Recently I sat down with graphic designer Diana Garcia, SE2’s newest team member, during her first days on the job. We talked about her passion for graphic design, designing for bilingual audiences, and how being a Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU) Roadrunner helped prepare her for the workforce.
SE2 partners with MSU to bring team members’ expertise into the classroom and share opportunities for internships and staff positions. It’s part of upholding our company value of elevating diverse voices and backgrounds. SE2 believes having diverse perspectives is crucial to developing successful campaigns that reach and impact all of the communities we value around important issues that affect our lives.
SM: What initially attracted you to graphic design? Who or what was your inspiration?
DG: As a child, I was always inclined toward arts and crafts more than math or any other subject. For high school, I went to Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts. Many of the adults in my life tried to sway me away from a career in art and insisted I try business, nursing, or anything else instead. But my high school art teacher, Erica Wernsmann-Loppnow, really encouraged me to go into a creative field. She made me feel good about going in that direction.
SM: Were there people in your life who were in creative fields?
DG: No. I really only had one person that I knew, a cousin, who was in a related field.
SM: How did you pursue your passion once you got to college?
DG: When I got to MSU, I knew I was in the right place. I fell in love with the program right away. My professors did an incredible job in teaching the value of design and art in society. I really enjoyed learning about art theory and practice. I knew I had made the right choice.
There’s a lot of diversity at MSU’s campus. However, I found that there was still a small number of Hispanic immigrants in my program. Being one of a few made me feel good about the decision I was making. As a Mexican immigrant, I had faced some stigma around going into a creative field. My parents were hesitant; they were unsure that I would be able to find a job and weren’t aware of all the opportunities. But design is everywhere. I didn’t know all of the possibilities, but knew I would do something creative.
SM: A lot of the work we produce is designed to reach and engage diverse audiences. How does your background influence how you approach design?
DG: I bring a lot of the culture because I was pretty much raised in Mexico. Both of my parents are from Mexico and so culturally I grew up with their values and their ways of doing things. Having lived in Denver for over six years has also helped me understand cultural differences — and similarities too. I think it helps me to approach things differently. I believe the more diverse we are, the better we are — especially in marketing, design and content creation. We need the insights of people who fall into diverse audiences.
SM: How did MSU prepare you for the workforce?
DG: Apart from all of the theory-and-practice learning, getting to make authentic relationships with my professors was really valuable for me. I had great professors and mentors who were very supportive and resourceful and helped us students to connect. Shawn Meek and Peter Bergman were great mentors to me. They taught me about the business side of design, opportunities in the field, how to price your work, and how to value your knowledge. There’s also a side of design that my professor Lisa Abendroth helped me value a lot more, which is that design can really change the world, or at least make it a little better.
SM: What attracted you to SE2?
DG: I was initially referred to SE2 by my mentor, Peter Bergman. I started doing freelance design on the Forward Together campaign for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. It just felt right from the start; the collaboration was phenomenal. I got to design a social media campaign for youth, which is focused on providing the help and resources many of us would’ve liked to have as a teen.
Being a teenager is rough, because you start to struggle dealing with your emotions, social pressures and all, especially with social media. I think it’s very important that we provide more advice and resources that are accessible — and that are relatable and interesting to our audience.
SM: What is something surprising about you, something that we might not know?
DG: I spent the past six months living in Mexico. I decided to move down to my small hometown, Hidalgo del Parral in Chihuahua, by myself and do freelance design work — both in English and Spanish. It was a real adventure to move on my own and do freelance work for the first time. I got to know myself more as an individual and a designer. I really enjoyed having the freedom and room to learn freelance work. It was fun and challenging, a great experience for me.
SM: What are you most looking forward to?
DG: Growing as a designer and as a professional. I really look forward to learning about all of the different issues SE2 works on. It’s really important, meaningful work.