Advice from around the country

Well, I think it’s safe to say it’s officially fall! I think I will always associate the fall with going back to school. Even the first day of the school year in college I would still get butterflies in stomach and feel nervous for the year ahead. There is always so much excitement and plans of everything you want to accomplish throughout the year. Everyone is rested and refreshed and ready to run into the new school year head-on.

This is my first fall not going back to school. It is a very weird feeling – I feel like I am forgetting to go to class or that I must have some assignment I forgot to do. But even though I’m not technically in “school”, I am still learning. Always. I remember being in 6th grade and my mom telling me I would never stop learning and thinking “ummm, Mom, I only have to be in school until I’m 22. Then I can be done forever!” 12-year-old me was very wrong. Ten years later – I hope I NEVER stop learning.

I wanted to reach out to a few friends that have graduated over the past five years and hear a few things they’ve learned since they’ve graduated. I asked them to share one piece of design advice they wished someone had given them in college. From Washington and California, these guys have some GREAT advice!

So students, here are a few tips to read through before delving into your new school year and professionals – it would be great to see what your advice would be too! Comment below and tell us your piece of advice!


Kelly Shea

Age: 24

Graduated: 2011

Position / Company: News Artist at the Seattle Times

Job description: I create daily infographics for the newspaper. Usually, these fall within the lines of maps, charts and diagrams – or combining such things into something larger. Over time, I’ve also begun illustrating for special reports and our Sunday magazine.

Past jobs: Intern at YES! Magazine, graphics intern at Circle of Blue, data analyst and designer for Visible Technologies (Seattle-based social media company).

One piece of design advice you wish someone told you in college: When someone hires you as a designer, they are trusting you to be a creative worker who can wear many hats comfortably, learn quickly and forge the complex ideas of many into something simple and beautiful to all. Put simply: you are going to have a lot on your plate. The way to have fun doing this (and prevent irritating everyone) is to abandon any loyalty you have towards one method or set of rules. Each place you work for will have different tools to use and a different audience to think about. Focus first on becoming an eager learner and an attentive communicator — This is the foundation. Ask questions, open your mind up, and get cozy with the concept of developing skills on your own time. Oh, and don’t expect the technology you’re learning right now to help you in a year or two.

Katelin Carter

Age: 23

Graduated: 2012

Position / Company: Graphic Designer for oneVessel (Vessel Drinkware)- a reusable drinkware company in Seattle, WA.

Job description: I illustrate designs for the drinkware and also work on print ads & print catalog. The majority of my day is spent doing client virtuals for companies such as Nordstrom, Whole Foods and also many independent coffee shops around the United States.

Past jobs: Intern at YES! Magazine (Bainbridge Island, WA), Graphic Design intern at Hazen & Sawyer (New York City) Freelance Designer for Learning Cultures (New York City)

One piece of design advice you wish someone told you in college: Learn how to use a tablet (I love my bamboo one) right away. When I walked into my first day of work at my current job all I had for a computer mouse was the tablet. The first few days I felt like I was learning how to use a computer for the first time. Now my work flow and illustrating / design process goes SO much faster. I wish I had learned how to use one in college because of this. Go buy one and use it. You will love it!

Also, always try to be constantly learning and growing as a designer! Get involved. Make friends in your program. Some of my best memories are from pulling all nighters in the library basement while finishing a project but having five other designers around me keeping me company.

Stephanie Meredith

Age: 22

Graduated: 2013

Position / Company: Trainee designer at the Orange County Register

Job Description: I design covers and inside pages for the community weekly papers, occasionally helping out on the dailies as needed.

Past jobs: Design intern at the Cape Cod Times; design intern at The Star Press of Muncie, Ind.; design intern at The Indianapolis Star.

One piece of design advice you wish someone told you in college: Stop comparing yourself to others! It gets so frustrating and stressful always feeling like you are in direct competition with your peers. If you get wrapped up in trying to be THE best instead of your personal best, you just won’t be as happy. Everyone is wonderfully talented in their own way and excel at different things. Whether coworkers or classmates, your peers should be people you share and develop ideas with, draw inspiration from and simply work together to make each other better.

Season Travelbee

Age: 24

Graduated: 2011

Position / Company: Designer at the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines, Iowa

Job description: I design news pages for our North team papers: Sioux Falls, Des Moines, St. Cloud and Iowa City. I also create some print graphics and am learning how make interactive publications for the iPad.

