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Design alumnus chooses purpose over paycheck

November 4, 2016

Alumni Art Design Lasallian News Stories

Graphic design major Jeff Paul ’08 made the decision early in his career to work on projects he believes in, rather than simply for a paycheck.

As co-founder of Ligature Creative Group of Denver, Colo., Paul and his business partner Matt Meier made the conscious decision that they wouldn’t work for just anyone with a checkbook. The two made it their mission to “work with people who do good work.”

Their current client list includes nonprofits and organizations involved in arts, health and recreation, education, social change, and technology—work often geared toward social justice that Paul and Meier can be proud of supporting.

One of their challenges comes from the fact that their clients often are people who don’t have big budgets. Yet, he said, they are committed to their mission.

Today, the duo employ four others, and their firm has designed work for clients such as the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts.

Paul said the values they had in starting their business closely align with the Lasallian values instilled in him as a student at Saint Mary’s University. “I’m proud of where I went to school and to know that I’ve had some alignment with that way of thinking all along,” he said.

Paul became interested in graphic design when he was creating layouts for his high school newspaper. While at Saint Mary’s, he fell in love with photography and started his post-graduation career in that creative field. However, Paul found that his relationship with the art form changed when he was being paid for it and producing someone else’s vision, rather than his own.

He began focusing more on design and connected with Meier, a high school friend, who shared his dream of starting a business. Both were frustrated in positions they had had in the past and shared a vision about how they would do things differently.

Paul returned to the Winona Campus in September to speak to design students about what to expect after graduation.

“There is so much learning to do after you graduate,” Paul told them. “How do you prepare contracts, sell your work, manage client expectations … things you don’t consider that much in school, but they’re really important.”

Paul has kept in contact with his art professor, Preston Lawing, since graduating. “All professors at Saint Mary’s were very encouraging,” he said. “They were accommodating to my learning needs beyond what was offered in class as I took on extra credits in order to graduate one year early.”

And he is thankful for the liberal arts education he received at Saint Mary’s. “The benefit of a liberal arts college is you can take classes outside of design, such as psychology and science,” he said. “I came out of Saint Mary’s as a well-rounded individual and potential employee.”