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Recent DCA Grad Daniel Coutinho lands a job with Buck


design by Daniel Coutinho

It’s always rewarding for us to see a student hone their skills in the DCA program, graduate with a strong portfolio, and land a job they are really excited about. Recent graduate Daniel Coutinho has done just that! He’s landed a full time job in a great motion graphics studio called Buck and, as he put it, “It’s been amazing, everything working out perfectly for me.”

We recently caught up with him via email to learn more about his journey from student to working design professional:

1) What was your job search like? 

As an international student I knew I had the chance to apply for an OPT after finishing the Program, and so I did. My search wouldn’t be the the same without the Internet, that’s for sure. Motion Graphics is the Design area that I like the most, and for quite some time I had had a list of LA-based Motion Graphics studios I’d love to work for if I ever had the chance, as well as their contact information I got from their websites. So I updated my online portfolio, included some favorite pieces of work I had created during the Certificate Program and e-mailed the producers of all those companies, letting them know I was looking for freelance work as a Designer/Animator. The reason why I was specifically looking for freelance work is because my plan was to get to know some companies during my Practical Training time, learn from their professionals, understand their process and feel out the environment. I had experienced friends that helped me a lot during this time; I would send out many e-mails every day and slowly started to get a few answers—it is true that you have to be persistent and patient. Freelancing at different places was incredibly rewarding, I’m thankful for everyone I crossed paths with during this period, I learned a lot about the craft and met outstanding artists, until I eventually decided to settle down when Buck, a great studio in Downtown LA where I freelanced for a few months before, offered me a position.

2) Please tell us about your new company and your new position. What are you most excited about? What are the major challenges? 

Buck is a 10-year-old company filled with fun, hard-working creative people that produces a style of work I really like seeing and making. What they do is basically Motion Graphics and Animation for TV and Internet commercials, and in my opinion they differentiate themselves by really thinking outside the box when it comes to converting the client’s needs into beautiful imagery and by being pioneers when it comes to visual and animation style. This is a company that’s always ahead of the curve, constantly creating trends in the industry, and I think they achieve that by having friendly creative high-level professionals working in a casual, lively environment. It’s really exciting to be a part of this, even more so when I remember myself browsing their website looking for inspiration years ago, still in Brazil having no idea what would happen to my career in the future. It’s true that I did plan my steps well in advance when I decided to have this work experience in the US, but I’m still surprised to look back and see the way it all happened.

I’m part of a team of animators, using mostly Adobe software such as Photoshop and After Effects. Our job is to give movement and life to the characters and graphics created by the Design team. Of course it was key for me to learn the Animation Fundamentals, but I consider having a Bachelor in Graphic Design as well as the UCLA Extension Certificate a huge asset for me even when I’m not actually designing, since as animators we always try to apply the fundamentals of Design to the frames we create when moving elements around the canvas through time.

As far as challenges, I constantly see myself surrounded by top-notch designers and animators from all over the globe, creating videos for major national and international companies; basically every day I submit my animations to the approval of some of the best creative directors of our industry—which by the way is ever evolving and reinventing itself; so keeping up with all that is a big challenge for me.

Congratulations, Daniel!

Check out this gallery of Daniel’s work:

Meet AIGA Student Pres. Michelle Quach!

Design by Michelle Quach

Design by Michelle Quach

A new academic year is upon us and we’re thrilled that DCA certificate candidate Michelle Quach will be serving as AIGA student group president through next summer quarter. Be sure to “Like” the group on Facebook to keep up to date with the events that Michelle, with faculty advisor, Pash, will be planning this year.

What brought you to the DCA program?

After graduating from college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about law school for awhile, and even worked as a paralegal–but the truth is, I’ve always wanted to be in a creative field. After some extended soul-searching and career exploration, I realized design might be a good fit. I’d heard great things about the DCA program, so I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a few classes. Four quarters later, I’m very glad I did.

What’s been your favorite course so far, and why?

Pumkey and Leland

Pumkey and Leland

It’s so hard to pick one! I think my favorite courses have been the ones that changed the way I looked at the world–the ones that really opened my eyes to what it means to think like a designer. I’d say my top three contenders would be Design Fundamentals, Branding: Icons, Logos, and Identity Systems, and User Experience.

