Creative Services Studio Specializing in Logo Design, Graphic Design and Fillable Forms

Plan B

Today is my 35th wedding anniversary. The original plan was for my husband and I to spend the day celebrating in Charleston, SC with our son and daughter-in-law, capping off a delightful extended weekend visit. However, the pending arrival of Hurricane Irma made it necessary for us to create a “Plan B”. So while our kids are enjoying a “mini-evacuation vacation” [is that a thing?] a safe distance away from the heart of Irma’s fury, my husband and I are spending our anniversary in Lake Ozark, MO enjoying a breathtaking lake view along with mild temperatures and sunshine.

Sounds like a pretty decent “Plan B”, right? Well there is part of me that wishes we could have made the 12 hour drive to Charleston last Thursday as planned, helped our kiddos pack and prepare for their evacuation, and then turn around to make the drive back, just to spend whatever time we could with them in the process. But that wasn’t practical, and the thought of 24 hours total drive time through an evacuation zone coupled with the ever-changing path of a hurricane helped solidify our “Plan B” decision.

My 54 years on this planet has presented me with PLENTY of “Plan B” opportunities. Some of the best things that have happened to me were not my first choice. My career choice as a graphic designer was not my first choice. I originally went to school to study journalism. Furthermore, becoming an entrepreneur and starting my own business was never a consideration until it dawned on me that if I wanted to stay at home with my son AND keep on working, I would need to find a way to make that happen. So our decision to invest all of our savings into a home business was definitely a “Plan B” decision.

Most recently, my biggest “Plan B” took the form of a broken right shoulder, which required me to cancel meetings, a speaking engagement and worst of all my attendance at my grand-puppy’s “Sweet 16” birthday celebration. (No kidding. This party was a BIG deal and I was heart broken that I couldn’t make it.)

Moreover, I found myself wallowing in self-pity and disbelief that simply tripping over my own feet during my morning run could result in a broken shoulder. I mean, REALLY – who does that? I began to quickly realize that every plan I had on my calendar for the next few weeks was going to change. And now that I’ve started physical therapy, which is in itself a whole new form of torture, I’m pretty sure that my plans for the coming months are going to be altered as well as I work to regain mobility and strength on my right side.

Of course I am learning something from this beyond left-handed mouse controls and one-handed pick-style dental floss.

1) I am learning that every single day I have to make a decision to not let the need for a “Plan B” derail me. So when I feel like crying because I’m not sleeping [I’m a side-sleeper], or when the pain wears me out physically and/or emotionally, I let myself have a good cry, and then I pull myself together and focus on the fact that my husband is opening and closing doors for me, cooking and cleaning the kitchen, and he seems to somehow relish the fact that I need his help. Who knew that my dependence on him would bring him joy?Thank goodness for my sweet hubby.

2) I am learning that I am blessed with amazing family and friends who bring me food and send me cards and are genuinely concerned about my well-being. And, more importantly, I’m learning that in the future I need to be more conscious of when THEY are hurting or needing help, and I need to be the one who steps up when they need assistance.

3) I am learning that sometimes my plans NEED to be altered as a reminder to me of my dependency on God’s ultimate plan and design for my life. No matter how hard I work to develop my own plan, I need to hold to it very loosely and remember that HIS plan is always best and perfect.

I would love to hear from you! When have you had to choose a “Plan B”? What did you learn from it? Please leave a comment below.

Business Growth or Death? Lessons from a Monkey

Business Growth or Death? Lessons from a Monkey

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the hungry monkey who sees some food inside a glass jar. The opening of the jar is just large enough for him to squeeze his hand inside. He then grabs the food and tries to remove his hand from the jar, but can’t because the act of closing his fist around the food has made removing his fist impossible. He will stay there with his hand in the jar, refusing to let go, until he starves or is caught by a hunter. He could let go and look for food elsewhere, but he doesn’t. He refuses to let go of what he feels is the obvious answer to his hunger, and ultimately, it will be his demise.

That’s what almost happened to my business. After 25 years, I found myself trapped like that monkey. But there is a way out, and here’s how I found it.

One year ago, out of the blue, my number one client called to tell me they were pulling all graphic design projects in house, effective immediately. I shared the news with my employees and we all knew what it could mean for our company. The client we just lost provided between 70 to 80 percent of our yearly revenue. Without this revenue, the company would die.

You would think as the news sank in that despair would have taken hold. But that isn’t what happened at all.

Tia, my Art Director, simply said, “We need to pray.” It wasn’t the first time we had all come together to prayer as a company. It actually happened quite often when one or more of us dealt with personal or work related concerns. I guess that’s why it seemed natural for us to now turn to the only One big enough to handle the possible end of our professional world.

All four of us huddled together as a collective and we took turns talking to our Heavenly Father. And just like alwayswe could feel His presence surrounding us and He gave us hope.

Moving forward I was filled with peace and assurance. Was our situation dire? Yes. Had our circumstances immediately changed? No. But my attitude had changed. I knew my company and my employees’ futures were in God’s hands, and that was a huge relief to me.

