The company that's been known as J. R. Underhill Communications for a few decades is actually the result of a long quest...to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I'm Jan Underhill, and as a kid who was forever doodling, or buried in a book, it made sense to major in Art and English at Calvin College, until I considered possible career paths: I did not feel drawn to a life in teaching. So I explored the practical route at Kendall School of Design, unfortunately before it was college accredited, which left me unsatisfied with the limited scope of education. Ultimately, I collected my various art credits and finished my bachelor's degree in Art at Grand Valley State University, adding a History degree to the mix, as a way of indulging another lifelong passion.
So, how did this academic meandering result in a graphic design and communication business, you might ask?
The answer comes from the need to pay for education and a roof over my head throughout that long process. Every job presented a chance to learn and build on the practical skills that power my career to this day. At my retail job, I designed my first logo and ads. Working for publishers, I learned how printed material is produced and was able to add book cover and content design to the mix. Then with that design portfolio, I was able to get work with ad agencies. Serving as a creative partner with several marketing firms amounted to an invaluable apprenticeship for running a small freestanding agency. Along the way, board positions with American Advertising Federation chapters in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, InterCom: Kalamazoo Association of Communication Professionals, Kalamazoo Network and Northside Business Association offered peer learning and connections vital to small business growth.
I am happy to say that the process is ongoing, with new technology to learn, and new clients to help, and new challenges with which I can help the clients I've served over the decades. I love problem solving and helping people, and I'm never bored. And I've come to the conclusion that growing up is optional...
“Jan is like a member of our team. Because she understands what we do, she is able to provide great customer service and quality work for a reasonable fee. Oftentimes the timeframes are quick, and Jan has always come through.”
“As I started my career in design, I had the privilege of working with Jan and J.R. Underhill. She was a mentor and held my hand as a young professional. Her insight and professionalism is something that I have come to appreciate even more over the years. Jan's relationships with her clients is not only providing great creative, but solid strategic planning. I highly recommend working with Jan as a creative partner or communications resource. Her years of experience will surely benefit both parties.”
“Jan helped me conceptualize my Web site, designed it, and helps me maintain it. The best compliment I can give her is that my clients think it's a great site that accurately reflects my company. Easy to work with, responsive, creative, supportive, flexible, and reasonably priced -- these all apply to Jan.”
“Jan Underhill’s designs are crisp, creative and out-of-the box. Just take a look at her website for a great example of the kinds of innovative design you’ll get for your nonprofit organization or business. From big projects to small – and large format down to business cards – Jan brings a wealth of knowledge and an extensive history of proven performance to her work.”
“Jan is an over-achiever for customer satisfaction. Not only can she provide solid design guidance and document preparation, she is also an excellent copy editor and consultant for marketing content. I would recommend her for any combination of marketing and/or print design needs.”
“I just wanted to thank you for your help, good sense, and good taste. There are too many businesses around that will design a look for you according to their impressions of where you're at instead of listening to where you want to be and putting it together from there. You're not one of them!”
“Thanks for the fine job you did on this ad—the client was very complimentary and very, very happy!”
“Jan created my MindProd logo, print identity pieces and my website. She lends a unique flair to her clients' requests for image materials - with a crisp graphic sense that's not overbearing. Her designs state who you are and what you do in a precisely packaged visual impact message - and it is amazing what she can do on a budget! I highly recommend Jan and J.R. Underhill Communications.”
“Thank you for the prompt, professional layout of all of the projects we've given you! The hand-out materials are so well-done, and it really makes my job so much easier.”