Graphic Design Alumni Make Their Way in the Real World

03/07/2010
By From the Lowell Sun

By Nancye Tuttle

LOWELL -- Kohei Kanata designs basketball shoes for NBA players like Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers. Jennifer Skoropowski creates bright images for clients like Scotties, Hallmark and Hood Milk.

And Susan Tuyen Pilote and Scott Pilote teamed up in S Square Designs, a company that incorporates their graphics, media and marketing skills in services from brand identity and brochures to advertising, Web design and photography.

The UMass Lowell graphic design alumni, all graduating between 2003 and 2006, present their work with six other grads in Working Proof: Graphic Design Alumni Exhibition in Dugan Gallery at UMass Lowell. It runs through March 12.

"The work of the graduates I've kept up with impresses me, and I wanted to show them off," said associate art professor Karen Roehr, the show curator. "I'm proud of them."
Kanata, '03, showcases his bright, colorful shoes, noting that he's fulfilling his childhood dream of designing for the NBA.

"I started as a graphic design intern while attending UML and worked my way up to footwear designer in basketball and training at Reebok," he said in an e-mail. "It's what I've always dreamed of."

Skoropowski's rainbow-like array of products includes scrapbooks and stickers with whimsical creatures,

Skoropowski, '05, who markets herself as Jenn Ski, has licensed her work for use in commercially available products -- greeting cards, scrapbooking supplies, wall art, children's books, tissue boxes.
 
"I hope to do a lot more of that in the future. I want my art to be on as many things and places as possible," she said.

She's a self-promotion proponent.

"Your work may be amazing, but that doesn't matter unless other people can appreciate it," she said.

"So get out there, network with other artists, hassle galleries to show your work, write a blog, put up a Web site to show -- and sell -- your work and just generally do everything in your power to make your work reach others.

In their day jobs, Tuyen Pilote, '04, works as a marketing manager/graphic designer for Newton-based Questex Media Group, and Pilote, '04, is creative director for an East Coast wine and spirits distributor.

They learned a lot at UML, Tuyen Pilote said.

"They emphasized deadlines, deadlines, deadlines," she said. "It's honestly a deadline-driven world out there. And if you thought a two- or three-week class project was difficult to execute, you're in for a surprise. In the real world, you make that same project -- plus three others -- in one work day."

The alumni value what they learned at UML.

"At UML, I learned to manage my time -- especially in a crunch and how to take inspiration from everything and everyone around you," said David Lally, '05, art director of Fuseideas, a Somerville advertising company.

Another lesson was taking criticism in stride.

"I learned to turn criticism into something positive and strive to be better -- a must for anyone in a creative industry. I got the tools there to be successful, but also learned it takes hard work to succeed."

Her years at UML were "challenging," said Tuyen Pilote. "The graphic design program was fairly new, so course offerings were sparse and class sizes overwhelming. You had to be a bit of a go-getter to thrive."

Roehr and another professor, Tracey Greene, stood out, said Erik Bettencourt, '04, a Web designer at Bridgeline, a Woburn software firm.

"Dedication and hard work is why I have the career I have," he said. "I made something of my UMass experience, primarily because of independent study and a handful of professors like Tracey and Karen."

"Prof. Roehr brought clients from local businesses in and had us design logos for them," Skoropowski recalled. "The emphasis on solving real-world problems was invaluable and gave me a competitive edge over other entry-level designers."

Others grads in the show include:

Scott Cahill, '06, graphic designer in communications and marketing at Middlesex Community College, Bedford; Steven Keating, '04, senior footwear designer at Puma; Kevin Zwirble, '04, graphic designer/production coordinator at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C.; and Stephanie Wu, '04, a graphic designer at Serena & Lily, a small retail company.

"Working Proof," through March 12 in Dugan Gallery, 883 Broadway St., Lowell. Open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 978-934-3491.