Alumni Stories: Noel Danforth ’85 on Working as an Independent Graphic Designer

Position: Principal, Gold Star Studios/Independent Graphic Design Professional 

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Description of what you do: I am a graphic designer. I use visual communication (design) skills to design and develop a broad range of materials for my clients. You can see some of my work on my website: www.goldstarstudios.com

Major at Dartmouth:
 French

What is most satisfying about your current work? 
Being fulfilled by what I do each day. Design exposes you to so many of life’s currents and allows you to use your intuition to explore.  I have variously fallen in love with different aspects of my design practice: form, color, typography, layout, my tools and my current obsession—my camera. I’ve been exploring the idea of seeing and perspective through the camera lens.  

The beauty of a career in design is that there are so many possibilities and if you like learning (most liberal arts students do) it’s a great field as it is continues to evolve and there are always new things to learn. When I started my career in graphic design the computer was a relatively new tool for designers; with the computer and of course the web, many new areas of design practice have been born. 

What’s the best way to enter your field? Any essential elements of preparation? 
There are various ways to obtain the background you need to be a designer and it’s a multifaceted field with many specializations. My advice is to research what type of design you’d ultimately like to practice and to have that information direct your educational path. Pick a school and culture that aligns with your goals. The traditional path is to attend a BFA or MFA program. Ultimately an MFA is the best route if you’d like to teach design. 

When I started looking into a career in design, I was initially disheartened as it seemed the best approach was a BFA and that I had, in a sense, “missed the boat” and an MFA seemed beyond my reach not having any background in design nor a portfolio. After researching the possibilities open to me and considering school locations, finances and work prospects I decided to take a less traditional path. I attended the Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s graphic design certificate program, an evening program, and gained work experience by day. Before entering the program I took design courses to see if pursuing design studies was something I really wanted, and I was able to build a portfolio to gain entrance. A portfolio allows potential employers/design schools to assess your design skills.  It is a reflection of you and your work, and a good portfolio is a necessity when you start looking for work or are seeking to gain admission to a design program.

What advice would you give to others seeking opportunities in graphic design?
For exploring the field I recommend taking courses in design at an art college. This will expose you to the design skills you need to develop, the culture of art schools, and allow you to start building a portfolio. Once you have developed a portfolio you can apply to a design program and/or start looking for work. Personally I found attending an evening program and gaining work experience simultaneously to be very rewarding; I was able to immediately put my new skills into practice. Design is about practice, the more you do the better you get.

Can you tell us about your experiences in different work environments as a graphic designer? Which has been your favorite?
I have worked in-house for educational institutions, financial services companies, a medium-sized design firm, and an in-house advertising agency. I enjoyed all these experiences to different degrees and I learned something from each environment. One distinction often made in the design world is working in-house as opposed to working independently or as a freelancer. All have their advantages; for me it comes down to personal preference and that can change over the course of your career. Having this varied background is what allowed me to start my own practice. It enabled me to broaden the scope of my portfolio and develop a network for future work opportunities. Running my own small practice suits me now and is my current favorite.

How would you recommend students who are interested in freelancing get into the field?
A freelance design career is something that develops over time and doing good work is the best marketing tool. If your work is good, clients will become repeat customers and new clients will seek you out. To start out you must be armed with a strong portfolio then you can either introduce yourself to prospective clients/employers or seek out an agency that specializes in connecting employers with temporary design help. This latter approach is an excellent way to see different work environments and to explore what type of work you might enjoy as a practice long-term. 

What do you do to keep your practice/perspective fresh and evolving?
I enjoy experimenting in different media; this gets me away from my computer and allows me to access different thought pathways for problem solving. I believe design is about keeping open and developing a keen eye. Also, I find it important to remind myself in a more tactile way why I love what I do. Picking up another media and working with color, shape and texture in an intuitive way helps me to connect to less directed problem-solving. Whether it’s drawing, painting, sewing, or beading, I love to work in a way that allows more freedom for my intuition to connect with an unconscious flow. We all carry ideas around that sometimes need a little coaxing into the light.

How has Dartmouth supported you in your career development?
Dartmouth’s dedication to undergraduate liberal arts is legend, the broad spectrum and depth of course offerings allows students many lens on the world. Design is a big picture field, it’s everywhere and in everything, the more of the world you understand the better you will be at your practice. Though my design skills are essential to my practice the underlying skills are from the liberal arts: having a broad knowledge-base from sciences to languages, the ability to problem solve and communicate clearly, having curiosity and discipline, and a love of learning. Dartmouth serves these up in spades.

