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Interview with UX Graduate Clement Lee

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.

DCA Graduates: Where Are They Now? An Interview with Kelley Cobb

Kelley Cobb

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.

Congratulations, Kelley!

DCA Graduates: Where Are They Now? An Interview with Matheus Spinelli

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!

Interview with Recent DCA Graduate Monica Catalan

Congrats to recent Design Communication Arts Grad Monica Catalan! Read about Monica’s DCA journey below. All work samples are hers.

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

I was working as a Diplomat for the Mexican Consulate and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of being in LA. I was looking to complement my career in marketing by learning graphic design and UCLA Extension was a great option for me since they offer great opportunities to international students.

What were your favorite courses and why?

Color Methodologies was a very fun learning experience and I discovered how much I love illustration and it stirred my interest in playing with different materials. I found it fascinating how we humans are heavily related to color psychology.

Drawing for Communication (Kate: no longer offered) was a very joyful and thoughtful class. I enjoyed learning the role that drawing plays in the art and design process. I liked how the teacher highlighted the benefits of freehand and how this kind of communication requires a special amount of empathy towards the addressee of the message.

Design History and Context was very interesting to me, learning the value of the history of design and the metamorphosis of the field throughout the years around the world. I enjoyed finding inspiration from the past and rediscovering ways to apply it pushing it in a fresh, modern direction.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

UCLA Extension helped me to discover my passion for illustration. I also love myths and legends so I see myself illustrating my own books for adults and children.

Congrats again, Monica! You can view Monica’s inspiring portfolio here.

Interview with UX Graduate Larry Nguyen

Congrats to recent UX Grad Larry Nguyen! Read about Larry’s UX journey below (all work samples are his).

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

What got me interested in UX Design was actually networking with UX Designers when I was a Technical Recruiter, recruiting Front End Engineers and UI/UX Designers. By talking to them, I learned about an incredibly interesting industry and how designers helped create the modern digital world we live in. I was intrigued by how designers would simply empathize with users and facilitate that information to stakeholders in order to redesign products with the user in mind. In broader terms, designers help users and stakeholders’ lives easier and I thought this would be a fulfilling career.

What brought me to the UX Certificate program at UCLAx was the interest in bootcamps and certification programs available for people like to me change careers. Personally, I wanted to take my time to strengthen my design fundamentals with the year long program at UCLAx compared to other bootcamps and shorter certifications. It also helped that I attended UCLA for my undergrad, therefore I was extremely comfortable expanding my education with my alma mater.

What was your favorite course and why?

I had two favorite courses, UX III and UX IV. Both of the instructors I had for these courses have impressive backgrounds and I felt that I learned so much from both of them. I had built the foundation of my skills with the first two courses, but UX III and UX IV was what elevated my design skill set and mindset towards human centered design. Both courses helped me push myself to improve and continue to learn more about the diverse industry that UX has been trending to. Therefore both of these projects are featured in my portfolio.

Can you tell us about a project you completed that you’re proud of or challenged you?

A project I’m proud of was the mentorship project I completed with my team under Adam Fischbach. It was such a unique opportunity to partner with a real company and apply what we learned from the program to a company with needs that could actually implement our design solution. It was challenging because it was a project that we could not afford to make mistakes on, therefore we painstakingly ensured that all of our deliverables and presentations to our client was work of our highest caliber.

What advice would you have for anyone interested in getting started in UX?

Advice I would give for anyone interested in getting started in UX is to never be afraid of making mistakes. Design is about iteration, and constantly improving on your designs. This goes with always asking questions when you’re unsure of anything.

Interview with recent DCA graduate Trinidad Suazo

“How design can improve people’s perceptions of life and experiences is what makes me feel passionate.” –Trinidad Suazo

Congrats to Trinidad Suazo for completing the DCA program! She tells us more about her experience here:

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

Design plays a key role in my life! It inspires me and makes me happy. I started my journey through design in Chile, where I am originally from. I got my bachelor’s degree in integral design from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and after that, I decided to look for my first experience in the professional field. I worked for 4+ years in a company dedicated to the design of educational material for children. In parallel, I also worked as a freelance designer. That mix of experiences was fantastic and helped me realize how much I like the experience of designing. I feel very passionate when I am doing it. Furthermore, what I really like and was challenging at the same time is the fact that the design field requires you to be on the cutting edge. That is why I am always looking for new courses and experiences that could boost my skills and knowledge.

Study abroad was always one of my dreams. That is why I decided to look into innovative design programs. In this sense, the DCA program at UCLA Extension fit perfectly. My motivation for this program was immediate. The DCA program was a perfect complement to my skills and purposes for my future plan. Certainly, it was the best choice.

What were your favorite courses and why?

This is always a tricky one, hahaha. But, if I need to choose only a couple of them, I would say my favorite courses were Media Experimentation with Michelle Constantine, Design II: Collateral Communication with Henry Mateo, Design IV: Capstone with John Beach, and Motion Graphics I with David Dodds. These instructors made me get the best out of myself, and they help me to look at graphic design from new perspectives. Exactly what I was looking for!

