Seven Pillars Design Co.
Written by Jillian VanDyke
How a love for creativity and helping people turned into an epiphany that led this CSU alum to start her own business.
The mission of “impact” was the driving force behind Kyra Wells venturing into the territory of creating a design company in the midst of 2020. The field of art encompasses such a wide gamut of topics that Kyra required continued education and self reflection in order to pinpoint a way to pursue art that was more than just her creating things she enjoyed. As a young adult, she was not aware of the ins and outs of design. Now she runs her own design company — one that helps women further their work.
In her early years of being an artist, Kyra had not fully come to understand the depth of graphic design. She was not aware of the impact that graphic design truly can have on the world until taking a college design course in high school and pre-college classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
She always had a passion for her creative outlets and was pushed to explore what design had to offer by a high-school drawing teacher. That seed that her teacher planted eventually blossomed into her discovery of what path she wanted to take.
“We started learning about composition and design principles.” Kyra found that one of design’s hidden pros is that there’s an undo button. “My old boss used to say, ‘Pixels are free,’ so [...] I can be creative and also spend a little less money. I still didn’t really know what the end goal was though.”
Kyra began taking courses at Tri-C and later transferred to CSU to major in graphic design. Through her time at Cleveland State, Kyra worked to figure out how she could help others be impactful in their businesses through design. She discussed how important her exposure to different parts of the arts were to broaden her view and spark interests that she wasn’t aware she had.
College courses led her to the decision to become a designer, although she was not certain what that would look like. Kyra noted that design requires both the left and right brain to work. Thinking creatively while also being practical and strategizing can work well together. Her passion for the analytical and science side of things paired well with art in this specific field of study. Graphic design combines data and art, resulting in eye catching visuals, if done well. She hopes for earlier exposure to and improved education of design so that younger people searching for careers are more knowledgeable of the sustainable jobs that the field of graphic design offers. She emphasized the difficulty she faced in tying all her creative facets together to make them tangible.
Kyra also talked about how getting a bachelor’s degree in graphic design at Cleveland State pushed her in the right direction. Her education at CSU spurred her to think more externally and be able to create for others realistically — not merely creating what she would like to see herself make. Kyra began to value her audience much more. Specifically, she mentioned the human-centered graphic design class that showed her how to empathize with her audience. She found value in the fact that these courses were taught by professors who were more experienced in the field. Kyra praised former professors Sarah Rutherford, Anne Berry, and Jenn Visocky-O’Grady, saying “They’re practitioners as well as educators.” Kyra now works alongside some of Cleveland State’s design professors as a chair in Cleveland’s chapter of AIGA, The Professional Association for Design. Kyra spoke for Cleveland State’s AIGA group before announcing the start of her business.
In early 2020, both Kyra’s last semester of college and her internship moved online. Graphics are created on a computer, but artists, especially Kyra who is fueled by being in a social setting, work well during critiques where they can push each other further. In-person critiques turned into writing extensively online. Kyra was strongly involved in her courses and student groups. She was a part of the Vindicator, and enjoyed the privilege of attending meetings and seeing how her work would be printed next to her fellow designers. These Vindicator meetings turned into Zoom calls and a plethora of Facebook group posts. When this strange chapter of her college career abruptly stopped and her last Zoom call was over, Kyra was among millions of others in the same boat as her. Instead of letting doubt or defeat take over in such an overwhelming time, she instead looked to mentors, families and God for guidance on her situation. A specific experience that helped her was meeting with Lucinda Walker for direction. Lucinda had her write out what she did and did not want for herself in her future career. Kyra found that she wanted to help people solve problems, lead projects, be innovative and work closely with clients.
“Don’t forget to reflect and remember that this is temporary,” Kyra said. She found herself facing moments when she felt as though she had little to look forward to. She continued, “I loved school. I was a huge CSU cheerleader, so I had graduated and now found myself in this crisis of not having anything. Graduation is called commencement for a reason because it’s starting something new. It’s a new venture in life.”
Kyra’s sister was the first to suggest beginning her own business. Kyra had been doing freelance work since 2017, but did not fall in love with the work she was doing. Kyra explained, “If I was doing a business, I wanted it to be more serious. It was going to be a lot of work.” Her sister pointed out, “You have the time right now. You might not have the time in the future to focus on something like this. Why don’t you look into it?” Kyra began reading Proverbs, and she read a specific verse that cemented her decision to go forward with her own business.
After figuring out what Kyra wanted for herself, she sought what God had in store for her. She sought to find how what she was doing would align with God’s calling for her. She said, “I have these wants, but how do I let those be fruitful?” She was reading Proverbs 9:1, which states “Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars,” and she had an epiphany. She had a feeling this would be the name of her business, leading her to research the meaning of seven pillars. The number seven means completion, perfection, and organization. Pillars act as means of supporting structures. “I wanted to be the person that [is] the supporter of [people’s] dreams and ambitions for [their] business[es] and goals but do it in a way that is organized, feels structured, and is complete,” said Kyra.
In such a challenging time, Kyra discovered a way to help others through her business during the pandemic. She wanted to seek out those in need of help, rather than waiting for others to contact her. She created a format that made it easier for businesses to reach clients during a time that was mostly online.
Seven Pillars offers a variety of services, however, change is on the horizon. The process is designed to be customizable and specific to every person or company so that they may become the best versions of themselves.
Kyra further talked about who she works with: “I work with women business owners and entrepreneurs to understand their messaging to their audience. From there, we work on a design deliverable. Sometimes things don’t even result in design deliverables. Design is not always the answer. And sometimes, as a graphic designer, it felt like ‘How could I say that? Design is always the answer.’ Sometimes it’s really not — design is the method.”
Kyra’s method entails understanding the “who,” “what” and “why” of a person’s business through a series of questions. Kyra finds the raw identity of each individual through this questionnaire and determines potential design deliverables. Behind everything Kyra creates — down to the color palettes — is a purpose that is specific to each client and what they are trying to communicate. Kyra continued, “I am interested in seeing growth, not just designing something cool.” Kyras stressed that emotional response is the end goal. She strives to pinpoint exactly who customers in this business are and how they can be reached on a deeper level. Customer profiling and personas, which she learned in university design courses, are a part of this process. Grasping the overall effect that the businesses have on their customers and what they gain from working with them is ideal. Comparison to the competition to assess the market is crucial for success. “That’s why I call it strategic design — because we’re taking all of that to build your brand,” said Kyra.
Kyra has already worked with many companies within the first few months of announcing her company. She is not only reaching her goals of helping others, but exceeding them. Kyra is early in her career, and she has so much room to continue to grow other businesses for the greater good.