work by Aileen Tu in her Getty Museum Design Studio placement
What’s it like to have a studio placement at the Getty Museum Design Studio? UCLA Extension DCA certificate students have the unique privilege of being able to apply for this opportunity on a quarterly basis. Check out what winter 2013 appointee Aileen Tu had to say about her experience:
What projects did you work on during your placement? What did you find rewarding about them?
I wasn’t sure what to expect in the beginning, but I was pleased to find I had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, from creating a postcard for the Education Department to a poster for the annual College Night event (above) to creating illustrations from items in the museum collection for store products (below). I found it rewarding to work on real projects and appreciated that my work was contributing toward a larger purpose.
What was it like being in a real design studio after being in the classroom for your DCA training?
It was great! I feel like it’s something that every student should experience, and sooner rather than later. Doing work for a class is not the same as doing work for a studio.
One of the things I learned was to be more flexible in my design process. A studio is a faster pace than in the classroom, and it forced me to work differently. I usually like to do a lot of sketches and only go to the computer towards the end of my process, but for this internship, it was quicker and more efficient to work directly in the computer. It threw me out of my comfort zone and enabled me to acquire another way of working, something I probably would not have discovered if I hadn’t done an internship like this.
What will you take away from this experience that will serve you in your future design career?
When I started the DCA program, I was so excited by the various areas of design that I couldn’t narrow down my focus. But in being able to experience different projects at the Getty, I found what I really loved most was working on the illustrations, and that I was excited by the idea of designing products. Up until recently, I had been unsure of what career path to take, but the internship helped to confirm that going down a path along the lines of designer-maker is something that is in my future.
Congrats, Aileen! For more information on applying to the Getty Museum Design Studio placement, email Kate at email@example.com.
work by Aileen Tu in her Getty Museum Design Studio placement
“Getting the job of my dreams was definitely a mix of hard work and good education. I did my part by being the best student I could be, and the DCA program provided me the good education through the brilliant instructors they have.” — Rafael van Winkel
Recent graduate Rafael van Winkel sat down with us to tell us about his experience:
What are your thoughts on the DCA program?
I’m very glad I did it. I really wanted to learn more about design theory and the DCA program definitely gave me that. Not only that, but everything I learned made my skills improve a significant amount. I liked how personal most of the classes are. The instructors take the time to critique your work and point out your strongest points but also and most importantly what you need to improve. We also had the opportunity to comment on other students’ work and that allowed me to interact with different creative points of view and try different things in my own work.
How did the program help you land a job that you’re excited about? I’ve been at Trailer Park / Art Machine for almost a year now and it’s been great. As part of the Home Entertainment division I get to work on different kinds of projects for some of the biggest movie studios in the world, which is pretty exciting. I worked hard to get to where I’m at now and I’m very thankful for having the job I have.
Definitely everything I learned through the course helped me improve my skills and build a strong portfolio specific to the area I wanted to work in. The instructors saw how much I wanted it and they were always happy to look at my work-in-progress portfolio during the break or after a class and give me some tips. Getting the job of my dreams was definitely a mix of hard work and good education. I did my part by being the best student I could be, and the DCA program provided me the good education through the brilliant instructors they have. It was an honor to learn from professionals that are actually in the graphic design business and pursuing brilliant careers.
What was your favorite class and why?
I had a few favorites but if I had to pick one I would say Entertainment Design. Jag (Jeff Aguila) did an amazing job introducing us to the different aspects of the field including posters, collateral materials, packaging, title treatments, etc. My favorite part was developing my creative ideas into comps. The whole process of researching, thinking, sketching and rendering different concepts in Photoshop really opens your mind. I think it was really important for me to learn that from the beginning. In a real work environment you usually don’t have the time to do all this process at such a deep level. That’s when all this learning experience you had at school makes the difference.
As a designer, what does a potential project need to have for you to feel passionate about it?
I think every designer has their favorite categories they feel more comfortable working on. The perfect project to me is when it requires some of your strongest skills but also has that twist with something you haven’t really tried before. It’s important to be constantly challenged. It allows you to try different things, expand your knowledge and grow as a designer. Funny enough, the projects that I’m most satisfied with the results and most passionate about, always start with some struggle. That’s when you have to research, get critiques from your colleagues, explore more ideas, etc, and get the job done. It’s definitely harder than doing something you’re completely comfortable with, but when it’s finally successfully completed, you get that sense of accomplishment.
Design by Ena de Guzman. Below, Ena talks about the importance of being selective in your webfolio.
It’s hard to describe how exciting it can be to sit in on a student’s final portfolio review – the last requirement before we send our graduates out into the “real world.” Seeing what a student can accomplish through the course of the DCA program can be quite a privelege. Recent graduate Ena de Guzman was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
User Experience Design taught me to design for functionality and end-user experience, not just for aesthetic value. Icons, Logo and Logotype is a favorite because I’ve had this thing for revising logos that have the potential for a stronger concept. Graphic Design Career Launchpad was a great opportunity to see what kinds of work environments are out there, what other creatives are doing and how they got where they are, learning what employers will be looking for.
As a designer, what does a potential project need to have for you to feel passionate about it?
I work on projects in industries that I am very interested in – Fashion and Beauty. Creativity flows more freely when you work with something you already love.
Your online portfolio is clean and easy to navigate. And, most importantly, the work is allowed to speak for itself. Any advice for students putting their online portfolios together for the first time?
I put myself in the shoes of the employer, looking at a number of resumes, clicking through project after project, waiting for the images to load. The process is so time consuming. I wanted to solve that and create a site that I could go through easily without having to wait a minute for every photo to load. I maximized the use of the scroll function and minimized the number of clicks you need to get around the site.
When it came to selecting pieces, I had difficulty choosing. I got attached to my work and wanted to put it all up. I eventually learned that I can’t do that if I want to make an impression. I had help in choosing with my Mentorship teacher, Masaki. Only put your strongest pieces up. It helps to get other creative’s opinions too. I had the opportunity to go to an AIGA Student Portfolio Review Day. I got a lot of comments and insight from Creatives who took a look at what I had. From there, I weeded out, made revisions and arranged my work in sets.
web design by Ena de Guzman
What are you currently working on?
Aside from working as an in-house Jr. Graphic Designer, I have been working on branding and identity projects for clients in the beauty and fashion industries.
You rank among those of our students who’ve found full-time design work before finishing the program. Any job-seeking advice for those students who are almost ready to begin their search?
Select pieces from your portfolio that show your strongest ideas and skills and package your work. From your portfolio to your website to your resume and business card, a theme should be established. All these will represent you and the work you do so be sure to have it all reflect your style in a coordinated presentation.
Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
I’d probably be a Senior Designer at a firm and still doing fun projects on the side.
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. 😉
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.