Graphic design students from voxGRAPHIS, a student organization at UF dedicated to sharing a love for design, traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, in November as part of their annual trip to design studios and creative agencies outside of Gainesville.
The group of 42 students visited MODE, BOLT Group, Union, Saturday Brand Communications and Myjive, all agencies that focus on branding, the web, digital or product design. Each studio shared insights into their creative process and business strategies.
“Over the past two decades we have traveled to some of the very best studios in the country,” said Associate Professor Brian Slawson. “This is an important extra-curricular learning experience that will inform their career choices. Seniors are contemplating their next step after graduation and how to best build their design portfolio. Additionally, sophomores get their first exposure to how a professional design office operates and the look and feel of creative work spaces.”
Myjive offered a special experience for the students, as the company’s design director, Ron Edelen, graduated from UF with his BFA and MFA in graphic design and traveled to New York with voxGRAPHIS when he was a student. Edelen’s presentation, "If I knew then what I know now," recapped the last 10 years of his career, including stories of “epic failure” and a thriving business built on passion, persistence and luck.
“I hope students got more out of the visit than they could handle,” said Edelen. “I was clearly excited that such a large group would drive the distance to visit, so I wanted to make it worth their while. Because I sat in the same seat as they did 10 years ago, it felt very relatable.”
Edelen encouraged the group to test out the innovative technologies present at Myjive, including gesture interfaces, wearable computing and immersive 3D software. He also challenged them to think about how designers can create engaging experiences for new media.
The group, which usually travels to bigger cities such as Miami or Atlanta, decided for a change of pace when some students voiced an interest in visiting more livable cities.
“Not all of our students want to work in a huge city,” said Libby Schinnow, a senior graphic design student. “Charlotte ended up being a great compromise. It is a comfortably sized city with a ton of artistic and cultural events.”
Aside from visiting studios, students had an opportunity to take in Charlotte’s culture, including exploring art museums, eating at local restaurants and checking out the city’s eclectic neighborhoods.
“A lot of the students ended up loving the city and could see themselves working or living there in the future,” said Rukmini Poddar, a senior graphic design student. “For us, this is a huge success of the trip, since one of our main goals is to give the students a chance to see if a city has potential for them to live and work there in the future.”
Collectively, the students agreed that gaining insight into the different areas a graphic designer can work in was the most beneficial part of the trip.
“These insights are crucial to directing the work that goes into your portfolio and finding a job where you produce meaningful and exciting work,” said Schinnow.