We hear you have an Etsy shop. What inspired that?

Around the time I started thinking about pursuing a creative career (and having doubts about where to start), I stumbled across this line from a commencement speech by the journalist Robert Krulwich: “There are some people who don’t wait.” He was basically saying that if you really want to do something, then you should just do it. Don’t wait to be offered a job; don’t wait to be validated. Despite not being an aspiring journalist, I found this incredibly inspiring. Opening a greeting card shop on Etsy was a way for me to apply this advice to my own life–to start doing something creative right away.


What’s in store for the AIGA student group this academic year? What type of events might we see?

Based on what I’ve heard from other DCA students, I know there’s interest in general career development topics, as well as more specific ones like user experience and wayfinding. So we’ll definitely look into those types of events. I’d also encourage anyone with other suggestions to reach out as well!

Welcome, Michelle!

Interview with Recent DCA Grad Ashley Chan

It’s that time of year again when many DCA students begin wrapping up their studies and we have the privilege of reviewing some very strong portfolio work. Ashley Chan dazzled us with her passion and talent for entertainment design. Don’t be suprised if some of those movie billboards you drive past on Santa Monica Boulevard are soon designed by her! She shares her thoughts on the DCA program and beyond:

Prop design by Ashley Chan

Prop design by Ashley Chan


What brought you to the DCA program?

Graphic design was in the back of my mind as a potential career since I taught myself Photoshop as a teenager, but it was always something I was unsure of. I went back and forth about it for a while, and ended up studying economics as an undergraduate at UCI. I spent nearly a year after school working as a publicist’s assistant and realized I wanted a more creative job. I still wanted to learn more about design and improve my skill set. When I began looking for classes, I found the DCA program and was drawn to its long list of course offerings. After I signed up for Design Fundamentals to test the waters, I jumped in and never looked back!

Entertainment design by Ashley Chan

Design by Ashley Chan

What were your favorite courses and why?

Design Fundamentals with Jag was great because it pulled me into the DCA program. I really learned about having a strong concept to back up a design, which is something I’ll never forget. I also built confidence in myself as a designer in that class. Graphic Design for Film and Television with Geoff Mandel is also at the top of my list because it was exactly the type of work I was interested in, and is the type of work I’m mostly doing now. I was able to create graphics that were actually used on a television production, and it was very exciting to see my work used outside of the classroom.

As a designer, what does a potential project need to have for you to feel passionate about it?

When I’m creating graphics for film and television, such as props and set decoration, I get excited about the variety and range of graphics needed. I love when I get to try new techniques and adapt to different styles to suit the look or setting of the show. I also have fun trying to create purposely bad design for the sake of the story. In general, I’m passionate about projects when there’s a challenge. The projects that really push me and force me to problem solve and try different approaches are the truly exciting ones.

"Atonement" poster design by Ashley Chan

“Atonement” poster design by Ashley Chan

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

If all goes well, I’ll be designing graphics for film and television productions with a long list of credits under my belt!

Interview w/ DCA Grad Alexandra Stafford


Notecards designed by Alexandra Stafford

Currently working on her first cookbook, we recently caught up with chef, food blogger, and designer Alexandra Stafford to talk about her experience in the DCA program and her career path since graduating.

Tell us about your background and what led you to pursue a design education?

After working in restaurant kitchens for a few years, I became the food editor for a small newspaper in Philadelphia. Because the staff and budget was small, everyone wore many hats, so in addition to writing articles and taking photos, I had to spend time at the computer laying out the pages of the food section. This was my first introduction to working with type and images together — we used QuarkXPress back then — but it soon became my favorite part of the job. It not only gave me an appreciation for the work that went into creating engaging spreads but inspired me to want to learn more about layout design. When my husband got stationed at Camp Pendleton, I found myself freelancing for some local papers, and one day while exploring Westwood, I stumbled across a UCLA Extension course catalog. Shortly thereafter I enrolled in Design Fundamentals.

Looking back, what are your thoughts about the DCA program?

