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Interview with UX Graduate Nathdanai Somprasong

Tell us about how you got interested in user experience design and what brought you to the UX Certificate. 

I am always interested in design, especially digital product design. However, I found that creative work is usually subjective, meaning that it always partly depends on each person’s experience and perspective and it is not easy to achieve the best design solution.

After reading about the UX design certificate of UCLA Extension, I know right away that this is what I was looking for and I wanted to learn in more detail to develop and enhance my design capability. I gained not only visual problem-solving skills but also research and analytical skills to validate my work.

What’s something about UX design that beginning students might not realize? 

I notice that most people usually focus on qualitative data such as user interviews or user testing and overlook the importance of quantitative data. Both types of data could complement each other and lead to a more preferable design solution.

Knowing the limitation of the technology is also important. It is very beneficial to know some basic coding skills to know what is feasible and to be able to communicate with the web development team.

What was your favorite course and why? 

I enjoyed studying many courses here, however, User Experience II: Iteration is my favorite course. I had a chance to learn about service design which is challenging and enjoyable. I learned to look beyond the computer or mobile screens and was able to pay more attention to the end-to-end experience for a business.

Students also had a chance to work together as a team which was a valuable experience because people from different countries and different backgrounds can exchange views and experience with each other. 

If the phone rang right now and somebody offered you your dream job, who are they, and what’s the job?

A company that provides digital product design service such as an application or website design which focuses mainly on creating the best experience for their users both visually and usability and work closely with the clients and their users for the best design outcomes.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years? 

My goal in 5 years is to be a well known senior UX designer in an agency or a tech company. I also have a strong passion for teaching, so I also would like to teach design or other subjects as much as I can and hopefully have my own academic institution one day.

Interview with DCA Graduate Kevin Kwok

Designer Kevin Kwok

Tell us how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program.

I first dabbled in design when I discovered Photoshop in high school. Back then, I was interested in drawing and design but didn’t really consider making a career out of it. I went on to study Law and Business for my Bachelor’s degree—a total 180, I know. After I graduated, one thing I knew for SURE was that practicing law was not for me.

I explored the idea of working in branding/graphic design, but realized I didn’t have the right education and experience for it. That’s when I decided to attend the DCA program—with the goal of brushing up my technical and conceptual skills, and building a strong design portfolio.

What were your favorite courses and why?

Hmm there were so many! Off the top of my head, I really enjoyed Photoshop I with Hakon Engvig, Design II: Collateral Communication with Henry Mateo, Graphic Design Career Launch Pad with Pash, and ALL of John Beach’s classes.

If I had to pick one, it would be Design II: Collateral Communication because it was so challenging yet rewarding. The class was hands-on, practical and well structured. Henry helped push my logo, brand identity, and package design skills to the next level. I left the class with 2 solid portfolio pieces that I was proud of. The icing on the cake was being able to present our work to critics at an actual design office (for us it was at BMW Designworks). Thank you, Henry (and all my instructors), for inspiring me and getting me to where I am now.

If the phone rang right now and somebody offered you your dream design job, who are they, where do they work, and what’s the job?

I’m currently a senior designer at a creative agency called Wondros, and this wouldn’t have been possible had I not attended the DCA program. I’m also really interested in branding and brand building. So my dream job would be to work at well-established brand consultancy and design firms like Pentagram, Collins, or Wolff Olins.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

In 5 years, my goal is to become a Creative Director—either at an agency or in-house at a company that values innovation, creativity and design.

Great work, Kevin! We are wishing you every success.

You can contact Kevin at hello@kevinkwokdesign.com.

Recent DCA Graduate Interview: Felipe Farme D’Amoed

Learn more about Felipe, and the unique skill set he’s leveraged in his stand-out portfolio:

Tell us about how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program.

