helping their business succeed. That includes delivering a quality product that gets results, at a reasonable cost. I also take the time to educate those clients that want to be able to do some of the work themsleves. For example, some businesses that I've built websites for want to be able to make minor changes on the site themselves, so I provide them with an instructional document to help them. Some cleints want to have garphic files that they can import into their word documents to have a consistent look, so I provide a style guide that lays out all the rules for doing this. I am flexible and do everything I can to help my clients succeed
I feel gratitude every day to be doing work that provides me with such joy and fulfillment, allows me to work at home, and to honor my father with my skills.
Life is good!