Making Art…Into a Career

Katie sits in the Park Blocks drawing in her sketchbook.

It’s pretty common to hear people say that getting a humanities degree is pointless. Well, Katie Pearce, a transfer student in her senior year studying Graphic Design, is here to tell you that’s wrong.

In her hometown of Pendleton, Oregon, Katie felt there weren’t many opportunities to pursue an art career. “In high school, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t figure out how to make art into a career choice.” Katie decided to attend Blue Mountain Community College while she was figuring out what she wanted to study. But when it came time for her to transfer her credits to a university and finish her bachelor’s degree, she realized that PSU’s Graphic Design program was the perfect next step.

“When I was in community college, it felt like an extension of high school, but when I got to PSU it felt more like a professional environment that still allowed me to make art.”

So what prompted Katie to commit to studying graphic design? “For me, graphic design is such an important thing. It’s in everything that we do, and if we didn’t have it, we’d notice.”

Katie’s journey to a career in graphic design has been in the works since she was little. “I grew up using technology and am an aesthetically-minded person. I’ve been using Photoshop since I was nine years old, and I never really put it together that this is a skill.”

For Katie, graphic design is that perfect balance between the technical and the artistic. PSU is challenging her to apply those skills in her graphic design coursework. “The portfolio review is something all graphic design students have to pass to advance in the program. You compile eight to ten of your best projects. It’s a good assessment of your skills and forces you to learn to analyze your own work.”

It’s not just the coursework that makes PSU an excellent fit for Katie. “I love that campus is in downtown Portland. There are so many interesting people, and it’s such a lively campus.” The Portland Streetcar runs right through the center of campus, and it’s one of Katie’s favorite parts, “I need to say how much I love the streetcar. I recommend riding it all the way around to see what’s in Portland!” The Portland Streetcar is free to PSU students―just one of many transportation resources that make it cheap and easy to get around the city.

So what is Katie doing to get closer to making a career out of art? “Recently I started a graphic design internship at CD Baby Publishing, a music publisher here in Portland. I’m already getting to use skills I learned in school.”

Katie emphasizes that transferring to PSU was a great decision because, not only is she truly enjoying her coursework, but she has already made connections in her industry. PSU’s location in the heart of Portland gives students access to local companies and opportunities to learn from professionals in their field.

And Katie’s not alone—PSU enrolls around 1,800 transfer students every year! If you’re considering transferring to PSU from a college in Oregon, or even out of state, there are lots of resources available to make completing your degree easy. You may qualify for Transfers Finish Free, a program that covers standard tuition for Oregon residents.

Check out how you can take the leap and transfer to PSU.

Photo of Katie at Be Honest, the PSU Graphic Design student portfolio showcase, standing behind her work.
Photo of Katie at Be Honest, the PSU Graphic Design student portfolio showcase. Check out Katie’s work!

Be Honest Showcase

On April 30, Portland State’s graphic design students displayed their work at the seventh annual Be Honest Showcase, a portfolio show, open house, alumni reunion, award ceremony, and variety show. Unlike most portfolio shows, this is not just for graduating seniors, students of all levels have the opportunity to share and discuss their work. More than 133 student students participated. Franky Martin, graphic design student worker for the Admissions Office, offered to share about his experience at Be Honest and in the graphic design program at PSU.

I’m originally from Oregon and close to finishing my last year as a graphic design student at PSU. After completing my Associate’s Degree at Chemekata Community College in Salem, OR and working in my field, I decided I wanted to gain more experience and earn a Bachelor’s Degree in graphic design at Portland State. I transferred to PSU because they were able to work with me on transferring my existing credits to make them count towards my degree so I didn’t have to pay or redo work that I had already done.

PSU has given me valuable experience and countless opportunities to work on projects for real clients, showcase my work, and connect with people in the graphic design industry. Every spring, the PSU art department partners with the advertising firm Weiden + Kennedy to host an open portfolio show for graphic design students. This year was my first year in the show and it was a great experience for me to put myself and my work out in public and talk about the different projects I have completed throughout the year. For me, selling my work and my passion for is hard.

Additionally, in one of my classes at PSU we partnered with nonprofits or school programs in the Portland area to create brand identities. This was a great experience because we had to present not only to faculty but to the actual client. These are just two of the many opportunities at PSU that have taken my learning beyond the classroom and allowed me to elevate my skill set both in working with software technicalities and professional development. I have made so many connections with really talented peers as well as people in the graphic design industry.

Franky is close to finishing his bachelor’s degree in graphic design at PSU. He is a talented artist and loves the creativity and practicality he gets to use in his chosen field. When he is not using his artistic abilities, he can be found at one of the many skate parks in Portland. His favorite food truck on campus is La Casita.

Photos from Be Honest Showcase, 2016

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