My relationship with design started with drawing while in class at school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Although I did that often, I never thought that was something I would pursue. After many years and different career paths I was introduced to design while working to create the visual identity and branding of the InvestEGGator, a 3D printed faux turtle egg with a tracking device. I worked alongside an Australian design agency who opened my eyes about how design really worked. That was the moment I decided to switch to what I love doing now, designing to tell a story. I knew about UCLA Extension through a friend and found the DCA program, which opened the doors for me to begin the transition to where I am now.

What were your favorite courses and why?

What I loved about the program was how gradual students were introduced to the techniques and eventually using them to express what they envisioned in their minds. It felt liberating to be able to hone the skills to put the ideas into a physical form. With that said, so many courses inspired me. To name a few, Design III: Branding, Package Design, Design II: Collateral Communication, Advertising Design and Designing Experiences were the most enticing to me by the depth of concept they relied on. These courses allowed me to focus on the message I wanted to come across and use design as the medium to attractively convey that. I believe these courses together with Publication Design were crucial to shaping me into understanding the world that Design has to offer in all its aspects.

If the phone rang right now and somebody offered you your dream design job, who are they, where do they work, and what’s the job?

That’s a tough one. I can imagine myself in so many different roles, but that’s what fascinates me. As I said, a job that would allow me to visually convey the message in a unique way to the end user would motivate me every day. This job would definitely be related to the environment and conscious consumption, teaching people in unorthodox ways about problem solving as a community. Unorthodox is where environmental design comes in, where the experience would shock and entice, giving the correct awareness to the issue in place. I am deeply motivated by plastic and ocean pollution, and conscious consumption. I would love to work in a place where this was the focus, as there is a lot of room to prosper and educate people about consuming the right products and services that bring us together and create positive social and environmental impact.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

Having my own business addressing social and environmental issues with unique experiences and innovative design that breaks the norm we unfortunately see very so often out there today. I would love to take Palo Audio further and use that as a medium to connect us to nature. I also want everyone in the world to have access to clean water. Not sure how yet, but I’ll get there. Let’s catch up in 5 years…

Thank you, Felipe. And best of luck with your worthy goals!

Interview with Recent DCA Grad: Xinyi Yang

Learn how recent DCA graduate Xinyi Yang combined a background in advertising with design skills in the DCA program, her favorite courses, and more:

Tell us about how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program.
My background is in advertising. After graduation, I got a job in one of the tour operators as a marketing specialist. My daily job required me to do the design of newsletters and banners, which I hadn’t learned a lot in my school. I decided that it was time for me to improve my working skills. Friends of mine suggested to me to take design classes in UCLA extension. I am glad that I took the class and enrolled in the DCA program.

What were your favorite courses and why?
Typography and Design III: Branding. I always had the problem of choosing the typo in the banner. Typography class really helped me a lot with that. The professor of Design 3 is awesome. He always pushed us to improve and inspire our potentials.

If the phone rang right now and somebody offered you your dream design job, who are they, where do they work, and what’s the job?
I would like to be in the entertainment or gaming industry. To help them work on their products and branding makes me excited.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?
I see myself as a product manager.

Thank you, Xinyi!

Interview with Recent DCA Grad: Laurie Racicot

It’s not hyperbole to say that design can change the world. Arguably no previous DCA student has better coupled top-tier design communication with a pressing social issue–in this case, the climate emergency–to enact change. We’re thrilled by what Laurie Racicot has produced in the DCA program, and by the role she will play in enacting climate justice.

Tell us about how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program.

I’ve been interested in design for as long as I can remember. I believe it relates to every subject, every issue, every part of the world. So when I decided I wanted to create a career that could make an impact for good, it was a natural choice. I chose the DCA program for its amazing flexibility. I live in a small town and have small children. The options for challenging academic programs that fit into my life were pretty slim. I’m thankful that I found this program that let me build my skills remotely and on my own timeframe.

What were your favorite courses and why?

Typography II was one of my favorite courses. I had a great instructor and I really enjoyed getting into the nitty-gritty of how type communicates on the micro and macro levels. We got to refine letterforms and design magazine spreads.

