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. She loves her job for several reasons, but three always seem to jostle their way to the head of the pack:
- Sara is continuously presented with a dizzying variety of projects that challenge her technically and creatively.
- She is given carte blanche to express her thoughts, concepts, dreams and ideas, allowing her to fully explore her potential as a graphic designer.
- She is respected for her native artistic talent, which gives her the chance to design logos from scratch, developing her concepts freehand before translating them to the computer.
Sara graduated from Dakota County Technical College 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.
“My teachers really cared about me and pushed me to progress,” Sara said. “I also liked the variety in my coursework. One hour I would be illustrating with colored pencils and the next I would be working in Adobe Illustrator.”
“There’s so much new coming out all the time. It’s cool, but also kind of scary.”
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 to Ai.
At Küryakyn, which designs and manufactures custom parts and accessories forHarley-Davidson and Honda Gold Wing motorcycles among others, Sara is heavily involved in a number of graphic avenues, including logo creation, specialty ads, catalog interiors and covers, rally shirts and CD design.
“One of my main jobs is the creative color correction, retouching and manipulation of thousands 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.”
Although competition is a factor in the search for graphic design jobs, the field is bursting with promise, offering ongoing technological advances linked to significant artistic and financial satisfaction.
- According to iseek.org, the go-to place for education and employment info in Minnesota, the average hourly wage is $23.95 for graphic designers in the seven-county metro area. Top earners make nearly $37/hour.
- The Salary Wizard on salary.com reports that graphic design specialists in the U.S. draw a median salary of $45,058/year. Earners in the 75th percentile bring down nearly $53,000 annually.
The primary instructor in DCTC’s Applied Visual Arts program, Gwen Partin has more than 20 years of experience as a professional visual artist. Gwen pointed out that her graduates can go virtually anywhere with their talent and training.
“There are so many possibilities,” she said. “They can take the graphic design route, market their own work, become muralists or fine artists, or make their way as freelance or commercial illustrators.”
She noted that her best students are in love with making art. “If they could say one thing about life as a visual artist, it would be, ‘I can’t imagine another direction for myself.'”