Rushing back and forth between home and work and putting in 16-hour days on a regular basis may sound insane, but this is what keeps Maya Muller creatively fueled and engaged in her work. Maya shares her time between Lower Columbia College, where she’s Graphic Designer Senior, and her own company, Muller Design Studio, where her role as Principal allows her to choose the projects that most appeal to her.
We catch up with Maya to learn about the differences and similarities between her two graphic design jobs, how she makes it all work, and the influence of MacGyver on her approach to work.
What is your current company name and job title? If you’ve changed titles since you started at your company, what was your job title when you started?
I’m currently working two positions. I’m the Graphic Designer Senior at Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington, where I’ve worked since October 2012 and I’m also the principal at Muller Design Studios. I started Muller Design Studios in 2005 and it’s fluctuated since then. At our height we had three full-time designers, now we’re down to one. We did everything in print and web design, but my background is in print, so my goal is to get back into focusing solely on print.
What is a typical day like on the job for you?
I’m at college by 8, where I deal with all of print design and promotional projects for various departments, class schedules, catalogues, graphics for web, posters, etc.
Whenever I get a chance I return home for lunch, make phone calls and send proofs to clients, run back to work, work on more stuff at college, and after work I come home and switch hats back to Muller Design work again.
I’d say, considering the work I do on weekends as well, I spend eight hours doing work for the college and an average of eight hours on my business each day.
Not all of it is true design, since as the owner I have to do payroll, invoicing for clients, etc. It’s kind of a mixed bag.
What are your favorite aspects of your job? What are the things you would change if you could?
My favorite aspect is solving problems. At the core, that’s what graphic design does is solve problems like how to promote something or get info out to the community. I love coming up with a creative solution within a client’s budget, being able to MacGyver something together.
I never really enjoyed the web aspect of it, because the technology changes daily and it’s a moving target and out of my comfort zone. It’s a lot nicer to go back to a one-person shop so I can really focus on the types of projects I like.
My goal is to keep the full-time job because it’s stable and has good benefits, while doing a little design on the side, maybe two or three hours, lowering the stress level. I don’t get the same satisfaction working for someone else, so I need the blend of the two just to keep sane.
What did you study in college? How does your major relate to your current position?
I studied graphic design. I set out to be a graphic designer 20 years ago and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. My first job was at the Oregon State U bookstore in the print shop and I eventually ended up heading up the advertising department. I eventually got more degrees and diplomas, but it’s all been design related.
What advice would you give to college students who are interested in working in your field?
Things have changed a lot since I first started out. Back in the dark ages, as I like to say, when I was a student, computers still weren’t being used and they were telling us nothing was going to change. Then a year later, they got a huge technology endowment and everything switched over to computers. So you never know!
Design is kind of a lifelong learning thing. You have to keep learning new technologies because it’s always going to be changing.
Because of the recession, you might see employers that expect people to wear a lot of hats and look for someone to do social media, graphic design, advertising, marketing, etc. It’s been my experience that I’ve rarely met people who can do everything, but it’s definitely best to learn as much as you can and develop your skills in multiple areas.
If you can get an internship, I highly recommend it. It’s highly beneficial to the employer and the student.
Homework time! Maya has found that working both full-time and freelance is the best way to maintain productivity and passion for her profession. Has your job search focused only on finding one full-time position or have you thought about combining one job with some kind of freelance work or side hustle? Take some time to think about what your ideal working environment is like. If you’re not sure, check back over the next few weeks since we’ll be publishing several posts on how you can decide what type of company or working situation is best for you.