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Meet Smyrna Graphic Designer & Photographer: Elena Maas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elena Maas.

Elena, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I came to America at the age of 19, not knowing what to do with my future. I started taking random college classes and a drawing class was the class that showed me that I needed to do something with art and design. I very quickly managed to apply to the Art Institute of Philadelphia, went back to Germany to apply for a student visa and started my journey in art. Running out of money (as an international student it is not as easy to received financial aide), I transferred back to a Community College in South Jersey where I graduated with an AAS in Graphic Design with highest honors. A family-owned company hired me for their in-house design team which taught me some great lessons during my first years as a designer. Looking at stock photography and seeing the prices for images I thought to myself ‘I can take my pictures myself’. I bought a cheapy camera and taught myself the basics. A few years into it I decided to invest into a better model and I started shooting horses at shows since I”m very involved in the equestrian field down here. Moving to Atlanta three years ago was a major change but I did find a job as a designer very quickly and working in an in-house agency taught me so much. Today I’m a graphic designer and photographer for the events team at the American Cancer Society and I still work for myself. My own business is ‘Designed & Shot by Elena’ and going out and meeting people I can then capture is what makes all the late hours at the computer well worth it.

Has it been a smooth road?
No, the past 10 years have not been too smooth but things happen for a reason. I was forced to drop out of the Art Institute since I ran out of money, I had to figure out how to follow my dreams of becoming a graphic designer and I paid my way through community college by babysitting and cleaning. Financially I never had that much support since I don’t like asking for money. These years and struggles have helped me to prove to myself that I can do it on my own!

Have you ever felt like giving up?
Yes, there have been moments when I thought about quitting design and photography altogether and considered going back to school to become a veterinarian (animals, especially horses are near and dear to my heart which I guess you can tell when you take a look at my photography. Equine photography was how my interest in photography started).

Looking for a job that would fulfill me career-wise as well as making me feel good about what I do, I stumbled upon my current position at the American Cancer Society. I’m happy I stuck with design and photography since this is the place where I feel that with those qualities and skills I can really make a difference.

Let’s change gears – is there any advice you’d like to give?
Find a great mentor!!! And school is not where you learn the important things. I learned more in my first position as an in-house designer than I could have ever learned in school! I’ve had amazing senior designers and art directors in my life that have taught me certain ways to design as well as where to find inspiration when you feel stuck. Push yourself out of your comfort zone!

What are you looking forward to?
Whenever I’ve been asked ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ I can only roll my eyes. I have no idea where I will be in a year from today. I’m excited about the people I will meet. I have met a lot of great people through my design and photography jobs that have become friends. I’m excited to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone since that is where I learn!

Contact Info:

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