Best Practices: Students Gain Valuable Job Skills as Graphic Designers

February 19, 2015  |  by: Delphina Saragosa
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Unlike traditional software that is often managed and maintained by a central IT department, OneCampus was designed to be a collaborative campus solution. It also provides institutions the ability to make it their own with custom headers, footers, and icons that match a college or university’s branding, colors, and style.

At Indiana University (IU), students play a key role in the design of icons for various tasks or services offered across their eight campuses.

We recently talked with two student graphic designers, Alex Martinez and Jaimee Janiga, about their experience working with the One.IU team and how it is preparing them for their future careers.

How did you hear about the One.IU project? Can you describe your role?

Our graphic design professor was approached by one of the One.IU administrators to see if they had any qualified students that would be interested in designing custom icons for various tasks. The university was getting ready to launch the One.IU platform in fall 2014 and they needed additional icons built during the summer break. During the interview process we were given a task (icon) to design to make sure it met their needs and matched the style of existing icons.

As graphic designers for the One.IU project we are part-time hourly employees that typically work from home. On average, we work a few hours each day and submit our timecard electronically. The ability to work remotely from home or when traveling to see family is a huge benefit and it provides us the flexibility to have another part-time job and handle a full course load. Because we are students, they also understand during finals and at the end of semester that school comes first. This motivates us to work harder because they are understanding of our time and are great supervisors.

How do you know what to create? How long does each icon take to complete?

IU uses a collaboration tool called Trello to communicate what tasks (icons) need to be created. When a new task is assigned, the first step is to think about the task and learn what it involves. Then we decide how to best represent the task from a student perspective. For some tasks we are given specific requests or instructions regarding the design or color. For others, we are provided the opportunity to be more creative. The amount of time it takes to design an icon varies but on average each one takes about 2-3 hours to complete.

What program do you use to design the icons? How do you maintain a consistent style?

The icons are designed using Adobe Illustrator in a specific size (153 pixels x 153 pixels). We occasionally design rotating banners as well. The completed files are saved for the web and as an .AI file so they can make edits to the original files in the future.
Although we were taught by the same professor and design in a similar way, no two people have the exact same style. We work closely together to adapt and change our icons to look similar. Our supervisor also provides feedback and will occasionally suggest minor edits or color changes. The collaborative process is providing us with valuable job skills and experience working as a team.

How will this experience prepare you for a future career?

Alex: Prior to this job, I didn’t have a lot of illustration experience so it has been fun to see the progression of my design skills and find my style. As a graphic designer, it is a huge plus to be able to illustrate and add iconography to your resume. With the experience I have gained from my classes and this position, I have landed a number of freelance projects including working with a marketing firm in Chicago and doing technical illustrations for a medical device company.

Jaimee: Working as a graphic designer on the One.IU project has expanded my skills as a graphic designer, taught me how to focus on a client’s needs, and helped me learn how to do things more efficiently. I have also gained valuable job skills and experience such as working with other people, learning how to communicate virtually (Skype, email, text), and managing my time effectively. The experience is mutually beneficial for the university and students.

What advice would you give other schools looking to involve student graphic designers?

Alex: It is important to find honest students that have a track record of being on time and efficient. Since this job is done independently, you also need students who can prioritize and manage their own time. From a design perspective, it is important to maintain a consistent look and feel so student graphic designers should have a similar style or be able to adapt to pre-defined style guides (i.e. not too vibrant of colors, simple but engaging, limited text).

Jaimee: To find the best candidates, talk with graphic design professors and ask them to identify students that are mature, stay on track, and get stuff done on time. They should have a good amount of design experience and ideally have worked on an outside class project that required them to collaborate with other people. Student graphic designers also need to be willing to listen to feedback/critique and respond in a timely manner.

Alex Martinez and Jamiee Janiga are seniors at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana. Alex will graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Jamiee will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design and Computer Systems.

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