Graphic Design Degree Equips Joachim to Launch Successful Boutique Design Agency
In the middle of a global health crisis, Kathryn Joachim managed to increase the revenue of her boutique design agency by 24%.
Even more impressive, Joachim is already on track to more than double last year’s revenue.
Joachim’s successful career as a self-employed artist began many years ago with a graphic design degree from Grace College.
A Graphic Design Degree Designed to Unleash Creative Passion
In 2004, when Joachim started looking for college of art and design, Grace College was one of few small, Christian colleges in the midwest with a graphic design degree. When she found out about the school’s Presidential Scholarship Competition, she signed up, competed, and won the top scholarship prize — a full-tuition scholarship — making Grace the easy choice.
“I’m so grateful for that,” Joachim reflected. “I don’t think I realized how much money that was at the time.”
Summer of 2005, Joachim packed her bags and moved to Grace’s campus where she would be met with caring professors, internship opportunities, and career preparation that would unleash her creative gifts and passions.
Professor Young and Professor Davis were two of Joachim’s most influential professors. She recalls Professor Young’s tough grading and the way he pushed her to spend more time in the studio. He urged her to invest in her talents. He encouraged her to perfect her craft. He taught her that art was a process. These were critical lessons for Joachim who liked to check the boxes to earn the “A.”
Kathryn was most impacted by her professor and advisor was Professor Art Davis.
“Professor Davis always took time to sit and talk with students. He saw potential in them that they didn’t see in themselves,” Joachim reflected.
It was Davis that recommended Joachim for an internship at Paragon Medical — one of the many orthopaedic companies based out of Warsaw, Indiana, which is named the “Orthopaedic Capital of the World.”
The internship was an ideal way for Joachim to practically apply her knowledge of art theory and design composition she had accumulated in her graphic design degree over the past three years. Her advisors at Paragon gave her great support and freedom to run with her design projects which included newsletters, image editing, and print ads.
“That internship helped confirm that a graphic design degree was the right choice and assured me that design was absolutely what I wanted to do. I felt so fortunate to get that opportunity while at Grace,” Joachim said.
As her senior year came to a close, Joachim leaned on the services of the Center for Career Connections to help her touch up her resume and put her best foot forward in applications. It was ultimately through the center that Joachim found, applied for, and landed a part-time job with Moody Publishers as a graphic designer.
A Career Designed to Meet a Need
After a month on the job, Joachim was offered a full-time position with Moody. The next five years, she gained invaluable experience designing book covers and branding as well as doing marketing design. Through her projects, she was introduced to the wedding industry — a natural fit with her artisanal, feminine design style. The more she was exposed to wedding planners and companies, she discovered a tremendous need in the industry.
“These companies were not marketing themselves at the level they could be,” said Joachim. “I saw a huge opportunity to visually elevate companies to align with their sales goals potential,” she said.
And thus, Créme was born.
Joachim launched her boutique design agency at first as a side-gig, continuing to work in publishing. Once she had a large enough client base to make a livable salary, she transitioned all her time and energy to growing her new business.
Joachim’s role today is designer-meets-strategist. She oversees a team of six, ensuring that all of the working pieces and parts are coming together for one unified vision. A large portion of her time is devoted to interfacing with clients, fielding their questions and concerns, and helping them clarify their purpose. Yet, she still makes time for her first love — designing logos.
“The past eight years have been full of wonderful clients and lots of learning experiences,” says Joachim. “I am most proud of the confidence our clients get from branding. I will never get tired of seeing the ‘before and afters’ of our clients — not just of their websites or products, but of them, as people.”
To-date, Créme has a 5-star rating on its Google business page. Joachim has designed for more than a hundred clients across the country, including New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, and her design work has been featured in print in Whitespace Magazine and Cottage Hill Magazine.
While Créme has a long list of accomplishments to boast in, Joachim has no plans to pump the breaks any time soon. Looking forward, it’s her goal to design for Sephora as well as boutique and travel brands around the world. But most importantly, Joachim has strong intentions to keep her business as people-focused as possible — a value she came to know and appreciate while at Grace.
“At the heart of Grace is really strong relationships,” reflected Joachim. “I look back fondly and feel that Grace was exactly what I needed in that season. It was a safe space to grow, to develop skills, and to get the support that I needed fresh out of high school. I am still so grateful for all that Grace did to put me on the path to my career and life. I came to highly value kindness and community at Grace and those are now core values in my business.”
A Word for Aspiring Designers
If you are considering a graphic design degree or if you just graduated with one, and have dreams of launching your own business, Kathryn has ten great tips to help you find career success.
- Remember that graphic design is more about listening than anything else. It is your job to make your client or boss feel heard. I cannot stress enough, this is so, so important.
- Cultivate your empathic capabilities. Sell the design solution you’re delivering rather than getting into a back-and-forth with your client
- Be clear with your clients and team. Clear is kind. If you are in a leadership or managerial role in an agency, it is important that you adopt a clear internal process.
- Everything you do should point back to the objectives you create. Ask yourself: Does this meet the objectives we made together? Does this appeal to your ideal client?
- Cultivate a consistent look.
- Make personal goals. Record your goals on a voice memo and listen to them every day. This convinces you that you’re actually able to do it.
- Make sure you have things that nourish you outside of your job. Have good boundaries. Take care of yourself mentally, physically, spiritually.
- The environment is very important for a lot of creatives. Do little things to make your work environment feel more inspiring. Think about ritual. Do little things to bring inspiration with you wherever you go.
- Dedicate yourself to mindset work. As an artist, you have to overcome a lot of doubt — read books on being confident and assertive
- Always remember, you’re allowed to explore. And you are allowed to fail. One of the most paralyzing thoughts for a creative is that you have to get it right the first time. Let yourself make a mess. Design a bunch of things that aren’t even good. And do that from a place of nonjudgement. Your best ideas will start out as the messiest, ugliest things.
Are you looking for a college of art and design where your creative passions are unleashed? A graphic design degree from Grace College would be perfect for you!