As a freelance graphic designer, Katherine Major has landed projects ranging from design for non-profits in Haiti to work on album covers for “killer” rock bands. That’s what she enjoys most about this career—the freedom to explore new possibilities.
“There is always a new challenge, and the work changes every day,” said Major. “One day you could be designing a logo for a local restaurant; the next day you could be working with The Killers. You just never know! I also really enjoy the flexibility. You can work from home or in an office, for a large or small firm. Really, there doesn't seem to be any limit to the possibilities!
“The biggest challenge for me has been learning how to sell my work. I've had to learn how to be half businessperson, half designer. Also, learning the best way to mediate between what a client wants and what a client needs can be really tricky.”
Currently, Major is based in the greater Cleveland area. After graduation, she gained experience at design firms NORTH and Go Media, both in Ohio, before taking on the design world as a freelancer. Together she and another designer started JK Design Partners. Some of her past projects include the design of Nirvana t-shirts, a Pepsi Web site and the album cover for The Killers, as well as collaboration with the King of Qatar on a bid proposal for the 2016 Olympics. At JK, most of her work has been label design for local wineries and breweries.
“Of all of my projects, working on The Killer's album was the biggest thrill,” said Major. “We were working with the band while developing new concepts for them, which was really a great experience. My album design was really close to being the final choice, but at the last minute they decided to go with something else. I was really bummed, but it was great to know that Brandon Flowers was reviewing my work and really digging it.”
Operating under the tagline “curiously whimsical graphic design,” Major believes design should be both playful and insightful.
“I really believe that research and collaboration is what makes the difference between good and great graphic design,” explained Major. “I enjoy looking at the possibility of each design, thinking beyond traditional forms and figuring ways to communicate messages in an innovative way. That's really what I live for as a designer. What makes me different is the way that I approach design problems.”
<span class='CALLOUT'>CCS taught me to always think beyond the obvious</span>
Major’s approach to problem solving grew out of her experiences both inside and outside the classrooms at CCS. She appreciated the honesty she received from her professors and the competition brought on by her peers.
“CCS taught me to always think beyond the obvious,” Major said. “The projects weren't simply designing logos or posters; the teachers really wanted us to use our heads to think of meaning behind design. I've noticed that several design schools just don't do that, which makes me so thankful I chose CCS. This has helped me outshine a lot of other designers.
“When I was in school teachers and students didn't hold back on what they thought of your work. As a professional, it's much harder to get an honest critique from someone. There was one teacher in particular that really pushed me beyond what I thought was possible. At the time I really didn't appreciate it, but looking back now I am thankful. I felt that even my best work wasn't good enough, which was frustrating. But I know that he saw I could do better, which just made me want to try harder— ultimately, helping me see something new.
“The one thing I value even beyond my education in the classroom was the education I got outside of it. I spent hours together with my classmates, sketching and presenting ideas. We weren't afraid to rip each other's work apart and really push each other. Our 3 a.m. critiques would always reveal something magical! Thanks Adam and Ken!”
Building connections with other designers continues to be one of Major’s priorities. She proudly serves as the director of membership for the Cleveland chapter of professional design organization AIGA.
“I have had a chance to meet some really amazing designers: Jessie James Garret, Gary Hustwit (had a great time chatting with him over a couple beers!) and Art Chantry, just to name a few,” Major said. “I am very proud to be an active member of the design community here and serve the designers of Cleveland.”
One of Major’s goals is to do more work with non-profits. She has worked with GLOW International and Haitian Artisans for Peace International as a photographer visiting schools and orphanages across Haiti, and is actively involved with Building Hope in the City as a designer and volunteer with their refugee program.
“I'd love the opportunity to work with a local non-profit organization,” said Major. “I have always had a heart for helping others and would love to design an advertising or branding campaign for a great cause. I love learning about other cultures, and eventually I'd like to visit every continent!”
To view more of Major’s work, visit www.katiemajordesign.com.
- Graduation Year: 2007
- Major: Graphic Design
- Employer: Self (Cleveland, Ohio)
- Title: Freelance graphic designer
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