Entering the Workforce 2

As a follow-up to one of our most popular articles, we talked with three more creatives — who not only attended the top design programs in Connecticut but also stayed in the state to work for some of its top agencies and companies — about making the most out of their time at school, and using that experience to land their dream job.   Ryan Crane Taylor Design University of Connecticut, Class of 2010 Tell us about the UConn design program. The UConn design program is run by a very impressive team. The program itself is small, with only a handful of students chosen each year. Because I took most of my classes with the same group of people, I got to know my classmates and professors really well. The program did a great job exposing me to a variety of methods and mediums. Though I always knew I wanted to work in graphic design, it was great to be able to explore a variety of interests that helped strengthen my skill set. It was helpful for my career to be in such a diversified environment that allowed me to gain experience and explore new ideas. How well did the programming prepare you for entering the workforce? The last two semesters of the program really kept me on my toes; the classes were rigorous and the professors were seemingly merciless. Tight deadlines became the norm and I learned to deal with drastic changes in direction along with harsh criticism. These trials really came in handy once I started designing professionally, I hardly get stressed with problem clients and almost impossible turn around times because I have realistic expectations of myself and how to get things done. The design program at UConn was more focused on exploration and technique than it was about the business of graphic design. I wish there was more of an emphasis on things like advertising and client management. During the program, I had an opportunity to participate in the UConn Design Center, which is a student run design agency that caters to real world clients. It was a great departure from the typical classroom environment, providing much needed experience working directly with clients. While The UConn Design Program really helped hone my skills and design sense, I think the professional experience I gathered from Design Center and the past few years on the job is what will push me to the next level of my career. Why should someone hire a UConn grad? While UConn looks great on your resume, having a solid portfolio and the right attitude is what gets someone hired. While I believe The UConn Design Program stands out among the rest, the people who get hired are the ones with the ability to showcase their talent and motivation to move forward. How did you go about your job search? Thanks to UConn’s network of alumni, I was able to land an internship at Taylor Design in Stamford during my senior year. About a month before graduation, they asked me to come back and freelance for them. Taylor Design is a close knit group of people, so having the internship and the freelance time gave them a good idea of how I would fit in, almost like a tryout – and fortunately I made the cut; they eventually hired me to be a full time designer. Working with someone as a freelancer is a great way to go about making a quality hire when it comes to graphic design, so if you get the chance to intern somewhere — take it. If I had any advice for those looking to get a job in design right out of school, it’s to make a connection. If you don’t have the chance to get to know a company by interning or freelancing prior to being hired, then try to learn as much as you can about the culture before the interview. Remember to show how you would be a good fit — a good conversation, partnered with a well done portfolio, goes a long way. What do you think made you stand out and get the interview? When I first heard about the internship, I only had two days to apply and nothing they requested: a portfolio site and resume. Sure, those were two late nights spent assembling those pieces, but apparently it paid off. After I got the job, I was told that my unique portfolio and the variety of work included grabbed their attention, but it was the confidence that I presented with it that got me to the next level. What do you think made you stand out and get hired? Nothing beats hard work and a good attitude. Taylor Design had a while to get to know me and my work ethic during my internship and also the time spent freelancing. I mean...I also like to think that hiring me was the obvious choice. Tell us a bit about working at Taylor Design. Taylor Design has provided a great environment for me to grow as a designer. I’ve learned a lot there– and still do everyday. Like I said previously, TD is a tight knit group and I think that only having 12 employees helps make that happen: 8 designers/programmers, 3 administrative employees and the president Dan Taylor. Our clients vary greatly regarding industry, style, and business model; while we sometimes work with large, corporate entities like MasterCard, we also work with small start-ups and local universities. In the morning I might be laying out a website, during the afternoon I could be creating a brand from the ground up or creating a company’s next wave or outdoor advertisements. Because we’re such a small office, everyone gets hands-on experience. How should one make the most of school while there? Do the work, and take it as far as you can! You won’t have the same kind of freedom with projects once you enter the workforce, and I think that’s something students don’t always realize. While it’s easy to get distracted and do things half-assed in order to take part in the "extracurricular activities" that college life has to offer, know that it pays off to stay up all night in the Design Center executing every creative spark that finds its way to the surface. College is about growing your ideas and your abilities. Once you enter the workforce, your focus tends to lean towards appeasing clients and that doesn’t always offer the same amount of flexibility. Its also important to get out of your bubble. Both creatively and socially, you need to leave your comfort zone and explore. It wasn’t until later in my college career that I started getting more involved with the local AIGA and CADC chapters. It took me far too long before I started going on studio tours and just leaving campus in general instead