I’m going to take some liberties and go a little fangirl over Jennifer Bourn of Bourn Creative. If you’ve ever heard her speak before, you’ll be nodding along with this. And if you haven’t, you definitely don’t want to miss her workshop at Prestige Minneapolis this August.
Jennifer Bourn is the award-winning founder, designer, and creative director of Bourn Creative, an innovative agency specializing in strategy, design, and development. She’s coached thousands of entrepreneurs on how to build better businesses, she’s a thought-leader in the industry, and to top it off, she’s also a genuinely nice person.
In May, she presented a free Branding hangout for Prestige that energized participants into action working on their own brands. (In case you missed it, you can check out our Branding hangout recap, including a video of her presentation.) At Prestige Conference Minneapolis, Jennifer will dive even deeper into the topic of branding, providing a hands-on workshop for our attendees to work through the process in-depth under her expert guidance.
Always a good sport, Jennifer sat down with us to answer a few questions so you can get to know her better before the event.
In 3 sentences or less, please describe what you do for a living
As a 17-year design veteran, I am the lead designer and digital strategist for Bourn Creative, a full service design studio in Sacramento, California that I co-own with my husband. I specialize in brand design and development, WordPress theme design, and a wide variety of graphic design services.
Why this career and not something else?
Never holding any other type of job, I have always been a designer. For a few years, I pursued a degree in electrical engineering, and constantly found myself dreaming and lusting for something more creative.
My thoughts continually drifted to the joy and freedom in expression and exploration I experienced when designing my high school yearbook (we were the first school to go digital with Photoshop & Pagemaker). I kept thinking, “If only I could do that for a living.” I was then introduced to design as a career, changed my major to graphic design, and never looked back.
Once you figured out where you wanted your career to go, how did you start making things happen?
I’ve always been driven. I am the messy creative scatterbrain wrapped in the type-A overachiever. When I changed my major, I sought out internships and completed 5 in my industry by the time I graduated. I also worked at a small advertising agency as a designer throughout college. A recruiter hired me into my first post-college job, then a client hired me to work for them directly.
When kids came into the mix, I quit agency life to found Bourn Creative and I called every person I knew to ask for work, referrals, and introductions. I also did quite a bit of networking.
What were some of the biggest roadblocks you encountered on your path to success?
The biggest roadblock have been resource availability and timing. Often the resources needed aren’t available exactly when you need them — this may be subcontractors, our own time, and capacity, funds (we’re a cash-only endeavor).
You and your husband co-own bourn creative. Can you share a bit what it’s like to put your strengths together in a business capacity?
As a designer married to a developer, the main benefit is obvious, but it goes deeper than that.
Like all good partnerships, we have different skills sets that compliment each others’ strengths and support each others’ weaknesses, and together we are stronger than we would be apart.
Married at 20 and 21, we built and experienced our entire adult lives together. We approach our personal life and running our household the same way we approach and run our business. We know what each other is thinking, how we’ll react to situations, and how best to communicate. We know when to push forward, when to fall back, and how to best support and elevate each other.
You’re very well-known in the wordpress community for your design and branding expertise. How do you view the relationship between design & branding?
A brand is everything others think about a business, product, service, or program. It’s their perceptions, feelings, and experiences. Your brand is your reputation in the market, what you’re known for.
Design is the visual application of the brand. It is a medium used to create or shift perception, to expand mindshare, to produce and cultivate feelings, to construct experiences, and initiate actions. Design gives a brand a visual reference to attach to memories and emotions and to help others recognize you, remember you, and refer you to others.
To design with purpose, you first must understand your brand, otherwise you’re just making pretty art. My workshop at Prestige Conference this August will focus on helping attendees gain brand clarity to they can take immediate, purposeful action to improve their perception, elevate their design, and build a solid reputation in the market.
Throughout your career and building your brand & reputation, who have been your most valuable mentors? How did you connect with them?
I have been lucky enough to have several mentors over the years. First, the director of the design program at Sacramento State, Gwen Amos, who was not only instrumental in my growth as a designer, but an amazing professor and friend.
Second, my first employer Jeanne Mabry who owned an advertising agency and has supported and loved me in every aspect of my life. She not only taught me an enormous amount about business and allowed me to dip my feet into every aspect of design and project management, but as a mother of three, showed me that I could achieve success on my own terms and create a great family life.
Today we are lucky to have amazing friends in the industry we can lean on for direction and guidance and value the impact they have had on our growth immensely.
What’s coming up next for you?
No big announcements for Bourn Creative coming up. We just keep our heads down and work constantly to improve our craft and serve our clients to the best of our abilities.
On the side, I am working on a personal project, where I’ll be sharing my insights on life, work, and being a working parent, my recipes, and our family adventures.
Any industry predictions for 2016?
I think we’ll see much less silo-ing of skillsets. I think we’ll see deeper integrations between strategy, design, and engineering. Instead of being viewed/approached as separate parts of the process, they will meld into each other, creating better, stronger end products.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
It’s summer, so I’m mainly reading trashy romance novels and murder mysteries by the pool. With that said, I’m working in “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley, “How the World Sees You” by Sally Hogshead, and “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull.
Favorite junk food? (even if you don’t eat it often)
Chocolate chip cookies, chocolate everything, chocolate… but no fruity chocolate I sneak to See’s Candies often
Name one thing you’re looking forward to for prestige conference minneapolis
So far, I’m really excited for the sessions announced and the speakers. But having attended Prestige in the past, what I’m most looking forward to is the intimate setting, the direct access you get to the speakers, and the opportunities for meaningful conversations that will help take our businesses further.