EUGENE, Ore. – On the corner of 17th and Van Buren sits a grayish-blue house that is filled with creativity, flourishing nature, and fond memories.
Aunt Betties’ salt and pepper collection, family photos, and inspirational paintings hang from the walls. One particular painting creates comedic relief as a serious man defends himself from the beating rain with his umbrella while he and his dog wear matching ponchos.
“Hi… Gates. G-A-T-E-S,” says Christine Beneda to her daughter in law.
Answering calls from family members and cliental, Beneda is a busy freelance graphic designer who runs her company from home. Her work ranges from business cards, newsletters, brochures and has had her work published in three books by McGraw Hill.
Working independently for 26 years, she maintains a diverse array of clients that are based in Oregon, California, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.
Though establishing herself in 1988, her work began much earlier.
Beneda says, “I’ve been a graphic designer since I was 16.” Growing up in a small town in Kansas, she found early on that she finds satisfaction in her passion for layout, typography and visual aesthetics.
Pursing a design career, she worked hard to become the advertising manager of an in-house agency in Denver, working with a staff of four designers and a three and a half million-dollar budget.
Leaving her job and the Denver area in 1980, she then settled in Eugene. With a poor economy she decided that she could “work for [herself] at 10 dollars an hour as well as anyone else.”
She has done well, as she understands that “as long as I have clients I can pay myself what I want to be paid.”
Maintaining clients is the least of her problems as her company’s foundation is rooted in strong, friendly long-term relationships. She still designs for one of her original clients from 26 years ago.
Relationships with her clients have loosened from strictly business to that of friends in an unspoken agreement.
Beneda says, “The clients I have, most of them I have had for years… so we don’t really discuss charges.” She gives them the bill and her clients trust the integrity of her work.
“She is very adventurous,” says Kathy Kifer, her neighbor and graphic design friend. “She is very fun to work with, great attitude towards life, and takes her work seriously.”
For Beneda, she is not required to reinvent the wheel for many of her projects. She says, “It depends on the job, [I don’t] create a lot of new art any more.” Much of the time she spends updating previous art projects, she adapts rather than producing new art.
She also adapts to the changing of technology. She recalls going to many meetings physically in the past, however today email or a phone call is more practical. One client she has had for almost 20 years, they have only met once during their time working together.
With a lot of experience in the field, Beneda explains that it just comes naturally at this point in her career. But she does feel the rigor of the job as she says, “It takes a toll on your body one way or another, [like] anything you do repetitively.”
“I still enjoy my job,” says Beneda. “That’s a little surprising after so many years.”