Fast forward to today. It’s one year later, and the following things are true:
– My business still exists.
– We secureda large contract with a new clientthis past year – a contract that we couldn’t have pursued in earnest if we were still handling the previous workload of our former client.
– We moved the business out of my home into a shared storefront studio space in Stanton, Illinois. We are engaging in the surrounding community and enjoying the increased exposure the move has brought.
– We have increased our services and are now offering logo animation, something we might not have considered if we hadn’t lost our main revenue source earlier last year.
– And the best of all – even after losing our big client, the company actually turned a profit last year. It’s a TEENY TINY profit, and nothing like it’s been in years past,but it’s still a PROFIT. That humbles me, and makes me mighty grateful.

So how does this “Monkey” figure in to all of this? The answer to the monkey’s problem and my company’s problem is the same: Let Go.

I have always loved the story of the monkey because of the wisdom it clearly illustrates:

Sometimes letting go of our initial desires can bring us something of greater value.

However, in view of the past years’ events, I gained even more insight from this little story because for the first time I saw MYSELF as the monkey with my hand in the jar.

My company had been enjoying the benefits of a food-filled glass jar for the past 25 years. In my case, the jar’s opening was plenty big, allowing the food to come in and out. However, when I lost my largest client, the neck of the jar closed around my hand and my business was facing certain death. My choices were:
1) Hold on to how things had always been while I mourned the death of my business.
2) Let go of the familiar and let God show me a new and better way.

I chose to let go and trust God. One by one unexpected opportunities opened up. And now my future is bright with new possibilities and hope.

How about you? Are you hungry for new clients and increased revenue for your business? As you reflect over the past and look toward the future, what are you hanging onto that is holding you back, trapping you, or threatening your business success?

Release it. Take a chance on a different direction. Chances are, you will find something even better.

Remember – change is coming.

Where’s Worden? Who Cares! We’ve Moved to Staunton!

Moved to Staunton

I wrote a few days ago about some changes that were coming.

For the past 25 years I’ve conducted my graphic design business out of my home. In the early years it was just me, working around the kids’ sleeping schedules and then eventually, their school schedules.

As my kids grew older and my business grew busier, I had to hire employees to help with the increased project load. So since 2003, I’ve had employees coming to my home, every weekday, to work in my home based graphic design studio. It’s never really bothered me having employees in and out of my home every day. And I think, no, I KNOW my husband has been jealous of my short “commute” to work. I have two flights of steps to navigate. He has a 40 minute drive to St. Louis.

We live in a rural area north of Edwardsville, Illinois, just off of Illinois Route 4. We live fairly close to the small village of Hamel, but since Hamel doesn’t have rural mail delivery, our address is classified as “Worden” (since the Worden Post Office delivers our mail). This can be quite confusing to folks. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me, “Where’s Worden?” when they see my address. After I explain that Worden is north of Hamel which is north of Edwardsville, and that I don’t actually live “in” Worden, that I’m closer to Hamel, in the Alhambra Township, but still in the Edwardsville school district, their eyes have usually glazed over, just like yours have done just reading about it.

The short commute isn’t the only perk to having a home based business. With employees here every day, and clients stopping by occasionally, you can bet I am definitely motivated to keep a clean, clutter free house.

But, (here is the big news – commence with the drum roll) as of last week, the JMGA Design Team has officially moved out of my “Worden” home and we are occupying our own storefront studio in Staunton, Illinois!

So why the move? Well, my husband and I are empty nesters now, and we thought we’d try down-sizing. However, moving to a smaller home meant there would no longer be space for my home studio or employees. So we began looking around for commercial space that would work for the JMGA team. Our search eventually led us to Staunton, Illinois, a small community northwest of Worden located right along Historic Route 66. The location works for us, for our employees, and the Staunton folks have been incredibly welcoming and friendly.

Our studio is located at 301 W. Main Street, and we are sharing the space with an amazing photographer and referral partner of mine, Teri Dinnius of Dinnius Photography. Like JMGA, Teri’s business has always been home based, yet she was dreaming of eventually opening a storefront studio. Teri has taken our team’s professional photos for the past three years, and we’ve found referring business back and forth very easy since our businesses compliment each other so well. When we both learned of our common desire to open a storefront studio, our collaboration made perfect sense. We’ve both seen God recently working in our business and personal lives, and know without a doubt that He is leading us down this path together. We can’t wait to see what He has in store for us.

JMGA, JM Graphic Arts, Dinnius Photography, 301 West Main Street, Staunton

JM Graphic Arts, Inc. & Dinnius Photography are sharing this commercial space at 301 West Main Street in Staunton. Teri Dinnius’ husband, John, is a metal worker and he custom fabricated the awning for the studio.

We still have some work to do on the inside and outside of the studio, but it is quickly taking shape. We should be ready for our grand opening in a few weeks.

My husband and I still live in our “Worden” home. (We are looking around for a smaller place but haven’t found anything we like just yet.) My commute to work is now 12 minutes instead of two flights of steps. But I don’t mind at all. I love working smack dab in the center of this friendly community, within walking distance of several lunch spots, coffee shops, the post office and library. And the police station is directly across the street. Sweet!