I think about concepts and skills I learned throughout the DCA program all the time. I remember JAG telling us in Design Fundamentals that learning programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator is not the key to becoming a successful designer — it’s the ideas and thoughtful concept development and problem solving that ultimately matter. In Stephen Child’s Icons and Logos class, I remember struggling to create 75 to 100 different sketches of the same two letters together, doubting the utility of the exercise, fighting every urge to get on the computer to start playing with fonts and colors. But I now begin every design project in this same manner. Finally, I still create mood boards as I learned in Shirin Raban’s Package Design course, and because I am constantly editing photos for my blog, I use skills I learned in Lisa Carney’s Photoshop II class all the time.

What was your favorite class and why?

Drawing for Communication with Henry Mateo. Henry had serious standards for homework and for how that work was presented. Even if the assignment was simply to fill a page with hand-drawn circles, he demanded it be presented cleanly. Henry taught us about teensy but powerful magnets to aid with this purpose, and I still use those magnets today. Every class began with a critique and a discussion of our homework, something that everyone in the class got better at and more comfortable with as the weeks went on. I remember while I was taking that class that I began viewing the world in planes and shapes and lines and shades. Before taking the class, I doubted I would do well, and I doubted I could learn to draw after so many years of not practicing, but the principles and fundamental rules I learned truly helped me improve as a drawer — I noticed progress every week.

Pear Print via Minted dot com

Heirloom Pear by Stafford for Minted.com

You run a popular food blog as well as sell your own line of stationery – how have your multiple projects informed one another, and what role does design play throughout?

I have always loved food-focused stationery, and I have always loved food-focused photography. But as much as I love a beautiful photograph in a cookbook or on a blog, I don’t love a food photograph on a card. That said, the inspiration for almost all of my cards is a photograph — of a pear or a cast iron pan or a block of cheese, etc — I’ve taken for my blog. For my blog, the photographs are the key design element. I try to make them dominate the space and keep everything else to a minimum. For my cards, simple graphics in conjunction with type are the key design elements. For the Julia Child notecards series I designed, I began with a photograph of my pegboard and from there created a simple but recognizable graphic that evoked the spirit and kitchen of Julia Child.

What has inspired you recently?

Cookbooks are a constant source of inspiration for me. Being home with three small children makes it hard to travel or even to get out to restaurants, farmers markets and cooking shops, all places I once turned to for inspiration. But cookbooks, especially ones filled with beautiful photographs, have the ability to transport a reader to a high-end restaurant kitchen or a southern backyard bbq or a roadside coffeehouse.  Cookbooks aren’t just pages filled with recipes anymore — they are collections of stories, photos (both of  food and environment), and often illustrations, all of which tell the story of the home cook or chef or establishment they are representing. I love the photographs of Eric Wolfinger, who I discovered with the cookbook Tartine Bread but whose most recent photos in Manresa are true works of art.

Any advice for budding designers just starting out?

First, I would say try to recognize your strengths and work at developing those strengths. Second, don’t be afraid to reach out to designers or design companies you admire. When I started looking into printing some of the cards I had designed, I emailed a ton of small stationery companies and asked about their printing process and who they used to print their cards, or if they were printing the the cards themselves, what paper they used and what printers. I didn’t hear back from everyone, but I learned a lot about the printing process from the few who did respond. Through an email exchange, I found a great small printing company, who I used for awhile, but ultimately discovered that for the price of paying someone else, I could buy a high-quality inkjet printer and nice paper, and I could print the cards myself. Finally, I would say, don’t take classes or pursue jobs for practical reasons. As cliché as it sounds, if you listen to your heart and take the classes or pursue the jobs that genuinely interest you, things will fall into place.

Interview with Recent DCA Graduate Molly McGlone

L’Olivo project for Design II by Molly McGlone


Besides impressing us with her excellent portfolio, we were also delighted to learn Molly landed her dream job at Williams Sonoma only days after finishing her coursework in the DCA program.  We recently caught up with her via email to discuss her thoughts about the program, pursuing the design field, and advice for those of us just getting started.

Tell us about your background and what led you to pursue a design education?

