Congratulations to Renee on her recent graduation! Hear about her experience and see some of her projects below:
Tell us how you got interested indesign and what brought you to the DCA program.
I was interested in taking the DCA program at UCLA Extension because I wanted to take a more creative route in my career path after completing my undergraduate degree in business and marketing. I thought that learning more about graphic design would compliment my degree while allowing me to do more of what I actually enjoy.
Whatwere your favorite courses and why?
Design III: Branding and Typography were definitely my favorite courses. I really enjoyed Design III: Branding because it allowed me to see the bigger picture for how a brand’s aesthetic must align with the brand’s identity and goals for it to appropriately communicate who they are and what they offer to their consumer. I also really enjoyed Typography because I didn’t know anything about it prior to taking the course and it made me fall in love with type. I find myself constantly searching for new typefaces and font trends in the design space.
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see myself working for a very established graphic design agency that works with many CPG brands. I am currently looking for an agency role because I believe that I will learn the most as a designer in that environment. I am really excited to see how I evolve as a designer and where my career path goes from here.
Congratulations to Rachel on her recent graduation! Learn more about her background and experience in the DCA program here:
Tell us how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program.
I have always had a love for design. Whether it was editing my own photos for social media or laying out blogs on Tumblr, I enjoyed being creative at a young age, but never had an opportunity to really dive into it and learn from professionals. I received my undergraduate degrees from Cal State Long Beach in Dance and Journalism. As a journalism student, I was able to take a media design class, where I learned more about editorial and print design. I enjoyed this side of journalism, as it really allowed my creativity to flow and I was able to narrow my focus in the department to design and multimedia.
After graduating in the midst of COVID, pursuing a career post-college became difficult. I decided to utilize my time and broaden my knowledge in design to other areas. After much research, I found the DCA program and immediately knew it was exactly what I was looking for! The classes allowed me to go back to the basics and really get a grasp on what graphic design was. The program exceeded my expectations and truly prepared me for a career in graphic design.
What were your favorite courses and why?
My favorite courses in the DCA program were Design II: Collateral Communication, and Package Design. These two classes were challenging and helped me really see my true potential. The projects were a lot of fun and the instructors allowed the students the freedom to choose industries they were interested in working in. I was able to create work for my portfolio that really showcased my skills. I learned about the process of branding and gained experience in receiving feedback and pitching my work, and it really prepared me for the real world.
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?
In five years, I would love to be a full-time freelance brand designer. I enjoy working one-on-one with clients and bringing their visions to life. I want to create a name and brand for myself, with the potential of hiring others and being a small agency for local companies.
Congratulations to Tommy on his recent graduation! Hear about his background and see some of his projects below:
Tell us how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program.
I had already begun teaching myself Photoshop when I met someone at a party who was taking an intro course in the program. We talked about design and she recommended the program. A couple of weeks later, COVID hit and I impulsively registered for three classes to fill up my time. From there I just fell more and more in love with design and ended up completing the entire program.
What were your favorite courses and why?
I really enjoyed Typography taught by Grace Magnus—she was so detailed and really took the time to offer feedback. I also really enjoyed Design History and Context. I found it really inspiring and gave me the freedom to explore different styles and aesthetics in my own design with awareness and knowledge of where those came from.
Please tell us a bit more about these stunning monthly playlist pieces you’ve shared here. What was the assignment and what was your process like, from inspiration to production?
This was actually a personal project that wasn’t assigned in class.
In September of 2019, I went to Paris to teach English and listened to a playlist I had made the entire time I was there. After leaving, I was struck by how easily transported I was back to the emotional state I was in while I was there every time I listened to it—I guess sense memories could be one way of thinking about it. This experience really got me thinking about the relationship between music, time, and emotion and the importance of those things to me.
During the pandemic, when it was easy for the days and months to bleed into each other, I wanted a way to remember everything as vividly as I possibly could, explore stylistically within my design, and share music that inspires me.
So, I decided to curate a playlist and design cover art for each month of 2021 and now also 2022. Through this project, I’ve been able to track my growth, interests, and progress and feel that each month serves as a touchstone for my journey as a designer and creative. I look at it as documentation—almost journal entries even. Each song I add takes me back to a certain place and time. One of the best parts of this is that through sharing these each month it’s led to new friendships and meaningful connections.