of hanging out with my regular cast of characters. It was these experiences that gave me a better understanding of where I wanted to go with my life and how I would fit in once I got there. What advice would you give to grads? Go out and do! I know too many college grads that bum around town after graduation, just waiting for opportunity to knock... but nothing will happen unless you tell people you’re there. The connections you make and the confidence you have are what lead to success. Present yourself professionally, both in person and online, and do the research. Graphic design is a global industry based on local communities. Find out what’s going on near you: Who are the major players? What kind of work are they doing? What events or gatherings are going on in your area? Remember: the more involved you are, the more likely you will hear about that new position that just opened up and, more importantly, the more inspired and knowledgeable you will become as a designer.   Nikki Lee finalsite Hartford Art School, Class of 2012 Tell us about the HAS design program. All HAS students spend the first two years taking courses in various areas of art—drawing, paining, sculpture, design, photography, etc. I think there are two reasons for this. One, we get to experience different mediums which allows us to become well-rounded artists. Two, it allows us to explore different majors so that we know that we're choosing the right one. For example, I had a friend who came in as a photo major, then sophomore year decided her true passion was ceramics! Junior and senior year are more fully dedicated design. We take design studios such as Experimental Typography and Sequential Graphics. The courses are designed to be much more than "how to use Photoshop!" or "how to make something look pretty!" They're about how to successfully visually communicate information and how to problem solve. The program is definitely challenging, but it's also very rewarding and a lot of fun. The professors are awesome and I cannot say enough good things about them. They definitely pushed us hard, but it was only because they loved us! How well did the programming prepare you for entering the work force? I don't think anything really prepares you for entering the work force other than entering the work force! But, HAS did do a pretty good job. Like I said, the professors pushed us and could be hard on us, but it was all beneficial. Deadlines were taken seriously. We had projects where we had to present to outside designers and sometimes real-world clients. We learned to critique work and how to take constructive criticism. I think learning how to take critique was one of the most beneficial lessons. Oftentimes today, I will send a design to a client thinking "wow, this is the best design I've ever done!" only to hear that the client hated it. But I've been taught to not take it personally, learn from my mistakes, and move forward with something even better, so it doesn't really phase me. Why should someone hire an HAS grad? HAS design grads know how to work hard. Our professors gave us tough projects, tough deadlines, and set high standards—and we had to meet those standards or risk getting cut. I think the HAS design major has a great reputation in CT because people know that if we graduated as HAS designers, it's because we earned it. Nobody slides by. How did you go about your job search? I only sent out about a million emails! I spent hours on the internet researching all the Connecticut design firms. The first step was to check out their portfolio and make sure I liked their work. The next step was to make sure the commute wouldn't be too crazy! Then I'd dig a little deeper into their site to see if I felt like I could be happy working there. If a company passed my checklist, I would see if they had any job openings posted on their site. If yes, I'd apply. And if not, I'd shoot them an email anyway with my resume and a link to my work, just in case. You'd be surprised how many responses you'll get from that. Even if it's just a "thank you, we're not hiring now but let's keep in touch." That's okay! At least you're getting your foot in the door. What do you think made you stand out and get the interview? Honestly, I think my work was really good. Remember what I said about our professors having high standards? It wasn't for their benefit, it was for ours. We all had portfolios full of really high quality student work. Also, I think the fact that I was interested in web helped me a lot. Interactive design is huge now, and the more you know about it, the better! I took some web courses while in school, and the summer after graduating I completed a 3-month web design and development internship before looking for a full-time job. I thought the extra experience would be useful in my job hunt. What do you think made you stand out and get hired? At HAS, we were required to talk about our work a lot. We had lots of critiques, we often had outside designers come in whom we had to present our work to, and sometimes we actually had real-world client projects. By the time I graduated, I was really good at talking about my work and about myself as a designer, And I think that's really helpful! Being confident in your work and in yourself will help you shine in an interview. Tell us a bit about finalsite. Finalsite provides an online content management system for schools. It's a pretty robust system, filled with features like page manager, news and web modules, user portals, a private social network, and lots more. When selling this system to a school, Finalsite also offers creative services—which means each school gets a unique web design. That's where I come in. My role at finalsite is a responsive web designer and front-end developer. I work directly with the clients while designing their school's new website. The designs I work on are usually responsive, which means they adjust to various size screens (desktop vs. iPad vs. iPhone, for example). In addition, I often develop my own designs on top of the finalsite CMS. Finalsite is a pretty great place to work—flexible schedule, ability to work from home when we need to, bagel Wednesdays, and always an abundance of K-cups. The people there are really nice, too! How should one make the most of school while there? Enjoy the work you do! While in school, you have so much creative freedom with your