Exactly Where She Was Meant to Be
Visual Communication Design senior Julia Gray (Spring ’23) has been interested in design before she even knew what it was. “My family had an ongoing joke throughout my childhood that I ‘was born with paper in one hand and a pencil in the other,’” she says. “I had an appreciation for certain brands because of the way they utilized a unique typographic style and incorporated a mix of illustration and photography to emulate a specific feeling to their audience. As a child I couldn't put the feeling as to why I liked it into words, and I had no idea that there was an entire career field centered around it.”
Julia was always into creative things, and art was a big part of her life growing up, but it wasn’t until her father recommended graphic design in her junior year of high school that everything clicked. “Graphic Design encompasses everything I would want in a career,” she says.
Once that decision was made, “choosing Kent State was almost a no-brainer after considering how good the Visual Communication Design program was,” Julia says. “I remember sitting in my very first VCD Studio and knowing I made the right decision. I felt like it was exactly where I was meant to be. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.”
“I remember sitting in my very first VCD Studio and knowing I made the right decision. I felt like it was exactly where I was meant to be. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.”
Here, Julia took the lessons of faculty members Sanda Katila and John Haller to heart. In her freshman year she took Introduction to Typography and found her love for typography. “What I learned from Professor Katila helped me build a strong foundation for the process as a designer.” John Haller was the T.A for that class, Julia remembers, “but I was lucky enough to have him again as my professor for Graphic Design I. The resources and advice he’s provided are something I’m so thankful for. I still refer back to notes that I took during that class and during the design club he ran, VCD247.”
Another core principle she learned in her classes was that concept is everything. “Having a strong concept behind what you’re creating gives you a solid foundation to build upon,” Julia says. “Being intentional with every design decision you make. Always ask yourself why. Graphic design goes beyond making things look aesthetically pleasing, it's about using visual form as a means of impactful communication.”
When asked what she would tell high school students interested in pursuing a degree in visual communication design, Julia’s answers are simple:
- Save and document every part of your process. Never throw away or delete anything. Employers love seeing your process.
- Separate yourself from your work. You pour so much passion and time into what you create, but staying objective will help you take your work to the next level.
- Find inspiration from places outside of social media. It’s difficult to create something original if you’re only looking at what’s trending. Take a look at the world around you.
- Try to get internships as early as you can and network as much as possible. Connect with your professors and your classmates. Surround yourself with other designers.
It's that last piece of advice that led Julia first to her work with LaunchNET, Kent State’s entrepreneurial hub, including branded merchandise for their 10-year anniversary. It also led her to her current internship with Cleveland’s Lake Erie Crushers, an independent Frontier League baseball team. We asked her what it’s been like so far. “It’s been amazing,” Julia says. “Right now, we have a few different projects in the works that I’m excited to share when finished. It’s been less than a month, and I already feel like I’ve gained a substantial amount of real-world experience with things I learned how to do through my VCD Studios.”
To see more of Julia’s work, check out her design portfolio online.