So no more questions asking “Where’s Worden?” Okay? And if you are wondering where Staunton is, I’ll tell you. Staunton is located 25 minutes north of Edwardsville on Historic Route 66. It’s definitely worth the short drive since it is now where two of the most creative businesses around are located – JM Graphic Arts, Inc. and Dinnius Photography.

We hope you’ll stop by and check out our new digs.

Change is Coming!

Change is coming - so excited!

Some people don’t like change. Some people thrive on it.

My son is one of those “thriving” folks. Make a change in his schedule or his plans, and he just rolls with it. He doesn’t let a change in plans in bring him down. That’s probably why he has coped fairly well in the military for the past 8 years. Nothing ever goes as planned where the military is concerned. My daughter, daughter-in-law and husband, on the other hand, immediately resist change until they’ve had a chance to process through it. Once they think things through, they adapt quite well and come to embrace the unexpected. Mostly. 😉

Personally, I’ve never had a problem with change, as long as it brings with it some necessary improvements and a fresh perspective on things.


This past January, my pastor challenged our entire congregation to pick one word to inspire us throughout the entire year. The word I picked was “trust”. Little did I know that my choice of this “one word” would be almost immediately tested in a gigantic way. My circumstances began to change around me at an alarming rate, filling me with doubt and quite frankly, fear. But – through God’s grace – I remembered my one word, clung to it actually. And almost immediately my fear was replaced with peace. My circumstances were still dire, but bit by bit I began to see God working in the midst of my circumstances. I began to see opportunities emerge that before, I didn’t know existed – exciting opportunities – ones I would have missed if things had continued as before per the “status quo”.

How do you cope with change? Are you afraid of the unknown? Do you hold tightly to your routine and prefer the status quo? Or do you welcome the unexpected, seeing new possibilities in the ever-changing circumstances?

I can’t wait to tell you all about the changes that I’ve been experiencing – and I will – when the time is right.

Let me leave you with this for now. This is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and it fits right along with my “one word” challenge for the year:

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my TRUST in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” – Psalm 143: 8-10

Remember – change is coming.

It doesn’t matter what I think…

Yesterday, one of my marketing pals asked me what I thought of Google’s new logo design.

To be totally truthful, I hadn’t given it much thought until I read his email in my inbox. It had been “one of those weeks”. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? I was a sleep deprived business owner on meeting overload. And did I mention the three trips to the vet with my VERY sick pup as well as the trip to the people pharmacy to pick up meds for said pup? Yep. One of THOSE weeks.

It’s not that I didn’t KNOW about the logo change. I remembered my employees commenting on it during one of my ever so brief visits to the office – but I couldn’t for the life of me remember if what they said was positive or negative. So I decided I needed to take a look for myself and see what was what.

Google Logo 2015

Google’s New Logo – 2015

So I did. And you know what? I like it. I do. It’s clean. It’s modern. It has the same bright, recognizable colors. It shows up better in small mobile applications than the old logo, and unlike most of the articles I’ve since read, I don’t have a problem with “losing the serifs”.


Previous versions of Google’s logo

But most importantly, and I really cannot stress this enough –  IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT I THINK. It doesn’t matter at all. I tell this to my logo design clients all the time. It truly doesn’t matter what I think, what they think or what their Aunt Ethel and her psychic thinks about the design. The most important thing about a logo design is that it WORKS. You never change a logo design for design’s sake. You change it to make it WORK better. Making a design WORK is our first and foremost priority when approaching any design project.

When I looked at Google’s announcement video (<- I highly encourage you to click this link and check it out if you haven’t already) which covers the evolution of their logo and reveals their new design, I saw how well it DOES work. They have been clearly building and evolving their playful and innovative brand over time, making sure everything flows seamlessly into all new facets of technology development and across all mediums.  I was not surprised as I thought back over all of the clever “Google Doodles” that have been displayed on Google’s search page in the past, teaching us to expect the unexpected, and not hold too tightly to the conventional.

Google doodles

That is a GREAT strategy. This strategy invites us to play along with them, taking delight in their cleverness.  But most importantly, throughout all of this, their brand (what people are saying about them) remains consistent. Any changes they are making continues to build upon their brand of a multinational technology giant whose goals are to be relevant, playful, innovative, clever, and yes – fun.

So – with that being said – I’m curious to hear what you all think about Google’s new logo, even though it really doesn’t matter… 😉

September 2015 – Triad Benefits Group, P.C.

Triad Benefits Group, Ribbon Cutting, Chamber of Commerce

Triad Benefits Group, a member of the Troy/Maryville/St. Jacob/Marine Chamber of Commerce, is shown here celebrating their Ribbon cutting with fellow chamber members at their brand new store front in Troy on June 12, 2015.

One of the best things about being a small business owner in the graphic design industry is getting to know my clients, who are more often than not, small business owners themselves. I enjoy hearing the stories of how they got started in business and learning about their vision and passion that keeps them going every day. I always learn something new with every client I meet, and as often as I can I like to share those stories with my readers. In the past I featured one client every month, but with my business growing as it is (Hallelujah!) setting aside time to feature a client every month isn’t always possible. (I hope to work back up to that very soon.) However, when I met recently with Patrick Buchana of Triad Benefits Group and saw how his business is growing, I decided it was time to put the featured client article back into production.

