Graphic design: a career that impacts the world

On February 25th, I attended a career expo in the Schaeper Center. The topic was graphic design, and the presenter was Mr. Todd Lott, an Elder graduate from the class of 1987. Mr. Lott is currently the System Director of Marketing Services and Brand at Mercy Health Systems.

Mr. Lott presented the field of graphic design to myself and other students in attendance, discussing his path to choosing graphic design as a career and the impact it has had on his life. When asked why he decided to pursue a career in graphic design, Mr. Lott explained, “I always liked art and felt that a career where my creative ideas could make a difference in the success of a company would be exciting. Plus I always loved music. And rock band poster and album design was a potential career target. While that never panned out, it was a big influence on me.”

Although people sometimes fail to realize it, graphic design plays a major role in everyday decisions. Through advertising, companies are able to better appeal to potential customers by conveying an intriguing and dynamic message. When asked about the subconscious impact a design can have on a person, Mr. Lott replied, “At this point in my career, I no longer look at myself as graphic designer. My job is to scientifically solve a communication problem. That means I must conduct research to find a solution, ensure that the written message is clearly delivering the solution and that the design is effectively communicating the solution.”

At this point in my career, I no longer look at myself as graphic designer. My job is to scientifically solve a communication problem.”

— Mr. Todd Lott '87

When asked about all that goes into effectively communicating that solution, Mr. Lott explained that there is much research that needs to be done. In order to be effective, a company has to know the demographic they are targeting. Advertising to the right demographic is important, but you also have to research your competitors. By researching your competitors, you’ll begin to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t work when advertising towards that targeted demographic. After researching your competitors, the final step is to research yourself. Know your strengths, your weaknesses, and how they all relate to that demographic, then think of effective ways to advertise those strengths.

Many people who are interested in graphic design tend to think you need to have been an artist in high school in order to be successful. However, that’s not the case. When asked whether being an artist is a necessary qualification before majoring in graphic design, Mr. Gary Rogers, a graduate from UC’s DAAP Program replied, “No, having an art background is not necessary. The program will teach you how to do all of the art. What matters is that you are a good thinker and are able to solve problems. That is why programs like DAAP only take the top applicants.”

Overall, the field of graphic design allows people to convey messages through advertisements, logos, commercials, etc. For example, look at the development of the Apple logo:

Apple redesigned their logo in order to avoid looking outdated.
Apple redesigned their logo in order to avoid looking outdated.

An executive at Apple from 1981-1990, Jean Louise Gassée, was asked about Apple’s change to the rainbow-patterned apple in 1977. Mr. Gassée responded saying, “One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge, bitten into, all crossed with the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order.” By changing its logo, Apple provided more of a stylized and simplistically beautiful mark that everyone could notice.

During his presentation, Mr. Lott also talked to us about the importance of making your designs/logos stand out. For example, he mentioned the fact that everyone notices Coca Cola’s red hue. It doesn’t matter whether Coca Cola is even labelled on the can; when someone sees that shade of red on a soda can or a twelve-pack, they know it’s Coca Cola right away. If Coca Cola hadn’t used that shade of red and had gone with a color similar to Pepsi or Mountain Dew, Coca Cola might have never been so distinguishable.

Whether you realize it or not, graphic design has a tremendous effect on the world today. With the amount of technology available, along with the number of bright young companies looking for a way to stand out, a degree in graphic design could prove to be truly valuable.