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Meet a Real Graphic Designer

Name: Cliff Rusch

Education: Bachelor of Science in Commercial Art at Pacific Union College

Location: PUC, Departments of Art and Public Relations

The Job: Writing up Cliff’s job description is no easy task, especially since he has three jobs! While all of them deal with graphic design, they also involve many different projects and responsibilities.

First of all, Cliff works part-time as assistant professor of graphic design in the Pacific Union College Art Department. This involves the full-time work of prepping for class, lecturing, and grading.

Between teaching classes, Cliff runs over to the Public Relations Department, where he’s the art director. He helps coordinate, conceptualize, and design all of the college’s publications, advertisements, and logos. This means going on press checks to the local printer, meeting with clients, and tons of research for each project.

Finally, in his free time, Cliff does freelance work. He designs Web sites and print materials for various clientele. Cliff’s professional life is proof that graphic design is a versatile and flexible career option!

Words to Live by “I work with both Adventist and non-Adventist clients. In both situations, I’ve found that how you do your job and relate to the people you work with is the most effective way of showing God’s influence in your life.”

Graphic Design for you?

Consider Graphic Design as a college major if you're crazy about:
• working with computers all day (the screen is your canvas)
• being extremely detail-oriented (designing is a long meticulous process)
• as an artist (creativity and ingenuity are a must)

Avoid Graphic Design as a college major if you get nauseated by:
• be flexible (constant technological advance-ments mean new programs to learn)

• collaborate (clients won’t always agree with your “vision”)

• conduct research (you have to know whom and what you’re designing for)

• work under pressure (deadlines, deadlines)


Graphic Designer

"An egg-drop judge?" I repeated, surprised.

“Yeah! Would you be willing to judge?” my friend asked.

He taught a graphic design course in packaging, and the last class period of the quarter was always the egg-drop contest. Each of his students had to design some sort of creative vehicle that they could place an egg in and then drop it.

So a week later I found myself surrounded by graphic design students. As I held an array of number cards and a scoring sheet, I scanned the room.

One student was holding a small cardboard space shuttle and was wearing a metallic silver suit. People looked at him in awe.

“Hey, my egg’s just not going to survive,” he said, laughing. “So I’m making up for it with style points.”

Sadly, his prediction came true. His egg smashed on the first drop, and I gave him a zero for concept.

But where most people would have seen failure, I saw opportunity. So I asked the egg astronaut for an interview for On Course, trusting that tiny space shuttles just weren’t his forte as far as design goes.

Raymond Inae, a senior graphic design major at Pacific Union College and a design intern in the office where I work, willingly obliged—perhaps as redemption for his egg experiment gone awry.

As we talked Raymond helped me understand that graphic design entails more than concocting containers for eggs, though. Graphic design is the art of combining images and text to convey an idea. Examples of this kind of work are magazine layouts, advertising posters, logos for corporations, and Web design.

But rather than my waxing not-so-eloquent, let me ask Raymond for some answers.

On Course: Well, your egg-drop assignment was a quirky one. Is every day in class that much fun?

Raymond: It depends on what you consider fun. If you like packaging or looking at things before buying them, then you’d have fun in some of the classes. In package design class—where I dropped the egg—we also designed a shoebox and some other things.

For our final project we were allowed to design any package we wanted. So I designed a CD case. It was fun because it was hands-on, and I got instant gratification from seeing the end product.

OC: So why are you studying graphic design?

Raymond: I’m from a typical Asian family, where there’s a huge push to enter the health field. But ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved to draw. It’s something I really enjoy. That’s why I chose graphic design.

OC: You said you liked to draw as a child, which shows your natural leaning toward art. But I’ve always thought of graphic design as a more technological field because of all the computer work. Would you say it’s more art or more technology?

Raymond: Because special design programs have been developed within the past decade, there’s more of an emphasis on the technical part of it. But I would say that graphic design is still 85 percent art and 15 percent technology. Let me just say, though, that owning a computer or design program doesn’t make you a designer!

OC: Should students interested in art choose graphic design as a more practical alternative to being an artist?

Raymond: No. Fine art and graphic design are two different mediums. Fine art is still about making creations and people buying them.

As a graphic designer you use your art skills, but you have to be able to talk to clients and do what they want. It’s your job to receive the information from the client, then create a piece that best suits their needs. You can’t just do what you want.

But if you’re an artist and you’re willing to work with people and within certain restrictions, then you could consider graphic design.

OC: What sorts of skills do you need to become a graphic design major?

Raymond: You have to have a good eye for balance and spacing, but you can learn that. You also have to have a good attitude. Some classes are boring or technically challenging, and you have to work at it.

Patience is also important. When you actually get into the working world, sometimes clients will keep changing their mind in the middle of a project, or they’ll say one thing and then want another. So having patience will help you deal with your clients.

OC: Are computer skills absolutely essential?

Raymond: When I chose graphic design, I had no clue how to use the required programs. I learned and became proficient at all of them while taking the classes. If you know how to use them, it’s certainly beneficial. But you don’t have to enter the major knowing how to use them.

OC: Besides package design, what other classes do graphic design majors take?

Raymond: There’s typography class, in which you learn all about typefaces. There’s preprint design class, in which you learn the process of actually printing your design. Your first classes, though, will be general art courses, such as drawing, painting, and art history. Once you get past the basics, it gets more specialized.

OC: Why do you have to take drawing classes when much of your work is done on the computer?

Raymond: It helps to be able to draw. It isn’t essential all the time—you’re usually working with stuff that’s already made. But art skills give you a good idea of how to work with space.OC: Web design falls under graphic design, right?

Raymond: Yes, it does, and it’s huge right now! There are lots of jobs for Web designers. Personally, I don’t think the Web is going to get any smaller, and there’s a lot of bad Web design out there—which proves what I said earlier: just because you have a design program doesn’t mean you’re a designer!

OC: Is Web design pretty complicated?

Raymond: Yeah. I had to learn html, which was a killer. It’s as close as graphic designers come to computer programming. But there are programs coming out that make it easier to learn Web design.

OC: Besides Web design, what other kinds of jobs are out there for graphic designers?

Raymond: I have a friend who works for a Santa Cruz mountain bike shop and designs sports logos. Some of my friends work for magazines, and others work at small design firms. It’s a competitive field, but there’s always a need for good graphic design.

OC: Are there any licenses or graduate degrees that you have to earn?

Raymond: No. In fact, some graphic designers don’t even have college degrees! I shouldn’t say that, but it’s a fact. A lot of bigger companies look for a bachelor’s degree in design, but as far as a master’s degree goes, you don’t need one unless you’re teaching.

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