Jeremy Slagle always knew he’d be a designer one day, but becoming a business owner was not in his plan.
In 2009, Slagle was working as senior creative director at Element, a Columbus design agency he’d been with for more than a decade. When the agency closed that year, Slagle was handed the client list and a rare opportunity− to go into business for himself without having to scrounge for work.
“Since then, I’ve picked up many new clients along the way,” he says. “If the agency had not closed, I would most likely still be there. It was a great working environment with some great people. It was very hard when it closed, but, in retrospect, ended up being a very good opportunity for me.”
Though Slagle works for himself, he hardly works alone.
“I have a handful of very talented senior-level creatives that I work with on most projects,” he says. “I get to pick and choose my team for each job. Columbus has a wealth of creatives to choose from when it comes to writers, developers, illustrators and photographers.”
To learn about Slagle’s creative process, the app he’s developed, and what he considers the key to his success, keep reading.
The Metropreneur: You’ve had a lifelong interest in design. What about it appealed to you?
Jeremy Slagle: I always loved drawing and started when I was old enough to hold a crayon. Graphic design was a way to make a living doing what I love. My design is still very illustration based.
[M]: Your branding and design work at Jeremy Slagle Graphic Design comes in many forms: custom type, illustration, photography. And you work everything out on paper first. Why?
JS: Technology is great. Most everything I do ends up going through a computer before it’s finished. However, the computer is not a good tool for concepting. When you sketch your ideas first, you don’t sweat the details like fonts, colors, etc. You’re allowing your brain to quickly process through ideas.
Everything I do starts as a sketch and gets scanned into my computer. The sketch is the basis of the final logo or illustration. Also, sketch books are much cheaper than laptops and you can take them anywhere that an idea might strike. Some of my best ideas come when I least expect it.
[M]: Tell us about your Inkr app.
JS: I was drawing with my children one Saturday morning. I was actually working on an illustration for a self promotion and I wanted to refine my original sketch on my light table in my office, but didn’t want to leave the dining room table where the kids were drawing. I realized that my iPad, if I could get a white screen, would work as a portable light box. Every app that worked as a “flashlight” cleared the screen when you touched it.
I grabbed my sketchbook and started thinking about how cool it would be to make an app for people who still use analog drawing tools to be able to trace line art or source photos on the go. I was fortunate enough to find a developer that saw the potential in the idea and was willing to take a risk on the app. Time will tell if it’s a success or not, but I had a lot of fun making it and I learned a lot in the process.
[M]: When working with clients, are there certain things you always keep in mind?
JS: I gather as much information up front and spell it back to the client before I begin the creative process. It is very important to make sure that everyone is on the same page. I have also learned over the years that the client’s feedback is essential to the outcome of the project. Most of the time, the client’s concerns or recommendations end up improving the final design.
Young designers struggle with this concept, but it’s something that needs to be learned. Designers are not fine artists. At the end of the day, the client has to be excited about the results.
[M]: You’ve won several awards for your work and Business First recently included you on its “Forty Under 40” list. Why do you think you’ve been so successful?
JS: I’m not sure. Partially, it’s because I do so much work locally. My business thrives on local small to medium-size businesses, many of whom are regionally well known. I also think it has alot to do with the relationships I have with my clients. I have been very blessed to work with some amazing business owners. I love them and they love me. It’s nice to be valued by your clients.
[M]: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced as a business owner and how did you overcome it?
JS: Paperwork and numbers. I really hate the proposal writing and contract process. I make it a priority on my to-do list so I have motivation to get them done early in my day, which allows me to spend the rest of my day designing. It’s kinda like eating your spinach before the apple pie. My wife Becky is the family “mathlete.” She handles the books and works with our accountant. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to run my business. I mean that very sincerely.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
JS: I really love what I do. That’s not to say that it isn’t difficult at times, but my family and my faith get me through it. I’m extremely blessed on many levels and very thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me and the amazing partners I have the opportunity to work with. I try to keep in mind that work and life are all about people. Keeping that perspective helps me recognize that client and partner relationships are more that just a means to an end.
To learn more about Jeremy Slagle Graphic Design, visit JeremySlagle.com.