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10 Things to Know When Working on Your DCA Certificate at UCLA Extension

A big thanks to graduate Sherene Strausberg for looking out for current students. Read on for her guidance and my notes:

1. Look at job listings for design positions while you’re in school. Yes, this is normally something you’d consider once you’re finished with school, or almost finished. It actually makes much more sense to look at what’s in demand while you are still in school. Knowing what positions are in demand will likely influence your course selection, and perhaps even alter your focus.

– I’d like to add looking at design portfolios while you’re in school is important too. You want to know what the industry demands, who you’re competing with, and where to find inspiration. There are some graduate portfolios linked to the blog, on the right side. – Karen

2. Talking to senior level designers while you’re in school will also help in your course selection. For example, if you’re interested in working in book design, you may talk to a creative director at Penguin Books who informs you that typography is something they look for even more so than packaging. Well, perhaps taking Advanced Typography is more important than a Package Design class (even if you reaaaallly want to take that Package Design class). However, if you speak to someone at a Package Design Agency, they may stress the importance of including several packaging samples in your portfolio, which you can do easily if you take a Package Design class.

– It’s much easier to get access to professionals as a student than it is as someone looking for a job. I’m also happy to advise you on course selection after a review of your work and a conversation your interests. – Karen

3. When given design resources begin to organize them immediately. One year out from graduation, I became overwhelmed by the exponential increase in designers I was meeting, following their blogs not to mention looking at portfolios and software tutorials. It became a monumental task to organize the abundant amount of resources in such a way that I could actually find them useful as helpful resources. Once you’re working in a job, there isn’t time to search through a dozen stock photography websites, but knowing which ones are your favorites and most useful is good to know before you begin working. Delicious.com is a great way to organize them. But keeping a spreadsheet or an updated Bookmarks/Favorites document is good to be able to transfer them between browsers and computers. Spending a few minutes after each class organizing what websites are most helpful will become a huge timesaver once you’re working full-time as a designer.

– That said, please remember that we encourage students to use their own materials and photography rather than stock. – Karen

4. Create (and access!) your own resources. At times I waste hours at work searching for a perfect photo or a certain Photoshop brush. You can easily make your own resources…take photos everywhere you go, turn cool letters into a font or make a pattern into a brush. Then, through cloud computing, and such websites like dropbox.com, you can keep your own stock photos, brushes, fonts, etc. in a folder that you can access from a work computer, home computer or smart phone.

– Yes!

5. Develop relationships with your instructors from the beginning. Your instructors are one of the most useful resources UCLA Extension offers. Get to class early and stay late. Every instructor is a working designer with contacts, connections and an employer. Heck, your instructor may even have his/her own design employees! Connect with them onFacebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Every instructor has a wealth of knowledge and experience that you can tap into. Of course, always treat them with respect, and understand they’re just as busy as everyone else!

6. Use Social Media to stay connected in the world of design.I was on Facebook and LinkedIn and thought that was the gist of social media. Twitter is even better, despite my initial misgivings about it. Like me, you may be thinking, “Why do I want to read 140 character long comments from some designer a thousand miles away?” Because they’re tapped in, that’s why! By following them, you stay dialed into current news and updates of what’s going on in the world of design. It’s good to follow famous designers, or even smaller designers whose work you admire. Some of the most talented designers make regular tweets and you may interview with them one day; knowing what they’ve been tweeting about can make you stand out in an interview. (Examples of designers I follow: http://twitter.com/#!/bantjes and http://twitter.com/#!/abstractcity)

7. Attend every AIGA event you can. As a student, I felt like I didn’t belong there. It’s not true! AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) is an incredible resource to learn about jobs, internships, lectures, events and contests. Even if your membership expires, consider volunteering — just a few hours a week will give you the opportunity to meet other designers and make useful connections that can lead to an internship, freelance work or even a job.

– Many students never utilize the incredible one-year benefit we buy for our 16-course certificate students. I echo Sherene… Go! And stay involved. You can renew as a student for as long as you’re enrolled in the program. – Karen

8. Try to take classes in the order suggested by the DCA program. There is a reason the classes are meant to flow in a particular order. Your efforts in school will make more sense because skills build upon each other and you’ll utilize tools from previous classes in subsequent classes.

9. Connect with Karen Lauritsen. Continuing Education has different nuances than undergraduate or graduate programs. Karen understands the issues that students coming from different careers are facing. She can provide helpful advice that’s not found on UCLA’s website or the catalog or any design book.

– Thanks, Sherene! You can reach me through this blog or at dca@uclaextension.edu or 310-206-1422.

10. Read this blog and join the Facebook group. Reading this blog (which you’re obviously doing right now!) is helpful to learn about internships, new classes, design lectures and student events. And joining the Facebook group will help you feel like you’re part of a community to connect with peers who are maybe a few years ahead of you or a year behind you. Starting a new career can be very challenging, but having a place to connect with people in your same situation can help the transition.

