Me   and my sporty plastic glasses my mom got on sale.

Me and my sporty plastic glasses
my mom got on sale.

I am one of the lucky ones. I've known what I wanted to be ever since I was 12 years old when Ms. Garcia had everyone in her sixth grade class take a Career Aptitude Test.

We nervously queued up to use the brand new Micro Computer from Radio Shack, and watched as the results printed up dot by dot. Eagerly, I read the results, which offered three main options deemed to fit my personality. Rushing home, I shared the news of my potential careers to my mom who offered her perspective...

  • Veterinarian:What about your allergies? You'd be sneezing all the time! And besides, could you actually put a little puppy to sleep and watch him die?
  • Photo Journalist: Would you really be able to sit idly by and shoot photos of people who are dying – or on fire? You'd have to, you know.
  • Graphic Design: Traffic Design? What's that? 

So, the choice became obvious, thanks to mom. The next day, I told Mrs. Garcia my top choice and she arranged for me to spend the day with a real, live Graphic Designer at the University of Arizona. Surprisingly, he didn't have to do anything about traffic jams, except create way-finding signs and cool logos. I was smitten. He got to draw and do beautiful typography. AND he got paid for it. I had found my future bliss.

After graduating college with a Visual Arts Degree, I began my Graphic Design on the bottommost rung at a neighborhood print shop, where the manager made fun of me for not knowing what a Gripper Edge was (Sheesh...what do they teach these kids?).

My job was split between taking change for customer's Xeroxes and pasting up golf brochures the hard way – laying out spreads using a T-square, X-Acto blades and toxic spray-on glue. I had to convince them that they no longer needed to send out for type since they had a new fangled Apple Macintosh with a sizzling 128k of RAM, a floppy disk drive, and a handful of fonts named after big cities.

Somehow, that job didn't break my spirit, and slowly, rung by rung, I began the dizzying climb – job by job – until I finally made it to "the Big Time" at Hornall Anderson Design. Yet, after all that hard work, I felt like a fraud – How could these incredible designers not know that I don't belong, that I started as a copy clerk? I am unworthy of licking their Italian Leather boots.

My competitive nature, however, helped me rise above my freelance status and swim with (or at least float along side) the über talented sharks with stylish glasses. Once I was hired, the clients I worked on ranged from corporate to classic to boutique. During that time, my supervisor taught me skills I would eventually use for Art with Heart – writing Creative Briefs (which translated well to Grants), managing budgets, and dealing with difficult situations and demanding clients. The two main clients that helped shape what was to come were Children's Hospital of Orange County and Harcourt School Book publishers. Working closely with these seemingly disparate clients helped me find a direction for Art with Heart and led to my first big project for hospitalized children, Oodles of Doodles, a healing activity book inspired by a local child with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that takes the lives of most of the children diagnosed with it.

After working in the design field for over 15 years, I now had a new direction, a new passion, a new possibility – but one which used all my foundational skills. My sixth grade teacher planted a seed that not only sprouted and grew, but gave me the roots to branch out to new possibilities. Thank you Ms. Garcia for giving your class a head start in life and for helping me find my bliss...twice.  /  More on Hallie's story at Art with >>