Berkeley Today Stories
The Work World: Becoming a Graphic Designer
In today’s multimedia environment, almost every business and organization depends on the work of a graphic design artist. If you are serious about launching a career in the graphic design industry, and are seeking an innovative and thorough course curriculum that will teach you all about the business, then consider Berkeley College.
With Graduation Day 2019 quickly approaching on Friday, May 10, the second edition of our Work World Career Series features three recent Bachelor of Fine Arts degree Graphic Design Alumni.
Artists at work
Dean A. Cruz is a part-time freelance graphic designer creating logos and brand images for business owners who want to spread the word about their company, products, and the services provided. He is also a freelance photographer - assisting on film and music video productions. When he created his Berkeley College capstone graphic design project, “Lifted,” it symbolized the idea of embracing your inner fears, imperfections, and struggles. “Lift yourself and be free to do what you love,” he proclaimed.
He’s very inspired by the uniqueness of New York City and its artists. Dean’s fondest memories are of his time spent as the Berkeley College Fashion Club photographer in Woodland Park. He took photos behind-the-scenes, during, and after the shows. “We once produced a fashion show at the Paterson Art Museum. That was awesome! I really enjoyed capturing the moment on camera,” Dean recalled. “There were a lot of different clothing designers, and people at the event sharing incredible artwork – it was really nice.”
In partnership with Berkeley, the 2018 graduate was invited back, by a friend and current student, earlier this year to participate in the Macy’s Fashion Night on the Town Fashion Show at the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, NJ. This time he appeared as a model in front of the camera. “It was cool! I liked the whole experience. Events like that give students more space to experience and roam the college life – see different kinds of people from different backgrounds.”
Dean describes himself an abstract artist. “I like to mix it up, stand out from others, and think of what hasn’t been done yet. I’m on my way to doing even more projects related to branding and photography.” He’s scheduled to appear in a forthcoming film.
Senior Graphic Designer Edith Riley - from the Class of 2017 - works on a product development team for Gramercy Products – Nerf Dog. “I have worked there for more than four years now, and my daily tasks change frequently,” she explained. Her long list of responsibilities include: catalog creations, presentations, packaging, branding, digital and print media, website maintenance, tradeshow graphics and management, product management, production design, and so much more. Additional graphic design work ranges from corporate business stationary to DVD cover designs of the hit show The Walking Dead.
“I mostly enjoy being able to put my creativity to use in a productive way,” Edith said. “No two days are the same, and it keeps me on my toes.”
Joseph Lopez launched his graphic design career as an intern with Burkley Case in Clifton, NJ, then got promoted to a full-time position as a Marketing Specialist.
“I currently manage most of the marketing materials that the company produces. I do everything from graphic design, product photo shoots, email promotions, and social media,” he said.
As a fellow 2018 Berkeley graduate, Joseph is happy to be working with really talented people, and feels like his work is improving every day. “I’m always learning something new, and I’m challenged to think of new ways to present our phone cases to people - and make them want to buy.”
Here’s what the Berkeley College Alumni had to say about their journey to a higher education, and breaking into the field of graphic design.
Why did you choose the Graphic Design major at Berkeley College?
Dean A. Cruz: As a child I was always into drawing, painting, and illustration. After my final year of high school I wanted to pursue art. When I received the call, I didn’t hesitate to visit the campus, which was also convenient and close to home.
Edith Riley: I have always been an artist of sorts and a creative person in general. Back in 2013, I was looking into courses at the Technical Career Institutes (TCI) in NYC, and the Digital Media Arts program caught my eye. That was when I really jumped into this field. I received my Associate’s degree from TCI, then transferred into the Graphic Design program at Berkeley to earn my B.F.A.
I chose Berkeley College because of the atmosphere. I read all good things and saw that the success rate was higher than other colleges with similar programs in the area. The courses offered in the Graphic Design program at Berkeley College appealed to the artist in me. It also didn’t hurt that the Woodland Park campus is beautiful!
Joseph Lopez: I always loved editing photos and making videos, so I chose Graphic Design because of how diverse the field currently is today.
It felt right going to Berkeley College. The professors really know their stuff and are willing to spend their time making sure that you understand what they are teaching.
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What did you learn in the Graphic Design program? Did you enjoy the experience?
DC: Sometimes people feel that their work is not good enough, or that it’s boring. At Berkeley, I learned how to be more confident in my work. My professors taught me a lot. You have to stand your ground, and be professional when presenting your work.
The energy and positive vibe at Berkeley College was great. It’s important to maintain that positivity – and Berkeley is known for that.
My favorite part of the program was when our professors would invite people like American graffiti writer and collage artist Greg Lamarche in to visit the classroom, and to give a short lecture to the students each month. He has worked for countless Fortune 500 companies, so he was able to share his knowledge from a graphic artist and a business perspective.