– Find us on facebook.com/uclaextensionvisualarts
By Sherene Strausberg, UCLA DCA Certificate 2010. Sherene is currently working as a Multimedia Graphic Designer for Katz Marketing Solutions in New York City. She can be reached at sherene@sweetnotes.com.

Andrew Kutchera’s Typography Class on Korean TV

Here is a video that features Andrew Kutchera’s Typgraphy class last fall quarter from Korean cable-tv station (UGA), along with Dean Cathy Sandeen. Sara Vadgama, who is currently an intern with The J. Paul Getty Museum, has a starring role.

Translation (from Korean):

In the United States, 72% of women are an active member of the workforce. Out of the developed nations, the United States is only one that does not offer special programs that assist married women with job placement. Located in Southern California, UCLA Extension offers approximately 4,000 lectures [on a quarterly basis]. Lecture subjects include studying for a specific license, learning more about a profession, [or] expanding one’s knowledge about an industry. [Currently] UCLA Extension has approximately 120,000 registered students and 60% of them are women. Many of these female students are married women who are looking to reenter the work force. Through institutions like UCLA Extension, women are able to update and maintain current knowledge about their industries that may otherwise be outdated since they’ve left their profession.

The greatest benefit to receiving training at continuing education institutions is that students can learn about all the different changes in their respective industries even if they have been away for long periods of time.

Continuing education institutions allow students to network with [local] established companies. After studying at UCLA Extension, students are about to seek a wider spectrum of potential employers.

Currently, most women return to their profession at a lower position than when they first left. This is because while they have been away, their knowledge base has not grown and therefore is only suited for a lower position.

After expanding and updating their knowledge base about their industry through continuing education institutions like UCLA Extension, women regain their confidence even if they have been away from their profession for a long period of time.

Library Privileges: You’ve Got Them

Okay, so it’s not free like your local public library, but for $20 you can have library privileges at UCLA. You have to present proof of current enrollment (every quarter) and a photo ID at either Young Research Library or Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library to get a library card. This could be well worth it when you’re enrolled in say, Design History and Context.

Here is a link to the UCLA Arts Library: http://www.library.ucla.edu/libraries/arts/index.cfm

Here is a link about researching design and media arts topics specifically:

Also, here is a link to design topic bibliographies at AIGA:

Also, in terms of resources, if you haven’t spent a lot of time browsing the back pages of the UCLA Extension catalog (General Information), may I suggest you do so. It’s a good orientation into what resources are available and how to go about certain administrative tasks. It’s a reference I use often!

Francesca Fuges Knows Where to Find Support

Design by DCA grad Francesca Fuges

Francesca earned her DCA Certificate this summer and has an incredible web portfolio to show for it. I emailed her a few questions about getting the most out of her time as a student and preparing for the portfolio review, and here is what she had to say:

Why did you choose DCA?
When I started looking for programs, I had no experience in graphic design. I was nervous that when I started classes I would feel intimidated and out of place. After doing some research, I found out that students enrolled in the DCA program were from all different walks of life and had varying levels of experience. This was perfect for me. It also allowed me to work part time and attend as many classes as I wanted. I also loved that I could tailor the DCA program to fit my specific interests.

How did what you get out of the DCA Program reflect what you put into it?
The DCA program has many resources to offer, including awesome teachers and UCLAX AIGA events. I tried to take advantage of these resources. I asked questions, met homework deadlines, and yes, I was a total “kiss ass” (ask anyone who took a class with me). The whole experience helped me leave the program with a portfolio I am proud of, and most importantly, a sense of preparedness for my future in graphic design.

What are your best memories of being a student with us?
My best memory was my very first class at UCLAX. It was Design Fundamentals with Henry Mateo, and my preliminary introduction to graphic design. I left that first class certain that this was the right path for me. After going through a period of not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, it was an amazing feeling. That and when they opened up the Chipotle in Westwood Village . . . mmmmm.

How did you prepare for the final portfolio review?
Before I started putting together my portfolio I needed to figure out which projects to use, and how to revise them. I made friends through Extension who were also working on their portfolios, so we decided to form a group and meet once a week to discuss and critique each other’s work. It was a huge help to have that support system. It kept us all motivated and on track.

When I completed a first draft, I took it to a portfolio review at Chapman University and received a ton of helpful feedback. I made changes and took my revised draft to a second portfolio review at Cal State LA. I then worked on and completed the final draft. I tried to get as much feedback as possible before I could say I was “finished”. Going to a couple of reviews allowed me to practice discussing my work with people in the industry.

What are your next career moves?
I am currently doing some freelance design work. I plan on attending as many AIGA events as possible and signing up for different networking sites (which means taking the plunge and finally joining Facebook) in order to get exposure. My goal is to end up at a design studio that specializes in identity, print and packaging where I can gain experience and grow as a designer.

Do you have additional questions for Francesca? Leave them in the comments.

If you would like to share your story, please email dca@uclaextension.edu.

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