March 24, 2017
It’s only been two years since I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, but it already seems like a distant lifetime ago. This past weekend I was hitting up the old stomping grounds and wandering around the Fine Arts Center feeling very nostalgic, but also relieved that the stresses and anxieties of my college days are now a thing of the past.
I had been invited to attend the AIGA student group’s NowHere Design Conference to speak as an alum. It was an honor — but also a surreal experience — being on the other side of the podium at an event that I used to attend and coordinate as an AIGA student officer.
The conference was aptly named to play on the fact that Stevens Point is in the middle of nowhere. It was created to bring in high-caliber designers as well as alumni for a weekend of presentations and workshops. This year, the keynote speakers were Alex Center, a Brooklyn-based in-house designer for Coca-Cola, and Chank Diesel, a font designer from Minneapolis. The event ended up being just as exciting to me as it was when I was a student. The speakers were inspiring and it was fun to chat with them over drinks after the daily activities had wrapped up. The craziest thing was finding out Alex Center knew of Fast Horse and was familiar with our work for the brand. Small world, right?
As an alumni presenter, I was asked to share what my career has been like since leaving college and to give some insight into what it’s like to be a designer at an agency. While I was putting my presentation together and thinking about what wisdom and advice I had to offer, I realized just how much I have learned and grown in the last twenty-three months. It was nice to take the time to reflect on how far I had come and revisit the range of projects I’ve been able to work on. And because of the variety of good and bad experiences I’ve had, I hoped what I had to share would not only inspire the students, but also be realistic about what the “real world” is like.
Three of the other alumni speakers are good friends of mine, so it was fun and inspiring to hear their presentations and sit in on their workshops. We all agreed that AIGA had been fundamental to our professional development in school, so we were thrilled that we could each give back in our own way to the design students at our alma mater, seeing as we were in their shoes not too long ago.
While we went down our respective design paths and are now immersed in these new exciting worlds – ranging from agency work to freelance and hand-lettering to in-house – it was grounding to come back to where it all started and have a new appreciation for our roots.