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Interview with Recent DCA Graduate Frederic Chang

Frederic Chang

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.

Congratulations, Frederic!

DCA graduate Lina Beijerstam Publishes a Book!

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!

Lina writes:

“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.

Congratulations, Lina!

DCA Graduates: Where Are They Now? An Interview with Gemma Fenol Banus

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:

Gemma Fenol Banus

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.

Congratulations, Gemma!

Check out this gallery of Gemma’s work:

DCA Graduates: Where Are They Now? An Interview with Dahye Chung

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 🙂

Thank you Dahye!

Check out her and her husband’s studio here: www.studio-ua.com

And instagram: @studio_ua_

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 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 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!

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