Visual design offers knockout opportunities
For visual communicators, the chance to land a dream career generally follows one of three distinct routes: in-house, agency or entrepreneur. Three former DCTC students, Sara Gutting, Ryan Durry and David Hartnett, stand out as smash hits on each of the three professional pathways.
In-House: Harley Heaven
At age 25, Sara Gutting is already immersed in an exciting and rewarding career. Sara works as an associate art director at Küryakyn, a mammoth aftermarket motorcycle parts corporation in Somerset, Wis.
Because she is respected for her native artistic talent, Sara gets the chance to work on a vast variety of projects that challenge her technically and creatively.
Sara graduated from DCTC in 2005 with two A.A.S. degrees, one in Graphic Design Technology and one in Applied Visual Arts. She especially enjoyed her instructors and how they brought a vast range of experience to the classroom.
While at DCTC, Sara was a gold medalist in Advertising Design at the 2005SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City, Mo., taking home a $35,000 scholarship. Sara used the scholarship to earn a B.S. in graphic design from the Art Institutes International Minnesota. She related that 95 percent of her DCTC credits transferred.
“There’s so much new going on all the time. It’s cool, but also kind of scary.”
“One of my main jobs is the color correction, retouching and manipulation of photographs,” she said, “which is actually nice because Photoshop is my favorite software program.”
A resident of tiny Beldenville, Wis., and the proud owner of new Honda Rebel, an entry-level cruiser she bought to feel more in touch with her company’s product lines, Sara is committed to advancing her graphic design skill set, particularly in the area of interactive media on the Web.
Next Valentine’s Day, Sara is heading for a beach in Jamaica to marry her high school sweetheart, an account executive for a printing company. Her advice to up-and-coming graphic designers comes straight from the heart.
“You have to be better than your competition,” she said. “That means believing in yourself and feeling determined and passionate about what you do.”
Agency: Right Brain + Left Brain = Happiness
Home-schooling from a math teacher dad and an art teacher mom gave Ryan Durry an early appreciation for how logical left-brain thinking can cooperate with creative right-brain thought.
A PSEO student who graduated from DCTC in 2007 with an A.A.S. degree in Multimedia and Web Design, Ryan continues to explore the connection between the two cerebral hemispheres as the creative services manager at Triad Conferences, a Minnetonka agency that specializes in customized corporate event management.
A major part of Ryan’s job at Triad involves heading up the agency’s Web and multimedia pieces, working behind the scenes on client projects that span the globe.
“Students need to land an internship if they can. Real-world experience is what brings your work up to a professional level.”
“I prefer to code from scratch,” said Ryan, referring to the aspect of Web site design involving HTML and cascading style sheets (CSS) code, the language interpreted byInternet browsers. “One of the best things about Triad is that I also work on graphic design projects. That combination of analytical and artistic thinking is what makes my job so fun and exciting.”
During his first year at DCTC, Ryan landed an internship at Triad thanks to assistance from a friend. His new boss and his instructors made every effort to help him adjust to a schedule crammed with work and school.
“Students need to land an internship if they can,” Ryan recommended. “Real-world experience is what brings your work up to a professional level.”
Because Ryan proved his worth as an intern, Triad offered him a full-time job several months before graduation. He accepted the offer, continued his studies and even went on to win “Best Multimedia Portfolio” at the DCTC 2007 VCOM Portfolio Show.
Ryan’s parting advice to VCOM students who think with both their brains is to pursue a dual degree in Graphic Design Technology and Multimedia Web Page Design. “You build a broad foundation of skills,” he said, “and make yourself that much more employable.”
Entrepreneur: I’m Going Mobile
As a printing consultant for Jostens, a company famous for its class rings and yearbooks, David Hartnett worked with big-name accounts such as West Point and Yale. Confronted by immovable deadlines and sky-high client expectations, David mastered the art of project management.
Today, David leverages that hard-earned expertise as the owner and creative director of Klüg Design, an entrepreneurial venture that serves the marketing and graphic design needs of other entrepreneurs and small businesses.
“I chose the name Klüg, a German term,” David said, “because it means ‘sensible, clever, intelligent,’ which is how entrepreneurs need to approach their business plans.”
“What I’ve found is that I have a passion for ideas. That’s what separates me from my competition.”
After experiencing a corporate downsizing in 2003, David decided he was ready to start his own business. With 22 years of experience in the field of graphic design, he knew that he was set from a creative and management standpoint. Knowing how to run a business was the one piece he was missing.
David turned to the DCTC Business Entrepreneur program and instructor Bob Voss. “Bob teaches from the perspective of an entrepreneur,” David said. “His classes are down and dirty. You can immediately apply what you learn to your own business.”
With clients all over the U.S. and a desire to hold operating expenses low, David keeps his business almost totally mobile. He does most of his work on a laptop and rents office space at the STRIVE Business Growth Center at the Partners in Higher Education building in Apple Valley.
One key goal of Klüg Design is hiring DCTC VCOM students—Web designers, photographers, illustrators and Flash experts—for company projects. “When I was a student at the University of Wisconsin–Lacrosse,” David explained, “someone gave me a chance by hiring me to create a special-event poster. That assignment led to a job in the Graphics department, which led to a job at a printer and on from there.”
As for life as an entrepreneur, David reports that it just feels natural. “I used to think that I had a passion for graphic design,” he said. “What I’ve found is that I have a passion for ideas. That’s what separates me from my competition. In this business, you’re only as good as your last project.”
Although competition is a factor in the search for visual communications jobs, the field is bursting with promise, offering ongoing technological advances linked to significant artistic and financial satisfaction.
- The go-to source for education and employment info in Minnesota, iseek.org reports that graphic designers in the seven-county metro area earn an average wage of $23.95/hour. Top earners bring home nearly $37/hour.
- According to salary.com, graphic design specialists in the U.S. make a median salary of $45,058/year. Earners in the 75th percentile make $52,497/year.
- Salary.com also reports that entry-level Web designers in the U.S. earn a median salary of $49,744/year. Earners in the 75th percentile make $53,499/year.
Entrepreneur.com lists 25 way to save money as a home-based entrepreneur. Here are the top five:
- Buy used furniture.
- Pool your purchasing power.
- Save on shipping by taking it with you.
- Buy wholesale and ask for commercial discounts.
- Negotiate discounts for long-term buying commitments.