I’ve been working with elements of web design and graphic design since my days working for James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. Really, I didn’t think my job had anything to do with design, but I was kind of thrown into the deep end and basically told “so, this is part of your job now.” First with web design, and then with graphic design. Thankfully I had employers who pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me the tools to learn what I needed to. I dove in, learned what I could, and really, I haven’t looked back. I even ended up working on a committee to give our division a more unified visual presence online. That is where I was first introduced to standards based HTML and CSS, and where my design skills were really put to the test, coming up with the branding and overall look and feel for the division.
In 2003, I had a baby and decided I would leave JMU to stay home with him. During that time I started taking photos. At first it was just a hobby I enjoyed, but I found myself suddenly moved into the realm of art photography when someone saw some of my photography on my personal website, and asked that most magical of questions, “How much would you charge?” Once again, kind of pushed out of my comfort zone, I went from designing a web page for an office, to learning how to design a web page for my own business, and prepare branding and graphics to market that business. Print work, web design, graphic design - all my previous work started to come together and take a new form.
Fast forward to 2007, and after having just done a redesign on my photography website, I was contacted by a good friend from school who was impressed by my work, and asked if I’d like to work for his firm, Blue Fish Design Studio. I was over the moon, and of course, I said, “Yes!” Finally, I was getting to do design professionally, and get paid for it! I learned so much during the 4 years that followed. Again, blessed with an employer that really challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone, I began delving into grid frameworks, social media, Content Management Systems like Joomla! and ExpressionEngine, as well as some WordPress, and yes, lots and lots of print work. Business cards, brochures, rack cards, event tickets, magazine ads, postcards, gift certificates - pretty much anything you can think of.
In 2011, my boss took a full time job with EllisLab (the makers of ExpressionEngine), which meant it was time for the baby bird to test her wings and leave the nest. Which is how J. Brooke Chao Designs was born. It’s been a long and winding road, but I can look back and see how every step has brought me closer to where I am now, and how I’ve grown as a designer. I’m excited to see what the future holds, both in new growth and in opportunities to take on interesting and challenging projects!
So, whether you’re looking for a local graphic designer or web designer in Harrisonburg, VA, or you’re anywhere else in the country, and simply need a designer you can work with who will give individualized care to your branding, website or other design project, drop me an email! I can’t wait to meet you!
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