Media Experimentation was one of the first and most exciting classes of the program. I had the opportunity to explore different experimentations (collage, transfers, etc.), which was very special since I was able to boost and show my illustration abilities.

Design II was sensational and really fun. I enjoyed creating a speaker and a set of cooking tools. It helped me to remember how interesting it is to create new products from the basics to the whole concepts behind them.

Motion Graphics I, wow! It definitely opened my mind to a new field of design. I wanted to learn how to animate concepts and create stories, but I never thought that I was going to love it so much.

Finally, Design IV: Capstone was my last class and definitely one of the best ways to finish the certificate. It was a very complete class with exciting challenges, especially with respect to the creative skills required. I enjoyed every single part of the course, but mainly the importance of working in teams and the steps required to complete a whole project.

You’ve lived in several different countries and are now based in Switzerland. What’s it like pursuing your career in different international settings?

It has been very challenging and exciting, but without the absence of difficulties. But that’s what makes it even more exciting. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to study and work abroad. In my opinion, these are experiences from where you grow up professionally but most important personally. In the case of the DCA program, being involved in courses with classmates from all over the world, with many different backgrounds and cultures was an enriching experience.

Today, living in Switzerland is like starting once again, but with much more experiences already learned. I am very motivated by the challenges that come ahead. I have to admit that I have been lucky (which is always welcomed), especially in these pandemic times. When I finished the DCA program I received a job offer from Chile to work remotely as a designer, which has allowed me to apply all my design skills. I am very happy doing that. In parallel, I am learning French, which is the local language, and therefore preparing myself for the upcoming personal and professional challenges here.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

I see myself doing my own design and illustration projects. I dream of creating my first designed and illustrated book. Additionally, I picture myself working in a company with a design team in a position of leadership, having the opportunity to create meaningful designs, and guiding other designers as well. For me, design is key in people’s lives. How design can improve people’s perceptions of life and experiences is what makes me feel passionate. I hope to be able to transfer that energy and passion through my designs.

Congrats again, Trinidad!

Interview with recent DCA graduate Lina Beijerstam

Congrats to Lina Beijerstam for completing the DCA program! She tells us more about her experience below:

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

My background is in marketing, and I’ve been working in marketing for most of my life. I moved here from Sweden and enrolled in the Digital Marketing certificate. But after getting in touch with people who were students in the DCA program, I knew I always wanted to be on the more creative side and switched careers. Best decision I’ve ever made in my life.

What were your favorite courses and why?

Tough question, but I must say Typography. John Beach who taught the course was amazing. I never would have thought that I would end up becoming a typography nerd.

What’s a project (student or professional) that you’re particularly proud of?

I like my poster designs; they reflect the deepness in me. And my jewelry designs. However, I love making graphics, so the children’s books project I’m also proud of. That’s one of the next projects I have going on, making a fun children’s book with all the presidents of the United States.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

I want to start my jewelry business and do more children’s books. I see myself doing that and some freelance work.

Thank you, Lina!

Interview with Photography Graduate Jonathan Mark Hedrick

Congratulations to recent Photography Certificate grad Jonathan Mark Hedrick! We spoke to Jonathan about his path to photography, and where he hopes to take his practice. All images included are his.

Tell us about how you got interested in photography and what brought you to the Photography Certificate

My interest in photography began in an organic way. Visual stimuli has always been a means of comfort, inspiration, and education for me. I have always been artistically inclined, drawing and building worlds with things like Legos when I was very young, to taking art classes through my youth and studying art formally in college. I have always been an observer, probably due to the nature of my life as an Army brat and later as a sailor in the US Navy. Furthermore, being adopted has contributed to my preference of observing things, so watching the world in real life and in media is something I respond to. Photography seemed like the logical step for me and my pursuit to find a means to create and express myself.  I learned about the certification program at UCLA Extension and I decided that I wanted to pursue photography in a serious capacity and enrolled for the certificate to learn about the craft.

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

Beginning students might not realize that photography involves more than making a pretty picture, or the type of camera one uses. Beginners can be overwhelmed with the logistical aspects of photography along with the diverse disciplines that make up the genre, before they find the thing or things they want to photograph. My experience in the time I was enrolled in the program has led me down many paths that photography can offer, and I believe that it will be a constant learning experience. One can learn how to operate a camera and operate lights, read a scene before them, compose it even. I think photography is more than that, and a large component is what the person behind the camera is doing it all for. I know I didn’t sign up with that in mind when I wanted to learn “photography”. 

For your portrait series, can you share what you were exploring with these images, and how you approached the project? 

My conceptual works stem from current and past experiences, observations, and the feelings I personally have about those experiences. During my Photography II class with Natasha Rudenko, I was introduced to works by Cindy Sherman, Gregory Crewdson, Carrie May Weems, and other conceptual photographers. It had a profound effect on me. It was exhilarating and inspirational that a distinct messaging style of portraiture could be created by using allegory and visual metaphors. I like to understand and explain things with analogies and I suppose this is why I gravitated to this sort of composition.  

