When Meredith Moore moved to Lexington three years ago to take a job as a graphic artist with Lexmark, she knew virtually nothing about the local environment for graphic designers, artists and other creative professionals.
Today, she probably knows more than anybody.
That’s because two years ago she founded the Shift Design Group, a professional networking organization where designers in Lexington come together to collaborate, discuss ideas and talk about jobs currently available in the Lexington market. Since then it has become an important professional organization for graphic artists in the Lexington area.
“The group is aimed at people working right here in Lexington,” Moore said. “We are trying to provide as much education as we can to local artists with the hopes that in the process we can expand the amount of creative people in the area.”
Shift Design Group has a website for the group, which keeps local designers and artists apprised about upcoming events. The group currently holds monthly meet-ups — normally at a local restaurant or bar — as well as professional events and training opportunities. The site also contains a job postings section featuring design jobs available in the Lexington area.
Moore said while there are many full-time jobs in the graphic design field, many professionals support themselves working as freelance graphic artists, doing contract work with multiple companies. Often it is difficult to know which companies have work available unless the artist happens to have a personal contact with a particular business, she said.
“Many small businesses don’t have a good way to connect with local talent, because they aren’t using them on a regular basis,” Moore said. “We’re hoping that we can provide some assistance with bringing the designers and the business together.”
Realizing that success in the profession depends on more than just creative ability, Shift also seeks to educate designers on the business side of their affairs. To that end, the group has held a series of Q & A sessions on everything from intellectual property law to tax compliance.
“We’re trying to provide designers any type of tool that could make them more successful,” Moore said. “Sometimes that involves teaching a new type of skill, but it can also deal with the business side of things.”
Recently Shift Design teamed with the Lexington chapter of the American Advertising Federation to organize a creative agency tour in which participants were able to visit the operations of seven Lexington firms that utilize and hire graphic artists for their operations.
In addition to networking, the group also promotes training and educational opportunities. This is especially important in the graphic design field, Moore said, where professionals must constantly update their skills to coincide with the latest technologies and software that companies are using.
Last summer, for example, the group held classes at the Lexington Public Library teaching the basics of computer coding and database management as it pertains to graphic design.
“Skills like coding are becoming more and more important in the design field, either for review or for people learning it for the first time,” Moore said. “We’re hoping to do some more classes for software programs and things like that in the future, because designers always need to keep up with the latest software and technology.”
Moore, who grew up in Alabama and attended the Savannah College of Art and Design, said she decided to start Shift Design Group after moving to Lexington shortly after graduation. She said Savannah had a thriving artistic and creative community and she was worried she might have trouble finding people with similar interests in Lexington.
She said the people she has met through the Shift Design Group have put those fears to rest.
“Let me just say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the creative community here,” Moore said. “Lexington has a very thriving creative community, and it seems to be growing. There are a lot of people who want to do design, and I’m hoping that that encourages other creative types to come here.”