Arts & Humanities
Bachelor of Fine Art in Graphic Design
Art Director, Digital
Sam Gonzalez earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Colorado State University in 2009. When he chose graphic design, he wanted to find a way to involve is artistic interests, photography and illustration, in a career that would allow him to make art for a living. Now he works as the Digital Art Director at Publisher’s Clearing House, a position he has held for more than one year. Although he said he doesn’t take photos or create the images himself, the skills he learned in school, such as composition and the use of colors, are useful to him in appraising the work of other artists.
Why did you choose to major in graphic design?
I really wanted to be able to do art for a living, but I wanted to be able to make a living doing art. I had dual passions in photography and illustration, so graphic design seemed like a good way to blend those skills into a profession.
What did you like about the experience?
I really liked that whole time of my life. Obviously, there was the whole college experience thing, which was really fun. In regards to my undergraduate work, I loved all my art classes. My studio classes in particular which were always two to three hours long. I also had a really good experience doing internships. I did two internships — one with the student newspaper and the other with the school’s marketing department — and they were a good way to apply what I learned in school and get paid for it.
What could have been better?
I felt like I wasted time in certain classes because I had to take [required] science and math classes. I would have been much better off taking another illustration class or something else related to my degree instead of a science classes. I understand the need to give students a wide range of experiences in case they don’t know what they want to do, but I was pretty certain about what I wanted to do, so being forced to take those extra courses sort of rubbed me the wrong way.
How has your degree in graphic design impacted your career?
It’s been a must-have. I don’t think I would have gotten the time of day with where I am now if I hadn’t graduated. I think having the degree reflects a level of competency that has to be proven in the workplace otherwise.
What skills from your degree do you still use?
A lot of the skills I learned at school definitely carried over, and are blossoming, in what I’m doing now. I still use my composition skills — my knowledge of colors, and how to deal with clients. [By that I mean] what you can and cannot say to a client — it’s tricky in graphic design because you have to be able to articulate to a client why you made this decision and that decision, and you have to do so in an eloquent manner when they want to make revisions you disagree with.
What advice would you give prospective students?
I would say to definitely keep your eyes open and look at other people’s work while you’re in school. One of the most valuable assets I found while I was in school was the critiquing and being in the creative environment. Really invest your time in all the work you do in school. It’s not just going through the motions to get a grade, [a lot of what you do] are very valuable lessons. If you’re going to get a graphic design degree, you really need to make sure you want to work in graphic design. If you use that time in school to become a better artist, that’s going to benefit you in the long run. No one cares what GPA you got in school; your portfolio is everything. And don’t forget to get your internship. That means everything when you try to get out there for your first job.