EJ Design Firm: Seeing design in everything, everywhere
Take a moment and look at the composition of your telephone keypad. Or look in the sky and observe the clouds. Many people view these things as merely objects. With an artists' eye, Erin Ellis envisions so much more. Erin Ellis
Take a moment and look at the composition of your telephone keypad. Or look in the sky and observe the clouds. Many people view these things as merely objects. With an artists' eye, Erin Ellis envisions so much more.
"I believe that graphic design is an art form, and the inspiration of design expands beyond the edges of the earth. I am inspired by the work of others, and research other design elements. I can flip through a magazine and see a color palette that inspires me, look at a catalog and study shapes. The inspiration of design is everywhere," Ellis said.
It was Ellis's passion for design that gave birth to EJ Design Firm, which specializes in design, print and interactive media. Ellis, the CEO, works with clients such as the University of Minnesota (College of Liberal Arts), Anika International, Nubi Company, Banneker Finance and B96 Radio (DJ Phat). Additionally, Ellis works full-time for TCF Bank, where she is the only African-American on the graphic arts design team.
Just as she envisions the dynamic of color or the pattern of shapes, Ellis envisioned success. Nine years ago, recruiters from The Art Institute International Minnesota visited Fridley High School. Ellis, in her junior year at the time, took interest in the information offered on the graphic design program.
"Almost immediately I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do," said Ellis. "What interested me most was the thought of seeing my work around Minnesota and one day the world." For a start, how about images on a city bus that actually depict a family of color? "I am most proud of the first piece I designed for TCF, which was the graphic which was on the front of the Metro Transit buses, as well as my first POS (point of sale) Consumer Lending campaign, 'Life Happens.' And yes, I did represent and place an African-American couple on the campaign materials. I thought, 'Why not, we serve all types of customers at TCF, so it's about time we had a campaign for African-Americans; we need loans too!'"
Ellis attended The Art Institute International Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in graphic design in March 2007. However, Ellis started her career while she was still in school, when she began freelancing in her sophomore year. Her father encouraged her to take advantage of her graphic design skills.
"My father told me 'Why wait if you have a skill that others do not; it's never too early to take advantage of what you can do,' and that prompted me to start EJ Designs, which turned into EJ Design Firm," Ellis explained.
A professor suggested that she schedule an informational interview with the TCF Bank marketing department. Within a few months the Vice President of Marketing offered Ellis a position, and she continues to work at TCF Bank two years later. She doesn't credit her skills and abilities as the final deciding factor in the job offer, and for the two years she has successfully worked at the bank.
"I am happy to be the first African-American graphic designer at TCF Bank! God is good! This job has been an answer to prayer, and God is continually opening doors for me. As long as I am in his will I can't go wrong; amen! A lot of people who are successful tend to forget who got them there, but I feel I owe all of what I have accomplished back to God. He's the only one who opened the door and will continue opening doors for me for years to come," said Ellis.
While working as the only African-American in her department, Ellis realizes that corporate America in general presents challenges. Ellis reflects on a career development class where the professor encouraged the class to challenge themselves. Her personal challenge raised the question, "How do I earn the