Patrick is a long time business acquaintance of mine – I met him through BNI (Business Networking International) back in 2010, and we have done business card designs and updates for him through the years. I’ve since learned that Pat as a quality person, a loving family man as well as a solid, trustworthy businessman, so I was honored when he came to me this past spring telling me his business was growing and he felt it was time to update his logo and overall brand.

Triad Benefits Group, Triad Logo Design

The new logo is clean, simple and iconic. The stylized triangular shape shows depth (by varying color shades) and movement (representative of this multi-faceted business). The logo icon can stand alone or in conjunction with the company name.

We gave him a smart new logo design that he (almost) instantly fell in love with. We tweaked it until he was happy with final result. I must say he was one of the easiest logo design clients we have worked with thus far. When I met with him to discuss the details of his expanding business his story was compelling and his passion for his clients really shone through. So this month, I’m featuring Patrick Buchana of Triad Benefits Group, located in Troy, Illinois.

Patrick Buchana, Triad Benefits Group

Patrick Buchana of Triad Benefits Group takes a comprehensive approach to wealth management for each one of his clients. He develops a customized communication plan with each client so they understand their financial plan, and he always has their best interests in mind.

In mid-June, Patrick celebrated a ribbon cutting for his new store front in Troy, Illinois, but he has been a financial advisor since 2012 and an insurance broker since 2009. As a financial advisor, he has the heart of a teacher and is a Local Provider of Dave Ramsey in the Metro East, meaning he does business the Dave Ramsey way. Dave Ramsey, for those of you who don’t know, is the nationally known financial author, radio host, television personality, and motivational speaker whose main focus is to encourage people to get out of debt and self-fund their retirement. Ramsey’s radio show is the 3rd most popular talk show on the radio.

Patrick also has impressive credentials. He studied chemical engineering at the University of Illinois and got his MBA from Saint Louis University in 2003. He worked as a project engineer for eight years at Anheuser Busch and then in their Treasurer’s Group as a senior financial analyst for three years.

But Patrick was ready for a change of pace and started his own business in January 2009. Entrepreneurship runs in Patrick’s family. His great grandfather owned a car dealership in Alton, Illinois, and his mother started an advertising business.


Pat is pictured with his wife Sarah, a District Manager at Aldi Foods, and his two unstoppable boys Reed & Luke. Their family dog, Stella, is a Chocolate Lab / Australian Shepherd mix.

Pat is pictured with his wife Sarah, a District Manager at Aldi Foods, and his two unstoppable boys Reed & Luke. Their family dog, Stella, is a Chocolate Lab / Australian Shepherd mix.

Originally from Alton, Patrick is a life-long metro east resident and has lived in the Triad area for over 10 years, so Triad Benefits Group was a natural name for his business. In addition, his business is a perfect combination of three key elements which is illustrated in his new logo design: comprehensive wealth management, risk management (life and health insurance), and excellent customer service. He is licensed in Illinois and Missouri but focuses on serving clients in the metro east.

Patrick provides comprehensive wealth management combined with risk management – all in an effort to ensure his clients’ finances are taken care of and that they take the right steps for their betterment. There is no obligation in meeting with him and initial consultations are free of charge. In the majority of cases there is no charge for ongoing services either. He considers himself an accountability partner with his clients and said what he provides is like serving folks “broccoli with cheese.” “It’s a little of what you want with a lot of what you need.”

What I found particularly fascinating is that Triad Benefits Group utilizes some of the most up-to-date financial industry software tools to help his prospective and current clients visualize and evaluate their financial situation and goals, as well as track progress on investments and other goals on a daily basis, from anywhere through an online portal that is as secure as most banking software.

He considers the risk management portion of his business (Health, Life, & Disability Insurance) the protective wrapper around the financial nest egg he helps his customers build. Being independent, he is not beholden to one insurance company, mutual fund company, or product vendor. He can truly custom-tailor solutions to each client’s needs. Triad Benefits Group provides health, life, accident, and supplemental insurance to small groups and individuals. Patrick ensures his clients are receiving the maximum tax advantage available by guiding them, when appropriate, into Health Savings Account-compatible health plans, which allow pre-tax dollars to be used for qualifying health needs. Further, Patrick reviews policies with his clients on a regular basis according to the client’s wishes, and makes himself available to help with policy or benefits questions as needed.

Regardless of your financial situation, Patrick can help get you back on track or hone an already responsible financial plan. He works with people in all stages of life, from college graduates to newlyweds, to retirees.

His passion for helping young adults to establish a solid foundation is evident. Patrick stresses that young adults will reap the greatest benefits of compound interest and they can make a huge difference in their retirement nest egg if they get started early enough. According to Patrick, investing $2,000 each year between the ages of 19 and 28 (and only in these years) due to compounding interest, has the potential to have hundreds of thousands of dollars more in retirement than the young person who invests $2,000 every year from age 28 to age 65. In a nutshell, getting an early start is essential when considering the benefits of compound interest. However, Patrick says it’s never too late, and it’s never too early, to get a financial checkup and create a meaningful financial action plan.