I also really enjoyed the Publication Design course, which I completed as a mentorship because it’s not yet offered as an online class. It was fascinating to build a magazine concept from the ground up. I got to choose a subject I was passionate about, research the audience, and write a creative brief from scratch. Then I got to stretch my art direction, illustration, and typography skills.

I enjoyed Art Direction Boot Camp for the same reasons. I like the strategic thinking that goes along with writing a creative brief and doing all of the research that goes along with it.

And I can’t forget to mention Color Methodologies, one of the very first courses I took. I just really love working with color!

If the phone rang right now and somebody offered you your dream design job, who are they, where do they work, and what’s the job?

I have many dream design jobs at the moment, here is one: I would get a call from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or maybe someone at the Sunrise Movement, asking me to be Art Director for a campaign to promote the Green New Deal.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

I will be a freelance art director and design strategist with enough professional connections that I can choose to work exclusively on projects related to climate justice.

Congratulations, Laurie!

DCA Graduates: In Their Own Words

Publication Design by recent DCA graduate Stella Musi

Happy Holidays, Visual Arts community!

Before we leave for our annual office closure (Dec 23 – Jan 1) I wanted to share some of the thoughtful words that recent DCA students have said upon completing the program.

Enjoy your break, and we’ll see you in the New Year!

–Kate, Cristina, Ana, Nathan and the rest of the Visual Arts team

“The DCA certificate has made an enormous impact on my professional experience. It has contributed not only to my creativity, but to truly think outside the box and deal with a project in a fast but elegant approach.”
–Marta Carissa Castillo Vasquez

“The DCA program helped me explore the whole other side of the design world, figuratively and literally. It helped me learn and develop my skills. It helped me figure out what I was passionate about and where my strengths and weaknesses are as a designer. I think it’s amazing to have professionals from the industry teach us. They helped us get ready for the outside real world with the most updated tool set available. And finally, this program introduced me to so many amazing people who I can now call mentors, friends and colleagues and for that I’ll be always grateful! “
–Maitrayee Punjabi

“The DCA Program helped me realize exactly what field I want to work in, as well as show me a number of techniques and skills I didn’t even imagine I’d learn or know.”
–Harrison Bradford Huss

“It was a leap of faith. I was in a completely different field when I decided to take classes at UCLA Extension. At first I was hesitant, but my instructor was amazing and very encouraging, and so I took that leap and I don’t regret it. I’ve met many great designers via the DCA Program that I know I’ll keep in touch with in the future. Now I’m in a happier place and am confident to go through with my career change. If you can afford to make that leap, I say go for it!”
–Judith Park

“I have gained a good foundation and the skills to successfully pursue what I am most passionate about- Graphic Design!”
–Monica S. Rawlins

“The DCA program transformed my career from fashion to graphic design.”
–Odul Saroz

“I really enjoyed the DCA program from learning the various design tools of the trade, to understanding the entire design process, and expanding my creativity techniques and critical thinking skills. Also, the instructors bring tremendous real world experience to each class.”
–Stacy L Kupcheni

“I’ve made great progress after learning in Design Communication Art program. The DCA program taught me not only design skills but also the strategy of problem solving. It’s an approach to a higher level design. I will recommend UCLA Extension to my friends and coworkers.”
–Li-Yuan Selina Liu

“I like the fact that it covers a wide range of courses which prepares me to be a well-rounded designer.”
–Man Ting Kong

“Leave Behind” Design by Maitrayee Punjabi

Interview with Recent DCA Graduate: Odul Saroz

Recent DCA graduate, Odul Saroz,has successfully blended her background in fashion design with the DCA program to create a powerful, unique skill set. After her final portfolio review, program director Scott Hutchinson described her work as, “Insanely good.”

Tell us about how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program.