In terms of the process, the playlists are reflective, meaning that I make them at the end of each month. Throughout the month I collect bits and pieces—maybe find a new typeface I want to test out, new textures I want to play with, or a new layout idea. It all sort of builds up and I listen to the music and just create. The covers are definitely inspired through the music. Some of them are more planned than others, but I don’t really put any guardrails on it, just sort of do whatever I want to do and follow what inspires/ excites me. After they’re finished I can go back and revisit different moments in time and feelings through all the different playlists and cover art.
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?
In 5 years I see myself working in design/ art direction in the music industry.
We’re grateful to recent DCA graduate Frederic Chang for sharing more about his academic and professional journey with us. You can view his website here and his online portfolio here.
Tell us how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program. I was firstly interested in fine arts and architecture, but I did not think much about the future until my last year of high school. I saw that my intellectual interests and artistic/crafting hobbies could be linked through design and desired to explore this field further. After discovering my passion for furniture and interior design during my BA in industrial design, I decided to study further in the same field in Europe to see different points of view and how design there differs from East Asia.
My vision was opened greatly while completing my master’s degree in London. Critical and speculative design was a very intriguing topic for me to work on during my degree. It involved multiple design disciplines in order to create an experience of an alternative world. When I became a product designer back in Taiwan, I thought about going further with my interest in creating experiences. Instead of doing another degree, I wanted courses that would have more connection to the professional world. I found the DCA program after my first visit in Los Angeles, which I thought would be a great place to learn more about designing experiences and sharpen my skill in conveying more abstract design concepts to an audience. The opportunity of an internship in the Getty (although the pandemic prevented this), and gaining further knowledge in visual communication were also incentives. So here I am!
What were your favorite courses and why? Despite the fact that the pandemic lockdown came 5 months after I started the program, I enjoyed many courses and began to realize what I needed and where I wanted to be involved in communication design.
Unity I: 3D Game Design and Game Engines with John Selig was a great experience. As I wanted to obtain a better sense of digital interaction and how game design process works, I chose to learn about Unity. There was a lot for me to learn including all the coding, interactions, and visualization in the software, and John really helped us a lot both technically and conceptually. Seeing my classmates’ diverse project ideas was very inspiring and that kept me thinking what digital experiences do in a physical world.
Designing Experiences with Robert Checchi was another one of my favorite courses. The focus of the class was exactly what I needed and Robert provided lots of information on both technical and methodological details with professional examples, as well as lectures by professionals from the industry. The weekly discussions after each student’s project progress presentation were the most mind-blowing part of the class, because everyone was working on very different projects and we got interesting ideas and inspired each other a lot.
Motion Graphics I with David Dodds was an adventure. We had a lot of freedom to work on our weekly projects and that encouraged great diversity of visual styles. The healthy competitiveness kept you wanting to be better. We learned from each other how to use the software creatively. I gave myself many challenges such as making my own music for most projects and experimenting with other 3D programs, in order to have a more comprehensive sense of video production. This class was also a great practice in creating narrative experiences.
What’s a project that you’re particularly proud of? If I had to choose one, I would say the museum exhibition experience design project “Age of Imagination” was my most confident and ambitious work in the DCA program. The project was done under the mentorship of Robert Checchi. It contains a tremendous amount of research on English history, decorative arts, exoticism, industrial revolution…etc., as well as planning the message I was trying to deliver to the audience and why it mattered. I attempted to create an experience showing how English people saw foreign cultural influences in 18-19th century and how we see English culture of that period nowadays in popular media such as movies based on Jane Austin novels or the TV show Bridgerton. I kept my own playful design approach while solving technical problems related to the actual Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) site and museum exhibit curation.
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years? My experience in the program has confirmed my plan to become a multidisciplinary experience designer in the future. There is always more to learn in any field, and gaining solid professional experience will be the most important mission of mine in the next few years. As I already have some experience in product design, working in environmental graphics, installation design, or exhibition design will be my next step, while maturing my applied skills in digital interaction on the side for use in future professional projects.
We’re thrilled to share that DCA graduate Lina Beijerstam’s book, Do You Know Where the English Alphabet Comes From? (And All Its 26 Letters) has been published!
“I started sketching some vectors of the English alphabet. And then I thought, what’s the background story? I’ve always loved books growing up, so I started sketching for a children’s book. I did my research for the text and, together with a woman who is an educator in history, we managed to create a text about the origins of the English alphabet. I think education is so important in life, and the main goal of the book is that it’s educational for both adults and younger. The adult can read it alone or with a child to learn. I thought this was so fun to do…I found a publisher who liked my idea and the book. Together we made some edits to it based on his experience, and I can now call myself a published author.”
