Meet Your Major

Arts & Humanities

Bachelor of Science and Arts in Graphic Design

Tim Kaney
Graphic Designer/Visual Art

A graphic design graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Tim Kaney started out as a desktop publishing specialist. Now, just a few years after he graduated, he is a marketing assistant for AKE Safety Equipment in Rochester, Minn. He also does freelance designing on the side.

Why did you decide to major in graphic design?

Actually, it’s funny story. I was accepted into the UW-Madison School of Letters and Science under the pretext of becoming an astrophysicist. Well, two years and a failed calculus 2 class later, I decided to make a move back to what came naturally to me: art. However, I knew that there isn’t much stability in fine art, so I decided the only logical avenue to have a possible career in art was to decide on studying graphic design.

What did you enjoy about this major?

What I liked about the major was that, as opposed to contemporary fine art, there were generally accepted and already-established guidelines of what graphic design means and can be. It also showed me that I had an unknown love for learning about typography (the science of arrangement and placement of text, in addition to the design and creation of new font families). It required me to mix the creative whimsical side of my brain with the pragmatic, analytical side to create works of graphic design art. An added bonus, of course, was playing with the nice printers, expensive software, and the antique letter press.

Did you dislike any aspects of majoring in graphic design?

In my opinion, we did not get enough introduction on the practical applications of graphic design, and there were not enough classes offered when I was enrolled. Not to mention there was a heavy emphasis on theory, which was fine, but in today’s market, employers are looking for people with a heavy set of programming and development skills in addition to design skills. That is something I wish they worked into the program much more.

Do you work in graphic design?

Luckily, I do work in my field, but not 100% of the time. I started as a desktop publishing specialist for a translation and localization firm that produces multilingual documents for clients. That was amazing. I was able to learn all the different character sets that all the languages use and how they work within the software. I also taught myself new software. Now, I am working as the graphic designer and marketing coordinator with the same company. That means I don’t have design projects to work on all the time, but when the company needs design, I do it. I also will take the odd freelance job here and there.

How has this major impacted your career?

This major helped my career in that it allowed me to gain employment right out of college. However, it limited my prospects after college because I did not get any training in Web design, programming language, or development skills, which most big employers seem to expect to find wrapped up all in one package within all new college graduates.

I think this particular program also allowed me to leave college with a much better understanding of what “good” typography and design is, as opposed to other two-year programs.

What important skills did you learn from your major?

The most important skills include the software skills, design and typography theory, and successful interaction with clients. I use all of these skills today, especially client interaction. If there are not clear expectations established at the beginning of a project, no one will leave it feeling happy.

Do you have any advice for students majoring in graphic design?

As our world moves further away from print and physical material and more towards Web-based and alt-reality applications, there is less of a need for what are known as “print designers.” If you decide to become a designer, make sure to get as much programming and development education as possible. Many companies look for individuals with strong HTML, XMHTL, HTML5, JQUERY, etc. skills for the creation of human-computer interfaces, graphical user interfaces, websites, and Web-based applications.