Alumni Profile: Joseph Akers, Founder of Brainchild Collective
Design Graduate Profile: Joseph Akers, Graphic Design Certificate
Where are you from and what brought you to Sessions College?
I was born in Roanoke, Virginia and I now live in Richmond. I spent the majority of my high school years in Richmond and moved back here around 2004. A huge part of my decision to enroll at Sessions was my schedule as a chef at the time. As a chef, I never worked the same work week twice… I sometimes worked 14 days in a row before a day off. So, it was important for me to find a school with a design program that would offer me the flexibility to complete my studies but still demanded the dedication and quality of work to keep me on my toes, honest, and challenged constantly. Sessions was perfect for me; the staff was always excellent and I had to produce my work—and quality work—or I would have to answer for my lack of dedication.
What have you been doing since finishing your studies at Sessions College? What kind of design work do you do?
After finishing my studies at Sessions, I started immediately working on freelance projects while continuing my full-time work as a chef. I continued to work as a freelancer part-time until the summer of last year when I decided to take on the challenge of running my business full-time. Since starting Brainchild Collective in 2007, I’ve had the opportunity to work with clients in places like Hong Kong, Utah, and up and down the East coast. But my main focus is working with the businesses in the Richmond-Metro area.
When I finished Sessions, I simply worked as myself with the moniker “Joseph D. Designs” but in October of 2007 I founded Brainchild Collective with a business partner who has since left to pursue endeavors in Los Angeles. I now run Brainchild Collective myself and manage its day-to-day operations.
Brainchild Collective offers print, Web, and photography services to clients both as a package and separately in an effort to reduce the overall cost to a client when they’re just starting out. Sometimes, you simply need a flyer designed, sometimes you need a KILLER flyer designed with custom photography and a Web site to assist the campaign… we do both, but don’t charge the same for both, why would we? When you’re just starting out with your new business or you’re simply a small business, it’s hard to have a large budget set aside for advertising.
My specific role is focused mainly on print design for my clients. I do some of the more basic Web design but bring in the other folks when the project becomes more complex. While I don’t have any other “full-time” employees at the moment, I work with a very tight-knit group of folks for the other services we provide. I truly consider them part of Brainchild Collective; I trust them, I love their work, and we have a lot of fun.
What client, project, or employer would you consider your break into design?
Brainchild’s big break came from working on the Marquis Services, Inc. project. It was really the first project to incorporate all of the services that we have to offer: identity design, print design, photography, and Web design were all utilized to develop a complete rebranding of a company which previously only had a logo screen printed on shirts that was hand-drawn by the owner’s wife 15 years before. The company had no collateral, no Web presence—nothing really.
Not only was it our first “full-scale” project, but the logo design gained a good deal of recognition and will even be featured in the Harper Collins logo design book Logolicious later this fall.
Who was your favorite instructor while enrolled at Sessions College, and why?
It’s difficult to choose a favorite because every one of my instructors was great to work with. Piper Nilsson was thorough and blunt with feedback about my work and I’m all the better for it. Claire Boger was my cheerleader, really pushing me to improve and think about the choices I was making in my designs. Jordon Schranz was a lot of fun to work with. An extremely talented and approachable instructor, he got me pumped up for the fine arts school that was being developed at the time and I can’t wait to sign up for. And although not an instructor, Student Services Director Nomi Altabef was really great as well and a joy to communicate with during my time with Sessions. I know that’s not just one, but they’re all great!
Anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your current career, or your experience at Sessions?
I really think Sessions is a wonderful school for design. The staff is very helpful and knowledgeable. You get individualized attention on your work and any problems you may encounter. There are tons of resources to help you with both your studies and your job search.
However, I STRONGLY believe that none of this matters unless you are serious about your work. You’re only going to get out of it what you put in. Constantly pushing yourself to improve and learn new skills outside of Sessions is also key. I personally believe that a lot of the “rules” of design are there to be bent…even broken. But you need to learn what those rules are first to effectively know how to manipulate them and hopefully create something really special. I’m no expert on anything—I’m constantly learning from others, I relish feedback from my peers and I take what I need from criticism and leave the rest. I think it makes me better every day.
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