With school back in session — in all sorts of forms these days — we've been picking, Šek designer and current University of Minnesota Duluth student, Kasey's mind about all sorts of things. We won't share her thoughts and challenges with an ever changing high ed landscape due to Covid-19, but we did ask her to share how her education and professional experience as a designer has matched up. Enjoy!
I was first introduced to Šek Design Studio back in 2017 as just a wee Freshman at UMD. Šek was looking for an intern to help around the office and I was curious what being a graphic designer would be like. Mike took a chance on me and gave me the job. “Helping around the office” eventually turned into learning what it meant to design professionally. My experience at Šek has been unique and extremely valuable, especially as I simultaneously juggle school, and a service job.
As I began my time at Šek, it become clear that the education for my degree was different than what I was learning on the job. Both are beneficial; however, each gave me different techniques to add to my toolbox.
Developing a Solid Foundation
In school, I’m learning “WHAT” design is. The surface level skills, with a large focus on design history, movements, theory, and design concepts. Beyond that, my education is special because it is a place where I am surrounded by a classroom full of like-minded creative students. There is always someone to bounce ideas off of or ask for design suggestions and opinions. In the classroom, critiques are often and abundant. These critiques were scary at first but came easier with time. Going through the critique process taught me how to defend my work and explain my design solutions. This has proven to be a valuable skill that would have been difficult to learn outside of a classroom setting. There’s nothing quite like standing in front of a classroom full of opinionated people who all have something to say about what you just created. It definitely gave me thicker skin...
Being part of a design cohort also gave me a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with other students, both on academic and non-academic projects. This teamwork mindset is another skill I carry with me today.
Stretching What I Learned
Despite the useful skills being a design student gave me, the majority of my know-how was acquired from getting thrown into the deep end through on-the-job experience. At Šek, I’m learning the more technical and business side of design. I’m learning more than just “what” design is, I’m learning “WHY” and "HOW" design works.
I remember starting out with Šek when I was very new to design. I knew I liked how certain things looked, but I didn’t know how to make my own designs look as nice. During my first week on the job, Mike had me find ads on the internet that I liked and try to recreate them. At first, my recreations would be close, but the spacing would be a little off or the font wouldn’t completely match the original. I continued to work on them and they soon began to very closely resemble the original ads. Pretty soon they were spot on. That exercise was a turning point for me because I was actually able to apply all the design principles I was learning in school to my own work.
Another critical skill I learned at Šek is printing. Now, that might sound like something everyone would know how to do, but I’m here to tell you it’s actually much more difficult than you’d think. I’ve learned the importance of paper quality and specific program settings to use in order to produce a quality finished product. This seemly simple task is a super important skill that was not focused on as in-depth as it should have been during my training for my degree.
Technical skills aside, I’m also learning new skills that I was never exposed to in school. Things like: working with clients, timelines, budgets, networking, and social media. Working with clients is a HUGE part of graphic design, but it’s something that is rarely discussed in school. Learning how to find work and market yourself in order to attract potential clients is absolutely essential. Šek helped show me that.
Arguably the most important lessons I’ve taken away from my time at Šek is the importance of presentation. As artists, we have to do our best to illustrate and articulate the concept we have in our heads to clients who may not have any experience with design. Helping to bring ideas to life for them can be as simple as adding a drop shadow to create a more realistic mockup or printing out a physical draft instead of presenting a design on a computer screen. Going the extra mile not only shows attention to detail, it also demonstrates to clients that they're working with a designers who truly cares about them, their business, and the outcome of the design project.
Melding the Classroom and the Office
Pursuing my degree while working professionally has made it evident that the two go hand-in-hand in providing me with the skills needed to go future as a Graphic Designer. I can’t imagine beginning my design career any other way and I can’t wait to see what other new skills I'll learn from the Šek Design Team!