Community involvement is also important to Patrick. Triad Benefits Group maintains membership in the Troy/Maryville Chamber of Commerce.

For more information I urge you to connect with Patrick by giving him a call or sending him an email. Below are options for contacting Patrick.

Contact Information:

Triad Benefits Group

503 O’Hara Drive, Suite 2

Troy, IL 62294

Phone: 618-667-6920



Registered Representative offering securities through First Allied Securities, Inc., a Registered Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Advisory services offered through First Allied Advisory Services, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser.

Triad Benefits Group is not affiliated with First Allied Securities or First Allied Advisory Services.

April 2015 – Tommy Brown, EA, CTRS

3D Character with head in hands, sitting on the word Tax

This month we don’t have “Georgia on our minds.” Ugh – its “taxes on our minds.” Why does that thought dredge up negative feelings? Not only do we have to go back and relive the prior year as it relates to our income and expenditures, but it hits our wallet hard.

Let us introduce you to someone who will “get the IRS off your back,” which is a direct quote from Tommy Brown EA, CTRS – Certified Tax Resolution Specialist. Tommy is the owner of our April, 2015 Business of the Month.

Tommy Brown, EA, CTRS

Tommy Brown LogoCTRS Logo

  • Do you owe $10,000 or more to the IRS?
  • Do you have tax liens against your credit?
  • Do you have bank or wage levies?
  • Have you failed to file your tax return for past years?
  • Are you a business owner who needs help with unpaid payroll taxes?
  • Do you need someone to help you arrange a monthly payment to the IRS for your tax liability? OR, better yet, settle your tax liability for a lot less than you owe?

These services and many more are available to you with Tommy Brown EA, CTRS. Tommy is the sole owner and sole employee of his company. Your situation will not be passed off to someone with whom you have not spoken.

Tommy started his career in 2000 doing tax preparation. He has been providing tax resolution services since 2009. Tommy has a passion to help people have a chance against the IRS. His service area covers the entire United States which speaks well for his expertise.

Here are two impressive testimonials. One client states, ” . . . we had a huge tax bill of over $12,000 and absolutely no way to pay it. Your assistance in working with the IRS truly relieves us of the burdens of panic and uncertainty.” Another client says, “I have utilized Mr. Brown’s services personally within the last 12 months for both tax preparations and filings as well as analysis and preparation of an Offer in Compromise. I can attest to his professional competence and his ability to provide these services in an effective, efficient and courteous manner.”

If you are having tax issues, please contact Tommy Brown whose office is in Granite City, Illinois. Mr. Brown’s telephone number is 844.4TAXGONE (844.482.9466).

For more information, click on one of the following links:




Linked In

JM Graphic Arts applauds Tommy Brown, EA, CTRS, as our April 2015 Client of the Month! We wish him many more years of success as he fights to help those overwhelmed by their tax problems.

10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Graphic Design Career

Graphic Design Career

I was recently asked to speak at Lindenwood University’s Belleville Campus as a guest speaker to a web design class of seniors. The professor wanted to expose these budding designers to my career as the owner of small graphic design business to help raise these students’ career aspirations and personal goals.

I appreciated the invitation and the opportunity to speak to these youngsters. (I can call them “youngsters” because it’s been 31 years since I was their age. Go ahead. Do the math.) And this opportunity made me step back and figure out what advice I would give a college graduate in the graphic design field. The industry has changed DRASTICALLY since I graduated in 1984. So I looked at where I was 30+ years ago and what I have learned since then. And of course, I thought about what impressed me when I hired my employees. What follows is a list of recommendations I believe will help these graduates jumpstart their graphic design careers.

1) Get out and meet people. Go to networking events (chambers, rotaries, BNI, etc.). Be friendly. Talk to people. Ask them about themselves. What do they do? What do they like about what they do? What is the biggest challenge they are facing? The point of these questions is to always have an OUTWARD focus. My time and training in BNI for the last eight years has taught me to concentrate on being a giver, not a taker. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it can be very effective in helping people remember you. Keep in mind, the people you connect with at these meetings may not be a potential employer, but they might know someone who is hiring in your field. And if you made a positive connection with a giving attitude, the chances of people remembering you down the road are very good.

2) Volunteer for your favorite charity, organization or community events. Not only does this perpetuate the giver’s attitude I expressed earlier, but you will meet more people at these events and the good will generated by your help and servant attitude will go a long way.

3) Develop a LinkedIn profile.  LinkedIn is to the working professional as Facebook is to the casual consumer. It is where business people connect. If you take the time to flesh out your profile, list your projects and display your portfolio, you will be heads and tails above your competition in the job market. You can also utilize LinkedIn’s powerful search engine to find job opportunities and connections to people in desirable companies to which you would like to apply.  And please, do your best to use a professional photo for your profile image. If you can’t afford professional portraits – not many college graduates can – trade services with a photography student. A good professional photo to use in your social media accounts is just that important.

