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Designing with Gumption

The first time Jen Saunders saw Tucson, she was convinced she had landed on Mars. It was an understandable reaction for a third grader who had only seen Minot, North Dakota up until that time.

“The sand. The cactuses. It was a total shock,” she said.

After 10th grade, Jen moved to Minnesota to finish high school and then headed to Northern Arizona University. Like many other students, she fell in love with Flagstaff.

Saunders began studying to be a newscaster. “Halfway through, I changed my focus. I decided I didn’t want to be on television every day.”

But graphic design, she determined, was something she could do every day of her life. She graduated with a degree in advertising.

Her interest intensified during an internship with Caroline Pilkington, of Pilkington Advertising Design, which led to many years of working with her.

“She encouraged me to start my own design business,” Saunders said. “We still collaborate on projects. Our creative chemistry takes the design process to another level.”

Jen Saunders Design was established in 2004. She begins the creative process by first listening to understand her client’s goals.

“Once I have a relationship with a client, I do my best to retain those clients. I’ve worked with some for more than a decade and they refer me to other clients.”

Saunders has created graphics and ad campaign material for Karma Sushi Bar Grill for seven years. Owner Steven Scully says he appreciates her work.

“We love Jen at Karma. She has been quite an asset to the business,” he said.

Scully likes the way they put their heads together to start the campaign from the ground up and watch a spark grow into a concept. He praises her creative style and how she exceeds expectations.

Recently, the new owners of the Bright Side Bookstore hired Saunders.

“She did our whole brand and collateral pieces like cards and she’s even helping out on the new sign,” said Annette Avery. “I think her creative side is quirky and also professional. She really takes a step back before she jumps into anything, before she knows what path to go down.”

“I realize the projects are not about me, they are about what the client needs and wants,” said Saunders.

She says her worst days on the job are when there are computer glitches. The best days are just about every day when she is busy at work with her dog, a German shepherd/lab mix rescue named Rhubarb, at her side as office assistant.

“I love my job. I love that none of my projects are the same. I love working for myself. There is no bigger reward.”

Her designs are described as “awesome, classy, spunky and fun,” the same adjectives used by clients to describe her personality.

Her whimsical side often shows up on the ski slopes. Saunders and long-time partner, graphic designer Paul Berg, can be spotted wearing vintage ski costumes at Arizona Snowbowl.

“We get teased by our winter family if we wear ‘regular’ ski gear. It’s silly. It makes us laugh and makes other people laugh.”

Saunders is a board member of BLE Flagstaff. BLE (Best Life Ever) is a non-profit organization in which board members infuse money into the Flagstaff community in random ways to help foster a culture of people “paying it forward.”

“It’s just a reminder to live your best life every day starting with today.”

The organization is having a fundraiser at 4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 24, at Buffalo Park.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t borrow trouble. My best friend taught me that. Let’s say your car is making a funny noise. Don’t start thinking about the worst until the mechanic sees the car.”


What personality characteristic do you most value in business associates?

“I most value a sense of humor.”


When was the last time you laughed really hard?

“Every day. Laughter is a huge part of my life.”


Where is your favorite place to travel?

Summit County, Colorado. There’s so much great skiing concentrated in one area.”


What is your superpower and when do you use it?

“My superpower is gumption. Guts, grit, backbone, moxie, common sense, drive, enterprise, get-up and go. Gumption provides me the nerve to approach things with a spunky spirit in order to discover a fresh idea or reinvent an old one.” FBN

Jen Saunders

For more information about Jen Saunders Design, call 928-556-0578 or visit jensaunders.com.


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One Response to Designing with Gumption

  1. Linda PetersS August 28, 2017 at 11:16 AM #

    “The sand. The cactuses. It was a total shock,” she said.
    After 10th grade, Jen moved to Minnesota to finish high school and then headed to Northern Arizona University. Like many other students, she fell in love with Flagstaff.Her interest enhanced the time of an internship with Caroline Paikington, with Pinkington Advertising Design, which has been working for years with her. I’m in the business of your business. I agree with your business…

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