Soralee Ayvar ’07 – Operations Director for Art Studio Miami

Soralee Ayvar is the Operations Director of Art Studio Inc.,

Art Studio Miami is an Non-Profit Organization (NPO) with the mission of empowering young minds through creative-holistic arts integration  by providing a safe location where youth are inspired and guided by artists, teachers, professionals and mentors who support the student’s education and career development through the integration of creative holistic arts. Soralee joined Art Studio as a volunteer in 2009 and became Operations Director in 2010 with 15+ years of experience in youth development, volunteer management, training and life skills.

After studying music in middle school and theater (with a specialty in Mime and Costume/Makeup Design) in high school, Soralee received her B.A in Sociology from Dartmouth College and an M.S. in Business Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Soralee’s current role continues her long-time personal vision to empower the next generation of leaders with the creative tools, knowledge and motivation to innovate and create positive change for themselves and their local and global community. (Bio kindly provided by Ms. Ayvar)

~

Soralee Ayvar
Operations Director
Art Studio Miami
www.ArtStudioMiami.org

Empowering Young Minds | Healing Systemic Poverty

Soralee joined us via Skype on Tues, April 9, 2013.  Please check back for an audio recording of the session.

CAREER CONVERSATION with Soralee Ayvar ’07 – TUES @ 12:15 PM

Soralee Ayvar is the Operations Director of Art Studio Inc.,

Art Studio Miami is an Non-Profit Organization (NPO) with the mission of empowering young minds through creative-holistic arts integration  by providing a safe location where youth are inspired and guided by artists, teachers, professionals and mentors who support the student’s education and career development through the integration of creative holistic arts. Soralee joined Art Studio as a volunteer in 2009 and became Operations Director in 2010 with 15+ years of experience in youth development, volunteer management, training and life skills.

After studying music in middle school and theater (with a specialty in Mime and Costume/Makeup Design) in high school, Soralee received her B.A in Sociology from Dartmouth College and an M.S. in Business Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Soralee’s current role continues her long-time personal vision to empower the next generation of leaders with the creative tools, knowledge and motivation to innovate and create positive change for themselves and their local and global community. (Bio kindly provided by Ms. Ayvar)

~

Soralee Ayvar
Operations Director
Art Studio Miami
www.ArtStudioMiami.org

Empowering Young Minds | Healing Systemic Poverty

Alumni Conversations: Garrett Simpson ’11, Product Operations Fellow at PharmaSecure (India)

Position: Product Operations Fellow at PharmaSecurePhoto of Garrett Simpson '11 on the job in India

Location: New Delhi, India

Short description of what you do: As PharmaSecure is still a young company, I’ve been helping out with a variety of things. My main responsibilities are supporting the product development team by defining requirements for new products and overseeing their development, data analysis, and monitoring of current products.

Degree at Dartmouth: Bachelor’s of Engineering focusing in Mechanical Engineering

1. What is most satisfying about your current work?

The general work environment and the people I work with — the organization is very flat, and I’ve gained some great friends and mentors during my time here.

2. What’s the best way to enter your field? Any essential elements of preparation? 

Networking — I audited a Tuck class my senior year, Intro to Entrepreneurship, and met the CEO (Nathan Sigworth ’07) after a class in which he gave a guest lecture. Ten months later I Facebook messaged him out of the blue during a week of intense job searching, asking him if there were any internships or fellowships available and luckily there were!

3. What advice would you give to others seeking opportunities in this field?

Reach out to and network with alumni. There are so many amazing people, and they will want to help you.  There are some useful job sites/lists that are more geared toward social enterprise as well, like social-enterprise-jobs@googlegroups.com.

5. How has Dartmouth supported you in your career development?

Dartmouth’s Network is truly amazing.  I’ve only just started out on my career more or less, with just a handful of internships under my belt, but all of my gainful employment post-graduation has been the direct result of networking with Dartmouth alumni.  As I’m starting to look for my next step, classmates a few years older than me have given great advice on how to frame my job search in a way that will help me clarify my career goals.

Five tips from former Wall Street Journal reporter Joe Mathewson ’55 for students interested in journalism

“I’ve never met a bored journalist,” Medill School of Journalism professor and former Wall Street Picture of Joe Mathewson courtesy of 123People.comJournal reporter Joe Mathewson ’55 often tells students, noting that there are “no dull jobs and no dull days” in the field of journalism. While some people like to claim that journalism is a dying field, Mathewson rightly believes that it is simply evolving, and he wants students to know that journalism needs talented graduates with a passion for writing and a strong liberal arts background.