I am exploring the human experience through my eyes, using analogies that inform me of the ways I can express what it’s like to be unseen, consumed, distant, oppressed, afraid, etc. 

Where do you hope to take your photography practice in the future? 

At this point, it’s challenging to decide on one thing to do or where I see myself. There are so many aspects to photography that I deeply enjoy and am attracted to. I would love to work as an editorial/portrait photographer like Richard Phibbs, or do long projects like Alex Soth and grand tableaus like Gregory Crewdson. I can only stay dedicated and hope that will lead me to creating meaningful work aside from just doing photography as a conventional job. I want to contribute to the world and it feels like I’m just getting started. 

Interview with DCA graduate Laura Ángel

Congrats to Laura Ángel for completing the DCA program!

We previously featured Laura for her packaging project that was published on the influential blog Packaging of the World. She tells us more about her time in the DCA program:

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

After a bachelor’s degree in Audiovisual Communication and two years working as a web designer and QA, I realized I wasn’t really happy. I discovered that design was the only aspect of my job that I really enjoyed, so I decided to steer my professional career in a different direction without knowing exactly where it was going to take me. After a lot of research, I found the DCA program and I remember thinking that there wasn’t a single class that I wouldn’t enjoy, so I made the decision to move to LA and pursue my passion for graphic design.

What were your favorite courses and why?

Typography and Design II: Collateral Communication were my favorite courses, although I really enjoyed the program as a whole. I found that the Typography course really helped me understand and appreciate how letterforms work with each other and with other elements of design and taught me how to think creatively to achieve many iterations on the same subject, which is something that as designers we should excel at.

In Design II: Collateral Communication, I was able to put into practice all of the different aspects of design that I had learned, like typography, color theory, layout, hierarchy, etc. and the importance of the relationships between them in a single piece.

What’s a project (student or professional) that you’re particularly proud of?

530 Craft Beer was a project that I created in Design II: Collateral Communication. It reflects the very first stages of my creative style and vision as a junior designer, and it gave me the confidence and motivation to continue creating and sharing my work with others, which in the beginning is a really hard thing to do.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

I’m currently focused on gathering as much experience and knowledge as I can from other great designers. I think that having in-house experience is incredibly important to understand all of the details that go into producing great design, but long term I would love to create an independent studio where others can also learn, grow and share their creative vision.

Thank you, Laura!

From the DCA program to a Thriving Freelance Career: Interview with DCA graduate Gabrielle Merite

“I am still discovering the bliss, pain and coffee addiction that come with being your own boss!” – Gabrielle Merite 

Designer Gabrielle Merite, who completed the DCA program two years ago, is becoming quite well known for her work in info-design. This is an article/infographic designed, written and produced by Gabrielle. And you can see her Behance here and her website here.

She was kind enough to take the time to catch up with us:

You completed the DCA program in 2019. Where has your career taken you since then?

When leaving the DCA program, I started working as a brand designer: first for a cosmetic company, where I had done my internship, then for a technology startup in the restaurant industry. Parallel to these in-house positions, I developed my focus on information design, working with clients as a freelancer. Last June, I quit my full-time job and started this exciting (but terrifying) adventure that is being a full-time independent designer.

What’s a project that you’re especially proud of?

That is a tough question. I am a harsh critic when it comes to my own work. I’d say that my main pride is becoming a (somewhat) competent designer in the very specific field of data visualization and information design. Coming from a non-design background – I was a scientific journalist before the DCA – it was definitely an ambitious project. This field is very niche. There are no traditional career paths to follow to get there. I am grateful that I was given so many opportunities to develop my design skills and portfolio, despite my atypical profile, while working with people making a positive impact on the world. If I had to pick my most favorite project… I probably would have a hard time choosing between my data illustrations series for WePresent because of how much fun it was to use mixed media, my latest piece in the MIT Technology Review for having the freedom to explore scrollytelling, or my ongoing work with the United Nations (all the above and more).

What’s one positive thing that you’ve learned about the design industry? What’s one thing that’s been more challenging than you expected?

One positive thing: once you find it, among this huge field that is design, your niche community will change your life! In the past two years, I have had the chance to connect and become close friends with talented designers and other creatives. Our exchanges on design, freelance, creativity… and their support have been invaluable. They have truly helped me be a better designer and a better person. I wish this type of support would be accessible to any new designer, including those from underrepresented backgrounds in order to build more inclusive communities. This relates to what has been particularly challenging : finding a place where I can design for people, not for profit. Us designers cannot afford to ignore our role in detrimental systems and processes any longer. Our work is embedded into business models, organizational structures and policies. This is a constraint. It can also be an opportunity to push, from the inside, a change towards a more sustainable future.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

I am not sure yet, I am still discovering the bliss, pain and coffee addiction that come with being your own boss! There are so many options from there. Whether it is to keep growing my solo practice, building an agency with collaborators or, who knows, going back to a 9-5?
Hopefully, then, I will still be creating designs (with data!) that fill my soul and tentatively help build a more compassionate world.

Congrats Gabrielle!

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