Alumna Kirsten Johnson finds her creative voice as head of her own agency

There was a time Kirsten Johnson doubted herself – a time she didn’t think she had what it took to succeed in the art world. “One of my art professors [at George Fox] sat me down and encouraged me to teach in the art space, to step into my talent and to try the scary, hard things. My initial reaction was, ‘I’m not smart enough. I’m just an art major,’” she recalls

The beautiful irony is this: Coaching clients and her team on how to execute an artistic concept is now a fundamental part of Johnson’s job as creative director of the Reverie Creative Agency, a business she founded. The Amity, Oregon-based company specializes in luxury marketing, design and branding services that range from printed goods, logo design, remodels and installations to full-service online marketing strategies like video production, professional photography, email marketing, website design, and social media management. 

As creative director, Johnson manages all client relationships and directs most projects. Her time is a “delicate dance,” as she describes it, between creation and relationship building. All the while, she strives to pass on the same message to her clients and her team of nine creatives that was communicated to her in college: everyone has value, and everyone has something that is uniquely them. 

“I want to help draw that out of them and share it with the world in a meaningful and beautiful way,” says Johnson, a 2008 alumna who earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art. “To me, there is nothing more rewarding than helping instill confidence in someone else in their own gifting, and to help them realize that what they have to offer is beautiful, valued and worth sharing.” 

Reverie serves between 30 and 50 clients a year and has succeeded not simply due to quality work, but because Johnson listens to her clients and is willing to take some risks. “Starting a business has helped me learn to crave feedback rather than fear it,” she says. “Failing forward has produced the best fruit in my adult life … and has left me wanting more.” 

And though she graduated from George Fox more than a decade ago, that moment of encouragement in the classroom is still fresh in her mind. “I realize now that several of my art professors saw entrepreneurial artistic talent in me that I am just now accepting as truth in my life. They took the time to plant a seed of confidence in me, and taught me how to water my own creative gift.”