projects. Oh, you have to make a board game? Well guess what? You can make that board game about anything you want! Dogs, the mafia, snowmen, cheese, whatever! After school, you don't get to pick your projects. You work on what you can. Also, you have so much time. I know deadlines feel tight when you're in school, but they're actually luxuriously long compared to the real world. I think right now I'm balancing about 20 projects at work, crazy! In school, you get time to sketch, then critiques on your sketches, then time to design, then critiques on your design, then more time to design, then more critiques. It's this long, beautiful, creative process that real-world projects don't always have time for. So while in school, enjoy your creative freedom, enjoy the amount of time you have to work over a project, and use those two benefits to create amazing work that you love! What advice would you give to grads? Keep trying new things. Trying different things will keep you interested and passionate about design because you'll never get bored. Also, it will help you figure out what makes you happiest. Designer at a big firm, designer at a small firm, in-house designer at a start-up, freelancer, teacher… There are so many different ways to go in design, and you need to figure out what's right for you by experimenting with different things.   David Zarovny Brandlogic CCSU, Class of 2011 Tell us about the CCSU design program. My experience was competitive, exciting, intellectually stimulating, eye-opening, fun, confident, crafty, busy, valuable, clever, familiar, awesome. The people running the program are top-notch; It felt good being mentored by passionate and genuine good people. Go there and meet them to find out for yourself. How well did the programming prepare you for entering the work force?? I went from not knowing what the hell "Graphic Design" was to being irreversibly plagued by poor kerning and crappy logos of the world around me in only 4 short years! Why should someone hire a CCSU grad? Because their portfolio contains the type of work your business does and the fit feels comfortable. In this field I don't think it should matter much that you paid more for a fancy diploma from RISD. Any university has the potential to foster a high quality designer. It's in the student's hands. How did you go about your job search? Here's an abridged story, it might be interesting to some of you. Graduated in winter, shotgun strategy with the applications and one called back. Got hired at Elements in Branford CT. Didn't last through the probation period (I'll leave it at that). Needed to find a job quickly, took a temporary position at an arts festival in New Haven and moved there. While the clock was ticking at that place, I was scouring Behance, ConnCreatives, AIGA, craigslist and every other listing I could find, including the sketchy ones where it looks like a phishing scam. CT didn't have too many openings and it seemed like everything was in NYC. I started freelancing, interviewing and negotiating with Metronome3 and everything seemed super cool until it became clear that if I took that job, life would be difficult and almost non-existent. Toward the end of negotiation and getting them to compromise as much as they could (working from home, paid train fares for client meetings, but no pay raise to compensate for the taxes I'd have to file at the end of the year as a freelancer not an employee) I got an interview at Brandlogic that I couldn't pass up. I told the digital firm of three guys in their twenties (plus some hip freelancers with macbook airs) that everything was looking good and I had one more interview to do. They thought my shopping around was a breach of trust and pulled their offer... meh. BEST DECISION EVAR! Got hired at Brandlogic as Junior Designer and I'm happier than a copywriter on a Geico commercial. What do you think made you stand out and get the interview? This part was taken care of by the recruiters at cre8buzz. I had nothing to do with it besides submitting a pdf of my work. What do you think made you stand out and get hired? My work, the way I presented it and talked about it. My swagger and personality... I don't know what to say, I was a little nervous but was completely natural and open and my hiring was a result of a conscious journey I crafted. Pro tip: SEND A THANK-YOU CARD! You're taking up the time of a busy individual, and the least you could do is show your appreciation. It doesn't take much, I used some watercolor paper, watercolors, painters tape, x-acto and a sharpie; but it shows something about yourself as a person. It's still hanging in Dan's office! Tell us a bit about working at Brandlogic. It's very grown-up and professional. These people know what's up when it comes to B2B brands. Clean minimal offices in the wealthy, tucked-away suburban town of Wilton (I've already seen Joe Pantoliano at the library and Starbucks). The commute from New Haven was going to be horrible via the Merritt Parkway until I started taking advantage of my flexible hours here and coming in for 10, avoiding most of the herd. (A motorcycle helps get me in on time as well!) Brandlogic is owned by its employees. I personally care how my company is doing and my work counts that much more. Since I started in August 2012, I've learned a lot about the business and gotten to work on logos for re-branding projects and illustrating for IBM Smarter Planet — all as a Junior! I've designed a print ad for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation that will be all over the Lake Placid IRONMAN triathlon and created case study videos of our design process that we show to clients to name some of the more exciting projects. So much to look forward to here. How should one make the most of school while there? Make sick projects! Make sure you love them and have fun doing them. Don't whine about how your professors are stifling your creativity, I don't want to hear any of it! Clients get it their way in the real world, and in school, you have the freedom to express your talents to their fullest, don't waste the time on partying, there will be time to do that after college I promise. What advice would you give to grads? Apply everywhere. if you dont like your portfolio, it's never too late to improve it. Be selective and remember you have the right to find a workplace you enjoy working in. Dave out.