I have been interested in design for as long as I can remember.  Growing up I was really drawn to interior design, although I always considered that just a hobby.  I ended up studying Sociology as an undergraduate at UCLA, not knowing what I wanted to do after. I had an itch to be more creative, though.  I interned with an event designer and producer and also for a wedding designer in LA.  I fell in love with weddings – the details, the design, the branding, the paper – it really excited me.  I worked on blogs, storyboards, concepts, etc. and I increasingly saw the importance of a background in graphic design.  After much thought, I decided that was the logical next step for me.

Looking back, what are your thoughts about the DCA program and why did you choose UCLA Extension?

I researched programs and found that UCLA had both relevant course offerings and a schedule that allowed me to continue working while taking classes.  I was very interested in learning calligraphy at the time, and stumbled upon the work of Molly Suber Thorpe.  I read that she was a graduate of the DCA program, so I emailed her and asked her some questions about it.  All answers were positive and exactly what I wanted to hear before signing up.  The program ended up being perfect for me.  My instructors were phenomenal, my classmates were smart and creative, and the courses were very relevant to the real world.  The program was thorough, but I never felt like it was dragging on.


L’Olivo project for Design II by Molly McGlone


What was your favorite class and why?

This is a tough one.  Design II with Henry Mateo is at the top, along with Publication Design with John Beach.  Both instructors really made my DCA experience what it was.  They taught us to think like designers and really pushed us to create amazing work. They were wonderful creative directors.  I actually wish I was still taking classes with them today!

Tell us about your current position and what led you there?

While I do love the wedding world, I wanted corporate experience when I finished the DCA program.  Williams-Sonoma was always a dream company for me; I felt like my style and passions were in line with their brand.  I ended up getting an interview 2 weeks before classes ended, and started working there right after I graduated.  I am a designer on the e-commerce team, so I design for web all day, everyday.  It is actually very different from what I thought I would end up doing, but it has been a wonderful experience so far.  I am learning a ton, and it is great to work on a large creative team.  There is a lot to learn from everyone!


L’Olivo project for Design II by Molly McGlone


As a designer, what does a potential project need to have for your to feel passionate about it?

I definitely have a style and I always tried to stick with it when designing in class.  Henry used to tease me because I wouldn’t want to stray from it.  If I am not interested in what I am designing, it’s hard for me to be passionate and creative.  But ultimately, that is a problem a lot of designers face.  We don’t always get to pick our projects – we design for a client, not for ourselves.

Any advice for budding designers just starting out?

Keep designing!  Update your portfolio and have an online presence. Take the job even if you think it isn’t the perfect one.  You will end up learning something new and it will likely be something that will be very useful for you going forward.

Julia Moraes Chats About Her Getty Design Studio Placement

What’s it like to have a studio placement at the Getty Museum Design Studio? UCLA Extension DCA certificate students have the unique privilege of being able to apply for this opportunity on a quarterly basis. Check out what summer 2013 appointee Julia Moraes had to say about her experience:

What projects did you work on during your placement? What did you find rewarding about them?

I had the wonderful opportunity to work in many different projects during my placement at The Getty Museum Design Studio. At first, I was not sure what to expect and I thought I wouldn’t get involved in big projects, but that was not what happened. The main project was to work on banners for the Curved Wall in the main entrance and the tram arrival plaza. I also got the chance to work on invitations, on some products for the museum store, as well as on exhibits such as The Cyrus Cilinder and Ancient Persia, as well as Tiberius: Portrait of an Emperor. It was such an incredible and rewarding experience to work on such a wide variety of projects.

What was it like being in a real design studio after being in the classroom for your DCA training?

It was incredible! The working environment was great, as well as my co-workers. Everybody was always open to listening and helping.
Another great thing was that I had the chance to participate in the studio meetings, have a general view of how everything works, and get to be a part of it. It was also very interesting to work in a different pace, get more things done in a shorter amount of time, and, at the same time, get the chance to see my work printed. Every student should have this opportunity.

What will you take away from this experience that will serve you in your future design career?

