Success Story:
AWAI Graphic-Design Grad Dennis Rome

Dennis Rome is a graduate of the AWAI Graphic Design course. He lives in a small town near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he works as a computer consultant while building his new career as a graphic designer.

TGT: Tell us something about your interest in graphic design.

DR: I didn't have any formal training, but my interest started when I first began using Microsoft Word. I started out playing around with different fonts. I found out I enjoyed making my documents look interesting. Then I got Publisher. After playing around with formatting and design for a while, I knew I was hooked.

TGT: What attracted you to the AWAI Graphic Design course?

DR: My surge of interest in graphic design coincided with my decision to eventually leave my job as a computer consultant. To be honest, I was getting tired of the constant demands on my time and having to work according to everyone else's schedule. I was really eager to make a change in my life.

When I read about the AWAI course, I thought that this might be my ticket to a new career. At that time, I didn't think I had enough skills … but I learned differently once I started the course.

I learned that good graphic design isn't so much about using fancy software as it is knowing a few important, core secrets of design that attract people's attention and help make the sale. I also learned that I love doing graphic design for direct mail. Maybe because it can be so lucrative.

TGT: Tell us how you landed your first assignment.

DR: I was lucky enough to get to know Bob Bly (who I think is the best in DM) through my contact with AWAI. Shortly after I contacted him, he called me with an assignment.

TGT: That's amazing! What was the assignment?

DR: Bob is putting together a series of e-books based on some of his articles. My first assignment was to design the cover and layout of the first one. Bob must have liked my work on that first assignment, because he then gave me six more assignments. And those six have led to two more.

I'm also doing work on a couple of other assignments from Bob … and he has referred me to two other clients.

TGT: How did it feel to get your first project … especially since it came from such a renowned copywriter?

DR: The phone fell out of my hand when he called! I was thrilled to get the work, of course. But I have to admit, I was a little uneasy working for one of "the masters." I was more than pleasantly surprised at what a nice person Bob is and, most importantly, how helpful he has been to my success.

TGT: What are your future plans?

DR: I'm going to keep working as a computer consultant for now. I do my graphic-design work on nights and weekends, but I know that will change soon. I'll decrease consulting as my graphic-design work increases. Then, as soon as my new business is generating enough money, I'm going to say "goodbye" to computer consulting … for good.

TGT: What advice would you give other AWAI students?

DR: First off, study the course well. There's a great deal of information in the materials. This information will turn you into a top graphic designer.

Second, get the books listed at the back of the course. They're a goldmine of information and ideas. Also, don't feel like you have to go out and spend tons of money on high-end software or fancy equipment. I do all my work with Word, Publisher, and Adobe Acrobat Professional.

Next, be willing to start small, like I did. You'd be surprised by how quickly the smaller assignments grow into larger ones. Starting small helps build your confidence and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed. You'll be successful with these initial projects and that will give you a good start on your portfolio.

Finally, make that first step. If you're afraid about going out on your own, work through that fear. Don't give up. Success will come, but you have to be willing to work for it … and wait for it.

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Published: July 12, 2004

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