Whether or not you have a creative bone in your body, consider a number of items you've picked up today. The Starbucks coffee that started your day, the t-shirt you're wearing, the computer you're on and the granola bar you just ate have an important element in common: they began in the hands of a graphic designer.
The world is in somewhat of a design explosion, and the graphic artist career path is both highly competitive and in high demand. Lucky for us, Auburn's Graphic Design program (GDES) is regarded as one of the top schools in the nation, and is the only NASAD accredited program in Alabama. Most recently it was listed among 23 programs as a top design school in the U.S. by Graphic Design USA Magazine.
Auburn's program prepares students to practice visual communication in a competitive global environment. It puts heavy emphasis on fine arts, visual and digital interface, packaging, exhibitions, magazine design, logos and identity development. Auburn GDES alumni can be found working all over the world, many as top designers and art directors at major corporations like IBM, Coca-Cola and UPS. One Auburn designer had the privilege to design the medals for the 2006 Turin Olympics.
IBM seeks out Auburn graphic design graduates first in their hiring process. "Auburn Graphic Design is a treasure trove of talent. I'm delighted with the talent and skill we have hired from Auburn, and now, when we recruit future designers, Auburn is first on our list," says Russ Wilson, director at IBM's Mobile Innovation Lab.
Professor and Program Chairman Carlton Nell credits the program's success to its faculty and variety of courses. "We have faculty that are pure graphic designers all the way to artists and painters," he says. "We have a wide range of influences coming through the faculty to the students."
Meg Carey, a senior graphic design student, has experienced those influences first-hand. "I get to sit in a room full of painters, illustrators, photographers and animators who care about my success just as much as I care about theirs," she says. "We all pool our creative abilities to inspire and challenge one another, realizing
that fresh eyes and opinions can transform a subject. The camaraderie that this community shares has heightened my ability as a designer."
Carey says the professors have mastered a blend of helping and sharing their talents while making sure the work students produce is their own.
Auburn's program is well known for its industry collaboration opportunities, which allow students to gain professional experience and better perspective of career goals. GDES collaborates regularly with industry in attempt to replicate the true relationship between a graphic design team and a client or business. Previous industry collaborations include 3M, IBM, Frigidaire, NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy. The program also provides several study abroad opportunities, in which students share studios and workshops at universities in Ireland, Scotland, England, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Design is everywhere, and the best of it is invisible. It is so thoroughly researched, crafted and developed that your eyes glide over it with ease and the content is instantly comprehended. It is immediate visual communication, company unity and brand recognition without needing to think about what you're seeing.
Design has the ability to create atmosphere, evoke emotions and communicate information. Look at the difference between McDonalds and Starbucks: two different emotions evoked, all in the power of the design.
"I believe graphic design adds life to the mundane, creativity to everyday life and collaborates with all other professions to make this world more beautiful for people to live in," says Winston Waters, a Spring 2015 graduate of the program. Waters is moving to Charleston in May to begin work for Garden & Gun Magazine.
"It's really satisfying to brand an awesome product that otherwise would probably go unnoticed," says Carey. "I love being able to create work that will make people look and listen."
Carey, who once stayed up for 67 hours straight working on a project, says "the work that goes into an idea before it even gets on paper is much more extensive that most people realize." There are several layers of research, collaboration, sketching and thumbnails that happen before a project even gets close to a computer screen. Projects take anywhere from one week to an entire semester.
"My favorite aspect of graphic design has been using my designs to help others," says Waters. "When someone gets excited about a piece and it is put into use—that is what it's all about."
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