Founder of Diamond D Graphics, Susan Davis kindly answered some questions about the business she set up that uses her graphic design skills to turn out business cards, websites, stallion flyers, letterheads, logos, brochures, ad design and much more, all relating to horses.
Have you always been interested in horses and when did you start out in graphic design?
I was born in love with horses and drew pictures of horses all the time. As an adult I have bred and raised American Paint Horses for 30 years. I went back to school at nights for graphic design in 1998 at the age of 43.
I had been working as a secretary up to that point in my life. My boss at the time died of liver cancer in 8 weeks and that spurred me to follow my passion of art and change my career. I also started Diamond D Graphics that same year. But I didn’t quit my secretary job and go full time with Diamond D Graphics until 2002.
How much of your day/week is related to horses?
Pretty much 24/7! ha ha. I live on a paint horse farm and raise paint horses plus my graphic design business is based around horses. The majority of my clients are horse businesses or related to the horse in some way, like cowboys or western artists.
As a graphic designer focused on equines, is it possible for someone to be a full time professional, earning a livable income?
Yes, you can make a living being an equine graphic designer. It’s a nitch market, but like any profession, there is a high amount of competition in the field. In 10 years of working on building my business I am just now to the point where I make enough to support my lifestyle of living on my horse ranch. So it does not happen quickly.
What are the general steps taken to be qualified to provide this service for a fee?
You have to know horses inside and out. I’ve grown up with horses, have shown horses and raised and sold foals all of my adult life. So I know what an ideal horse confirmation should look like in many breed types. Because of this, I know which pictures show off each horse to his best for marketing purposes.
My graphic design services are here to help my client market their horses and get results and that can only be done if I know how to show off their horses to their best ability. Including focusing and showing off that horse’s best attributes. If the horse has a fault in their confirmation, I know it and do not use pictures that show their faults, only pictures that show off their assets. I also have studied pedigrees of horses for 30 years and can talk to clients about their horse’s bloodlines and be knowledgeable about their breeding.
Customers like that I know their horse’s bloodlines and are familiar with the spelling of those horse’s names. Knowing horse “talk” with words as simple as “broodmare” are important to my customers. I have to know the horse business inside and out.
Then of course I have to be artistic and have the knowledge of the computer software to create beautiful works of art using horse photography and my own creative skills. I have spent years perfecting my artistic ability using Adobe Photoshop software. I also am constantly learning new techniques with ongoing study and training of the software.
One more thing that is important is to have people skills and be positive. I have an outgoing personality so it is easy for me to visit with customers about their marketing goals and always with a positive outlook.
To own your own business, no matter what that business might be, you have to have passion. Passion is what drives you to suit up and show up to run your business every day. Owning your own business is a 24/7/365 a day deal. You need this to be successful in running a business.
Any advice for those interested in pursuing graphic design?
Get a good education in graphic design. Practice your computer skills constantly. Get a job working as a graphic designer for a company first.
I worked for an advertising company for a year before going full time at home with my business. I learned alot at that job which gave me the confidence to go home and be a full time graphic designer. Plus you see if you like the job. Working for a company is great too. You get a regular paycheck. You won’t have a regular paycheck with your own business.
Is there anything else with horses you’d love to learn about or try?
I’m learning how to throw a rope right now. That is new for me. I work with so many cowboy entertainers, I thought it would be fun to try a new skill. My favorite activity though is trail riding on my paint mare Jewels. This is my mental relaxation time and I love this more than anything.
Favourite horse memory?
That is a tough question. I am a competitor and love to show my horses. I won a World Championship title back in 1982 at the Pinto World Show with my yearling halter gelding. That was a memory. I showed a yearling pinto stallion in 2006 to the #1 Amateur Halter Horse in the Nation. Another great memory.
I raised both of these horses, so that makes it extra special. I also raised my #1 Paint Broodmare Spoiled Fancy who just in the last two years is on the Leading Dam’s List for Paint Broodmares and that put myself on the Leading Breeders List for Paint Horses. That’s a huge accomplishment. And one I never thought I would attain! But really the best memory of all is whenever I’m riding on my mare Jewels on a wooded trail somewhere enjoying my horse and the beauty of nature.
Showing my new 2008 buckskin overo paint stud colt next year. He’s beautiful. Keep growing my graphic design business. I just recently hired an office manager and another web designer. So my business is growing.
Best thing about your sport/profession?
The people I get to meet showing my horses and working with my graphic design clients. I have graphic design customers all across the United States and Canada. I travel as much as I can to meet my customers in person. My #1 customer is Singer/Songwriter Michael Martin Murphey, and through working for him, I get to meet famous movie stars and entertainers. I’m racking up lots of cool memories working for him.
“The horse is a creature who sacrifices his own being to exist through the will of another…he is the noble conquest of man.” – Buffon