This experience taught me to be flexible and open to work on many different projects at the same time. To listen to many contrasting ideas and learn how to get it all together toward a good final result. The studio placement helped me confirm the direction I want to take with my design career and I’m very thankful for that.

Check out this gallery of Julia’s work:

Congrats, Julia! For more information on applying to the Getty Museum Design Studio placement, email Kate at dca@uclaextension.edu.

Aileen Tu Chats About Her Getty Museum Design Studio Placement

work by Aileen Tu in an internship with the Getty Museum Design Studio

work by Aileen Tu in her Getty Museum Design Studio placement


What’s it like to have a studio placement at the Getty Museum Design Studio? UCLA Extension DCA certificate students have the unique privilege of being able to apply for this opportunity on a quarterly basis. Check out what winter 2013 appointee Aileen Tu had to say about her experience:

What projects did you work on during your placement? What did you find rewarding about them?

I wasn’t sure what to expect in the beginning, but I was pleased to find I had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, from creating a postcard for the Education Department to a poster for the annual College Night event (above) to creating illustrations from items in the museum  collection for store products (below). I found it rewarding to work on real projects and appreciated that my work was contributing toward a larger purpose.

What was it like being in a real design studio after being in the classroom for your DCA training?

It was great! I feel like it’s something that every student should experience, and sooner rather than later. Doing work for a class is not the same as doing work for a studio.

One of the things I learned was to be more flexible in my design process. A studio is a faster pace than in the classroom, and it forced me to work differently. I usually like to do a lot of sketches and only go to the computer towards the end of my process, but for this internship, it was quicker and more efficient to work directly in the computer. It threw me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to acquire another way of working, something I probably would not have discovered if I hadn’t done an internship like this.

What will you take away from this experience that will serve you in your future design career?

When I started the DCA program, I was so excited by the various areas of design that I couldn’t narrow down my focus. But in being able to experience different projects at the Getty, I found what I really loved most was working on the illustrations, and that I was excited by the idea of designing products. Up until recently, I had been unsure of what career path to take, but the internship helped to confirm that going down a path along the lines of designer-maker is something that is in my future.

Congrats, Aileen! For more information on applying to the Getty Museum Design Studio placement, email Kate at dca@uclaextension.edu.

work by Aileen Tu in her Getty Museum Design Studio placement

work by Aileen Tu in her Getty Museum Design Studio placement



Interview with Recent DCA graduate Rafael van Winkel

“Getting the job of my dreams was definitely a mix of hard work and good education. I did my part by being the best student I could be, and the DCA program provided me the good education through the brilliant instructors they have.” — Rafael van Winkel

rafa 1

Recent graduate Rafael van Winkel sat down with us to tell us about his experience:

What are your thoughts on the DCA program?
I’m very glad I did it. I really wanted to learn more about design theory and the DCA program definitely gave me that. Not only that, but everything I learned made my skills improve a significant amount. I liked how personal most of the classes are. The instructors take the time to critique your work and point out your strongest points but also and most importantly what you need to improve. We also had the opportunity to comment on other students’ work and that allowed me to interact with different creative points of view and try different things in my own work.

rafa 2

How did the program help you land a job that you’re excited about?
I’ve been at Trailer Park / Art Machine for almost a year now and it’s been great. As part of the Home Entertainment division I get to work on different kinds of projects for some of the biggest movie studios in the world, which is pretty exciting. I worked hard to get to where I’m at now and I’m very thankful for having the job I have.
Definitely everything I learned through the course helped me improve my skills and build a strong portfolio specific to the area I wanted to work in. The instructors saw how much I wanted it and they were always happy to look at my work-in-progress portfolio during the break or after a class and give me some tips. Getting the job of my dreams was definitely a mix of hard work and good education. I did my part by being the best student I could be, and the DCA program provided me the good education through the brilliant instructors they have. It was an honor to learn from professionals that are actually in the graphic design business and pursuing brilliant careers.

rafa 3

What was your favorite class and why?
I had a few favorites but if I had to pick one I would say Entertainment Design. Jag (Jeff Aguila) did an amazing job introducing us to the different aspects of the field including posters, collateral materials, packaging, title treatments, etc. My favorite part was developing my creative ideas into comps. The whole process of researching, thinking, sketching and rendering different concepts in Photoshop really opens your mind. I think it was really important for me to learn that from the beginning. In a real work environment you usually don’t have the time to do all this process at such a deep level. That’s when all this learning experience you had at school makes the difference.

