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Interview with DCA graduate Elizabeth Gilmour

Congratulations to recent graduate Elizabeth Gilmour! She tells us a bit about her experience in the DCA program:

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

I came to design indirectly. I have a background in art, languages, teaching, and marketing. My love of the written word was the connecting thread. I decided on taking the DCA program to improve my visual communication skills in my marketing career.

I like to think of the visual shapes of words as graphic elements in and of themselves. In early childhood, I lived in a place where the main language was foreign to me, and before I could understand what was written on store signs and parking lots, I was drawn to the outlines of the words and the emotion they seemed to convey. As soon as I became literate, I became a type nerd, inventing alphabets and secret codes, collecting rubber stamps, scrutinizing international postage stamps, and creating homemade posters and booklets on the history of printing. One of my memorable childhood experiences was visiting a linotype printing press and casting my name in a line of metal type.

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with the visually represented word. For me, a book is the perfect design object because it combines functionality and beauty; it is also a tactile, visual, and a personal object that links one’s past, present, and future.


What were your favorite courses and why?

All my UNEX courses were amazing. I particularly enjoyed Typography, InDesign, and Design History and Context. Typography is foundational, as type is the anchor on which effective design communication lies.

InDesign is a compact yet complete course to improve layout and typography skills. I learned efficient work flows in design software and even tried my hand at book-binding techniques!

Design History and Context helped me further develop professional presentation techniques and helped expand my Eurocentric perception of design into one that is more inclusive and historically aware.

In addition to the DCA certificate, you’ve also pursued certificates in marketing and business at UCLAx. Please tell us about the rationale behind your pursuing the different fields of study, and what you hope to accomplish?

At the beginning of my UCLA Extension certificate in Business Leadership, I had no idea this path would lead me to marketing and design! I took the Business certificate initially to help transition from a teacher mindset to one of a businessperson in my new life in the US.

I took a social media marketing course as an elective in the Business certificate, and soon after opted to pursue the Marketing Certificate with Concentration in Social Media and Web Analytics. The energy of collaborating with teams in these courses was infectious: marketing in the digital era was an exciting channel for verbal/visual communication and creativity. After completing the Marketing certificate, I began my OPT (Optional Practical Training for international students on F1 visa status) as a marketing communications coordinator for a non-profit. I soon realized that I loved the graphic design side of my new job but needed to improve my skills to create original and professional-looking materials. That’s where UCLA Extension’s certificate in Design Communication Arts came in. The very name of the certificate echoed my belief that good design is as much a form of communication as it is an art.

Extension helped me find my true calling as a marketer and designer.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

I’ve lived in Canada and Germany, and travelled extensively. I think a lot of us who have lived internationally and have been engaged in many different fields find it hard to see how all our experiences tie together at first. UCLA Extension gives students the practical skills and personal connections to help them distill their diverging experiences into something compelling and unique.

I see myself channeling the skills and practices I’ve learned into visual communications that help people and organizations improve their stewardship of the natural world. We are facing a grave climate crisis; we need to learn effective communication techniques to bring conservation awareness to individuals and corporations. Language can empower, give hope and enable positive transformation. Language amplified through beautiful design can spark positive action and change.

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

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