“My interest in design evolved around my interest in art, specifically drawing and painting by my mother’s encouragement. Later on, I studied fashion design and worked as a fashion designer for several years, then I started discovering and making graphic design-related projects and realized that it excites me more. To enhance my design vision and skills, I wanted to study abroad and found the DCA program which was a perfect fit for my goals. The variety of courses offered in the program helped me a lot to get a customized education and made me feel comfortable using graphic design tools and concepts when I was switching my career.”

What were your favorite courses and why?

Design II: Collateral Communication class with Henry Mateo had a broad impact on my design approach and taught me to think from a different perspective while I was making design decisions and managing the process. The task he gave us was creating two completely different products and their brand identity. Therefore, I found out a better understanding of the process and demographic information are as important as the project itself. When I was taking the class it was challenging; however, after I completed it I was definitely more confident in design and felt that I can finalize any kind of project from vision to product.

Also, Typography class with John Beach was one of the most fundamental class in the program. His specific profession and sensitivity in type led me to grasp typography deeply and constantly incorporate my knowledge from the class to any task I would get now or in the future. Last but not least since I always wanted to work in entertainment-related projects Jag was a great instructor. His style, experience and critiques as my mentor in the program were very crucial.”

If the phone rang right now and somebody offered you your dream design job, who are they, where do they work, and what’s the job?

“Before I started the program I envisioned myself doing exceptional designs for movie posters and creating album arts for my favorite musicians. Also, I am very passionate about museums and contemporary art so anything related to those fields would fulfill my goals as a designer. I’m hoping to have the opportunity to work for all of them!”

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

“To be an art director in an agency or a company that has similar ethics to mine and prioritizes being creative. At the same time, I’d like to do personal projects and keep growing as a designer and artist. I would rather consider myself as more than one thing, so my expectation is to never stop learning and utilize my design skills for good reasons and bring awareness to good causes.”

Congratulations, Odul!

DCA Graduate Interview: Michael Kao

Michael Kao

Congratulations to DCA graduate, Michael, who was recently accepted to SVA NYC’s MFA Design program!

Tell us about how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program.

Hi, my name is Michael. I was born in Ohio and raised in Taiwan. Since I was little, I was always drawn to images and loved to draw and color. Growing up, my parents took me to art classes, and I drew pictures for my friends. When I moved to Los Angeles for high school, I was introduced to oil painting and began visiting art museums. I decided to study graphic design in college because I wanted to combine my artistic talents with design skills. After I graduated college, I have been working in the design field for over five years. As a working professional, I wanted to continue to learn and improve my craft. UCLA Extension’s DCA program offers a wide variety of design classes with flexible schedules. It suited my needs perfectly and has helped me grow as a designer over time.

What were your favorite courses and why?

All the classes were great. My favorites were Advertising Design and Publication Design. In Advertising Design, we learned about different kinds of advertising campaigns and designed ads for brands and products we loved. Anya pushed us to develop ideas into designs that engage and persuade consumers on a deeper and emotional level.

In Publication Design, I created an environment and conservation magazine titled Sustain. I gathered interesting articles that I wanted to share with people. All the spreads were designed to be unique but with a cohesive look as a whole. Throughout the course, John’s feedback and class critiques really helped make our magazines better every week.

When and why did you decide to pursue an MFA?

Since I began working as a graphic designer, I always strived to be better and chase after my career goals. After many conversations with my family and close friends about personal growth and dreams, it was almost two years ago that I decided to start pursuing an MFA. While juggling work and DCA classes, I utilized most of my weekends to thoroughly rework and prepare my design portfolio. On top of real-world projects, the DCA program has better prepared me for MFA applications. I am glad all the hard work is paying off. I am also very grateful for all the support I received along the way.

What are your long-term goals for your design career?

My long-term goal for my design career is to become a creative director for a company and/or an organization that I believe in. I am passionate to work for a good cause and to make positive and meaningful impact in the world through design. I am excited for the next chapter of my design path!