rafa 4

As a designer, what does a potential project need to have for you to feel passionate about it?
I think every designer has their favorite categories they feel more comfortable working on. The perfect project to me is when it requires some of your strongest skills but also has that twist with something you haven’t really tried before. It’s important to be constantly challenged. It allows you to try different things, expand your knowledge and grow as a designer. Funny enough, the projects that I’m most satisfied with the results and most passionate about, always start with some struggle. That’s when you have to research, get critiques from your colleagues, explore more ideas, etc, and get the job done. It’s definitely harder than doing something you’re completely comfortable with, but when it’s finally successfully completed, you get that sense of accomplishment.

Congratulations, Rafael!

You can check out his website here. 

An Interview with Recent DCA Graduate Ena de Guzman

Design by Ena de Guzman. Below, Ena talks about the importance of being selective in your webfolio.

It’s hard to describe how exciting it can be to sit in on a student’s final portfolio review – the last requirement before we send our graduates out into the “real world.” Seeing what a student can accomplish through the course of the DCA program can be quite a privelege. Recent graduate Ena de Guzman was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

What was your favorite class and why?

I have a few favorites: User Experience Design, Icons, Logos and Logotype Design and Graphic Design Career Launchpad.

User Experience Design taught me to design for functionality and end-user experience, not just for aesthetic value. Icons, Logo and Logotype is a favorite because I’ve had this thing for revising logos that have the potential for a stronger concept. Graphic Design Career Launchpad was a great opportunity to see what kinds of work environments are out there, what other creatives are doing and how they got where they are, learning what employers will be looking for.
As a designer, what does a potential project need to have for you to feel passionate about it?

I work on projects in industries that I am very interested in – Fashion and Beauty.  Creativity flows more freely when you work with something you already love.
Your online portfolio is clean and easy to navigate. And, most importantly, the work is allowed to speak for itself. Any advice for students putting their online portfolios together for the first time?

I put myself in the shoes of the employer, looking at a number of resumes, clicking through project after project, waiting for the images to load. The process is so time consuming. I wanted to solve that and create a site that I could go through easily without having to wait a minute for every photo to load. I maximized the use of the scroll function and minimized the number of clicks you need to get around the site.

When it came to selecting pieces, I had difficulty choosing. I got attached to my work and wanted to put it all up. I eventually learned that I can’t do that if I want to make an impression. I had help in choosing with my Mentorship teacher, Masaki. Only put your strongest pieces up. It helps to get other creative’s opinions too. I had the opportunity to go to an AIGA Student Portfolio Review Day. I got a lot of comments and insight from Creatives who took a look at what I had. From there, I weeded out, made revisions and arranged my work in sets. 

web design by Ena de Guzman

What are you currently working on?

Aside from working as an in-house Jr. Graphic Designer, I have been working on branding and identity projects for clients in the beauty and fashion industries.

You rank among those of our students who’ve found full-time design work before finishing the program. Any job-seeking advice for those students who are almost ready to begin their search?

Select pieces from your portfolio that show your strongest ideas and skills and package your work. From your portfolio to your website to your resume and business card, a theme should be established. All these will represent you and the work you do so be sure to have it all reflect your style in a coordinated presentation.

Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
I’d probably be a Senior Designer at a firm and still doing fun projects on the side.

from the "non-profit" section of Ena's webfolio

Comic Book Illustrator to Future Advertiser: An Interview with Steve Buccellato

Illustration by DCA graduate Steve Buccellato.

One thing I love about meeting and advising students in the DCA program is their diversity. People come from all sorts of professional backgrounds and have goals that run the gamut. Steve Buccellato, who recently completed the Advanced Print and Graphic Communication certificate, is one of such people. He’s had what many consider to be a dream job… comic book illustrator! Where does an artist go from there?