4) Join groups on LinkedIn related to your field and regularly participate in group discussions.  By clicking on “groups” in the “Interests” drop down menu at the top of the LinkedIn page, you can search for groups centered around the graphic design field and you can join most of them quite easily. By reading and participating in your group’s discussions you’ll be learning first hand from design professionals and you’ll begin to build your reputation as a contributor in your field.

5) Develop a web presence.  Whether you create your own website or create a free online portfolio on Behance, an online web presence is essential and provides a convenient way for future employers to view your work and determine if you have the talent and/or potential needed to work at their establishment.

6) Make sure your social media accounts are clean and drama free.  In a nutshell, keep the drama out. But don’t go overboard and feel as though you must hide your personality or interests. Your passions and individuality is what makes you, YOU. A potential employer will expect to see your personality when viewing you on social media. Simply refrain from rudeness, lewdness, and extremism which will wave HUGE warning flags to employers looking to avoid drama in their workplace.

7) Take advantage of internships – even FREE ones. Yes – you’ve graduated, but you still have a lot to learn. Agreeing to an internship – even if it’s not your ideal choice of a job – shows your willingness to learn. This is very important. I realize you will most likely have college loans to pay off and working for free may not be a viable option for you.  But you may be able to fit in a part time internship with your fast food restaurant job, or whatever job you are currently working while looking for permanent employment.  Working as an intern offers you a chance to learn in a professional environment and provides valuable experience you can add to your resume. And that experience may help you get hired faster. Consider this:

A small business owner may be on the fence about hiring a new employee, even part time. If you volunteer your time as an intern it’s a win-win for both of you. You’ll gain valuable on the job experience, and the employer gets the help he needs without having to commit to another salary. And if the employer does decide to hire someone later on, he or she will remember you and be more willing to hire you above other applicants if their experience with you was a positive one.

I speak from experience here because I just hired a part time employee who is also a recent college graduate. She was top of mind for me when I decided to hire someone because – you guessed it – she was my summer intern last year. I knew her work ethic, her ability, her personality and her potential so hiring her was basically a no-brainer.

8) Apply at temp agencies.  A temp job, just like an internship, could turn into full time employment. Let’s face it. A small business owner like me is notoriously cautious when it comes to hiring additional employees. Hiring a temp is less threatening to me, the small business owner, because A) I will quickly find out if I have enough work to support this employee and B) I am not committed long term if the employee doesn’t work out for whatever reason.

A good temp agency to apply to is “Creatives on Call”. Creatives On Call is a placement agency dedicated to matching creatives in design, digital, advertising, marketing and communications in temporary, freelance and permanent positions. It’s easy to sign up by posting your resume, skills and the type of position you are looking for. Two other similar agencies who cater to job seeking designers are Creative Circle and The Creative Group. Pick one, apply, and you’ll possibly find a direct link to your full time career.

Have I ever hired a temp, you may ask? Well, yes. As a matter of fact, I have. 8 years ago I hired a temp on a part time basis while I tried to determine if my current workload could support another employee. When her 90 day temp contract expired I offered her a permanent position at JMGA.  She is still with me –  full time – and she’s my top creative designer.

9) Keep your skill set sharp. The graphic design industry is CONSTANTLY changing. I suggest making yourself available to on-going training to stay sharp while you are looking for employment – and even after you have a job – because an artist who stays on top of industry standards and learns the nuances in software updates will be more desirable to his or her current and future employers. Whenever we have down time at the office I encourage my designers to engage in training online at There you will find online tutorials for almost every kind of software imaginable. For a monthly fee of $25 you can watch as many online tutorials as you want. Premium membership is $37.50 per month. With the premium membership you can download project files and work through them simultaneously as you watch the tutorials. There are also yearly membership options which are slightly better deals if you can afford to go that route. I buy a yearly subscription for the office and make it available to my designers. They use it quite often.

10) Never Stop Learning – Beyond your graphic design skills, look for ways to better yourself and make yourself more marketable to employers. Do you need to work on your time management or organizational skills? Do you have trouble with confidence, leadership skills or making wise financial decisions? Whatever your need you can find good informational resources out there. I suggest creating a discipline of reading one self-help book a month. (And if you have trouble implementing discipline in your life, make that the first topic you cover.)

Books I have read that I highly recommend are:

The Referral of a Lifetime by Tim Templeton. This book is the pinnacle of relationship marketing. A must read. Really.

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. This is recommended reading for anyone who has trouble dealing with change.

Networking is a Contact Sport by Joe Sweeney. This book shows you how serving others will expand your influence.

I am currently reading:

Getting Things Done by David Allen. I am learning the art of stress free productivity and looking forward to implementing his suggestions.

The next books I plan to read are:

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

Traction by Gino Wickmam

Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler

Create your own reading list and never stop learning.

Do you have any suggestions or comments on how to jumpstart a graphic design career? I would love to hear your thoughts.

