Graphic Design Alumni Credit CCA for Career Success at Adobe

(l-r) Graphic Design alumni Sam Wick, Sonja Hernandez, Talin Wadsworth, and Shawn Cheris at Adobe's San Francisco offices

Adobe is the global leader in digital marketing and digital media solutions. Given its international reputation for producing cutting-edge digital content tools and services, it's a highly desired employer for almost any graphic designer.

Given the competition, CCA is proud to learn four talented, career-focused Graphic Design alumni (all within five years of graduation) currently hold senior design positions at Adobe's San Francisco offices.

As part of the Adobe XD team, these senior designers are working with engineers to develop critical design-thinking analytical themes as well as collaborating with marketing specialists to develop in-product branding -- colors, treatments, icons -- for every single product Adobe makes.

What's that worth, you ask? According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a user experience designer at Adobe in San Francisco is $101,524!

It's worth noting each alum participated in CCA's Sputnik Design Studio, including Michael Rigley (BFA Graphic Design 2012), who in the fall was honored with an Adobe Design Achievement Award.

The Adobe Design Challenge

Adobe senior XD designers are responsible for telling the user experience story for an increasing and evolving library of Adobe products that must translate across a wide range of user interfaces (web, print, mobile, tablet).

Design and engineering -- and marketing -- must all come together for Adobe's product line to be successful. It requires a strong foundation in design principles, an ability to articulate solutions to engineers, and a collegiate attitude that welcomes collaboration.

Making Successful Careers

"The most distinctive part of the Graphic Design Program," states faculty member Eric Heiman, "is how it cultivates students to interrogate and think critically about their work beyond just its surface qualities.

"Sure, we teach students the acute skills necessary to create the actual applications, too, but design in this day and age (especially in the innovation-driven Bay Area) increasingly requires those who can step back from the computer screen and think broadly about the larger, systematic problems at hand.

"This is why so many of our graduates end up being leaders in the field, whether as proprietors of their own design consultancies, or part of in-house design teams for large corporations, nonprofits, and startups alike."

Design as a Way of Thinking

"One thing that CCA really pushed," explains Sam Wick, "was design as a way of thinking. You can apply that to any sort of form factor. And form factors have changed, which we've seen in last five years, and they'll continue to change, but if you have a fundamentally sound design-thinking skill set, you'll be able to adapt."

According to Talin Wadsworth: "CCA was the direct path to my job [at Adobe] outside of school." Although he previously worked for Heiman at Volume, Wadsworth is now immersed in critical design thinking as it relates to analytical themes, Creative Cloud, and future drawing apps.

"We have a challenge. We're designing for multiple platforms. Where are the trends going? We need to know the tools people want. So we work with engineers -- as a collaboration."

CCA's Culture of Critique

"Being able to speak about our work is another skill set CCA provided through its application of peer-based critique. We all use it everyday," asserts Wick.

Shawn Cheris adds, "All that rigorous design thinking is very formal, but then sometimes your instincts will lead to meaning -- where can you take it creatively?"

He recognizes the value of critique: "It's a massive collaboration [at Adobe]. The persistence of your vision is almost 100 percent reliant on your ability to communicate effectively.

"In almost all the [Graphic Design] classes at CCA, design thinking was stressed as the most important thing -- thinking through the problem on a communication level, as opposed to the formal level. Form is important, but we're judged on our ability to articulate how we got there."

Sonja Hernandez agrees: "The focus on critique at CCA was fundamental in learning how to be able to talk about design. I realized being able to to talk about visual things helped push forward what I wanted.

"I think one of the biggest things I gained from CCA (and this I can pinpoint specifically to the Level 3 critique) was to learn how to filter critique received on my work. That time especially, I realized that I should only take the critique of people whose opinion I actually care about.

"And while this may seem obvious, it has been extremely useful in my career."

Who Inspired Them?

Many members of CCA's Graphic Design faculty have played a vital role not only in inspiring these designers but also by providing them with a necessary foundation of skills.

"I was fortunate enough to have many good instructors," recalls Hernandez. "Martin Venezky's Form & Process course really allowed me to relax and trust myself with my process and what I was making.

Bob Aufuldish's Type 2 class was huge in helping to understand type. He's also been a great mentor since that class and someone who I just fundamentally trust and respect as a person.

Mark Fox's and Angie Wang's Dutch Design class was one of my favorite experiences, but besides the wonderful travel, the class dynamics and getting to collaborate and create a beautiful book really helped me learn how to work and design and express ideas with others."

Faculty Impressions

"Sam is perceptive and intelligent," says Graphic Design faculty member Mark Fox. "He also has a mordant sense of humor. His last project in my class was a book examining his 'habitat' which, it appeared, was peopled with San Francisco's strangest citizens. Sam's writing and illustrations for the book were incisive -- and wickedly funny."

Heiman praised his former employee: "Talin's always had good design chops, evidenced by the work he did on some of Volume's signature projects for McSweeney's, The Bold Italic, and Adobe.

"But ever since he walked into my Graphic Design 4 class six years ago, it's been Talin's enthusiasm and critical skills that stood out. He was hell-bent on making his and his fellow classmates' work the best it could be, and (from what I hear) is as equally invested in the innovative work he and his team are creating at Adobe."

According to former CCA Graphic Design instructor Jim Kenney: "Talin was the best type of student, in that I only needed to show him enough for him to teach himself way beyond my own abilities."

Kenney added,"He and his classmates were always aware that they could and should learn from each other, to take advantage of their individual backgrounds and aptitudes. The classroom was not a lecture, but rather an ideal laboratory, rarely embracing prescribed methods in lieu of attempting to break and rebuild applications."

About CCA's Graphic Design Program

CCA's Graphic Design Program encourages independent thinking that equips students for their future. Faculty prepare students for a graphic design career, while the extensive internship program provides opportunities for students to engage with working designers.

With Adobe being just one of many Bay Area companies employing CCA graduates, it's obvious CCA's creative Graphic Design alumni are thriving in careers that matter -- putting their graphic design degrees to work in innovative design firms, museums, publishing houses, technology companies, nonprofits, and more.

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