Why did you decide to go for the advanced print and graphic certificate? I wanted something more out of my career, I guess. I felt like I was starting to stagnate and needed some new challenges. When I thought about it, the richest, most rewarding points in my career were when I was working in a studio environment, collaboration with other creative professionals. I wanted to get that back, but felt my portfolio was a bit too illustration and comic book centric to seriously compete for the Art Director positions I was looking at.

At first, I saw the program as a means to that end–to build up my portfolio with design projects. What I found was that I really enjoyed engaging with all the students and instructors on a high creative level. After years of working on “real” jobs, I loved being able to experiment and push myself creatively; to go past my comfort level. The past year has been incredibly stimulating.

You’re working to transition to an advertising role from the comic book world. What’s involved? Right now, I’m fighting the urge to start “fresh” and “disown” my past experiences in comic book publishing. First of all, that’s impossible! I’ve been in that game too long, and it’s a big part of who I am. Secondly, that would just be stupid. Comic books are in the spotlight of popular culture today, as they have never been before. I have to believe that my experience creating content for that world is extremely valuable to anyone who wants to market to a mainstream entertainment audience.

My other big challenge is related. It’s explaining to people in the advertising industry just where my skills and experiences overlap and duplicate their own. Some people get it immediately–they see the cross-over. But often, it needs to be explained…very clearly. It can be tricky. I’ve been in more than one situation where I thought I’d presented my case very well and was answered with, “but we don’t make comic books!”

In the end, there’s not much difference between creating comics/graphic novels (and associated collateral such as their ads & posters) and many of the works that ad agencies produce. It’s all images & type, right? Yes, that’s a HUGE oversimplification, but the differences are largely aesthetic; the technical aspects of print production are fairly identical. In any case, I know I can do both. Personally, I’m excited by the idea of creating entertaining content, regardless of the intended audience or delivery.

You did a mentorship with a DCA instructor, Marc Mertens. What was that like? Marc is a really inspiring teacher. I took Advertising Design with him last fall and it really solidified my interest in advertising as a career choice. I was already interested, but my practical knowledge was pretty spotty. Most of what I knew was from speaking to friends in advertising, or from occasional work as a freelance illustrator in the field. And from Mad Men, of course!

Marc’s course was very conceptual, and he ran the class as if it were a small agency. We approached each campaign using real Design Thinking, and did a lot of research into the products, competing brands and the consumer. We had to create “personas” & “brand houses” and we had to present our concepts often. I loved the entire process. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of this kind of brainstorming.

Honestly, I was sad when the course ended and my mentorship with Marc was, in a way, an opportunity to extend it. The mentorship started with huge impossible goals that were ultimately pared down and brought into focus. In the end, the product we were branding was ME. It was fascinating to take the methods of Design Thinking and apply them to myself and my own career goals.

Do you know what your dream job is? I like the idea of keeping myself open to whatever exciting opportunities may come my way. That sort-of Taoist idea appeals to me; to be the “Uncarved Block” that goes with the flow and lets things good come to him. I like the idea, but unfortunately, I’m way too practical and goal-oriented for that!

While I can imagine myself working at many different types of jobs, today I am very focused on finding an “in” at an ad agency. I think I’m really good at leading creative people and projects, so my ultimate goal would be to become Creative Director of a super-cool agency. I have a real passion for visual storytelling, and want to apply it to creating advertising content–in any and all media.

Today, I’m just looking to get my foot in the door as an Art Director…but frankly, I’d consider a more junior position if paying dues is what I need to do to get in there. I’m not proud…but I am determined to do what it takes to achieve my goals. I guess I have to admit that I’m not a Taoist…

Often DCA students are freaked out about drawing. Any advice? In the spirit of great advertising I’ll say: “Just do it!” In my opinion, anyone can draw. Everyone DID draw, when they were children. People stop when they lose interest or confidence; usually because other kids (who are interested and encouraged) keep at it and improve. If you want to draw, then draw often. Carry a sketchbook and draw from life, get a couple books on perspective & anatomy. Take some classes. Copy masters at a museum. Find a mentor. If you’re seriously interested, you just need to put in the time. If not, don’t sweat it; you can always hire a professional. 😉

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