March 2015 – Omega Music

Omega Music Ovation Guitars

Pictured above is a large selection of Ovation guitars, one of the many brands carried at Omega Music. – Photo Credit: Dinnius Photography

Music is a universal language. Music can reach across cultures, break language barriers, bridge generational gaps, express emotions, and heal broken hearts. Music can bring people together. For some people, it’s in their DNA.

Omega Music St. Louis

Mike encourages all music hobbyists to stop by his store, meet him and his family, and just stay and play for a while. – Photo Credit: Dinnius Photography

This describes Mike and Debbie Vorce, owners of Omega Music. Each has a music passion that began in their childhood years and has grown into their adult years.
Debbie fulfills her life’s calling as a music teacher, and playing the piano and clarinet. Mike’s love of music can be traced to his grandparents. Grandpa was a fiddler and grandma played the piano. Mike taught himself to play the piano and read music. Growing up, he learned to play the trumpet, baritone, and guitar. He’s played in country music bands as well as used his talent in his church. His career started as a music teacher, later switching to general education, and recently retiring. Owning a music store is the perfect outlet for Mike’s continued love of music. The decision to own the music store came about in a rather unique way.

Omega Music Logo

JM Graphic Arts Designed Omega Music’s Logo by combining a guitar pick with the Omega symbol

A few years ago, the couple drove past Hudson Music in Granite City, Illinois and noticed it was going out of business. That got them both thinking, “We’ve never owned a music store.” Then they wondered if it was something they could do together. Before you know it, papers were signed and empty space in a building owned by their son gave way to the home of Omega Music! The name of their store is a reflection of another important shared aspect of their life, their Christian faith. Jesus is known as “The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.” The couple liked the name “Alpha and Omega Music”, but realizing it’s a little long, they named their store “Omega Music”.

Mike's oldest son, Jonathan, manages the store and is a part owner of the business. - Photo credit: Dinnius Photography

Mike’s oldest son, Jonathan, manages the store and is a part owner of the business. – Photo credit: Dinnius Photography

With Debbie continuing to teach music in the school district, Mike’s focus is the music store. He believes he’s found the perfect balance between family and work. He enjoys being at the store where he can interact with his customers, encouraging them, and helping them make choices to pursue their music interests. He especially enjoys helping customers for whom music is more of a hobby than a profession. Time at the shop is time with his oldest son, Jonathan, who manages the store and is a part owner in the business. Continued renovations and expansion of the store have enabled Mike to be able to watch his grandchildren while at the store. Mike and Debbie make their home in the apartment above the store, which makes for a short commute for Mike!

Omega Music Guitars

The focus at Omega Music is primarily electric and acoustic guitars. Brands such as Ibanez, Ovation, and Charvel are the emphasis, but they do carry other brands. – Photo Credit: Dinnius Photography

The focus at Omega Music is primarily electric and acoustic guitars. Brands such as Ibanez, Ovation, and Charvel are the emphasis, but they do carry other brands. They also have a wide range of models available in the store from Chris Mitchell Guitars. This smaller, family owned company is based in Statesboro, Georgia. Mike, Debbie and Jonathon all know Chris and his wife personally and they can vouch for the quality of these American made guitars. Omega Music does special order instruments when needed.

Omega Music Accessories

Omega carries a variety of musical accessories in the store. – Photo credit: Dinnius Photography

Guitar accessories are a popular line carried by Omega. Special effects pedals, amps, strings, instruction books, magazines, and nearly any other guitar related accessory can be found at Omega. Minor to moderate instrument repairs are provided. In addition, classes for adults and children, beginners or experienced musicians are offered. Lessons cover a variety of instruments; guitar, bass, clarinet, saxophone, piano/keyboard, trombone, trumpet, drums, and even the ukulele!

Omega Music St. Louis

Lessons cover a variety of instruments; guitar, bass, clarinet, saxophone, piano/keyboard, trombone, trumpet, drums, and even the ukulele! – Photo Credit: Dinnius Photography

Omega Music’s family owned philosophy sets them apart from their competition. All employees take time with the customers. Their philosophy is “Come In and Play,” with their goal to make customers feel comfortable enough to come into the store and try out the merchandise, staying as long as they like. Mike believes excellent customer service and a good experience in the store will bring customers back – and it does.

Omega Music St. Louis

“Buying an old building in an older part of downtown Granite City and setting up shop might not make me rich, but it certainly is a labor of love and I am enjoying every minute of it,” states Mike. – Photo Credit: Dinnius Photography

“Buying an old building in an older part of downtown Granite City and setting up shop might not make me rich, but it certainly is a labor of love and I am enjoying every minute of it,” states Mike. He encourages all music hobbyists to stop by his store, meet him and his family, and just stay and play for a while. On Thursday nights you can also catch Mike and his wife Debbie during Open Mic night at Cool Beans Cafe located in Granite City just down the street from Omega Music.

JM Graphic Arts salutes Omega Music as their March 2015 Client of the Month and we wish them continued success in the future!

Contact Information
Omega Music, 2035 State St., Granite City IL
Phone: 618.709.7787
Hours of Operation: Open 10 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday. Closed on Sunday

Special Offers for March
• Higher end Ovation guitars, priced crazy low! So low they are going quickly with about a dozen still in stock.
• Guitar strings every day price is $4.99/pack.

