The Design Business Show 142: Thoughtful Design Ideas from MJ with Big Ears Creative

Director : Melissa Burkheimer | June 1, 2021

Big Ears Creative is a digital design studio that specializes in branding and website design for small businesses who are ready to elevate their brands with thoughtful design.

On episode 142 of The Design Business Show, I talked with it’s founder, MJ about her Thoughtful Design process. Here’s what we covered on the episode:

MJ’s Switch From Accounting to Design

  • How MJ and I connected through Instagram and how I asked her to be on the podcast to share her story and discuss what design means to her
  • Before getting into design, MJ worked as an accountant for 5 years in a retail design agency, which was in the design environment, so she was familiar with how the work was done
  • During her five years as an accountant, MJ was working towards her CPA designation, so she read a lot of business books, went to a lot of seminars, took classes and exams – she shares that her specialty was performance management
  • MJ shares that her work in accounting was fun, but that she never felt fulfillment, so she looked inward to discover who she was and what she wanted to do
  • While MJ was figuring out what she wanted to do, she tried many things, including dog walking, she then tried graphic design, which she taught herself how to do and illustration
  • Last year MJ decided to take graphic design courses at a local college and says it has been very helpful and because of what she’s learned, she started her own business this year
  • MJ explains how her accounting journey and skills have helped her in her design business today
  • How MJ started taking on projects last year before she had a legitimate website and says she finally built up her brand design website this year
  • When deciding if you should teach yourself graphic design or go back to school to learn it, MJ’s advice is to see who you are and think about what way is best for you to learn
  • The story of how MJ found her first client on Craigslist; she was a singer/songwriter in NYC who wanted to use her talent to send songs, covers or originals to those affected by Covid-19, so she needed a person to build her brand and website
  • We discuss the courage it took to start a business, in a new field during a global pandemic
  • While MJ was teaching herself graphic design, she explains that she was still employed by the retail design agency where she was working as an accountant and says that it took a lot of work to do both
  • MJ says her original plan was to leave her job in April of 2020 and go all in with her design business but when covid hit she thought she might have more time to prepare herself for her career change, so she kept her job and started exploring how to build her design business while working from home

Imposter Syndrome + Mental Health as a Designer

  • How MJ struggled with imposter syndrome after being an accountant and then switching to design, which held her back
  • MJ shares that she was in an abusive relationship in her early 20’s and says that before the relationship she was very into the artistic world but after the relationship ended she didn’t want to be creative anymore and didn’t know how to build relationships with others
  • How that relationship impacted MJ’s decision to do accounting and shares that it took her a long time to come out of her shell again and wants to share with people going through similar situations that she received a lot of help from her personal therapist
  • When MJ started coming out of that negative relationship she realized there was a lot of potential with what she wanted to do and says her mental health played an important part in her being able to get out of her comfort zone
  • MJ shares that her goal is to help female entrepreneurs or anyone else who has gone through a negative experience feel better and help them connect with others and says people can do that through design

MJ’s Approach Through Thoughtful Design

  • Growing up, MJ was very thoughtful and says she has always cared about how others feel, which was her inspiration for what she calls, Thoughtful Design
  • MJ’s Thoughtful Design process represents who MJ is and says she can use being thoughtful in helping clients build brands by taking the time to really get to know them personally and also getting to know how they want to be known
  • Currently, MJ offers brand identity packages and a web design packages, and says her primary focus is on female entrepreneurs, small business owners who want to elevate their branding through her personal Thoughtful Design
  • How MJ wants all her clients to feel comfortable with her and shares some of the fun ways she gets to know her clients
  • Many people suffer from imposter syndrome no matter where they are in their journey so MJ shares a book that helped her a lot called, Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
  • Connect with MJ on Instagram, or take a look at her website
  • MJ shares the meaning behind her business name, Big Ears Creative

Links mentioned:

Big Ears Creative

Steal Like an Artist 

Connect with MJ on Instagram


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