Thank you, Michael!
UCLAx Visual Arts

Interview with Recent DCA Graduate, Maitrayee Punjabi

Congratulations to recent DCA graduate, Maitrayee Punjabi, who shared some info about her time in the program with us:

Tell us about how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program?

I was always interested in art. My mom’s background in architecture helped me grasp 3D visualization along with geometric and pattern work. My fascination in tech led me to pursue a Bachelor’s in Computer Science. After university, my friends and I started working together on freelance jobs for web and app development. During that time, I started working with Photoshop and Illustrator and that piqued my curiosity in design communication. It was the perfect blend of art and technology and I loved it. I knew I wanted hands-on experience in that field and I’m glad I found that in the UCLAx program.

What were your favorite courses and why?

Design II (Collateral Design) and Design III (Branding). In Collateral Design, I learned a lot about the entire design process. For a project, we had to hand-build our products, packaging, and brand collateral. I really enjoyed problem-solving and coming up with creative solutions for brand identity. This class helped me open my eyes to how branding works.

If the phone rang right now and somebody offered you your dream design job, who are they, where do they work, and what’s the job?

The person would be from a company most likely be in the entertainment or tech-product industries. I would love to be able to help work on their branding, product, packaging, and motion graphics.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

I see myself as a multimedia designer at a partnership studio.

Thanks, Maitrayee!

Interview with recent DCA grad Elizabeth Melnitzky

Elizabeth Melnitzky

Big thanks to recent DCA graduate Elizabeth Melnitzky, who shares her thoughts on the DCA program and some of her outstanding projects below:

Tell us how you got interested in design and what brought you to the DCA program.

I grew up loving art and enjoyed going to museums with my dad who worked as a painting conservator. I studied Art History in college and contextualized how artists effected change in society; I also gained a visual reference library that is crucial in my design work. After working in Public Relations in New York for a few years, I consistently saw the need for good design that could contribute to better communication and results.

I absorbed everything possible about the design industry but felt I needed to gain a fundamental skill set to break into the industry. I moved to Los Angeles for a bit of freedom, space and light to study design after falling in love with the landscape: the vintage signs, the bright colors, and what felt to me like an abundance of nature after living in New York. The location along with the ability to work while learning new skills attracted me to the DCA program. To bring things full circle, learning about Design History at the DCA program brought new life to my art history background, designers were behind so many of the technical and cultural advances that made many of the great art movements possible.

If the phone rang right now and somebody offered you your dream design job, who are they, where do they work, and what’s the job?

As a designer, I embrace the opportunity to work across multiple industries, mediums and platforms. The most important element in my dream job is being part of a team that uses design as a tool for a change and helps clients tell their story to make a positive impact. In the current climate, it is no longer acceptable or financially effective to ignore issues of sustainability. My dream design job would involve developing identities and products for brands and communities that are working towards a better and more efficient way of doing things. I’m attracted to companies that are looking to disrupt industries and agencies that are providing the creative work to help achieve their goals. I want to work closely with other designers and team members who are using analytics, goals, and strategies to define how their designs will help solve a problem.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

In 5 years I’d love to be working as a designer at an agency that is using their wide reach to effect tangible change in the world, or in-house at a company that is solving issues that will determine the course of the next generation. I want to have measured successes in building brands and helping communities through design and be surrounded by team members that are as passionate about effecting change as I am. I want to have built on all of the skills I’ve gained at the UCLA program and to never remain stagnate in my pursuit of good design.

What were your favorite DCA courses and why?

The wide array of course offerings was another element that drew me to the DCA program. While picking up the basic tools of the trade, Adobe Creative Suite, Photography, Drawing for Communication I loved the opportunity to focus on niche areas of expertise throughout this program. Learning the fundamentals of UX thinking and design along with practical skills such as HTML and Java allow me to better understand the channels a consumer will connect with my graphics on. Having the ability to communicate with other designers in this area on projects is invaluable and the teachers at the UCLA made complex subject more approachable.

Congrats, Elizabeth!

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