Entering the Workforce

To say that the current job market is competitive is an understatement, making the accomplishments of the following five recent graduates all the more impressive. We talked with five creatives — who not only attended the top design programs in Connecticut but also stayed in the state to work for some of its top agencies and companies — about making the most out of their time at school, and using that experience to land their dream job.   Christa Tubach Group 4, Avon Hartford Art School, Class of 2011 Tell us about the HAS design program. I had a wonderful experience at the Hartford Art School, and a big part of that was the professors. They get involved starting freshman year, and by the time you start taking major classes you already feel comfortable around them. The class sizes are small, and the programs are oriented around learning the programs and experimenting, leading up to the sophomore review. Once passing the review, you are on to the real deal. This is where the professors and students get to express their love for design. The professors all bring something different and great to the table.     Mark Snyder is always there for you, helps you get where you need to go, Deb Kline is a hardass who wants to see you succeed (in the best way!), Natacha Poggio is very involved outside of the actual classroom, and Kevin Sepe will get you out of any jam — no matter what it is. And there are more who have been involved at different points in the years, they have all been a great inspiration. How well did the programming prepare you for entering the work force? The classes are very creative. People who come out of the HAS can think on their feet, come up with great ideas and truly perform under pressure. The classes are arranged so that you get an overview of basic technical skills from the professors, and while you are on your own during class time, they are there for you whenever you need help. It is a great learning experience. I know that I can always learn the newest Photoshop technique on my own, but learning how to be a design problem solver without the aid of professors and peers is much harder.     The professors are constantly hearing from past alum, colleges and friends of theirs, so whenever they find information about an internship, freelance position or job, we are the first to know. They not only announce it to the classes, making sure everyone hears first hand from them, but they also post it on a board for future interest. I knew I could always count on Mark and Deb to help me out. They know a lot of people, and do what they can to aid in any way. Why should someone hire an HAS grad? The HAS focuses on creativity, and they lead us there in many ways. We have three-hour block classes in which we have time to research, sketch, brainstorm and start projects. With all of your peers around you, it is easy to bounce ideas off of each other. We also never leave the lab… It is a wonderful feeling when you come back to do work and you see more than half of your class working hard after hours to make the best project they can.     You spend hours with these people. They become your friends, and people who want to see you succeed. Our critiques are most likely the same as other art schools, but if you were to walk into a crit at the HAS, you would notice how much people are talking. We really know how to talk about our work, other peoples work, and help each other as much as possible. There is nothing like an 8:30-11:20 morning class followed by a 7:30-10:30pm class with the same people. We know how to work with a team, because we have been doing it for years. How did you go about your job search? Personally I spent hours on end emailing and researching. I would occasionally look at websites dedicated to jobs, such as Indeed.com. They were marginally helpful, but nothing like my own research. My best luck was specifically searching for Connecticut design firms, taking a look at their portfolio to see if it was the type of place I would want to work for, and emailing them. I made sure to express my interest in their work, so they knew I had done my research and knew about what they do. I was also assisted by Deb often. She is a real asset to the HAS as far as her connections into the real world.     I now realize how helpful Linked In is as a tool. I had signed up during my last semester, but I rarely used it, because I wasn't exactly sure what to make of it. I am starting to use it more and would definitely recommend it to students. What do you think made you stand out and get the interview? I believe I had a few things that made me stand out. I had taken a web design class last semester senior year in which I designed, built and coded my own website. It was and still is a great tool to show potential employers my work. Before my website was done, showing my portfolio as a PDF meant either sacrificing image quality or sending a large, cumbersome email attachment. Employers don't want to be wrestling with hard to open PDFs, and once my website was up, I was getting much better responses from people. The other reason I stood out was my personal presentation. All of the employers were impressed with how organized, neat and presentable my portfolio was (on top of my actual work). We have an portfolio class which takes place all semester long, refining and perfecting our portfolio. This doesn't stop with our work, but with how we lay out the images, the shape and feeling of the book itself, and most importantly, how we talk about our work. We know inside and out why we created what we created. What do you think made you stand out and get hired? As mentioned before, I believe we were prepared for these interview days. I know that I am personally a pretty talkative and friendly person, so I didn't have problems there. The best part was talking about my work and hearing what they had to say about it. Everyone I met with was exceptionally nice and complimentary, which I must admit was extremely satisfying yet scary. I always felt that when we stepped out into the real world people would be harsh and mean, but they had prepared us so that this wouldn't happen. People were interested to hear what I had to say and I always felt comfortable telling them. Tell us a bit about Group 4. Group 4 is a packaging firm in Avon, CT. I am one of the three in-house designers and we work primarily on packaging and branding. It is a great atmosphere with fun people and a lot going on. We house research, industrial design and graphic design, so I get to see how projects run, from start to finish.     One of the most interesting and new aspects of this job is being part of the focus groups. We have a room where we hold the groups with a two-way mirror. It is very exciting to see the people respond to your designs. I didn't necessarily see myself working specifically with packaging, but I realize now how interested in great packaging I have been all my life. I am excited to see where it brings me! How should one make the most of school while there? Start looking into what you can do with your degree — design or not. I didn't even think about packaging design until junior/senior year. Know that there are endless ways to use your degree, but the more you know where to go, the easier it will be to get there. Also, take as many classes as possible! I realize now that I may someday want to start my own business, yet I have no formal education when it comes to finances, economics, business, etc. It's something you can do later, but do it while you're already there, it will be much easier! What advice would you give to grads?  I would advise them to start early and be as personal as possible when sending emails. Write each and every email differently, know who you are writing to. And be yourself on your interview. It's going to be scary, but show yourself off — you have a lot to show.   