I get asked a lot about my design background and education. Stuff like this:
I'm working a desk job that I want an escape from. Through the reading of crafty blogs and design blogs I have found that I think I might have an intense love for all things design. Did you go to school for it? What specifically did you study?
i really want to pursue a career in advertising, but i have no idea on where i would like to go to college. i am fresh out of high school and am going to attend a community college first but i was wondering how did you get your advertising job? did you go to college and get a degree and if so where did you attend school? or did you know someone through the grapevine?
I hope that I make design and freelancing look somewhat effortless and easy - it means I'm doing my job right. But I'm going to tell you that there were a lot of impatient tears and awkward moments over the last 10 years to get me where I am today. And I'm not done yet. There are still daily struggles but it's gotten a lot easier from where I started. But back to the topic at hand...
I graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in fine arts with an emphasis in visual communications (VisCom). There we studied typography (type was about 50% of my coursework), composition, layout, color theory and more. We did learn software (the now obsolete Adobe Photoshop 6 and Macromedia Freehand) but the emphasis was more on technical hand skills. In art school I also studied studio arts such as painting, drawing, ceramics, screen printing, and moving images (film & video). I also studied art history and had a fair amount of gen ed coursework in my first two years of college.
My siblings and I grew up drawing, painting, writing, playing musical instruments and acting. The arts were in our blood. My sister was the first to go to college and got her fine arts viscom degree in 1997. My brother went on to get his associates degree in film & broadcasting at a community college but decided to pursue his career as a sideshow performer in NYC.
When it was my turn to go to college I was torn between pre-medicine (I was a little bit of a science nerd and I still love the idea of healing) and art. Ultimately, I decided to follow in my sister's footsteps and stay close to home (where college cost pennies) and study art. I thought I was going to major in screenprinting or painting. I was so uninterested in graphic design and didn't really have the computer know-how to be a designer. But, when portfolio reviews for the highly competitive program (100 students would apply every year for 18 spots in the VisCom program) I couldn't help but apply. I made it in and the rest is history.
In art school I received an amazing foundation for what would become my livelihood. I also made some lifelong friends (including Daniel). School was one of the hardest times of my life. It was competitive, scary and challenging and I while I was a really hard worker and could feel that I had talent lying dormant somewhere, I wasn't a good designer (yet) and that was hard to face.
In my design courses I specifically learned stuff like:
• Typography (I cannot emphasize more how important a background in type is)
• How to use an X-acto blade (SO important)
• How to create mock-ups by hand
• How to present and talk about your work
• How to critique others' work
• The importance of sketching
• Bringing your work into the computer
• Printing basics & setting your files up to print
What I learned after graduating and even reflecting on the whole school thing right now is that school wasn't the be all and end all of my design education. In fact, I just went through my college portfolio with Jeremy the other day and I realized that my art school education barely scratched the surface of uncovering the designer I am today. But that said, it was a solid foundation and a great start.
Me... Working. Photo by David McNeese.
After graduation I went on to get a job as an entry-level designer at the alternative weekly newspaper here in Oklahoma City. It was there that I really started to learn how to use computer software. I made some really great friends and connections and started to dip my toe in art direction on photoshoots. After a year there I was hired at one of the ad agencies I interned at while still in school. I worked my way up to Senior Art Director there over the next 5 years and worked on branding campaigns for a variety of clients, I designed and produced countless commercials and photoshoots and best of all - I got to work with Daniel, Hallie, Liz, Tara and lots of other really great people. From there I went on to freelance and have been doing so for the last year.
MY ADVICE TO YOU:
Go to school but don't get too caught up in learning the software. Focus on typography and design concepts. Work hard and be nice. Make real and lasting connections. Be patient and trust your instincts.
I would love to continue this conversation in the comments. Do you have any additional questions about my education & experience as a new designer? If you're currently working in the creative field how did you get your start? Any tips you'd like to share with J&K readers?
Top photos of the Fred Jones art school at OU via ou.edu.
J & K started this blog project to document the remodel of their 1929 historical home in the heart of Oklahoma City. It has now turned into a documentation of life, food, fashion, freelance, inspiration, design, adventures and details around the J & K house.
Kathleen works as an award-winning brand consultant and designer specializing in small business branding at Braid Creative & Consulting. Jeremy is a software engineer and is the left-brain to Kathleen’s right.
You can contact Kathleen at
jeremyandkathleen (at) gmail (dot) com.
All photos and graphics by Kathleen unless otherwise stated. Feel free to use them with permission or credit.
Anatomy of an Outfit
Sometimes I like to get dressed and take pictures of myself. For all of my outfit posts click here.
Freelance Matters: A series about how I tackle freelance issues such as estimating, billing, to-do lists and how to fire a client.
Trekking to Everest
In October 2010 Jeremy and I trekked through the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp. It completely changed my life. Read about the entire adventure, day-by-day, here.
Braid is a creative & consulting business I own with my sister. We do branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. On the Braid blog I share branding adventures, how-to articles and advice on the creative process. If you need a little brand therapy of your own visit Braid or subscribe to the Braid blog RSS feed here.
What We Eat
We like to eat really good food - at least 3 times a day. Sometimes I blog about it - click here for recipes and yummy ideas.
J & K: Blog Archive
- ► 2012 (182)
- Good Friends and Good Food
- Spiced Cantaloupe
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Summer Staples
- Weekend Mini Adventure: Kayaking
- Mermaid's Tears
- The Most Spontaneous Jeremy Has Ever Been
- Freelance Matters | Getting Paid
- Creatives Near You
- Watercolor Wedding Invitations
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Summer Smoothie
- About Dinahsaur
- Kathleen and Kendi. Everyday.
- Yay New York!
- Education | Matters
- Broccoli and Tofu Fried Rice
- The iPhone Diaries: Roadtrip to Austin
- Anatomy of an Outfit: Overalls
- ▼ July (19)
- ► 2010 (387)
- ► 2009 (406)
- Eva Black | Spaces
- Emma Dime
- Life as an Artistpreneur
- Jane Reaction
- Ink & Letters
- Meg Biram | The Edit
- Sarah Von Bargen's Small Biz Blog
- Design Crush
- The Equals Record
- Emmarie Designs
- Rory Gordon
- Yellow Brick Home
- The Creatives Project
- Silly Grrl
- Photographers Skeen
- The Clothes Make the Girl
- Bringing Design Home
- Pip & Estella
- A Practical Wedding
- Kind of a Sideshow
- Sandra Juto
- Old Sweet Song
- Rambling Renovators
- Brooklyn Bride
- Design Crush
- Experiment in Poverty
- The Jealous Curator
- Making it Lovely
- Dressing on the Side
- The Oklahoman
- Young House Love
- Oh So Beautiful Paper
- A Cup of Jo
- Brooklyn Limestone
- Glamour Weddings