ER: When I transferred to Berkeley College during the fall semester of 2015 with my Associate’s degree, I had just started my day job as a Junior Graphic Designer for Nerf Dog Toys - where I still work. Now I am the Lead Graphic Designer on a full-time work from home basis. Since I was working full-time, I opted to attend classes during the evening at the Woodland Park campus, and through Berkeley College Online®. Berkeley was very accommodating.
I really enjoyed attending the night classes, because the adjunct staff is incredible. It was nice to learn real world skills from people who are still working in the field. Mr. and Mrs. Cruz were also really great. They both care deeply about art and their students, and it shows. A lot of what I took away was the ability to meet deadlines, properly discuss and communicate about art, the creative process, and the work I’ve done, as well as to give and take constructive criticism, which is very important in this field. I made a few lasting friendships with classmates and professors alike. It really is a great place to learn.
JL: I learned plenty of life lessons at Berkeley. The most important thing I learned is that you are your own teacher and if you don’t spend the time outside of class to improve, you never will. I really enjoyed the people at Berkeley. It really was the place I figured out what I wanted in life.
What advice do you have for those who want to study for a career in graphic design?
DC: My advice to any artist, or graphic design student is don’t rush it. Really analyze what you want to do. Take your time to visualize your goal and what you want to pursue. For some it may come quickly, for others it may take a little longer. For me it took some time because I have multiple interests.
Be patient. Working in this industry takes a lot of time and hard work. Nothing comes in a day.
ER: My biggest piece of advice would be to stop procrastinating. You think you have time, you don’t. Get out into the world and start working in the field as soon as you can. Experience and a great portfolio is key to landing that dream position. Also, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of design, but at the same time be open to criticism and opinions. Everyone has one, and you will spend at least 50 percent of your workday making revisions.
Pursue web and app development, or UI/UX, there’s a huge industry for it and it’s not going away any time soon.
JL: The best advice I can give is to spend time figuring out what you want to do with your degree, and what programs you want to really learn. Not all Adobe programs are for everyone.
Lastly, if you have a closed mind and do not open yourself to different types of media like books, movies, television, games, and music, then you may find it hard to work on design solutions, and produce anything good.
How can students be successful in college?
DC: The Berkeley College Library gives students access to rent all types of equipment, including cameras, so I took advantage of that. They really helped me get on my feet.
ER: Show up to class, do the work to the best of your ability, and really figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. This is a test run, use it.
JL: Understand your priorities and what really matters in the long run. Spend time studying and getting better at your profession.
Have you faced any obstacles in the business?
DC: I think it’s important for graphic designers to collaborate. I like to work mostly by myself, but now I’m beginning to work with other people, because putting more than one head together works much better. It gives you a more constructive view on a project.
ER: I have faced plenty of obstacles. I think my biggest obstacle was learning how to not be a perfectionist, and to procrastinate less. As a perfectionist, I could spend an hour fussing over the kerning on a text blurb, which ultimately sets me up for failure.
There’s no way a perfectionist could meet hard deadlines, so I had to loosen up the reins a bit.
A lot of companies are opting to hire freelancers and outsourcing. It isn’t the easiest field to break into. You have to be bold, teachable, hardworking, and persistent.
JL: I’ve had my fair share of setbacks, but nothing worth anything is given – only earned. I took the initiative, saw an opportunity to get a good job, and went in. If you’re having trouble finding a classic 9-5 job working in graphic design, continue to build a great portfolio, and take the time to self-improve. Also, make sure you look presentable when you’re meeting people in the workplace.
What advice do you have for professionals like yourself starting out in the business, or adults who are looking to make a career transition?
DC: The industry is wide open. There are a lot of different aspects to be explored. Be free to do what you desire. Life is short, so you have to pursue anything that’s going to make you happy – that’s what’s more important.
JL: If you’re not watching YouTube tutorials and learning new ways to use the programs, then you’re going to fail and get discouraged. I have yet to meet a designer that would not agree with this.
ER: Keep your head up. Don’t give up after a few rejections. It took hundreds of times sending my resume out, and countless interviews to land the position I have. It is not impossible, you can do this!
To learn more about these graphic designers, visit the following websites and Instagram pages: www.deananthonycruz.myportfolio.com, @thedeancruz, www.EdyRiley.com, and @joethabrolpez. The artists can also be reached at email@example.com, EdyRiley@gmail.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Graphic Design, and other programs at Berkeley, visit BerkeleyCollege.edu. Thinking about pursuing a Masters of Business Administration degree (M.B.A.)? Visit the Berkeley College Graduate degree program page for more information, or to schedule an appointment.
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.