Wow, that seems like a simple question. I could give you the simple answer, I enjoy it, I’m reasonably good at it, and it pays the bills. But, I want to provide a complete answer; offer a behind-the-scenes look into why I went into graphic design and why I started my business.

The Beginning

It started 19 years ago. I worked full-time at an interior design firm as an office administrator. No, real excitement there. I made sure the office had supplies, answered the phone, and did bookkeeping. What was going on on the other side of the office was fascinating. Still, I wasn’t heading back to college to become a certified interior designer. I had a degree in history, a husband, and two children. Besides, I was more intrigued with the software than making an office or medical center look great.

I hunted around the web, looking for more information about the software and what it could do. I found a new online school—yep, they existed way back in 1999—offering certificate programs in graphic design & multimedia. I signed up for both programs and waited for my software to come in the mail. I remember the first time I opened Photoshop & was overwhelmed by seeing the interface. Looking at my husband, I asked, “What have I gotten myself into?” He laughed and told me I asked for it, so I needed to get busy learning.

That is what I did—each self-passed certificate program lasted six months. I finished them both in three, and I loved it! I knew I had just scratched the surface and was busy finding more things to learn. Now, graphics was only one of my creative pursuits. I was painting, doing glass etching, sewing (I can make a mean dress – as long as it’s not for me), and graphics. I wanted to do something artistic but couldn’t settle into what I wanted that to be. I had no idea how crucial my decision to sign up for those classes would be to our lives.

Life Change

In 2001, I was let go during a corporate restructuring. It was life-altering; everyone was downsizing. After 9-11, the market was experiencing a significant flux. I was six months pregnant, so it was easier to let me go, as this was my third child and my return to work was questionable.

At this point, I was more wrapped up with having a new baby and taking care of the two. I had to spend too much time on design, but I still read a book here or there & did projects for friends and family. When our son was two, I went to work as a graphic designer/receptionist for a magazine/mortgage broker. During my time there, we discovered our youngest had a genetic issue. 

Finding out your three-year-old has a chromosomal misalignment issue is a life-altering moment. In reviewing the site for Smith Magenis Syndrome, I read about the typical behavior of putting things under their finger & toenails. I decided that leaving straight pins lying around wouldn’t be a great idea with that particular propensity. That took sewing right out of my list of creative endeavors. I pretty much limit it to repairs now, generally things he’s ripped up.

smith-magenis syndrome infographic

His behavioral issues took painting and glass etching off the table too. The paint was messy, and I didn’t need him throwing my acrylics around the house. Although, he did give his daddy a fantastic back rub one day until my husband realized our little guy was using my red paints on his back. As for glass etching, well, a Dremel and glass… need I say more?

These decisions left me with graphics. There were no dangerous or messy materials, yet I could still get my “hands dirty” creatively. It did not need supplies or dedicated storage. There was nothing to keep little hands off of or out of, other than the computer—but that’s a whole different story.

So here I was with a special needs 3-year-old son, a 7-year-old daughter, and a 9-year-old son. And a firm commitment to pursuing graphic design. I also had enough of the questionable behavior of my mortgage brokerage bosses & gave my notice.

New Adventures

I started 2006 working as a graphic designer for a transportation asset management firm in their business development department. My interest and passion for design grew, and I started reading everything I could find. I guided the organization into using layout software (Adobe Creative Suite) for proposal development and eventually developed my position into one that serviced the entire organization. After the organization acquired new owners, I pushed again to become the designated creative services point-of-contact for their North American business enterprises. This was my position until the organization outsourced all its designers in 2012.

I was working on my Master of Fine Arts in Media Design—which I completed in May of 2013—when informed of the outsourcing. As frustrating as being laid off was at the time, it was again that design made the way. Two months later, the public school expelled our youngest child. The school acknowledged that they could not provide adequate services to educate him. So, I ended up with him home for four months until we could get him into a school for special needs. It was during this time that I hung out my shingle. In 2014, I incorporated as Alice Pettey Branding & Strategic Design, LLC.

My Why?

So let’s recap. Why did I become a graphic designer? It provided me with the creative outlet I needed while minimizing possible dangers. Design allowed me to care for my children—with the completely non-business-approved schedules required. It has enabled me to learn new and exciting things, translating into new techniques and skills. It has opened the door to help others with their struggles in business and beyond. And yes, I still enjoy it, am relatively good at it, & it pays the bills.

2022 Update

Wow, 2021 what quite a year and brought about so many changes. Of course, we had the pandemic to deal with, but with our special needs son (who was 18 at the start of the year), we’d grown used to staying in and being relatively self-contained. He was home full-time as school was closed and then went virtual. I must admit that virtual classes for special needs individuals don’t work well. He preferred to do anything other than pay attention. 

He made it back to school at the end of March, only to pass away during his spring break in April. Devastated by our loss and thrown into utter chaos and confusion, I spent a large part of the year deciding if I still wanted to be in this field. It took me about six months, but I determined that I still enjoy graphics, branding, web development, and generally helping people fulfill their dreams. 

Now, there is a bittersweetness to it all—but I’ve made some peace. I’ve realized my mission is to help those who help others. I recognize that design will not change lives (except for employees). Yet, it can help the organizations that impact the lives of others & their communities. That’s with whom Neurotic Dog Studios wants to work.

If I sound like someone you’d like to work with, contact me at 804-464-3925 or by email.