Kathryn Keller Jade Marketing, West Hartford University of Connecticut, Class of 2010 Tell us about the UConn design program. While UConn is a huge public university, the Art Department is a small building in the corner of campus. The communication design program is an even smaller concentration in which only 16 students are admitted to each year. Design Process, taught by Mark Zurolo, was the first course I took before I was admitted into the program. The course was my introduction to the attention to detail required in design. Everything was hand lettered and bound, no computers. While some of my classmates complained of the tedium, I loved every minute of it. Randall Hoyt taught me web design, which is probably the reason I’m employed today. I went from not even knowing what HTML was to using Javascript in a semester. Later, I was given the opportunity to join Design Center where I designed some of my best work. Each of my professors inspired me, pushed me, and encouraged me. How well did the programming prepare you for entering the work force? The most valuable experience I had at UConn was the opportunity to work at Design Center for 3 semesters. With direction from Edvin Yegir, my classmates and I worked with clients from on- and off-campus. We created campaigns, brochures, catalogs, identities and websites. I think the experience of managing projects, meeting with clients, and creating and collaborating is something that can only be taught in a studio environment. Essentially, Design Center is a design studio. The only difference from any other studio is students create the work. Why should someone hire a UConn grad? I think the strength of UConn is its multi-disciplinary program. In addition to the sequence of design courses, I took classes in web design, motion design, and digital photography, as well as many other fine arts courses. Having that experience in so many disciplines of design gave me a bit of a competitive edge. I feel like designers are now expected to do everything — especially if you’re like me, working for a small company. It’s good to get your feet wet in a few different mediums, but I do think there is something to be said about specializing. How did you go about your job search? I began interning at Jade Marketing during the summer after my junior year. At the time, Jade only had one designer on staff and we were growing fast. Spring of my senior year they had offered me a full-time position. I worked hard and clicked with the company. What do you think made you stand out and get hired? I think what made me stand out was my enthusiasm and the body of work I was able to show them, including my portfolio website. Having a website — that not only shows your work well, but also shows your personality — is important. It’s your first impression to potential clients and employers. Even if you don’t know HTML there are a lot of great resources online to present your work. I also think showing your enthusiasm and your willingness to learn and go above and beyond shows them you’re not just in it for a paycheck. Tell us a bit about Jade Marketing. Jade Marketing is a denim company headquartered in West Hartford. We have two junior denim brands, Amethyst Jeans and Ariya Jeans. Since Jade is such a small company, I work on many different projects. I help art direct on location at our seasonal photo shoots, I design and code the brands’ websites, I design back pocket embroideries and I manage our Facebook page. I think what’s great about Jade is they are always thinking out of the box. We have a pink truck we like to call the Jean Machine — which is sort of like an ice cream truck, except instead of ice cream, we give away jeans. It tours around the country promoting our brands at concerts and college campuses. This holiday season we gave away jeans as thanks for donating food to CT food banks. The Jean Machine is unlike anything I’ve ever heard of. How should one make the most of school while there? Definitely get some out-of-the-classroom experience, whether it is in a course like Design Center or interning at a studio. It’s a big transition going from class to work, that I'm still getting used to. You’re no longer designing entirely for yourself and your own exploration, but for a client’s interests as well. Gain experience in different disciplines, you never know what project might come up next. One day I'm designing a layout for an ad, the next I'm building a website. Eventually I hope to specialize and find my niche in design, but it think it's important in school to explore the different types of design to see what you like and what you excel in. What advice would you give to grads?  Get as much experience as possible. While at school I was taking classes, working as a designer at the Benton Museum, and then later interned at Jade. I felt like I was designing 24/7, but don’t we all? Each opportunity was a different experience that has helped make me a better designer. Also, start early. I was lucky enough my internship turned into a job.   James Grendzinski Worx Branding & Advertising, Prospect Central Connecticut State University, Class of 2010 Tell us about the CCSU design program. Well, before you can even get full acceptance to the Graphic/Information Design program at Central Connecticut State University, you have to take a class where you learn the basics of design. The catch is you are only allowed to use Microsoft Office programs as your “creative software” for your assignments, so it puts everyone on an even playing field as far as experience with software. It lets the student’s creative problem solving shine through. We had a wide range of professors — in the sense of personality and specializations. From hard-asses who pushed your concepts as far as your patience would allow, to free spirits that let your creativity flow, to obsessive professors that taught you the meticulous details of print design. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to mold me into the designer I am now. How well did the programming prepare you for the entering the work force? The design program at CCSU has to be one of best in New England. It’s a portfolio-driven curriculum, so when you walk out the doors, you have a nice collection of projects that are interview ready. In fact, in the final design class you take at CCSU, you prepare all the work you have made into a self-promotion piece – including a logo, website, resume, business cards and portfolio. You are also given the chance to revisit and revise old projects – to ensure that they match the skills you are leaving with instead of the ones you came in with. I participated in Central Design – an award-winning, for-credit and student-operated full-service design studio which, under faculty supervision, provides design service to selected real world clients. Students are accepted into the program based on portfolio review. This experience introduced me to interfacing with real clients and helped me build an even more robust portfolio. The department coordinator, Jim Bryant, would post jobs in the area he found on creative job board and often had alumni calling looking for recommendations of people to fill openings at their agencies. After I graduated I also got a couple leads from professors. Why should someone hire a CCSU grad? The program as a whole is very well rounded – requiring not only the core design and art classes but classes in marketing, advertising and communications. It goes deeper than just techniques and making a good-looking design – into concepts and strategy. Sue Vial was the department head at the time when I started, and I remember her telling us on the very first day, “We are not here to teach you how to be designers, we are teaching you what you need to be art directors and beyond.” How did you go about your job search? I started early, as everyone should. In my final semester, I started with social media – friending and following area designers I admired. Then I started to attend local events – specifically the Breakfast Epiphanies that AIGA Connecticut put on. I kept a loose watch on jobs boards in my final weeks of school but upon graduating