Kelly Housholder, Birmingham-native and graphic design extraordinaire, never imagined she would turn her passion and skill for creativity into her dream job, but that’s exactly what she did.
Originally setting out into the world of pre-med, Kelly quickly realized her aspirations were elsewhere while interning at an obstetrics and gynecology clinic.
During her time there, Kelly worked with and drew inspiration from women of all ages, races, and walks of life. Little did she know, Kelly’s patients were influencing her future in a major way.
“At the end of the internship, I was inspired to make a painting,” Kelly said.“Instead of being inspired to cure ovarian cancer or learn how to deliver a baby, I was inspired to create a painting of a ‘universal woman.’ She was flowing with colors of all races, shapes, and sizes and embodied the heart and soul of each woman I saw during that 3-month internship.”
In the end, Kelly quickly recognized that she was made for the creative world, not the scientific.
After crying the whole way through Chemistry I, she switched majors and devoted herself to something new.
She chose to major in fine art and mixed media at Birmingham-Southern College, while also taking graphic design classes at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Kelly was able to experience a number of internships during college. One in particular, Scout Branding Company, gave her a job straight out of college.
A year later, Kelly moved away and married her husband.
Despite her apprehension, she decided to go forth as a freelance graphic artist.
With her newlywed husband in medical school, she was their sole means of income.
“Looking back, I’m like, ‘I’m crazy!’ ” Kelly said. “I don’t know if I would have done that again, but it worked out.”
After being given a start as a freelancer with various projects from her past job at Scout Branding Company and other contacts, Kelly said every client got her another client, “instead of advertising, it was really customer service and just doing good work.”
By taking on small, minor projects, she was able to build a client-base that later allowed her to tackle substantially bigger ventures.
“What I like to tell a lot of people that are starting out is that ‘you never know,’ don’t not take something, because it seems like a dead end,” Kelly said. “The smallest thing can turn out to be huge.”
As word spread about Kelly’s devotion to her work, her clientele expanded across the United States.
“I did work on a center for eating disorders here in Birmingham, and they had a freelance writer who they knew that lived in Houston,” Kelly said, “So I worked with her and about a year later she sent me this email about the magazine she worked for needing a web site.”
Kelly bid on the project, won it and has been working with the magazine ever since.
She also worked on a project with an account manager here in Birmingham, who later moved to New York.
“All of a sudden, I started doing work for Columbia University, so then I was working there!”
Kelly said about her nationally growing business. Kelly credits her relationships and connections with clients for her growth.
“There’s just so many things my internships and first job shaped for me,” Kelly said. “When you’re in school you don’t learn how to manage clients, you don’t even learn how to send anything to print, so if I had just tried to do freelance out of college I would have crashed.”
Despite her love for her clients, Kelly said her least favorite part of the graphic design industry is being hired as an expert in visual design and not being trusted.
“It’s hard sometimes,” Kelly said. “It’s kind of like going to the doctor and them saying, ‘you have strep,’ and you’re like ‘actually I think I have the flu.’”
In those kinds of situations, Kelly said that it is ultimately the client’s decision, but she goes down with a fight. By providing her clients with education on why she does something a certain way and why it works best, clients are usually more willing to relinquish control.
“People really respect that you’re invested and you want the best for them,” Kelly said. “I think if they know that, believe that, and trust that, then they trust you too.”
Presently, Kelly is the founder of design company, From Scratch Design.
Her portfolio displays a diverse array of clients and businesses, ranging from Columbia University to Birmingham’s own Abbeyluxe Shoe Boutique.
To add to her success, Kelly was honored with two Gold Addy awards at this year’s annual Birmingham Addys, a gala organized by the Birmingham Advertising Federation.
She earned this prestigious honor for her contribution to the Moss Rock Festival campaign, along with her stationary design for Oikon, a company that manages commercial real estate assets and enhances value for small businesses.
Aside from all her achievements, Kelly says the best part about her job is the flexibility, “I love being in control of my schedule.”
With her husband navigating the medical field and her mom fighting an unfortunate encounter with breast cancer last year, she is thankful for a career that allows her to take time off when she needs it.
“It’s not like it’s easier,” Kelly says. “I might have a day where I’m working 10 hours, but if I feel like going to the grocery store at 3:00 in the afternoon, I can.”
Kelly’s life as a freelance graphic artist has allowed her to not only be fulfilled with an inspiring career, but to also have time for her friends, herself, and her family.