February 2015 – SunCatchers Tanning and Skin Care

Suncatchers Tanning and Skin Care, Design Digest

What would lead Bob Jones, a video store owner in Collinsville IL, to becoming the very successful business owner of SunCatchers Tanning and Skin Care? A Suggestion, Education, and Inspiration!

When Bob was trying to decide what to do with the lower level of his video rental store, another business-owner suggested something interesting. Since a video store and the tanning industry have opposite peak-seasons on the business calendar, why not use the space as a tanning store? At first, Bob was completely opposed to the idea. He didn’t know anything about the tanning industry, and things he’d heard in the media were enough to worry him about lawsuits from customers. But the businessman who had made the suggestion warned him not to pay attention to the media, and instead do some research for himself to learn the truths about tanning. That’s exactly what Bob did.

Bob began to educate himself on tanning. He went to tanning training conventions, and read and researched all he could. He learned that the tanning industry was born in Germany in the early 60’s and was initially created to help the people in that area of Europe deal with health issues brought on by the poor and dreary weather patterns caused by the effects of the English Channel, and by local work conditions. A German doctor by the name of Mueller theorized that if the people in the area had more exposure to the sun’s rays, they would be healthier. He created a device called the “Health Bed” which exposed users to safe amounts of the rays that tan (A rays) vs. those rays that burn (B rays). However in order to attract more interest from the general public in his new invention, Mueller called it a “Tanning Bed”, rather than a “Health Bed.” Bob was surprised and motivated to learn all the positive effects of tanning for people’s health.   Education armed Bob with the security and driving push he needed.   That’s when he made the decision to open his own tanning business.

Suncatchers tanning and skin care

With a bit of imagination from Bob’s wife, Becky, the SunCatchers name was born, and they quickly trademarked it. Now Bob has been in business for twenty years, and SunCatchers Tanning and Skin Care has locations in Godfrey, Wood River, and Collinsville.

Bob is passionate about the health benefits of tanning, and firmly believes that the “Sun is a Healer.” And just as he educated himself about the positive effects of tanning, he makes it a mission to educate others.   He does this by making sure that all of his employees take “smart tan” tests online and complete mandatory writings about the benefits of tanning before they are allowed to counsel customers about the services they provide or the equipment they use.


And who benefits from such knowledgeable staff? Bob’s business appeals to a wide range of people, from high school kids to people in their late 70’s. All come to look and feel better, both physically and emotionally. Taking time out to tan provides an emotional “break” from the day, can scare away the “rainy day” and “winter blues,” not to mention the many people who tan to find relief and healing from skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis.


SunCatchers Tanning and Skin Care offers eleven levels of tanning covering all different complexions and needs. Their beds range from regular tanning beds all the way up to high pressure beds which tan deeper using mostly the A rays which tan, not the B rays which burn. It’s in these high pressure beds that Bob guarantees the “3 session tan.”

Suncatchers tanning, hydration station

They also have stand up tanning booths; VersaSpa spray tanning, and the “Hydration Station” which is oxyhydration for tanning. Hydration Station is the first system of its kind to offer tanning and self-tanning customers the ability to prepare their skin for accelerated tanning results, prolong the life of their tan, and protect skin from dehydration.

SunCatchers Tanning and Skin Care offers a “Lotion Bar;” featuring Body Butter brand natural products. They sell a wide variety of salon lotions in the store, only allowing high-end lotions to be used to preserve the integrity of acrylic in the tanning beds.

And because nothing looks better with a tan than a nice, bright smile, SunCatchers Tanning and Skin Care also offers teeth whitening and promises a brighter, whiter smile without a dentist in less than 30 minutes.

Edble Arrangements valentines

SunCatchers Tanning and Skin Care offers a monthly tanning special for $19.88. They have wonderful Valentine’s Day specials to look forward to, including coupons to use in one of Bob’s two Edible Arrangement stores, (located in Edwardsville and Collinsville.) Save money on a tanning package and save $5.00 on an edible bouquet! You also have a chance to enter a drawing to win a $99 Edible Arrangement Bouquet just by bringing your SunCatcher’s card into one of Bob’s Edible Arrangements locations. Now that sounds like a Happy Valentine’s Day to me!

Suncatchers 2015 valentines day specials

SunCatcher’s Tanning and Skin Care – Three Locations
(Monticello Plaza)
5745 Godfrey Rd., Godfrey, IL 62035  •  618-466-2786  (466-2SUN)

Wood River
1103 Acton Ave., Wood River, IL 62095  •  618-254-2786  (254-2SUN)

107 N. Bluff Rd. (Hwy 157), Collinsville, IL 62234  •  618-345-2786  (345-2SUN)

Edible Arrangements – Two Locations
1001 Century Drive, Edwardsville IL, 62095  •  618-656-2400

107 N. Bluff Rd. (Hwy 157), Collinsville, IL 62234  •   618-344-1100




Two additional websites that Bob recommends for people interested in the facts about tanning:;