With a number of grandchildren at the College, Mathewson is a regular visitor to Career Services and a mentor to students currently considering a career in journalism. Here, we’ve compiled Mathewson’s top five tips for students who have a passion for the written word and investigating the world around them.

  1. Journalism needs intellectually curious young graduates from a variety of academic backgrounds — sell your experience, no matter what it is! Whether you are a history or neuroscience or economics major, journalism needs you.
  2. Have a blog and credentials you can show people. Nothing speaks to your skills better than a thorough, well-organized set of clips. Make sure you can speak to why your previous experience, regardless of its direct relation to journalism, will help you succeed as a journalist.
  3. Don’t confine yourself to print. In this day and age, you need to have multiple skills — learn to shoot and edit video, take photographs, blog and manage social media. Wire services in particular are booming.
  4. Learn how to write about economics. The economy is the number one story around the world right now, and you will be a highly marketable employee if you know how to write about business, employment and interest rates.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the tricks of the trade — AP style, interview skills, journalistic ethics, etc. Do research for specific job and internship opportunities. If you’re applying for a job with the Associated Press, Bloomberg or Reuters, learn the verbs of attribution in business journalism.

Interested in pursuing job or internship opportunities in journalism? Make sure you’ve signed up on Dartboard to receive our regular blitzes about communications jobs! There are stories out there waiting to be told — are you going to be the one to tell them?

Alumni Conversations: Charles Li, Manager of Mobile Strategy at EF Education First (Part 1)

EF Education First, commonly referred to as EF, is a leading private education company, offering “every imaginable way to learn a language, travel abroad, experience another culture, or earn an academic degree.”

EF recruits at Dartmouth for the EF360 Global Management Trainee program, a hands-on program that provides one-on-one mentoring with senior leaders, the opportunity to learn the company’s unique entrepreneurial style, and the chance to oversee a major project central to EF’s business.

We sat down with economics major Charles Li ’12, an EF360 Global Management Trainee, to learn about his work and get advice on best practices to prepare for this type of unconventional management track program.

1. Tell me about the EF360 program.

For the 360 global management training program, you work with a senior executive who serves as your mentor and guide, and you begin by rotating through departments such as sales, marketing, finance and operations.   Trainees then work with their mentors to identify a challenging project or projects to lead which will have a tangible impact on EF’s business, and you spend the remainder of your first year as a 360 implementing those projects.

2. Describe your job.

Everyone’s career path is unique. I’m fascinated by mobile technology and did a great team project on mobile application development while at Dartmouth. I now work as a Manager of Mobile Strategy, and my 360 project within EF is focused on recruiting mobile developers and other “digital natives” to help drive our mobile business objectives.

Many management training programs at other corporations hire a large number of people to work in specific positions and weed out based on performance. The EF360 program works in reverse.  They hire a small number of people, identify their strengths, and groom them to fit a position that capitalizes on their interests and the company’s needs. Because we travel to each of EF’s global headquarters for training, we have an opportunity to work closely with a small group of management trainees who share a passion for education and the company cause. Yet at the same time, each EF360 is working on his or her own unique project.

3. What’s most surprised you about the position?

The level of responsibility. After four months, I am already hiring a team. I’m grateful for the responsibility.  It demonstrates a level of trust that EF has in its recruits, and that trust naturally supports creativity and collaboration both within teams and across product lines. 

4. Is it necessary to have advanced coursework in Economics, Education, or any particular subject area to join the EF360 program?

Absolutely not. We don’t hire skills, we hire people. We recruit at Dartmouth because graduates have the leadership skills, problem solving ability, and a can-do attitude.  The recruiters here would rather find someone with a passion for education, travel, and learning languages, and the ability to problem solve, than someone who is an expert at one skill and only one skill.

5. EF is known for having a really unique interviewing process? Can you describe this, and share a few tips on how to best prepare?

EF is looking for creative thinkers. I was asked “what is the best business to create using the items in this hypothetical box?”  I created a business plan.

Once you make the interview round, you begin a series of meetings with key leaders across EF business units.  You do not receive a schedule of meetings before you arrive at EF.  The first few interviews focus on identifying your strengths and specific areas of interest.  Then you meet with executives within several specific products with whom they think you will have the greatest synergy.

The best advice I have is to simply be yourself.  Hopefully you’ll bring a love of learning and a passion for education and travel to the interview too.