My hope is that students’ and parents’ interest in graphic design as a course or a career may be piqued after reading about my own journey as a student. There is great value in developing a new skill. That skill could become a career or a simply a lifelong passion to share the impact visual communication has on each of us.
In Trinity’s first year to have a graphic design course, students have visited a local design agency and have learned the basics of the Adobe Creative Suite. Students have also been introduced to typography, created vector hero posters, designed their own logos and branding, and screen printed their own shirts bearing those brands. Students have also enjoyed learning how to juxtapose photos to create animal object hybrids (shown in photos).
My sophomore year of high school I was in an Advanced Placement Art course. I loved art, it was my safe space. At that point I don’t remember thinking it was going to be my career, but I knew it would be at the very least, a hobby. What I do remember was anxiously awaiting the results of my AP portfolio only to receive some disheartening news, my portfolio wasn’t the finest of fine art quality. The positive portion of my assessment read the following, “this student has a strong graphic sensibility, and should explore graphic design courses.”
Now that was twenty years ago, and I lived in a rural community of less than 5,000 people. There were no design firms or advertising agencies, and I had no idea what a graphic designer was or what they did, but because of this one critique, I decided I needed to find out and become good at it.
So I enrolled in an internship class at my high school to learn more, the idea was to research careers, select a career of interest, and then to be paired up with a professional that would serve as a guide in that profession. The end goal was to identify the colleges and universities that offered the best options for those careers. It helped! I ended up being paired with a former Disney illustrator that owned her own sign shop and designed vinyl graphics. It was fun, and I enjoyed listening to the woman’s stories of her time at Disney while helping apply vinyl stickers to large glossy signage. At this point I was hungry to learn more, but knew that I did not want to be a sign maker.
By senior year the research was done, and I had a decent grasp on this career I was so intent on pursuing. I’d narrowed down the universities based on the reputation of their design programs and applied for early acceptance. The big acceptance letter arrived, and with much relief, I was accepted into my school of choice.
The next four years were filled with hands-on experience and a close kinship with my fellow design majors and professors. While attending my university, my love for design was not only shaped, but the power and importance communication design plays in EVERYONE’S lives was made clear, not just those that make a living in the commercial arts. It also provided me an opportunity to step back and weigh how art and design can and do work together. These two areas of practice/study are not in opposition to each other as I originally believed in grade school, thinking I could only pursue one or be good at one. Having a strong foundation of both art and design can be extremely valuable to any student/person regardless of the career they may eventually choose or find themselves in.
Before my college graduation, the design opportunities varied from working for campus food services designing menus and tables tents to interning at a furniture company conceptualizing and applying graphics to furniture pieces. Traditional design agencies were also a part of my education, professional experience, and the reason I moved to Longview. Working with an agency, I gained invaluable experience in art directing photo shoots for businesses, designing logos and corporate identities, posters, invitations for various events, billboards, and packaging.
My years as a student and a professional were important pieces that lead me to teaching. After a couple years of agency experience, I made a change. While still working at my agency, in my free-time I began to mentor a group of high school girls through a mentorship program called Partners in Prevention. It was there that I realized how much I enjoyed sharing and teaching young people, and how much I learned from them. It hit me that maybe my calling was to share something I love with others, that I could still be a designer, but to consider how I could use and share this love of art and design. So back to school I went to pursue teaching, but it had to be art and design education.
Art and design tell visual stories. Sometimes the best way to say something is to consider how compelling imagery can do the talking for you. How a certain combination of colors or a dynamic photograph paired with the right typography can “speak” volumes.
One of my favorite graphic designers that I studied in school was Charles S. Anderson; he discussed how he believed people (or your audience) should ultimately be rewarded for taking the time to look at a designed piece. “Design is a brand’s signature and its story. We like to think of it as art for commerce, the culmination of research, relationships, strategic thinking, experience, intuition, and aesthetics. We believe that truly great design is about making something that adds richness to people’s lives; something inspiring, memorable, funny, abrasive, ironic, elegant, ugly, human – anything but uninteresting.”
Art and design are the clothes we wear, they are the homes we build or live in, they can be found on albums covers we love (whether they grace sleeves, cases, or screens – via digital download). Seeing students get excited about making this connection is exciting. They get to see that their art and design can help tell a small business, a non-profit, or individual’s story by presenting a beautifully designed branding system or website that moves an audience to action.
As a student this was a fun journey to be on, and honestly…it still is a fun journey to be on.
6th- 12th Art Instructor