Even during pandemic, opportunities abound for Berkeley Graphic Design students

While numerous industries have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, many areas of the graphic design field are thriving. “There are freelance opportunities, particularly in the New York/New Jersey area,” said Carlos Cruz, Chair of the Graphic Design programs at Berkeley College. “Businesses across all areas are in need of new kinds of promotion and support, creating demand for skilled graphic design professionals.”

A wide range of creative opportunities

Web design, package design, app and game design, and multi-media design are just a few of the areas where graphic designers are finding opportunities, according to Cruz. “Even while some firms have temporarily closed their physical offices, many areas of graphic design are very well-suited for remote work,” he continued. “Current technology—like the hardware and software we use here at Berkeley College, make it possible for designers to work for clients around the world.

A well-rounded program to prepare for professional success

In addition to courses on design fundamentals and more advanced skills, the Graphic Design programs at Berkeley also provide students with solid business knowledge. “Obviously, top-notch design skills are essential for success,” Cruz noted. “But it’s also important for students to learn skills related to finding employment, promoting themselves, and even developing an entrepreneurial spirit. Learning to be confident and act like a professional are also important parts of our program.”

Standing out from other programs

“Many students love the fact that we’re a relatively small Graphic Design program here at Berkeley,” Cruz pointed out. “As a result, we’re able to constantly update the curriculum to reflect the current state of the industry to ensure that students are learning the skills that they’ll need. Our students also get much more attention from the faculty than they’d be able to at other colleges. And they’re often able to develop close relationships with both professors and classmates. We also stress collaboration, which is an essential career skill.”

The importance of internships

“Some of our students have the chance to participate in internships where they can apply what they’ve learned in their classes to professional situations,” noted Graphic Design Professor Nancy Fisher, who oversees the internship program for the department. “By working with an employer and dealing with actual clients, schedules, and budgets, the students gain valuable career experience.”

The chance to learn from a legend

Several Berkeley Graphic Design students have benefitted from an exceptional opportunity to participate in an internship with Aaron Padin, who currently runs his own firm “VSL_MTH” which stands for Visual Math. “Mr. Padin’s background and experience are unparalleled. He’s the former Head of Art and Design at J. Walter Thompson (one of the world’s largest and most well-known advertising agencies), and his body of work has been highly recognized in multiple award shows,” Cruz commented. “It’s an incredible opportunity for our students to intern with him.”

“I look for students with a passion. This isn’t just a ‘job,’ you need to love this business,” said Mr. Padin, who was once named “MAIP Mentor of the Year” (the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program, is a part of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and works to advocate for an connect diverse talent to the marketing industry). “And I’ve found that Berkeley College students are really driven. With young talent, I really try to stress the importance of the thinking process, because they’ll need to stand out in the market. I also try to expose them to the vastness of the business—there are so many different creative areas they can pursue.”

Developing real-world skills

“I take my role as a mentor very seriously and actually spend quite a bit of time with interns. Even though these are virtual internships, they have access to me for guidance seven days a week,” Mr. Padin continued. “They work on a wide range of tasks to learn as much as possible, from learning to do research, developing concepts and executing them, and even learning to present their work and critique the work of others. Right now, our Berkeley interns are working on developing icons for a new mobile app.”

Berkeley grads succeeding in the professional world

Daniel Tivet, an art director at Gramercy Products, a leading New Jersey-based consumer product design and manufacturing firm and the exclusive worldwide manufacturer of Nerf and Tonka pet products, also spoke of his confidence in Berkeley students. “We [Gramercy] have benefitted from the pool of talent at Berkeley College,” said Mr. Tivet. “We presently have four full-time designers with training from Berkeley, and all have been able to hit the ground running, continue to improve their skills, and thrive in our fast-paced and innovative environment.”

Professors’ experience makes a difference

Robert Cupo, who expects to graduate in 2021, and his brother are both Graphic Design majors at Berkeley. “My professors are great,” Robert said. “They’ve worked on movies, animated TV series, and have so much professional experience which really helps us.” He began attending on campus before the switching to online classes during the pandemic. Robert looks forward to participating in an internship and the possibility of freelance professional work on projects like logo and conceptual design.

Creative skills combine with technology

Tiffany Gary, in her third semester of the Bachelor Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree program in Graphic Design, came to Berkeley after earning an Associate’s degree at a community college. “My initial interest in art and design was working traditionally—on paper,” noted Tiffany. “Now I’m learning the technology that’s used in professional design situations as well, like using Photoshop for editing images.” 

Classes had already shifted to online when Tiffany enrolled at Berkeley and she acknowledged that time management skills are critical. “Keeping on schedule with class projects is important, but I know it’s a skill I’ll need when dealing with clients and deadlines,” she pointed out. “The professors are very patient and make time to answer questions.” In addition to mastering her Photoshop skills, Tiffany has an interest in web and package design and dreams of one day working as an art director for a high-profile company such as Disney or Pixar.

Looking to the future

Mr. Padin also emphasized the importance of a portfolio of work for students. “I stress the fact that ‘your portfolio represents you,’” he said. “It’s what you’ll be judged on when you begin looking for employment, so the work needs to speak for itself. It needs to make you stand out. The good news is that there are tremendous opportunities in the creative field right now and Berkeley students are well prepared to succeed.”

The views and/or opinions in this article are those of the individuals interviewed. The academic achievements and/or employment outcomes described in this article are specific to each individual and are not a guarantee of similar results for past or current students. For up-to-date and detailed information, please visit BerkeleyCollege.edu and view our catalogs at BerkeleyCollege.edu/publications

Carlos Cruz with Berkeley College Student

Captions: Carlos Cruz, Chair of Berkeley College’s Graphic Design program, discusses his Special Topics Project with student Robert Cupo on a Zoom meeting. The two review Robert’s logo design for a hot sauce branding project.