How a CCA Pre-College student found his calling

Matthew Lew (BFA Graphic Design 2015) went from designing T-shirts in high school to working for the design infrastructure team at DoorDash. He found his passion by attending CCA’s Pre-College program. After attending CCA with scholarships, Lew received job offers from Ticketmaster and Eventbrite. Here’s his advice for aspiring designers.

From T-shirts to the DoorDash design team

Headshot of Pre-College alum Matthew Lew

Matthew Lew (BFA Graphic Design 2015)

Rachel Gelenius (RG): You attended CCA’s Pre-College program in 2011. How did you know you wanted to do graphic design?

Matthew Lew (ML): I was at Lowell, which is one of the top-performing high schools, and there it’s all about taking AP classes and SAT prep. I hated taking SAT prep. I wanted to do more of craft and design.

I was always very interested in making T-shirts at my high school. There’d be T-shirt contests as fundraisers for the language department. And my design won! I was like, “Wow. I can create something to give to a specific audience and my design would be worn by other students.”

So then I did the graphic design studio in CCA’s Pre-College program. I had this instructor, Steve [Jones], who was very challenging, but I really liked what he was doing, forcing us to challenge ourselves and to put our “designer hats” on as a way of contextualize what we were making versus just making things for the hell of it. He had us thinking about how our design project fits within a narrative and the difference between sophistication versus over-ornamentation.

[CCA graphic design professor] Leslie Becker said, “You know, graphic design is instant gratification,” and I kinda, like, got that right away.

“Work fast.”

— Matthew Lew

CCA Pre-College, summer 2011

Screenshots of Gametime web pages on mobile, tablet, and laptop

RG: You were working at Eventbrite during college?

ML: Yeah. In school I wrote an article to Ticketmaster that said, “Your tickets are very ugly and they’re hard to read, and as an usher, as someone who has to read the tickets to guide people to their seats, I feel like there’s a better way to organize the information.” I explained that with this redesign, the ticket can fit in your pocket, it looks good, and you can make it customizable. Most importantly, it has all the seat information at the very top. I made it a blog post that went viral and then all these companies started reaching out, including Ticketmaster, and they flew me down to meet the CEO of Ticketmaster and we had this whole conversation about the full project. They offered me an internship, but I turned that down because Eventbrite wanted to pay more.

Then I ended up at Gametime working on redesigning their digital tickets. I recently joined DoorDash, where I am now on the design infrastructure team. My task is basically being the gatekeeper for all of our design assets and making sure that all of our platforms are consistent in design and that production looks and feels the same.

RG: What’s a favorite memory from Pre-College? Was there a community here that you didn’t have in high school?:

ML: I remember one time we were all bussed out to see the fireworks on July Fourth. That was really cool. I think it was at Berkeley Marina. A lot of my memories are of making friends with other creative students.

RG: What advice do you have for future Pre-College students?

ML: Work fast. That’s what [senior adjunct instructor] Angie Wang taught me. You don't realize how fast time flies, and I was a very big procrastinator in high school. Work fast, and you’ll have more time to actually refine later, rather than rushing everything at the very end. I kind of saw that as my way of figuring out how to design within the constraints and how to not be distracted with what-if or with just pondering and, instead, actively doing something that will get you closer to your design goal. “Work fast” was good advice for me.

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