Archive by Author

The Awesomeness that is the IDEO Way

Fred Dust from IDEO taking questions after his presentation on designing for scale

Last night’s DCA AIGA Student Group event was fantastic, with a standing-room only crowd of about 100 eager listeners packed into a classroom in Lindbrook. Fred Dust educated us on the ways of thoughtful, empathetic and strategic design that is the IDEO way.

Andrew Kutchera and Fred Dust

My personal highlights:

– The visuals, which included a photo of Fred’s dog (and connected story)
– Stories of Peruvian women who are change agents in their communities
– Distilling the diversity of our citizenry into four behavior types that can then be targeted when teaching said citizens how to access their social security
– Homemade bundt cake at the back of the room
– Seeing students I know and connecting them to one another and their instructors
– Fred’s sense of humor, which is up my humor alley
– Thanking Lutska for her years of service!

I took many photos and tried to capture how inspired and abuzz we all were. Love, hope, bravery!

What were your highlights?

Lutska Mamos, Fred Dust, Aileen Tu

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. 😉

Designer to Director: An Interview with Stacy Kimmel

I can remember meeting Stacy Kimmel about a year ago when she was considering joining the Advanced Print and Graphic Communication Certificate. And join she did!

Since then, with her new and improved portfolio, she has landed a new job: Director of Creative Services at City of Hope. Read on to learn about what her new position involves, how she got it and what she’ll look for in your portfolio if you meet her in an interview.

See her portfolio here.
Learn more about City of Hope here.

What brought you to UCLA Extension’s DCA Advanced Print and Graphic Communication certificate?
I am an advocate of continuing education. If you believe you have all the answers and have learned everything there is to learn you might as well retire and call it a day. Our industry is constantly evolving through technological advancements including the introduction of new platforms such as social media. Taking classes, attending trade shows and learning from your peers are a just a few of the steps we can take to stay relevant in our field.

What was your design/work history before starting the certificate?
I have been very fortunate in my professional career which has spanned over 20 years. I have worked in a variety of industries both as an employee and as a founding partner of Kismet Design Group, an award winning design firm. Past clients include: Disney, Warner Bros., Mattel, Paramount Pictures, Kid Space Children’s Museum, Pier 1 Imports, Ross, Ryman Auditorium, Southern California Edison, Travel & Leisure, The Grand Ole Opry, The Motion Picture & Television Fund, The Topps Company, Universal Studios and USA Today.

You recently got a new position! Please tell us more about it.
I recently accepted the Director of Creative Services position at City of Hope. It’s a remarkable facility which I am very proud to be part of. For nearly 100 years, City of Hope’s pioneering research has brought the world closer to cures for many life-threatening diseases, from cancer to diabetes. Compassion drives the ongoing innovation. Every discovery made and new treatment developed gives patients the chance to live longer, better and more full lives. My department, which consists of 10 members, is responsible for all the print materials which support the development and clinical sides of the institution. That includes cause and celebrity marketing, event and fundraising as well as clinical materials that the patients, doctors and researcher use at the hospital.

You’re in a position to hire new and more senior graphic designers. What do you look for in those roles?
An invaluable skill for any designer is the ability to be a team player and have an understanding of what that really means. As a senior member of any team you are expected to take part of the collaborative process, respond well to art direction and have a positive attitude. When I review a portfolio I look for a well rounded book both stylistically and in the variety of work represented. I look for a good use of typography, color theory and most importantly creative conceptualization.

You have a continuing education benefit at work. What do you look forward to learning in the future?
I will be finished with my certificate in Advance Print & Graphic Communication next quarter after which I would like to take a few additional classes. I am considering your new class Social Media for Designers. City of Hope has a dedicated team in the Communication Department that works solely on social media platforms. Our 2 teams partner up frequently and it would be beneficial if I had a better understanding of that world. I am also interested in taking some business classes to further develop my leadership and management skill set.

Thank you, Stacy! There you have it – direct from a designer who could hire you one day. Core skills like type and color are critical, as are staying open to the new technologies in design. I really appreciate Stacy’s openness to learning new things and accepting that just because you’ve got a great portfolio and client list doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything left to learn.

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. 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, 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:!/bantjes and!/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 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
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

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:

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

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