You can learn more about Lina and her experience in the DCA program in this interview.
The book is available here and Lina’s design website is here.
The next DCA graduate in our Where are they now? series is Gemma Fenol Banus, who has been very busy indeed! Below is an interview with Gemma and a gallery of her recent work:
Where has your career taken you since leaving the DCA program? Since leaving the program, my work has transformed into a new direction. My intention when I decided to enroll in the DCA program was to be able to complement my interior architecture bachelor’s degree. I felt that both together were great tools for me to achieve my interest in Installation art. After finishing the program, my work changed considerably. I was able to transform spaces into immersive experiences while also introducing 3D graphic elements. All together this brought me a platform to start building sculptures of considerable scale, the largest being up to 60ft. Additionally, I started to work with digital images and 2D images that would evolve into 3D projects. This has allowed me to create my personal language that is accompanied by unique colors, patterns and light. These works are a visual representation of my artistic flavor profile.
What’s one thing you’ve learned the hard way since leaving the DCA program? At a young age, I was always very independent. I wanted to build everything myself and you could say, I had more power tools than most of my guy friends. Being a woman in this industry is never easy and there is always a stigma that we can’t do the same job physically that a man can. So learning to let go a little and allow some mentorship and having people around to learn from has been something I have learned to accept more openly. I always wanted to do it on my own and perhaps I should have been more open to mentorship, so someone could have helped me to network and make my path a bit easier. I learned real quick that it is very difficult nowadays to get your work out into the public eye of the world where it needs to be seen without knowing the right people. People may have brilliant ideas and designs but if you don’t know how to get them out there, then you won’t have the platform to express yourself.
What’s one thing that’s been easier than you expected? The ability to make things happen, not to just talk about it. I was fortunate enough to be able to learn how to build and to have friends that were carpenters. Also coming from architecture, I knew a lot about construction. This really aided me in figuring out ways to do what I wanted without the logistical stresses that come with making a design a functional reality. It was refreshing to be able to create things on my own and be self sustaining with the little resources that I had. The hustle and hunger really helped drive me forward.
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years? The ability to feel oneself instead of seeing oneself has always appealed to me. I want to feel that my works are encapsulating not only myself and my vision but also creating an open narrative for any viewer. I would love to be creating and installing large scale installations and concept design pieces all throughout the globe. I am intrigued with the idea of combining technology and engineering with art and lighting. This is really the direction I intend to pursue in the immediate future. I hope to meet other creatives with a similar vision that are interested in taking collaborative works to new heights. It’s always really interesting when you get to work with like-minded peers as it helps to drive and challenge not only myself but as well to inspire the next generation of forward thinkers and creatives.
The next DCA graduate in our Where are they now? series is Dahye Chung, who can’t believe it’s been seven years since she graduated.
Where has your career taken you since leaving the DCA program? I moved back to my home country, Korea, and worked a few years in marketing for a company that curates designer furniture and lighting which was really amazing because I got to work first hand with timeless classics. Then, a couple years ago my husband and I started a small interior design firm. I can incorporate my background in architecture and everything I’ve learned at the DCA program into my work because it ranges from space design to signage all the way down to menus, pamphlets and business cards.
What’s one thing you’ve learned the hard way since leaving the DCA program? If I don’t like it, the client won’t like it.
What’s one thing that’s been easier than you expected? Styling and staging interior spaces. I love finding, arranging and organizing things to make the space look as beautiful as possible.
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years? I think I’ll still be working with my husband, running our studio, but hopefully we can move out of the city, and into the countryside, find a big old warehouse that we can renovate the heck out of and make into our home. We will be travelling regularly and not working as much 🙂
Congratulations to Clement on his recent graduation! Hear about his background and see some of his class projects below.
How did you get interested in user experience design and why did you choose this program?
Ever since I started my interest in design in general at 16, I was very intrigued by the wide variety of visual mediums a designer can use to tell a story. While developing my graphic design in college, I wanted to push my boundaries beyond pushing pixels. I want to understand more about technology, business, psychology. It is from there I started to explore user experience design. After I graduated college, I decided to continue my design pursuit at UCLA Extension. I chose this institution because it provides a year-long program that nurtures students to understand the broader scale beyond user experience. The program allowed us to explore different aspects of the design spectrum, such as marketing, customer experience, service design, and user psychology. On top of that, all the instructors are diligent professionals passionate about teaching new designers.