I checked compulsively. What do you think made you stand out and get the interview? Funny you mention this, because after working so long and hard on my self-promotion piece, I submitted it to more magazines / contests / awards than agencies. Only two wound up in the hands of agencies, which weren’t even hiring, but I wanted to get my name out there. One of the two was sent to Bertz Design; Jeff Solak invited me in to to talk about my promo and my portfolio. While it didn’t lead to a job, he helped me prepare for "real" interviews. In general, the few interviews I did get, I believed were based off how my portfolio, resume, business card and website were aesthetically consistent – coupled with the creativity and balance of student and freelance work in my portfolio. What do you think made you stand out and get hired? Getting hired is like being a door-to-door salesman. The work in your portfolio gets the company to open the door. Then you put your foot in the door – to keep the door open – by explaining the thought process and concepts behind your work. They invite you in to see how you vibe with the culture of the company. Each piece played its part in helping me stand out and get hired – and I got Worx to buy one of my vacuums too! Tell us a bit about Worx. After I researched a fair amount of agencies in Connecticut, Worx was in my top 3 places to work – no joke. Not everyone has the ability to say they get a "dream" job right out of college, especially how the economy was in early 2010. I work with some of the best in the business, from our brand strategists right down to our interns, and for that I feel truly blessed. The culture at Worx is full of fun and energy – after all, I don’t think I would have been hired if I didn’t fit in. One of the reasons I wanted to work here is the vast array of projects and clients I work with on a regular basis – one day it may be a Facebook page for a tool company and the next an identity for a comedian. We are full of multi-talented people so we aren’t held back by our title. For example, I know HTML and CSS pretty well, so I help out our technology team with front-end development when needed. Or since I have wide variety of writing classes under my belt, I contribute to copywriting some clever headlines every now and again. But the greatest perk? Friday picnics. It didn’t take me long to move up in the ranks and earn the honorary title of Grill Master – and as soon as spring comes I’m bringing my world famous kabobs back to Worx! How should one make the most of school while there? While it may just seem like ‘homework’ – what you are doing right what will springboard you into your career. Take your time with projects and put as much passion into them as you can. It’s never too early to start networking. Get out into the community and make a name for yourself – if I had one regret, it would be that I didn’t do this sooner. Research agencies in the state to see where you might want to eventually work or to even see their work for inspiration. Don’t know of many? Do a Google search, look up past CADC award-winners or look up old articles on Conn Creatives. What advice would you give to grads?  Never stop building your portfolio. Don’t be afraid to revisit old designs or do cheap/free work for friends and family – this keeps your designs and skills fresh. Never stop looking. As cliché as it sounds, searching for a job, is a full time job. Don’t stop at just Monster, Coroflot and Creative Hotlist. Check for postings on the agency’s website – which you should be doing anyway to make sure you are the right fit for the company and the company is the right fit for you. Customize and personalize each cover letter and portfolio you send out. And most of all – have fun. Remember you’re a creative, not a cubicle worker. Let your creativity show and set yourself apart, whether it’s in your resume or the email you send to respond to a job posting. To see my advice in action you have to look no further than my story: To be honest, I was unaware of Worx Branding until I was finishing up my last semester and saw the article on Conn Creatives about Worx giving their company website a facelift. I did my research, saw the work they were doing and thought ‘I wouldn’t mind working there someday.’ I finished school and they weren’t hiring but saw a link on their website where I could submit my resume and portfolio for future consideration – never heard back. Two months later I saw a design position open at Worx via Monster and resubmitted my resume and portfolio – attached them to a personalized cover letter email to Grant with a clever subject line “With Our Powers Combined…” and got brought in for an interview. One interview later – I was hired. I know it might sound easy, the way I summed it up, but I worked hard and pushed myself throughout college. I looked for jobs everyday for 6 months – applied to about 20+ positions and got 4 interviews. All along the way, I never stopped refining my portfolio and looking for freelance work I could add to make it stronger.   Anna Gitelman Campus Customs, New Haven Shintaro Akatsu School of Design, UB, Class of 2011 Tell us about the SASD design program. The program and professors at Shintaro Akatsu School of Design were both top quality, in my opinion. We were taught a variety of things by talented professors who both worked in the real world and helped us adjust from college life to post-grad life. Classes varied from illustration, to type design, to drawing, web-design, motion graphics…the list goes on, really. I think the most important classes were the studios. Starting from sophomore year, we were all required to take a studio class every semester. In these classes, we really learned how to become designers. We were lucky to be taught by professionals like Brian Miller, Gary Munch, and Emily Larned. Each professor taught us something different. Brian really helped us to understand what makes something an amazing graphic design piece. No one knows as much as Gary does about type design, and Emily focused a lot on client relations, as well how to properly brainstorm your ideas and understand what it is the client needs. I was really lucky to be able to work with all these people. How well did the programming prepare you for the entering the work force? A class that really helped with this was Design Service. They started offering it when I was a junior, and it’s a good thing they did! Design Service is a student-run design team under the instruction of Emily Larned. So what happened here was basically, we’d have a client meeting, take notes, ask questions and whatnot. Then once they left, we’d have a meeting of our own, brainstorm, and start working on the project. It was really quite helpful and pretty much as real world as you can get while still enrolled in school. Internships were always available. We have a good connection with Fairfield University, and every semester Gary Munch would send one of us talented people over there to help in the Marketing and Communications Department. I did it one summer, and it was really a good experience. It was great to work in the department and learn how to work as a team…plus the environment was awesome. Emily is the big job e-mailer. As soon as she’d hear of a job she’d either post it on her blog, or send us an e-mail. We were also encouraged to join AIGA, TDC, go to events, and also to submit our artwork to competitions. Brian was really good at enforcing this. At the end of his studio, he sends our work into competitions. I was one of the students to win my sophomore year. I got awarded the Gold Pencil Award from the Advertising Club of Connecticut. It’s a really great way to get your name out there…and you get a big wooden pencil. Why should someone hire a SASD grad? Like I said before, the variety of classes offered is amazing. I think what our school has that distinguishes us from other schools is our strong emphasis on typography. It’s always great to know how to make some awesome effects in