Hometown: Elmwood Park, IL
Year graduated: Spring 2016 (did not pursue a degree)
Currently working at: University of Illinois Beckman Institute (Visualization Lab)
How does it feel to be a professional designer:
It feels amazing. I've always been the "artsy" person but up until now most people assumed drawing and design was just a hobby of mine. And for much of my professional career it was; in 2015 I graduated with a M.S. in Plant Biology from the University of Illinois. But the world of scientific research ultimately wasn't making me happy and I didn't feel fulfilled—so I decided to do something about it. In late 2015 I enrolled in graphic design courses at Parkland, something I alwayswanted to do, and I haven't looked back since. I can genuinely say that I love what I do now and it feels fantastic to be taken seriously as a design professional.
How do you like your job:
My job is really awesome! I am a graphics specialist at the University of Illinois Beckman Institute where I create journal covers, content for an augmented reality app, scientific figures, wayfinding- and info-graphics, and promotional material for university clients. I get to work on tons of unique projects with various researchers so it's never boring and I'm always learning new things. Not to mention that my digital painting for John Rogers' research group was featured on CNN.com!
How did you get this job:
I serendipitously got this job at the same time I enrolled at Parkland. I learned of the Visualization Lab at Beckman through word of mouth and decided to take a chance and send an email to the manager explaining my interest and recent career change. I met with him soon after and they were excited to let me join the team (even though my portfolio was pretty pitiful at the time). It was a really awesome experience to take graphic design courses at the same time I started my job. I was learning so many skills at Parkland and simultaneously applying those principles to real-world projects; it really elevated my work in both arenas.
What was the most exciting project you've worked on since graduation:
Our team is currently working on a project for the Illinois Archaeological Survey where I'll be assisting with the creation of content for an augmented reality app about the Cahokia people. We'll be creating interactive 3D models and all sorts of informational and promotional materials detailing the project. My digital painting, 3D modeling, graphic design, and photo editing skills will really be put to the test. Super cool!
What do you wish you would have done differently when you were at Parkland:
Because I chose my own courses to fit my schedule, I did not have the structure of a certificate or degree program. As a result, my biggest regret is not having taken a typography course. Having a good understanding of typography is such a crucial skill! Though I'm learning on my own, I know I would have benefitted tremendously from a course at Parkland. I also wish I would have been more honest critiquing my peers. I feel it's important that classmates hold each other accountable so we're constantly striving to do our best work.
What were some of the most important things you learned while at Parkland:
Any good design is built on thorough research, a solid, well thought out concept and adherence to (or not, depending on the client) sound design principles. It's easy to make something that's aesthetically pleasing, but is it solving a client's problem and communicating effectively? I also learned to accept that design is iterative (difficult for a perfectionist like myself who expects the first draft to be the final).
Who is your favorite designer and why:
There are so many! The ones that immediately come to mind are Frank Lloyd Wright and H.R. Giger. They both have such iconic styles with a focus on organic forms and stark use of line. Check them out!
What is your favorite typeface and why:
Another tough question. My tastes are constantly evolving, but I'm drawn to thin typefaces like Fira Sans and FF Enzo (both on Adobe typekit). That probably explains why I also love Phenomena, Dekar and GOGOIA (which all happen to be free on FontFabric!).
Web link: christierene.com