Interior Design Alumna Spotlight: Araya Jensen

Araya and Walter

2000 graduate works as senior digital art director at Target

Araya Jensen, 41, graduated from Dakota County Technical College in 2000 with her Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Interior Design/Sales + Marketing. Araya was active as a student member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). She also worked while going to college as a sales consultant and designer at Bellacor, a Minneapolis-based home furnishings and lighting retailer.

Araya has more than two decades of experience as an interior designer, artist, art director, project manager, photographer, sales professional, brand/product developer, and entrepreneur. After graduating from DCTC, she excelled as a senior designer for Home Valu Interiors.

Araya Jensen • Photo: Rita Farmer

In 2006, she began working as a senior designer and sales consultant at Crystal Kitchen + Bath, creating and presenting seminars to clients seeking high-end, whole-home remodeling projects. Her remodeling sales topped $750,000 in 2008.

Rebounding from the catastrophic housing-industry crash, Araya discovered her gift for entrepreneurship and founded Willful, a successful home-goods business centered on her own design line of handmade housewares. Willful included online sales and a retail store in Tangletown, a neighborhood in Minneapolis.

“I love the challenge of owning my own creative business,” Araya said.  “The ability to succeed and fail and reiterate a design on my own terms. It’s truly thrilling when someone buys something that you have created, which began as a part of you.”

Today, Araya works as a senior digital art director for Target, a general merchandise retailer with 400,000 employees and stores in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Founded in 1962, Target is headquartered in Minneapolis. Araya’s duties in her role as art director are focused on developing original ideas for digital advertising campaigns for Target’s Home products. During her typical workday, she collaborates with associate creative directors, copywriters, experience designers, media experts, and developers.

“I love the ability to use all my career experience in this role,” Araya said. “I am able to use my interior design and remodeling experience when building and creating rooms/spaces for our product stories to live. I also get to use my marketing experience to deliver content that appeals to our guests and gives the inspiration and ideas to ideally purchase Target products. My entrepreneurial experience helps me think outside the box and create new solutions to marketing requests. My know-how allows me to get the job done no matter the roadblocks.”

During her career journey, Araya established Araya Jensen Creative, a business venture showcasing her expertise in art prints, still-life photography, product design, creative workshops, and installations. She also earned a B.S. in Marketing from Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota as well as a Business Accelerator certificate from Minnesota DEED Scale UP.

Araya Jensen in the news

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More about Araya…

Araya Jensen

Originally from Esko, Minnesota, an unincorporated town of nearly 1,900 people near Duluth, Araya has been married 15 years to her husband, Jordan, a data sciences project director at Target. Araya and Jordan have two children, a daughter, Avery, 14, and a son, Quinten, 11. The family has two dogs, Hazel, 6, a pitbull/Lab mix, and Walter, 2 months, a Frenchie, and one cat, Luna, 2.

Araya enjoys many hobbies. “Ultimately, I love creating with color,” she said. “I enjoy home remodeling projects, fine art photography, and the outdoors.”

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:

EXCITING

Araya Jensen gallery


Araya Jensen Q & A

Araya Jensen

How did your education at DCTC prepare you for your future career path?

It taught me hard work and the basic principles of interior design.

What did you enjoy most during your time working in the residential and retail remodeling industry?

I enjoyed working with clients to create spaces that are functional and beautiful. I believe that combining these two principles can truly infuse joy into one’s home and life. I live this experience after recently remodeling our home, and there is nothing like coming home (or working from home) and being able to feel happy and at peace in your own space.

What are the most challenging aspects of starting and managing your own business?

There are challenges around every corner when you own your own business, from investments to supply chain to employees to design, but it’s overcoming these challenges where the ultimate joy and satisfaction comes from owning a business.

Words that describe you as a marketing and editorial design professional:
CREATIVE. DETERMINED. DESIGN THINKING.

What advice would you give students thinking about pursuing careers in interior design?

To this day I love interior design—it just feels like home when I am able to use these skills. My advice would be to explore all of the different avenues available within this career path.

What person has influenced you the most in life and why?

I guess I would have to say my children because they are my reason to keep going, building, and learning. I believe I could be happy doing a number of things, but I look at them and want them to see me fulfilling all of my goals and dreams so they know it’s possible and worth pursuing.

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

I hope to be traveling a lot and using these travels to create new designs, products, and relationships.

Araya Jensen 10 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: I love being outdoors, mostly hiking and exploring
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Australia
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: I have been very fortunate to do many exciting things, but most recently I use proceeds from selling my business and took a dream trip to Tanzania and went on a dream safari in the Serengeti; in 2019, I worked on an international art project and had the ability to travel with Alight (formerly American Refugee Committee) to a refugee settlement in Rwanda, where I had an amazing time teaching art and learning about the people
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Travel 2) Start a nonprofit business supporting artisans 3) Buy a small, beachfront property in a warm climate
  5. Favorite movie or TV series you’ve watched recently: Ted Lasso
  6. Best book you’ve read lately: I listen to a lot of Audible books
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Start another product line
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Cuban tody—tiny and colorful!
  9. Skill you would most like to learn and master: There are so many, but probably playing an instrument, guitar or drums
  10. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Lack of empathy
Learn more about Interior Design at DCTC by contacting:

Anne Painter
Interior Design Faculty
651-423-8613

Natalie Shrestha
Academic & Financial Aid Advisor
651-423-8537

The Interior Design area at DCTC received a comprehensive renovation in fall 2021. Read the DCTC News story to learn more:

The Bill Johnson Center for Architectural Technology and Design

Interior Designers

Plan, design, and furnish the inside of buildings.

WAGE

This career pays above the statewide median of $23.00/hour.

Minnesota

Median: $29.40/hour
High: $36.28/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $30.14/hour
High: $36.93/hour

OUTLOOK

In Minnesota, there are 1,690 workers employed in this small career. There will be a need for about 1,722 new Interior Designers to meet market demand between 2020–2030. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

Where do Interior Designers most often work?
Minnesota State CAREERwise Education

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