Graphic designer Jill Means is a longtime member of our Minted community—she entered her first design challenge way back in 2010. She lives in Lodi, Calif., with her husband Scott and their five children—Sydney (18), Ali (16), Connor (15), Ryan (13), and Natalie (9) [ see photo 1 below ]. Each of her kids has caught the design bug in their own way, including daughter Ali, who has submitted several of her own pieces to Minted’s challenges. To celebrate Mother’s Day, we chatted with this Minted mother-daughter duo to talk about balancing work and family, fostering creativity in your children, and what the Means kids are planning to do for Mom this Mother’s Day (so sweet!).
Jill, you’re a longtime Minted designer—how did you first hear about us?
Jill: I had been recommending Minted to people who approached me to do their wedding invitations and other stationery projects that I didn’t have time to take on. One day, I was browsing Minted’s website and thought, “Maybe I should submit something for a design challenge—just for fun!” Now more of my income comes from stationery design than my corporate design.
How do you balance work and family time?
Jill: This is the question I get most often. It’s never perfect. Sometimes I’m scrambling to meet a deadline or working on a school project with the kids late into the night. My husband is very supportive and my kids have become very self-reliant in ways to allow me to work more. They also know that the extra income I make allows us take some fun family trips!
Right now I try to get most of my designing done from my home office while the kids are at school. After school, we have a lot of sports and activities happening (usually at the same time!); then, I sometimes do more work at night. I don’t work on Sundays, which gives me a day to breathe and plan for the week ahead. My family and faith always come first, but design is something I just can’t quit, no matter how busy my life gets. It’s a part of me, I’d do it even if I wasn’t paid for it.
Is your mother also design-oriented? Does it run in the family?
Jill: My mom isn’t a designer, but she is creative in different ways. She’s a retired teacher and has always encouraged me in every thing I do. I credit her as my first client. When I was very young, around five years old, she asked me to draw a banana tree for a project she was working on. I didn’t even know what a banana tree looked like—I think my drawing looked like an apple tree with bananas instead of apples. But when I handed her my illustration, she told me how wonderful it was and what an amazing artist I was becoming. I believed her and have had confidence in my artistic skills ever since.
It sounds like several of your children have inherited your design genes! Please tell us more.
Jill: Yes! I’m teaching Sydney a little bit of photography, Ali does hand lettering and painting, and Connor comes up with ideas for designs. He sketched out the concept for my Candy Cane Banner holiday-party invitation [ 2 ], I executed it in Illustrator, and it won second place in a Minted challenge! I shared the prize money and commission with him! My son Ryan is taking a graphic design class at school and Natalie does a lot of drawing (mostly of dolphins!), so they’ve all caught the design bug in some way.
Do you and Ali work on projects together?
Jill: Right now Ali is busy with school, sports, and activities so she isn’t doing a lot of her own work, but she paints a lot of the backgrounds and elements I’ve used in my designs [ 3 & 4 ]. Ali painted the background in my “School of Fish” classroom valentine [ 5 ] and right now she’s doing some lettering, watercolors, and paper marbling for some holiday designs I’m working on this month.
Ali, what grade are you in? And what’s your favorite subject?
Ali: I’m a junior at Tokay High School and my favorite subjects in high school have been AP Environmental Science, Ceramics, and French.
What careers are you considering once you’re done with school?
Ali: I would really like to follow my mom’s footsteps as a graphic designer. I’m so glad she started teaching and encouraging me early so I can feel more prepared and confident as I pursue design!
Jill, how do you encourage creativity in your own children?
Jill: I try to teach them that creativity is not something you have or you don’t, it’s a skill you learn and develop your whole life. Creativity is more than just art, it’s a way of thinking, whether it’s approaching a challenge, staying on a budget, or packing a suitcase. We also try to do new things and go new places to give them lots of experiences to fill their “creativity bucket.”
Ali, how does your mom inspire you?
Ali: She is always striving to help and make time for me and my four other siblings. Her love and dedication is something I really try to emulate. She’s understanding, funny, beautiful, and my best friend. I love her designs and she has really helped me to appreciate simplicity and balance in art.
What are you and your siblings doing for your mom for Mother’s Day?
Ali: On Mother’s Day, me and my siblings wake up early to prepare a yummy breakfast with my dad that we enjoy as a family. Everyone makes cards and little gifts to make her feel special and appreciated.
Most important thing/best advice you learned from your mom?
Ali: One of the most important things my mom has taught me is to set goals and focus on priorities. She works hard and makes sure to spend her time meaningfully with our family. She carefully plans her projects and work hours in a way that suits her and our family. Some of that time is also spent teaching and helping me to become a better designer—it’s a time I cherish and will remember.
More from Jill Means:
• Jill’s Minted Store
• Crash Course Creative (Jill’s blog)
• “Candy Cane Banner” holiday-party invitation [ 2 ]
• “School of Fish” classroom valentine [ 5 ]
Photos: All courtesy of Jill Means and Minted
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