Graphic Design Flourishes in the INCubator

Jessica York

Gabby Blades, owner of branding and print design company Blades Creative, loves Chattanooga and the city’s INCubator as a creative space for her business.

“I pride myself on starting with pen and paper to create well-made designs,” Blades says. “Everything is custom – no templates, no previously made assets from an online source. Everything is conceptualized, sketched and created by me. I talk to the client, take notes, make word lists, do research, create thumbnails and create drafts digitally. I’m very involved with the client and its fun to watch both parties see it grow.”

As a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate from Louisiana, Blades says that she always knew that she wanted to live in the Scenic City. 

“We used to vacation here when I was 12. It’s beautiful here with the mountains, and my family fell in love with it,” she says. “My parents gave me the choice, and I felt at home here, so we moved.”

Trend: Why are you passionate about design? When and where did that love begin for you?

Blades: I grew up in a creative household. My parents were somewhat entrepreneurs who also had blue collar jobs. My mom was a hairdresser and my dad was a petroleum consultant. They also built and sold houses when he was home. My mom owned her own salon, so I got an idea of entrepreneurship from a young age.

My mom is super creative. She painted, she was a seamstress, she did everything. So when I was at home, she would make me be creative too. She would have me paint and I made cards.

I dreamed of working at Hallmark and made my own little card store. I held drawing classes during recess; I was that girl. In high school, I started doing murals, really enjoyed art class, and my senior year I took a class where I learned web design and a little animation, and I realized I could make a career out of something like that.

Trend: How has the INCubator influenced your business?

Blades: Before the INCubator, I worked from home and I was somewhat in limbo. I said I would commit to it, I said I wouldn’t look into other jobs, and then I would keep doing my dishes instead of working, even though I was getting plenty of work. I needed an office. I kept procrastinating, even though I love what I do.

So I went to the Business Development Center and got an office. And I didn’t recognize how fast the growth would be from there. People take me more seriously now. I can bring clients to an office – not a coffee shop – and it’s super affordable for me. I’m not struggling to be able to bring clients to an office.

The BDC is a great space to start your business – if you aren’t sure you need an office space, but you aren’t focused, you probably need an office space. The INCubator has been a great place for me because it offered business coaching. Just knowing counseling is available is great, and having the office space to focus on my work and have a place to create structure.

It’s not only super affordable, but I got a beautiful space with windows and even got to paint it. It’s ideal for creating.

Trend: Can you give an example of an everyday hidden influence that design can have on our lives?

Blades: Airports — from the moment you’re in your car and see the exit sign for the airport, to the time you get to your destination and leave the airport, everything is designed. You have to have your paperwork. There are people who know what to do. The security lines are designed. The parking, the plane, the way flight attendants speak to you — it’s incredible. There’s an entire entity within the airport designing your decisions.

Design is everything. Design is everywhere. Design is important to the community. Whatever you do, design is involved. Systems are designed. Even parenthood. Think of all the items involved – bottles, cribs, etc. The decision of which crib you want is designed by the instructions on the package. Whether it’s through verbal communication or communication on a package, the decisions you make are literally based on design.

Trend: What are your thoughts on our city as a creative hub?

Blades: We want to support music, art and design. I just wish that I could design the city to be more aware of what it takes to be a creative person and respect it just as much as other professions. It’s important for us to value all that, especially as more creativity moves to Chattanooga.

Find out more about the Hamilton County INCubator here

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