Career Profile Creativity Design

8 questions with Jana Baecker, freelance graphic designer

Name: Jana Baecker  /  Age: 27  /  Location: Duluth, MN  /  Current Title: Freelance Graphic Designer at JanaHeartsDesign  /  Educational Background: BFA, Graphic Designer, University of MN, Duluth and MFA, Sustainable Design, MCAD

Let’s start from the beginning. How did your interest in design come about?

Upon graduation from high school, I actually did not want to pursue an art major. I have always enjoyed creating art, but I didn’t quite know how to combine my passion with an actual career.

At the time, I wanted to study art history, because everything about art fascinates me. However, I was going to take a year to study abroad in the United States first in order to perfect my English speaking and writing skills.

Thus, I applied for a student visa and moved to Rochester, MN, where I was able to live with my cousin while attending a local community college. I decided to take some art and design classes, because the graphic design program interested me the most out of all the programs they offered. Little did I know that I was going to love the world of graphic design so much that I would stay in the United States to complete my BFA at the University of Minnesota Duluth. (Side note: I also met my husband Freshman year and we got married my Junior year of college, which certainly made the decision to stay in the United States easier.)

After you graduated from college, what did you pursue next in your career?

After graduating from UMD, my husband and I went to live in Germany for a year, since he had never been and he wanted to truly get to know the culture and country I am from. While we were in Germany, I got an internship at an advertising agency, because I wanted to gain experience in my field. I ended up working there for about 6 months and I learned a lot. There is something about actually working in the field rather than just designing during your studies. You learn so much.

After a year, we moved back to the United States, as I had gotten a graphic design job in Brainerd, MN. A few months into my new job, I also decided to pursuit a Masters degree in Sustainable Design. The practice of sustainable design has always interested me, but I didn’t know how to functionally implement that into my daily graphic design work and I wanted to learn how to do so. For the past two years, my hobby has been my Masters degree, because that’s what I was working on every time I was not working.

“I think every person is creative in their own way. Everyone just expresses it differently.”

I just recently graduated with my Masters. During my studies and while working full time, I also had two beautiful baby boys. I had to work full time, while my husband balanced the stay–at–home life while also finishing his masters in counseling, to be able to pay for my studies, because I did not want to have any student loan debt upon completion of my degree. Now that I am done, I have been able to stop working full time, so I can have more time with my kids, while they are little. It all goes by so fast, I don’t want to feel like I am missing everything. Luckily, graphic design is something you can do from home, so I now work as a freelancer.

Below is an example of a project I completed during my time at MCAD:

What does a day in your life look like?

I usually get up very early to work out, because it is easier to work out when my sons are not awake yet. Anyone who has kids, or just enjoys peace before the day starts, will understand that. I am used to getting up early as I previously started working at 5:30 am. Then I try to get some work done before my boys get up. On a good day, I have about an hour, before they wake up.

When the boys are awake I spend time with them. I try to fully and mindfully enjoy every moment I have with them, because I feel like I missed a lot when I was working full time. We often go to the zoo or we go to various playgrounds or the library.

Their nap time in the afternoon is my second work part of the day. On a good day, I can get another 2-3 solid hours of work in while they nap. When they are awake we play or go for a walk together. My oldest really enjoys exploring nature when we are on a walk.

If needed, I also work again in the evening once my husband is home from work. I don’t do that every day, as I also want to have time with him. He doesn’t work on Fridays, so on Fridays I have one full work day and I try to squeeze in another few hours of work on the weekend while the boys nap.

Through my new set up, I truly feel like I have the perfect work-life balance, because I don’t miss time with my boys, but I also get to work, which I enjoy and love.

What tips do you have for managing your work day successfully?

For me, organization and prioritization is everything. I have to make sure I give my full attention in the moment that I am in, since I don’t have many hours of the day to work. I have to set myself daily to-dos and try to stay away from anything that could distract me while I work, such as my phone (text messages, Instagram, Facebook etc.).

Does creativity come easily, or is it something you have to work at?

I think every person is creative in their own way. Everyone just expresses it differently. I, for one, get inspired by nature, because it has answers to many of our design problems. This is something I learned in my Masters program.

What is your advice to those who may be struggling to find their passion in life? 

Take as many internships as you can. Especially if you are unsure about what you want to pursue in life. Internships open doors as you meet people and get to know industries and businesses. And never stop exploring! There is always something to learn and new to discover.

“For me, organization and prioritization is everything. I have to make sure I give my full attention in the moment that I am in.”

Do you have any favorite apps?

I honestly do not have many apps that I use. Mostly because I don’t have space on my phone, since I take a lot of pictures and videos of my kids. However, I do love Instagram, because as a visual person, I like that you can easily share your work or daily adventures in a beautiful little squared picture.

What is your guilty pleasure? 

My current guilty pleasure is the show Scandal. I like to choose shows to “binge watch” that I haven’t seen at all, so that I have a lot of episodes to watch and I don’t have to wait for a new season to come out. I don’t watch TV in front of my kids, so I watch it while I work out or do the dishes.

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  • Reply
    Karen Gran
    August 4, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Thank Jana for sharing with us. Balancing family and work is sometimes very difficult, but like you said being organized and prioritizing will help.

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