Can you tell us about a project you completed that you’re proud of, or that you found especially challenging?
In our third quarter of the program, our team’s assignment was to create an end-to-end service design for a car dealership in the digital age during pandemic and post-pandemic. I wasn’t familiar with the dealership industry, nor was I familiar with service design. As our team proceeds with the project, each part of the research, design, and iterations are meticulous. The long hours of work are required to condense into a 5-minute presentation. Despite the challenges, this is the quarter that I truly understood the full scale of user experience design. Our team collaborated so seamlessly it made the challenging assignments very fun to tackle. In the end, the project was a big success, and I couldn’t be more proud of our hard work.
What are your professional aspirations?
I hope to become a designer that can use my skills for a good cause and reach out to a large audience who need access to basic needs. Industries such as healthcare, technology, athletics, and philanthropy can impact large communities, and I would be honored to be part of an influential team.
What advice would you give someone interested in learning more about User Experience Design?
Always have a growth mindset. You will learn new things in each project, which means you will have to fill yourself in other people’s shoes a lot. So it’s essential to become adaptable and prepare for whatever case comes your way. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes and ask a lot of questions! That way, you will grow not only as a designer but as a person.
Next up in our Where are they now? series is designer Kelley Cobb, who said, “I can’t believe it’s been 5 years already!” Not only has Kelley built a successful career, but she’s also won awards with her design work.
Where has your career taken you since leaving the DCA program? I have been working at Interact Brands in Boulder, Colorado for the past five and a half years. I started there as an intern and have since become a Senior Designer. We work on anything from food and beverage packaging and branding to now expanding into the larger CPG space and into digital touchpoints. In these last years I’ve been able to work on projects for pre-revenue start-ups all the way up to some of the largest food companies in the world. I’ve even been honored with winning the Designalytics Award twice — once for the Boulder Canyon redesign and the other for the Fat Snax redesign. This is an award that recognizes redesigns that had a significant tangible impact on the brand’s sales.
What’s one thing you’ve learned the hard way since leaving the DCA program?
I’ve learned how subjective design can be. Your designs may not always be someone’s cup of tea, but that’s okay! There will be plenty of people out there who see the value in what you bring to the table – that’s the beauty of design, there’s something out there for everyone!
I also think the pace at which design changes can be a challenge — both in terms of client needs as well as design trends. Everything is so fast-paced in this industry that you alway need to be keeping up on what is working, what’s not working and what is the next skill you can learn to take your designs to the next level.
What’s one thing that’s been easier than you expected? Discovering other talents that help make me a well-rounded designer. For example, I’d never even thought about copywriting in the past but I’ve discovered my love for it as I was concepting designs and by adding just one extra touch of copy or a quippy tagline can give your designs a whole new dimension and meaning.
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years? I still see myself designing five years from now but I also see much more involvement at the Art Direction or Creative Direction level. I never want to stop designing but it’s also very rewarding to be able to lead and work in a collaborative environment with younger designers who are just getting started in the industry.
We were thrilled to catch up with 2015 DCA graduate Matheus Spinelli, who also shared some of his team’s recent work from Mother’s Market in Costa Mesa:
Where has your career taken you since leaving the DCA program? Wow! 6 years since I got my DCA Certificate! Well, a lot has happened in my professional path. After the Getty Studio Placement, I worked for years for GrubMarket and helped shape their brand by designing many assets in different media. Then I was hired as creative director at Mother’s Market to refresh a 40-year-old pioneer brand in the natural grocery industry. Today I lead a lean team of designers dedicated to offering the best-in-class creative solutions for Mother’s. We conceptualize brands and campaigns and design all the assets from emails to websites and flyers to billboards.
What’s one thing you’ve learned the hard way since leaving the DCA program? My biggest challenge was transitioning from a graphic designer interpreting briefs and focused on production to a creative leadership role with added responsibilities in a cross-functional environment. I learned that clear communication and project management skills are critical.
What’s one thing that’s been easier than you expected? To become agile with the software was easier than I expected. It sounded challenging to remember all the tricks and shortcuts, for all different software, but it became more natural with practice, and I got savvy!
Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years? I love the creative process in branding – from strategy and concept to execution and production. In 5 years, I want to be involved with creativity and innovation, doing much of what I do today, playing with infinite creative resources to design identities that shape brands and connect people. The goal is to make everything look and feel good and keep having fun doing it.
Thanks for touching base, Matheus! Wishing you every success!