I graduated from California State University Long Beach with a BFA in Graphic Design.
Some of the first jobs I got were freelance gigs while I was still studying at Cal State Long Beach. I believe my very first official job was through the Long Beach restaurant, Lola’s Mexican Cuisine, where I was waiting tables at the time. After providing customers with a poorly designed menu over and over again, I convinced my boss to hire me to redesign the menu which eventually led to other paid small jobs for the restaurant. I still stop by the restaurant when I’m in town and the menu design has remained the same.
Another freelance project I completed while attending the BFA program was for an Orange County-based business owner starting a chain of infrared sauna therapy locations. I worked with that client to design the business’s logo and, later on, the website as well. I look back at this project as one of the first times I got to really sink my teeth into branding and started growing the passion I have for it today.
Immediately after graduating from Cal State Long Beach I secured my first full-time design job on the in-house creative team for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf where I worked until I moved from Southern California to Seattle. It was a great first job to dip my toes into having a full-time creative career and I received some fantastic guidance from both Creative Directors I worked with there.
I am the Creative Director and Co-Founder of HIGHOPES Design. We are a creative studio that focuses exclusively on helping cannabis businesses nationwide unlock their potential through branding, packaging, web design, and marketing services.
When the idea of starting HIGHOPES came to me it was still something I was solely handling on the side of my day job at an ad agency in Seattle, Washington. Upon moving to Seattle and experiencing the recreational cannabis market for the first time, I recognized an opportunity, and established a passion for, helping cannabis businesses build successful brands. I captured a couple of cannabis clients within Washington and decided it would be best to brand myself as a more established business than just a freelancer to provide myself more growth opportunity.
I wanted a business name that slightly nodded to the cannabis industry without going overboard and falling into the stereotypical woes I had seen other similar businesses fall victim to. I also really wanted to communicate to my future clients that I was not simply targeting the cannabis space for the money, but truly because I wanted to lend a helping hand to an industry I had personal connections with and belief in. As a cannabis consumer and supporter, I wanted to see the cannabis industry achieve the success I felt it wholeheartedly deserved. You could say I had high hopes, which was a perfect name for the business.
The HIGHOPES leadership team consists of myself as well as my two partners, Thomas Warinner and Mina Johnson. We each have separate roles at the company but are all co-founders of the business. Us three comprise the core team at HIGHOPES but we frequently work with a variety of contractors on a project-to-project basis that includes copywriters, strategists, designers, and developers.
Thomas Warinner is our Director of Development at HIGHOPES. In addition to managing our developer contractors, he takes lead on a majority of the high-level development projects that come through our doors. Thomas is hands-down the most skilled developer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, but it’s his passion and ambition to constantly expand the skill set that makes him integral to our success. Whether it’s learning new development languages or experimenting with ones he already knows, Thomas is always looking for ways to increase our studio’s value and our client’s satisfaction.
Mina Johnson is our Director of Operations, but that’s just a fancy word for making sure we move like a well-oiled machine. Mina handles pretty much everything behind-the-scenes from building project timelines to paying our business taxes. We frequently call her the mom of HIGHOPES and that’s not just because she also kills it at motherhood on top of all her business duties. Mina is crucial to our team because she always brings a level-head and balanced point of view to any situation. HIGHOPES wouldn’t be able to operate day-in and day-out without Mina at the wheel of our ship.
When looking at graduate designers there are definitely a couple of qualities I search for and those would be their work ethic and passion to learn. As with most things in life, talent only gets you so far and hard work is needed to maximize your personal growth and success. I’m not advocating for eliminating a work/life balance, but rather being conscientious in your work. Work hard to explore all options for the task at hand and to increase the satisfaction of your client or leadership team. Personally, I knew I may never be the most talented designer, but I could become the hardest working one.
Additionally, I always look for graduate designers to be passionate about learning more about design. Whether that’s watching over the shoulder of a higher-level designer or following a creative podcast, I have found the best designers are those that understand there is so much more to learn and to incorporate into their creative process. Even today as a creative studio owner, I have tons to still learn about design and how to best service our clients.
I would advise graduating students to keep an open mind on where they want to go in their creative career and explore as many avenues as possible before settling down. Gaining experience in a multitude of areas not only allows you to dip your toes into different facets of design but builds your creative resume immensely. When I graduated I felt that I was destined to be in advertising the rest of my career and was really committed to working in the ad agency world. However, as my creative career progressed I uncovered a deep passion for building brands which is where my focus primarily is today.
Additionally, I would advise graduates to incorporate a few things into their life and career that I have discovered helped me achieve the level of success I have today. These recommendations are simple, but their impact can be enormous. The points I would advise graduates to always keep in mind are work hard, stay patient, and be a good person. Although somewhat cliche, I have found these guiding principles extremely valuable in both my life and creative career.