Photoshop, but what we learned about type from Gary is really something else. And I see how that’s coming in handy now. When I’m designing at work, half the time it’s something computerized, but nothing compares to a clean beautiful typographic design. We really learned how to appreciate it and use it correctly. Something else that I think makes us special is our drawing program. I’ve always loved drawing and painting, but Rick McCollum really pushed us to the next level and in my opinion, every design should start from a drawing, or at least a sketch. Rick’s an amazing artist, and he helped me to become a better one. How did you go about your job search? My job search was pretty non-existent when I first graduated, to be honest. I had a stable, boring, terrible part-time job. It was when I got fired that I sat down and remembered why I went to school and what I want to do for the rest of my life. And it wasn’t working at a pizza restaurant. It was to be a designer. I signed up for every possible job placement site and applied everywhere. I did get rejected a lot, but with the help of my friend Will, and my own motivation as well, I kept on trucking. A lot of people said craigslist isn’t the best place, but I’m glad I didn’t really listen because that’s where I found my current job. And I couldn’t be happer. What do you think made you stand out and get the interview? What made me stand out is my portfolio. I always thought I needed a huge portfolio to set me apart, but in the months when I was in between jobs, I realized that it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. Of course we’ve all heard that said a lot, but it really is true. I perfected my presentation, got it bound, printed on nice paper. All those things matter. And I think I had a total of 10 or 12 pieces, but they are the best things I’ve ever done and they’re presented that way. And of course, any internships or side projects are helpful. They also seemed to like that I added that I’m fluent in Russian on my resume… What do you think made you stand out and get hired? I was nervous as hell during my interview. It was probably because I knew I would love the place as soon as I walked in. My answers probably showed my nerves, but I remember clicking with the art director, and as mentioned before, I think my portfolio helped a ton. Tell us a bit about Campus Customs. The company is amazing. I love the work I’m doing, and I love the people I’m working with. It’s a really relaxed environment, everyone is incredibly friendly, and we’re all practically friends already. I really do fit in perfectly. It’s amazing and truly a blessing. Campus Customs is a screen-printing company, so our job is to create the graphic arts for all the shirts. Some of the assignments are straightforward, like placing a logo on a shirt, but other assignments really are a lot of fun. That’s when we get really creative and when I get to illustrate or do some interesting things with typography. The best perk is waking up in the morning excited to go to work and leaving work feeling appreciated and feeling like I really accomplished something. Also, since the screen-printing is done in house, it’s really awesome to walk downstairs and see my designs being printed on the shirts. How should one make the most of school while there? Take school seriously. Every class is important. You’re there to learn and become a well-rounded person. Don’t let it go to waste. I also really encourage paying attention in English class. Grammar seems to be thrown out the window but when you start working; you won’t always have the luxury of meeting your client in person. E-mailing is huge and you need to be able to express your thoughts and help the client to understand you. And of course, any design class you take, learn as much as you can from the professor. And learn to be sociable and be able to work well with others. What advice would you give to grads?  The most important part is to never get discouraged. Rejection is normal, and it’s going to happen. It may seem like there’s nothing but rejection, but you’ll strike gold.   Chris Siharath TracyLocke, Wilton Hartford Art School, UofH, Class of 2011 Tell us about the HAS design program. The design program at the Hartford Art School is pretty awesome. Every student is placed in the foundations program where students are immersed in drawing, painting, 2-D design, sculpture and issues in art making. Entering junior year, the real fun starts. Our design program taught me a lot about critical thinking and concepting. It was more about why you did something — then came the aesthetic of it.   As for the professors: insightful, smart, down-to-earth, mentors, always available to help out with anything. They felt more like family than anything. But don’t get me wrong, they certainly kicked my ass and taught me everything I know today.    How well did the programming prepare you for the entering the work force? We had a bulletin board where there would be internship/job postings. These postings usually came from connections the professors had in the design community and from alumni. The professors were great at giving us places to look into and advising us into what direction/field we should go into.   Why should someone hire an HAS grad? TracyLocke has hired a handful of Hartford grads these past few years. I know it's because the HAS design program continually pushes their students to do smart design. I also believe having a class solely dedicated to putting together your portfolio was a huge advantage. Before I graduated, I had a professional design portfolio, with work I was proud to show off.   How did you go about your job search?  The biggest help was having a professional preview at our senior show. We sent out invites to alumni, design firms and agencies to come to our show and view our work. Networking is huge. The relationships I have formed with alumni and other creatives in the industries were super helpful in finding out about job opportunities.    What do you think made you stand out and get the interview? I mainly had student work in my book, so I’d have to say it was that! I was most excited to show my game board design and concept, as it highlighted my typography, illustration, writing and personality.   What do you think made you stand out and get hired? Besides my ridiculous good looks and charm? (ha-ha) I'd say it was my confidence and ability to talk about my work. I think I presented a wide range of work that showed my versatility, creativity and most importantly my thinking.    Tell us a bit about TraceyLocke. Everyone at TracyLocke is inspiring in one way or another. There’s always such crazy creative energy flying through the office. I feet right at home here! It’s awesome to work on big brands such as Pepsi. I work on a huge variety of things from, point of sale, logos, signage, packaging, concepting, brainstorming, presentations, you name it. It’s safe to say, I have enjoyed every bagel Wednesday and Beer cart Friday since I've started. How should one make the most of school while there? Learn from your peers. I think I learned the most from the all-nighters leading up to the final crits with my fellow classmates. For example, Taco Bell is never a good choice at 2 in the morning. But seriously, share tips and tricks, look at each other’s work and give feedback. You learn more from your peers then you think.   Make mistakes. Go outside of your comfort zone. Take risks. Try something totally crazy that may or may not work. This is the time for you to experiment and grow as a creative. Don't regret the things you wished you could have done.    Finally, intern, freelance, go to conferences, enter your work in student competitions, do cartwheels, find inspiration, and read, read, read.    What advice would you give to grads?  Be prepared to do work finding a job. No one's going to be holding your hand or running up to you offering jobs. Engage alumni, use social media, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone.

