James Madison University - Bachelor of Fine Arts / Concentration in Graphic Design
OK, raise of hands, who hasn't dreamed (even if just a little bit) of being so ridiculously artful and creative that you could be a graphic designer? Ok, good. you're raising your hand, too. (We thought so.) Meet Wendy Wade, a graphic designer who specializes in custom wedding invitations and announcements for all of life's special moments. She works for herself, and one of her favorite parts of her job is meeting all of the cool, fun couples and using her talents to create something they love for their most important events. Sounds like fun, right?
When she's not on her computer, you can usually find Wendy with her husband and dog, or whipping up a good meal. And did we mention she's a total snow sports junkie? She grew up skiing and was a ski instructor for a while. And over the past 10 years she's developed a new love for snowboarding. Ya, she sounds like the kind of girl we'd like to hang out with, too.
Have a thick skin and a short memory.
How did you discover your current job?
By mistake! From an early age, I always loved creating greeting cards in Print Shop (haha, LONG time ago!) to give to my family, and I designed certificates for my mom, who was a teacher, to hand out to her students. I never put two and two together though until college. I actually went to school to be a teacher also, but it wasn’t long before I realized it wasn’t the area for me. With some coaxing from my roomies at the time, they convinced me to consider graphic design. Once I started my art classes, I fell in love and never looked back. I really can’t imagine doing anything else. Except maybe helping puppies get new homes.
What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?
During college I created Weswen Design. It started with some simple designs I came up with for greeting cards and a big idea that, one day, this could maybe be a full-time gig. I was fortunate enough to have extremely supportive family and friends who placed random orders and referred me to other people. While growth was slow, it certainly did pick up by word of mouth. I’ve been lucky, because most of my business has come from referrals. It’s quite flattering actually. Only recently I’ve decided to market myself through different avenues and put myself out there more.
My path to get me to where I am at today has been nothing but constant drive for a dream that I won’t allow not to come true. I won’t be settled until Weswen Design is as big as it is in my head, and I still have a long way to go. My internal drive and the new clients I meet along the way is what makes my goals ever changing and constantly brighter. While I might work myself to death at times, I can’t imagine having everything handed to me on a silver platter. I don’t think I would appreciate it as much.
Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?
I can’t remember one exact situation, but I would say the majority of my learning has come from the situations that didn’t have nice and fuzzy outcomes. Like everyone starting out, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. But I think that’s okay as long as I’m learning something from them. Also learning to talk to clients about the tougher subjects -- money, disagreements, feelings -- has helped me develop wonderful relationships with them, so now we are completely honest and open. I love it when a client calls up and says, “I don’t like this, and here’s why… ” I can’t expect everyone to love what I design all the time, but if I can train them to tell me what’s bugging them, then that’s good with me.
What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?
My typical day MUST start out with a cup of coffee … or two! I’m not really a morning person, so I find myself working later into the evenings. No two days are the same in my world. Some days I’m bogged down with major deadlines, and it’s all I can do to tackle all the work. Other days the pace is more relaxed, and I can reach out to contacts, respond to emails, maybe even do some personal design for Weswen Design. I try to blog on a daily basis (keyword: try), because I always want to stay committed to the people who support me. But often times, 24 hours. a day just isn’t enough. And this girl needs some sleep, too!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
By far my favorite thing is hearing positive feedback once clients receive their projects from me. I love it so much when a bride I’m working with on a custom wedding invitation emails me and says her invitations are the most beautiful invitations she’s ever seen. Wow! Major smile producer right there. That never gets old.
What is the most challenging part?
There are definitely not enough hours in the day. Since my work isn’t black and white, my day doesn’t finish when the client work is done. To keep myself moving in the direction where I want to be, I also have to focus on the business. And that usually involves me concocting all sorts of ideas in my head for things I’d like to design to promote myself. I constantly battle the clock.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
Definitely free time. I am so lucky to have a supportive husband who understands that there are weeks when I might not be able to chill on the couch and watch a movie. We always try to eat dinner together, but then I might be back in my office working until bedtime. It’s a fine line, and sometimes working too much stifles my creativity, so I have to try to get all my work done but remind myself that taking the weekend off isn’t a bad thing either.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
A boss once told me as designers we have to “have a thick skin and a short memory.” I think it’s so true. Being in a subjective field, I realize that not everyone will love what I come up with. If you take all the negative personally, then it will only make you crazy. Learning to let comments roll off my back and focus on the client’s needs makes for a much better situation for me and for the client. However, I have also learned that you have to pick your battles, and if there is something I truly believe in, I will stand up for myself and educate the client as to why my way might be better than theirs.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
For me, I think it’s proving that I’m a younger female entrepreneur that should be taken seriously. Yes, I might be younger than my counterparts, but I can walk the walk and talk the talk. Age shouldn’t matter; that’s one of my biggest gripes. Also, establishing myself as a professional in my field. I might work from home, but that doesn’t mean it’s my hobby.
Who are your role models?
I obviously admire all the design greats: Paula Scher, Stefan Sagmeister and Ty Mattson are a few of my personal favorites. But on a smaller scale, I’m lucky to have an incredible grandmother who’s an unbelievable source of inspiration to me. She got married at 87, after all, to her long-lost high school sweetheart and didn’t care what anyone thought. She lives by what makes her happy, and I’d like to think I do the same.
Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?
Like I said earlier, “thick skin and a short memory,” is one I tell myself all the time. I also love the quote, “Beware the lollipop of mediocrity. Lick it once, and you'll suck forever.” I have no idea who said that, but it’s great.
And of course one that I think more people should follow, and yet it’s so simple: “Treat people the way you want to be treated.” I mean, come on, does it get any easier than that?
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Get an education! I see so many people that play designer. Yes, there are natural talents, but go to school to learn the fundamentals and the rules. Then go out and break them. And I’m a huge advocate of having a voice and using it. When I see girls who are afraid to speak up and stand up for themselves, it really irks me. I don’t know how you’ll ever get ahead in the business world if you don’t have a backbone.