Past jobs: I was the graphics intern at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the summer after graduation

One piece of design advice you wish someone told you in college: Be flexible and ask lots of questions! It can be really intimidating to start a new job working with talented, seasoned designers (pun intended?). If you see a design or technique you like, don’t be afraid to ask about the design process. I’ve learned a lot just by asking someone to show me how they built something in Photoshop, or what their thought process was when working with a tricky topic. It shows that you’re willing to expand your skills, and you’ll probably get to know your coworkers pretty well too.

Alex Bordens

Age: 29

Graduated: 2008

Position / Company: Assistant News Applications Editor / Chicago Tribune

Job Description: I work with a team of developers and journalists to tell stories online, analyze and visualize data, design and develop websites and build reporting and presentation tools for the newsroom.

Past jobs: Graphics producer / Chicago Tribune

One piece of design advice you wish someone told you in college: Pencil sketches are vital to the creative process and launching a project. Not only can you rip through ideas quickly but sketching helps develop a road map for your project and articulate your design concepts to everyone else on the team.

David Downham

Age: 24

Graduated: 2011

Position / Company: Production Designer at Angie’s List in Indianapolis

Job description: Help design some of nearly 100 monthly magazines for Angie’s List subscribers as well as help put together local iPad versions of the publications.

Past jobs: I worked at the Gannett Nashville Design Studio (with Mark) as a sports designer after graduation and my internship in Oklahoma. Then had the opportunity to return to OKC to work in the Art Department at The Oklahoman while my fiancee worked on the copy desk. Just returned to Indiana to my current job while my fiancee starts her venture out of journalism and in to law school at Indiana University. I interned at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Oklahoman during my time at Ball State.

One piece of design advice you wish someone told you in college: Get involved as soon as you can in whatever you are designing. If you aren’t required to go to pitch discussions or editorial meetings, go anyways. Some of the best packages are the ones you are a part of from the beginning. And ask questions too! So many times have I sat in editorial board meetings, hearing the same thing as everyone else, but I interpreted it differently than the person next to me. Also, while in school, try different things! You’re a designer? Ask to shoot some video. You copy edit? Ask to help with your publication’s social media. It’s easier to try things in school than it is later on in you professional life (but definitely not impossible down the road)

Valerie Keinsley

Age: 23

Graduated: 2012

Position / Company: Self-employed at Vallarina Creative as a designer and photographer

Job description: I do custom design work for clients such as logos and branding work, as well as sell fun invitations and stationary through my Etsy shop. I’m also a portrait and wedding photographer!

Past jobs: writer and photographer for The Catholic Moment newspaper, marketing and design intern at Indiana Humanities, graphics intern at Indianapolis Monthly, graphic designer at the Fisher Institute for Wellness and Gerontology at Ball State

One piece of design advice you wish someone told you in college: Do other things besides design, or whatever your major is. Diversity is crucial to creativity and inspiration. It’s easy to feel like you need to spend every waking moment behind a computer screen exploring Creative Suite, but it’s really important to have other interests and hobbies and cultivate those. Some of my best ideas come from doing something completely unrelated to work.

Mark Townsend

Age: 25

Graduated: 2011

Position / Company: Designer at the Gannett Design Studio in Nashville

Job description: I currently design the sports section for The Clarion-Ledger, a paper based in Jackson Mississippi. But I’ve designed for almost all of the papers we handle here in Nashville at one time or another.

Past jobs: I was a graphics intern for the non-profit Circle of Blue, and before that, a graphics intern for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

One piece of design advice you wish someone told you in college: Don’t settle for the status quo. Just because something has been designed in a certain way, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to make it better, and make it your own. Especially in the newspaper business, people can be stubborn in how things “should” be done. Communicate with your editors/peers/bosses to improve the product. But also just as important: don’t follow design fads and trends that won’t improve something in the long run. Make smart improvements.

Stephanie Stamm

Age: 24

Graduated: 2012

Position / Company: News Artist for the National Journal in Washington, D.C.

Job description: I create print and web infographics for daily and weekly publications weekly for a political magazine owned by Atlantic Media

Past jobs: Graphic designer, Seattle Times Graphics Reporting Intern, Florida Times-Union Graphics Reporting Intern, Indianapolis Monthly Art Intern

One piece of design advice you wish someone told you in college: Getting the information you want in a timely manner is all about how you handle your work relationships. The better the relationship you have with other reporters, photographers, the easier it is to get what you need. If they don’t like you, they won’t help right away. If they like you, they will go out of their way in most cases to help!

About Chelsea Kardokus

Chelsea Kardokus is a designer at TIME magazine.

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