Moving Beyond Your BFA

"The advanced degree offers two virtues. First, for the academic, it is another level of credibility. And secondly, for the achiever, it is a measure of much more intense study or research and time invested." —Steven Heller There are many reasons to pursue an advanced degree. But many working designers face the same question: Can I afford to invest the time and money to go back to school? Do I have the drive and desire? And what will ultimately be the return on such an investment? While Mark Snyder, Brian Miller and Bjorn Akselsen each had their own individual reasons for pursuing an advanced degree, they all agree it was a valuable experience that impacted both their professional and personal lives....Read More


Connecticut Agencies Named 2014 Best Places to Work

Three Hartford-area agencies were recently named among the 2014 Best Places to Work in Connecticut. Created by the Hartford Business Journal and Best Companies Group, the state-wide survey identifies, recognizes, and honors the best 35 employers that are benefitting Connecticut’s economy and workforce. Making the list were Adams & Knight in Avon, Primacy in Farmington, and Worx Branding & Advertising in Prospect.

Norwalk's Tim Mara is a GD USA 2014 Student to Watch

Tim Mara, now an art director at TracyLocke in Wilton, made the list of Graphic Design USA’s 2014 Students to Watch. Tim earned his BFA in Graphic Design at The College of Saint Rose and now resides in Norwalk.

Taylor Design Wins in the 2013 HOW International Design Awards

HOW Magazine announced that work done by Taylor Design has been chosen as a winner in the 2013 HOW International Design Awards. The winning entries include the Sarah Lawrence College Admissions Poster, designed by Hannah Fichandler and illustrated by Vaughn Fender; the 2013 Taylor Design Holiday Calendar, designed by Steve Habersang and illustrated by Vaughn Fender; and the Greenwich Academy Case Statement, art directed by Hannah Fichandler and designed by Steph Mullins Baumer. The winners will be recognized in the March 2014 issue of HOW Magazine.

Kim Ronemus Design's Studio Featured in How Magazine

Kim Ronemus Design‘s repurposed-service-station-now-design-studio caught the eye of HOW magazine and was awarded one of “Five Most Creative Workspaces in the Northeast.” The office was originally the first gas station in town and remained in service until the ’70s. Vestiges of that previous life have been maintained and can be seen in everything from the building’s cement floors to the aluminum paint. “It has a great industrial vibe to it,” says Kim Ronemus, principal.

Dornenburg Group Is Now Dornenburg Kallenbach Advertising

Dornenburg Group is now Dornenburg Kallenbach Advertising, a full-service advertising and marketing communications agency located in Bloomfield. “2013 marks the agency’s 19th anniversary and we thought this was a good time to make some changes,” says President and Creative Director Jeff Dorenenburg. “Our new name recognizes the key role that Tod Kallenbach has played during the eight years since he joined our team. Tod’s inspiration and business acumen are integral to our company, and we plan to continue growing the business for many more years to come.” With ther new name comes a new logo, a new look and a new website.

Cronin and Company Promotes Wayne Raicik to Senior Vice President, Creative Director

Wayne Raicik has been promoted from vice president, associate creative director to senior vice president, creative director at Cronin and Company in Glastonbury. Raicik initially worked at the agency from 1984 to 1988 as art director. He later returned in 1997 as senior art director. He has served as vice president, associate creative director for the past four years. “Wayne has been the creative conscience for the agency for 19 years,” says Steve Wolfberg, principal and chief creative officer of Cronin. “He’s a passionate protector of the Cronin brand, making sure that everything we create is as good as it can be.” As senior vice president, creative director, Raicik is responsible for directing and overseeing all aspects of creative at the agency. Over the years, Raicik has won numerous awards for his creative work. Prior to Cronin, Raicik was senior art director at Mintz & Hoke. He holds a degree in illustration from Syracuse University.

Madison|Mott Celebrate 13 Years in Business

Madison|Mott of South Norwalk celebrate thirteen years in business, with a new website and a blog post by co-owner Luke Scott. “Through it all, we’ve endured, and evolved. We even changed our name, to better represent the way in which our firm, and distinctly different partner personalities, provide clients with a better balance of all this new technology, coupled with the classic advertising techniques required to build and sustain a successful brand.”

Ken DeLago of Wilton Featured in Communication Arts Typography Annual

Ken DeLago of Wilton, Design Director at Golf Digest / Condé Nast, has made it into the Communication Arts Typography Annual for his identity for Hertz Construction Company. Said Ken of the mark: “A two-man construction team makes up Hertz and the two Cs in the logo do double duty as the CC in Construction Company as well as representing the two men involved. The negative space creates the ‘H’ in Hertz. The stencil effect on the hand-drawn letters create a building block motif.”